Dr. Maureen Condic Gets Her Say
Nearly two months ago, I posted an entry about the science journal Nature Neuroscience's unfair editorial attack on Dr. Maureen Condic because she dared to question embryonic stem cell research dogma that ES cells offer the best hope for treatments, in the religious journal First Things. Making matters worse, after unfairly maligning her as "anti science," the journal had refused to allow Condic to respond to its criticisms in the same forum in which they were made.
A lot of pressure was placed on the Nature Neuroscience and it relented. Condic's letter to the editor published in the July 2007 issue is too long to print in full here, and there is no link. But here are a few choice excerpts:
Although the editors acknowledge that I am "correct in asserting that there are formidable hurdles to overcome before hESCs might serve therapeutic purposes", they groundlessly assert that my article is "anti-scientific", "polemical" and "disingenuous distortion of scientific arguments." I will not attempt to refute this false characterization. I will simply restate what the editors do not--and cannot--deny: the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that hESCs are unlikely to be useful for human therapies in the near future.Indeed. If there were polemics being thrown around, it was the editors of Nature Neuroscience who were doing the slinging.
The issues of immune rejection, tumor formation and hESC differentiation raised in my article are not distortions or mere polemic; they are matters of scientific fact. These same concerns have been raised in the scientific literature.
Condic concludes on this powerful note:
Although serious scientific obstacles may not constitute sufficient reason to "abandon the search for stem cell therapies", such obstacles can be addressed with far greater scientific power using animal models. For ethically controversial hESC research, we must engage in a frank, public discussion of the formidable hurdles preventing the development of stem cell therapies, if public policy is to be based on scientific fact, and not on science fiction. Rather than promoting such a rational civil discourse, the editors of Nature Neuroscience have sent the clear message that scientists who break ranks and publicly discuss the serious obstacles confronting hESC research will be groundlessly maligned in the editorial pages of a prestigious scientific journal.Condic nails it again. Suppressing and punishing heterodox views is not only corrosive of science, it is disrespectful of democratic discourse.
Attempting to suppress public disclosure of the facts is, in the words of the editors, both a "disingenuous distortion" and an attempt "to spin science...to fit an anti-scientific purpose".