Burying the Truth

Once again, I feel compelled to tell you all about a serious mistake in logic and ethics that one of my favorite bands, Brother, has made. You may recall that I have thrice (here, here, and here) pointed to their "Concert for Cures" tour. Well, they now have a whole page dedicated to it, and it's full of misconceptions and misinformation. Let's flood them with corrections.

"'If, as the scientific community agrees, there's a real chance to cure not just diabetes, but Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis…and the list goes on, then let's get serious and bring it on', says Richardson. 'And let's not drive stem cell research underground by leaving it to private companies to fund. Let's give scientists in our public institutions the resources they need to make the breakthroughs the world so desperately needs.'"

First, be clear about scope. Are we talking about stem cells in general, or embryonic stem cells in particular? Next, define "real chance". Last I checked, embryonic stem cells haven't done squat and adult stem cells have been showing promising results. Lastly, stop begging the question. This is not merely a matter of whether we support scientific progress or not. It's about whether we want progress at any moral or ethical cost.

Comments 3

  1. Fred K wrote:

    I wonder *why* Christopher Reeve and John Kerry both criticize GW Bush on stem cells without making the distinction between embryonic and adult stem cells. In the simplistic language of both, the term “stem cell” is used as shorthand for embryonic stem cells. Imagine discussing nuclear weaponry without saying the word, “nuclear,” and instead using the word, “bomb,” in a deliberately ambiguous way! One doesn’t need to be religious to understand the semantic and ethical gulf between “embryonic stem cells” and “adult stem cells.”

    Along with creationism we should also be careful of scientism*. In particular, we should be wary of two scientistic tendencies:

    1. An “ethics” that presumes that if we can do something, then we should.

    2. The desire for a panacea, especially an unproven one, can be very tempting. X-Rays, Asprin, Pennecillin, and antibiotics in general were all widely embraced by Western society without many questions, sometimes with disastrous results. Religious or not, individuals can ill afford to accept supposed cure-alls unquestioned.


    Posted 14 Oct 2004 at 4:42 pm
  2. John wrote:

    This is a place where I feel you are wandering into dangerous ground. Pointing out that there have been successes with adult stem cells and not with embryonic ones is valid, but you have to be very careful that you’re not letting your religious beliefs color your scientific conclusions. My understanding is that you really don’t care whether or not embryonic stem cells can be used to treat illness (my phrasing makes that sound like a bad thing, but I certainly think that it’s a perfectly legit belief).

    I’m not saying that you are botching your science, but be careful, because you are in a potentially dangerous area. I don’t want to see you go the way of the creationists.

    Posted 14 Oct 2004 at 1:07 am
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    You’re right, I don’t think the ends of ESCR justify the means. However, I’m also trying to point out that Kerry and others are snake oil salesmen who want people to blindly accept ESCR even though it hasn’t shown any real promise yet. It’s not like there’s been no research. Plenty is happening in the private sector. Meanwhile, adult and umbilical stem cells have already shown great promise. So I’m left wondering – why do some people want Americans, and the world for that matter, to embrace morally dubious research when ethical research is already being conducted to find the same cures and has met with some success?

    Posted 14 Oct 2004 at 1:42 am

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