Monday, June 18, 2007

Find Something Accurate, I Dare You. [Jay]

This opinion piece by Rachel Wagner in the Michigan Daily is everything that is wrong about the reporting by the media on the embryonic stem cell research debate. It is factually inaccurate, misleading, uninformed, and hopelessly biased. Other than that I highly recommend it!

I do not know Rachel, so please do not misunderstand my befuddlement that this nonsense made it to publication as a personal attack against her. I understand that her opinions are rooted in terrible pain and the experience of watching her uncle die of Parkinson’s, but my wife will angrily attest that I would be as hard on her if she ever wrote anything so ridiculous as this. For instance:

As of August 2001, only research on existing stem cells could be federally funded, greatly restricting the amount of research and progress that could help people with diseases like juvenile diabetes or certain types of cancer.

Read this sentence and understand that the thing that greatly reduces the whole world from being able to pursue the panacea of embryonic stem cell research is the inability of certain researchers to receive tax payer money from the United States government to underwrite their research. At best you are making a case for why certain researchers highly dependent upon federal funding are handicapped versus international scientists from less restrictive nations and with better fundraising skills.


Despite its medical benefits, embryonic stem cell research remains controversial because of the feeling that it destroys a human life. However, the pro-life argument regarding stem cell research is fraught with complications and contradictions.

It is not the “feeling” that we destroy human life that makes it controversial. It is the actual destruction of life that no one seems to be able to identify as anything other than “human” that is problematic. Now lets get to the contradictions:

How, then, is it more pro-life to save an embryo that will ultimately be thrown away than to use that embryo to improve and save lives? It's counterintuitive to protect something that will never have a fully developed life over a person who already has a life but suffers from a permanent, debilitating disease.

Why will it never have a fully developed life? Oh yeah, we intend to kill it. So since we are going to be killing the life anyway, we might as well exploit it. It would be wasteful not to. How could anyone discern an ethical issue there?

You can literally print this article, tack it to your wall, throw a dart and hit a terrible argument equally worth mentioning here. In fact, please do so and put them in the comments if you wish. I have to ignore the incredible misinformation she spreads about the “future” possibility of adult stem cells being useful (Hands shaking uncontrollably as I write) and in the interest of length finish up with this line:

Ironically, in postponing embryonic stem cell funding, more people will die of diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's and brain cancer. (Emphasis mine)

That is well balanced reporting there. No need to panic, folks, the pro-lifers are just trying to kill people to save embryos. I think I am going to post about how bio-ethics issues seem to invite the well publicized opinions of people that have absolutley no idea what they are talking about however heartfelt their intentions. It also seems to inexplicably shut down the discerning eye of editors who ought to know better.


  1. Jay,
    Did anyone else get this erie feeling of being back in 1940's Germany in a concentration camp?
    Rachel writes:

    "How, then, is it more pro-life to save an embryo that will ultimately be thrown away than to use that embryo to improve and save lives? It's counterintuitive to protect something that will never have a fully developed life over a person who already has a life but suffers from a permanent, debilitating disease.".
    Let me take a little license here:

    Me: How, then, is it more pro-life to save a Jew that will ultimately be thrown away than to use that Jew to improve and save lives of Germans?

    I wonder if Ms. Wagner would feel it absurd to argue that there is no moral wrong in exploiting the bodies of the Jews because they were A) deemed non- persons by the state and B) they were going to be killed anyway. So lets get what we need from them for the greater good of the state.

    I'd think she would agree that this is absurd, yet, this is what she, and her ilk are suggesting we do.....exploit the weak for a supposed "greater good" that frankly, seems to be based on little more than proof by assertion.

    As a medical professional myself, I too have seen the suffering, but our emtional reaction to pictures of Michael J. Fox shaking and struggling to speak should not then translate into an immoral action.

    That is ALWAYS wrong. Lori V.

  2. Excellent post – here are few additional thoughts.

    Unfortunately the writer commits a common logical blunder by concluding the inevitable on the basis of what is hoped for. She asserts that cures via ESC are a done deal (following the application of tax dollars) – the proof is that some scientists speculate this is a possible outcome. Usually the clinical observation provides the necessary evidence to conclude a successful outcome.

    However, this is apparently not necessary because embryonic stem cells have already been proven effective ... . Where, when and by whom? Please show one therapeutic treatment-using ESC that has been shown to effectively treat any disease. There are none. Zero. We're back to assuming the conclusion.

    Wagner's arguments are weak, which apparently enticed her to enlist the help of emotive and fallacious arguments. In doing so she unjustly accuses the pro-life community and exploits the compassion of society and hopes of the sick.

  3. Jay,
    Sadly, the information in this opinion piece is more accurate than "news" story about stem cell research from the major newspapers in the Detroit area. From those papers you'd often come away thinking the federal government provides no funds for embryonic stem cell research and that embryonic stem cell research is banned in Michigan.

    I particularly like the term "research embryos" and I'm not sure I've heard that one before.

    It's like they can just put whatever adjective they'd like before the word embryo and then the tiny human being only has value as a disposable research material.

    I love it when advocates of embryonic stem cell research claim embryonic stem cells can turn into more than 220 cell types when this has only been done when scientists inject embryonic stem cells into rodent embryos and the embryonic development of the embryos spurs the injected embryonic stem cells into changing into the various cell types. It's not like they been able to create all 220-plus cell types in-vitro.

    The best quote though is - "The only catch is that this research has been done solely on mice, and scientists are not quite sure the technique can work on humans." Unfortunately, Rachel doesn't recognize that sword cuts both ways since embryonic stem cells haven't worked at all in humans and scientists aren't sure they will.

  4. Jay,

    You misspelled inaccurate in the first paragraph. You might want to correct it.

  5. Anon,

    Of all the words to typo. Ah well. Thanks for the heads up and I will correct it.


  6. Since when is "moral authority due to suffering relative" a valid form of argumentation? For that matter, who *doesn't* have a loved one who has suffered from some form of cancer/neurological/degenerative disease?

    And by the way, to commenter Lori V. - I have already used the analogy between the moral relativism/rationalization of embryo-destructive research and the Nazi treatment of Jews. Apparently, most liberals cannot grasp the subtle, concise nature of the analogy.

    I could say much more; perhaps if the baby sleeps enough to let me draft a blog post, I'll add more later.


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