Say It Ain’t So, Jim!

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Missouri, Republicans, Saint Louis, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Hat tip: Arch City Chronicle. Also, Jamie Allman discussed this article this afternoon on 97.1 FM Talk while filling in on the Dave Glover Show. He mentioned an email I sent him regarding some of these issues.

The Post-Dispatch reports Senator Talent's capitulation on banning embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, and, as usual when reporting on stem cell research, gets the story completely wrong.

First, on the poor reporting:

Following the lead-in, the article makes the following statement:

Wading into a political minefield that has pitted abortion-rights opponents against some scientists and families struggling with debilitating diseases, Talent, R-Mo., said Friday there were "no prospects" for enacting the ban on human cloning—a bill he has co-sponsored for the last four years.

The argument that this debate pits abortion-rights opponents against scientists and families struggling with debilitating diseases is both specious and sensational. It evokes the entirely unproven notion that embryonic stem cell research has shown at all any unique promise in therapeutic benefits in order to appeal to the emotional sensibilities of an otherwise-ignorant audience. (See this previous post for related links.) The inarguable reality is that, for those families struggling with debilitating diseases, the only real hope exists right now in adult stem cell research. While embryonic stem cell research has produced not one benefit, adult stem cell research has produced some sixty-five benefits (as of July 2005) for cancer, auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular and ocular problems, neural/degenerative illnesses and injuries, anemia and other blood conditions, metabolic disorders, and various wounds and injuries.

Without this context, the uninformed reader is led to assume that without embryonic stem cell research, no hope exists for therapies or cures for such debilitating diseases. Without this context, such a reader is left ignorant even of the differentiation between adult and embryonic stem cell research. Without this context, the reader does not recognize that the ban only applies to embryonic stem cell research, preserving the efficacious adult stem cell research.

Toward the end of the article, the following statement appears:

In his speech Friday, Talent said the new form of stem cell research makes therapeutic cloning unnecessary.

In that process, also known as or somatic cell nuclear transfer, the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is replaced with the nucleus of another cell from a human body. The egg is then stimulated to divide, as it would when fertilized by a sperm, and the early stem cells are harvested. Stem cells can mature into a variety of cells to form organs and other body parts.

Now here's a semantic argument I've not yet heard; likely, because Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and therapeutic cloning are exactly the same thing. The two terms are interchangeable:

Therapeutic cloning (also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, cell nuclear replacement, research cloning, and embryo cloning)...

What is unclear from this simplified description is that what results from this process is a genetically complete human cell. Stem cells are extracted from the developing embryo (at this stage, referred to as a "blastocyst"), destroying the embryo in the process. Left to its own devices, it would develop into a fully formed human being. This point is indisputible. From Clone The Truth:

SCNT is the same in both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. The only difference is whether the cloned embryo is implanted.

Implantation differentiates between therapeutic and reproductive cloning - not the process that yields the embryo in question.

It appears that the Post-Dispatch just got the story completely wrong. From the Kansas City Star, Talent is favoring not SCNT, but a technique known as "altered nuclear transfer" (ANT):

Saying new scientific research may make it possible to create stem cells without cloning human embryos, Sen. Jim Talent on Friday withdrew as co-sponsor of a bill that would ban all human cloning and make it a crime for anyone to take part in the process.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Talent said the alternative research made the bill unnecessary. The new research - called altered nuclear transfer - would provide common ground for people on all sides of the issue, he said.

First, a brief description of ANT:

Altered Nuclear Transfer uses the technology of NT but with a preemptive alteration that assures that no embrye is created. The somatic cell nucleus or the emucleated egg contents (cytoplasm) or both are first altered before the somatic cell nucleus is transferred into the egg. The alterations cause the somatic cell DNA to function in such a way that no embryo is generated, but pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are produced.

"...no embryo is generated, but pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are produced" - a curious statement, that. In layman's terms, ANT alters the two components prior to the nuclear transfer, such that the embryonic development is genetically altered to prevent the ability of the embryo to develop fully. The claim that the embryo is non-human is clearly untrue; it is simply a human embryo genetically altered to prevent its full development. Contrary to the claims that this method eliminates ethical concerns over SCNT, I find the method to be even more morally repugnant, as researchers assume even more God-like power over the embryo, choosing which will be allowed to develop, and which will not.

ANT still performs a nuclear transfer; this process is, by definition, cloning. Regardless of how the components are genetically altered, the resultant clone still develops enough to produce human embryonic stem cells. Only a human embryo can produce human embryonic stem cells.

Now, on to Senator Talent:

From the article:

In a surprise turnabout, Sen. Jim Talent withdrew his support Friday for a controversial ban on human cloning and offered what he said was a compromise proposal that would heal the deep divide over stem cell research.

...

Talent said his alternative proposal, which he is still developing, would fund a newly emerging technology that avoids the most dicey element of the debate -- the destruction of human embryos that occurs in traditional stem cell research.

...

But even as Talent outlined his new position on Fridays -- saying he’d spent a year researching the issue -- the Missouri senator still declined to take a position on a state initiative petition that has made the stem cell debate so hot at home.

Mr. Talent, with all due respect, if you have "researched the issue" for an entire year, surely you wouldn't make the mistake of trying to differentiate between any form of nuclear transfer and therapeutic cloning. Surely you would know that no such "emerging technology" exists that would avoid the destruction of human embryos. From one of your staunchest supporters, know that you will have a great deal of explaining to do, and will have an extremely difficult time trying to justify this move.

Senator Talent, your argument fails on two points:

First, if ANT, as its proponents claim, is not cloning, and does not produce a human embryo, then it is not inconsistent with a proposed ban on human cloning. Passing such a ban - either federally, or in Missouri - would not prevent research that neither clones human DNA nor produces human embryos.

Second, if ANT is a form of human cloning, and does produce human embryos, then all the same ethical and moral questions remain. It is not then a "compromise" acceptable to both sides of the controversy, as you claim:

"There's a sense on both sides of the controversy that if you propose something that concedes something to the other side, you give up something yourself," Talent said. "It is going to become increasingly clear that the way for both sides to get what they want is to compromise."

Senator Talent, with respect to the destruction of human embryos, we have no intention of compromising on the sanctity of every life, no matter at what point in its development. We have no intention of conceding even a single human life.

Consistent with the Clone the Truth campaign, I am committed to ensuring that the truth about adult and embryonic stem cell and related research is made known. I am likewise committed to ensuring that this deceptively worded and ill-advised ballot initiative is defeated.

UPDATE:
Clone the Truth references this post, and calls ANT a "Trojan Horse."

UPDATE II:
ProLifeBlogs is now running with this story, as well, linking also to Secondhand Smoke, who in turn references Ramesh Ponnuru in NRO.

After Work Nap

Filed in PersonalTags: Cats, Pets, Photos

Millie decided that we should take a nap when I got home from work today. She made her wishes known by planting herself on me:

millie 025

All your human are belong to me.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

OYB February 10

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Exodus 30:11-38, Exodus 31:1-18
NT: Matthew 26:47-68
Ps: Psalm 32
Pr: Proverbs 8:27-32

Today´s notable verse:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD "—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Selah

Psalm 32:5 (NIV)

What a relief it is to confess our sins to our Lord! When we keep our sin to ourselves, the weight of it is heavy upon us (verse 4); but when we confess it, the burden is lifted - often, tangibly so.

The One Year Bible Blog asks:

Comments from you & Question of the Day - Psalm 32 is a powerful Psalm on confession and forgiveness. How do you confess your sins these days? Do you confess them verbally to someone else - a pastor / minister / priest / mentor / friend / accountability partner? Why do you confess them verbally? Do you confess your sins to God in prayer? After confessing your sins verbally or in prayer do you feel any different? Do you think confession is relevant? Do you think confession is a spiritual discipline?

One of the difficult things about moving around somewhat frequently (twice since college graduation) is the formation of relationships sufficiently intimate to allow for accountability. I am just now getting to the point in some close relationships that I can count on one or two as accountability partners, one in particular. I think it wise to have two types of relationships: one peer relationship, and one mentor relationship. I am working on both. Since college, the majority of my confession has been to God alone, in prayer; but I think the principle confession to one another is extremely important:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 (NIV)

However confession is made, I always "feel better" and am able to "move on" afterward. The reason is that, before confession, when we willfully withhold that confession, we open ourselves to worldly sorrow and guilt; but when we yield to the Spirit, and openly confess our sins, we are blessed with Godly sorrow:

10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

II Corinthians 7:10-11a

Worldly sorrow - that to which we open ourselves by withholding the confession of our sin - brings death: Satan condemns us of the guilt of our sin, and the wages of sin is death. That death is spiritual death, or separation from God. The longer we withhold our confession, the longer we allow the Accuser to separate us from God by overwhelming us with the guilt and sorrow of our sin.

But when we confess our sin to the Lord, we accept Christ's atonement for our sin, and no longer bear the burden of its guilt, which Christ bore for us on the cross. Instead, that condemning guilt is replaced, through the Spirit, with a desire to right wrongs and to do right and to pursue Godliness and holiness. Praise God for His grace!

OYB February 9

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Exodus 29, Exodus 30:1-10
NT: Matthew 26:14-46
Ps: Psalm 31:19-24
Pr: Proverbs 8:14-26

Today´s notable verse:

17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

Proverbs 8:17-21 (NIV)

Remember, this chapter refers to wisdom (also, as I pointed out yesterday, symbolic of and analogous to the Holy Spirit). Those who seek wisdom find it; James gives us the key:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5 (NIV)

When God gives us this wisdom, we grasp His perspective with respect to the true nature of riches, honor, wealth, and prosperity - and what a blessing that perspective is, because what the world offers for these things will always prove to be insufficient and empty compared to what God wants for us.

The One Year Bible Blog asks:

Comments from you & Question of the Day - Do our readings in Matthew today remind you of Communion / The Lord's Supper at your church? Is this a positive remembrance for you? How important is Communion / The Lord's Supper to you personally these days? Do you look forward to this remembrance at your church? Have you ever experienced Communion / The Lord's Supper with others in settings outside of your normal worship experience? Maybe at a prayer gathering or outside or in other beautiful settings?

Communion is not just important; it is vital to the life of the believer! Paul even ascribes tangible, physical consequences for partaking of communion improperly:

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

I Corinthians 11:27-30

Note, here, that Paul was admonishing the Corinthians for treating communion as just another meal, and were acting out of gluttony and selfishness - but the point is the same: they abused that which Christ ordained as sacred, and thereby ate and drank judgement upon themselves, in the form of sickness and even death.

My church has communion every week, and I prefer churches that do so. However, I love opportunities to share in communion in settings outside of regular church services. I have taken communion with 60,000 men at a Promise Keepers convention, at a rest stop with a mission group during a mission trip, at a state park while camping - I'm sure there are others as well. What I love about these occasions is that the focus remains on communion - and the reason for and basis of communion: Christ - rather than the service during which it is taken.

Christian Carnival CVIII

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity

Today is Wednesday, so Christian Carnival CVII is up, hosted by Part-Time Pundit. This week's theme: "the uncreative order of receipt."

Reflections

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Reflections has been added to the OYB blogroll. Welcome!

Street Preacher

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Street Preacher has been added to the OYB blogroll. Welcome!

REVIEW: Texas Roast Organic Mexican Chiapas

Filed in ReviewsTags: Coffee

The FedEx delivery man brought me a very good package over the weekend: the Organic Mexican Chiapas beans I ordered from Texas Roast, which the company describes as follows:

This is a simple and bright coffee with a rustic aroma. You can almost hear the Mexican music playing in the background for a Cinqo de Mayo clebration as you enjoy this lively cup. It's a perfect coffee to start the day!

That description is pretty accurate. Upon opening the bag, the aroma almost immediately sent me south of the border. (I already have a fondness for Mexican varietal beans, and this one does not disappoint!) The brew tasted darker than the roast appears, but for my tastes I found it to be well-balanced - and I lean more toward darker roasts in general, so I've enjoyed every cup brewed so far from this bag. Nice, medium body, with a hint of brightness in the acidity.

So far, based on this bag, I am impressed with what Texas Roast has to offer!

OYB February 8

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Exodus 28
NT: Matthew 25:36-46, Matthew 26:1-13
Ps: Psalm 31:9-18
Pr: Proverbs 8:12-13

Today´s notable verse:

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

There it is - the heart of "religion" from the Author and Perfecter of our faith: to give, to serve, to love. Christ-like "religion" is not about outward appearances, or rituals, or even sacraments; it is about maintaining a humble spirit and a selfless, Christ- and other-centered attitude, through which we serve those in need.

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

Comments from you & Question of the Day - Back to Psalm 31 verse 10 above - this past year I read C.S. Lewis' book "A Grief Observed". Has anyone read this? ...Let me know reviews in the Comments section below if you've read A Grief Observed, or know others who have? Has it been consoling for you during a time of loss? Do you have any other book recommendations for people who might be going through grief? Books that were helpful to you when you went through a time of grief?

I've not read it. I would write more, but a short lunch break today demands a brief post...

More Millie

Filed in PersonalTags: Cats, Pets, Photos

Millie is getting more comfortable with her new surroundings:

millie 015

What is this plastic thing you're always playing with?
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

millie 017

I will stand on the plastic thing, so you can't use it.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

millie 018

I like it much better after you put the catnip in.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

millie 019

I was taking a nap; why did you wake me?
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

millie 016

Please get that thing out of my face!
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.