Bush's Flawed Stem Cell Rationale genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Today George Bush vetoed the stem cell bill that had been passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate. Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, when explaining the Bush position stated "The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong." As I've thought about Snow's message, it seems obvious to me that it was crafted to appeal to those on the religious right who are vehemently opposed to abortion. It is another clear example of the Rove strategy...which is to deliver a carefully crafted message to each constituency in order to solidify their support and motivate them for the upcoming election.

I decided to offer an equally simplistic demonstration that clearly points out the absurdity of the Bush position as well as the fact that it frankly does nothing to prevent "murder" and can actually be construed to facilitate euthanasia or murder. Here's the argument in pictures:

Eight cell embryo

The above image of an eight cell embryo is the predecessor of a viable blastocyst. It must successfully mature within the fallopian tube...exit the tube into the uterus...and successfully attach to the uterine wall while continuing to mature.

Blastocyst

In order for a woman to test positive for a pregnancy, the blastocyst must successfully attach to the uterine wall and trigger the ongoing production of progesterone which is necessary to prevent the shedding process. If this fails to happen the blastocyst will be flushed from the uterus and no pregnancy will be recorded through testing. Essentially, this means that those who oppose embryonic stem cell research expect scientists to preserve more embryos (which are not yet even viable blastocysts) than nature is able to preserve.

In fact, one could argue that abortions occur naturally all the time. Allowing scientists to use some portion of the existing embryos that are scheduled to be destroyed would potentially provide for saving more lives than are naturally destroyed by the human body...assuming one even believes that an embryo is a human life as opposed to a group of cells that have some potential to develop into a blastocyst that has some chance of attaching to the uterine wall and becoming a verifiable pregnancy.

Stem cell flow chart

Clearly the rhetoric is far from accurate and not based upon any legitimate rationale. Further, in the zeal of those who seek to ban abortions, based upon their rigid religious interpretations, they are willing to forego the ability to save existing human lives. They prefer to prevent viable research from moving forward by blocking the essential government funding that could help those in obvious need. They do this even though nature destroys more embryos and blastocysts than would ever be needed to provide the stem cell lines that would allow for the important research to advance.

In the end, the arguments put forth by the President and those groups who contend that they are preserving the sanctity of life can just as easily be equated with "murder". The hypocrisy is abundantly evident. While they assert that science is callous and careless in its pursuits and in respecting human life, it is actually science and scientists that have saving life as their defining principle. Those who oppose them are simply lost in the ideology of fanatical religious extremism. I don't believe in an after life, but as far as I'm concerned those who seek to stall these efforts to save life can take their religious babble and their righteous pontifications and go straight to hell.

Daniel DiRito | July 19, 2006 | 9:10 AM
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Comments

1 On July 19, 2006 at 1:56 PM, Knightrider wrote —

Excellent blog, Danial.

Thanks for detailing this in laymans terms, it's very well written.

This is first openly deceitful, morally ignorant and intellectually-challenged US President ever that Americans have been shamed to put into office.

His veto sentenced to death the lives of millions of Americans, so that he could save a clump of cells in a petri dish.

2 On July 19, 2006 at 5:28 PM, Nick Byram wrote —

If anyone is being disingenuous here, it is not President Bush, but the liberal Democrats, who claim with straight faces that with just a few billion more bucks of corporate scientist welfare (or even more), all the crippled will magically rise out of their wheelchairs within months.

At this point, embryonic/foetal stem cell research (as opposed to other stem cell research that does not involve embryos or foetuses) is just taking shots in the dark, with no breakthroughs in sight.

Now that is truly an appalling political game, playing on the hopes and dreams of sincerely injured or crippled people to push a dishonest agenda, an agenda of:

1. Spite against those who think that embryos are unborn people and not mere unviable tissues masses, who would rather not pay for this (note: NO ONE is banning this research, it's just a question of being compelled to pay for it).

2. Playing with other people's money.

3. Expanding the gov'ment even more than it already is, for frankly dubious reasons.

WHY are you buying and swallowing such obvious
political snake oil, being pushed by charlatans?

If you and others believe that embryonic / foetal stem cell research has such potential, you can start a foundation for such research, or donate to one that already exists.

And the private sector funding would follow: If certain celebrities would put their monies where their mouths are, you would have some hefty funding! And if they did, more power to them; they would be acting on their sincere beliefs.

Researchers would be drawn to such foundations for the glory alone. Imagine the Nobel Prize and other rewards awaiting the scientists who make a breakthrough here.

But please don't buy the lie that we are "on the brink of a cure", and don't demand that the rest of us pay for your hopes.

Let's get something straight: This is NOT the Manhattan Project, where we had to beat the Nazi scientists to get the Bomb. The hysteria surrounding this subject is appalling.

3 On July 19, 2006 at 6:07 PM, jimi wrote —

Nick,

Remember polio? Salk at the University of Pittsburgh used taxpayer dollars to do that research. He gave us a vaccine for polio - a decent trade.

Your swipe at Democrats is amusing.

The private sector won't touch this because all of the lines available in the US are contaminated with mouse DNA. So they are mostly useless for research. Banning is irrelevant. Who pays for it? Same folks who pay property taxes to support schools their children haven't attended since graduating. Shall we stop supporting public education as well?

Other countries, who are funding this research (with taxpayer $) are seeing a booming medical research industry - think Taiwan.

You are correct to note that it will be years before this research produces results. I also agree with the bloated government the Republicans have given us needs to be put on a serious diet. But it was a new technology that allowed Salk to improve his research. I've seen history repeat itself enough times to not doubt it will happen again.

I'd wager the politics irk you. lol, They irk me too. Different sides of a similar coin perhaps...

4 On July 19, 2006 at 6:12 PM, gvico wrote —

>>His veto sentenced to death the lives of >>millions of Americans, so that he could save a >>clump of cells in a petri dish.

That rhetoric isn't too inflated, is it?

About fifteen years ago, there was a related moral dilemma about using Nazi research results on hypothermia. The scientific results were very valuable, and difficult to reproduce. Furthermore, the hypothermia research would potentially increase our understanding of how the body behaves under stress, which in turn would allow us to save lives.

The downside, of course, was that all these great scientific results were derived from throwing jews, gypsies and homosexuals into freezing water to see what would happen to them.

Sorry to introduce the Nazi theme. That's sort of accidental. The real issue was whether we should apply the fruits of knowledge gained in this way. Is it okay if we didn't originally do these experiments ourselves, but merely want to use the results? Doesn't the good that comes out of this research outweigh the methods used to get them? And the people were going to die, anyways, right?

In any case, to my thinking, these questions are certainly not deceitful or morally ignorant.

And the position of the current administration, I think, is that even if you make the hard choice and decide that pragmatism should overcome moral qualms, in this case, nevertheless, is this something we want our government endorsing? Shouldn't the government endorse ethics (say at Guantanamo, say concerning protection from unwarranted surveillance, say concerning the outing of government agents) over pragmatic concerns?

5 On July 19, 2006 at 6:34 PM, Daniel wrote —

Nick,

Thanks for you comments...I always welcome differing perspectives. Unfortunately, I believe your argument jumps over the issue in order to justify the arbitrary actions of this President.

The reason they call it research is because the potential it offers has to be explored and investigated. If the argument you offer were the criteria for the granting of government funding to conduct research, BILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars would have never been approved or spent. It is NOT the criteria and those who support stem cell research are merely demanding that the government apply the same standards across the board.

Further, there is ample evidence that stem cells will in fact lead to promising outcomes...just like the research that has been happening for years with regard to cancer, muscular dystrophy, HIV, diabetes, and on and on. It has as much promise as any other research that is in its infancy...and it has the added benefit of being a potential solution to a much broader array of ailments than other much narrower research.

Therefore, the real issue is what makes this President believe he has the right to insert his religious beliefs into scientific research.

As to your individual points, let me offer the following:

1. What you call spite, I call the promise of science...why don't you admit that it is you who seeks to impose your beliefs on others...science is merely trying to do what science has always done...you and other like minded individuals are trying to prevent the conducting of science based upon religious beliefs. Are you trying to spite the rest of us?

2. I think the money we are talking about is the money we Americans pay in taxes...if you believe in democracy then you would realize that government funding for stem cell research is favored by a majority of Americans. It is as much our money as it is yours...and while we are talking about money...I don't particularly like the fact that my government is funding programs that I don't like (like abstinence only programs that have little success). Why should we fund those programs and not stem cell research? Simply because it fits into your moral template?

3. The last time I checked, this President and his Republican controlled Congress have added more to our national debt than any other president and seems to have no plan to reduce our debt. Keep in mind that he hasn't used a single veto (until this one) to stop any spending bill...and I frankly think much of the current spending is far more dubious than conducting research to hopefully save some lives in the future...but then perhaps you see conducting wars as a morally superior endeavor?

Further, if I understand religion correctly, much of its premise is based upon hope. As I listen to the tortured arguments made by you and many others who argue against this research, I am convinced that you have no hesitation to dash the hopes of millions of people in order to satisfy your religious beliefs. Please cease the projection.

Additionally, I've known a number of terminally ill individuals and they are fully able to distinguish hope from reality. They understand the science because they have no other alternatives...therefore they rarely gloss over the facts as you seem so easily inclined to do. It is you, my friend, who in reality seeks to slam the door on hope. No one is suggesting a Manhattan Project...that is simply your "canned" rhetoric.

Speaking of appalling, I find your propensity to lecture others on the "truth" and on where we should spend our money to provide hope to those in need goes well beyond the pale. Frankly, I find your position to have little in common with "Christian" principles.

I'll offer one last observation...why is it that so many people choose to believe that there is an after life...even when there is no real scientific evidence to prove that one exists? I'm assuming hope has something to do with it. Perhaps you haven't the ability to distinguish your own hope from that of others? If hope is good enough for you, why can't others avail themselves as well? At least have the ability to acknowledge the inconsistency of your fully flawed argument.

Again, I welcome your comments and I enjoy a good debate. I hope to hear more of your thoughts.

Daniel

6 On July 19, 2006 at 6:34 PM, Joe wrote —

I agree that Bush and the militant anti-science religious fantaics who are Bush's base have created a campaign of such misinformation that it boggles the mind.
What was most interesting about Bushs' veto signing was all the CLONED babies attending. Embryos were implanted in non-relaitves, yes these babies are not even their own, by those who could afford it. The fertility clinics were reimbursed for thier costs, but those weredescribed as donations by the GOP and Bush.
The most important point I make, is that those cloned babies, were perfect matches in race as their surrogate parents.
Why are they allowed to select the race, and genetic traits like eye color, etc when being donated an embryo?
OF these cloned babies that were put on display, how many of those implants failed due to cellular rejection by the mother?
I think putting those fertilized eggs in the wealthy women, not only suggests Nazi like Aryian selection of race preferrences, but also put far more of those eggs in mortal danger that if they were used in stem cell research, as in the research those cellular lines can be maintained for a very long period, wheras the egg, if rejected is dead. Murdered according to the fanatical religious militants in the US.
Hold this veto against every single Republican in November.

7 On July 19, 2006 at 10:51 PM, Nick Byram wrote —

Well Daniel, you certainly generated an interesting thread here; I will give you that. However, to answer your points in order:

1. That's just dishonest. Where have I once stated my arguments on religious beliefs? I have stated my opposition to playing with other people's money for something so far of dubious benefit, plain and simple. Who is trying to impose whose hopes on whom, without a solid lead? Who is demanding money from whom?

As for religious beliefs: even if some, or even most, opponents of aborted foetal / embryonic stem cell research are stupid religious yokels, it's THEIR money.

To quote the late and very atheistic curmudgeon H.L. Mencken, "Whenever A takes from B and justifies it because A is helping X, A is usually a scoundrel..."

2. If you want to throw abstinence into the mix, okay fine. That issue boils down to people making their own decisions with their own children and their own money. The reason parents support abstinence for minors is just that, they are minors, and they don't like nanny statists raising their own children for them and passing out condoms behind parents' backs, which has happened in too many schools.

I may very well privately put my future daughter on the pill for her "sweet 16", or give future sonny condoms with the car keys when he learns to drive and hope for the best. (At this point wifey and I are still trying to conceive, one problem at a time).

But that will be MY future decision. Not yours, and not the nanny state's. Enough said.

3. You are absolutely right, and believe me I am not rah-rah Republican when they spend like drunken sailors on shore leave (on non defense programs at that! Whatever happened to keeping the federal government down to doing only what it constitutionally should???)

Here in California, we have begun funding of foetal / embryonic stem cell research, which is at least constitutional (keeping the social spending at the state and local level is a real stickler with me), and we shall see where it goes.

But perhaps what is most galling is your unmitigated arrogance mixed with ignorance:

"Additionally, I've known a number of terminally ill individuals and they are fully able to distinguish hope from reality. They understand the science because they have no other alternatives...therefore they rarely gloss over the facts as you seem so easily inclined to do."

Who is glossing over the facts? The fact that NO SOLID LEAD has been found from foetal or embryonic tissue research? That the Korean scientist who claimed one later admitted he was fibbing for grant money?

"It is you, my friend, who in reality seeks to slam the door on hope. No one is suggesting a Manhattan Project...that is simply your "canned" rhetoric."

You obviously conveniently forget former Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards' repeated assertions that the late Christopher Reeve would rise out of his chair within months if Edwards won his election, and he received repeated standing ovations for this demo-gagery.

"I am convinced that you have no hesitation to dash the hopes of millions of people in order to satisfy your religious beliefs. Please cease the projection."

Now that's just utterly specious. Who is projecting onto whom? You wish to project "fundamentalist Christian" on me, but you are just creating straw men to bash. Sorry, I won't stay within your "progressive" prejudicial thought box.

note to jimi (hendrix lives?): You may have a point if there was an overwhelming consensus for this crusade, the way there was for the fight against polio, but so far there isn't.

My old man and old lady were depression era babies, and in the 1940's and 1950's just about everyone knew someone who had polio--from one or two of their classmates all the way up to FDR himself. The overwhelming societal consensus in postwar America was this menace had to be eradicated. And people gave and gave and gave to fight polio, in fact, far more privately than governmentally (yah, look it up). They collected in the church pews and the movie theatres alike.

No, we are not on the verge of a breakthrough here; honest medical scientists will tell you they are taking shots in the dark and hoping for the best. Which may be a noble thing, but let's face it, far more women will be scarred by breast cancer and even more men will be scarred by prostate cancer. Shouldn't we not fund this and use this money for that instead? Or how about AIDS? The problem with government funding of this sort of research, in the absence of an overwhelming consensus, is that it becomes innately a political football to be tossed around.

"Joe" proves my point about the political football when he rants: "Hold this veto against every single Republican in November." Even the ones who voted for the research in the first place, and there were a good many of them???

I rest my case, if anyone is playing politics with this issue, it is the miserable "Dematic Lunacrat" fanatics, who hate Republicans so much that they even root for Hezbollah!

8 On July 20, 2006 at 3:33 AM, mrboma wrote —

Nick wrote: "far more women will be scarred by breast cancer and even more men will be scarred by prostate cancer. Shouldn't we not fund this and use this money for that instead? Or how about AIDS? The problem with government funding of this sort of research, in the absence of an overwhelming consensus, is that it becomes innately a political football to be tossed around."

70% to 30% isn't an overwhelming consensus? Actually, I agree with you... we should be funding research for these other health care items as well (and we do). But you've created a false choice. It isn't an either/or scenario.

Now you will shoot back that stem cell research has yielded no results yet. Well, my Dad used to watch a program on PBS called "Connections," which traced one scientific breakthrough or technology to a seemingly unrelated second breakthrough or technology through a series of steps. In almost every case, there was at least one "mistake" or "ooops" that turned out to be important, leading to a new line of research that ended in the second breakthrough or technology. So even if the stem cell research doesn't yield the best case results, it will yield information that could lead to other treatments or breakthroughs. One of the neat things about science is that if we can understand the nature of a failure, then we can often devise a new solution that might work. So, those "shots in the dark," as you call them, are exactly the kind of raw data gathering and observation moments that scientific research depends on. It just shows that it is the earliest stages of the research process.

The government is supposed to be in the business of protecting the citizenry. Why shouldn't that protection extend to protection from disease as well as from terrorist? Is this a valid comparison? Well, our government pours billions into military research on all kinds of silly things, from psychics to missile defense systems, that will likely never yield any usable results. The research is usually done by for-profit companies, so our tax dollars are essentially going to corporate welfare. Maybe you'll say we shouldn't fund more boondoggles, we should cancel the ones we have going. I disagree, but at least that argument is consistent.

But then we should look at what other programs our tax dollars fund. I don't like that my tax dollars go to no-bid contracts for Haliburton, KBR, CACI, etc. My tax dollars pay for state medicaid for Walmart employees. My tax dollars go to subsidizing Big Oil, who turns around and screws us all at the pump to the tune of the largest profits in the history of the world. The current administration is giving out big-time corporate welfare. What ever happened to the free market? Can't those companies make profits without sponging off of the taxpayers? I don't know about you, but I would much rather have my tax dollars going to non-profit medical research than to boost corporate profit margins so CEOs can make billions while the real wages of their employees stagnate.

Ahhh... there's the rub. I said "non-profit" research. If the taxpayers pay for the research, then who will be able to patent the technology and make billions off of it? Because we can't have any kind of advance without someone making money. That's socialism! And I thought the red scare ended half a century ago... silly me.

-----------------
gvico- you made the Nazi research comparison. But the Nazi research is in no way a "related moral dilemma" as you called it; it simply isn't a valid comparison. You really want to equate a ball of non-sentient cells to a real live person? Really? Millions of human cells, each with the blueprint for the entire body, die inside my body every day... it isn't murder. A blastocyst may become a person someday if given a host, but a pre-person is not a person. Is a caterpillar a butterfly? Is scrambled eggs the same as fried chicken? Potential human being and human being are NOT equivalent. To suggest so is dishonest and insulting to the PEOPLE the Nazis killed in their research.

9 On July 20, 2006 at 9:06 AM, doublerunner wrote —

There seems to be a misconception that there needs to be a "solid lead" for it to be in society's interests to fund a particular avenue of research. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we're constantly barking up wrong trees in order to find the right ones. In fact, this is one of the key reasons for government funding of scientific research. Otherwise, we would ONLY follow "solid leads". Groundbreaking science depends on taking the kinds of risks that NO sound businessman will put his money in--it would just be too risky. I think that the opposition to SCR has less to do with a concern for human life than it does with a general opposition to science--it's the whole Tower of Babel thing. Scientific knowledge is a threat to religion, it always has been, since before Galileo.

10 On July 20, 2006 at 10:43 AM, Daniel wrote —

Nick,

Thanks for the responding comments and observations. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with differing opinions since I believe it hopefully helps expose more “truth".

As to your latest remarks, let me first step back to your original posting in which you stated:

Now that is truly an appalling political game, playing on the hopes and dreams of sincerely injured or crippled people to push a dishonest agenda, an agenda of:

1. Spite against those who think that embryos are unborn people and not mere unviable tissues masses, who would rather not pay for this (note: NO ONE is banning this research, it's just a question of being compelled to pay for it).

In these remarks you raise the basic religious argument that leads many to object to this type of research. In your follow-up comments, you seem to be distancing yourself from this position…basically taking more of what I might equate with a “libertarian" position. Since I haven’t the benefit of knowing you or reading your other writings, I’ll take you at your word that your objection to stem cell research isn’t religiously motivated…even though my instincts tell me that may simply be a means to appear to object to stem cell research for other reasons.

I did take a moment to look at your website and the first item I viewed was your endorsement of this political advertisement. You went on to state:

This has got to be the best political ad I have seen in some time…whether or not you agree with every issue raised, it is just hilarious. Good luck to the man in North Carolina.

In another posting, you make the remark:

Let’s be clear. For years the homosexual community has been demanding to be left alone, screaming “keep your laws out of our bedroom". Those of us who believe that homosexuality is wrong for reasons ranging from health to (gulp) morality, have been asked to give it a rest and agree to disagree.

Now perhaps you will offer some nuanced explanation of your position but I’m comfortable readers can make their own conclusions as to where you stand and from where your beliefs and motivations originate. If your position is influenced by religion, I would think you wouldn’t be hesitant to say as much. Nonetheless, I’ll refrain from any further comments that equate your position with religious beliefs and leave that determination to the readers.

Moving on to your other points:

1. I would like to hear if you oppose funding for any research other than stem cells. Maybe we can get a better picture of your beliefs if we can see your criteria. I believe the government is spending huge amounts of money on research…surely you can elucidate the other programs you feel are unwarranted. Just for clarity, the government funds less than a third of medical research…apportioned amongst many different types of diseases and ailments. The rest of the research is privately funded.

As to stem cell research being funded “without a solid lead", here is what the NIH says about stem cell research:

The Promise of Stem Cells

Studying stem cells will help us understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions.

Another potential application of stem cells is making cells and tissues for medical therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace those that are diseased or destroyed. Unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant far exceeds the number of organs available for transplantation. Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Have human embryonic stem cells successfully treated any human diseases? Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) only since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. Moreover, Federal funds to support hESC research have been available since only August 9, 2001, when President Bush announced his decision on Federal funding for hESC research. Because many academic researchers rely on Federal funds to support their laboratories, they are just beginning to learn how to grow and use the cells. Thus, although hESC are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its early stages.

Adult stem cells, such as blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs), are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSCs in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years. More advanced techniques of collecting, or "harvesting," HSCs are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders.

The clinical potential of adult stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases that include diabetes and advanced kidney cancer. However, these newer uses have involved studies with a very limited number of patients.

The first research into cancer was no less abstract than stem cell research and no one could determine if it would succeed…but the concept had merit…and so does the stem cell concept.

The following are links to research that has begun to demonstrate the potential of stem cells…this research that has at its origin followed the same course as all research…it starts with some proof of concept in the lab, moves to testing in animal models, then goes through the rigorous process of human trials. Funds are granted on the basis of the submitted proof of concepts. Stem cell research has advanced in the exact same way as all research has advanced.

Heart regeneration:

http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11966.html

Brain related:

http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11960.html

Krabbe’s disease, a fatal nervous system disorder:

http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/11954.html

That is some of the research from ONE University…the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you are interested in reading more, there is an abundance of similar work in progress.

I’m not a gambler, but if I were, I’d bet the farm that stem cell research will revolutionize medicine…and I’m certain history will show that the U.S. could have moved forward much sooner had it not been for the decision of this President. It won’t be long before results will silence the rhetoric.

2. Fine with me. If we’re going to waste the money on abstinence pledges and father daughter ceremonies…cut off all of the funding. If results are your criteria, then we’re spending your and my money on a loser. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that teaching about safe sex has benefit…but hey…shut it all down. I do think children should be given all the choices…not just one or the other.

Nonetheless, if we shut it all down, I believe the result will be parents dealing with more unwanted pregnancies. Maybe that will bring about a reality based discussion. As far as I’m concerned, if we can’t agree on what works, then leave it to the parents. Fortunately, many young people have the ability to make good decisions regardless. Sadly, some children will pay the price for that approach but that may be the only way for now.

I’ve previously written about the issue of sex and abortion here:

http://www.thoughttheater.com/2006/04/the_language_of_war.php

3. Glad to hear you don’t endorse the reckless spending habits of this administration. Perhaps the judgment with regards to all spending (including stem cell research) needs to be given to another political party…the one in power has a poor track record.

Regarding “unmitigated arrogance mixed with ignorance", I’ll take my chances with the readership. To that end, you state the following:

The fact that NO SOLID LEAD has been found from foetal or embryonic tissue research? That the Korean scientist who claimed one later admitted he was fibbing for grant money?

I’ll refer you back to the research links above and suggest you do some research of your own to see what is actually happening with stem cells. Beyond that, it isn’t worth arguing with you absent the facts.

As to the scientist in South Korea, I believe his work was with cloning. You and many others like to lump stem cell research with cloning to give your argument more weight. The image of multiple clones of each person running around the streets has a greater fear factor. In reality, the research being conducted here in the U.S. is focused on converting stem cells into reparative cells…not another Nick or Daniel. Further, one scientists deceit doesn’t erase all the prior findings…it merely invalidates his research and puts him out of work.

As to John Edwards comments about Christopher Reeve walking someday…what is your point? I don’t know when I’m going to die and you don’t know when you’re going to die…but if you’re saying you have no reason for hope that they may find a treatment for any of the many ailments that may kill us both, that’s your choice.

My aunt died at 16 years old from Lupus many years ago and they were just beginning to understand the disease. The doctors at Children’s Hospital tried to offer her encouragement and hope…are you saying that is a bad thing? By the way, they can now treat Lupus so there was hope…she just wasn’t fortunate enough to benefit from the research.

You go on to state the following:

No, we are not on the verge of a breakthrough here; honest medical scientists will tell you they are taking shots in the dark and hoping for the best.

Are you talking about this “scientist"? If not, please identify the ones who hold your same belief and provide some evidence that that is anywhere near a consensus view. Good luck!

Speaking of consensus, take a look at the following links to polling data with regard to stem cell research.

http://www.researchamerica.org/polldata/2005/stemcell(parade).pdf

Here’s one from Kansas:

http://www.kumc.edu/stemcell/toolkit3.html

Here’s an article from yesterday with polling information:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/AR2006071900216.html

Let me remind you that our President made a point of stating he had a “mandate" after the 2004 election…with just over 50% of those who voted. Are you suggesting we shouldn’t consider him our president because there isn’t a consensus? You just can’t have it both ways. When a majority is to your benefit, you tout it as democracy at work…when it doesn’t fit your agenda, you say we need more consensus. Sorry, that is intellectual dishonesty. If I were to use the same logic that we see bantered about all the time, I might conclude that we have an “activist president" who is using his authority to undermine the will of the people. Shame, shame!

That’s about all I have to offer to my readers. I’m just going to have to take my chances and “hope" they give me the benefit of the doubt.

Nick, thanks again for sharing your observations. We may disagree but I still welcome your thoughts. Take care.

Daniel

11 On July 20, 2006 at 1:49 PM, Vervain wrote —

I completely agree; Bush's argument is flawed. This veto isn't preventing the destruction of any embryos. It's preventing embryos that will be destroyed regardless from being used for scientific research. Every one of those cute little cherubs surrounding him in his photo op represents numerous others that failed to take and died. If Bush is opposed to destroying embryos, if he "believes in life" that's one thing, but this veto isn't saving a single embyro from destruction. What he's opposing with this veto is more accurately likened to opposing the use of viable organs from accident victims for transplantation. Some people are opposed to such things because according to their beliefs it desecrates the corpse, and maybe Bush is one of them. But countless others feel that if after their death, one of their organs can save a life, then by all means, take it. That's what organ donor cards are all about. The main difference here is that these embryos aren't sentient, and will be destroyed before they ever are sentient, and thus can't consent to their stem cells being used. However, their creators certainly can consent on their behalf, and since those creators (the parents) were willing to sacrifice dozens of virtually identical embryos for a shot at their one "miracle baby" (and happily abandoned any that were left over once they had him or her) somehow I doubt they'd oppose the idea of their stem cells being used. If they did, they'd be hypocrites. I personally feel that the whole IVF process is extremely selfish when there are so many adoptable children already in the world, and I think that allowing their "leftovers" to be used to benefit others would be a nicely philanthropic way to mitigate that selfish act.

12 On July 20, 2006 at 2:16 PM, Rob wrote —

Keep in mind the idea of birth control is to prevent the blostocyst from staying attatched to the uterine wall. So how come Bush isn't preparing a bill to declare birth control murder?

13 On July 21, 2006 at 2:19 PM, Frank wrote —

I have to admit that I am envious of the ability to know with such certainty which way this issue should be decided. Everyone seems so positive that they know the right way to go.

I'm ultimately a little disappointed that the motivations of those posting are called into question as well. Can't anyone just have an honest opinion anymore without being told they have a hidden agenda?

Ultimately there are multiple questions to be debated here I suppose. Should we fund at state level, federal level, privately? Is there a realistic hope that this research will yield substantive results? Are the motivations of those standing in the way of federal funding religious? Political? Both? Is it possible that anyone connected with this decision is acting from a truly felt belief? Is science the only way to decide a direction? Do we have to have scientific evidence in order to believe that a possibility exists?

I read the Rand Study which says that of the 400,000 embryos frozen around the country that something like 11000 could possibly be used for research as it stands now. That from those maybe 275 stem cell lines could be developed and that assumes that all the 11000 are used for stem cell development as opposed to other research among other things. There is not a wealth of embryos out there to be used as the 400,000 number implies. This leaves room for the possibility that eventually someone will use their ability to produce embryos for profit.

If you believe that embryos are human life, that will be absolutely abhorrent to you. If you don't, it may be acceptable to you.

I honestly don't know what the right thing is to do. I certainly have never considered myself a religious fanatic nor am I a pragmatist in all things. I don't know for sure that there is a God or an afterlife. I know that to believe either way per these posts requires either faith in science or faith in God.

While I am certain that this will no doubt stimulate anger or derision or cause someone to say I am a religious right person in disguise, I can say only one thing with certainty. Each of the embryos could potentially be a child. I have an almost two year old little boy. The most precious thing I have ever seen or held. I would defend his safety with my life without hesitation.

I personally cannot help but project upon the embryos the same characteristics as my precious child. They could cause someone else the same flooding of indescribable emotion my son causes me. I just can't think of them as cells and I've tried.

For me, there is a difference between an embryo not coming to fruition naturally and one being destroyed with intent, no matter how noble the intent.

I have no website or blog, I am not trying to foist my beliefs on anyone. More than anything, I have been looking for a way to think out this extraordinariy complex, emotionally charged issue.

Thanks for that opportunity.

14 On July 21, 2006 at 7:46 PM, Daniel wrote —

Frank,

Thank you for your insights and observations. I'm glad you shared them here and please know that your comments are welcomed. I appreciate your candor.

I would like to attempt to address some of your comments and concerns. You expressed disappointment that the motivations behind some commenter’s are called into question. While I understand your point, the reality of anonymous communications on the internet has frequently led to less than forthright remarks and therefore it has the potential to shift an open and honest discussion into nothing more than an exchange of rhetoric and manipulations.

I post under my real name for that reason. I want an honest discussion where the participants willingly expose their beliefs so we can all hopefully find more "truth". I put my opinions and beliefs out for all to see and I prefer to have discussions with those who willingly do the same. I don't expect commenter’s to use their full name or even a real name...but I do want them to expose their beliefs and motivations.

All too often people are motivated to "win" but that isn't going to lead to anything productive. I'm not looking to win...I'm hoping that an honest debate can at least bring some degree of understanding if not resolve...for the readers and for me.

Part of my motivation for starting a blog was that I find politicians and politics to be more about deception than discussion...that bothers me because it leads to a situation that is simply about strategy and manipulation. Since my education is in psychology, I find it fascinating to observe and analyze strategy...but I don't like to play strategy...hopefully that makes some sense. I think I studied psychology because I wanted to get past the facades and it offered a means to that end. Anyway, enough said.

You go on to raise good questions that are difficult to answer. I don't know if I could even give you all of my answers. I tend to look for consistencies more than anything. It starts with ones beliefs about the underlying structure of our country.

I believe the founding fathers sought to separate church and state because they too couldn't answer all the questions if they had to incorporate religion into state. The reality is that most religions are about absolutes...but unfortunately we have multiple religions so we therefore have multiple absolute belief systems...checkmate!

So they decided to devise a system with equality as the foundation and to make it religious neutral...in other words allow people their individual beliefs but with regard to the governmental structure, no single belief system exceeds another. Everyone gets treated the same by the state under the guidance of basic principles (constitution and bill of rights primarily).

Back to stem cells. Science in the context of the state should be about science...so long as it is administered equitably. An example may be helpful...and I'll choose a complex one to help make my point...abortion. First let me offer the rationale and then I will also offer the arguments made against it. An abortion is a medical procedure that science has made available. In a society based upon equality and absent being guided by religious beliefs, those who want to avail themselves of the procedure may do so and those who, for whatever reason don't…need not. The state remains neutral and doesn't impose a belief nor does it punish a belief.

Now where this particular issue gets complicated is whether the embryo, the blastocyst, or the later term fetus is in fact a citizen who has the same rights as those of us who have been born. Very, very difficult issue to resolve since our state is based upon the principle that we may not kill each other but at the same time there is disagreement on whether or when the entity protected by the state comes into existence and therefore has the associated rights to not be killed.

The state has an obligation to protect "citizens" and to avoid the imposition of religious beliefs...enter science. The state, by its design, is not intended to make religious judgments or to impose them so it turns to science.

At the same time, in the application of science, the INDIVIDUAL (an essential distinction) may not be forced to act as science may determine...in other words the state honors the scientific evidence as to defining when one becomes a person (citizen) but the state MAY NOT force anyone to agree should their religious beliefs differ.

Bottom line, those that want to follow scientific interpretation may and those that don't, needn't...want an abortion, you can have one...don't like them...don't have one. The state has done its best to define the line fairly given the underlying principles upon which we were founded.

Frank, unfortunately that is as close to neutral as I think the government can get...and when a politician operates outside of that construct, in my opinion, he or she begins to become biased, is no longer neutral, and runs the risk of creating inequality based upon beliefs outside of the designed system. At that point, based upon our government system, someone is likely to be INDIVIDUALLY wronged.

For me, having already been called a relativist and risking the accusation again, here's how I see the situation. Day in and day out, beings defined as "citizens" suffer...often through no fault of their own. Many are children who have bad parents or are neglected because mom and dad are busy taking care of their own self-serving goals. Until such time as society decides to right that wrong and take care of ALL of its citizens...with the same zeal and passion as many seek to afford to a group of cells...I simply can't focus beyond the accepted science on preserving more embryos than nature herself has within her capacity. Hence I return to consistency.

When I see inconsistency, I frequently find some degree of dishonesty. Don't get me wrong...I am not saying it is conscious or intentional...just that it is real and means many individuals have not yet evolved a belief system that withstands the scrutiny that seeks to determine whether the beliefs are, or have been, applied consistently. If they haven't been fully explored, then in my mind that makes them suspect or at the very least suggests they are worthy of being challenged and / or tested. Why? Because I believe we have an obligation to seek as much "truth" as we can possibly discern about our actual human condition. Evaluating consistency can help reach that goal.

Further, in the interest of social cohesion, each individual must voluntarily subscribe to the established social contract. If not we have anarchy and conflict. In doing as much, we each give up something since our individual beliefs will likely never be completely neutral. The government must diligently play the role of arbiter...always charged with preserving the neutrality and therefore managing the agreed upon social contract.

The alternative choice, should some members seek to withdraw from the social contract, is something approximating revolution...the means by which we established the contract we currently honor.

Lastly, let me address one more of your remarks...you state, "I know that to believe either way per these posts requires either faith in science or faith in God." Frank, this is likely the most important point to clarify. If our system of government works as it is designed...and that requires those in charge to faithfully uphold the founding principles...then the INDIVIDUAL has the right to believe in both, one or the other, or neither...but the INDIVIDUAL MUST believe in the social contract that is the means by which we coexist...hopefully with as little conflict as we flawed humans can muster from time to time.

In the end I accept your rights to believe as you choose (with regard to religion and science) and by virtue of our social contract each of us is obligated to do the same. It is essential that we honor the validity of our individual beliefs with respect to both religion and science...but that must be within the confines of our governance...the state, and we should endeavor to make as near as possible, a full separation of the two.

Clearly, science is, at any moment, as much as we can know within the definitional confines of the scientific method and that can be so proven. We must rely upon and expect those who practice science to act with honor and integrity...and in return we must accept their findings with honor and integrity.

BEYOND what we can actually know, we each have the right to make discriminations and conclusions with regard to that which is unknown...this then becomes the realm in which faith, hope, and religion must exist without state obstruction or imposition...again by virtue or our mutual acceptance of the established social contract.

I thank you for your comments and I hope to hear more of your thoughts.

Daniel

15 On July 22, 2006 at 9:56 AM, Someone wrote —

When did Bush say he was vetoing the bill because of money concerns?

16 On January 17, 2009 at 7:26 PM, Chrissiann wrote —

Poor Nick... As the wise Chinese proverb goes: "Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
So Nick, be quiet, sit back, shut up and let us do our work. Nobody said anything about crippled people jumping out of wheelchairs in a few months, but if we can have all these roadblocks -- based on pure ignorance and foolishness -- removed, we could realize this scene sooner rather than much later.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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