Science

Sci·ence: a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws; systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. Posts in this category pertain to all matters regarding science.

Follow-Up to Matt Franck Anti-Cloning Measure Article

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

About a week ago, I wrote about this Post-Dispatch article, written by Matt Franck. I discussed the perceived bias in the article with respect to Amendment 2 and the efforts of supporters of the HJR11 anti-cloning measure the article discussed.

As I try to do whenever I discuss someone's writing, I emailed the author to let him know of my blog post, and to allow (and to solicit) a response. To my pleasant surprise, Mr. Franck responded to my email. In the interest of fairness, based upon his response, I would like to re-visit the question of bias in his reporting of the Amendment 2 issue.

Mr. Franck responds:

My ability to respond to your email in detail is limited by time. But let me reply in brief. The stated aim of lawmakers who support HJR11 and its Senate counterparts is to essentially negate Amendment 2. Yes, I understand that the proposal doesn't mention the amendment. But the fact remains, it would make SCNT illegal -- something specifically protected under Amendment 2, and a procedure at the heart of the push to pass the ballot measure.

Here, I agree with Mr. Franck that part of the underlying intent of HJR11 was to overturn parts of Amendment 2; however, the further intent of HJR11 was to expose the intentional deception and hypocrisy of Amendment 2 and that of its supporters and their $30 million propaganda campaign.

The Coalition for Lifesaving Cures states "Fact #3" on their "Fact Sheet" that "Amendment 2 clearly and strictly bans any attempt to clone a human being.":

Amendment 2 bans human cloning and makes any attempt to clone a human being a felony crime. Opponents of stem cell research claim that making stem cells in a lab dish is the same thing as "human cloning." Medical experts and most other people disagree with that view and understand that "human cloning" means creating a duplicate human being – not making stem cells in a lab dish.

The truth of the matter - as exposed by Amendment 2 supporters' objections to HJR11 - is that, currently, (embryonic) stem cells cannot be made "in a lab dish"; they must be harvested from an embryo. To date, stem cells must be harvested from embryos resulting from natural or in vitro conception. The comment about "making stem cells in a lab dish" is in reference to embryos produced via Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) - or, in other words: cloning.

The issue centers around the correct identification of the entity produced by SCNT. Biologically and genetically, that entity is an embryo, genetically identical to the donor of the somatic cell from whom the clone was produced. In fact, for the purposes of harvesting stem cells from the entity resulting from SCNT, that entity must prove to be a viable embryo that undergoes self-directed development from the initial single-celled zygote into a 5-7 day-old embryo at the blastocyst stage.

The Coalition continues to divert this issue by intentionally mis-identifying this entity as a "clump of cells", a "ball of cells", or other similar terms. Doing so provides a means to avoid the reality that SCNT produces a cloned embryo. Thus, they are able to ignore the biological and genetic reality, and claim some arbitrary "birth of a cloned human" as the "cloning" that is "strictly" banned.

The media coverage - for whatever reason - has tended to favor the Coalition's position with respect to terminology. It is the reason that many of us make a concerted effort to find and correct this misinformation wherever it is propagated in the news media. Thus, in response to Mr. Franck's article, I wrote in my email to him:

Second, you state:

"Opponents of Amendment 2 had wanted lawmakers to send a ballot measure
to voters in November 2008. The proposed amendment would have asked the
public to ban all forms of human cloning, including when the research is
used solely to produce embryonic stem cells. Voters specifically
protected that form of research by passing Amendment 2 last year."

This statement is inaccurate. The result of of human cloning is NEVER
"solely...embryonic stem cells". This research - somatic cell nuclear
transfer - ALWAYS results in the production of a living embryo of the
same species as that of the gamete and somatic cell from which the
embryo was produced. Should SCNT of a human egg and somatic cell nucleus
ever succeed, the result will be a human embryo. Any stem cells
resulting from this process will and must come from the destruction of
that embryo. They cannot be produced apart from the embryo using SCNT.

On that point, Mr. Franck responds in his email:

On your second point -- yes, I know and agree that SCNT produces an embryo [which] is then harvested for stem cells. I think you misread my use of the word solely. I did not mean to imply that all that is produced are stem cells.

I appreciate Mr. Franck clarifying this point in his response. He goes on to address the question of his personal bias in regard to the Amendment 2 issue:

There are limits to the territory that I can cover in a 350-word story. In lengthier stories -- of which I have written several -- I deal with these issues more thoroughly. Even so, I stand by my story.

...For three years, I have strived to cover this issue with detachment and fairness. And I believe that if you ask around, I have a good track record in this regard.

While I certainly infer a bias in the end result of the article in question, I want to be fair in asserting the source of that bias. To that end, I did my best to research Mr. Franck's past articles. He was kind enough to send me the copy of a rather lengthy piece he wrote, and of which I found a copy at the Center for Genetics and Society website. I also found recent Post-Dispatch articles here and here, as well as a copy of an article reposted here.

After reading this broader sample of Mr. Franck's writing on the Amendment 2 issue, I believe that he is correct in his assertion that he has made every effort to deal with the issue with detachment and fairness. While I disagree with repeated use of incorrect and/or potentially misleading terminology (such as referring to an embryo as a "ball of cells" or "clump of cells" or "cluster of cells"), an overall reading of his articles lends me to believe that he has attempted to present each side of the issue fairly.

I believe any overt bias inferred from these articles - and in particular, the article I originally critiqued - results from the limited scope of a shorter article and, more importantly, the editorial bias of the Post-Dispatch.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Franck for taking the time to respond to my email. Not many reporters would take the time to do so - especially to respond to someone being critical of that reporter's work.

Post-Dispatch Misleads on Anti-Cloning Measure

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

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today reported that MO House Bill HJR11 was killed in committee yesterday. Unfortunately, the P-D could not see past its own bias in order to report accurately on the measure. Ironically, in order to spin the truth, the article exposes the hypocrisy and deception of Amendment 2.

To begin with, take the opening paragraphs of the article:

A House committee killed legislation Monday designed to largely invalidate a new constitutional amendment protecting stem cell research.

The 3-4 vote by the House Rules Committee all but ends efforts this legislative session to overturn Amendment 2, which 51 percent of voters approved in November.

Based on this reporting, one would infer that the measure refers either to Amendment 2 in particular or stem cell research in general. To the contrary, the wording of HJR11 references neither stem cells nor Amendment 2. In fact, the words "stem cell" - or any derivation thereof - do not appear anywhere within the text of the measure:

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein:

That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next following the first Monday in November, 2008, or at a special election to be called by the governor for that purpose, there is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of this state, for adoption or rejection, the following amendment to article III of the Constitution of the state of Missouri:

Section A. Article III, Constitution of Missouri, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 38(e), to read as follows:

Section 38(e). 1. The general assembly may enact laws concerning health care research, including controlling taxation, appropriations, and use of public resources for health care research, and regulating research that could pose a risk to human life or health.

2. It is unlawful to engage in human cloning. For the purposes of this section and section 38(d) of this article, "human cloning" means the creation of a human zygote, human blastocyst, or human embryo by any means other than the fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.

3. The provisions of this section supersede any provision of section 38(d) of this article that is inconsistent with this section.

As you can see, the measure makes no mention of either Amendment 2 or stem cells. How on earth, then, could the author make such a claim? Examine the next paragraph for the answer:

Opponents of Amendment 2 had wanted lawmakers to send a ballot measure to voters in November 2008. The proposed amendment would have asked the public to ban all forms of human cloning, including when the research is used solely to produce embryonic stem cells. Voters specifically protected that form of research by passing Amendment 2 last year.

The deception seems to get ever more subtle. To wit [emphasis added]:

The proposed amendment would have asked the public to ban all forms of human cloning, including when the research is used solely to produce embryonic stem cells.

Did you catch it? The problem with this statement is that "the research" - that is, human cloning - is never used "solely to produce embryonic stem cells", since the result of human cloning is - always and by definition - a human embryo, not just embryonic stem cells.

The problem with this rationalization is the same problem that the proponents of Amendment 2 had during their 30 million dollar campaign of deception: the claim that Amendment 2 would "strictly ban human cloning". In fact, as both an educated reading of the wording of the amendment as well as the double-speak found in this P-D article reveal, Amendment 2 not only did no such thing, it actually made human cloning constitutionally protected in the state of Missouri.

This duplicity is further revealed by the actions of the house committee that killed the measure [emphasis added]:

"I'd say that a third (of House members) will be happy they don't have to vote on this," said Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton.

Cooper, who serves as chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he voted against the measure simply because he supports Amendment 2.

If Amendment 2 "strictly bans human cloning" - as its supporters claims it to do - why would an Amendment 2 supporter vote against a measure that would allow Missouri voters explicitly to ban all forms of human cloning? Any proponent of Amendment 2 could only oppose such a measure if in fact human cloning were a part of Amendment 2. That supporters of Amendment 2 oppose this measure demonstrates that their claim that Amendment 2 "strictly bans human cloning" was an outright lie.

Cooper - and those like him - should be ashamed of himself, and is a disgrace to the Missouri Republican party. Duplicity, hypocrisy, lying, and subverting the democratic process have no place in the Republican Party. For one, if his beloved Amendment 2 "strictly bans human cloning" then what does he have to oppose in HJR11? For another, even if he legitimately opposes HJR11, how dare he deny the voters of Missouri the opportunity to exercise our democratic right?

The truth, which should now be plainly evident to all, is that Amendment 2 constitutionally protected human cloning for the purpose of human-embryo-destructive research, and that the proponents of Amendment 2 knew this truth and intentionally mislead Missouri voters into believing that passing Amendment 2 would "strictly ban human cloning".

More Re-Definition of Terminology

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

First, they tried to re-define "embryonic" as "early". Next, they tried to re-define "cloning" as "implantation". Now, they're trying to re-define "cure".

Adult stem cells have thus far produced at least 72 human treatments. It appears that one of the latest tactics of the pro-Amendment 2 Coalition is to refute that fact (emphasis added):

Winship says there have been no proven cures found with embryonic stem cell research and said adult stem cells are a proven - and ethical - alternative.

"The reality is, it’s still zero" cures "for embryonic stem cells," she said.

Farrow said embryonic stem cell opponents would do anything to derail the initiative, including overstating the potency of adult stem cells.

"You’ll hear our opponents say that there are between 65 to 100 adult stem cell cures. That’s simply not true," Farrow said.

"The truth is there are only nine adult stem cell cures, and we believe that research needs to go forward," she said. "But adult stem cells have been researched for over 50 years. The first earlier embryonic stem cell research didn’t start until 1998. We haven’t even had a full decade of research with embryonic stem cells."

What on earth could possibly explain such disparity? Apparently, the Coalition, in an attempt to level the playing field in their favor, have begun applying a "FDA-approved" qualification (emphasis added):

Dr. William Neaves is with the Stowers Institute Medical Research. "This is a contest between society and disease, not between adult stem cells and early stem cells," says Neaves.

Researchers say embryonic stem cells hold infinitely more potential than adult stem cells for curing disease. They say the claim about dozens of treatments already developed from adult stem cells is not true. "At best, only nine of those diseases have, after 50 years of research with adult stems cells, FDA-approved therapies that are available to patients," says Neaves.

The Coalition is obviously hedging on the belief that the general public have no real understanding of what FDA approval is, what it means, or how it happens. I will try to give a brief overview.

FDA is divided into various "centers". I work for a pharmaceutical company that manufactures, packages, and sells drugs. We are under the direction of FDA's CDER: the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Medical devices - pacemakers or defibrilators, for example - are under the direction of CDRH: the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Stem cell treatments are under yet another center - CBER: the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

In order for a drug, device, vaccine, or other treatment (hereafter, treatment) to get FDA approval, a rigorous and intensive process is required. The sponsor (company requesting approval) must complete a submission application including all the data supporting the approval request. For a new treatment, the submission would include data from three phases (Phase I, Phase II, Phase III) of clinical studies. These clinicals are the heart of the company's justification for requesting approval. Phase I clinicals are very small (less than 100 participants) studies, generally using healthy humans, to determine physiological interaction of a treatment with humans. Phase II clinicals follow successful of Phase I, and are controlled, small-scale (a few hundred participants) studies using people who have the condition for which the treatment is indicated, used to determine preliminary data with respect to the effectiveness of the treatment, and any side effects associated with the treatment. Phase III clinicals follow successful completion of Phase II, and are controlled (or uncontrolled), large-scale (a few hundred to thousands of participants) studies used to determine the effectiveness of the treatment for the general population, and to ascertain the overall risk-benefit relationship of the treatment.

Based on these data, in addition to other aspects of the submission (stability data for a drug, for example), FDA will approve or reject the application. Once FDA has approved an application, the sponsor can legally market and sell the treatment in the US.

As with many other treatments, due to the nature of the conditions for which stem cell treatments are intended, such treatments are not always well-suited for typical clinical trials. FDA is aware of and working to reconcile the difficulty of translating stem-cell treatments into clinical trials.

Note, however, that other mechanisms exist, prior to or in lieu of FDA final approval, for treatments to be used (legally and effectively). Two such mechanisms are the Treatment Investigational New Drug (Treatment IND) approval, in which "FDA will permit an investigational drug to be used under a treatment IND if there is preliminary evidence of drug efficacy and the drug is intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease, or if there is no comparable alternative drug or therapy available to treat that stage of the disease in the intended patient population", and the parallel track policy, in which "patients with AIDS whose condition prevents them from participating in controlled clinical trials can receive investigational drugs shown in preliminary studies to be promising."

Some treatments - such as prenatal drugs - may never proceed through all clinical phases and final approval, but may be given to patients as investigational treatments for non-approved indications as long as the patient gives informed consent (which is also required for participation in clinical studies). Such is the case for Treatment INDs discussed above.

The bottom line is this: all treatments administered in the US must have FDA approval, whether in the form of a final New Drug Approval (NDA), or as an Investiational New Drug approval (IND). So, of the more than 72 treatments currently in use, every single one in use in the US has FDA approval of one form or another.

That said, much stem cell research and advancement takes place outside the borders of the US and outside the control of FDA. Any treatments derived from such research would not be subject to FDA approval; therefore, any implication regarding such approval is

This argument is not unique to the Missouri Amendment battle. In this 07/06 letter to Science, Do No Harm refutes the argument for the straw man that it is, and also points out that some 1170 clinical trials involving stem cells currently exist, including some 565 trials currently active and seeking participants - while not one single clinical trial is underway for embryonic stem cell treatments. Moreover, the letter points out that there are currently no peer-reviewed references to embryonic stem cell-derived human treatments. The above-referenced list of 72 human treatments derived from adult stem cells, which Do No Harm maintains, includes only those treatments for which peer-reviewed scientific publication of their effectiveness exists.

Yet again, the Coalition can only offer mistruths and deception.

Christians Against Human Cloning Rally

Filed in Politics, Religion, Science, Social IssuesTags: Christianity, Cloning, Missouri, Saint Louis, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Last night, I attended the Christians Against Human Cloning Rally, held at Life Christian Church and sponsored by Vision America/Missourians for Truth. Speakers included Shao-Chun Chang (professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis), Charles Drury (Hotel Developer), Archbishop Raymond Burke, Rich Bott (executive vice president, Bott Radio Network), Rick Scarborough (President, Vision America), Phyllis Schlafly (Founder and President, Eagle Forum), and Alan Keyes.

Some notable quotes:

"It is wrong to create human life for the purpose of destroying that life."

-- Archbishop Raymond Burke

"The most fundamental premise of our nation is not that we have rights, but that our rights come from God."

-- Dr. Alan Keyes

(Pictures will be available soon.)

UPDATE: See the Flickr photoset for the rally.

CAHC Rally 001

Christians Against Human Cloning Rally, Life Christian Church, Saint Louis, 28 August 2006
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

The Post-Dispatch covered the rally. Below are some excerpts from the article.

(St. Loius Archbiship Raymond) Burke, head of the St. Louis Roman Catholic archdiocese, joined other regional and national religious conservatives - from Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly to commentator Alan Keyes - who addressed hundreds who packed the sanctuary at the Life Christian Church, 13001 Gravois Road in south St. Louis County.

"Hundreds"? My estimation was more like 2,000. I was in the balcony, and couldn't see the entire floor seating area. The Cape Girardeau rally had 300, and gauging by the photo, we had as many in the balcony seating, alone.

(I just called the church to inquire about estimated attendance. Though I didn't get an actual number, I was informed that the rally was believed to be essentially a "full house", and the church sanctuary/auditorium holds between 3,000 and 4,000 people. I know the balcony wasn't entirely full, but the floor seating was.)

Back to the article:

In a telephone interview, (chairman of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures Donn) Rubin contended that it was the opponents who were spreading untruths. Otherwise, he said, the Cures Coalition wouldn't have support from more than 100 groups, including research centers, health care groups and patient groups.

We'll see the most fundamental of your untruths, a couple paragraphs below. And it's about time I parsed your "factsheet" as well, since every single point listed is a mistruth at best, or a bald-faced lie at worst.

Critics, said Rubin, are "inventing wild claims to distract the public from what we're really voting on - the right of Missourians to obtain the same medical treatments available in other states."

The "medical treatments" canard is nothing but a "wild [claim] to distract the public from what we're really voting on." Missouri's access to medical treatments available in other states has never been in question, and likely will never be in question. In the far-off (and, in all reality, unlikely) event that a human treatment derived from embryonic stem cells ever becomes available, the location of the research into that treatment will not determine the location of the application of such a treatment. The availability of such a treatment will depend only upon the availability of access to the stem cell line from which such treatment was developed.

At the rally, opponents emphasized that much of the debate centers on a procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning.

Under that procedure, the nucleus of an unfertilized human egg is replaced with the nucleus of another human cell. Opponents say it is a form of human cloning and cite the use of the procedure to clone Dolly the sheep. The Lifesaving Cures Coalition says the procedure is not cloning and cites the proposed amendment's specific ban against implanting such an egg in a womb.

And here it is: the number one, most fundamental, outright, bald-faced lie of the Coalition. By definition Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) is cloning; cloning is SCNT. The two terms are interchangeable.

In genetics, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a technique for cloning.

...

This technique is currently the basis for cloning animals, such as the famous Dolly the sheep, and could theoretically be used to clone humans. Scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute are currently researching a technique to use somatic cell nuclear transfer to produce embryonic stem cells.

For human cells, no other method exists as a viable means of cloning.

Even your own supporters recognize and admit this truth. From your own website:

Let us freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies. The distinction should be clear.

The distinction is clear, but it is also irrelevant. Your Coalition is promoting Amendment 2, specifically stating that the amendment "bans human cloning" - yet, you never reveal that the amendment uses a conjured definition of "cloning" not recognized anywhere else, nor do you point out that the amendment actually prohibits the banning of human cloning - that is, cloning according to the proper usage of the term.

So, which side is it, again, using distractions and spreading untruths?

Back to the article:

Scarborough said the number of Missouri rallies would depend on how much money can be raised to pay for them. So far, each rally has cost close to $20,000. That includes Keyes' speaking fee of $2,500.

The Lifesaving Cures' leaders point to the payments as evidence that Keyes and Scarborough may have financial motives. Scarborough said he was offended by such talk, and added that Keyes' payment was a fraction of his usual speaking fee.

Let's compare rallies, shall we?

How much do you want to wager that the Coalition Rally held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, with its Hollywood glitz, busloads of "hundreds" (er, make that, about 150) attendees from across the state, red-carpet treatment of speakers, and applause cues cost more than the Christians Against Human Cloning rallies? To wit (emphasis added):

From their state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment to the busloads of backers brought to town from across the state, it was clear supporters of an effort to amend Missouri's constitution to protect embryonic stem cell research spared no expense at a Monday morning campaign kickoff rally.

With an audience of nearly 150 proponents at the Capitol Plaza Hotel prompted to applaud on cue and a podium of speakers from the political to the poignant, the rally in favor of the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative had the look and feel of a television talk show.

Are you going to imply, with a straight face, that all of the Coalition's speakers are speaking without compensation? Further, what of the over ten million dollars in Coalition support from the Stowers Institute? Would you actually lead to believe that this investment is made without an expectation of a return? Follow the money, indeed!

See also: LifeNews coverage.

Cloning and Women’s Health

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Just how safe is it for women to donate eggs for SCNT research?

Someone Finds Me Humorous!

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Apparently, the Primacy of Awesome (who can't seem to follow blog-linking protocol well enough to trackback to my original post), considers me to have made a humorous attempt at reasoning.

To set the stage, from this post at Mary Meets Dolly, I had quoted this article (link appears not to be working at the moment), as follows:

In fact, to attribute rights to embryos is to call for the violation of actual rights. Since the purpose of rights is to enable individuals to secure their well-being, a crucial right, inherent in the right to liberty and property, is the right to do scientific research in pursuit of new medical treatments. To deprive scientists of the freedom to use clusters of cells to do such research is to violate their rights–as well as the rights of all who would contribute to, invest in, or benefit from this research.

I then made the following comparison:

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Somehow, the apparently reading-comprehension impaired Primacy of Awesome then came to the following conclusion:

That’s right! Pro-stem cell research equals genocide. And for some reason Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave because… Objectivists are now pro-holocaust? You really gotta see this one to believe it.

First, let me point out that Primacy of Awesome fails to distinguish between embryonic and adult stem cell research; therefore, the first statement of his conclusion is specious. On the matter of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, that conclusion isn't nearly as hyperbolic as the author would lead you to believe. Considering that the authors of the original article failed in their attempt to redefine the definition of a "human being", the fact that ESC research will require the destruction of countless human embryos may lead some to consider the line of research analogous to genocide.

Second, Primacy of Awesome apparently missed the point of the comparison completely. The original authors tried to use a rationalization that to oppose ESC research in order to defend the sanctity of all human life no matter what age or stage of development equates to denial of the right of other humans to perform scientific research on human embryos for the securement of well-being of other humans. Let me quote again my response to this reasoning:

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

In that comparison, I did not in any way address the purpose of using such a reasoning, but rather the reasoning itself. Primacy of Awesome missed this point entirely. The similarity lies in the use of the same form of reasoning in order to obtain a desired end.

The Nazis rationalized that Jews were inferior as humans, and thus reasoned that their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were subservient to the Nazis' right to perform scientific experiments on them. The authors rationalized that human embryos are not human beings, and thus reasoned that their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were in violation to the rights of scientists to use them for research for the securement of the well-being of other humans.

The comparison is especially germane, since in both cases, the preliminary rationalization is clearly and demonstrably false. The Jewish victims of the Holocaust were every bit intrinsically valuable has human beings as were the Germans who carried out the Holocaust; likewise, human embryos are every bit intrinsically valuable as human beings as are those who wish to use them for scientific research.

To be quite clear (since, apparently, Primacy of Awesome requires the carification): to compare the use of faulty reasoning in two circumstances makes no inherent value judgement concerning the relative evil of one end versus the other.

I reserve that judgement for abortion.

Update: Primacy of Awesome added a trackback to the original post. Thanks, Mike!

Think For Oneself, Come To The Right Conclusion

Filed in Politics, ScienceTags: Media Bias, Stem Cells

At least, that's what happened for Jason Kotecki of the Escape Reality blog:

A lot of really good scientific information is out there, if you look for it. And yet I’m still left scratching my head. If adult cells have a proven track record for making people better, why all the hullabaloo about the embryonic incarnations? Why the big push for embryonic stem cell research when it clearly involves tinkering with life and has nowhere near the track record of the other types of stem cells anyway? Why all this talk about being "for" or "against" stem cell research? In my estimation, we should all be for it. But why aren’t the distinctions between the types of stem cells spelled out in the media? Is it because the media can’t resist the juiciness of pitting two sides against each other? Is it because an accurate distinction between the different types doesn’t fit nicely into a 30-second sound byte? And why do politians always feel the need to jump in and muddy the waters?

My advice, Jason: follow the money.

Ayn Rand Institute Hypocrisy

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

Mary Meets Dolly parses a despicable attempt at rationalization of the inhumanity of human embryos by David Holcberg and Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute.

The authors use several tactics. Here is the first:

But embryos used in embryonic stem cell research are manifestly not human beings--not in any rational sense of the term. These embryos are smaller than a grain of sand, and consist of at most a few hundred undifferentiated cells. They have no body or body parts. They do not see, hear, feel, or think. While they have the potential to become human beings--if implanted in a woman's uterus and brought to term--they are nowhere near actual human beings.

Unfortunately for them, human embryos are, by unbiased definition, human beings. Genetically, they are fully human. They are not "potential" humans. The self-direct their growth and development, meaning the human embryo manifestly exhibits initiative toward that end. Just because some activist SCOTUS judges arbitrarily conferred "personhood" on human beings only upon the point of birth does not change the scientific evidence, knowledge, and general belief that life exists intrinsically at the moment of conception.

The second tactic is as follows:

The "pro-lifers" accept on faith the belief that rights are a divine creation: a gift from an unknowable supernatural being bestowed on embryos at conception (which many extend to embryos "conceived" in a beaker). The most prominent example of this view is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, which declares to its followers that an embryo "is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized."

But rights are not some supernatural construct, mystically granted by the will of "God." They are this-worldly principles of proper political interaction rooted in man's rational nature. Rights recognize the fact that men can only live successfully and happily among one another if they are free from the initiation of force against them. Rights exist to protect and further human life. Rights enable individual men to think, act, produce and trade, live and love in freedom. The principle of rights is utterly inapplicable to tiny, pre-human clusters of cells that are incapable of such actions.

I guess, by this logic, every one of our Founding Fathers was a "pro-lifer". May I remind of the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

The endowment of rights is not a function of nor dependent upon the capacity of the person to take advantage of those rights; rather, the intrinsic worth of the person is recognized by the unconditional endowment of those rights. The authors' same logic applies to justification for euthanasia of the elderly, the incapacitated, the mentally retarded, or anyone else not deemed inherently "worthy" of such rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the height of arrogance that these authors would deign to set themselves up as arbiters of the inherent worth of any person, no matter at what stage in that person's development.

The logical progression of this line of rationalization leads to the following harrowing statement:

In fact, to attribute rights to embryos is to call for the violation of actual rights. Since the purpose of rights is to enable individuals to secure their well-being, a crucial right, inherent in the right to liberty and property, is the right to do scientific research in pursuit of new medical treatments. To deprive scientists of the freedom to use clusters of cells to do such research is to violate their rights--as well as the rights of all who would contribute to, invest in, or benefit from this research.

The last person to try such reasoning did so in order to implement said scientific research on another group of humans deemed unworthy of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The end result: the death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Having fully lost all grasp of reality, the authors resort to what is now the commonplace argument for ESC research:

And to the extent that rights are violated in this way, we can expect deadly results. The political pressure against embryonic stem cell research is already discouraging many scientists and businessmen from investing their time and resources in its pursuit. If this research can lead, as scientists believe, to the ability to create new tissues and organs to replace damaged ones, any obstacles placed in its path will unnecessarily delay the discovery of new cures and treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and osteoporosis. Every day that this potentially life-saving research is delayed is another day that will go by before new treatments become available to ease the suffering and save the lives of countless individuals. And if the "pro-lifers" ever achieve the ban they seek on embryonic stem cell research, millions upon millions of human beings, living or yet to be born, might be deprived of healthier, happier, and longer lives.

Yet these hypocrites ignore new treatments for such conditions being developed and used every day, when such treatments are derived from adult stem cell research. They gloss over the glaring failure thus far of ESC research to yield even a single viable treatment. They facilitate the propogation of false hope for those suffering from diseases that likely no stem-cell (adult or embryonic) derived treatments will ever help, such as Alzheimer's.

The authors leave us with this conclusion:

The enemies of embryonic stem cell research know this, but are unmoved. They are brazenly willing to force countless human beings to suffer and die for lack of treatments, so that clusters of cells remain untouched.

To call such a stance "pro-life" is beyond absurd. Their allegiance is not to human life or to human rights, but to their anti-life dogma.

If these enemies of human life wish to deprive themselves of the benefits of stem cell research, they should be free to do so and die faithful to the last. But any attempt to impose their religious dogma on the rest of the population is both evil and unconstitutional. In the name of the actual sanctity of human life and the inviolability of rights, embryonic stem cell research must be allowed to proceed unimpeded. Our lives may depend on it.

To claim that an embryo is not a human being is beyond absurd. The proponents of embryonic stem cell research know this, but are unmoved. They are brazenly willing to force their dogmatic, culture-of-death views on the rest of the American people, who continue to demonstrate their disdain for human cloning for any reason, and their disapproval of the destruction of human embryos for research purposes. So, let's recap:

Pro-Life

  • Recognizes intrinsic value of life at every age and stage of deveopment
  • Supports the entirely ethically uncontroversial, already proven, and immensely promising adult stem cell research
  • Opposes embryonic stem cell research because the process destroys human embryos, recognized as intrinsically valuable human life

Culture of Death

  • Denies the inherent worth of life based on developmental stage, mental capacity, age, ability to contribute to society, or any other socially or politically expedient reason
  • Ignores the many advances in adult stem cell research, and the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been improved or even saved by such research
  • Rationalizes an untenable position by attempting to redefine terms and change boundaries, and intentionally give false hope by knowingly making unrealistic claims

Ayn Rand is rolling over in her grave.

Cord Blood and MS

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

An umbilical cord blood stem cell treatment appears to have yielded positive results in treating Multiple Sclerosis.

The UK resident traveled to Rotterdam for the treatment, which the report inexplicably refers to as "controversial" and claims is "banned" in the UK.

Also noteworthy, the report claims that the MS Society (UK) opposes the procedure. I found this, this, and this on their website.

Alzheimer’s and Stem Cells: The Reality

Filed in Politics, ScienceTags: Media Bias, Stem Cells

Dennis York lays out the reality concerning Alzheimer's and potential stem-cell related treatments.