Getting Past The Deception

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

The deceptively named Missouri Coalition for Life-Saving Cures (the Coalition) isn't going to get away with their equally deceptive attempt to re-define cloning in order to pass a constitutional amendment to protect cloning.

I can appreciate an open, honest, intellectual discussion - and I think that, generally, those actually performing Somatic-Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT - i.e. cloning) research espouse that intellectual honesty. For instance, as reported by the Columia Missourian, the pro-SCNT Diana Schaub, a member of President Bush's bio-ethics committee and the political science chair at Loyola College of Maryland, says the language in Missouri’s proposed constitutional amendment to protect stem-cell therapeutic cloning is deceptive:

I certainly agree that banning cloning to produce children is a good idea, but I disapprove of deceiving voters into thinking that embryonic stem-cell research by means of SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer, the common method for stem-cell research) is not cloning.”

(Emphasis added)

Money section:

According to Schaub, the scientific definition of cloning is: “the asexual production of a new human organism that is, at all stages of development, genetically identical to a currently existing or previously existing human being.”

Somatic cell nuclear transfer, says Schaub, is the procedure for cloning a somatic cell, or body cell, and putting it into a nucleated [sic] egg (an egg in which the nucleus has been removed) and then stimulating that egg to produce cell division. The result is a clone, or an organism that has the identical genetic makeup to the donor of the somatic cell.

In both cloning for children and cloning for cures, the initial process is the same,” Schaub said. “SCNT is a cloning technique.

The deception, she says, is that the amendment defines cloning as involving implantation.

“It pretends to ban human cloning in total, when in fact, it only aims to ban the cloning of a live born human child,” she said. “We should have an honest discussion about whether human cloning for research purposes, should it become possible, whether that’s a good idea or not.”

That last sentence is the whole key: opponents of the Coalition don't want to prohibit the vote; we simply want to have an honest discussion and a vote based on facts, not deception.

Faced with this straight-forward statement, proponents of the Coalition can do nothing but admit their deception, and sound sophmoric doing so:

Alex Bartlett, a panelist and lawyer who was involved with writing the initiative’s language, disagreed with Schaub’s assessment. He said the ballot language, which seeks to ban the cloning or the attempt to clone a human being, outlines very specifically what cloning is and what it is not.

“I think John Smith on the street or Joe Blow, when they think of cloning they are thinking of creating a human version of Dolly the sheep (the first cloned animal),” Bartlett said. “We tried to get at that and that’s we were preventing.”

Translation: we're trying to dumb-down Missourians, in order to pass an amendment protecting the very thing that Missourians are against.

I can think of at least two means for the Coalition to be intellectually honest:

  1. Clarify that the Initiative bans reproductive cloning, while protecting therapeutic cloning.
  2. Clarify that the Initiative does not ban cloning, but prohibits implantation of cloned embryos.

The reason that the Coalition won't choose either of these options is that they know that neither, having truthfully identified the intent of the Initiative, would garner the support of Missourians required to pass a constitutional amendment.

While the Columbia Missourian gets the facts out in a mostly unbiased manner, the Jefferson City News Tribune is still getting it wrong, and reporting with bias:

The proposed ballot measure, entitled the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, includes language that would “ban human cloning,” which it defines as an attempt to implant into a woman a scientifically created embryo that did not come from a sperm and egg.

But opponents call the title and ballot language deceptive and misleading for failing to classify a certain form of embryonic stem cell research, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, as the scientific equivalent of human cloning.

SCNT isn't a "certain form" of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research; it is the form of ESC research. SCNT isn't the "scientific equivalent" of human cloning; it is the definition of cloning - it is the method of cloning, period. These qualifier phrases clearly portray the pro-ESC research bias of the reporter, and it is against this very bias that obscures the facts that I will continue to fight. But the mis-information doesn't stop there:

Under that procedure, the nucleus of an unfertilized human egg is replaced with the nucleus from a skin or nerve cell. The altered egg then is stimulated to grow in a lab dish, and researchers remove the resulting stem cells.

This last statement is wrong; missing is that the researchers can only remove (embryonic) stem cells because the result of SCNT is an embryo, and it is from this embryo - which is destroyed in the process - that stem cells are extracted.

And on top of biased reporting, we see just plain wrong reporting:

Not all the panelists supported the type of stem cell research likely to be voted upon in Missouri in the fall.

Diana Schaub, a political science professor at Loyola College in Maryland and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, sided with opponents of the proposed November initiative. She called the ballot language a “definitional sleight of hand.”

Yes, that's the same Diana Schaub quoted above - very much in favor of SCNT and ESC research. The irony here is, Schaub is in favor of the research, but opposed to the language of the Initiative. Though, perhaps Schaub here is incorrectly identified as an opponent of the Initiative in order to discredit her criticism of that language?

And in related news, the Coalition is suing a rival organization to have its web site taken down. Apparently, they don't like being Google-bombed:

"They've stolen our Web site," said Donn Rubin, chairman of Lifesaving Cures. "They've stolen our codes, our pictures, our graphics" in what he alleged was an attempt to confuse Internet search engines and the public.

In the words of Glenn: heh.

Good luck with that...

All sources via John Combest.

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2 Responses to “Getting Past The Deception”
  1. Your trackbacks aren’t showing up again! And this time I can’t fix it. I guess my blogger software requires moderation if an entry is a certain number of days old. With moderation, I approve the trackback but it doesn’t show up…Ugh! Sorry!

  2. cb says:

    Hmm… you could always change the post date/time, and keep it always as your first post… 🙂