Counter Measures to the Anti-Science Movements

I tend to avoid writing about creationists (despite what Orac believes) because I find them quite boring. Sure, they can be amusing (scoring high on the unintentional comedy scale), but I'm not a huge fan of willfull ignorance, deception, and attacks on eduction. I'd rather waste my time writing about real advances in biology instead of attempts to undermine the scientific method. So, I present for you, without much comment, some new anti-anti-evolution resources and a bit of anti-science from a US politician.

  • The first is a pile blog where you can leave comments that would be deleted if they were left on Uncommon Descent. I don't frequent the Intelligent Design Creationism blogs, but if you do, this could be a useful resource.

  • The next item is the anti-wedge, a document outlining the plans of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists, and the Society of Systematic Biologists to counter the intelligent design and creationist movements. I have included an email from the SSE to its members below the fold.

  • Finally, I contacted Rick "Dog Fucker" Santorum regarding the stem cell initiative that the Senate Santorum voted against (and Bush vetoed). My email most likely fell on deaf ears (and the much more science friendly Arlen Specter didn't need encouragement), but Dicky did send me a reply. You can view that email below the fold.

Letter from the SSE to its members announcing the anti-wedge:

Dear Members of SSE,

The Joint Council of SSE, ASN and SSB has recently appointed a committee to deal with the issues of creationism and intelligent design to the teaching and funding of evolutionary biology in the U.S.

The goals of the committee are spelled out in a document available at

http://www.evolutionsociety.org/download/anti-wedge.pdf , and this message is to let the membership know of the existence of the committee, as well as to ask for suggestions and help from the membership.

The committee will work together with the education section of SSE, which is already working in this area, as well as with the nonprofit National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncseweb.org/default.asp) which promotes education about evolution and creationism.

We would like the members of the three societies to be aware current issues in the states of Texas and Kansas (see, for example, http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060707/sff022.html?.v=56). Individual members wishing to get involved in the ongoing events in these states, and/or make financial donations can obtain more information from Texas Citizens for Science (http://www.texscience.org/) and/or the Kansas Alliance for Education (http://www.ksalliance.org/). The National Center for Science Education (NCSE, http://www.natcenscied.org/ )can provide local support in case of hearings or other public appearances related to these and similar issues. Of course, the issue is ongoing in many other states as well, and NSCE is an excellent source of current news.

And just-breaking good news from Aug. 3 for the 'see-saw' state of Kansas, see here or here.

Sincerely,

Massimo Pigliucci (Stony Brook U.)

David Baum (U-Wisconsin)

Mark McPeek (Dartmouth)

Here is the Dog Fucker's email:

Thank you for contacting me regarding stem cell research. I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.

Today's society is witness to a scientific revolution that is producing technology which positively impacts the manner in which diseases, injuries and disabilities affect our lives. Through this progress, many diseases, which were once untreatable, can now be successfully treated and controlled. The technological advancement in science is one of the fastest growing phenomenons that any industry has ever experienced and provides great hope of prospective treatments and cures for many people who suffer. From the creation of vaccines used to prevent once devastating viruses to the regeneration and growth of organs, the scientific community is producing a culture of optimism in the face of dreadful diseases and debilitating injuries that unfortunately touch almost every family. The benefits that stem cells offer will only contribute to the advancements we have seen as science continues to replace improbable desires for finding cures with realistic solutions.

Scientists have indicated that stem cells may have the potential to treat people with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, heart disease, diabetes, spinal-cord injuries and many other ailments. However, as science and technology continue to advance, so do the ethical dilemmas surrounding these developments. Research on embryonic stem cells raises an ethical consideration based on the procedures by which the cells are derived. This consideration must be weighed against the therapeutic value that embryonic stem cells could potentially offer. Understanding the critical balance between the potential of stem cells and the ethical concerns over embryonic stem cells, I introduced a bill that would encourage research on embryonic-like, or pluripotent, stem cells that do not raise ethical objections.

The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S. 2754), cosponsored by Senator Arlen Specter, is intended to promote the development of ethical sources of embryonic-like stem cells without harming human embryos. Pluripotent stem cells are desirable as they are able to turn into all or almost all of the types of cells in the human body. This bill would support the creation of pluripotent stem cell lines from alternative sources that do not require the creation of human embryos for research purposes or discarding, destroying, or knowingly harming a human embryo or fetus. Especially within the last year, there have been a number of peer-reviewed studies published indicating that there may be other sources of these pluripotent stem cells. In addition, renowned scientists on both sides of the embryonic stem cell debate are developing other techniques for deriving pluripotent stem cells that do not require destroying an embryo.

This research is morally unobjectionable, destroys no human embryos and has the potential to benefit many. S. 2754 would require the National Institutes of Health to fund research into such techniques and sources so as to move this field of scientific research forward rapidly. I was very pleased to see the United States Senate pass this legislation unanimously on July 18, 2006. Unfortunately, a minority in the House of Representatives elected to block its passage, thus blocking the opportunity for it to be signed into law and needlessly delaying scientific progress in this promising field. However, I am hopeful that this legislation will still have the opportunity to move forward.

After the passage of S. 2754, the Senate also debated and passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810) which would expand federal research funding to human embryonic stem cell lines regardless of when they were derived. While I was not able to support this measure, I believe that with the incredible technology that is available today, there are other non-controversial methods available that would garner most, if not all, of the same benefits -- such as the methods that would be funded by S. 2754. Great strides have been made recently in this country regarding the alternative methods of using stem cells without harming embryos.

In addition, some benefits of government involvement in scientific research with the development of effective new technologies that employ adult stem cells are on display right here in Pennsylvania. Located at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh, the National Tissue Engineering Center (NTEC) conducts innovative programs in wound healing, musculoskeletal tissue engineering, and cardiothoracic and vascular tissue engineering. In fact, the NTEC has developed such a robust program with respect to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that they have partnered with the Department of Defense to treat our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Incredibly, there is one study underway right now to regenerate an ear of a soldier who was injured in the Iraq War. I have been proud to support this ground-breaking research by securing federal funding for the NTEC.

The McGowan Institute is one of the many positive examples of places that are developing ethical regenerative medicine and stem cell research that has been proven to work in humans. According to a number of scientific reports that have been published in peer-reviewed journals, there are currently 72 different human diseases in which adult stem cells have been used to treat humans. I am strongly supportive of federal funding for alternative ways of deriving such cells so that their potential can be explored.

I firmly believe that scientific advancement, a commitment to treat disease, and a commitment to the value of all human life are not mutually exclusive. I will continue to seek advances in this field and pursue ethical treatments that are available now and in the future. It is imperative that we aggressively explore these promising areas of research. Continued discovery using alternative methods to create embryonic-like stem cells reaches beyond the moral controversies that divide many across the country while offering similar benefits, making them a viable option for all to pursue.

Thank you again for contacting me. If I may be of further assistance with this or any other matter in the future, please feel free to call on me again.

Sincerely,

Rick Santorum

United States Senate

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How much like embryonic stem cells are these "embryonic-like stem cells"? Enough alike to be just as useful in research? More useful than adult stem cells?

"According to a number of scientific reports that have been published in peer-reviewed journals, there are currently 72 different human diseases in which adult stem cells have been used to treat humans."

This comment also appeared in a letter to the editor in my local paper, attributed to NIH. I looked at the NIH web site and couldn't find any such statement. Do you have any idea where this is coming from?

The Chicago Tribune had an article last week that said, in contradiction:
"Last week, the journal Science published a letter from three researchers criticizing the claim that adult stem cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. The authors have used adult stem cells to treat bone diseases in children. They wrote that the exaggerated claims for adult stem cells 'mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients. Most of the treatments on the list remain unproven,'"

I don't know much about stem cell research. I do know that the embryonic stem cells that would have been used for research (if the bill hadn't been vetoed) will now be discarded. The choice is not between killing zygotes and doing research. It's between doing research or discarding zygotes. Score one for the culture of death.

Also, the embryonic stem cell lines that researchers can use are losing their potency. Copies of copies degrade (something we can learn from a bad Michael Keaton movie). I'm not sure what the embryonic-like stem cells are. Anyone who knows more about this than I do is encouraged to comment.

I also corrected the entry. The Senate passed the bill (Santorum voted against it) and Bush vetoed it.