Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joplin Globe: Incompetence in Editorializing

It stuns me sometimes how utterly ignorant media can be about human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Not only does ignorance drive bad public policies, but it can be harmful. The Joplin Globe committed both journalistic sins in this ludicrously bad Joplin Globe editorial about attempts to outlaw all human cloning in Missouri in the wake of the passage of the deceptive Amendment 2.

Opponents argue that the procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer kills life at the earliest stage. But for life to begin, at least as we understand the process, an egg must be fertilized. No fertilized eggs are used.
As readers of SHS well know, there are now two ways to create mammalian--including in theory, human life. The first is "sexually," as described by the editorial above. The second is "asexually," that is via SCNT, which creates an embryo just as much as fertilization does. This is how Dolly came to be born, meaning that before she was a born cloned lamb, she was a cloned sheep embryo. And James Thomson, the man who first derived human ES cells, has so acknowledged.

But this is where ignorance goes beyond misleading to actively harmful:
[F]or thousands of Missourians today and in the years ahead, somatic cell nuclear transfer is about the only glimmer of hope they have.
What drivel. If SCNT is the "only glimmer of hope" sick people and their families have, it is because of journalistic malpractice in not reporting accurately about the full breadth and scope of biotechnological research. Human SCNT hasn't been done yet, at least not to the point where ES cells were derived. It may never be done. But tremendous strides are being made in non controversial medical research and biotechnology all across the board. Adult stem cells have stopped MS from worsening, people with paralysis due to spinal cord injury have regained feeling in early human trials, cancer drugs are being created that will be targeted to a patient's specific genomic makeup. Indeed, in actuality, SCNT--whatever one thinks of the morality of creating human embryos for use and destruction in research--is a very small piece of the biotech pie. There is great hope. Killing it through ignorance is no way to run a newspaper.

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11 Comments:

At April 08, 2007 , Blogger Tony Jones said...

So, embryos are so important that women should be forced to be unwilling life support systems for them. Why not use them for research instead of simply destroying them?

 
At April 09, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tony. You missed the point, several points, actually. First, cloning has nothing to do with the "leftover" embryos. Second, the post was about media getting the facts completely wrong. People can disagree about embryonic stem cell research, but they deserve accurate information with which to analyze and debate the issue.

 
At April 09, 2007 , Blogger bmmg39 said...

Tony, if someone said we should either kill homeless people and use them for research, or kill them and then simply "throw them away," would you accept the argument that we should do the former rather than the latter so that the homeless people's corpses don't go to "waste"? Or would you reject killing them, period?

 
At April 09, 2007 , Blogger Tony Jones said...

Homeless people are conscious people. Embryos are not. When you consider how many pregnancies spontaneously miscarry, I'd say that giving embryos the same rights as born human beings to be ill-advised, to say the least.

 
At April 09, 2007 , Blogger Bernhardt Varenius said...

Tony, "conscious people" die all the time too -- are you going to reach a similar conclusion given that fact?

 
At April 09, 2007 , Blogger Tony Jones said...

I'm saying that consciousness is more important than being "human". Cells are human. Cells aren't people. Cells don't have human rights. People have human rights. Why should pregnant women be forced to carry a pregnancy while organ and blood donation remain optional?

 
At April 10, 2007 , Blogger bmmg39 said...

Cells aren't human beings; human embryos ARE. If you deny this, then you are ignorant of basic seventh-grade science. That many die of natural causes (i.e. are miscarried) is irrelevant; just because born people often die of natural causes doesn't mean they aren't human beings, or that it's okay to kill them intentionally.

 
At April 10, 2007 , Blogger Tony Jones said...

Well, if you're going to insist that embryos are exactly the same as born human infants, you're going to need to back it up. As Richard Dawkins said, at present they're in petri dishes, and they don't have a single neuron. They cannot feel pain. Born and late-term fetuses can. ESCR is in its early stages. It should at least be given a chance.

 
At April 10, 2007 , Blogger bmmg39 said...

Back it up? Fine. Consult any science textbook and/or THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA. See with whom they agree. (Psst! Hint: It's not you.) The capability to feel pain is NOT a prerequisite for personhood, by the way, and so there's no need to entertain THAT delusion.

 
At April 10, 2007 , Blogger Tony Jones said...

If the majority actually believed you, we'd have artificial wombs by now. That would alleviate the need for most abortions, and women wouldn't even need to carry PLANNED pregnancies to term. Should IVF be outlawed?

 
At April 12, 2007 , Blogger bmmg39 said...

Well, from what I understand, some ARE trying to devise a way to create artificial wombs.

And IVF need not be outlawed, but rather the practice of creating more embryos than you plan to implant. It may prove irrelevant, anyway: some believe the technology behind IVF is reaching the point at which they no longer think they'll "need" to create excess embryos, anyway.

 

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