Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Adult Stem Cells Treat Incontinence

Another human trial for adult stem cells, this time derived from muscles, after successful animal studies. Hopefully, this will lead to an effective treatment of stress urinary incontinence. Also of note, it is stated in this report that the stem cells are 'pluripotent,' that is able to become all types of tissues, which all the embryonic stem cell boosters have long insisted only ES cells can provide. If this is true, it isn't the first form of adult stem cell found to be pluripotent.

I am also reminded of the, what else can I call them, lies that I have seen told repeatedly and with a straight face to some legislators by "scientists" about how adult stem cells are supposedly merely 'unipotent,' that is, only able to become muscle if a muscle stem cell, or blood if a blood stem cell. Such patently absurd misleading statements must end or there must be consequences.

(With regard to true pluripotency of these cells, I contacted a scientist I trust about these matters. He told me: "I checked out the main author, Chancellor, and he has a previous pub. where they used the muscle-derived stem cells to make nerves for the urinary bladder in rats. So... they've shown that they can get at least 2 of the 3 "primary germ layers" from these cells--muscle (mesoderm) and nerve (ectoderm). I don't know if they can get the third category (endoderm, i.e., digestive tract, liver, etc.)

Would be nice to see his data; maybe they truly are pluripotent. OR, they may be using the term the way it used to be: pluripotent makes several different kinds of cells.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bestiality and the Varied Attacks on Human Exceptionalism

Laws against bestiality shouldn't be controversial. But in Washington State, some oppose making it against the law to have sex with animals. Meanwhile, promoters of the legislation are failing to make the most important argument of all: Sex with animals unacceptably subverts standards of basic human dignity and is an affront to humankind's inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth. I expand more fully on this point in the Daily Standard.

Artificial Wombs are on Their Way

It seems that much progress is being made on creating an artificial womb. This could be a very good thing, of course, as it could permit women to save endangered pregnancies. But it could also be the vehicle carrying biotechnologists from researching on cloned human embryos in Petri dishes into gestating clones to late embryo and fetal stages. In this regard, it is worth nothing that experiments have already been conducted by which human embryos were implanted in artificial wombs and developed for six days.

The uses of gestated but unborn clones could be many and varied, and potentially more useful than merely experimenting with stem cells: Drug testing in place of animals; harvesting cloned organs for transplantation; learning how to genetically engineer the human embryo; learning how to safely conduct reproductive cloning, among others.

Don't forget, such experiments are already explicitly legalized in New Jersey, which legalized cloning, implanting, and gestation of human clones to the moment of birth.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Adult Stem Cell Heart Disease Breakthrough

It is growing increasingly hard for those who insist that therapeutic cloning is the ticket to treat human maladies to continue with that claim with a straight face. Here is an apparent successful treatment of heart disease using the patient's own bone marrow stem cells. Imagine, one's own body becoming a source of fantastic medicine. And no human cloning, no destroying embryos, no treating nascent human life like a harvestable crop, and no slippery slope.

New Animal Liberationist Terrorist Threats

The Edinburgh Zoo has a new enclosure to house polar bears. But the Animal Liberation Front (AFL) has promised to attack the zoo and shut it down in the same fashion with which liberationists attacked a UK guinea pig farm and coerced its closing. That included threats of violence, repeated vandalism, threats against friends of the farmers, threats against business associates, and finally, the coup de gras that finished the job, grave robbing.

Every time these tactics succeed, it energizes the movement like warm ocean water does a hurricane. I have repeatedly called on animal liberationists to condemn such criminality. With one or two exceptions of responding posts to this blog, the overall silence has been deafening. In private e-mails, I am accused of caricaturing the movement. Don't judge us by the whackos, they say. But when I respond asking for an explicit condemnation, all I usually get are evasions or non responses. Much more notably, when PETA explicitly refuses to condemn violence, when Steven Best, the U.S. professor who is at the forefront of the movement explicitly condones grave robbing and other tactics, and is banned from the UK for being a terrorist sympathizer, it is hard but to conclude that most of the people who support animal liberation are pleased that the thuggery works. Animal liberation isn't about protecting animal welfare. It is about imposing its radical ideology upon the rest of us "by any means necessary."

And don't think it is just the UK. The animal liberation movement is international. The most extreme actions are often taken in the UK first, and then they spread like a cancer here and elsewhere (but never to places like the Mideast where animals are treated far less humanely then in the West, but where the response to liberation lawlessness would be far less measured).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Jeffrey Rosen Predicts That Science, Technology, and Bioethics Will be Future Supreme Court Fodder

This extended piece from the New York Times Magazine is well worth the time it takes to read it. Jeffrey Rosen is not only fair (a real change of pace for the NYT), but he is right about some of the issues likely to be the source of bitter litigation in the future, ranging from the right to genetically engineer progeny, do reproductive cloning, and what life forms are patentable. But he misses a few micro and macro issues. The biggest issue he misses is the coming battle over whether there is a constitutional right to conduct scientific research, as some scientists and bioethicists claim. If so, the ability of society to regulate research will be all but destroyed. A second area of litigation, that he hints at, is the status of animals as alleged persons and, indeed, whether animals can be litigants. There are public interest law firms being created to push this very agenda, most notably by Rutgers School of Law animal liberationist professor, Gary Francione.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

One of the Human Zoo "Animals" Is Not Having a Good Time

One of the people hired to be exhibited in the London Zoo posted a note on Secondhand Smoke. She is not having fun and thinks putting people in zoos is a stupid idea. Yes, that's a polite way to put it. She can use e-mail so perhaps we could say that she isn't "just an animal," after all.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Futile Care Case out of the UK

This case is what the Leslie Burke verdict has wrought. Burke more or less won the right to life-sustaining care for the conscious and communicative in the UK. But the unconscious and uncommunicative were left high and dry by the decision, allowing doctors to decide whether they live or die.

The patient in this case is a devout Muslim and the family states he would want his life sustained based on deeply held religious beliefs. But doctors have decided that their idea of what is dignified and in his best interests trump what were his own and are his family's. So, while he will receive tube-supplied food and water, he will be denied dialysis and has had a DNR imposed on his chart by court order.

The idea behind the decision is that the man is not going to get better. But this is a dangerous standard. It states that maintaining or extending life when that is what the patient wants is no longer an end purpose of medicine. A new standard is being imposed by bioethicists and courts.

This is also beginning to happen here and will occur with increasing frequency as more and more hospitals impose futile care protocols on their sickest patients.

A Good Column on Adult Stem Cells and Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Cells

Nigel Cameron is a friend of mine. He is erudite, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor. He is also right in this column.

Adler/Smith: The Entire Debate

The entire debate between myself and Professor Adler is available. I thank Prof. Adler for a good and forthright exchange. Whatever side you may take on Gonzales v. Ashcroft, there is much in this extended discussion for thought.

"Humans are Just Primates"

The London Zoo homo sapien exhibit, about which I blogged yesterday, is explicitly designed to induce our children to reject human exceptionalism. From this linked story:

"Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled "Humans" at the London Zoo.

"Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment" read the sign at the entrance to the exhibit, where the captives could be seen on a rock ledge in a bear enclosure, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, some waved.

Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?"

London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that's exactly the question the zoo wants to answer.

"Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said."

This is not benign. This is not funny. This is misanthropic.

Most people take human exceptionalism for granted. They can no longer afford to do so. The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral distinctiveness and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn't be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestow special rights upon us, while also imposing unique and solemn moral responsibilities--including the human duty not to abuse animals.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Humans Are Being Exhibited Like Animals in the London Zoo

The London Zoo has opened a new exhibit. It is a herd of homo sapiens. The point of putting people in the zoo is allegedly to "demonstrate the basic nature of man as an animal and examine the impact that Homo sapiens have on the rest of the animal kingdom."

This is what children are now being taught: That we are just animals. This is true biologically, but that is not the point of the message being sent. And it ignores the truth that we have stepped beyond nature to become conscious, moral beings, the only ones in the known universe. The increasing attempts to knock us off the pedestal of "exceptionalism," are terribly misguided. If we perceive ourselves as mere animals, that is indeed how we will act.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

London Times Editorial Against Grave Robbing Animal Liberationist Fanatics

There is great harm being done to human welfare by the the animal rights extremists, as the London Times points out.

Alder/Smith Part 3

The assisted suicide debate continues.

Betrayal of the Voters! Proposition 71 Bait and Switch

It will pay for itself, supporters of Proposition 71 told voters. State residents will pay less for health care. Day after day it was one pie-in-the-sky promise after another. But now, the California Council on Science and Technology, has recommended that the state receive zero dollars in royalties from the billions it will borrow to fund this corporate welfare boondoggle. It might chill private investments, don't you know. Not coincidentally, the Council is a state-funded body made up of private university and private sector firms--the very interests that will be lining up at the pork barrel once Proposition 71 grant money begins to flow!

What is chilling private investments is the low likelihood of success of turning cloned human embryos into efficacious medical treatments any time soon. What is chilling private investments is that embryonic stem cells cause tumors and can't be used in humans. What is chilling private investments is the roaring success of adult stem cell research, which is already treating 65 human maladies. Indeed, the lack of private investments is why Big Biotech and their allies at "patents R us" university research centers sold this swamp land of a law to California voters with a $25 million war chest in the first place.

The arrogance of it all! The question is whether the people will put up with this too as Proposition 71 backers keep yelling, CURES! CURES! CURES!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Adler/Smith Debate on Assisted Suicide Continues

Should the United States Supreme Court uphold the right of the federal government to prohibit the use of federally controlled substances in assisted suicide, even where it is legal, such as in Oregon? Or, once a state legalizes assisted suicide, in the name of federalism, must the federal government acquiesce to the state law? We debate: You decide.

Animal Liberationists Grave Robbers Drive Farmers Out of Business

This is a terrible story: A farm family in the UK has been targeted for death threats, vandalism, intimidation, and similar attacks against residents of their town for the last several years by animal liberationists. Their great sin? They raised guinea pigs for use in medical research. Now, the liberationists have finally driven them out of business by robbing the grave of a beloved family member. The farmers went out of business in the hope that the liberationists will give the body back.

This shameful episode deserves the strongest condemnation. If it can happen there, it can happen here. And no one who makes proper and humane use of animals is safe.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My Debate With Jonathan Adler About Pending Supreme Court Case Involving Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law

A few months ago, the National Review's Jonathan Adler and I debated the upcoming Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Oregon. The case will determine whether the federal government must permit federally controlled substances to be used in assisted suicide in Oregon, or whether it can pursue its own federal public policy on the issue with regard to the regulation of narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act. Adler believes that Oregon should win because federalism leaves the regulation of medical practice to the states. I counter that both the states and feds can have distinct public policies about the matter and that the states do not have the right to impose their views on the regulation of federal law.

It is important to note that this exchange took place before the Supreme Court decided Gonzales v. Raich, which permitted the feds open latitude to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws even in states that permit medical marijuana, and even if the marijuana was grown at home. If anything, the Raich decision strengthens my position. ( My take on Raich as it might impact Gonzales v. Oregon is reprinted here.)

The debate will be published one exchange at a time all this week at this link.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Check Out the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a splendid organization dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I am honored to be affiliated with the Task Force as an attorney and consultant. Indeed, it was Rita Marker's book Deadly Compassion that convinced to enter the work in which I am now engaged. (Rita is the head of the Task Force.)

I mention this because periodically, the Task Force publishes the "Update," a newsletter filled with the latest news on assisted suicide, euthanasia, futile care theory, food and fluids cases, and the like. The Update is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in these important issues. Here is the link to the just released current issue. And here is the link to the Task Force's WEB site. It's well worth the mouse click.

Skin Cells May Become Stem Cells Says Washington Post

This piece is another of many recent research advances demonstrating the astonishing potential of adult stem cells. This story describes how skin cells have been reverted to embryonic-like stem cells. The potential consequence is that cloned embryos might not be needed to obtain the treatment benefits that the proponents of therapeutic cloning have claimed that procedure could provide. (The process would involve fusing an embryonic stem cell, like those already approved for federal funding by Pres. Bush, with the patient's own skin cell.)

Good for the Washington Post for printing it, and for Rick Weiss, the Post science reporter for reporting it. Weiss is pro therapeutic cloning and has implied that opponents of these technologies are Taliban. But he is also a good journalist. For example, when President Ronald Reagan died, some biotech boosters used the event to push embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning as a way of helping cure people with Alzheimer's. They still do. But Weiss was the only mainstream reporter and the Post the only major outlet of which I am aware to report that stem cells are very unlikely to be a viable treatment for Alzheimer's. When asked why biotechnologists were permitting Alzheimer's victims and their families to believe an untruth that ES cells offered them hope, Weiss quoted one as stating cynically that "people need a fairy tale." So much for compassion.

Most establishment media outlets continue to underreport adult stem cell successes. And they usually continue to list Alzheimer's as one of the diseases that may be cured by cloning or ES cell research. But these two Post stories are pleasant exceptions.

The "Case of the Chilled Witness"

My point about academic opponents of all human cloning being threatened with career ramifications if they support abolitionist bills, is being discussed in the National Review's blog, The Corner. Here is a specific example from The Corner of this anti-democratic and anti-academic freedom phenomenon:

"RE: THE INTIMIDATION OF SCIENTISTS [Peter Robinson]
From Shawn Mitchell, a member of the Colorado state senate:

As a (then) Colorado State Representative, I sponsored a bill to ban so-called therapeutic human cloning, in 2001 if I remember correctly.

A dean of the Department of Natural Sciences from a local university campus agreed, to my surprise, to testify in favor of the bill. She agreed with most the conservative critique of human cloning: the science isn't there; the promises are overblown; adult stem cells are providing therapies now; and even if it did work, creating human life to kill it for the benefit of others is morally and ethically problematic.

A day before the hearing on the bill, she apologetically called to say that she had been spoken to by university leaders, and she would be unable to testify. I don't know what threats were made, only that an academic willing to speak out against cloning was silenced by the administration.

By the way, the story might be a little more interesting if you know the campus was part of the University of Colorado system, whose president just departed after failing to quell scandals ranging from the football sex and booze scandal to Ward Churchill's anti-American rants. Suppressing youthful hedonism or leftist incitement is unthinkable but muzzling a dissenter to the scientific agenda is par for the course.

In case Mr. Stuttaford asks, I never publicly identified the dean. If she was unwilling to risk professional damage, I wouldn't force her. I was grateful for her initial willingness and frustrated at the bullying that silenced her."

This is a huge story. It might be tough to report because most of the chilled witnesses and professors don't want their names out for fear of job ramifications. But it is a story that needs to be told because it reflects a growing intolerance on university campuses and within the science and bioethics establishments for heterodox views.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Intellectual Stalinism of Science Establishment Revealed

This story from the Washington Post does not directly involve the issues about which I advocate. But it reveals a mindset that I see on a continuing basis. An editor of a science journal connected with the Smithsonian decided to publish an article by Steven Meyer on the theory of intelligent design. (Meyer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, as am I. We are friends.) The article was peer reviewed and the reviewers agreed that it had scientific merit and should be published.

As soon as the article was published, the long knives came out. The editor was subjected to vicious attempts to ruin his professional career. Strident demands were made that he be fired. Lies were told, his personal life was investigated, false rumors were circulated, accusations were even made that he was on the take and had not actually had the article peer reviewed. All false, as revealed by a government investigation.

I have been told numerous times of the same tactics being threatened or employed against heterodox thinkers in the human cloning controversy. Scientists who want to testify in favor of a ban on all human cloning are warned that if they do, their careers are over, that they will be branded "anti-science" and no longer be invited to participate in seminars or write book chapters. If they don't have tenure, they will never get it. If they do, they will be shunned, shunted to a corner and forced to teach "punishment" freshman classes, rather than their usual advanced or post grad courses. (This happened to Dr. David Prentice at Indiana State University.)

This is the point: The leaders of science have become woefully ideological, to the point that they are willing to stifle discourse and crush academic freedom. In the end, they won't succeed in insulating their views from criticism. But they could destroy the good reputation of science as a venerable field, and transform it into being perceived by a weary public as merely another area of special interest advocacy.

New Stop the Presses! York Times Publishes Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cell Breakthrough Story!

It is getting harder and harder to ignore the tremendous gains being made for regenerative medicine in the "non embryonic" sectors. Here is a great success, reported in the New York Times no less, wherein scientists have found how to garner thousands of stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Already these cells have been turned into liver tissue. Had this been done with ES cells, it would have been on the front page. But I shouldn't grouse. This may be the beginning of the end for the wall of near-silence in establishment media about the tremendous advances being made in adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research. As I have repeatedly stated, should it ever become clear that the cures and treatments can be achieved without human cloning, the debate will be over.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Screening Out Embryos With Gene for Curable Cancer

The UK continues to steadily widen the manipulation of procreation, this time, to permit parents to screen embryos so as to not have babies with a gene that causes a usually curable eye cancer. So, now we have gone from screening out embryos that would have a terminal disease such as cystic fibrosis, to a curable disease. And we screen for sex selection. Eventually, we will screen (or abort) about things that are not explicitly disease-related, such as propensity to being overweight or obese. After all, the child with a curable cancer will have a difficult time while being treated. He or she will be in pain, will be afraid, and will cry. The thinking is: Better to never be born.

But if preventing distress in our children is the motive for never letting them be born, the fat child may experience more suffering, over a far longer time than the relatively brief period it takes to cure the eye cancer. (Believe me, I know, having been overweight as a child. I cried myself to sleep for years.) If it is okay to spare the child with a likelihood of contracting a curable cancer from ever being born, why not also spare the child who might be fat from enduring the agony of life? (This isn't farfetched. I recall a poll taken a few years ago in which about 13% of respondents agreed it was acceptable to abort if parents find out their kid would be fat.) This is a very dangerous mindset that presumes we have the wisdom to decide who has a right to live and who are better off never existing. And there don't seem to be any brakes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

And Now--Ugh--Some Defend Bestiality

There is an awful case in Washington of a man killed during sexual congress with a horse. Apparently, this occurred at a farm known among those who engage in that sort of thing for permitting animals to be used as sexual objects, and yes, unfortunately, video taping is involved. I only mention it because there is actually a bit of resistance to passing a law making bestiality illegal in Washington. Also, the reasons some give in support of such a law include, "animals can't consent to sex," and "it is animal abuse." Both are true, of course, and are sufficient rationales to support outlawing bestiality (as most states already do). But at the most profound level, they are inadequate rationales for the ultimate reason why bestiality is so very wrong.

Peter Singer, the Princeton bioethicist and father of the animal liberation movement, has notoriously written that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with bestiality since, when an animal and a human copulate, it is just two animals rubbing body parts. This is where I believe the true nub of the issue is to be found. Singer is an adamant foe of human exceptionalism and nothing would demonstrate our unexceptionalism more than countenancing human/animal sex. Thus, it is at this philosophical nexus, even more than the animal abuse angle, that I believe most urgently requires an unequivocal societal condemnation through law of bestiality.

As unpleasant as this topic is, I am gathering my thoughts on the matter and plan to write more extensively on the subject. Yuck.

Now Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Advance

It looks like a type of umbilical cord blood stem cell may have the properties sought by scientists for use in medical treatments. This is known in science-speak as pluripotency, that is, the ability to morph (differentiate) into different tissue types. This is another bit of interesting news that the New York Times will also probably not report. But don't forget, with adult stem cells, as I described the other day, differentiation may not be necessary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Britain Leads the World Toward a New Eugenics

The UK may now permit embryo screening for sex selection. China and India have legal and illegal sex selection already, leading to a wide imbalance of males over females. Other biotechnologists propose screening out embryos who might get cancer in their adult lives. Increasingly, child bearing is becoming solipsistic, where the child is conceived to satisfy the needs and wants of the parents, rather than about receiving fulfillment through unconditional love and acceptance of the child we receive.

We are at the beginning of a new eugenics in which some of us now presume to act on the belief that we are entitled to have not just a child but "the right child." The next step is clearly genetic engineering when the technology permits. All of this is part of the increasing attack on the idea that human life has equal intrinsic moral worth simply because it is human.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Adult Stem Cell Breakthrough: Successful Treatment of Kidney Failure in Rats

If this had been done with embryonic stem cells, it would be on the front page of the New York Times, but I doubt the "Gray Lady" will even report the story. But Secondhand Smoke will: Adult stem cells have now proven successful in treating acute renal failure in rats. Not only that, but they do so without having to be first differentiated into a specific kind of cell. This could be very good news for suffering patients who want treatments brought quickly to the clinic. If differentiation isn't required for adult stem cells to provide medical benefit, the time from experimentation to actual clinical availability is likely to be considerably shortened.

This isn't something that embryonic stem cells appear to be able to do safely. One of the big problems with using ES cells in treatments is that their differentiation cannot be controlled, as a consequence of which, they often cause deadly tumors in animal studies.

Moreover, if differentiation is not needed to gain benefit from adult stem cells, it is an arrow through the heart of one of the biggest arguments made by promoters of embryonic stem cells. This argument is that ES cells exhibit "plasticity," that is, they have the ability, as the advocates often say, to "become any kind of cell in the body." This ubiquitous assertion omits an essential modifier, "in theory," and hence, is a scientifically inaccurate statement. Scientists think this will be possible--they just haven't been able to do it yet.

But I digress. This adult stem cell success is not the first experiment in which stem cells aided regeneration of tissues and organs when injected in their undifferentiated state. If this proves true over a wide swath of conditions--still to be demonstrated--the "plasticity" argument will be deflated.

According to the story, human trials may not be very far off. Let's hope it all works out. A lot of lives could be saved if our own bone marrow or other stem cells could treat acute kidney failure.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

PETA Alpha Wolf Unrepentant at Offending African-Americans

I wrote recently about the offensive PETA Animal Liberation Project, which compares lynched blacks with slaughtered cattle and makes other similar implied minorities-are-no-better-than-animals photographic juxtapositions. Civil rights groups are rightly expressing outrage. While an organization spokesperson appeared to be backtracking by claiming the group was reevaluating its advocacy campaign, Ingrid Newkirk, the fanatical head of PETA, remains rigidly unrepentent. She writes in her blog that "we are all animals, so get over it," and derides those who find it a great wrong to lynch blacks but not see an equal injustice in killing animals for food, "selfish little supremacists."

Keep it up, Ingrid. Such displays are finally penetrating beneath the veneer of PETA as a wacky, but well intentioned animal welfare outfit, and exposing the raw anti-human ideology that lurks beneath. PETA's leaders really believe there is no moral distinction to be made between human beings and animals. That is misanthropy, pure and simple.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

My DSL is Down

Hard to blog with dial up. I'll be back at it as soon as this technical issue is resolved.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

PETA's Racist Animal Liberation Project Causing Outrage

As I expected, PETA's equating animal husbandry with the evil of the American slave system is provoking outrage. As it should.

Pew Poll: Assisted Suicide Not as Popular as Advertised

A new Pew Poll is out with some very interesting results. First, only 44% support making it legal for doctors to assist the suicides of patients. When the terminology is changed to permit doctors to give their patients the means to make themselves die, the number is still only 51%. This is a far cry from the 70% polling data that proponents of euthanasia/assisted suicide generally tout as the level of public support.

My sense is that people generally would rather not think about it. They are certainly not marching in the streets demanding the right to be killed by doctors. But, with the exception of disability rights activists and pro lifers, most people aren't motivated to actively fight legalization schemes, either.

As to "stem cell" research, the public seems to support it in pretty large and growing numbers. I am not surprised. First, if asked whether I supported "stem cell research," I would say yes since that broad category includes adult stem cell research and experiments with umbilical cord blood stem cells. It is telling that the issue of adult stem cells is not mentioned in the poll. Second, the question is whether (embryonic) stem cell research is supported, not whether the federal or state governments should fund it, which is a different question. There are many people who support the research but oppose federal funding. Third, Big Biotech is spending millions promoting ESCR, which is sure to have an impact. Fourth, the media is still playing Ginger Rodgers to Big Biotech's Fred Astaire, and remains fixated on describing the debate as being restricted to leftover IVF embryos that are going to be thrown out anyway. At the same time, the media generally fails to report or underreports the abundant--and ever-expanding--adult stem cell successes, which could make ESCR for medical cures unnecessary. And, the PEW polling questions did not ask the public's opinion on human cloning,making embryos for use and destruction in research, or creating human/animal cloned chimeras. That is where the real heat is now in biotech (moving toward fetal farming in the years to come). Polling those issues would have given us a better picture of where the public is on the all-important human cloning debate.

There is other interesting data in the poll, much of which is beyond the scope of this WEB log. It looks as if Americans' attitudes toward abortion are moving closer to the pro-life side (favor more restrictions but not outright overturning Roe v. Wade), pro death penalty, and increased, albeit still minority, support for gay marriage. Check it out.

Monday, August 08, 2005

More Evidence that the Biotech Agenda is "Anything Goes"

Harvard's Doug Melton is one of the nation's foremost biotech researchers into embryonic stem cells. He was interviewed recently in Discover magazine. You need to be a subscriber to access the entire article. So, I have reprinted a few choice quotes from the piece below, which provide further evidence that therapeutic cloning will not long remain in the Petri dish. Scientists like Melton apparently believe that when it comes to science, anything goes. (HT, Dorinda C. Bordlee, executive director of the Bioethics Defense Fund.)

"What would happen if scientists injected human stem cells into a monkey embryo? What would grow? A human heart, a human brain, a toe?" 'That,' he says, 'is a kind of new biology that I find a million times more interesting than these specious arguments over whether life begins at fertilization.'"

"I find that when most people say ethics what they really mean is morals, and that it has to do with their religious beliefs. No one's really trying to do unethical things."

"So now let's look ahead: Fast-forward two generations from now, and I will contend that it will be possible, by medical advances, to make cloning a child by nuclear transfer safer than natural childbirth- that the cloned embryos will have a defect rate of less than 1%." (My emphasis.)

"It would take too long to talk about the various religious views of why one should isolate embryonic stem cells, and not, and whether cloning should be allowed. I don't really want to get into it, and the reason is I don't think it's fundamentally interesting. It largely has to do with the trivial concern of trying to put a tag on when life begins. What I do think is deeply interesting is the issue of chimeras."

The interviewer asked Melton if there is any instance he can imagine that would simply cause him to halt stem cell experiment. "I think it's uninteresting to live in a society where one is so afraid of the unknown that you won't try new things. I'll think about the dangers, because I haven't thought about them enough. I should think about why one shouldn't do that experiment."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Embryonic-like Stem Cells From Human Placentas?

Scientists may have discovered stem cells in human placentas that are pluripotent. If true, with 4 million births in the USA each year, there would be plenty of these stem cells obtainable. Isn't it amazing? The afterbirth is looking like a tremendous potential source of moral and ethical medical treatments, as are our own bodies' stem cells.

Michael Fumento vs. Animal Liberationists

I didn't see the piece authored by the splendid Michael Fumento that caused the seething anger expressed by animal liberationists in these "hate" letters. But they, and Fumento's replies, although more sarcastic than I would choose to be, are quite educational. Worth a read.

The Good News on Adult Stem Cells Keeps on Rolling

This analysis of recent research in The Lancet demonstrates that bone marrow stem cells look to be very promising to cure a wide array of diseases. Here is a key portion, with my clarifying comments in italics:

"We now know that bone marrow-derived stem-cells circulate systemically and actively migrate into damaged tissue to contribute to spontaneous repair. [Bone marrow stem cells go to the area of damage and stimulate healing.] Experimentally, therapeutic benefit occurs in numerous disease models20,21 [ 20, 21] but, importantly, repair by bone-marrow-derived stem cells does not stop at the laboratory door. [Bone marrow stem cells are already treating human maladies.] Safety data from 50 years of clinical bone-marrow transplantation... Controlled trials have shown significant benefit of marrow-derived stem-cell therapy in myocardial infarction [heart attack], 22 and trials are planned or underway in chronic cardiac failure, stroke, and other diseases: reports of successful adult stem-cell therapy in patients with corneal disease have just appeared. The next few years, not decades, will show whether adult stem-cell treatments are to join the mainstream therapeutic arsenal."

If this research indeed pans out in the next few years, it will transform the debate over human cloning. The resulting collapse of the argument that cloning is necessary for CURES! CURES! CURES! will allow people to focus on the dangers of cloning and genetic engineering to the human future. Moreover, the patient groups may finally figure out that they've been used by some in the biotech advocacy community to push a political agenda with questionable assertions.

Full article citation: The Lancet
Vol: 365 Issue: 9477, June 18 - 24 2005

Stem-cell therapy: hope and hype
Neil Scolding,
University of Bristol Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol BS16 1LE, UK

More Evidence that Animal Liberationists Seek Human/Animal Equality

Adding heft to my article published two days ago in the NRO, is this article published in The Guardian. I believe that the writer, Richard Ryder, is a mentor of Peter Singer. He coined "speciesism," which is discrimination against animals, deemed by liberationists (and many bioethicists) to be as odious as racism. The idea here is that feeling pain is what grants to an organism equal rights.

Pursuing this line, Ryder calls for UN action to bring animals into moral and legal equality with people. He claims that human/animal moral equality is required by Darwinist thinking because animals are our genetic relatives. Darwinism isn't my field. But wouldn't this be contrary to Darwinism since we would be acting against our own interests as a species by accepting this dubious advice?

It certainly would be to destroy the belief in human exceptionalism, which of course, is the point. But this is a very dangerous course. Being exceptional in the known universe not only gives humans special rights but also special obligations and duties, including the need to care for each other, the environment, and to never gratuitously cause animals to suffer. But if we are not special, why should we take on the burdens that come with the status? Or, to put it another way, once we see ourselves merely as another animal in the forest, that is precisely how we will act.

I am coming to believe that with the exception of the jihad, animal rights/liberation is one of the most subversive threats to human welfare and human rights in the present day.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Animal Liberation Theology

PETA's new "Animal Liberation Project" begins with the assertion, "We are all animals." PETA doesn't mean this statement to reflect a biological truth, but rather, to create a moral equivalency between animals and humans. Animal rights/liberation ideology is dangerous in my view, precisely because it denies human exceptionalism, a philosophical belief that not only gives humans special rights, but also unique responsibilities. I expound on this more deeply in this piece published today on National Review Online.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Cloned Dog Has Now Been Born

Dogs have for years proved to be impossible to clone. No longer. Woo Suk Hwang, the human cloner, has now succeeded in bringing a dog clone to birth.

Why is this important? Biotechnologists are solving the technical difficulties that have made cloning to birth difficult and dangerous in animals. Monkeys are likely to be the next breed of cloned animals born. As I have written previously, cloned monkey embryos have been successfully implanted in uteruses and have gestated for weeks. Sooner or later, a cloned monkey will be born.

After that, unless we place reasonable ethical and legal brakes on this research, will come human cloned fetal farming (as evidenced by Will Saletan's articles in Slate), and eventually, reproductive cloning.