Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

There’s an article in the Washington Post by the chief officer of the AAAS and editor of ‘Science’ which can be summed up here:

We simply cannot invest all our hopes in a single approach. Federal funding is essential for both adult and embryonic stem cell research, even as promising alternatives are beginning to emerge.

I’m glad to see the editor of the journal which published one of the skin cell-turn-stem cell papers speak out on this issue, and be perfectly clear that this in no way vindicates the Bush administration’s policy and vetos.


  1. #1 Charlie (Colorado)
    December 3, 2007

    But isn’t it kind of pathological that this extremely useful and valuable research won’t get done without Federal funding? Is the funding isue really one of “it won’t happen without” or is it “we’re used to getting money from NIH and don’t want to look elsewhere”?

    It’s a puzzle I really don’t know how to answer: the research is good, and I don’t find the ethical qualms all that compelling, or even rational. On the other hand, some people clearly do. What makes this issue so important that they should be compelled to be complicit in what they see as a great evil?

  2. #2 Shelley Batts
    December 3, 2007

    If the government only funded what everyone morally agreed with, we wouldn’t fund anything. I’m forced to ‘be complicit’ in a war which has resulted in the deaths of thousands, a war I find morally reprehensible. My tax dollars are used to fund faith-based initiatives which I find illegal and backwards. Conservatives already implicitly fund Planned Parenthood. PETA members fund animal research.

    The point is this– a good argument can be made that we are in Iraq because people who are far far better informed than I have made that decision. Similarly, people with no idea what they are talking about in regards to the science of stem cells should also acquiesce to the knowledge of those who do, ie scientists. And you don’t see a lot of scientists calling it a ‘great evil.’

    Conservatives who approve of in vitro but disapprove of stem cell research are at best misinformed and at worst, hypocrites. More embryos are created and destroyed during the business of in vitro than may ever be associated with stem cell research. However, that is not a politically polarizing activity. Why stem cell research has been contorted into one, I am still not sure.

  3. #3 Glendon Mellow
    December 3, 2007

    Sometimes I wonder if any future generations will sue their grandparents for denying possibly life-saving research. I know potential medical treatments are likely decades away, but sometimes I wonder…

    Good for the editor though. Good for you to be making some more noise about it too.

  4. #4 Kevin
    December 4, 2007

    While I agree with you that stem cell research should be pursued, I have trouble with your argument that we should automatically defer to “experts”. The Iraq debacle has become a killing field because too many people uncritically accepted the analysis being offered. Religious leaders claim to have “moral authority” based on their theological background but all to often their actions defy moral judgment.

    “Similarly, people with no idea what they are talking about in regards to the science of stem cells should also acquiesce to the knowledge of those who do, ie scientists.”

    You have a responsibility to educate people and to offer facts and well reasoned arguments in support of your argument. Yes, the world is full of ignorant and obtuse people who are unable or unwilling to follow your arguments.
    In this case, I agree with you that we can trust the scientists. It is a serious mistake though to ask the public to suspend their judgment in deference to “experts”. History doesn’t show that to be a good idea.

  5. #5 watchdog on science
    December 5, 2007

    My dear, if you don�t see anything troubling about using human embryos for research purposes, may I suggest that you are not thinking enough.

    If you would do a little home work you will find that the basic science is not there to even consider working on human embryonic stem cells, especially when there are other adequate models. The developmental and differentiation pathways are far from worked out to make specific cell types from ES cells. Cures from ES cells will be a long time coming and realistically most likely will not produce anything therapeutic at all due to the complications of producing the correct differentiated cell and the subsequent interactions with the human body to produce a defined therapeutic response with no damaging side effects.

    The media and pro ES cell scientists color embryonic stem cell technologies as �a cure for all� but omits the data which shows various cancers produced in animal models by ESC research. The rush to fund ESC research is about money, and not about finding cures for anyone. The public is being exploited and brain-washed.

    And your blog site seems to follow along this same path. It appears from the comments on your website that you are screening and posting those comments that only support your professional position. By the looks of it, you�ll make a fine scientist�and fit right in the system�providing information that only strokes your career. Unless comments contain filthy or derogatory language, quit screening the posts to your blog! Talk about being hypocritical�.

    And God help us if it is ever mandated that social and scientific policies will be decided by scientific experts alone. The next thing scientists will be advocate (without thinking) is experimenting on people in nursing homes without any just cause.

  6. #6 Shelley Batts
    December 5, 2007

    As to certain commenters who are spamming this thread: as stated in my comments policy, I reserve the right to delete comments that abuse this forum. That includes going on long rants or diatribes without quoting any data or stating anything meaningful. The liklihood of me deleting your comment increases exponentially when you insult me or science in general. If you wish to engage in discussion, that is great. If you wish to state over and over that you are correct without citing studies or data, and proceed to tell me what to do on MY blog, you will be moderated.

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