Skip to comments.Of Stem Cells and Fairy Tales
Posted on 06/10/2004 12:50:21 PM PDT by SJackson
Scientists who have been telling Nancy Reagan that embryonic stem cell research could cure Alzheimer's now admit that it isn't true.
PEOPLE NEED A FAIRY TALE," Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told Washington Post reporter Rick Weiss, explaining why scientists have allowed society to believe wrongly that stem cells are likely to effectively treat Alzheimer's disease. "Maybe that's unfair, but they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand."
Or maybe Big Biotech needs access to taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem cell and cloning research--private investors generally give companies engaged in these endeavors a cold shoulder--and they are using famous grief stricken families like the Reagans to do their political lifting. If true, it demonstrates a depth of insincerity and disingenuousness that is as cruel as it is unjustifiable.
Here's the story: Researchers have apparently known for some time that embryonic stem cells will not be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's, because as two researchers told a Senate subcommittee in May, it is a "whole brain disease," rather than a cellular disorder (such as Parkinson's). This has generally been kept out of the news. But now, Washington Post correspondent Rick Weiss, has blown the lid off of the scam, reporting that while useful abstract information might be gleaned about Alzheimer's through embryonic stem cell research, "stem cell experts confess . . . that of all the diseases that may be someday cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer's is among the least likely to benefit."
But people like Nancy Reagan have been allowed to believe otherwise, "a distortion" Weiss writes that "is not being aggressively corrected by scientists." Why? The false story line helps generate public support for the biotech political agenda. As Weiss noted, "It [Nancy Reagan's statement in support of ESCR] is the kind of advocacy that researchers have craved for years, and none wants to slow its momentum."
This is a scandal. Misrepresentation by omission corrupts one of the primary purposes of science, which is to provide society objective information about the state of scientific knowledge without regard to the political consequences. Such data then serves as a foundation for crucial moral analysis about whether and how controversial fields of scientific inquiry should be regulated, a debate in which all are entitled to participate. But we can't do so intelligently if we are not told the truth.
Some scientists have become alarmed by how politicized science has become. As Roger Pielke, Jr., Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado warned two years ago in the prestigious science journal Nature, "Many scientists [now] willingly adopt tactics of demagoguery and character assassination as well as, or even instead of, reasoned argument," in promoting their views. This politicization of science, he worried, has led some scientists, "not to mention lawyers and those with commercial interests," to "manipulate 'facts' to support" their advocacy, "undermining the scientific community's ability to advise policy makers." Consequently, he warned, science "is becoming yet another playing field for power politics, complete with the trappings of political spin and a win-at-all-costs attitude."
Political science has gotten so bad that a few biotech advocates have resorted to outright misrepresentation. One of the most notorious of these cases occurred in Australia where Alan Trounson, a leading stem cell researcher (as reported by the Australian on August 27, 2002) admitted that he released a misleading video to "win over politicians" during that country's Parliamentary debate over embryonic stem cell research. The video depicted a disabled rat regaining the ability to walk after being injected with embryonic stem cells--or so Trounson claimed. In actuality, the experiment used cadaveric fetal tissue from five-to-nine-week old aborted human fetuses, an altogether different approach that was irrelevant to the embryonic stem cell debate. Parliamentarians were furious, forcing a highly embarrassed Trounson to apologize abjectly.
If biotechnology advocates would allow a grieving widow to believe cruel untruths about the potential for stem cells to cure Alzheimer's, what other fairy tales are they telling us--or allowing us to believe--to win the political debate? This is a crucial question, given that the decisions we make today will have a tremendous impact on the morality of the twenty-first century. The time has more than passed for the media to do some serious digging.
Wesley J. Smith, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His next book, Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World will be published in the fall.
Ruh roh. Agenda, anyone? Yeesh.
Good article, thanks.
Anyone in the cabal of evil up to speed on Stem Cell limitations? I'm not inclined to trust the author of this article. Piniddy Padang Pong pangus.
Just my feeble memory and not an accurate recitation of the current state of research, but....
I seem to recall that umbilical and even adult stem cells seem, according to the experimental evidence so far, to be more potentially useful than embryonic stem cells.
My memory of the popular press accounts only.
As opposed to embryonic stem cells.
As I thought. Thanks for the reply.
the focus of Yu's experiment was turning marrow stem cells into neurons, not using new neurons to treat Alzheimer's. he's looking for funding and he's looking where the money is.
WHY does the issue need to be hashed out this week?
Adult brain stem cells could be studied as well.
This does not pit conservatives vs conservatives. It defines them.
They are. They are much harder to grow and isolate.
Thanks for posting that -- that was my understanding as well.
What some unethical researchers have done to Nancy Reagan and others to give them false hope about using embryonic stems cells is very wrong. Those scientists that have touted embryonic stem cells as a cure all IMHO are nothing more than pro-abortion supporters and sound like snake oil salesmen!
Not if you include the time and effort it takes to collect eggs and sperm and combine them, or collect them from the women they're growing in. ;)
That it does. It defines them right down to a beatable size.
That's my recollection, and it would seem to make a lot of sense. Among other things, a certain portion of embryos are apt to have critical and severe defects; most such defects will prove fatal before the embryo develops into a birthable baby. Thus, if a baby is born, that suggests that it is genetically viable and any stem cells from it (e.g. from the umbilical cord) are apt to work as they're supposed to. By contrast, embryonic stem cells are "untested" and may have defects that would cause them to malfunction very badly.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.