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Richard Doerflinger on Stem Cells and Cloning

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJuly 14, 2006 7:55 AM


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Turns out he had a big article on this subject in the neoconservative New Atlantis fairly recently. As we've done before--very successfully--I'm going to pull out three numbered quotes and invite you to respond:

1. "It is true that Alzheimer's is not a promising candidate for stem cell therapies," says Dr. Stephen Minger of King's College London, "but it was not scientists who suggested it was--that was all politics in the U.S. driven by Nancy Reagan." But in the United States, Mrs. Reagan was backed by myriad scientific and patient advocacy groups who want public funding of ESC research, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the Alzheimer's Association. These groups must have known about the scientific consensus against an ESC therapy for Alzheimer's, but they chose to ignore it. Dr. Ronald McKay, a stem cell scientist at the NIH, explained the discrepancy between political message and scientific fact in this way: "To start with, people need a fairy tale." 2. The broader political lesson from the Korean scandal, and from scandalous behavior here in the United States, is that political leaders, patient advocacy groups, and all of us must stop hearing only what we want to hear about "miracle cures." We need to be aware of the human costs of this agenda here and now, not only its alleged "promise" down the road. Whatever one's views on the morality of research cloning and embryo destruction, we cannot have a serious debate if scientists and politicians continue to make grandiose claims unjustified by the evidence. 3. And what seems to happen over and over again is that the drive for results--for Nobel Prizes and miracle cures--tends to swallow up all countervailing values and erode all limits, as it did in South Korea. Even NBAC conceded in 1999 that "the derivation of stem cells from embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research." But NBAC and its allies ignored the evidence available even then that such "alternatives" might exist; and as stem cells from adult tissues and umbilical cord blood have saved thousands of lives and begun to treat dozens of conditions, they have only become more hardened against giving due attention to this progress.

Have at it.....By the way, here's a quote from Doerflinger that I totally agree with: "For science is nothing without an absolute commitment to the facts."

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