What did I tell you? I forgot to tell you what the “Progressives” fuss was about and to link to the actual articles. Which meant that I didn’t review the actual critiques of the report by the President’s Domestic Policy Council (covered here, last week).
Jonathan Moreno and Sam Berger of the Center for American Progress’ Bioethics Project wrote “Alternative Sources of Stem Cell Truth: White House Misrepresents Potential of Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Stem Cells” on January 11th. Ramesh Ponnuru critiqued their critique in “Selling Alternatives Short: Good news for humanity is bad news to some” at the National Review OnLine. Moreno and Berger wrote a rebuttal, “Shouting Semantics Over Science.”
It’s easy to dismiss the fussin’ as political differences or competition between rival publications (although I doubt that NRO has much to worry about). However, what is at stake is the very basis of ethics, itself: the primary philosophical questions “who am I, why am I here, what should I do?”
There’s also the secondary question, “how can I keep that other guy from killing me?”
Some of us believe that it is never ethical or permissible to destroy human embryos, even if it means that we never obtain the treatments that Moreno and Berger mention in their first article. Moreno and Berger believe that research should not be hampered by concerns for human embryos, even though every single possible therapy that they mention is just as likely to come from non-destructive therapy. (anyone who doubts that there is already research supporting non-destructive sources for each and every line M & B mention can try PubMed, review this blog, or email me for the address where they can send their self-addressed stamped envelope and payment for the hard copies of the pertinent research.)
It’s true that I agree with Ponnuru,
Again and again, this duo treats readers to double standards. Alternative approaches can be dismissed whenever promising findings haven’t been reproduced; but findings favorable to embryonic stem-cell research are taken to the bank, whether or not they’re reproduced. The long-term potential for embryo-destructive research is emphasized; the failure of alternative approaches to produce immediate results is held against them. Data is cherry-picked to show that the absence of taxpayer funding for embryo-destructive research has hurt American competitiveness; contrary evidence is ignored.
One of the great fake bits of data in this debate — the “400,000 excess embryos stored in fertility clinics” — makes a return appearance. To repeat: We know that number from a study that also showed that fewer than three percent of those embryos would be available for research.
Let’s face it, the goal of all stem cell research is to manage functioning tissue, organs, and cells. These are made by adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells and even the fetal/amniotic/placental stem cells are more primitive or intermediate forms of stem cells similar to the the Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells (MPACs), not the specific stem cells or stem cell lines that are desirable for in vivo use. Animal models, umbilical cord, amniotic/placental, and MPACs, along with our experience with actual adult stem cells should be sufficient, without killing human embryos, without creating new embryos for destruction, and without cloning or creating animal-human hybrids.
Besides, the true goal should not be the ability to implant actual cells and organs, except in dire emergencies – what we really want is to be able to regenerate our heart, brain, kidney, pancreas and skin cells in place, as we lose or injure them.
HT to Jivin’ Jehosaphat