• http://home.uchicago.edu/~kldavis/ Karl Davis

    Rather a Cardinal than a Quaker, Bulldog, Cantab, or Maroon… I’m shocked. Well, not really.

  • Anonymous

    I, for one, am not too proud of your new University. Some forms of knowledge are not worth pursuing. See, e.g., Dr. Mengele. You can’t get out of this debate by playing semantics or calling this a stand for knowledge.

    Of course, this isn’t the place to get *into* this debate… just be aware that there is a liberal Catholic copyleft contingent that agrees with you on most things but not on this.

  • Rob Woodard

    I believe Stanford’s mascot is the Cardinal (the bird, not the sometimes controversial Catholic church official).

    Back on point, what are we supposed to be supporting, exactly? Calling a spade an entrenching tool? From the referenced article it appears that is the entirety of what the Stanford researchers are doing: trying to do stem cell research that involves cloning-but-not-really-cloning. It’s a bit of semantic legerdemain to try to get around the ugly truth that the Bush 2.0 Administration and the religious Right are not interested in advancing science if it conflicts with their narrow views. No “tampering in God’s Domain” thank you. C.f. Mr. Anonymous above. We don’t invent that here, go work on something else. (BTW, the Mengele reference was uncalled for and not an appropriate analogy to the research being performed. However, I expect no different from Mr. Anonymous or his religious fanatic ilk.)

    I would be more likely to support Stanford if they blatantly continued cloning research in defiance of the government, funding be damned, rather than trying to weasel their way around legal restrictions however idiotic. Since there’s fat chance of that happening…good luck to them.

  • Anonymous


    1) we AGREE on the semantics point, 2) apologies for saying “Mengele” but the point was that science can be immoral, not that this at all comparable — obviously this is a close issue that requires a lot of thought and debate, and 3) we’re all fanatics — or else we have no convictions.

    As to the merits, we can’t resolve them in a comments box, that’s for sure.

  • Rob Woodard

    No, but we can get our opinions out there, even to an audience as small as each other. I will remember what you say and hopefully you’ll remember what I say, and over the days and months to come our subconscious minds will dwell on it and maybe our views will shift a bit. In any event, we are a part, however small, of the debate on this and whatever other issues we discuss. You never know how many people might be actually reading.

    Yes, science can be immoral. Many atomic scientists were morally opposed to developing thermonuclear weapons (Leo Szilard obviously springs to mind) but the objective fact was that SOMEONE was going to build the things, and it was best that it be US or that we be along for the ride so we could have some influence on the inevitable new reality. Also we needed to know how they worked so potentially we could learn ways they could be countered. The same awful truth holds with cloning and stem cell research: even if we don’t go forward, someone will and (to give a fantastic example) they may learn ways to grow a virus that only kills non-muslims, or stem cells that when delivered through some medium not yet developed turns you into a newt. We simply don’t know what can come out of this research, and given the fact that the research WILL be done I think we need to put our moral high horse in the barn.

    I suppose I am a fanatical humanist. In any event I don’t expect our abstaining from this research to have any beneficial effect. “God” isn’t going to come down and stop it, it’s up to us to decide what we do, and I only see bad outcomes from this policy.

  • Michael P

    Rob: I agree with you, but hate your reasoning. “Someone else is going to do it” is a pretty wussy argument. What’s wrong with “there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, so let them do it?”

    You seem to think cloning is a necessary evil, but why does it have to be evil at all?

  • Somee

    Stanford’s Mascot

    Until 1971, the mascot for Stanford�s athletic teams had been an “Indian”,
    which was forced to give up by American Indian groups. (See Denni Woodward, “Stanford’s Mascot,” at http://seas.stanford.edu/diso/articles/indian.html)

    Instead of �Indians,� nowadays, you can see a dancing Pine Tree in the Big Games. (See the picture at http://www. Stanfrod.edu) That is the reason why Berkley students are waving axes in the Big Games.

  • John Thacker

    Stanford’s mascot is a Pine Tree. Stanford athletic teams have the nickname of Cardinal. The color, not the bird. A case of wanting to imitate Harvard, perhaps.
    Used to be the Indian, as noted above.

  • Rob Woodard

    The problem with saying “there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing” is that it’s a non-starter. It may be rational to you and me but to the majority of voters out there (apparently, due to who they’ve elected) there is indeed something wrong with this research. Therefore, in my opinion one of the few arguments you can bring that they might support even grudgingly is that regardless of our participation, the research will go forward and our ignorance may turn out to be very dangerous. It may be “a wussy argument” to you but it’s a non-emotional, rational one.

    I don’t think cloning/stem cell research is inherently good or inherently evil; as with all research, it has potential for use in both directions.

    Obviously I too support Dr. Weissman’s philosophical position. I just think that he’s going to fail in his approach (changing the name of his procedure and arguing that it isn’t restricted because it has a different name). The government will not take long to redefine their restrictions to include his new procedure, and then he’s back to square one.

    On theraputic cloning, let me play Devil’s advocate a bit here: a seven-day-old embryo does not have the ability to vote on its fate or decide whether to go off to war; it is simply subject to the will of others. We must then ask ourselves if it is ethically right to end or alter this potential human life for our own interests. There is a potential for great good to come of it but also potential for great evil.

    This is the first I’ve heard of this “joint appeal”. I really dislike discussing religious positions because by definition those positions are based on irrational assumptions. Obviously natural plants are not creations of humans; but “genetically modified” plants are, and increasingly the products of those modifications are patented, owned, and controlled by their creators. I think it’s reasonable to fear that companies perfecting human cloning will attempt to exercise such control over their products, a la the Blade Runner movie where “replicants” were created to do tasks such as soldiering, entertainment, and the like and were thought of as implements rather than human beings. This is something we need to consider carefully, regardless of how “God” feels about it.

    I have no frame of reference on how identical twins feel about themselves, but I imagine they feel like any other people with siblings. I’m not sure what the point is here…

    Thanks for clearing up my misunderstanding of what the Stanford mascot is. I always wondered why there was a pine tree hanging around when I saw games on TV. The pine tree (or is it maybe a redwood?) is a fine mascot but hard to make sound dynamic in a sports broadcast, which is probably one reason why “Cardinal” came into use.

  • Anonymous


    OK, I’ll bite and eat up a few more K of Prof. Lessig’s bandwidth. It is great to see you play the “Devil’s advocate” and talk about the potential for “great evil” to come of this. (I’m honestly happy — not trying to be smug.) And actually, in light of that post, it seems we’re almost in agreement on the moral issues as well. We only got two disagreements: “potential life” v. “life” (a.k.a. all of this) and whether we need to do this in order to prevent worse people from doing it.

    If I can play “Devil’s advocate” myself for a second, I think the argument that most Humanists would make is that 1) human embryos are “potential” people and 2) this technology will benefit real (not “potential” people) and save them from death and suffering. Hence, the balance is in favor of cloning human embryos. My position is that we need to tell these real people that the rights of the “potential” people outweigh their right to sacrifice “potential” people to cure themselves. That’s a terrible thing to have to say, esp. when the person suffering is a child or a baby… but that’s what I believe.

    And you can have the last word, but I’m going to drop this now — my original point was just that the people who are concerned about Stanford’s practices aren’t just a conservative lunatic fringe.

  • Daniela Piceno

    Isn’t the mascot an Indian/tree-like object?

  • Daniela Piceno

    Isn’t the mascot an Indian/tree-like object?

  • Good lord, do some research, people.

    Stanford’s mascot is the color Cardinal. The Tree is merely the band’s mascot. The Axe was not adopted as a trophy because Stanford’s band’s mascot is a tree. You’re already on the Internet; do some freaking Googling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stanford_Axe