Saturday, October 01, 2005

Obfuscating the obvious

Every now and then, you find an especially egregious example of someone taking an obvious fact and trying to make it less so. Here is the award winner for the week:
'When you call an embryo a living person, which is what they are doing, you get people off track.'

Telling people the plain biological facts gets them off track?

Well, maybe it gets them off of the track of approving funding for research that destroys those tiny living persons.

If you are going to appeal to science, then you must accept what science says. And science says, plain and simple, that a human embryo is a unique, living human organism. Organism, say tomato, I say tah-mah-to....

Oh, and the wording of the amendments?

Here is the pro-funding side:
This amendment appropriates $20 million annually for 10 fiscal years for grants by the Department of Health to Florida nonprofit institutions to conduct embryonic stem cell research using, or using derivatives of, human embryos that, before or after formation, have been donated to medicine under donor instructions forbidding intrauterine embryo transfer. An embryo is "donated to medicine" only if given without receipt of consideration other than cost of reimbursement and compensation for recovery of donated cells.

Here is our side:
No revenue of the state shall be spent on experimentation that involves the destruction of a live human embryo.

Brevity is the soul of wit...and in this instance, truth too.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More like this please...

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Heart Institute now have $12 million in federal funds to study stem cells.

The scientists will research the stem cells to treat damaged hearts. The funding comes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Scientists plan to study whether a patient's own cardiac stem cells can be used to repair heart tissue following a heart attack or failure.

The five-year funding award comes as part of a new federal program focused on cell-based therapies.

Hype-ers beware

"Taxpayers should not be forced to fund something that is not only ethically questionable, but has also failed to live up to the much-hyped promise."

If I were a person with something invested in embryonic stem cell research (a scientist, a venture capitalist, etc) that line in bold would really give me pause for concern. As soon as one clinical trial goes forward and doesn't deliver miracle cures immediately or (God forbid) ends up killing its participant patients....well, I think the public tolerance for it will dry right up. Kind of like what happened to gene therapy.

The Opposition

This is what we are up against. It's slick and well financed - notice the K Street address?

These are some of their members/ supporters:
* Alliance for Aging Research

* Alpha-1 Foundation

* ALS Association

* American Council on Education

* American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons

* American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

* American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR)

* American Infertility Association

* American Medical Association

* American Society for Cell Biology

* American Society for Microbiology

* American Society for Reproductive Medicine

* American Society of Hematology

* Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

* Association for Women in Science

* Association of American Medical Colleges

* Association of American Universities

* Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

* Biotechnology Industry Organization

* California Institute of Technology

* Californians for Cure

* Canavan Research Illinois

* Cancer Research Foundation of America

* Cedars-Sinai Health System

* Children’s Neurobiological Solutions

* Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation

* Coalition of Patient Advocates for Skin Disease Research

* Columbia University

* Committee for the Advancement of Stem Cell Research

* Duke University Medical Center

* Genetic Alliance

* Hadassah

* Harvard University

* International Foundation for Anticancer Drug Discovery (IFADD)

* International Longevity Center -- USA

* International Psoriasis Community (IPC)

* Jeffrey Modell Foundation

* Johns Hopkins Medicine

* Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International

* Lymphoma Research Foundation of America

* Monash University

* National Association for Biomedical Research

* National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges

* National Coalition for Cancer Research

* National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

* National Council on Spinal Cord Injury

* National Health Council

* National Stem Cell Research Coalition

* Parents of Infants and Children with Kernicterus

* Parkinson’s Action Network

* Parkinson's Disease Foundation

* Project A.L.S.

* Quest for the Cure

* Research!America

* Resolve: The National Infertility Association

* Rett Syndrome Research Foundation

* Society for Women's Health Research

* Stanford University

* Stem Cell Research Foundation

* Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation

* Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance

* University of California System

* University of Rochester Medical Center

* University of Wisconsin-Madison

* Vanderbilt University and Medical Center

* Washington University in St. Louis

* WiCell Research Institution

* Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

* Wisconsin Association for Biomedical Research and Education

And Jonathon Atler thinks his side isn't organized! Is the guy blind?

Insulin w/o embryos

Type 1 diabetes results from the loss of insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas. Because the supply of beta-cells from cadavers is insufficient to meet the needs of 99% of diabetic patients, alternative sources of beta-cells would be highly desirable. Previous efforts to coax mature human beta-cells to survive and replicate in the laboratory have not succeeded, however, because the cells died or lost their ability to produce insulin in response to sugar stimulation.

Dr. Yoon, Dr. Kobayashi and colleagues got around this problem by manipulating and analyzing large numbers of human beta-cells. First, they added genes that extend cell lifespan to human beta-cells and looked for the rare cells that did not form tumors and that expressed insulin or other beta-cell proteins. Out of more than 250 cells lines screened, only one passed this test. This cell line was allowed to replicate to produce large numbers of cells. Then, the genes that extend cell lifespan were removed to ensure that the cells would not form tumors and to promote beta-cell behavior. The resulting cells produced about 40% as much insulin as normal beta-cells and successfully controlled blood sugar levels in diabetic mice for more than 30 weeks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Carnival of Life

Welcome to the 3rd Carnival of Life!

We've got lots of great links so let's get started...

Papijoe at Marlowe's Shade writes about fetal farming - which could be the next step in the embryonic stem cell research debate.

I have linked to an article by the USCCB about the politics behind cloning language and how that can lead to the fetal farming described in Papijoe's post.

Deborah at Choose Life wonders what our actions toward the most vulnerable and our clear lack of concern says about us, our society and our concern for our own humanity, What does this say about us?

Patterico at Patterico's Pontifications exposes bias in an LA Times story about the brief filed by Bush in support of a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. It seems the bias comes out more often than not in what the reporters fail to mention than in what they say.

Arthur at Angry Twins tells the story of a friend's unexpected pregnancy and what a gift it turned out to be for all involved in Choosing Life: A Mother's Greatest Choice

Christina at Confessions of a Hot Carmel Sundae wonders "If we refuse to consider abortion, but we contracept to avoid having children, can we really claim that our pro-life beliefs make any difference in our lives?" in Life Only Begins in the Womb.

Jivin J at JivinJehoshaphat presents Peter Singer: "Being human doesn't matter". Singer gives us strawmen and ad hominen attacks and Jivin J masterly exposes the fraud.

Naaman at Naaman the Ex-Leper has written a piece about Life from the Viewpoint of Infertility, showcasing the lessons a woman learned about life from IVF treatments.

Hyscience points out that Late abortion referrals are legal. If a man injures the mother and the "fetus" dies, the man has killed an unborn child - according to the law. Confused? So is the law. In both, a human being has been "killed," but the laws of the land proclaim that only one of the two are guilty of murder.

Bernard at A Certain Slant of Light submits three very well written posts:
Abortion: Unnatural Disaster surpassing all others
Roe v. Wade's permanence?
Social Conservatives and Giuliani and Abortion

Robert at The Judge Report has been busy! Here is a list of his submissions:
What is Man?
Didn't You Ever Wonder
How Much Is That Fetus in the Window
Ten Year Old Apologizes
That's Character, Gentlemen
A Person's a Person
The Next Voice You Hear [Susan Torres]
I'm Good. I Really Am
Wrongful Life
Life Worth Living

And finally Tim at Pro-life Blogs reminds us that Life Chain Sunday is coming up quickly! The International Life Chain is October 2, 2005, from 2:30 – 3:30 PM in each time zone across the U.S. and Canada. Prolifers in each city, town, and hamlet are urged to participate in what is also called "a national prayer chain," held on city sidewalks.


Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers' womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the "book of life" Evangelium Vitae JPII #61

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Hype

The San Franciso Chronicle gives us to a very even-handed treatment of the hype surrounding embryonic stem cell research. They note in the conclusion:
"There are many approaches out there, and stem cells are certainly one of them," Tuszynski said. "My thought is that the magnitude of the benefit is relatively modest. Although at some point, one can say it's worthwhile to make the transition to clinical trials, people's expectations need to be modest also. When you don't have a whopping effect in the animal study to begin with, trying to detect it in humans becomes very difficult."

The late actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed in a horse-riding accident, once said he sometimes wished he were a rodent, so that he could have a chance to try experimental therapies sooner.

Despite the frustration among patients, however, no one will hazard even a guess as to when the first stem cell therapies will be ready for a trial run.

"We haven't even engaged in a conversation with the FDA to know what their needs might be, or how high the bar might have to be," McGlynn, the Stem Cells chief executive, said. "It's very tempting to try to get ahead of ourselves here. But these are early days."

you anti-cure meany!

See, the problem with writing satire these days is that it never takes long for reality to sort of "catch-up" with it.

For example, one of the first post on this blog, was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek, about how I was a
stem cell extremist by night - working hand-in-hand with the anti-cure forces, dedicated to keeping scientific progress at bay and furthering the cause of human suffering.

Well, Jonathon Atler (whose Newsweek editorial actually christened this blog) wrote
"There are scientific organizations and a few other groups that have successfully lobbied California and New Jersey for state-sponsored research. But we all know that funding from a few states will not be enough to keep us competitive globally and to save lives. The only way the votes will be there in the next Congress to override President Bush'’s veto is if a "Pro-Cure"’ movement kicks the "‘anti-cures" out of Congress in 2006."”

So there you have it. We are now officially "anti-cure". Not pro-cure that doesn't kill one set of people for another set. Not pro-science that seeks to maintain the dignity of the human person. No, those phrases are too long to fit on a rubber bracelet: the 2000's version of the '90's lapel ribbon.

Monday, September 26, 2005

At the Heart of Cloning

Here is the conclusion of an excellent article, At the Heart of Cloning, which argues for an inclusive view of personhood: the radical and bold idea that if you are a human being, you are a person.

Nor does the inability to perceive personhood in others serve as proof that it must not be present. One's own lack of clarity does not alter objective reality. Ironically, those who would deny personhood under these circumstances, fancy themselves more sophisticated than their historical counterparts, who condoned atrocities based on appearance. However, they display the same shallow mentality when it comes to contemporary stem cell debates. Once again we witness ignorance and utilitarian motives corrupting what is both rationally and morally obvious, that we can not earn for ourselves, or bestow on others what is already ours by nature.

Our culture's eclipse of reason has resulted in untold suffering and a relentless violation of inalienable rights. The unborn, the elderly, the disabled are all targets of these self-appointed final arbiters of personhood. Inevitably, none of us are immune from their arbitrary judgements. Healing the culture must begin with acknowledging that at conception, a unique, self-possessed human person comes into being. Their future, as well as ours, depends on it.

This article was written by Dan Kennedy who is the CEO for Human Life Washington. He also works with the Center for Life Prinicples. They have been added to the sidebar under the Good Guys button. Very good source of materials, check it out.