July 31, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Journals Consistently Tout Embryonic Stem Cells, Criticize Bush

This is not news.  It just bears repeating that the Big Science journals continue to push embryonic stem cell research and criticize Republicans.  The latest case in point was President Bush’s veto of the stem cell bill July 19, that led to a flurry of articles and editorials in the leading British and American science journals.
    Science July 28 tried to undermine the conservative argument that adult stem cells have a proven track record of therapies without the moral concerns.  Constance Holden in the same issue of Science reported cheerfully on every effort working to promote ES research around the obstacles of conservatives and ethicists.
    Nature included three articles on the “progress” of ES research and the “disappointment” over setbacks, including a stinging Editorial criticizing the “obduracy” of the White House on this matter.  In an article about “The lure of stem cell lines,” Nature stressed primarily the competition between countries.  Moral qualms were given minor attention, with a concession that some researchers are trying to find ways around the “emotionally charged debate” over creating human zygotes only to harvest their stem cells.  Adult stem cell alternatives were criticized for various reasons (such as lack of supply), but there was this admission in the article:

Adult-derived stem cells are the only form of stem-cell therapy to make it to the clinic so far.  For example, stem cells from bone marrow (pictured) have been used for more than 30 years to treat blood disorders.  Adult stem cells are less likely to cause tumours than embryonic stem cells, and less likely to be rejected by the immune system.

Whether the number of adult stem-cell therapies is 65 or 9, depending on how words are defined, this statement supports the conservative contention that embryonic stem cells have no proven cures, while adult stem cells have several—or many.
    It must also not be forgotten that the complaints against President Bush and other conservative politicians opposing ES research is over funding.  There is no ban on ES research; the debate is over whether taxpayers should pay for it.
    A subtext in the articles, no matter how adamant, is that the editors and scientists are aware of and sensitive to the ethical problems.  This is clear in the frequent attempts to assuage the concerns of ethicists.  They uniformly announce opposition to human cloning, a sister technology to ES research, and usually warn against the creation of human-animal chimeras by similar lab techniques.  As an example, Nature, while discussing a possible way around the creation of embryos for destruction, said, “But tampering with human embryos in this way may not address everyone’s ethical concerns.”  In the Editorial, Nature also admitted, “It can be argued in good faith that not a single embryo should be destroyed in the name of medical progress.”  But then it justified the use of embryos from fertility clinics already slated for destruction.  If the taxpayers don’t fund the derivation of ES lines (non-federal funds would be required for that part), then everyone should be happy: why, look how well it works in another ethically-charged situation—

This may seem like a subtle point, but it exactly this kind of compromise that has forged America’s uneasy but workable abortion policy: abortions are legal, but in no case are taxpayers required to see their dollars fund them.  It may be tenable to argue that dissenters should not be asked to finance a practice that they find morally unacceptable.  What is not acceptable is for the president to use false pretences to stand in the way of a compromise that the Congress has sensibly endorsed.

If Nature is a science magazine, and science is ethically neutral, what are UK editors doing criticizing the ethics of American politicians?

Let’s follow their ethical argument.  If it’s OK for private parties to create embryos (the ethically debatable part), and then the taxpayers simply pay for scientists to use the embryos, is there a difference in allowing private parties to buy slaves, and taxpayers to fund using slave labor to build federal projects?  If certain people are slated for the gas chambers anyway, why not do some medical research on them and learn something that can help the country in the next war?  If people are going to have abortions anyway, should taxpayers fund organ farms where the fetuses, instead of being destroyed, could be used for research or organ transplants?  If someone else does the dirty work of stealing, robbing, or committing mayhem, is it morally acceptable for the public to utilize the products?  It should be obvious that rationalizing the results of a deed create a market for it.  Similar compromise arguments were used by slave states 150 years ago: if you don’t like slavery, go north.  If you don’t like experimenting on human subjects, move out of Germany or North Korea.  Compromise with evil never works.  America fought a bloody war to affirm the dignity of all people, and we are a better country for it.  If the creation of human embryos is a moral evil, and if abortion is a moral evil, then compromise is not an option.  Science can inform the debate, but it is not the role of scientific elitists to make ethical decisions for the rest of us.
    The editors of today’s Big Science journals are almost uniformly Darwinists, and most of them atheists.  Words like ethics and morality are terms of convenience, not eternal principles.  Not all scientists are evolutionists, but the leaders of the journals and societies are.  They didn’t used to be.  They’re like the leaders of labor unions, some of whom started out with noble motives, but who gravitate toward liberalism by some inexorable law of entropy, because governments and funding give them their power, and power corrupts.  If you thought Big Science was all about honest inquiry into the workings of nature, get over it.  They’re another brand of liberal pressure group.  Get used to it.
    By the way, private researchers are already toying with human-animal chimeras and clones, just because they can (see LifeNews for one example).  The Nobel Committee (since they considered Yasser Arafat worthy of a Peace Prize) would probably have no ethical qualms about giving their millions in prize money to the first scientist to demonstrate human cloning.  Recall how quickly moral barriers can collapse.  It was only a few years ago when conservatives feared the worst when RU-486, the “morning after pill” was announced; today, politicians were discussing whether to make it available over the counter to 18 year old girls (see BP News).  Heated debates over state lotteries eventually fizzled to where now gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry and nobody cares any more, organized crime, broken homes, exploitation of the poor notwithstanding.  Abortion?  A debate lost in 1970s.  Trying to stop it now, or even restrict it, or even to get the truth about it known, is enough to exhaust the most stalwart crusader (example on BP News).
    Tomorrow’s fears about embryonic experimentation are too chilling to imagine: races of chimeras bred for slave labor, clones created for personal legacies, brainless humans bred for spare organs, supermen bred as athletes or soldiers, female bodies bred for private sex toys, and (if embryos are merely scientific playthings), even blurrier lines about what constitutes human life and is worthy of dignity and human rights.  If embryos can be treated as experimental subjects, where will the line be drawn?  The most radical Darwinists already predict infanticide and euthanasia as neutral actions, even blessings.  The trail being blazed right now may soon become a highway.  Radical relativists do not readily give back the ground they take.  If the brave new world ahead is unthinkable, what on earth are you doing about it, for heaven’s sake?
    Some articles for thought: Apologetics Press articles by Dave Miller and Brad Harrub and another by Harrub on human cloning, stem-cell debate issues by Baptist Press and details about the presidential veto, follow-up issues on stem cells, on Agape Press, Michael Fumento in National Review about the stem-cell scam, Chuck Colson on BreakPoint about the presidential veto and crossing the great moral divide.  Alarmism?  Read the comments of David Barash in the LA Times.  He’s a psychology professor who advocates creating human-chimp hybrids just to offend Christians.  See also the commentary on this by LifeSite.

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Categories: Politics and Ethics

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