Stem Cell Opponents Deceiving Public genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak

Mad science

With the Congress set to debate and vote on measures to expand government funding for stem cell research, those opposed to further funding have been offering false information to bolster their argument. If you listen to those who have been interviewed or have engaged in the discussions about stem cell research, those opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells repeat the oft heard argument that adult stem cells are already being used to treat some 65 diseases and offer far more tangible promise than embryonic stem cells. A group of prominent scientists has responded to these claims in the journal Science. Read the full article here.

As the week drew to a close, commentators opposed to the research, such as William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, released fiery commentaries urging senators to reject the bill. And several scientific and medical groups, including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, released countervailing warnings that patients and their families would suffer if the bill failed.

The letter to the journal focused on David A. Prentice, a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council. Prentice has been an adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) -- a leader in the charge to maintain tight restrictions on the research -- and an "expert source" often cited by opponents of embryonic stem cell research.

Prentice has repeatedly claimed that adult stem cells, which can be retrieved harmlessly from adults, have at least as much medical potential as embryonic cells. He often carries a binder filled with references to scientific papers that he says prove the value of adult stem cells as treatments for at least 65 diseases.

In the letter to Science, however, three researchers went through Prentice's footnoted documentation and concluded that most of his examples are wrong.

For example, they wrote, a study cited by Prentice as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with testicular cancer is in fact a study that evaluates methods of isolating adult stem cells.

Similarly, a published report that Prentice cites as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma does not address the medical value of those cells but rather describes the best way to isolate cells from lymphoma patients and grow them in laboratory dishes, the letter said.

Much like with homosexuality, those on the religious right have a propensity to co-opt the services of a few like minded individuals with expert credentials to assist them in providing what appears to be authoritative information to support their positions. Paul Cameron, the primary "scientific" tool of the anti-gay movement, has been condemned by most psychological and sociological associations and yet he remains the source of most of the data that is offered to oppose gays. I find it ironic that these "Christians" have no hesitation to promote false or flawed scientific and statistical information in their efforts to "promote" a values driven society. Mr. Prentice is apparently becoming the Paul Cameron of stem cell opponents.

All told, the scientists concluded, there are only nine diseases that have been proved to respond to treatment with adult stem cells.

"By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients," the scientists wrote.

Prentice, in a brief voice message left for a reporter as he embarked on a trip yesterday, said, "I appreciate them pointing out some of the things . . . that need to be changed and updated." But he accused the letter writers of "mental gymnastics" by focusing narrowly on proven therapies, as opposed to the large number of diseases for which the value of adult stem cells is now being tested.

As with many who promote the agenda of the right, Mr. Prentice doesn't restrain his remarks to those he left on the voice message. He and others opposed to funding expanded stem cell research simply repeat the mantra that seeks to make people believe that adult stem cells not only offer the same promise as embryonic stem cells but have actually been shown to be effective in fighting numerous diseases. Clearly, those who can separate their scientific endeavors from their religious fervor do not agree and that disagreement is fully based upon science absent the bias that permeates most "scientific" arguments put forth by the religious right. Note that the article also points out that a number of journalists who embrace the positions of the President and his evangelical supporters have joined in the effort to spin this false data.

Both bills are expected to pass easily and to be taken up and passed by the House on Wednesday and Thursday, congressional aides said. At that point, President Bush would be free to follow up on his oft-repeated promise to veto the bill that would loosen his rules.

That could come as early as Thursday, the aides said, and would constitute the first veto of Bush's presidency.

Daniel DiRito | July 15, 2006 | 8:45 AM
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Comments

1 On July 15, 2006 at 10:14 AM, Steve wrote —

What do you expect from these people?

Even if adult stem cells had incredible potential for curing diseases, it is still not a logical argument for restricting the use of embryonic stem cells.

They are different and if both types of stem cells hold promise, then both types should be investigated.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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