Saturday, May 21, 2005

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Proves Naysayers Incorrect Already

Of course, this breakthrough was not made here in the US. Without the federal funding that is normally procured for potentially life-saving types of research, we are lagging behind other countries in this area. It's South Korea that "got there first" this time, with something that many fundamentalists that were against this research said could never be done. On a side note, I also find that interesting. On these issues that involve medicine, conservatives will trot out these same conservative doctors to repeat the party line on why it shouldn't happen or can't happen. Then the other 98% of doctors will say it can be done, but are less flashy about it because they rightly don't care about the politics of it so much. Then conservatives can say, "Well, doctors disagree..." It's very convenient for them. While some segments of America try to turn back the clock on science, other countries are simply going to take up the slack. We're already seeing that. Basically every other country in the world is snickering at our silliness. I hope that twenty years from now "other countries" are not where all medical progress comes from, and we aren't stuck in America learning about how the Earth is actually flat, six thousand years old, and all life was intelligently designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It looks like there may be enough votes though in Congress to overturn Dubyah this time, which would be nice to see for once. This is an issue that deeply divides Republicans, but that Democrats are in favor of pretty much across the board. There may be enough of a coalition there to even override a promised veto. We shall see. What is that saying? "The life you save, may be your own." Well put.


vox said...

i was just surfing online and came across your posting, so i thought i'd leave a comment. this is indeed important medical news, a breakthrough, as you described it: and as with any new scientific/technological leap, the ethical dimensions ought to be adequately explored. this is so that we as a society will know how to proceed with these new findings and technological innovations, safeguarding the rights and dignity of all who will be affected by any breakthrough.

the objection to embryonic stem cell research is not so much the idea that "it isn't possible/it can't be done." rather, acquiring embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of the embryo (as you most likely already know), and therefore means terminating human life. whether or not an embryo is at all human is ultimately a philosophical (even logical) exercise (not a religious one really) and i don't wish to go into the philosophy of it here.

if one understands that human existence is already present at the embryonic stage, the harvesting of embryonic stem cells violates the humanistic and universal ethical principle that human life cannot be taken for the service of another, in addition of course to violating the law against murder.

so, the dispute is not that this technology isn't possible; it's that this technology violates the human dignity of humans at the embryonic stage.

to quote josephine quintavalle, founder of the public interest group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE):

"I think the work that's going on in this field is very exciting. The only thing I'm saying is you cannot sacrifice a human life, no matter how small, for the benefit of a third party. I think it's elitist medicine and utterly narcissistic. There are so many other adult stem cell alternatives available to find cures for diseases." (a quote by her from CNN)

thanks for the posting. vox

Two Dogs said...

Like vox said, the possibilities of one's OWN adult stem cells in fighting and defeating disease is much more promising, something about NOT having to develop the DNA strands of the individual. The problem that I have with government funding of any kind is that the government is notoriously bad at everything that they do.

What you fail to acknowledge is that there is NO BAN on embryonic stem cell research; any medical facility is welcome to do this research, they are simply not going to get government grants to do it.

When will liberals began to understand that the Fed actually creates no damn money? It comes from MY pocket. I am so absolutely tired of funding every little idiotic pet project that anyone can decide is a good idea.

Erik, if embryonic stem cell research is so absolutely promising, bequeath YOUR money to the cause, but leave me out of it.

Oh, and I will send you links about the numerous forms of cancer that they simply can't stop in laboratory animals when injected with ESC if you would like. There's really no reason for you to develop an opinion when you only know what the MSM decides to tell you.

Erik Grow said...

Vox, I understand the Catholic position behind this, and that's fine. I understand that ethics needs to be looked at carefully, but yours is clearly is not the majority view. These aren't even abortions. They are clusters of cells that could save you or someone you love, and it floors me that you would be fine with looking someone in the eye and telling them that they must die because of your beliefs that they do not share. I happen to think that a few-celled embryo made for the specific purpose of saving the life of someone already out in the world with a family, hopes, dreams, fears is well worth it. It has enough public support to pass, in most places that it would be put to a vote. Bush's veto power may not even be enough to stop it this time.

Well if your position is fund no research on anything at all, that's fine Two Dogs, but it won't happen. There is an economic benefit to curing disease as well. As soon as Bush is out of office, unless we elect someone as conservative as Bush next time that ban will be the first thing to be overturned.

Two Dogs said...

Why would you use the word "ban"? Is that something that you do purposefully to cloud the argument or do you just not know the truth?

The only President to not spend money on stem cell research, since it was just realized in 1998, was Bill Clinton.

Erik, did you cough up your skull about this when Bill Clinton instituted the "ban" that George Bush lifted?

Oh, and I posted a rebuttal on my blog that is a whole lot more objective than this drivel.

Erik Grow said...

I responded in detail on your blog Two Dogs.

Um, this seems to indicate that you are wrong about the Bill Clinton thing. Sounds less restrictive than the Bush policy to me, doesn't it? Funding for new lines was not banned, nor was funding for the research once the cells were harvested.

"Scientists grow stem cells from leftover fertilized eggs, or embryos, that are produced at fertility clinics and not needed for implantation. Federal law bans the use of tax money for research that destroys embryos. The Clinton policy allows federal funding for stem cell research so long as private funding is used to remove the cells from the embryos."

Two Dogs said...

Erik, there was never one red cent spent by the Clinton Administration on any stem cell research. I really don't understand why you would believe that since Clinton said he was for something, that you would think that he ever did anything about it. You see, he was the most notorious liar that this country has ever seen.

And since the stem cell research was not even begun until 1998, I think that this ABC article was actually talking about embryos even though it says stem cells. Yep, they were doing tests on babies. Sorry, fetuses. That was the "ban" that Clinton lifted. Of course, I don't expect you to believe that.

vox said...

"They are clusters of cells that could save you or someone you love, and it floors me that you would be fine with looking someone in the eye and telling them that they must die because of your beliefs that they do not share."

Yes, I half expected you would respond somewhere along those lines and quite glad you did because it gives me an opportunity to mention the following:.

First, insisting on the appropriateness or even goodness of terminating those "clusters of cells that could save you or someone you love" is a very utilitarian outlook on human existence. If one is even remotely convinced with the philosophical and logical viability of the humanity inherent already in these embryos, this utilitarian position is very questionable and untenable.

I mention philosophical and logical because I also half expected your reply to dwell on the “logic” and “philosophy” of the humanity of these embryos (the title of this blog does include the word “logic”, after all). As a student of philosophy, I would have been interested in a philosophical and logical discussion. So sorry.

Secondly, I never mentioned the "Catholic" position in my comment--a position which you raised and claim to understand. The principles I mentioned are humanistic and universal: "murder is wrong" and "human life cannot be taken for the service of another." These are not exclusively Catholic positions.

THE Catholic position is NOT vitalist: vitalism means that human life is absolute and must be preserved at all costs, even at the cost of terminating another human life.

I deliberately did not inject Catholic or religious principles in my earlier comment, but your subsequent claim that you understand the Catholic position compels me to say this: there is a purpose and meaning in what we suffer and go through. Our task, and especially the task of someone such as myself, is to discern the meaning behind these events and to sustain, support, encourage, and enlighten a person in my care suffering from illness. Remarkably from experience, when someone who is terminally ill understands and begins to have faith in the Catholic outlook on suffering, illness, mortality, and eternal life, the more important internal healing begins to happen. They realize that earthly life is not absolute, but is relative only to eternal life. If I can look someone in the eye and bring that person to this realization in his/her illness (and many in my profession have) then I will have provided a greater healing than any scientist who would dare to terminate a human life for its stem cells. More often than not it is the inside of us that is in need of healing: and this holds true not just for Catholics, but for everyone.



Erik Grow said...

Two Dogs, you gave me an article that proved my point, thanks. Clinton's rule was far less restrictive than Bush's rule, and Clinton didn't fund it only because there were no proposals for grants yet. Research was about to begin when Bush took office. Excerpt below.

The NIH published “Final Guidelines for Stem Cell Research” in August 23, 2000 and “Approval Process for the Documentation of Compliance with the NIH Guidelines on the Use of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells in NIH Research Proposed for Support Under Grants and Cooperative Agreements, November 21, 2000.”

They were finally ready to begin the grants process. But before any NIH funding could take place, George W. Bush took office in Jan. 2001. Funding for stem cell research was put on hold.

In August 2001, during his famous television address, Bush announced federal funding would be limited to research utilizing 78 existing stem cell lines. Scientists and disease organizations voiced concerns over these limits.

As of June 2004, scientists have found only a fraction of these lines are actually usable and available to them.

Erik Grow said...

Vox, I think I do understand the basic Catholic position behind it, but I have no doubt that you understand it better. I understand that you believe that life begins at conception. As for having a more purely philosophical discussion, I have been over this topic before in other blogs and probably getting weary of it, sorry. I can certainly get more into that too. In fact I am actually more interested in the Catholic position on the "wasting" of sperm, i.e. masturbation, oral sex, barrier methods of birth control, and so on. The basic "right to life" issues are shared by other Christian sects, so that is less of a mystery to me.

I believe you are saying that disease and illness is all a part of God's plan in some way and that people can become closer to God through that struggle. Am I understanding that correctly? Nobody is forcing you to use stem cell therapy to save your life. I just want people that believe it's ethical to have that option if they want it. A clear majority of Americans want that option, but we have a president that is friendly to your cause.

Two Dogs said...

Erik, if your point was that Clinton "banned" stem cell research, then you're welcome. You point, albeit, misinformed, was that the United States is a laughing stock of the world because of George Bush's "ban" on stem cell research. I simply corrected that lie and moved on.

The word "ban" was yours. Clinton was the only US President to have a "ban" on this research, but you'll never admit that.

Erik Grow said...

Bill Clinton DID have restrictions on federal funding of the research. He said that it could not be used for the actual extraction, but once the cells were extracted, they could be used for anything, and any number of new lines could be harvested and researched with federal funds. Under Bush's restrictions, NO NEW LINES can be harvested. That is far more restrictive and a HUGE difference.

I have one question for you Two Dogs. Take semantics out of it entirely. Call it restrictions, which is probably more accurate. Is Bush MORE or LESS restrictive than Clinton was on this research?

Two Dogs said...

Erik, you and I have one glaring philosophical disagreement. I believe in the individuals in our country and you trust more in the government. You believe in a collective brain and I have grown beyond that point. I do believe that you do want progress, I do not believe that you are evil, YET.

Even though the Clinton administration never put one penny into embryonic stem cell research, you still want to maintain that his administration was more permissive? Okay, I can't argue that point because there is no logic there.

And the article I submitted for your use, pointed out the "ban" that Clinton lifted was on fetal research, not on stem cells. They wanted scientists to carve up babies, Erik. What part of that information is "good" to you?

Anyway, Bush's administration is trying top undo all of the fascism, socialism, and communism that your party tried so hard to institute. I'm all for it. I do disagree with Bush more than I agree, but the enemy of my enemey is my friend. You see, I'm into that freedom thing.

vox said...

"I just want people that believe it's ethical to have that option if they want it."

Just a quick observation: is murder ever "ethical" or an "option"? Well, perhaps for some, murder is an option, but it wouldn't be ethical. For an ethical principle to be viable, it must be able to stand "universally"--don't allow someone to do something one wouldn't do oneself. So, the quoted position above is still untenable.

Anyway, as you raised the issue of sex and seem to be more interested in it, sure....I'd be happy to entertain questions concerning sexuality. I'll leave it to you to frame the discussion in whatever manner you wish and in whatever forum you want.



Erik Grow said...

Two Dogs, like the article says, the first ever proposal was on the table when Clinton left office. It was allowed under those guidelines. The proposal was nixed after Bush changed the guidelines. It was not nixed by Clinton. So again I ask whose **policy** was more restrictive. The proposal came to late to be approved, so him *actually* funding anything is moot. He never had the option.

Vox, I was curious about just those parts I mentioned specifically. The abortion issue is what makes the biggest news, but the more restrictive policy on the other acts I mentioned are also interesting. I wonder what the basis is for them. I am sure it's biblical in one way or another, but then why do Protestants not see it that way?

Two Dogs said...

Erik, again you are mistaken in what happened. You see "I hear tell the road to Hell is paved with good intentions". The Clintons did nothing. The intention to do something does NOT mean that you ever accomplished anything. Please, let's stop this shit. Clinton did NOT do one thing for stem cell research. Bush did. The falacy that you believe something sitting on Clinton's desk means that he did something is so absolutely asinine that it merits no discussion. At least try to have some semblance of objectivity.


Two Dogs said...

Oh, and three years is a lot of time to do nothing. If you can remember back to the Clinton early years, it was 180 days for them trying to turn this country into Canada with Hillarycare.

I don't think that you are trying to lie, I think that you are just so biased toward Leftist causes that you have no credibility in the discussions, but then again you are a moderate.......

Erik Grow said...

I am a moderate *Democrat*, meaning I usually agree with the right half of my party more than the left half on issues where the two halves differ.

Like I said, Clinton never had the option to sign a grant proposal because it arrived just after he left office. That isn't the kind of thing where you can just "give some money to some people" to do the research. It's like a grant proposal that your college professors probably had to do, if you went to college. The only option he had to make was "sign it or not", which again is moot because he was already out of office by the time the grant hit the table. Am I factually wrong here, and if so, where? This is from the link you provided.

vox said...

*masturbation, oral sex, barrier methods of birth control, and so on*

So, your question is, what is the basis for the Church's teaching on the above. I'll see if I can prepare a quick answer sometime soon, but it will probably be just a tad lengthy and laden with theological even "Catholic" or "religious" sounding concepts and terms. I wonder if you are permitting that here. Also, I don't know if you would like to me reply here as a comment or elsewhere. This is because in order to give an adequate treatment on these, I might need ample space (or i can just give a condensed reply i suppose). So, let me know. Also, if you have specific questions, it might be good as well.


Erik Grow said...

OK, well I will make it a bit simpler. If you are a Monty Python fan and ever saw the movie "The Meaning of Life", you'll remember a song called "Every Sperm is Sacred". It's a song that pokes fun at Catholics, and talks about all of the places that you are not allowed to put sperm. Yes, of course it's just meant to be funny, though I'm sure some Catholics are offended by it. I wonder where the more general reasoning behind it comes from. Feel free to respond here. You are of course welcome to write as much as you feel you want to, though if it's really long it could be truncated by the system, so maybe cut and paste so you don't lose any.

nicnerd said...

I had so many good things to post, but Vox and Twodogs beat me.

Now we have digressed to talking about the Catholics church's views on sexuatlity. Is it not obvious to most that Erik is a bit of a biggoted atheist? (oh that sounds harsh coming out, but it is accurate, I apologize in advance Erik) Do you really want to hear the answer Erik, or is it simply fodder for some future religious mockery?

On topic I will say, this is not some game, it is the deliberate termination of life. I abhor the practice with the same passion that I oppose capital punishment and for very similar reasons. Murder is murder, abortion is murder, gathering of numerous embryos for "research" is akin to mass murder.

I know that you may have answered this for me already, but tell me again what is wrong with adult stem cells? The cells which do not require us to terminate a life.

Erik Grow said...

You're saying I'm bigoted against religion because I disagree with some of the tenets of it? How does that make me a bigot? No, if I were a bigot, I would be going around trying to dismantle churches or something. I'm not interested in forcing my view, as the minority is forcing on the rest on this issue. I understand it's a very difficult issue, and I respect your view on it, but I dislike that you are potentially sentencing some adults to death because you won't even harvest cells from pregnancies that were terminated *anyway*. I'm not sure why that doesn't bother you at all. (Yes, I'm sure you feel the same way about my view on abortion too.)

As for the adult stem cells, they are not as "pliable" as embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells have uses as well, but are not as malleable. See this link from a neurosurgery journal.
Read the part under the heading "Types of Stem Cells". Also under the "Issues in Stem Cell Research" section it gives an overview of the ethical concerns that you have as well as some more reasons for limitation. Adult stem cells are good as well, but they certainly have more limits. Embryonic stem cell research is newer, but holds as much or more promise based on the pliability of the cells.

vox said...

As your concern continues to rest on those who are terminally ill, I'd like to present the words of someone who did advanced studies on the matter. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk--who, after earning a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University, did post-doctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Harvard Medical School and who later studied in Rome where he did advanced studies in theology and in bioethics--explains very nicely and succinctly the objections to the use of embryonic stem cells as a "cure" for terminal and non-terminal illness:

"The well-known moral principle that good ends do not justify immoral means applies directly here. Once you’re a being who is human, you are the bearer of human rights, and you are inviolable. We know that the human embryo is a human being because it possesses an internal code for self-actualization and is an organism with an independent and inherent teleology (goal-directedness) to develop into an adult, and is physiologically alive and genetically human. Our existence as human beings is a continuum that extends all the way back to our origins in that humble ball of cells we call an embryo. Each of us has our origins in such an embryo, and therefore human embryos should never be depersonalized or instrumentalized for research purposes by strip-mining them for their cells or tissues."

As I noted earlier, this "instrumentalization" of human embryos for the sake of bringing about a cure that MAY NOT even come about (to date there has been no cure from the use of embryonic stem cells compared with the success record of adult-stem-cell use) is very utilitarian and ultimately selfish ("narcissistic" as josephine quintavalle said in my first comment). I'd go as far as to say it's murderous, given the logic, philosophy, and biology behind the position I am espousing.

NO ONE is certain that the use of embryonic stem cells holds the key to a "miracle cure" because there are discernable disadvantages to using them: first, embryonic stem cells are difficult to differentiate uniformly and homogeneously into a target tissue; second, embryonic stem cells from a random embryo donor are likely to be REJECTED after transplantation, rendering them of no use at all to those who have pinned their hopes for a cure on these embryonic stem cells; and third, these embryonic stem cells are capable of forming tumors or promoting tumor formation, therefore potentially causing more harm to the patient.

The advantages of using adult stem cells far outweigh those of embryonic stem-cell use.

So, I will continue to say that the position you support is both utilitarian and a disservice: utilitarian with regards to the human lives that will be sacrificed and terminated; and a grave disservice to those suffering from illness by keeping their hopes up on "promises" of a cure for which we currently have no supporting empirical data.

So why is there a lot of excitement about these embryonic stem cells? Well, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is now the home to the California Institute For Regenerative Medicine which most likely will soon begin research using embryonic stem cells, making the Bay Area the best canditate to be the world capital for this type of research. And why is that? Mainly because of money. The amount of money poured into this type of research from the private sector is astonishing.

What is fueling interest in this type of research, sad to say, is profit, cash, grants, finances, economics. How do you like that? We will soon be terminating lives--our future generation, our children--for the sake of money, for the sake of PERHAPS curing OUR illnesses.

That's what's is behind my use of the words narcissism, utilitarianism, and selfishness. Just an observation related to this: historically, earlier generations have always unwittingly made the playing field for subsequent generations more disadvantageous and perilous. What is unique with OUR generation is that we do not bother to wait until the next generation is born. We cut them off even before they leave the womb. THAT is narcisissm at its most blatant.

Maybe some people are indeed sincerely concerned for the sick, but in the face of empirical data, their concern is sadly misguided and will cause more harm than good.



Erik Grow said...

I get the part about immoral means for good ends. I simply disagree about the morality of it. If I thought it was immoral I would be against it too.

You are still assuming that because less work has been done on embryonic cells, that they do not show as much promise as adult cells. That is simply not supported. It's a newer science, and it has had no federal funding support that adult cells have had. The idea that you somehow can know that embryonic stem cells are so inferior to adult cells without doing more than scratching the surface on the research tells me that you either don't understand how scientific research works (unknowing), or you believe you already know what the results of the research will be (omniscient).

To me, the best compromise is to just used embryos that were already legally aborted that would be thrown out otherwise anyway. Of course, I have already brought that up to other opponents, and because they want no research on it, even this solution where no more "death" as they see it would be caused, is not allowable.

The entire part about "killing entire generations" (which is hyperbole to the extreme by the way), would then be moot. Until you manage to outlaw all abortions in the whole country, which is very unlikely to ever happen, why not try that solution? All I ask is a bit of pragmatism.

nicnerd said...

It's a newer science, and it has had no federal funding support that adult cells have had.

So we should cast moral aside in a murderous and vain effort to extend our own existence. All of this based on a CHANCE to extend our own immoral existence? No thank you, I would rather depart this world early, than to sacrifice basic human dignity. My treasure is not of this world anyhow.

vox said...

With regards to the science of this, scientists usually proceed with research and experimentation with the benefit of empirical data collected from previous parallel (but not necessarily exactly similar) research and results. For instance, one doesn't need to actually do research on embryonic stem cells to know that whenever a tissue or an organ from a different person is implanted in another person, there is always the chance for the recipient's body to reject it. Moreover, the three disadvantages I outlined in my last comment were from scientists themselves, not from me. I stand behind their authority.

As for "killing entire generations," your comment sadly betrays a lack of knowledge on what several moral ethicists have been saying about this type of research. MANY embryos will be terminated to conduct this type of research--MANY, (as the scientific method requires numerous testing and re-testing, and the duplication of the experimentation) and even just "one" embryo is far too many--prompting one ethicist to compare this research with "genocide" if allowed to proceed widely.

Lastly, because it seems that the ethical principle "the end doesn't justify the means" doesn't seem to have any ethical value to you, I invite you to dwell and to reflect on this principle. That's because we as a society live by ethical principles--we have to--otherwise our situation could very well devolve into chaos and nihilism (and that is no hyperbole). It is illogical, to say the least, for someone not to see the value of this principle. And amazingly, "logic" is part of the title of this blog.



Erik Grow said...

So does that also apply to a fetus that would be aborted anyway? Until a time when abortion is not legal, I would think that since no more of what you see as life would be ended, that it should be OK. If abortion is made illegal, then go against it again. Since you see it as killing, you will of course not like the idea, but there are certainly those that see it as an acceptable way where they would not see other methods.

As for the rejection issue, this is why they need new lines. The closer a match the line is, the less rejection should result.

I'm afraid that our basic differing outlooks on this issue will preclude agreement, but I appreciate your comments.

Two Dogs said...

Erik, if you want to argue from the rejection standpoint, it would seem that you would be placing your eggs in the adult stem cell argument since the person afflicted can offer their own stem cells to use. Why kill a baby?