Oil and Water Mix Better Than Politics and Science

When I first heard of the Michael J. Fox political commercial, I immediately wrote an entry about it, however, I then learned about all the controversy about Rush Limbaugh et al (amazingly I hadn’t heard about that), and decided to mark my post “private” so that I would not add flames to a horribly partisan flame war.

However, I will add my $.02 to the stem cell debate itself.

First and foremost, the troubling part about many of those that are using stem cell research as a political flaming arrow (whether for political office, or for some proposition), is that they always say that so-and-so opposes stem cell research, but the truth is that so-and-so (usually) opposes the “destruction” (euphemism for KILLING) of embryos for the harvesting of embryonic stem cells. The person (or people in the case of propositions) don’t oppose stem cell research per se, but the source of the stem cells.

What is particularly appalling, is the “pie-in-the-sky” cures that are being placed at the alter of stem cell research, especially embryonic stem cell research. John Edwards during his and John Kerry’s presidential campaign, fell deeply into that trap, saying that Christopher Reeve would walk again, and other, well frankly, absurd claims. I am not saying that stem cell research will not allow paralyzed people to walk, or cure Alzheimer’s, or cure Parkinson’s, but in certainly won’t happen soon, REGARDLESS of the source of stem cells.

Also, those that are using stem cell research as part of their political arsenal, either refuse to acknowledge or are deliberately not speaking of (because it interferes with their TRUE political aims, whatever they might be) adult stem cell research. There have been a number of publicized stem cell treatment studies, which only when read in their entirety, mention that ADULT stem cells are what are being used.

From what I understand, at this point, embryonic stem cells are only producing tumors. If that is the case, why is it being pushed? Because of its “potential”? If that is the reason, then these same folk should be trumpeting adult stem cell research (especially in light of its currently greater successes), pushing for the same federal and state funding they are trying to direct towards embryonic stem cell research.

They say pharmaceutical and bio-engineering companies don’t have the money to fund embryonic stem cell research. Yet these same companies have the money to fund adult stem cell research, and are close, supposedly, to a couple of successful treatments. It is disingenuous to say that companies are afraid of the political backlash on supposedly moral and ethical grounds, while, on the other hand, accusing the SAME companies of gouging the American public for medicinal treatments (i.e., unethical and immoral behavior).

The other part of this that I have an issue with is, is the hypocrisy. People who are out agitating for the killing of embryos (or destruction of same, if you wish), and genetic therapies on humans, oppose animal research, including genetic research, and also oppose genetically engineered tomatoes (for longer staying power in the stores) or fish (can’t remember the rationale for this one) or grain (to increase yield, especially for countries with FAMINE and STARVING children). Why is it okay to mess with the incredibly complex and still quite unknown (we’ve mapped the human genome, but do we REALLY know what it means) of human beings, but we can’t mess with fish, tomatoes, or grain?

Just so it is understood, I am against artificial genetic engineering (farmers have been naturally genetic engineering since the beginning of agriculture), whether it be fish, tomato (granted, tomatoes are yucky anyways), or human. Part of lure of genetic engineering is the thought that, for example, my child will be “perfect”, which completely fails to take into account the entirety of the human condition, of which genetics is only a part. The world in the movie Gattaca is a world where genetic perfection is normal (this was also touched upon in the book Red Genesis by S.C. Sykes), but Gattaca also demonstrates the true power of the human spirit, and how it, if the individual is willing, is the true individual, not their genetics.

Back to the topic at hand. What is the motivator for all the emphasis on embryonic stem cell research? I read a report (Stem Cell Research and Applications) sponsored by the AAAS (despite their attempt to appear unbiased, their sponsored papers and seminars show otherwise), and it is quite clear that there is NO evidence that embryonic stem cell research will produce good “fruit”, and they say as such. Yet the paper says that we must continue it. Why? Especially, as it appears, that there are successful treatments using another stem cell source. What is going on?

I have heard is postulated that those that are advocating embryonic stem cell research are advocating that particular branch of research, because abortion can be “dovetailed” into it as a source of such stem cells. I hope that that postulate is wrong. VERY wrong. However, I fear it is true. As far as I can tell, those who advocate embryonic stem cell research (and also disregarding adult stem cell research), and are agitating for it politically, are also pro-“choice”, thus seeming to bolster the “need” to continue to have “choice”. I find it hard to believe that ANYONE could be so detached from their own humanity to think that way. So again, I hope that that postulate is wrong.

The true conflict is between worldviews, and not incomprehension of science as many claim. The questions that seem to apply purely to this topic, and have differing worldviews, are as follows:

  • Where does life begin?
  • When is it okay to alter genetics?
  • What is the value of a human life?

The first question is the hardest, mostly, and is the source of the conflict. For me, it is at conception, which of course causes a conflict with hormonal birth control, and I recognize the inconsistency, and struggle to conform them. Before I go further, I heard someone say yesterday that no one has funerals for miscarriages, while that is not universally true, on the other hand, when my wife miscarried we both mourned. That lost life was valued by us. Those that support embryonic stem cell research usually seem to be pro-choice, which seems to have the view that life begins whenever the pregnant woman says it does. If she calls it a fetus, it is abortable. If she calls is a baby, everything must be done to preserve the child. This is regardless of the child’s (which is what I call it) gestational age. THAT is inconsistent.

The genetics question was discussed above, but the abbreviated answers are: for me, never artificially; for supporters of embryonic stem cell research, the answer seems to be, on humans, when ever we want to, for animals or plants, never. Which segues into the next question.

This, now that I think about it, might actually be harder than I thought. For people such as Peter Singer (a professor of “ethics” at Princeton), the value of human life is whenever that life is valuable to him, or of value to whomever the question is asked. For him, by way of clarification, those that are a burden (such those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Autism, you name it) should be “removed” so that they do not use up valuable resources. For me, human life is always valuable, however, sometimes (not for convenience’s sake) human life must be taken, but I believe that an unborn child deserves a whole lot more protection than they are getting now.

Those that support or oppose embryonic stem cell research both deserve to be listened to, but by painting embryonic stem cell research as all but the entirety of stem cell research, cannot even lead to possible discussion, but its premise is based on falsehood.