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October 07, 2004

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» NYT Bias? from Patterico's Pontifications
Tom Maguire has this on the oh-so-evenhanded NYT coverage of the stem cell debate.... [Read More]

» Stem Cell Research from Joshua Claybourn's Domain
Let us take a moment to resolve a glaring fact that seems to have missed most of the public, and [Read More]

» The blogosphere fact-checks some asses again from Kesher Talk
Previous debate fact-checking here and here. First, a brief interruption for some polls: Bush is way ahead according to CNN. ElectoralVote.com has Kerry ahead for the first time in a month. Slate's EV projection shows Bush still leading but... [Read More]

Comments

babblebob

The problem with this is ... YOU try to do extensive, serious research without federal funding. Are there any major medical research breakthroughs that have been accomplished without the use of any federal funding? (that's not rhetorical, I'm seriously wondering, here). I have a friend who works in the medical devices field, and he puts forth that federal funding is a needed piece of any serious, large scale research effort. If company/university X wishes to engage in embeyonic stem cell research, he also claims that they will lose their federal funding for all their other research projects. If true, that's not a good thing, since it is highly restrictive to those who could, by some stretch, secure their own funds and lead an ESC research effort, while also conducting other federally funded research efforts simultaneously.

This federal funds restriction is one of the major points with which I disagree with W's administration. I am a firm advocate of separation of church and state. This is a case where W is allowing his interpretation and understanding of religion to dictate policy, and I don't agree with it. Yes, the country was founded on any number of Christian values, but our Christian founders were escaping the religious intolerance of state-sponsored churches in Europe when they struck out to form what eventually became the US of A. The Constitutional framers made damn sure to found a country where religious differences were tolerated, and where religious doctrine did not govern policy. Of course, separation of church and state is all a huge argument unto itself that I won't delve in to here. I am a Chrisitan, but believe firmly in allowing others to engage in activities that are allowed by their ethical beliefs and value systems, so long as they do not harm others. I also believe that harvesting embryonic stem cells that are otherwise headed for the medical waste bin is not harming another being.

This policy is holding US researchers back from being on the cutting edge in this field, as funding is not as widely available as it could be. Make no mistake about it, this field would progress farther, faster, WITH federal funding, regardless of the fact that, as you point out, there are other sources of funding including state-level governmental funding. Here we have a policy that is slowing progress on a research into a field that could yield great benefits for all of mankind.

My vote goes to W this November, but it is absolutely in spite of this policy. My single most important issue is the war on terror. On that issue, W is the more credible candidate ... err ... the _only_ candidate with _any_ credibility.

Thanks for listening.

Kheldar

Couple of things in response to babblebob.

1. IIRC, the current federal funding restrictions limit government funds only with regards to new lines of embryonic stem cells. The lines that existed previously (I forget how many) could be used. If I'm wrong on this, somebody please correct me, but I working on limited time and strictly from memory.

2. My big preference is for the research to be done much more extensively on animals first. I don't believe that the stem cell funding limitations instituted by the Bush Administration gives a rat's sweet patootie about...well...a rat. Now, if there has already been a ton of research done on animal embryonic stem cells, then the scientific community has done a piss-poor job of getting the word out. The only calls for funding I hear are pleas of compassion. "This could cure ". Where's the scientific process, the standard operating procedure for much in medicine? Where are the examples? Where's the "this procedure has shown promise in this multitude of labratory experiments on white mice"?

Anyone else remember how fetal brain tissue was going to cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and how it needed government funding immediately, and we had to get over our squeamishness, it was just "headed for the medical waste bin" anyways? I'm guessing that embryonic stem cell research is an offshoot of that, but I have no idea...

gary

Don't look for the administration to be in any hurry to correct the misimpression the articles generate. Just as it serves their interests for the Republican base to believe there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11 (most of them still believe it, despite the absurdly belated confirmation otherwise during the campaign), it's not productive to emphasize the modified, limited, hangout on stem cell research.

ed

Hmmm.

1. "Republican base to believe there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11..."

yada yada yada. Sorry but these comments bore the hell out of me. Bush, and his entire administration, has shouted for months that they couldn't find any connection between Saddam and 9/11. And yet people still repeat this nonsense. blah blah blah you bore me.

2. Embryonic stem cell research is great! Of course all attempts at a treatment have resulted in fatally malignant cancers as these stem cells grow wildly out of control.

Then there's the probability of having to take immune suppression drugs for life to prevent the patients immune system from destroying the foreign tissue. Yeah that's the ticket! A "cure" that requires taking drug treatments for life.

But of course. Bush is hitler. Bush is bad. How could Bush be so evil. Bush and the Saudis sittin' in a tree. Halliburton. No blood for oil. Bosnia liberation = good, Iraq liberation = bad.

etc etc etcyada yada yada blah blah blah whatever the hell.

I eagerly await an intriguing and well reasoned response that instructs as well as entertains. Instead I'll see more crap.

etc etc etc.


Cecil Turner

"The problem with this is ... YOU try to do extensive, serious research without federal funding."

In the first place, AIUI, federal funding is not forbidden for embryonic stem cell research, it's restricted to certain (already-created) lines of embryos. It's a compromise decision that left both sides unhappy.

In the second place, the civics of this is fairly well-travelled ground, and directly analogous to federal funding for abortion. The bottom line is that many people believe human life begins at conception, and these procedures are murder (and a particularly heinous type: murder of an innocent). Most Americans don't think those folks should have their taxes be used to support something they find morally reprehensible. (Though most don't agree with the life-begins-at-conception view, and if it could be demonstrated that promising research was impossible under the current guidelines, that dynamic might well change.)

Tom Bowler

"This federal funds restriction is one of the major points with which I disagree with W's administration. I am a firm advocate of separation of church and state."

Exactly which church do we establish by refusing to fund embryonic stem cell research?

MaDr

babblebob

"Are there any major medical research breakthroughs that have been accomplished without the use of any federal funding?"

Do you think the majority of drugs or medical devices on the market are the result of federal funding? In my experience, very few have been (I started research in 1973 and then later primarily Development).

"If company/university X wishes to engage in embeyonic stem cell research, he also claims that they will lose their federal funding for all their other research projects."

False. As long has seperate projects/funding and the funds aren't co-mingled. There is a small chance that if they did divert federal funds to embrionic stem cell lines that are not approved, they would lose future funding for their other embrionic stem cell research.

"Make no mistake about it, this field would progress farther, faster, WITH federal funding"

Maybe you would be well served by identifying what private enterprise has come up with, vs that of government funded pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Then you could pick a few at random and decide for yourself if government funding results in "farther, faster". I'll give you a hint, the bureaucracy and restrictions are stifling.

babblebob

Exactly which church do we establish by refusing to fund embryonic stem cell research?

Separation of church and state goes beyond prohibiting state sponsored churches. Its interpretation is the source of many issues (ESC research, abortion, pledge of allegiance, prayer in school, etc, etc, etc...).

2. Embryonic stem cell research is great! Of course all attempts at a treatment have resulted in fatally malignant cancers as these stem cells grow wildly out of control.

Then there's the probability of having to take immune suppression drugs for life to prevent the patients immune system from destroying the foreign tissue. Yeah that's the ticket! A "cure" that requires taking drug treatments for life.

...and all those rockets we shoot into space explode! Those flying machines crash all the time, nobody will ever travel in them! Yeah, um, that would be why more research is needed.

But of course. Bush is hitler. Bush is bad. How could Bush be so evil. Bush and the Saudis sittin' in a tree. Halliburton. No blood for oil. Bosnia liberation = good, Iraq liberation = bad.

etc etc etcyada yada yada blah blah blah whatever the hell.

Hmm ... you started out pretty well, then descended into shrill nonsense. I never said any of that. Never will, either. Looks like maybe you've confused me with fat-bag, blowhard, intellectually dishonest Michael Moore? I don't understand why -- wtf do stem cells have to do with the rest of these way out, moonbat-left ravings? Take that garbage over to the D-U & argue with one of them. You're preaching to the choir here.

I eagerly await an intriguing and well reasoned response that instructs as well as entertains. Instead I'll see more crap.

etc etc etc.

"Everything you've written and will write is crap, so there." Great! Keep at it ... that attitude will get you far.

In the first place, AIUI, federal funding is not forbidden for embryonic stem cell research, it's restricted to certain (already-created) lines of embryos. It's a compromise decision that left both sides unhappy.

Compromise indeed. Two key arguments that I find people making in support of the federal funding limitation policy include "There's other funding available" and "There are some pre-existing lines that can undergo federally funded research, it's not totally banned." For the latter argument, if it's moral to use some ESCs but not to get new lines because harvesting them is bad in some way, does that not imply that the origins of the "permitted" lines were gotten through immoral means? So, the funding is permitted to support this research because it involves a derivative of these "grandfathered" lines, but the very act of initially harvesting these lines was bad, and shouldn't have ever happened? What sense does that make?

The bottom line is both of the above arguments ignore the fact that more can be done faster with less restrictions on federal funding. I feel they are the arguments of people who otherwise support W (like myself), but want to politically minimize this issue. They are arguments that I've made to people in the past, my researcher friend included. I then realized that hey, I'm not with the Prez on this issue, and there's nothing wrong with that. The people who fully support this funding restriction at its core normally do so on religious grounds. The restrictions themselves are based on religious interpretations, which are dictating policy. I obviously don't agree with the restrictions, but hey, we all have our opinions. I'm with W more than I'm against him. But that's just more crap outta me ... LMAO!

babblebob

MaDr, thanks for your input. Helpful stuff. Considering your background, do you feel the restrictions are a good thing or not? Why?

Cecil Turner

"The people who fully support this funding restriction at its core normally do so on religious grounds. The restrictions themselves are based on religious interpretations, which are dictating policy."

Why they support what they support is up to them, wouldn't you say? Surely you're not suggesting we should disenfranchise anyone who makes decisions based on religious beliefs?

And again, the bottom line is that most of the electorate does not believe in forcing another (significant) part of the electorate to fund something they believe is murder (and yes, that belief is based on religion). That seems to me the very essence of religious freedom and tolerance, and frankly I'm surprised someone who seems as reasonable and well-spoken as you is on the opposite side.

Cecil Turner

babblebob:
BTW, Glenn Reynolds has a Guardian Column that covers some of this ground--and makes a point I think both correct and pertinent: that religious beliefs are driving both sides of the policy. The left in general just seems less aware of it:

Not all leftwingers in the US are as frankly religious as Hillary Clinton, and many don't even realise that the ideas that they champion have deep religious roots.
(Though just as I was getting ready to call him a genius, he appears to've taken your side on stem-cell research. Which would seem to indicate I may be off-base believing it's a cut-and-dried decision.)

Rob

Babblebob, it isn't incoherent to say that currently existing lines may be used, but no new lines may be established. The fact that the current lines were established "immorally" does not mean that their use is immoral. In fact, it is consistent to say that a terrible thing was done and now we have the option of picking up the pieces or washing our hands of the whole mess. To decide which option to choose we can attach moral values to them. For the first option, picking up the pieces and using them, we accomplish a moral good -- potentially saving lives. For the second option, flushing the whole thing, we accomplish a moral bad -- potentially slowing life-saving research. So, the first option is the "good" choice.

Levat

Given the high reliance of research on federal funding, any restriction in the funding for particular research activities is functionally equivalent to restricting the activity itself. Because of this predicatble relationship, the withdrawl of federal financial support for embryonic stem cell research achieved the goal of retricting the research expeditiously and within the power of the administration. Why put the effort into instituting a legislative restriction (a new law) when virtually the same result can be obtained with much less effort by a funding withdrawl? The Times, whatever its faults, was not incorrect to characterize this as a restriction on stem cell research. If there is a symmantic, technical, or grammatical bone to pick, it is insignificant in comparison to the larger accuracy of the statement. I am amazed that anyone who was gratified by the President's initiative would want to characterize it as something less than what it was.

Al

The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position.

Paging Andy Sullivan!

abb1

Well, this just confirms that most of the R&D is financed by the US federal government. But we all (except for blindly ignorant ones among us) already know this, don't we?

Cecil Turner

"If there is a symmantic [sic], technical, or grammatical bone to pick, it is insignificant in comparison to the larger accuracy of the statement."

Riight. Leaving the word "funding" out of the sentence didn't substantially change the meaning or aything like that. And the change, as in virtually every misstatement of fact coming out of the Times, wasn't to make the Administration look worse.

These guys are their own worst enemy. And with every fact-check, they lose a little more credibility.

martin

Yep. Same goes for Cheney.

Parker

Point to remember - anything the federal government funds, it does so with money collected from the citizenry. I'm tired of reading things that can be taken to mean that our government is a magic money machine, and you just have to open the spout.

Another point - 'separation of church and state' is an extra-constitutional phrase. The two mentions of religion in the basic document say that (1) you can't impose a religious test for holding office and (2) congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

I've always taken the establishment clause to mean the feds can't set up a state church.

Hearing people squawk the phrase 'separation of church and state' like a mynah bird, with no understanding of the history behind it, makes my teeth itch. Most especially when it is applied as a club against Christianity, as it most often seems to be.

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself - and please don't throw the misdeeds of self-professed 'Christians' in my face - you shall know them by their deeds, not their words.

I'm trying to make sure my actions are informed by love - given my current state, a more-than-lifetime job, I fear.

abb1

And the change, as in virtually every misstatement of fact coming out of the Times, wasn't to make the Administration look worse.

If that's true - god bless them. But I doubt it. Not even close to what they did to Mr. Gore 4 years ago.

Alan

My religious belief is that I do not believe that humans should be used for medical testing without their consent.

Because it is a belief espoused by my religion, does that automatically mean that what Dr. Mengele did in WWII Germany is ok?

Of course not.

Like one of the writers above mentioned, a sizable portion of the population believes that abortion and misusing embryos is murder. Saying those people are wrong because their thinking is espoused by their religion goes against the establishment clause as well.

If someone can prove that destroying an embryo is not murder then I'll definitely listen to them.

However, until then, I will continue knowing that those who don't believe it is murder are acting just as much on "faith" as those who do.

abb1

Alan,
those who believe that abortion and 'misusing embryos' (whatever it means) is murder shouldn't have or perform abortions or 'misuse' embryos. No one forces them to do it. Likewise those who don't believe in capital punishment shouldn't commit capital crimes or apply for executioner's job. Fair enough?

Rob

abb1, your argument doesn't work. What if I think (hypothetically) that killing indiscriminately is okay? By your argument, I could just say to those who disagree with me that if they believe otherwise they simply shouldn't kill indiscriminately.

But that doesn't really work does it. There's something *wrong* about killing indiscriminately that has nothing to do with my (or your) beliefs about it.

submandave

babblebob: "Separation of church and state goes beyond prohibiting state sponsored churches. Its interpretation is the source of many issues (ESC research, abortion, pledge of allegiance, prayer in school, etc, etc, etc...)."

That the concept of "separation of church and state" is used to support all these does not necessarilly make it germain in this case. More often than not, I see this flag thrown whenever a politician of known religious faith makes a moral decission. What invalidates this argument for me is if the same moral decission could have been made without the moral guidance of that individual's specific belief. For example, the belief that late-term abortion is morally wrong does not necessarilly hinge upon the individual being Christian or Jewish or Muslim or even having any religious beliefs at all. While the source of the belief may differ, there are Athiests for whom the idea of Partial-Birth Abortion is just as repulsive and immoral as it is for a Christian or other opponent.

Using this criteria, I can say that idea of intentionally inducing the conditions under which human life is created for the expressed purpose of harvesting and destroying the embryo is uncomfortable to me from a human and not a religious standpoint. This belief and unease could just as easilly be experienced by a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, Athiest, Mooney or any other citizen as it is by a Christian.

Politicians and governments are called upon every day to make moral decissions on behalf of their constiuents. For many, these decissions are informed by the moral compass formed by their religion and beliefs. It makes no sense to hold suspect a position solely based upon the beliefs that drive the individual's moral sense rather than the nature of the position itself.

Cecil Turner

"If that's true - god bless them."

"No one forces them to do it."

Ah, the persuasive power of pure reason.

abb1

What if I think (hypothetically) that killing indiscriminately is okay? By your argument, I could just say to those who disagree with me that if they believe otherwise they simply shouldn't kill indiscriminately.


You could. And if you manage to convince enough people - a majority - that killing indiscriminately is okay, then it'll be OK. Otherwise you're in trouble.

Cecil Turner

"And if you manage to convince enough people - a majority - that killing indiscriminately is okay, then it'll be OK."

Umm, no. The majority is not allowed to "tyrannize" the minority. That's one of the differences between a pure democracy and a republic. (And we live in the latter.)

abb1

Who said anything about 'tyrannizing' any minority?

Cecil Turner

"Who said anything about 'tyrannizing' any minority?"

The common phrase to describe the concept of the majority voting to infringe upon the rights of the minority is: "tyranny of the majority." Here are a couple of essays on the subject from John Stuart Mill and de Tocqueville.

As Tocqueville points up, it's a major problem in a democracy, but a republic is more resistant. So, convincing a majority that "that killing indiscriminately is okay" would still not allow you to do it (since even a majority cannot confer the right to violate the rights of the minority--in this case, those that would otherwise be subject to the "indiscriminate killing").

Newsweek

Trolls should get their own echo chamber.

Lisa

I would suggest that anyone who wants to get past the spin and the bias check out this article: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/449djpmz.asp?pg=1

It is not embryonic stem cell research that is promising, it is adult stem cell research, which the government is still funding. Somehow, that keeps getting lost in the MSM.

MaDr

babblebob

"Considering your background, do you feel the restrictions are a good thing or not? Why?"

So there's no misunderstanding, this is not my area of expertise.

I haven't reached a final opinion yet. I've resigned myself that the current "position" is probably the best compromise based upon the strong emotions on both sides.
It is a compromise similar to the one our country has reached with respect to abortions (no federal funding). While not ideal to either side, it's been something we all seem to be living with.

I would have preferred that we knew more about this new field, before we (country/government) were forced to take a significant position. We have at least three issues to address before we know how to go forward – 1) among the myriad possibilities of unknown potential where do we invest the funding, 2) unintended consequences, 3) moral and ethical.


I’m emailing two short articles that might help. If I had links, believe me, I would have used them.

levat

Cecil,
Funding is *how* the President enacted the "strict limits" on embryonic stem cell research. It is not as if he was just trying to balance the budget and the Times blew things all out of proportion. He withdrew funding because he thinks the work is immoral. People who agree should view this as a victory. On the other hand, people who disagree with the President's moral analysis on this issue, but otherwise support him, are in a tough spot.

levat

Lisa,
The promise of adult stem cell research does not exclude the promise of embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells could conceivably be the answer, but we might go a long way down the road to success before a fatal flaw is uncovered.

teri

I used to be a fence sitter on abortion. When I was pregnant, I saw my child - and named him - via ultrasound when he was just 14 weeks old. (Yes, we could tell he was a boy at that tender age.) Abortion is normally performed up to the 16th week of pregnancy, but partial birth abortions can be performed at 9 months.

One need not be religous to recognize that abortion is murder of an innocent child. I can't stomach the fact that any of my taxes go to fund even limited stem cell research using embryonic stem cells. Every human being has stem cells in him/her. If the gov't wants to fund some research (which I don't think they should - let Merck et al do it), why can't the research involve work with adult stem cells, or cells taken from the umbilical cord at birth?

MaDr

levat

"He withdrew funding because "

I believe you are incorrect in this sense - funding never existed for embryonic stem cells before so how could he withdraw anything?

"but we might go a long way down the road to success before a fatal flaw is uncovered"

Certainly true that all research has the possibility of a fatal flaw down the road. Why would you want to throw money at one that already has the most problems with it - tumors, increased risk of genetic and viral transmission? What are your objections to advancing "embryonic" like research using aborted fetuses or the less contraversial umbilical cord or placental tissues?

Greg

Tom,

You'll probably enjoy this. I read an article today from HealthDay about some groundbreaking embryonic stem cell research. It was done on mice., and it was research you could not do on a human (intentionally inflicting genetic defects on an embryo so you can inject stem cells into it and see what kind of human results tends to be frowned upon).

The article had a two paragraph screed about how all embryonic stem cells come from human embryos, and it bitched about how the Bush Administration is limiting that research.

So I sent a letter to the author of the study, Robert Benezra, asking him if they had used mouse embryonic stem cells (they had), and if the Bush ESC rules affected them at all (they don't).

I've written a letter to the editor, and I encourage others to do the same (or mention them in your blogs).

levat

MaDr,

"funding never existed for embryonic stem cells before so how could he withdraw anything?"

This is getting beside the point that the President did in fact place limitations on research using embryonic stem cells, but I'll bite.

The mechanism of the limitations was through federal funding. I will have to take your word for it that no funding had happened, but before the President's edict, and after a long period of deliberation, a determination had been made by DHHS that research using embryonic stem cells was eligible for federal funding. Studies that would have been funded originally could not be funded under the President's new policy.

Withdrawal of funding versus withdrawal of eligibility for funding. A distinction without a difference for researchers in this area.

Cecil Turner

"Funding is *how* the President enacted the "strict limits" on embryonic stem cell research."

The two statements:

  • the President enacted strict limits on ESC; and,
  • the President enacted strict limits on funding for ESC,

    are not equivalent. Only one is accurate. You think the distinction is unimportant, fine. I disagree. Why don't the professionals at the Times leave the two words in, preserve accuracy, and let the rest of us make up our minds what we think?

    "He withdrew funding because he thinks the work is immoral."

    A sizable chunk of the population thinks cloning human embryos is immoral. And object (strenuously) to their tax monies being used to support it. The President cited their concerns prominently in his speech on the subject:

    The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions. Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions.
    The current decision keeps them from open (tax) revolt, and essential research is still possible.

    It's also apparent the President has spent considerably more effort to get dissenting opinions than the Times has. You can characterize this as him imposing his religious beliefs on America, or as him respecting the religious views of many Americans. The latter, to my mind, seems more accurate.

  • ed

    Hmmmm.

    "...and all those rockets we shoot into space explode! Those flying machines crash all the time, nobody will ever travel in them! Yeah, um, that would be why more research is needed."

    Yes absolutely! What we need to heal our elderly and aging baby-boomers is to kill more children! Increase research funding! If even more children die, then perhaps we'll find an actual use for their preserved corpses instead of just trying to find a use.

    What the hell. Immortality is just around the corner. All we have to do is sacrifice our children and we'll live forever!

    Somebody prep that iron statue of Baal.

    Rob Read

    Petri dish children! I Love the concept. Maybe god-bothering forced-birthers should market it as a childrens toy this winter solstice?

    Cecil Turner

    I think the above nicely illustrates the point that folks on both sides seem less than reasonable when viewed by the other.

    In that environment, a compromise solution is perhaps the best that can be expected.

    abb1

    The common phrase to describe the concept of the majority voting to infringe upon the rights of the minority is: "tyranny of the majority."

    In a democratic society (including representative democracies like ours) laws are based on the will of a majority. Majority usually also enact laws designed to protect various minorities. The alternative to the "tyranny of the majority" is tyranny of a minority. Or anarchy. Not sure what you are trying to convey here.

    Appalled Moderate

    Abb1:

    Let James Madison explain the conept to you.

    abb1

    I think the abortion question is quite simple, and the Reo v. Wade has a very good approach to it - viability test.

    Indeed, an embryo is a form of human life. It has a right to live. But the embryo doesn't have a right to attach itself to woman's internal organs and exploit her body without her consent. So, if the woman wants this embrio out of her body, the embrio has to go. If it can be removed intact and can survive outside - fine. If not - sorry, too bad for the embrio, but the woman has a right to control her own body.

    Cecil Turner

    "Majority usually also enact laws designed to protect various minorities."

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the source of minority rights protections (at least in the US). Those rights exist whether the majority wishes to enact laws to protect them or not. (And allows courts to "strike down" laws--enacted by the majority--that infringe upon those rights.)

    "The alternative to the "tyranny of the majority" is tyranny of a minority."

    This is hardly a new or controversial concept. Try reading those links, or google "tyranny of the majority" and pick your own. If you still need help, your local library or any reasonably proficient high school government teacher should be able to provide it.

    Geoff Matthews

    On the funding limits for embryonic stem cell research, this is what people call a compromise. It's designed to make all parties unhappy, just less so.
    Why a compromise? Because a sizable proportion of the population disagrees with the notion that embryonic stem cells should be used indiscriminately for research. They view these as human remains, and last I checked, it is illegal to use human remains for scientific research without their express written permission. On the other hand, there is a sizable proportion of the population that views the potential of using embryonic stem cells in medicine as a possible boon to the field. The president threw both parties a bone. Quit yer' whining that the other party got one.
    On federal funding, maybe it's time to get the drug companies off of the federal teat. Unless they are willing to share the profits of said drugs with the feds.
    I can't wait to see Sullivan's response to Kerry's claim that he Bush have the same position on gay marriage.

    abb1

    Those rights exist whether the majority wishes to enact laws to protect them or not.

    No they do not. If you and I were the only 2 people left on earth and I was stronger than you - you would only have those right that I granted to you. Simple as that.

    Cecil Turner

    A.M.: Thanks. That's a perfect reference, especially these paragraphs:

    it may be concluded that a pure democracy . . . can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction . . . and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. . .

    A republic . . . opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking

    And obviously I should re-read my federalists.

    abb1: "Indeed, an embryo is a form of human life. It has a right to live."

    Roe v. Wade makes no such case. In fact it emphasizes the traditional legal view that life begins at birth:

    In areas other than criminal abortion, the law has been reluctant to endorse any theory that life, as we recognize it, begins before live birth . . .
    It doesn't consider a fetus "human life," but merely its "potentiality," even after viability. Nor does it grant a fetus any "rights" and leaves it up to the State's interests to protect it:
    For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion . . .
    Obviously this doesn't square well with the belief that a fetus is just a small human. If one were to accept that premise, any abortion would be homicide, and only "justifiable homicide" if done to protect the life of the mother.

    Cecil Turner

    "No they do not. If you and I were the only 2 people left on earth and I was stronger than you - you would only have those right that I granted to you. Simple as that."

    Well, that's neither a pure democracy or a republic, so the analogy doesn't really work. And if you and I were the only 2 people left on earth, you'd be extremely thankful I'm a (small-r) republican.

    abb1

    As much as you want to make it sound important, there's nothing magical in this 'republic' thing. Republic is government by representatives. Representatives are elected by a majority (except in rare cases like 2000). A republic doesn't have any automatic protection for minorities.

    And none of this has anything to do with abortions. The congress could pass a law (or an amendment, if necessary) banning all abortions. The congress could also enact a law (or an amendment, if necessary) forbidding banning any abortions. There is no miracle in this, it's just a law enacted by representatives who are elected by people. If 80% of the population want to ban abortions - they'll be banned. If 80% of the population want to allow abortions - they'll be allowed.

    levat

    Cecil,

    "# the President enacted strict limits on ESC; and,
    # the President enacted strict limits on funding for ESC,
    are not equivalent."

    The second is a subset of the first. Among all possible strict limits the President could have enacted on ESC research he chose strict limits on funding. It is difficult to imagine how any other limits might be placed on ESC without first (or concurrently) imposing funding limits. Again, it is not like funding limits were incidental or inconsequential.

    I have made no comments about the propriety of the decision or the moral justification. I just think the criticism of the Times, in this case, does not hold water.

    Cecil Turner

    "And none of this has anything to do with abortions. The congress could pass a law (or an amendment, if necessary) banning all abortions."

    Like the Texas law in Roe v. Wade that was struck down by the USSC?

    An amendment would in fact be possible, but it'd require a supermajority vote in Congress followed by ratification of 3/4 of the states, not a simple popular vote. And the difficulty involved in making such a change is a very significant protection.

    Cecil Turner

    "The second is a subset of the first."

    No, it's not. The President could have, for example, forbidden any research that involved cloning new fetuses, or destroying new lines, and provided ample funding for what was allowed. That would be a "restriction," but not "restricted funding." He chose a mix of "funding restrictions," but no "restrictions" that I'm aware of.

    "I have made no comments about the propriety of the decision or the moral justification. I just think the criticism of the Times, in this case, does not hold water."

    I'm fairly detached on the subject (though I've thought about it a lot). But I absolutely disagree on the Times's treatment. Read the President's fireside chat from the link above, then reread the Times piece (and the way it characterizes the President's statements). IMO it's self-evidently slanted to give the impression the President is trying to foist his personal religious beliefs on the electorate, and overstates the restrictions as part of that case.

    abb1

    Like the Texas law in Roe v. Wade that was struck down by the USSC?

    Amendment, constitutional amendment. If there is a large enough majority, they can always pass an amendment.

    abb1

    Follow up on the Bush earpiece story: Bush's mystery bulge. Will our 4-year long national nightmare be over soon? Pray with me, folks, pray with me.

    perfectsense

    Kerry claimed he is lawyer. This is a lie, he no longer has an active law license.

    levat

    Cecil,

    At the risk of re-living countless playground disputes...

    "No it's not".

    Yes it is. Funding limits are, by definition, a kind of limit. There are other kinds of limits, but funding limits are still limits.

    You seem to be applying two different definitions to the word "restriction" depending on whether it is used alone or if it is modified by the word "funding". It is as if you are using "restriction" very narrowly to mean a regulation or law with civil or criminal penalties that prohibits some activity. If you really think that "strict limits on ESC research" means "laws prohibiting ESC research (with civil or criminal penalties for violations?)", then I can see how you would disagree with the accuracy of the Times statement. However, the more general and more common definition of "restrictions" (actually "limits") includes things other than this type of prohibition.


    The Times article was about the apparently different approaches that President Bush and Senator Kerry take in applying their personal religious beliefs to their respective roles as elected officials. I do not think that the President is ashamed of his beliefs, and he has really made no secret of the role that they play in the decisions he makes for the country. He has also demonstrated that he is a man of conviction and that he steadfastly adheres to the decisions he makes. He must recognize that this could be politically risky, yet he remains committed to these principles. Specifically, he seems to have shown that he is not using a mask of religion as a political tool to satisfy a constituency. This seems to be genuinely who he is.

    Again, I don't think the Times article was inaccurate in describing the ESC research decision as "strict limits". More boradly, I really don't think it undermines the President's image as being a decisive leader and a man of values.

    Cecil Turner

    "Funding limits are, by definition, a kind of limit."

    If the federal government were the only source of funding, it would, in fact, be a limit. But it isn't. There is no reason the funding couldn't be made up elsewhere, from either state or private sources.

    It's been suggested that as a practical matter (since the vast majority of research funding is from federal grants), it amounts to the same thing. But again, that's a judgment, not a fact, and should be reported as such (or, better yet, the fact reported, and the judgment left to the reader).

    "If you really think that "strict limits on ESC research" means "laws prohibiting ESC research" . . .

    A "limit" means "to confine or restrict within a boundary or bounds" (American Heritage). For example, forbidding ESC research that destroyed new embryos would be a limit. Forbidding federal funding for the same research (but allowing the researcher to proceed, using other sources of funding) doesn't "bound" the research, and would not (IMO) meet the common definition of "limit."

    "More boradly, I really don't think it undermines the President's image as being a decisive leader and a man of values."

    Again, I'm not overly concerned with the political ramifications (and I doubt they're significant anyway). I am concerned with the fourth estate's apparent belief they have a duty to shape public opinion (more toward their own, of course), and the bias they bring to public policy debate . . . especially that of the "Paper of Record." This may not be as good an example as the Duelfer report, but it's not objective journalism. And "it's not hurting him much" is not a defense.

    John

    "The lines that existed previously (I forget how many) could be used."

    This is deceptive, because the existing lines cannot be used for human trials because they have been cultivated on mouse feeder fibroblast layers. Thus, this is a huge restriction.

    "My big preference is for the research to be done much more extensively on animals first...Now, if there has already been a ton of research done on animal embryonic stem cells, then the scientific community has done a piss-poor job of getting the word out."

    There are things known as scientific journals. Perhaps you should read them?

    "Where's the scientific process, the standard operating procedure for much in medicine? Where are the examples? Where's the "this procedure has shown promise in this multitude of labratory experiments on white mice"?"

    In the scientific literature.

    Fraidenraich D, Stillwell E, Romero E, Wilkes D, Manova K, Basson CT, Benezra R.
    Rescue of cardiac defects in id knockout embryos by injection of embryonic stem cells.
    Science. 2004 Oct 8;306(5694):247-52.

    "Embryonic stem cell research is great! Of course all attempts at a treatment have resulted in fatally malignant cancers as these stem cells grow wildly out of control."

    Really? What about the case I cited above?

    "Then there's the probability of having to take immune suppression drugs for life to prevent the patients immune system from destroying the foreign tissue."

    Then there's the likelihood of genetic modification of the stem cells to change the histocompatibility antigens to those of the recipient.

    "The bottom line is that many people believe human life begins at conception, and these procedures are murder (and a particularly heinous type: murder of an innocent)."

    Since these are the byproducts of fertility therapy, those same people must oppose fertility therapy for the same reasons. They don't.

    "Do you think the majority of drugs or medical devices on the market are the result of federal funding?"

    On the market? No. New drugs and devices in the last ten years? Absolutely.

    "Then you could pick a few at random and decide for yourself if government funding results in "farther, faster". I'll give you a hint, the bureaucracy and restrictions are stifling."

    The stifling restrictions are not in government funding.

    "Babblebob, it isn't incoherent to say that currently existing lines may be used, but no new lines may be established."

    It's dishonest, because it omits the highly relevant fact that NONE of the approved lines can be used in human trials.

    "I'm tired of reading things that can be taken to mean that our government is a magic money machine, and you just have to open the spout."

    Biomedical research is a magic money machine. It returns well over 20%/year to our economy.

    "It is not embryonic stem cell research that is promising, it is adult stem cell research, which the government is still funding. Somehow, that keeps getting lost in the MSM."

    Baloney. Most of the reports of transdifferentiation of adult stem cells have been invalidated.

    Cecil Turner

    <<"many people believe human life begins at conception, and these procedures are murder">>

    "Since these are the byproducts of fertility therapy, those same people must oppose fertility therapy for the same reasons. They don't."

    Sorry, doesn't follow. They think that since the purpose of fertility therapy is reproduction, it's acceptable. It's also faulty to apply logic to other people's religious beliefs.

    In any event, this is a political question, not a scientific one. People have a say in how their tax dollars are spent, even if you don't agree with their reasons.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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