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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Michael West, Interview With Gary Bauer

Aired November 26, 2001 - 19:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The use of embryos to clone is wrong.

MICHAEL WEST, CEO, ADVANCED CELL TECHNOLOGY: We have to take the risks associated with moving a new area forward like this. As controversial as it is, we're right on this for. And we just have to go forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, is cloning immoral or a life- saving science? This is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

They're smaller than the head of a pin, but six tiny cells have shaken up the entire world. They make up the first human embryo created through cloning by a company called Advanced Cell Technology in Wooster, Massachusetts.

A handful of scientists hailed the breakthrough, but most reaction was loud and negative. Even though the company's CEO and tonight's guest, Michael West, insisted his goal was to extract stem cells for research into curing disease and not to clone a human being, news of the first successful human cloning was condemned by members of Congress, religious leaders and even by President Bush, who called the procedure morally wrong.

And already, there are moves in the Senate to join the House of Representatives in banning all research on human cloning. In a sense, it's a repeat of the recent debate over stem cell research, but much more serious because now the worst fear of opponents is real, the first cloned human embryo. Is this a great leap forward for medical science or the first step on a slippery slope to human engineering?

Helping us to tackle that tough issue tonight, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, now president of American Values and Michael West, CEO of Advanced Cell Technologies, Inc. (sic) -- Bob Novak.

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST: Michael West, isn't it the truth that although you may have no intentions of trying to clone a human being, that the data that your company has put out can and will be used by scientists around the world to clone human beings?

WEST: We carefully weighed that in the balance before publishing this data. But we felt that to let people who are sick, that can be treated with these new technologies we call therapeutic cloning, you know, to put it the burden on them and let them suffer out of fear that the technology would be abused, it would be unethical and the morally wrong decision for science, for medicine and for us as scientists and individuals.

NOVAK: Dr. West, just about the same question was asked you yesterday on this network by Wolf Blitzer. And I thought you gave a more candid answer to Wolf than you did to me. I'm sorry you didn't answer me. But in case you have forgotten what you said yesterday, I'm going to play it for you.

WEST: Please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": But there wouldn't be any stopping of an effort outside of the United States necessarily?

WEST: That's true.

BLITZER: So somebody living in some other country could presumably use your medical breakthrough and try to clone a human being?

WEST: I think that's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: So you are saying then, that although you made that decision, what you didn't tell me just a moment ago was that this will result in the horrible, the monstrosity of human cloning? Or do you consider that a monstrosity?

WEST: I don't consider it relative monstrosity, compared to having within our power the ability of alleviating human suffering for a child with diabetes, or a patient with Parkinson's disease, to say we're going to rob them of life-saving therapies out of fear, hypothetical fear that someone would abuse the technology somewhere else other than the United States. I just think that's illogical and immoral.

PRESS: Gary Bauer, I've been amused today watching the reaction to this announcement because, I mean, everybody keeps trying to put this under the rug. And yet the issue keeps coming back. And I think we saw today the same thing we normally see from politicians, which is the way to defeat an issue, they believe, is to distort the issue in the public mind. And I would accuse no one less than President Bush today of trying to do just that.

Here's what he said at the White House today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: The use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it. And that's exactly what's taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Gary, as we heard the doctor say, what we're talking about here is research that holds potentially the keys to curing diabetes, or hepatitis, or ALS. I mean, that's not growing life to destroy it. That's growing life to improve it, isn't it?

GARY BAUER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES: Well, Bill, you mentioned about some things being put under the rug. Some things deserve to be put under the rug. And the bridge that Mr. West has crossed by cloning a human embryo is a bridge that should have been kept under the rug, instead of going down this road.

There are all kinds of wonderful outcomes one can imagine for all sorts of research. That doesn't stop the responsibility that we have and that Mr. West has to consider the religious, moral and ethical considerations of what happens when this culture goes down the road of trying to create human life in this way. He's not only being condemned by politicians, by the President, by the Congress, by religious leaders, he's being condemned by a good bit of the scientific community that believes he's going down a road that will be destructive to our culture and civilization and will undermine innocent human life.

PRESS: Well you know, Gary, that not all people of faith, not all theologians agree with you. This is not, as you know, as we've debated it here before on CROSSFIRE, it's not really new debate. It's a new kind of aspect of it and a new development, but let me finish.

BAUER: OK.

PRESS: One of the last times we debated this in 1997, actually, Dr. Glen Bucken, who's the president of Graduate Theological Union, University of California, a school that I once belonged to, working for my doctorate in theology, which I never got by the way.

But anyhow, Dr. Bucken said at the time the dawn of the era of cloning is a little like splitting the atom, with enormous prospects for evil and enormous prospects for good. You've got to admit that that's true. The prospects are good are tremendous here. And isn't the answer to channel this research into the good it can do, instead of crying Chicken Little and trying to...

BAUER: No, Bill, because at its core, it's built on an inappropriate principal. The principal that some life can be created for the purpose of destroying it in order to take from it things that another human life needs. That is the stuff of eugenics. It's the stuff of 1930s in Germany.

And you said that not everybody agrees with me on this. This is as close to unanimity as you get in a democratic republic. 90 percent of the American people believe that Mr. West and his colleagues have gone down the wrong road. And I would say to Mr. West, I hope the Senate acts quickly, sir, to restrain you before you do any more damage.

WEST: Well, let me jump in here. There's several things I take issue with. First, the majority of the scientific community don't agree this is wrong. And The National Academy of Sciences most prestigious scientists in the United States, officially reported that they not only encourage the therapeutic uses of nuclear transfer, but encourage it be aggressively and diligently pursued.

BAUER: Let me interrupt you. You're saying that the academy has endorsed human cloning of embryos in order to experiment on them?

WEST: Your...

BAUER: Really, doctor?

WEST: That's true. Now the opponents of this technology, and you're seeing it right now, have no logical arguments. What you'll use is references to Nazi Germany, inflammatory language. Now let's go back in time 20 years.

BAUER: Doctor, I'm doing what did you when you presented your case. You attempted to present your case by talking about human suffering.

WEST: Let me make my point, and then I'll listen to you. 20 years ago, IVF, Bob Edwards and the United Kingdom reported we've taken the first steps toward making a baby in a test tube. The same opponents, the Catholic church, same people lined up in row, said brave new world, test tube babies, slippery slope.

I want to you look me and the audience in the eyes and say that was the correct position. IVF has no position in humanity. Test tube babies are evil. I want to you tell us all that you think that that's true.

BAUER: I'd be happy to debate that issue with you on another show. Since I was not one of the ones that you have cited. But sir, if you want to suggest to the viewing audience that the only people opposed to what you have announced you've done is the Catholic church.

WEST: I didn't say that.

BAUER: You, sir -- well, it was interesting that that's who you choose to bring up. And the fact of the matter is, the American people, regardless of religious affiliation, overwhelmingly reject the road that you've just gone down. And quite frankly, sir, you are on the record as saying that you wanted to speed up your research because you were afraid the consensus in the country would stop you from doing what you did.

NOVAK: I'd like to ask Michael West a question. I'd like to set the record straight on one thing. Michael West has a Ph.D. in biology from the Baylor College of Medicine. He is not an M.D. So Dr. West, you were talking about all the diseases you're going to cure. I'd like you to hear from somebody who is an M.D., also happens to be a Republican member of Congress from Florida, Dave Weldon -- Dr. Weldon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID WELDON (R), FLORIDA: The so-called therapeutic cloning is a theory. It doesn't exist. You cannot use this technology to treat anybody. And Dr. West's proposals that you can help treat all these diseases, it's very, very highly speculative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now the optimists think you might get some progress in 10 years, but Dr. Weldon says not even then maybe. It's all speculative.

WEST: It's hard to talk about all the science, but you know, I can look you right in the eyes and say no serious scientists working on stem cells and cloning believe that there's any impediment to using this technology to take a human cell back in time, back to this embryonic stem cell the President spoke to us about, making any tissue available identical to the patient that won't be rejected.

That, although it hasn't been done yet, no serious scientist believes that that isn't possible. What the debate about is should it be done, not can it cure thousands of millions of people. Should it be done? I think that's a legitimate debate, not whether it will work or not.

NOVAK: Dr. West, our research material indicates that you are less interested in curing disease than in reversing the aging process, which I think is a little different thing through the use of this research. And that when you purchased this firm, you did it with the financial backing of a rich Texas oil man named Miller Quarrels, who wants to live to be, God help him, 200 years old. Are those things true?

WEST: Well, no. My interest is in geriatric medicine. It's in applying these technologies to age-related degenerative disease. I do have a small investor of an individual who hates aging and would like to live longer, but to try to portray these technologies as fringe is simply not true. As I said, the National Academy of Sciences, our national best, most prestigious organization advocates this technology.

PRESS: Which begs the question about what's wrong with living longer?

But Gary Bauer, the problem that I have with your whole approach is that you just leap into this and basically talk about this microscopic clump of little cells, six cells as having all the rights of me or you or a full grown human being. I mean, you're equating things that should not even be on the same level, Gary.

BAUER: Well, you know, whether it's hard for you to understand or not, Bill, at one point you were a microscopic entity. All of us had to go through those stages.

What I'm leaping on is that Mr. West has leaped here. That he thinks he and his for profit company in Massachusetts have a right to make these moral and ethical decisions before the religious community, the scientific community and the elected leadership of this country have a chance to make this judgment. The House of Representatives did debate this issue and voted overwhelmingly to stop.

PRESS: Yes, they were wrong. They were dead wrong.

NOVAK: All right, we're going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we'll explore the question of whether these scientists are trying to play God.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD DOERFLINGER, U.S. CONF. OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Reporters began calling me about this issue yesterday afternoon. I wasn't immediately available because I was taking my children to a matinee, where we got to see the preview of the new Star Wars movie entitled "Attack of the Clones." You may think that from today's news that science fiction has become science fact. And you'd be half right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The first human embryo has been cloned. And that raises questions that extend beyond science and go to ethics and theology. Is mankind, in trying to defeat disease, presuming to play God?

We're asking Michael West, president and CEO of Advanced Cell Technologies, Inc., the company that made the cloning breakthrough, and to Gary Bauer, president of American Values, who sought the Republican nomination for president last year -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Gary, I haven't seen so much hysteria over an issue like this since Dolly, remember, Dolly the sheep. And the most hysterical of all, of course, as often when we get into these kinds of issues is Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey. And here he is venting just earlier today on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: We're on the verge, ladies and gentlemen, of having human embryo forms in laboratories all across America. Most of these human beings will be used as guinea pigs in experiments. And once they are around in stockpiles, it is only a matter of time before one or more will be implanted and brought to birth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: We're on the verge of having these Frankensteins, he says. The truth is there are two eggs that got as far as four cells. One eggs, as I've read, got as far as six cells. And then it stopped dividing. So the experiment, Dr. West, the experiment actually failed. So there's no threat here and no need to panic, right?

BAUER: If Mr. West -- had Mr. West had a failed experiment that's on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and on the front page of every news magazine, then he really has pulled a fast one on the American people.

The fact of the matter is the slippery slope that Congressman Smith described is exactly the slippery slope we're on. The logical conclusion of what Mr. West has done is to create farms where human embryos will be created and then the tissues extracted from them to benefit.

PRESS: So I'll let Dr. West answer, but as I understand it, the slippery slope, you have no intention of going down because you say you have no plan at all to implant these in the woman's womb, correct?

WEST: Let me point out what I think is going on here. What you'll hear consistently from the opponents of this technology is not to save millions of lives, not that the pre-implantation of embryo is unindividualized a group of cells that has not begun forming a human being.

What you'll hear is inflammatory language, embryo farms, brave new world, Nazi, Germany. Now we talked about playing God. We all, at the end of our life, are going to have to look back on our lives. And Gary, you're going to look back on your life as well and say.

BAUER: Thank you, doctor.

WEST: We all do. We all do. And say, "What did we do with these precious resources we had in our lifetime?" And we were given two gifts, I think, in recent time, the human embryonic stem cell nuclear transfer. Everyone agrees that could do miraculous things. I think it's our duty to carefully, sincerely study this issue, dispassionately.

BAUER: Well you know, Mr. West, people...

WEST: No embryo farms.

BAUER: People who've devoted their lives to thinking and writing about that time when all of us will stand before our God have concluded that what you're doing is wrong.

WEST: No.

BAUER: The theologians across the board have condemned this. And in fact, many of them appeared at a press conference this morning to suggest that you are trying to play God.

NOVAK: Michael West, the word theology was mentioned by me and by Gary Bauer. And I want to get away from just some of these mundane things that Bill brought up and talk a little bit about theology. In one of the seminal books of the 20th century "Witness" by Whitaker Chambers, he said that millions -- what he called millions of modern minds felt, "if man's mind is the decisive force in the world, what need is there for God?"

Isn't that what this is all really about, that that you and other scientists feel that there is no really -- there's no divine intervention in any of this? That this is a question you can do anything you want, taking life away, adding to it, but it's in the hands of man and not God?

WEST: No, again, it's what we call an ad hominem argument. It's an attack against the individuals involved.

I would argue what this is all about, the scientists are all about, I'm all about, is that we're sincerely trying to help our fellow human beings who are sick. And we understand that these microscopic balls of cells have not formed a human being yet. And to not use them in compassionate way for our fellow human being is moral evil. And people who object, either I don't understand or they see this as a very clever way to win the abortion debate.

NOVAK: Dr. West, either you didn't listen to my question or didn't understand it, one or the other. But of course, I'm going to try once more.

WEST: Sure.

NOVAK: Maybe I didn't put it well. I'm asking you whether you, as a human being, when you are dealing with these life and death propositions, and the possibility as you said, as you admitted other people can do human cloning, that there is a responsibility to a supreme being or do you think that is immaterial?

WEST: Well, I think it's absolutely material. I think we're talking about moral right and moral wrong. And my point is when we make that debate, people have been studying this issue for years. And there's a formal recommendation from religious leaders and scientists to President Clinton and others that come to the conclusion that limited use to clone cells, but not people, is a moral and ethical use of the technology.

PRESS: We're almost out of time, but I just want to say...

BAUER: I do not want that statement to go unaddressed. Bill...

PRESS: I just want to turn this on its head very quickly.

BAUER: Sure.

PRESS: This is really -- goes back to the days of Galileo. Every time there's a medical science breakthrough or a scientific breakthrough, it's religious leaders like you who say, "Oh, they're playing God. We can't do this." And every time you've been wrong. And you're doing it again. Isn't that right? BAUER: Bill, number one, I am not a religious leader. Number two, no, I am not doing it again. The fact of the matter is that science has often produced disasters in the name of science. In this country, we took blacks in Alabama and told them we were treating their Syphilis when we were giving...

PRESS: Gary, that is not fair. That is no where near what this man is doing. You know that.

BAUER: This man has just produced innocent human life, which will now be destroyed to benefit somebody else.

WEST: It's not true. Cellular life, not human life.

BAUER: Well, what would it grow into?

PRESS: All right, thank you, gentlemen. The debate is not over. It is just beginning, but this debate is over because we're out of time.

Gary, thank you for coming.

BAUER: Thank you.

PRESS: Dr. Michael West, thank you very much for being there.

WEST: Thank you.

PRESS: And final word on human cloning. Dr. Novak and Dr. Press, we'll be back with our closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Bill, as a former, and I won't say a failed student of theology, I think you should know very well that there is enormous conflict between science and theology. And for people who don't believe in God, it's not any problem. They go to have science. But the people of faith really worry about the scientists in their smocks, making life and destroying life.

PRESS: Oh, Bob, I think that's much too simplistic. I believe in God and I also believe in the science. And I think this science is a gift of God. Bob, if you want to theology. I think God gave us a brain for a reason, to use it. He gave us this ability to figure out how to use these stem cell force a reason, which is to cure disease. We'd be absolutely denying the greatness of God if we did not move forward.

NOVAK: Godless men, starting with Ponce de Leon, have been trying to prolong life. For a lot of people, Bill, life should not be too long.

PRESS: I mean, the church has always said science is wrong, Bob. From the left, great debate, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

On the right I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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