Ted Baehr, Christian movie reviewer and propagandist, has an essay at the Worldview Weekend site where he rather brazenly accuses MIchael J. Fox and “liberal elites” of lying about stem cell research. In the process, he tells some whoppers himself.
When is a lie not a lie?
According to America’s liberal, secular elite, a lie is not a lie when it comes from the mouth of a Hollywood star with a terrible debilitating disease or injury. Or, when it comes from some other sympathetic victim, such as the left-wing parent of a dead soldier (Cindy Sheehan) or a left-leaning widow trying to push an obvious political agenda.
Well of course. Because the conservative, religious elite would never use claims of victimhood to push a political agenda, no sirree bob. They are pure and holy and do not engage in such things. Pay no attention to that fake “war on Christmas” behind the curtain. Ignore that constant bleating that any disagreement with wars they support is an attack on our poor defenseless troops (a claim conveniently forgotten if a Democrat is in office and the right disagrees with the war, as in Bosnia and Somalia). Those are inconvenient figments of your imagination and Mr. Baehr would rather you pretended, along with him, that they do not exist.
This week, in the last stages of this year’s highly contested Congressional elections, liberals in Maryland and Missouri made campaign commercials featuring beloved star Michael J. Fox, who suffers from the debilitating disease of Parkinson’s. In both ads, Fox spoke in favor of forcing all taxpayers to fund stem cell research using murdered unborn children, which is known by the euphemism “embryonic stem cell research.” Of course, in neither ad did Mr. Fox use the term “embryo stem cell” or taxpayer funds, making it seem as if the opposition is against all stem cell research. Also, in his ad in a Maryland race, Mr. Fox said that the conservative Republican candidate was opposed to “the most promising stem cell research.”
This last claim is the most egregious lie of all.
Embryonic stem cell research is not the “most promising” stem cell research. In fact, embryonic stem cell research has so far not resulted in one cure or one positive medical treatment for any disease or any medical problem.
Furthermore, adult stem cell research (which no Republican, conservative or pro-life candidate we know of opposes) has actually resulted in more than 80 different medical treatments.
Now ordinarily I would presume that Baehr simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that he’s just repeating a talking point that he hasn’t bothered to research. But since he is so cavalier in accusing Michael J. Fox and “liberal elites” of lying here, let’s treat him in precisely the manner he is treating others: Mr. Baehr, you’re lying through your teeth. It’s a common lie, an often repeated lie among the religious right, but it’s still a lie.
Back in July, someone actually took the time to trace the source of the lie that adult stem cells have already yielded treatments for all these diseases (though Baehr seems to have exaggerated the claim from the original claim of 65 treatments). The source is David Prentice of the Family Research Council, who created the original list that has now been cited a few billion times by those who oppose embryonic stem cell research. But as the letter these three scientists wrote to Science shows, that list is fraudulent:
Prentice has said, “Adult stem cells have now helped patients with at least 65 different human diseases. It’s real help for real patients”. On 4 May, Senator Brownback stated, “I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the listing of 69 different human illnesses being treated by adult and cord blood stem cells”.
In fact, adult stem cell treatments fully tested in all required phases of clinical trials and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are available to treat only nine of the conditions on the Prentice list, not 65 [or 72]. In particular, allogeneic stem cell therapy has proven useful in treating hematological malignancies and in ameliorating the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Contrary to what Prentice implies, however, most of his cited treatments remain unproven and await clinical validation. Other claims, such as those for Parkinson’s or spinal cord injury, are simply untenable.
The references Prentice cites as the basis for his list include various case reports, a meeting abstract, a newspaper article, and anecdotal testimony before a Congressional committee. A review of those references reveals that Prentice not only misrepresents existing adult stem cell treatments but also frequently distorts the nature and content of the references he cites.
For example, to support the inclusion of Parkinson’s disease on his list, Prentice cites Congressional testimony by a patient and a physician, a meeting abstract by the same physician, and two publications that have nothing to do with stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s. In fact, there is currently no FDA-approved adult stem cell treatment–and no cure of any kind–for Parkinson’s disease. For spinal cord injury, Prentice cites personal opinions expressed in Congressional testimony by one physician and two patients. There is currently no FDA-approved adult stem cell treatment or cure for spinal cord injury.
The reference Prentice cites for testicular cancer on his list does not report patient response to adult stem cell therapy; it simply evaluates different methods of adult stem cell isolation.
The reference Prentice cites on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma does not assess the treatment value of adult stem cell transplantation; rather, it describes culture conditions for the laboratory growth of stem cells from lymphoma patients. Prentice’s listing of Sandhoff disease, a rare disease that affects the central nervous system, is based on a layperson’s statement in a newspaper article. There is currently no cure of any kind for Sandhoff disease.
By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients.
As usual, those who oppose ESCR present this as an either/or: we either do research on adult stem cells or on embryonic stem cells. The reality, of course, is that we should do both. Even stem cell researchers who oppose the use of embryonic stem cells on moral grounds admit that adult stem cells do not have the same potential as embryonic cells because they do not differentiate into as many varieties of cells. Adult stem cells will be useful in treating some things and useless in treating others, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either a fool or a liar.
He also makes this silly claim:
The Fox ads also beg the question, Why is the government using any taxpayer money to fund any kind of research whatsoever, anyway? Shouldn’t the private sector do that? As one of our conservative friends, Tracy Schreiber, says, “When the government pays for art, you get bad art. When the government pays for science, you get bad science.”
One can certainly argue over whether the government should fund either art or science, but it is patently absurd to claim that the involvement of government funding renders the results of either pursuit bad. Yes, one can point to an NEA grant for some mediocre bit of crap like Serrano’s Piss Christ, but one would also have to ignore that government funding also supports fine symphony orchestras and the source of the funding does not reduce the level of the music they perform.
Likewise, one can certainly argue that taxpayer funds should not be involved in medical research, but to claim that such funding leads to bad research is pure poppycock. In the US, the government funds about 36% of all medical research, mostly through universities, grants and agencies like the NIH. The list of treatments that were developed with partial or complete government funding is enormous. In AIDS treatments alone, government funding led to either the discovery of the agent, the preclinical research or clinical trials for over a dozen drugs, including AZT.
In the realm of cancer treatments, funding from the National Cancer Institute supported the development of 50 of the 77 FDA approved anti-cancer drugs prior to 1996. Testimony before a Senate committee in 1993 included the following facts:
While the FDA approves hundreds of drugs for marketing every year, the number of new or important drugs is relatively small. In 1991 the FDA approved 327 new and generic drugs and biologic products. Thirty of the approvals were for new molecular entities (NMEs) — drugs distinctly different in structure from those already on the market. Only five of these drugs received an FDA efficacy rating of A, which is reserved for drugs which afford “significant therapeutic gain.” Nine of the NMEs received an FDA classification of E, which is reserved for drugs that treat “severely debilitating or life threatening illness,” including four of the five Class A drugs. Two drugs received FDA Class AA priority status for the treatment of AIDS.
All five 1991 FDA Class A drugs were developed with federal funds.
Six of the nine 1991 FDA Class E drugs were developed with federal funds.
Both 1991 FDA Class AA drugs for AIDS were developed with federal funds.
For the group, seven of the ten 1991 FDA NME priority drugs (Class A,E or AA), were developed with federal funds…
The federal government has played an enormous role in the development of new cancer drugs. There have been 37 new cancer drugs discovered and approved for marketing since the National Cancer Institute’s new drug program began in 1955. Of the 37 cancer drugs, 34 were developed with federal funding.
Somehow I doubt that Mr. Baehr, should he or a loved one come down with cancer, would ask which ones were developed with government money and reject the ones that were because government funding leads to “bad science.”
So, the question arises, why is this little man spreading these vicious lies in such an emotionally manipulative manner? Has no one told him the truth? Or, is he just another loony lefty liberal?
Given the lies you’ve told in just this single essay, Mr. Baehr, I’d reign in that rhetoric a little bit. It might come back to bite you in the butt and make you look very, very foolish.