Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Science, Faith, and Stem Cells: Science or Swami? (Part 4) [Serge]

Others in the Series

I've been busy for a bit, presently mourning the fact that my beloved Tigers (and Scott's Dodgers) will not be in the post season this year. Yet I was confident that there would be no shortage of examples of scientists making faith-based statements when I returned. Of course, I was not disappointed.

The latest scientist to get his faith-based views aired as "science" is veterinarian Dolly cloner Ian Wilmut. Ian tends to make a lot of claims, and I won't deny that his use of SCNT to clone a sheep was quite an accomplishment, but see if you can detect the science in this story:

THE CREATOR of Dolly the sheep has predicted that treatments using stem cells could become as common as antibiotics.

Professor Ian Wilmut, director of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University, said the first of these revolutionary therapies is expected to be available in around a decade and will develop rapidly over the coming years.

Wilmut is looking into his Crystal ball and making bold predictions. Predictions themselves are useless unless they have some evidence behind them. Does Wilmut offer any new research that would indicate that "revolutionary therapies" would be around in a decade? Is there any indication that the problems with ESCR and human cloning are in any danger of being overcome? Is there any accountability in the future regarding these predictions? There is not. The media simply reports the unchallenged words of a scientist and claims they are science. His predictions are mere faith-based assertions.

Wilmut pointed out that researchers around the world were already considering the use of stem cells to repair corneas, bones and specific cases of spinal cord injury.

"New therapies are just the same as medicines, they have to be tested and shown to be effective and safe," he said. "So it will be a small number of cases and a small number of treatments first, which will grow over the years and the decades.

Lets do some math. The first mammal embryonic stem cell was isolated in 1981 from a mouse. The first human embryonic stem cell was isolated in 1998. That means we have worked with ESCs for 26 years with mammals and 9 years with humans. So far, we have had not one cure of a disease in animals (without significant complications) and not one attempted treatment in human beings. Yet Wilmut asserts that stem cell cures will be as readily available as antibiotics in a mere ten years. As if we can simply stroll down to a neighborhood pharmacy and pick out our newly cloned embryos that will make us a "repair kit" to use at our convenience.

Wilmut may be lacking ethical standards, but his faith is fully intact.

HT: Wesley Smith

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