The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform conducted its Genocide Awareness Project at the University of California, Irvine, on April 19 and 20.
There was an interesting flare-up. UCI is professional home to Dr. Hans Keirstead, co-director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. According to Wikipedia, Keirstead is spearheading the first FDA approved human trial of injecting embryonic stem cells into spinal-cord patients.
So Keirstead is all about human embryo experimentation, which is also his claim to fame.
Enter CBR with a provocative sign that included Keirstead’s photo (click to enlarge)…
Hans Keirstead’s main arguments were exactly the ones used by the Nazi doctors who were doing lethal experiments on Jews. Their victims were subhuman, they were destined to die anyway, it was all legal, other countries were doing it and it would benefit all mankind to find cures for dread diseases. He was standing in front of a sign with the covers of the books quoting those exact arguments and the irony was totally lost on him. He just stood there parroting propaganda like a programmed robot.
Keirstead deliberately used dehumanizing rhetoric to refer to the babies, alternately calling them “the products of united sperm and egg cells” and “fertilized eggs.” I told him he was doing what racists do when they dehumanize blacks with the “N” word or anti-Semites when they use the “K” word to slur their Jewish victims. The fertilized egg reference wasn’t even the biologically correct term for embryos at the stage at which he is killing them. When Keirstead tried to deny that he was personally killing them I asserted that he was at least complicit in their killing and he changed the subject. I also reminded him that the term “embryo” describes a stage of life, not a type of life.
Keirstead constantly tried to shift the debate to technical grounds on which he felt he had some advantage. He blasted us with scientific jargon which described arcane research processes with which he hoped to cloud the ethical issues. We kept forcing him back to the morality of killing one human being for the benefit of another.
Keirstead was very upset that the sign on which his picture appeared also depicted aborted babies of all ages along a developmental continuum. He said he worked only with “blastocysts” and not fetuses. I told him I was a lawyer and invited him to sue me. We said that ages of his victims were irrelevant to his culpability for killing them. I am certain that he supports abortion rights without trimester limits, which makes all the more dishonest the fact that he sought refuge in his claim to be involved in the killing of only very young babies. He said we don’t use fetal tissue and I responded, “Whether that is true or not, there are many researchers who do.”
When I criticized “clone-to-kill” procedures Keirstead said “that isn’t legal here” and I said “it is in the U.K.” and in fact there is no legal prohibition against it here, but it is limited only by funding restrictions. I did not take him into a discussion of the bogus ethical distinction between “therapeutic cloning” (creating cloned babies for body parts and killing them before they become “human”) and “reproductive cloning” (creating cloned babies to implant and carry to term).
Then Keirstead would fall back on the usual “form and function” arguments such as a lack of “sentience,” which are so easily knocked back by reminding him that he will be rendered “insentient” when he falls asleep tonight but he will gain sentience when he awakens and his victims would gain sentience when they are born, it he doesn’t kill them first. Keirstead also derided adult stem cell research as inferior in its potential to deliver therapeutic applications but I countered that for the sake of argument, even if that were true, embryonic stem cell harvesting still kills babies.
Keirstead also kept mischaracterizing our remarks to set up straw man arguments he could more easily invalidate. He said we were against IVF despite the fact that I had clearly stated our belief that IVF should be regulated by banning the creation of more embryos than a particular mother intends to implant and carry to term in a particular pregnancy. He said these embryos can’t be suspended in a frozen state indefinitely and I said then let’s promote embryo adoption and spend money trying to find better ways to save them instead of better ways to kill them. Then he repeated,” So your problem is you are against IVF,” and I said, “No, our problem is we are against YOU and the fact that you killing babies.”
Keirstead was particularly angry that I had used his photo on the sign (and in fact, one pro-life student refused to join the pro-life student group sponsoring the display because of our use of the photo), but it was very clear that he wouldn’t have come out for two hours or perhaps at all had we not angered him. He said, “Why didn’t you just invite me to come out here,” and of course the answer is that our sign was his invitation. I resisted the temptation to ask what had taken him so long to come out and confront us. I again reminded that he was more than welcome to sue me if he thought I had broken the law. What better way to focus attention on our cause! I also told him that he was spending public money to kill babies at public university and thereby forfeited any reasonable expectation of privacy.
Keirstead repeatedly said we had no business revisiting these issues because this debate had already been conducted and his side has won with the passage of a ballot initiative appropriating billions of dollars to fund his work. I said this debate has only just begun. He said we have already educated people about these issues and I said you have lied to them and we are here to set the record straight. I told him that his arguments that we should take our signs somewhere where people wanted to see them were reminiscent of racists telling Martin Luther King he should take his message to the black church and not bother white people.
I hammered Keirstead for an article in the Orange County Register which quoted him as telling the father of a famous motorcycle racer who had been paralyzed in a racing accident that he could cure him in five to seven years [click to enlarge]…
I accused him of fraud in making such an outrageous claim to manipulate a desperate victim who later gave him a $200,000 research grant. He said, “You say I said that, but that isn’t what I told Ricky James.” I said, “I didn’t say that is what you said. I said that is what the newspaper quoted you as saying.” He said, “They printed a retraction.” I said, “Show it to me.” Then he hedged and said, “Well, you should talk to Ricky James to learn what was actually said.” I said you have the burden to disprove the accuracy of the newspaper quote, I do not have the burden to prove it. He changed the subject. I didn’t take him into the esoteric law of defamation (he is a public figure and arguably a public official substantially raising his barriers to a successful suit) as he kept trying to take me into the esoteric process of stem cell research.
The whole time was essentially a circular repetition of those exchanges, but Keirstead seemed mesmerized by the experience. I kept expecting him to walk away in disgust, but he stood there for two full hours of back-and-forth and he was getting pummeled. By the end of the exchange, I am sure he was having second thoughts about the wisdom of his bold challenge to a public debate with us, which was how he began his confrontation with us. But we aren’t to let him off the hook. We will debate for killing babies or we will mock him for being a coward. Despite the fact that he is one of the world’s most prominent embryonic stem cell researchers at one of the world’s most influential stem cell research institutes, his poor performance against us was a function of the fact that he had obviously never been challenged so aggressively and the fact that he doesn’t have an ethical leg on which to stand.