Why some technology can’t be restrained: lessons from Korea’s genetic stem cell research

While western researchers are restrained by the Christian influenced morality of their government, South Korea – star of genetic stem cell research, are making history. After becoming the first to clone human embryos, the Koreas are now also the first to clone a dog after three years of effort. A difficult exercise, according to The Times, dogs are notoriously difficult to clone because their reproductive physiology is just too idiosyncratic, an American company spent seven years without success.

American reluctance

America the usual technology leader of our time is felling behind in the stem cell race. Since the 2001, American Christian right who believes in the sacredness of life together with some prominent neo-conservatives has vigorously lobbied against advance in stem cell research. Resulting in federal government restricting federal findings to stem cell research. The climate in American conservatives was heavily against stem cell, Francis Fukuyama a neo-con sage when as far as calling it the most dangerous idea in a Foreign Policy article.

A 180 turnaround

However after seeing the Koreans successfully clone a human embryo in February 2004, America reacted. Well American states reacted. Bypassing federal restriction on research funding California passed a bill to make available as much as $3 billion in grants for embryonic stem cell research over the next decade. Other states follow suits. Wisconsin, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas all announce plans to fund stem cell research (I wish political science could get that kind of money too) Now, federal government is responding too, currently a bill support by bipartisan group of senators are being debated in Washington. Some proponents of this bill were once strict opponents such as senate majority leader Bill Frist. American climate for stem cell is changing.

Competition triumphs over morality

These series of events confirms my suspicion regarding the effect of international competition on the morality of technology. I argue, even if a country decides to not explore into a potentially beneficial technology base on moral grounds, it might still be compel later to do so due to advances made by foreign countries what is not constrain by the same moral code. In this case America constrain by Christian influence morality cannot afford to loss out to Confucius Koreans who do not share Americas concern over the potentially massively beneficial stem cell research. America was put into the dilemma of choosing to fall behind economically or ignore their morality. Economic competition won. I will go as far as to said, if making babies as smart as Einstein was possible, competitive pressure would make sure every insecure country ignore their moral judgment and make Einsteins.

Lessons from Korea

First, in the world of globalization science cannot be stop. If a scientific advancement is restrained here, it will more oversees, ultimate the loser will be those whom are against scientific advancement. Whether this is good or not, is up to individuals to decide. Cynics will argue globalization has brought the world to its lowest moral denominator. Others would argue globalization is giving prominence to universally held values.

Second, decentralize character of American government allow enough flexibility too over come central governments stubbornness and ineffectiveness. I am a proponent of empowering regional governments.

Third, if any one ever tells me Koreans can only copy, I will suggest to have a Korean scientist check he/she for genetic brain dysfunction.



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