There's been a fair amount said about this week's big parliamentary debate already, but not enough I suspect. Gordon Brown has offered his personal opinion in The Observer today, in an effort to drum up support from the uncertain for the uncertain.
I'm no pro-lifer, don't think myself unduly conservative on such matters, and have a certain amount of apprehension about the amendment to shorten the period in which women can obtain an abortion (apprehensive because I fear that it might be supported). But I object most strongly to the proposal that IVF should no longer require clinics to consider the child's need for a father. It's not that they're saying that a child has no need for a father (they'd have difficulty providing evidence for that proposition particularly as they regularly blame 'absent fathers' for teenage delinquency). It's this curious belief that in some way they're denying human rights to gays and lesbians. Whatever happened to the notion that it's the child's need that should be put first?
However my biggest anxiety is over the main focus of the bill, the proposal that scientists should be allowed to create animal-human hybrid embryos. Whether MPs are ever likely to have sufficient grasp of the scientific arguments is uncertain; For myself, I'm deeply suspicious of them. The scientists say (in effect) that if we permit this technique they'll solve all known illnesses before Christmas comes around. And that if the MPs reject the proposal they are condemning the ill to suffering and that would be immoral. It's an absurd argument, driven by scientists' desire to experiment regardless of consequence. The success of existing stem cell treatments is wildly overstated, and published research is about as one-sided as the stuff emanating from drug companies. But the politicians seem to have bought into this misplaced conviction.
Bad science always promises the moon; just look at the Nuclear industry. Governments are very reluctant to appear sceptical, they remain ever hopeful that those promises will actually deliver, and they will benefit electorally.
It worries me how the debate is being conducted not least with its undue haste, and it's all too reminiscent of the Iraq farrago from four years ago. Scientific breakthroughs are more likely to be made than Saddam Hussein's WMD were to be found, certainly, but only marginally. Gordon's zeal in pushing this through is not unlike Tony's was, and his assessment of the outcome is likely to be about as deficient.
There's worse though. "Britain is at the forefront of this research and responsible for much of the worldwide progress" Gordon writes. So that's what it comes down to. Money.