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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I do not belong to or support Greenpeace

The case that I referred to in my previous post gives a good example of why I do not belong to Greenpeace or support it as an organisation. I did belong to Greenpeace for a time, but I left it because I do not support its approach.

According to the report, the case against awarding a patent to convert embryonic stem cells into nerve cells was brought by Greenpeace. I have to ask, What the hell does this issue have to do with Greenpeace? Converting embryonic stem cells to nerve cells is not analogous to pumping dangerous chemicals into the environment or hunting endangered species to extinction or destroying forests.

This sort of litigation is not what I would want from an environmental group. Of course, the members of the group, or their Board, or other appropriate people in the organisation, get to decide what it stands for. I can't control that. But if it stands for opposition to embryonic stem cell research, based on whatever philosophy it thinks it's pursuing, I want no part of it.

6 comments:

Legal Eagle said...

Personally I got peeved by Greenpeace a long time ago (about 10 or 12 years ago). It was after some guy was trying to get me to become a member and was spouting unscientific BS. This just seems to be a continuation of that...

Russell Blackford said...

Even longer ago in my case, but this situation in Europe illustrates the sort of thing that pissed me off at the time and continues to do so.

godsbelow said...

I'm not actually surprised to see Greenpeace opposing embryonic stem-cell research. It seems to me to be another symptom of the technophobia that apparently afflicts that organisation. It's this affliction that motivated the attack on a CSIRO GM crop trial a while back: http://www.lifescientist.com.au/article/393593/csiro_gm_crop_attacked_by_greenpeace_had_negligible_risk/ .

I sincerely doubt that the embryonic aspect of stem-cell research, which is what agitates the God Squad, is what Greenpeace was concerned about. Can't imagine that there are all that many opponents of abortion among the organisation's ranks. Which, I can only assume, means that it is motivated by Frankensteinian fears based on a worrying ignorance of science and the scientific method.

But perhaps someone with first-hand experience of Greenpeace policy-making can give me a more informed explanation of the group's stance?

Christian Munthe said...

Ob Greenpeace: agree, dodgy bunch.

Russell, I understood that you plan to comment more at length on the ruling by the European Court, as do I, as soon as I have time reading it properly. One thing to think about there for both of us is how, more exactly (if at all), opposition to patenting of human embryonic stem cell lines is connected to any opposition to embryonic stem cell research. In Judge Bot's preliminary ruling earlier there was such a link, but the conclusions of the court do not mention any such thing. Perhaps there is a link in the arguments, we'll see. But in any case, it is quite possible to be against the patenting without being against the research. I know that the scientists who had hoped to obtain some lucrative patents in this area claim that inability to patent the cell lines will make commercial development of drugs and therapies on the basis of results from stem embryonic cell research impossible. However, this is a claim that is often wielded by people with vested interests in situations like these without much substance, such as in the genetic research area. I will try to search more info on to what extent the ruling would make impossible a patent of a procedure involving use of embryonic stem cells (although these cells are not patented)...

skepticlawyer said...

I'm studying EU Law at present as part of my Scots law conversion course, and will try to do a post on the legal aspects of the case tomorrow (I'm doing the research now - for once, researching a blog post is legitimately 'on the boss's time').

Russell Blackford said...

Christian I do tend to be against some patents - such as some patents of DNA sequences that appear to me (and many others) to be thinly dressed up patents on products of nature. I.e., I have problems with certain gene patents including the controversial ones on breast cancer genes.

Generally, though, bodies that grant patents should not, without specific legislative authority, be refusing patents on the basis that in this case the patent will not be beneficial in encouraging innovation. Legislatures may be able to make that judgment about categories of patents, but I doubt that courts are well placed to do so.

That doesn't quite answer your question. But anyway, I'd be unhappy if patents were being refused, without specific legislative authority, on the basis that patents are not necessary to encourage innovation (in some area) in any event. Absent that specific authority, backed by a transparent policy process that led up to it, I think patents should normally only be refused on such grounds as "doesn't advance the state of the art" or "tries to patent a product of nature", etc.