Monday, May 7. 2007
Dr. James Shirley, associate professor of biological engineering at MIT, has been an outspoken opponent of destroying embryos for their stem cells. He was recently denied tenure.
Now it is Dr. Maureen Condic's turn to receive a slap on the wrist for not towing the "embryonic stem cells are the best ever" line. Dr. Condic, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, wrote an excellent commentary on embryonic stem cell research for First Things where she stated:
Dr. Condic's mistake was that she refused to perpetuate the fairy tale that embryonics stem cells are the best thing since sliced bread. She dared put forth the reality that ESCs have yet to do much in the way of "miracle cures." How dare she see reality and write about it?
That seems to be the opinion of the editor's of Nature Neuroscience that wrote a piece attacking Dr. Condic for her accurate assessment of the progress of embryonic stem cell research where they accuse her of "distorting the field" and "spinning science against science."
Nice. Here is a scientific journal in Dr. Condic's field calling her, a working scientist, anti-science. Point out that maybe we need to reevaluate the push for funding the embryonic stem cell juggernaut because of real scientific hurdles and you get called "anti-science."
Wesley Smith has it right when he writes, "And they still laugh at the Catholic Church for stifling Galileo. But who are the stiflers now?"
Saturday, April 7. 2007
The previous entry discusses the use of animal eggs instead of human eggs to clone human embryos for research. The resulting embryos would be 99.9% human and .1% animal and would eventually be destroyed.
How did we even get to the point where this even seems like a reasonable thing to do? Well, it is a simple fact of reality that one unethical act often leads to another. Here is the progression:
IVF creates excess embryos in a lab, which people then want to use for embryonic stem cells, but there are not enough so we need to make more. So we think about cloning embryos to match a particular patient, but that takes human eggs. There are not enough human eggs available, so lets use animal eggs or eggs from aborted baby girls instead.
At each step human life becomes more and more a commodity to be bought, sold and exploited. And it isn't going to stop, unless we see the error at the top of the slope: making human beings in a dish is against the dignity of every human person and it takes human procreation and turns it into human manufacture.
From the incomparable Fr. Tad in his essay Recapturing the Soul of Bioethics:
Monday, March 5. 2007
You would think that a pro-ACLU crowd would boo any suggestion of limiting intellectual debate and academic freedom. Not so when it comes to Intelligent Design. From The Discovery Institute:
Saturday, March 3. 2007
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I often lament about the lack of ethical considerations in scientific circles. It seems that as science becomes the new religion, researchers chafe more and more against any ethical restrictions. The problem is that science is inherently amoral. It has no internal compass with which to guide itself ethically.
As a result Nancy Jones, an American Association for the Advancement of Science/National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Policy Fellow and a faculty member at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Gerald Koocher of Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, argue for a "Hippocratic Oath for Scientists":
Hat Tip: Bioethics.com
Sunday, February 11. 2007
To expand on my previous post about MIT professor James Sherley who was denied tenure, here is a quote from Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie that I think sums up the atmosphere in elite scientific circles:
Friday, February 9. 2007
James Shirley is a professor of biological engineering at MIT. He is also a very vocal opponent of embryo-destructive research and human cloning. It is no surprise that he was denied tenure. What is surprising is that according to Fox News, he is on a hunger strike stating that he was denied tenure because he is black.
I have to agree with Wesley J. Smith. I doubt this is a race issue. Shirley is a victim of the politicization of science. He was denied tenure because of his high profile objections to cloning and destroying human embryos for parts. There is a price to be paid for "braking ranks" in elite scientific circles. If you don't insist that researchers need to break open embryos to get at the harvestable biological material inside, you had better watch out.
Tuesday, January 16. 2007
Monday, November 20. 2006
Arthur C. Brooks has written a new, and no doubt controversial book, titled Who Really Cares: the Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservativism. Brooks shows that conservatives are more charitable than liberals.
Now, I try to stay out of the "liberal vs. conservative" game in this blog, because when it comes to cutting-edge biotechnology, all bets are off. There are plenty of liberals who are against therapeutic cloning and plenty of conservatives who are for it.
So what does this book have to do with biotechnology? I found this premise intriguing because of my recent challenge to those who want government funding of embryo-destructive research, many of whom are liberal. Here is some of it again:
According to Brooks, it looks like many liberals won't take up the challenge because they think funding the "greater good" is up to the government. From BeliefNet:
But, you may argue that embryonic stem cell research doesn't really count as charity. Yet Brooks found this phenomenon to extend beyond just giving to charity:
Interesting, because the government is inefficient with funds. I think conservative and liberal alike can agree that government is notoriously wasteful. I am sure most researchers would prefer a private donation to a government hand-out. Easier with a lot less paperwork.
And the problem with leaving it up to the government, is that the government isn't some far off entity with unlimited funds. The government's money is my money. They got it from me and you. I would prefer to spend it wisely on causes that need it. So, conservatives and liberals, if you support adult stem cell research, then generously give to it, your time or your money or both. You will no doubt get more bang for your buck that way.
Hat Tip: Mike
Saturday, November 18. 2006
England's Nuffield Council on Bioethics has called to deny intensive care support to infants born before 22 weeks, citing that it is extremely rare that these infants survive.
What is the Catholic view? From Catholic Online:
While I applaud the guidelines for rejecting any active euthanasia for infants, no matter how sick or disabled, the problem with the Nuffield guidlines that it would not allow premature babies to be evaluated on an individual basis. By making a blanket policy, doctors maybe abandoning babies that will survive. Just ask Victoria Lucas and Ammara Mohammed.
Sunday, November 12. 2006
Saturday, November 11. 2006
I have added Biopolitical Times to my Blogs of Interest. It is the blog of the Center of Genetics and Society which is a progressive outfit. While I am sure I will not agree with much of what the Biopolitical Times has to say, it is a well written and well-reasoned blog. I look forward to reading more. Check it out.
Hat Tip: Wesley J. Smith
Monday, November 6. 2006
Thursday, November 2. 2006
PZ Myers is a well known science blogger. He is also an atheist with little patience for religious ideas. In fact, he believes that "religion as a toxin that corrupts good minds." So while I do not agree with much that PZ Myers has to say, I did like this quote from his interview at the Genetics and Health blog:
Sunday, October 29. 2006
I found something over at Wesley J. Smith's blog that has put words to something that I have felt for many years rumbling in the scientific community: "scientific despair". Smith quotes an article by Eric Cohen where Cohen writes:
This analysis is spot on. It got me thinking and I realized something more. The "scientific despair" comes from knowing that science cannot answer every question in the universe. It can answer the "Why?, When?, How? and Can we?" questions. But never the "Should we?" questions. In my experience, many scientists are like impetuous adolescents. They want total autonomy, but deep down they know that they need ethical guidance from outside of science. They resent this and try to deny it.
I will never forget one conversation I had with a young man who was on his way to medical school. We were both in our undergraduate science courses together and I had just gotten back from a year at Oxford studying English literature, philosophy and theology. He told me those studies were a waste of time. He found his philosophy courses to be a unnecessary distraction from his science curriculum. He said, "Philosophy is a waste of time because no one can agree on anything. Only science is 100%."
By ignoring his logic and critical thinking courses, this future doctor didn't even realize that science is NEVER 100%. I found his attitude in many of my classmates, even at a Jesuit university. I realized at that point that this country was graduating a class of researchers that sees little value in any subject outside of science.
Here is the root of the despair. Scientists cannot find answers to the ethical dilemmas in their data. They know that they cannot guide themselves ethically, but at the same time many think that those who can, are experts in knowledge that is of no interest to them, and therefore no value.
I just finished The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. It is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. Dr. Moreau conducts some seriously unethical research on his island. I found this passage to be very pertinent to this discussion. I think it encapsulates some of the point I am trying to convey. Moreau explains his research:
Sunday, October 22. 2006
The Nuremberg Code that came out of the atrocities of experimentation in Nazi Germany clearly states, first and foremost, that it is unethical to experiment on any "human subject" without their consent. Notice the language. It doesn't say, "conscious human", or "self-aware human", or "human with central nervous system" or even "born human." Just "human subject". The human embryo, whether created by IVF or by cloning, is a complete human organism, and therefore a human subject. It cannot give consent to be experimented on. To do so would be to disregard the Nuremberg Code. I have said many times: we allow experimentation on human embryos at our own peril.
You may ask why I would even care that an embryo is experimented on without consent? It is not like an embryo knows it is being experimented on. Setting my faith aside, I do so because, drawing a line in the sand now, will prevent the future experimentation on other human subjects that cannot speak for themselves.
And who would that be you ask? Wesley J. Smith has the answer. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
It is a coincidence that the idea of experimenting on the unconscious without their consent is gaining momentum at the same time there is a huge push for experimentation on human embryos? I think not. Read the whole article. The details are very illuminating.
Saturday, October 7. 2006
Wesley J. Smith has written a wonderful and important piece on something that has been driving me crazy for a long time now: science advocacy groups. Specifically, he picks apart a new group, the Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA). From the Weekly Standard:
I find this very scary, very scary indeed. Not because a bunch of scientists have created a political advocacy group, but because they pretend that their take on the "right or wrongness" of research is backed by science, which of course is hogwash:
SEA says it is okay to create and destroy embryos for harvestable biological material and anyone who disagrees with them is guilty of "ideologically driven interference." But they refuse to see that they are also driven by ideology not science. Show me an serious embryology text that says that science has proven beyond a doubt that is it ethical to create and destroy embryos for research. There is none and there never will be. They are entitled to their opinions but they should not pretend that they and those that are like-minded are the only ones capable of making "decisions concerning the future of biological research." And finally, Smith writes:
In essense, when you think Scientists and Engineers for America, think gun lobby, tobacco lobby, and big oil lobby cause now there is a new player in Washington: the science lobby.
Friday, September 29. 2006
These days scientists are gods. If they say embryonic stem cell research or cloning is ethical and should get our tax dollars, well they should know and who are we to say otherwise.
Yes, it is true that ESC researchers know more about ESCs than you and me. It is true that researchers that are trying to perfect SCNT in humans know more about the ins and outs of cloning than you or me.
But do not think that because they know more about the science behind embryonic stem cells and cloning, that they are more qualified to make decisions about the ethics of embryonic stem cells and cloning than you or me. Why? Because science is inherently amoral. Ethics, the "right or wrongness" of the research lies strictly outside the realm of science, outside their area of expertise. Their ethics on ESCs and cloning is just that: "their ethics." Never forget this.
Wesley J. Smith says it best:
Thursday, September 21. 2006
For those of you who read Mary Meets Dolly or any other conservative or religious blog and you do not agree with what we have to say, I have some friendly advice. The ad hominem attack is getting really old.
I distinctly remember learning about the ad hominem fallacy in Logic class. But since many colleges and universities have replaced the Logic requirement with Statistics, I guess people have forgotten and I have been seeing ad hominem everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! In case you don't want to look up ad hominem, here is it from Dictionary.com:
So here is the tip: (Listen carefully) Resorting to ad hominem is a DEAD GIVEAWAY THAT YOU HAVE NO ARGUMENT.
So next time you are tempted to reduce your argument for embryonic stem cell research, or cloning, or eugenic abortion to "You bible-thumping, know-nothing, a**holes are stupid!" don't, cause the only person that will be looking stupid is you!
Friday, June 2. 2006
Mayor Bloomberg addressed the 2006 graduates of Johns Hopkins Medical School and said some seriously outrageous things. Overall, the speech is so typically condescending to those of us who hold that human life is sacred and who are open to the possiblity that there is more to the universe than can be explained by Darwin's Origin of the Species. Here are some snippets:
Under attack? Is anyone else getting tired of the hyperbole? What science is under attack? Last I checked it is still legal to clone embryos and destroy them for their parts in the U.S. It is also legal to create animal-human hybrid embryos. And I am not holding my breath that any of these unethical practices are going to become illegal. Doesn't the good Mayor really mean that he is upset that we aren't all on board to write a check to these graduating doctors and scientists so they can perform whatever experiments they can cook up under the guise of the advancement of man-kind? There is more:
So it is the anti-cloning, anti-embryo destructive research crowd that is engaging in "political science". Is he serious? I suppose calling the human embryo a "non-human ball of cells" and redefining cloning as the implantation of a cloned embryo, not the actual act of cloning through SCNT, doesn't count as "political science" in Bloomberg's book. And he keeps going:
I am not a huge fan of Intelligent Design as science, but in no way do I think that subscribing to the ID school of thought is going to hurt anyone's "professional opportunites". I have yet to meet any scientific colleague that doesn't believe in some kind of high power. Believing that God created the universe hasn't affected my career even a little bit! And honestly, is presenting the idea that the universe was somehow designed by an intelligent being in schools really something that is threatening the fabric of our society? I can think of other things that Bloomberg advocates that are far more destructive than ID! And finally, this takes the cake:
Reality check. Isn't it the pro-cloning, pro-destructive embryo research bandwagon that is guilty of thinking they are "free to set the truth"? They can redefine scientific terminology and substitute euphemisms when describing cloning and ESC research to confuse the public all day long. I mean, take this quote from Dr. Michael West, an outspoken proponent of SCNT and ESC research:
Not human? Owned and patented? And this guy went to medical school and has a Ph.D. Forgive me Bloomberg if I think it is the graduates that you are addressing that are the ones that think they are "free to set the truth"! HT: blog.bioethics.net
Friday, April 21. 2006
I have known about the pressures of competition in the science arena since college, and I am glad that the light of day is illuminating the problems that this pressure is causing in the scientific community. I am reading more and more reports about the misdeeds that are going on in labs around the country, due in large part to the intense competition. From www.Physorg.com:
I have written on this study before. I decided to blog about this article on the same study because it points out things the article from Forbes.com did not, specifically the funding aspect:
If this doesn't speak to the funding of cloning and stem cell research, I don't know what does. I liken the whole embryo destructive and cloning research to the progressive decline of the quality of entertainment in the media. Hollywood keeps pushing the limits of what is morally acceptable material for movies, T.V. etc. because of the intense competition in the entertainment industry. The same goes for scientists hungry for recognition. Whoever clones the first human embryo and then destroys it for its stem cells, has it made. Work on adult stem cells just isn't as sexy. The difference between Hollywood and science is that we can choose to fund Hollywood by deciding what movies we see or T.V. shows we watch. Unfortunately, state by state, eventually Americans won't be able to choose whether their tax dollars will go to cloning and embryo-destructive research.
Thursday, April 13. 2006
After bumping around in the biotech field for over a decade, I don't find this surprising at all. But you might. From Forbes.com:
So what is going on in labs all over the country? Here is a sample (with commentary):
Happens all the time!
You never want to be too irreplaceable lest your current employer stab you in the back as you are trying to walk out the door. I have feared this tactic myself!
Stealing ideas is a big one. We can be a very protective bunch to the point where we withhold pertinent information just in case it gets into the wrong hands. And we are always on the look out for credit in any publication.
Here is the upshot. Guess what? Scientists are people too. If you wouldn't trust a business mogul with billions of tax dollars with little oversight, then chances are you shouldn't trust scientists either!
Tuesday, April 4. 2006
Great news from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:
Read Fr. Tad's essays here. Off to read the series...
Monday, April 3. 2006
I know many bloggers are all over this, but I couldn't resist adding my two cents.
The "over-population" argument never really held water for me. Obviously, there is the Catholic teaching that reducing the human population through abortion and contraception is unethical.
From a strictly (cold) biological stand point, I think all of the proposed efforts to fix "over-population" are futile. If indeed we are over-populating our ecosystem, nature has a way of correcting these things all on her own. The Black Plague which wiped out one-third of Europe's population in the middle ages is a good example.
I have always feared that the Ebola virus that kills 9 out of 10 people (combined with easy world travel) would be the next plague that would leave the human population devastated, I just never thought that anyone would advocate using Ebola as a way to "solve over-population". From World Net Daily:
Tuesday, March 28. 2006
The U.S. has a problem. Unlike other countries like Canada, and France and Germany, our politicians are so afraid of the science in the biotech industry and (uneducated) public opinion that they are unable to make any decisions. The U.S. Congress has been debating cloning and embryonic stem cell research since 2002!
Kansas is no different. From an AP story, Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, proposed a bill to ban certain animal-human hybrids. She brought this to Kansas legislators because:
Here is what she proposed:
Sounds very reasonable to me. I am guessing the majority of Americans would agree that the above mentioned research is unethical. But Kansas legislators voted was 63-52 against the proposal in less than a half an hour. Why? Because the Kansas elect said they didn't know enough about the science and were afraid of hampering a growing biotech industry:
Two things: 1. It is legislators job to know what is going on so they can vote on such proposed legislation and 2. Once again, is this research about cures or about competing biotech interests? (Notice that lawmakers were concerned about hindering "industry" not "cures.")
Warning! Here comes a rant with questionable language. I wish lawmakers at both the state and federal level would wake up, get some balls, stop sniffing the wind, get themselves some good books on stem cells and cloning and get educated so that they can do their jobs and make some decisions already! They need to stop using the "the science is complicated" excuse for shirking what we pay them to do: make laws!
Rep. Cook said it best:
Amen! Read the whole article here.
Saturday, February 18. 2006
Reading this article on the SCNT debate in Missouri, this section popped out at me:
Teitelbaum is correct that there is no way to scientifically prove when the soul enters the body. And different religions hold differing beliefs. We Catholics believe that we must respect the life of the embryo because a soul may be present from the moment of conception, the point at which a new human being begins. (Surprisingly, many Catholics erroneously believe that an embryo created by SCNT could not have a soul.)
But, if he is correct that no one knows for sure, why would he automatically say it is okay to destroy life that we are unsure about? Wouldn't logic dictate that if "science cannot answer that question" that science should err on the side of caution?
With all the of buzz over Cheney's hunting accident, I am reminded of my philosophy professor's favorite analogy:
Why would scientists like Teitelbaum assume that "shooting" in the face of uncertainty is the correct action?
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