Stem cell scoreboard

John Kerry’s blog on stem cell research:

Embryonic stem cell research has great potential to save lives and cure disease.

Wrong. The score is 56 – 0 when comparing successful medical treatments derived from adult vs. embryonic stem cells. In fact, the embryonic stem cell research advocates have negative points on their side of the scoreboard.

24 comments

  1. Chet

    The score is 56 – 0 when comparing successful medical treatments derived from adult vs. embryonic stem cells.
    Unfortunately, that’s due to the federal ban on funding for new stem cell lines. None of the current lines can be used for any sort of human trial or treatment by virtue of being contaiminated by exposure to mouse feeder cells.
    Your “score” is rather loaded, in other words – the reason that the embryonic cells score zero is because they haven’t been allowed onto the field.
    The embryonic cells have incredible potential; more so than adult cells due to their greater versatility and their unique “rescue factors.” Unfortunately Bush’s War on Science has set back the realization of this potential by many, many years.

  2. J Thomas Lowry

    I respectfully disagree with Chet about the War on Science. Science seems to conclude, very broadly, that if their omnipotent view is not coddled by those in power there is a war on science.
    Stem cell research will make it through legislative hurdles, much as other scientific endeavors have, but should not before a close look is had and the ethics of the procedure(s) fully fleshed out.
    We should “hasten slowly” despite the scientific community stating that “people will die if we…” Here is a fact; people will die because that is what happens to all organisms. Research last year, or the year before, would not have saved Christopher Reeve. As sad as his death was, is science ready to prevent people from steeping into th stirrups of a horse, as Mr. Reeve did?

  3. tim

    The key issue on this is not really about stem cells, it is really about an embryo’s right to life and whether or not embryo’s can be “harvested” for stem cells. Embryo adoption tipped it for me. There are many many other sources for stem cells. This is completely a religious issue.
    http://torque.oncloud8.com/archives/000452.html

  4. Chet

    Science seems to conclude, very broadly, that if their omnipotent view is not coddled by those in power there is a war on science.
    I’m glad your disagreement is respectful; I must in turn disagree with your position. This isn’t about science being allowed to run amok. This is about Nobel-prize winning scientists condemning Bush for significant distortions of science in the election. This is about persons with no scientific background dictating the course of research and inquiry.
    If Nobel-prize winning scientists believe Bush distorts or suppresses research that runs counter to his agenda, then he’s definately not on science’s side.

  5. Puddle Pirate

    If President Bush can gather even more Nobel laureates and other scientists/engineers to form a 527 committee supporting him, will your opinion change?

  6. Chet

    If President Bush can gather even more Nobel laureates and other scientists/engineers to form a 527 committee supporting him, will your opinion change?
    Perhaps; I’d certainly listen to what they have to say. But Bush’s position on science would radically have to change before I’d seriously consider voting for him again.
    In fact he’d have to change his positions on most things – or rather, change them back.

  7. Harry Campbell

    The only thing that Bush has done is be the first president to provide taxpayer money to pay for this type of research, and put some limits on that money so that it only supports research using human life that was destroyed prior to the funding becoming available. That limits the ethical implications of my tax money contributing to the death of human life. At the same time it allows for the government to do more than it had done in this area of research under any prior president – including Clinton.
    Chet you seem to forget that private companies are free to use “uncontaminated” lines of embryos. The fact is that embryonic stem-cell research has not led to any usable medical treatments, while adult and cord-blood stem cells, through the same kind of private research, have proven to be very effective treatments for certain diseases. Most of the innovation in stem-cell research has been privately funded, and there is nothing stopping privately funded embryonic stem cell research (unfortunately).

  8. J Thomas Lowry

    Chet,
    Thank you for the response. Nobel Prizes, even in the sciences, are very political. My wife is a cardiovascular researcher and is intimately aware of the political considerations that go into Nobel Prize selections. A stream of Nobel Laureates does not mean that a direction is right, only that it is supported by people who have won a Nobel Prize.

  9. Chet

    A stream of Nobel Laureates does not mean that a direction is right, only that it is supported by people who have won a Nobel Prize.
    They don’t hand those out to dummies, you know. If there’s any greater accolade for intelligent acheivement; if there’s any greater validation of one’s percipacity, judgement, and insight, then I simply don’t know what it is.
    My wife is a cardiovascular researcher and is intimately aware of the political considerations that go into Nobel Prize selections.
    The Nobel committee releases neither details of whom they nominated, nor the details of the judgement that led them to select their final candidate from among the nominees. I question her ability to be any more “intimate” in her familiarity with the Nobel process than any of the rest of us.
    To Campbell’s comments:
    That limits the ethical implications of my tax money contributing to the death of human life.
    There is no such ethical implication, as what we are talking about are not human lives. It really is just that simple.
    Unfortunately for us, the majority of research funding in any field is the government. Restricting government money to a number of cell lines that don’t exist anyway, while not a ban outright, is a significant barrier to progress in this most promising field.

  10. Puddle Pirate

    There is no such ethical implication, as what we are talking about are not human lives. It really is just that simple.
    These embryos aren’t human? They aren’t alive?

  11. Chet

    — These embryos aren’t human? They aren’t alive? —
    Cheek scrapings are human cells, and they’re alive, at least for a few minutes. Blood cells are human cells, and they live for a while after you bleed them.
    But neither they nor those embryos are human beings.

  12. J Thomas

    Chet,
    You are mistaken, and badly so…read up on the Nobel process – not at their site, but a history of it. Your eyes will then open.
    Cheers.

  13. Puddle Pirate

    Cheek scrapings are human cells, and they’re alive, at least for a few minutes. Blood cells are human cells, and they live for a while after you bleed them. But neither they nor those embryos are human beings.
    Please re-read pages 528-535 of my article, which you can download from this post. Pay close attention to the “SLED test” starting on page 531.

  14. Chet

    You are mistaken, and badly so…read up on the Nobel process – not at their site, but a history of it. Your eyes will then open.
    Seeing as how I’m an alumni of a private university funded by Alfred Nobel, and the only university affilliated with the Nobel Committee to this day, I think I’m fairly familiar with the history of Alfred Nobel and his prize.
    Nobel nominees are not released. The deliberations are not released. What part of those statements, exactly, did you mean to contest?

  15. Chet

    Please re-read pages 528-535 of my article, which you can download from this post. Pay close attention to the “SLED test” starting on page 531.
    Well, to start with, the “Law of Biogenesis” has been, in fact, refuted as you have formulated it. The evolutionary model makes it clear that there are in fact no “kinds” at all. But most notably, you’ve formulated it incorrectly. The biogenetic law to which you are referring states only that living cells arise only from other living cells, a point which nobody has contested.
    So there is in fact no basis to conclude that humans give rise to only human offspring, or that the result of that process is immediately human. Human cells interact in such a way that later, a human being might develop. That says nothing about their human-being-ness at the time. Remember too that the other cellular examples I gave – cheek cells and blood cells – are reproduced within the body from human cells, just like your embryos. But that does not make those products human.
    What is the embryo if not a human being, as you ask? It’s a human embryo, of course. But not a human being.
    As for your “SLED” argument, this is simply an excerise in circular reasoning and improper generalization. You’ve already assumed the humanity of an embryo; what a surprise that you are able to conclude it, as well.
    The embryos under discussion will never be human beings. They lack everything that we recognize as belonging to human beings. You play some transparent sematic games in your article, but you support nothing. You really need some science on your side, not these misstatements and arguments from biological vitalism.

  16. Chet

    What makes you a human being, Chet? What is it about you that makes it wrong for someone to kill you?
    Unfortunately, our existence is a continuum that doesn’t lend itself to easy, feel-good conclusions about when humanity truly begins. No matter where we draw our line, somebody’s not going to like it.
    If we draw the line where you propose, we save human zygotes from destruction at the hands of scientists long enough for them to be flushed down the garbage disposal. If we draw the line where I propose, cells that will never become human beings aid research that can aid unambiguously human humans. Keep that in mind. While the human status of these zygotes is ambiguous in the extreme, the humanity of a man suffering Parkinson’s, or a woman paralyzed from the neck down, or a healthy athelete struck down by an unpredictable heart attack, is not.
    Wherever we draw the line, the line we draw should be straight. It’s inconsistent to say “this mass of human cells is a human being with human rights; this other is not.”

  17. Puddle Pirate

    No you didn’t. Explain to me why you deserve not to be killed. Surely there’s something that makes it legitimate for government to protect you from deadly assault.

  18. Chet

    No you didn’t. Explain to me why you deserve not to be killed.
    I explained already, but I guess I have to lay it right out for people like you.
    I’m unambigously a human being; I can speak, think, move, eat, vote, own property, be taxed, sign contracts, be punished for breaking the law, be drafted into the military, raise children, etc. In other words, I can do the things that are expected of me as a human being by society. Zygotes can do none of these things. Children can do less of these things; which is why children have less rights.
    I’m an unambigously human being, able to bear human responsibilities, and therefore I have human rights. Human zygotes are able to bear no responsibilities by virtue of having no human qualities at all, and therefore, have no human rights.
    Just because its very, very hard to tell when hot becomes cold, doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between hot and cold. I can tell the difference between a cold beer and a hot bath, as can you. I can tell the difference between ambiguous human products and unambiguous human adults; you’re apparently still having some trouble with that.

  19. Puddle Pirate

    So what you can do makes you what you are? I see. What are the minimum functional requirements for personhood, and why should I take your criteria seriously? Which capabilities can you lose and still be protected from being killed by someone with better/more abilities?

  20. Chet

    So what you can do makes you what you are?
    No, what kind of responsibilities you can bear determines what kind of rights you have. That’s why we don’t let children vote, for instance, even though participation in government is a human right.
    What are the minimum functional requirements for personhood, and why should I take your criteria seriously?
    Unknown. Greater than zero, however. What is the minimum temperature required to be “hot”?
    Which capabilities can you lose and still be protected from being killed by someone with better/more abilities?
    Probably most of them. Not, however, all of them. For instance, I could be brain-dead but on a respirator; that would allow members of my family to cause me to die. (Finish dying would be a better way to put it.)
    Let me turn a question back to you. Why are disjointed sperm and oocytes not human beings to you, but the fusion of the two, which adds nothing that they did not already possess between themselves, suddenly is human?

  21. Puddle Pirate

    Why are disjointed sperm and oocytes not human beings to you, but the fusion of the two, which adds nothing that they did not already possess between themselves, suddenly is human?
    I’ll answer your question in an upcoming post, Chet. But please answer my question: which minimum capabilities/responsibilities must you have if we are to protect you from being killed? Specifics, please.