A major change in stem cell policy

Today, President Obama signed a bill lifting the Bush restrictions on stem cell research. You really must go listen to his speech on the occasion — he seems to get what scientific research is all about. Man, it's been a long eight years, and oh is it wonderfully good to hear an eloquent defense of scientific research from our president, for a change.

The ugly little goblins of the Bush years still plague us, though; compare the uplifting message of knowledge from Obama with this fundamentally fallacious opinion piece from the carnie barker of junk science, Steven Milloy. And by "fundamentally fallacious", I mean that it's problems are far deeper than his usual slithery tweaking of the facts to misrepresent the evidence and the science — I mean that right at the core of Milloy is an absolute lack of comprehension of the very nature of science, and it's right there, exposed and naked and hideous.

His problem? He thinks his ignorance of the field is an accurate picture, and he thinks science ought to be more like a vending machine: put in your nickel, and the bubble gum you wanted pops out.

Keep in mind that, although President Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to a few existing stem cell colonies, he did not make such research illegal. In fact, embryonic stem cell research has been funded with both private funding and state funding -- not to mention that scientists around the world have been engaging in embryonic stem cell research. The results? Nothing notable has occurred in embryonic stem cell research other than the scientific fraud committed by the infamous South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-Suk.

There is so much wrong with that paragraph. Woo-Suk was a fraud; just because one or a few corrupt individuals abuse the system is not grounds for damning all of the research. He's also using Woo-Suk as a smokescreen to hide the colossal lie he's peddling, that nothing notable has occurred in stem cell research. It's a very sneaky strategy — he's been a cheerleader for an administration that has discouraged stem cell work, driving many researchers to leave the country to continue the research, or to drop it and continue work in a different field that has the promise of continuing support. You don't get to hobble the horse and then complain that it hasn't won any races!

But of course significant advances have been made in this line of research, it's just that Milloy isn't competent to know about them, let alone report on them. As one example, we've made progress in understanding the triggers that can induce the stem cell state, work that lays the foundation for turning somatic cells into new tissues at will. This is the kind of work that the anti-stem-cell Luddites want scientists to do, but they ignore the fact that it depends on understanding the stem cell state.

But the key problem in Milloy's article is more than just his cocky ignorance: it's his failure to understand how science works. He keeps on harping on how nobody has found a "cure" for anything yet, but you don't do science with the immediate goal of finding cures! The purpose of this research is to increase our understanding of how cells work to build tissues, not to poof "cures" into existence.

If the US pours hundreds of millions of dollars into stem cell research, and the scientists come back a decade later and say stem cells aren't the answer any more, it's new therapy X that they've discovered, it isn't a failure. It means we've learned something we wouldn't have known without doing it, that we've uncovered wonderful new surprises, and that through it all, we've learned more of the basics of how biology works. We don't know what we're going to find; if we did, it wouldn't be research.

But wait! Milloy hasn't quite plumbed the depths of absurdity yet. That's here, in this paragraph, in which he compares stem cell and cancer research and declares them both failures.

What's this got to do with embryonic stem cell research? Everything. Practically speaking, curing cancer should be a far easier mission to accomplish since what's involved is essentially limited to the containment and destruction of cancer cells. But so far, scientists can't even really do that.

Yes, he really wrote that. Let's rephrase it for him. "Ending terrorism should be a far easier mission to accomplish since what's involved is essentially limited to the containment and destruction of terrorists." "Controlling crime should be a far easier mission to accomplish since what's involved is essentially limited to the containment of criminals." "Ending global warming should be a far easier mission to accomplish since what's involved is essentially limited to the containment and destruction of carbon dioxide." Can he possibly trivialize the problem any more?

Cancer is a whole collection of diseases with multiple causes. It is not at all easy. We have decades of incredibly useful research into the regulation of cellular processes that has been driven by the long term goal of "curing" cancer, but along the way has increased our understanding of biology. There is no magic pill, and there never will be — but what we have is a strong foundation for plunging deeper into the mechanisms. There are no promises of insta-cures, but there is a track record of increased knowledge. How would we know what we know of cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, and signal transduction in multicellular animals without support for cancer research?

With embryonic stem cell research, not only would researchers have to figure out how to harness the developmental potential of embryonic stem cells (if that is even possible) but they would also have to figure out how to control and turn-off the embryonic stem cells since each one is a potential cancer-causing agent. All this is a tall order -- and private investors know it.

Yes, we would like to harness the developmental potential of embryonic stem cells. We would like to be able to turn cell fates on and off. Milloy doesn't even seem to be aware that what he calls compounding problems is an opportunity for synergy — learning more about developmental regulation can help us solve problems in cancer, and learning more about the de- and re-differentiation of cancer cells can help us better understand how to switch developmental fates.

What, exactly, is his answer? All he's got so far is complaints that these are really hard problems in biology, and we haven't ladled out answers simple enough for him to understand. These are hard problems, which is one of the things that makes them so appealing to scientists — cracking them will open many new doors to progress. Milloy seems to think this is a reason to shut down further questioning. I say it's the best reason to work harder.

I'm pleased to see that Obama is on my side, and not Milloy's. Let's hope there are never again dark days when anti-science drones of the far right have any power over progress, because it seems that all they ever want to do is suppress it.

More like this

Man, I wish curing cancer was as easy as he makes it sound. I've attended no less than a dozen biochemistry seminars that all take entirely different approaches on how to deal with cancer at a molecular level, from creating metal complexes that seek out and attach to cancer so it can be zapped with a laser, to using a specially made sieve that will cause even a score of cells in a person's blood stream to stick to it and then light up like a Christmas tree for the earliest detection possible.

And even then those two ideas really only address one type of cancer each, with the hopes of being able to adapt them to other types later on.

"With embryonic stem cell research, not only would researchers have to figure out how to harness the developmental potential of embryonic stem cells (if that is even possible) but they would also have to figure out how to control and turn-off the embryonic stem cells since each one is a potential cancer-causing agent. All this is a tall order -- and private investors know it."

That hurts my upstairs as much as taxation with representation.

I also wish science was like a vending machine! It'd be nice to be able to just put my nickel in and get perfect results every time, instead of spending a few weeks tinkering with the myriad of controls until I find the set that work.

Then another few weeks trying to determine why that set of controls works and none of the others do.

Then another few weeks checking my data and determining from it what I should do next.

Let's just hope that the mentality Milloy is representive of becomes further marginalized, both in culture and politics. This level of willful misunderstanding (I say willful since anyone who had any desire to do so could educate themselves easily to see the flaws in this style of thinking) is inexcusable, to say nothing of the potential damage it could do to society.

Limbaugh will never run for an office. If he did, he would have to do the hard work of finding solutions to problems. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines and snipe at other people's solutions. It is always easier to tear down than it is to create.

Kobra:
I think you are looking for the words Happy Monkey :)

"Wake me up when an embryonic stem cell researcher or company accomplishes anything other than naming a new building or learning something that is of absolutely no practical medical value to the public. The real moral question is whether such dubious accomplishments are worth the price of ghastly experimentation with human embryos."

The pious righteousness, it burns!

From Nancy Reagan:

“I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research,” she wrote in a statement released shortly after Obama reversed the Bush administration limits. “These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers."

Eat it, theocons.

By Shaden Freud (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Just watching Rep. Chris Smith, NJ (R) on Hardball.
He's saying that there is no need for research on embryonic stem cells. He says that stem cells can be used from adults.
He's obviously more worried about the embryos, than anything else, and he's a Republican, which make me automatically doubt his claims.
Biologists.. are my doubts warranted?

How about setting aside a big chunk of land in which these anti-science folks could live completely without the trappings of the modern age?

There they could stay well away from the perceived evils of science, technological advances, hospitals and medicines etc. Naturally they wouldn't have to pay taxes, particularly since this would be pretty difficult without any money or other forms of barter (after all, even eggs and fish are pretty hard to come by in quantity without modern farming or harvesting practices, which have the whiff of "science" about them).

Hopefully they'd be happy there, and the rest of us could get on with our lives without having to put up with their ridiculous bleating since necessarily they couldn't have things such as electricity, television, computers, cameras, or radio with which to annoy us.

Utah perhaps?

Bit silly, I know, but it doesn't half annoy me when dickheads like this Milloy person waft their special ignorance in public.

Ho hum.

Kudos PZ. This is a really excellent post. It is shameful, but not at all surprising, that conservatives think the field of somatic cell reprogramming was just "poofed" into existence. I find this generally is how they believe science works.

Obama gives an wonderful message about the relative effectiveness of science and religion. It may be a little subtle for some, but it should speak loud and clear to scientists and people on this blog.
Obama describes science as "the urgent work of giving substance to hope, and answering those many bedside prayers".
See the linked video, 3:12 from the end.

No practical results to show for stem cells? I beg to differ Mr. Malloy.

http://www.brainrepair.ca/research_mendez.htm

Now, admittedly this fellow is up here in Canada (I'm lucky enough to know the fellow, so pardon me while I trumpet his research), but he's done amazing work using stem cells to treat Parkinson's Disease. I'm having trouble finding all the actual research articles, but I managed to dig up this one from nature:
http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v14/n5/full/nm1752.html

I wish I could find a link to some of the before/after videos I've seen of people who underwent his implantation procedure... these people have been given back normal muscular control. The difference is stark.

Anyways, I could write pages on this stuff, but what I came here to say was: Nothing notable in the field? Right. Go climb a tree you baboon, us Homo sapiens have work to do.

Also:
"We don't know what we're going to find; if we did, it wouldn't be research."
That one's going in my Big List of Quotes Useful in Beating the Stupid Out of People.

By Religion™ Bran… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Sadly, Milloy's conception of science and research is a very common one. There is this idea that a scientific inquiry should be for the lone purpose of filling some immediate utilitarian need. I think scientists of virtually any discipline have had to justify their work to the lay person (or more often, a bureaucrat or politician) in terms of how it will make us happier/healthier/wealthier. It is certainly evident in the anti-science speeches and statements of folks like Palin, McCain and Harkin. Politicians and frankly voters are impatient and want what they consider practical results. Furthering our understanding of the natural world runs a distant 2nd to the "right now" crowd. It does sound like the President has a grasp on the concept so I am at least cautiously optimistic now. Hopefully the government will give the space and financial support to the scientific community to realize the full potential of our finest minds.

Newfie #11 wrote:

Just watching Rep. Chris Smith, NJ (R) on Hardball.
He's saying that there is no need for research on embryonic stem cells. He says that stem cells can be used from adults.

And he should go on to say that all the scientists who actually work in the field and claim that the stem cells are not equivalent only do so because they enjoy killing embryos for the sheer hell of it. The bastards.

His problem? He thinks his ignorance of the field is an accurate picture, and he thinks science ought to be more like a vending machine: put in your nickel, and the bubble gum you wanted pops out.

Sort of like in Civilization: "I suggest we next research Bridge Building, so that we will once discover: Railroads." Complete foreknowledge of what will happen in advance.

Woo-Suk was a fraud

That's his personal name. East Asia/Confucian cultures: the surname comes first.

You don't get to hobble the horse and then complain that it hasn't won any races!

Unless you want to prove that government is the problem.

Obama describes science as "the urgent work of giving substance to hope, and answering those many bedside prayers".

Emphasis added.

Ponder long and hard what Obama said here -- whose job it is to answer prayers.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Every time I hear Obama say anything about science, I remember back to the inauguration when he spoke of returning science to its proper place; the camera switched to Bush and it looked like Bush was bitterly muttering, "fuck this bullshit."

It makes it a little too easy to feel good. Let someone merely state positive truths of any kind these days and I picture Bush bitterly muttering.

Not that Bush itself is worth humiliating any further*, but I envision the remaining Bush'tards snarly and muttering themselves. "I'll get you scientists, and your little dogs too!" just waiting for when to lash out. Their noncooperation and subsequent drag on the future economy is going to make it harder for us.

The one order that the connie symps can carry out, now issued by their ideological overlord: "Fail!"

*Strike that. I endorse practically anything that humiliates Bush further, though not at the expense of moving forward. You can hate on Bush as a proxy for hating on any connie symps that happen to be around.

I think I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one, PZ. The basic premise of his argument isn't one you can just throw out as stupid or ignorant. To put it simply, without all the bloviation:
1a) Many people have ethical problems with stem cell research.
1b) We will spend a lot of money on stem cell research.
2) There is no guarantee that stem cell research will generate useful medical results.
3) In light of 1 and 2, should we continue to fund it?

You say, yes. You think 1a is is silly, and you think that basic science is worth it even if we don't get any medical results, or even if those results are many years off. Molloy says no: the trade off isn't worth it. While I agree with you in general, I respect that other people place different emphases on the various values in the problem, and I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with that. I especially think 1a is worth a lot more credit than you give it: even if you think it's ignorant, stupid, or wrong, many people whose taxes pay for the research don't! And you can argue with them, but they're entitled to put their money where their mouth is and argue it on the merits. If we were doing science just for the pure benefit of our collective knowledge, then the NIH's budget would be closer to that of the NEA. Since we're not, people have the right to judge the outcome and ask for their money's worth, even if it's a subjective measurement.

Is the Pharyngula feed broken? My Firefox can receive neither the Atom nor the RSS one.

I am particularly glad to hear about this, one more than one level. Not only did I - like countless others - watch a grandparent suffer a slow and agonizing end due to Parkinson's, but it could also mean a treatment for my current nerve damage. I was suprised to find out the limits on our knowledge of the human neurological system when I was diagnosed with nerve damage, but this kind of research could offer treatments for those with nerve damage - not only treating current pain, but also reducing the likelihood that we will develop Parkinson's disease, which I learned is a risk that presents itself if you suffer damage to your nervous system.

"1a) Many people have ethical problems with stem cell research."

People have ethical problems with it because they can't, or won't, take the time to understand the issues, or because they're hiding behind the "ethical" objection screen for purely partisan reasons. It's a foolish ploy, and is not a reason to impede serious research.

Consider this:
"many people have ethical problems with research into weapons research"

or this
"many people have ethical problems with research into new vaccines"

neither of those would be reasons to for a ban on research into the respective areas.

"...people have the right to judge the outcome and ask for their money's worth, even if it's a subjective measurement"

There is the problem - you can't get an idea of your money's worth until money has been put into it.

M. Gordon @20: The government can't just not spend money on something because some people don't approve. If that were the case, they wouldn't be able to do anything. Plenty of people didn't (or rather, don't) like the war in Iraq, and yet their tax dollars are paying for it (and that's a lot more money than what the government will use to fund stem-cell research). Lots of people don't like the stimulus bill, but it passed through the legislature, so now it's happening. The "some people don't approve" argument simply doesn't work in our government, nor would it work in any country, as you can always find someone who dissents with the majority.

By cactusren (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Re: #20 "M.Gordon"

I agree that the ethical concerns of ANY research venture are important to consider, even in privately funded work. However, I think that PZ's point (if I dare to speak to his defense...) is that Molloy makes his points by deliberately misrepresenting the facts of stem cell research.

Also, I'd like to add that stem cell research could ultimately result in absolutely no direct applications (not likely, but possible) but it would still be useful because it would give us a immense wealth of knowledge about something that is right now very mysterious to us.

By Hammurabi (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Wow...just saw the video...

Can't believe that's MY President speaking. Nice to hear a President get through a whole speech without saying "strategory" or "evil-doers".

Also, nice to see some outbursts of applause, especially when Obama said (paraphrasing) that "policies will be guided by facts, not ideology".

/*wipes tear away*/

Hammurabi: No direct applications - maybe not. But indirect applications - almost definitely I should think. IANAS but I have a pretty good idea how science works, and to me it is like putting a huge jigsaw together. Every single piece is relevant and ultimately necessary, but not immediately obvious as to its position in the jigsaw. I can't imagine that research of this kind won't have some benefit to us sooner or later. I'm guessing sooner - and maybe even a central jigsaw piece, at least in the field of biology.

By Elwood Herring (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

What, exactly, is his answer? All he's got so far is complaints that these are really hard problems in biology, and we haven't ladled out answers simple enough for him to understand. These are hard problems, which is one of the things that makes them so appealing to scientists — cracking them will open many new doors to progress. Milloy seems to think this is a reason to shut down further questioning. I say it's the best reason to work harder.

Shorter Milloy: Let's not go to the moon or choose to do the other things because they're just too hard, because this goal's too hard to organize and measure America's energies and skills, because it's too challenging, and we're willing to postpone, and we don't need to be good at anything.

Wow, I only saw about 45 seconds (downloaded it for later review) of the video. Even with that brief glimpse, signs of good change were apparent. It's nice to be able to smile, and keep smiling, when the President speaks.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Why does Milloy keep harping on how private investors aren't funding the research, as if that proved something? As a private investor myself, of course I'm not interested in investing in decades of open-ended research with no clear business plan. So what? That says nothing at all about my willingness to donate to foundations that support such research, or to have my tax dollars spent on such research. Investment is by definition profit-oriented; basic research is not. The basic research needs to be done before investment-for-profit becomes possible. So the fact the investors are turning away doesn't mean the field's a bust; it just means that government has not yet spent enough on laying the groundwork.

By Gregory Kusnick (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

PZ: you don't do science with the immediate goal of finding cures.

I've never agreed with you more, PZ. It's why the whole NIH model is bad science and a waste of money. We'd probably get better biology with a reduction in money, if it wasn't hobbled with a "find the cure" mentality -- the question, of course, is how much less could we go if we weren't crippled.

The politics are obvious -- but it's a fantasy-land sold to the sick that "science will cure X, or Y, or Z". No, we'll stumble upon a cure while looking for something else; ergo, the best bet is just to look generally, rather than focusing the entire discipline on "curing cancer" (one of Obama's whoppers).

Posted by: Gregory Kusnick | March 9, 2009 8:37 PM

Investment is by definition profit-oriented; basic research is not.

BINGO. To conflate the two is to show the fundamentally flawed belief that the market will favor what is right and beneficial, rather than what it actually favors - which is only what makes money.

How long before Mr. Milloy starts crying that PZ ripped him a new one?

3...2...1...

I was SO excited to hear Obama's speech. Yes, he thankfully does seem to get it. It's such a relief after the past eight years that I don't even know how to describe it properly.

Wow. I swear I can hear Richard Feynman in the middle chunk of that about scientific inquiry. Are we sure that's our president?

By Hank Bones (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

It was an executive order that the president signed, not a bill. Obama could spend all year just signing executive orders to revoke earlier ones initiated by Bush. Unfortunately, there are many more significant problems to address as well.

But even when scientists make headway into cancer research, like the HPV vaccine, people like Milloy have problems with it. You just can't win!

By Silmarien (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Damn you're smart.

PZ: you don't do science with the immediate goal of finding cures

Zackly. You science to find out stuff, in the hope it will help make some sense of other stuff you already know, or disprove something you thought you knew, or completely blow open an entire area of knowledge. You do advanced development to try to make something useful out of what science finds. You do product development to try to make a useful, saleable, thing out what the AD reveals.

By tim Rowledge (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Yay for this decision.

I haven't seen any reports from US news sources yet but I think it would be very different to the BBC tonight.

Although it's being portrayed as a good thing over here the angle is that the US will overtake the UK in terms of medical research, in fact there will be a brain drain of all the scientists across the Atlantic.

Surely the medical/scientific community are working together to cure stuff not seeing who can get there first

Even shorter Steve Milloy: "ugh, Science Hard"

Me: "yeah, it's hard. that's what makes it so interesting!
If it were easy clueless buffoons would be able to make epoch-making discoveries just like putting a quarter in a vending machine and getting out a piece of bubblegum "

Surely the medical/scientific community are working together to cure stuff not seeing who can get there first

I don't necessarily think those two are mutually exclusive. The whole process is set up for discoveries - in every stage - to be published and made known to the rest of the scientific community, driving both progress and competition. At least now our scientists won't have an arm tied behind their backs anymore.

Well obviously the scientists and inventors among us need to get to work inventing the Science Vending Machine. All you need to do is hook up Douglas Adams's Infinite Improbability Drive to Star Trek's all-purpose Replicator, and Bob's your uncle!

By Elwood Herring (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

One of the problems with peoples' expectations about science is that, on numerous occasions, science and engineering have produced impressive results in relatively short times. In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt authorized research into nuclear weapons. Four years later, Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1962 John Kennedy said "We choose to go to the Moon." Seven years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were on the the Moon. In 1942 the decision was made to mass produce penicillin. Two years later over two million doses were on hand for the Normandy invasion.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

#15: Thanks for that link. My mother had Parkinson, and the last five years of her life were made pretty dysfunctional and miserable by it.

About research vs. immediate application: The rot started well back in the 90s, as the "research" arms of major corporations got rebranded to "technology" or otherwise disappeared. To short-sighted executroids, "technology" is something you can sell today, but "research" is just a money-sink.

and Bob's your uncle!

You know my Uncle Bob? The next time you see him say "Hi" from me.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

One of the problems with peoples' expectations about science is that, on numerous occasions, science and engineering have produced impressive results in relatively short times.

The problem with this is that people don't hear (or think) about all that came before this.

In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt authorized research into nuclear weapons. Four years later, Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Only 49 years after the discovery of radioactivity.

In 1962 John Kennedy said "We choose to go to the Moon." Seven years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were on the the Moon.

Twenty-five years after the first use of the V-2 rocket (and a whopping 705 years after the first verified use of a rocket).

In 1942 the decision was made to mass produce penicillin. Two years later over two million doses were on hand for the Normandy invasion.

Fourteen years after the discovery of penicillin, and a solid 70-80 years after the work of Pasteur and Koch.

Eamon Knight @ #47: I agree. Too many managers think research is a money sink. We should beat them over the head with the fact that the first lasers were pure research and so was the internet. These stupid bastards are just looking for someone to do the basics for them so they can coast in and grab the credit and the dough. Snarl.

By --PatF in Madison (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

I love this one @ 1:32 -- "medical miracles do not happen simply by accident, they result from painstaking and costly research..."
Ooops, someone finally called that god fellow out...and all this time so many people have been giving him the credit.
Happy Monkey PZ!

PZ - Thanks for such a wonderful post. Along with Obama's lovely speech, and lovelier action today, this short essay says what needs to be said about the enemies of progress.

addendum re Stem cell research itself:

While true that stem cell research has some promising potential, people need to be aware that nothing may come out of stem cell research directly aside from some new knowledge.
But, to a scientist, or even a layman with a scientific bent, the new knowledge itself should be an end worthy of seeking!
If I had money to endow a research project on it I would.

This isn't the only pushback on Obama's decision as this story shows. The next step for supporters of science is to contact their local Congresscritters to continue the President's initiative by restoring federal funding to this line of science research.

Oy vey. Dude. Science is hard. That's why it takes from 4-7 years to complete a PhD in biomedical science. Does he think we're all just living the good life over in the lab, twiddling our thumbs and readin blogs? ;)

Shucks, it looks like PZ burned his bridges with Steven Milloy. I was hoping that he might be able to get me a personally autographed copy of Milloy's upcoming book:
Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

I just finished the comments, but have not yet watched Obama's speech. But just the thought of Our President quoting the late, great Richard Feynman made my chest tighten, a lump rise in my throat, and tears of awed and disbelieving joy well up in my eyes.

Green Moron Hell: How Environmentalists Creotards Plan to Control Your Life Base and What You Can Do to Stop Them.

easy.

send them up the bomb.

SF:
FU

Yay, the Bush restrictions are over. Embryonic stem cell research is - almost - able to be federally funded! Now just wait for Congress to overturn the Clinton restrictions on the research (that is, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment) and the research money can start flowing in!

Chimp:
"Your comedy sucks as bad as your understanding of science and religion."

Science and religion? Green Hell? I thought it was about devils and damnation and what would happen to atheists when they die. I got better things to do than read science and religion. Forget it, I don't need a copy.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Rev BigDumbChimp wrote (about Silver 'Invalidated his own religion' Fox):

Your comedy sucks as bad as your understanding of science and religion.

I don't know, I'm fairly sure most of the readers here spend a lot of time laughing at what he posts.

Oh, you meant intentional comedy? My bad.

By Wowbagger (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Finally got a chance to see the full video. A refreshing attitude compared to the previous 8 years. I think our new President understands enough of science to be realistic about the need to investigate, and also that it may take a while for promising discoveries to pan out. Now, can congress appropriate some money?

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Good news for Americans and probably the world.

Bad news for scientists around the world who no longer have the edge. (I guess)

Also, this site is just funny http://www.badpaintingsofbarackobama.com/

I couldn't resist. Enjoy pharygulovers!

PatF in Madison:

Too many managers think research is a money sink. We should beat them over the head with the fact that the first lasers were pure research and so was the internet.

I couldn't agree more. I spent a mercifully short time working in an industrial lab (the job market really sucked at the time). Research--even the applied kind--was a bad word. There was no need for it, since they'd been making essentially the same product for many years, and minor changes in raw materials could be accommodated by having plant engineers tweak the manufacturing process.

But along came one of the oil crises. Suddenly the petroleum-based feedstock they'd been using for years was no longer available, and the new stuff was significantly different. Since they didn't really understand the fundamental chemistry behind their own process, they had no choice but to try an inefficient, panic-driven shotgun approach to solve the problems.

While they were busy chasing their tails, more nimble/less arrogant competitors moved in, and their market share dropped from about 65 percent to around 25 in less than two years. Since I had fled back to grad school by the time everything came apart, I could safely point and laugh.

We should beat them over the head with the fact that the first lasers were pure research and so was the internet.

True, but Internet development was funded by ARPA (a government agency). Lasers were developed simultaneously at Bell Labs, Hughes, and Columbia University (with government funding). The reality is that very few corporate labs can afford to do world-class basic research on their own dime. The exceptions include Bell Labs, IBM Watson Research Center, Xerox PARC, and Microsoft Research -- all run by giant corporations with monopolies or near-monopolies on their markets (and all targets of government anti-trust action). So I don't see anything wrong with taxpayers footing the bill for the basics and letting corporations profit from productization. In the end we get paid back through a growing economy and improved standard of living.

By Gregory Kusnick (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Pz -I've read it right in my local liberal newspaper --articles about adult stem cell research, umbilical cord research, and all kinds of research that have produced fruit --without experimenting on embryos.

It is very grisley to experiment on potential babies this way. I suppose you are for cloning as well. Scientists can be overly zealous at the expense of human beings. History is replete with examples. Research on embryos is one of them.

Duh, science too hard, me just wanna watch TV and drink beer. Burp.

It should be clarified --no one is against stem cell research. It's the embryonic research that is objectionable --including research on aborted fetuses. And also cloning ourselves to get spare parts or to replace a child. Grisley thoughts, all.

Science unfettered by ethical considerations will do a lot of things even YOU people here won't like.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." When we weigh our research options in light of moral considerations, I believe we please God. When we are heedless of Him, we tend to be heedless of ethics --in any area of life. I have a healthy reverential "fear" --respect for God's displeasure about man's inhumanity to man, about man's disregard for goodness.

Oh dear, Barb is here to lecture to us about the "Silent Holocaust". Barb, dear, I have a question. How many blastulas has you body discharged over the years?

Your womb is a killing field.

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Barb,

How short your memory is, barb. I already schooled you on what your own bible says about abortion - that your god thinks it's A-OK, since infants less than a month old have no value. Are you calling those who wrote the bible liars?Or are you suggesting your own (supposedly omni-everything) god made a mistake?

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. stupidity - because no such creature exists."

Fixed it for you.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

This Milloy character sounds like he's been spending too much time playing Civilization and not enough reading history books.

It's the embryonic research that is objectionable --including research on aborted fetuses.

The foetus is already dead, the least you could do to respect it is use it to help the lives of others. Would you prefer that the aborted embryo / foetus just be discarded and be of no use to anyone?

Barb pontificates:

When we are heedless of Him, we tend to be heedless of ethics --in any area of life.

On the contrary. One cannot be truly moral until one matures beyond the infantile--but extremely powerful--fear of gods.

This takes a kind of courage and strength of character that many don't possess.

By castletonsnob (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Wowbagger, the ability to forget knowledge is essential to being a loving testifier for god, like out dear Barb. Otherwise, she would remember the torments we have for her. If she was smart, she would not bother.

Oh, to be dumb and desperate to save souls. No, wait. Why would I engage in such an annoying activity?

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Barb the Tard:
So what if blastocysts are potential babies? Your insane desire to view them as people when they are nothing more than undifferentiated cells is a monstrous concept. Your god beliefs are irrelevant to science because there is no god. He is but a fairy tale, eventually to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Meanwhile, you cretins keep interfering with the progress of mankind. When I think of how far science might have achieved if godbots like you had not stood in the way of it, I despair. Note this - science will always win; it always has. But it has to fight endlessly against morons like you.

By Lee Picton (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Dr. Hoofnagel thinks Obama’s stem cell research ban reversal is little more than symbolic.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Barb, two questions:

1) What is the fundamental difference between an embryonic stem cell and an adult skin-cell turned stem-cell? (other than the fact that one seems more likely to cause cancer)

2) If it were found that an adult skin-cell turned stem-cell could be coaxed into becoming an embryo, would you then have the same moral objections to that research as you do to embryonic stem cell research?

By Leigh Shryock (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Right...so...embryos are babies because Barb loves God. It's all so clear now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folding@Home

I'm all for research. In between playing violent video games I let me PS3 join the collective that is the most powerful supercomputer network in the world, ever. We hit 5 PetaFLOPs of processing power in February.

Although not stem cell research, simulation of protein folding is one of those research programs that targets a wide range because it is basic research.

Accurate simulations of protein folding and misfolding enable the scientific community to better understand the development of many diseases, including sickle-cell disease (drepanocytosis), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, mad cow disease, cancer, Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and other aggregation-related diseases.[4] More fundamentally, understanding the process of protein folding — how biological molecules assemble themselves into a functional state — is one of the outstanding problems of molecular biology. So far, the Folding@home project has successfully simulated folding in the 5-10 microsecond range — a time scale thousands of times longer than it was previously thought possible to model.

5-10 microseconds might sound small, but with a PS3 you can watch the folding in real time, and it's basically simulating the molecular jiggling of individual atoms.

Note the mention of cancer there, as PZ pointed out, potential cures are going to come from multiple directions of research.

If anyone would like to get a PS3 and join the research, the system is down to $400 and uses about 200 watts while running Life@Playstation. That's Folding@Home on the system with graphic modeling of the protein folding, active network mapping, Earth modeling with real time weather and Google news reports. Just need a broadband connection to be part of the network.

As a bonus, the PS3 is not only pretty much the best Blu-ray player on the market, but it even plays video games! Imagine that.

From the Reuters article today by David Alexander:

The move made it possible for federally funded researchers to work with human embryonic stem cells from a variety of sources, not just the few batches Bush had approved.
Officials at the National Institutes of Health, who had chafed under the Bush policy, said they would start to draw up new guidelines within the four-month timeline set by Obama.
They said they may start accepting applications for grants before they finish. "The end goal is to ensure responsible and scientifically worthy human stem cell research," said acting NIH deputy director Lawrence Tabak.
Tabak expressed appreciation that Obama had left all scientific questions to the NIH to decide.

Whether it is symbolic gesture or not, it is an executive order and it really doesn’t matter what any of us think about it. If I am reading this correctly the NIH will decide the guidelines for this research. I guess I am wondering how many frozen human embryos will be needed? Hundreds? Thousands? Will they be created especially for the research or will they use embryos that already exist in the IVF labs that are the least likely to ever be adopted/implanted? I hope destitute young women won’t donate their eggs foolishly just to make money. I can see many ethical questions that will arise whether one is a believer or not. Yes, I am squeamish about this and yes I have family members that have died from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. I support scientific research in general, but I hope the guidelines drawn up will address the valid concerns of all Americans.

By Louise Van Court (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Barb has shown time and time again that she cannot answer ANY of the questions that are posed of her. She can only type a few lines (no doubt while blessing herself many times as she does so) and then .. well I don't know what she does in her spare time, but it most likely involves being a self-righteous, ignorant... well... dickhead. I bet she feels like she is a sword-wielding christian though, saving the world from destruction.
If the world were run by people like Barb, we would still be thinking schizophrenics were possessed by demons and diseases were a punishment from god....
oh.. wait...

Good news indeed.

One issue,

“As a person of faith I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering”

It is subtle statements like this that lead to people believing you must have faith to be a decent human being

Why must the word faith even be involved?

By Perplexed (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Barb:

It's the embryonic research that is objectionable --including research on aborted fetuses.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos, not from fetuses. It's right there in the name. For those don't know the difference, an embryo is the developmental stage from the time a fertilized egg first divides until the eighth week of development. Thereafter, it is called a fetus. EMBYONIC stem cells do not come from aborted fetuses. In fact, those used in scientific research are embryos that were created for in vitro fertilization treatments (which often creates more embryos than are used in the process). It is these unused embryos that would otherwise be disposed of that are used in research. They consist of a few cells, and have nerves, no brain, no eyes, no hands...no features we would recognize as human, and no ability to feel anything. That is not the same thing at all as a fetus.

By cactusren (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

@cactusren

So basically...

Embryo = Hard-boiled egg
Fetus = Balut

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Yup...that pretty much sums it up.

By cactusren (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

cactusren:

They consist of a few cells, and have nerves, no brain, no eyes, no hands...no features we would recognize as human, and no ability to feel anything. That is not the same thing at all as a fetus.

Careful - she's done a whole lot of mental wrangling and intellectual self-deprivation to keep from learning or realizing specific, empirical facts like those. Any info other than the talking points that have been fed to her about stem cell reasarch might upset that little apple cart.

Now that I think about it, I doubt that cart is in danger of toppling anytime soon...

@misc, #21
Yeah, I am having a problem getting the feed as well. I get "Error: XML Parse Error" when trying to load the feed with my Firefox Sage reader. It would seem other ScienceBlogs blogs aren't suffering the same problem.

Gah...#87 should say "no nerves..."

@ brokenSoldier: yeah, I'd be willing to bet she has a pretty sturdy apple cart. But I get annoyed by such obvious and simple errors, and feel the need to correct them. And even if Barb ignores me, it might clarify things for someone else...

By cactusren (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

"As a person of faith I believe WE ARE CALLED to care for each other and work to ease human suffering”

"Why must the word faith even be involved?"

Why? You are asking why?

Because as a person of FAITH she is CALLED to care.
Suppose you are an atheist with no faith in the caller. How are you going to get the call. You have disconnected your phone (FAITH). You are out of the loop. The network can't reach you. You are in what we call a dead zone.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

As I understand it, Milloy's point is not that science is or ought to be the sort of thing which produces cures at the drop of a hat but, instead: insofar as science is not that sort of thing, we may have better ways to spend our public dollars.

Better still (and, I admit, this is a highly charitable reading of Milloy): sure, science is valuable, and some amount of public money should be spent on it. However, funding stem cell research is being justified to the public -- by politicians if not by scientists -- in terms of its medicinal potential, and the public has been -- due in part to general ignorance and due in part to manipulation on the part of various non-scientist celebrities -- misled into believing that stem cells have more immediate medical promise than they actually do. Thus insofar as stem cells do not in fact have this promise, we should scale back our willingness to fund them, as compared, say, to other medical research, or, say, as compared to paying off our debts to China.

Silverfox, you miss the point. I think Perplexed was wondering why someone/something has to call us to care for each other and ease suffering. Plenty of atheists are compassionate without any supernatural being telling them to be--ergo, it is unnescesary to invoke god or religion at all when saying that humans should be compassionate towards one another.

By cactusren (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Posted by: Silver Fox | March 10, 2009

Because as a person of FAITH she is CALLED to care.
Suppose you are an atheist with no faith in the caller. How are you going to get the call. You have disconnected your phone (FAITH). You are out of the loop. The network can't reach you. You are in what we call a dead zone.

Silly old goat, the only dead zone around here is that area contained by your skull. Seriously, you think that atheists do not do work that provide comfort for others?

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

he thinks science ought to be more like a vending machine: put in your nickel

"Nickel?"

Dude, you're carbon-dating yourself. :P

"it is unnecessary to invoke god or religion at all when saying that humans should be compassionate towards one another."

Well that's all fine and good but not being in sync with the divine volition are you really "true blue" or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Silly old goat, you are full of shit. If this is true, why would atheists be trying to impress each other? And why would atheists spend time trying to impress the likes of you?

And it is not at all arrogant to think that only people who can be decent are people like you.

Asshole.

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?

Right, because I get my "thrill-seeking" kicks out of charity and volunteering, and the best way I know how to be all self-serving is to...help others? Really? Do you even read your own words before you hit the post button?

So enough about my motivations... what about yours? It seems to me that yours is merely servile compliance in hopes for a reward after your lights go out. I care because my emotions tell me to - not because a book or some ethereal being tells me to. Come to think of it, having to be told who and what to care about isn't actually being moral at all - its simply being obedient. Congrats!

Perplexed @ #86: Obama said what he said about faith because he's required to. He has to justify this policy change to people of faith in terms that acknowledge their faith. That's what the "called to care for each other" language is about. To make that speech without some such language would be politically untenable.

By Gregory Kusnick (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

" it is unnecessary to invoke god or religion at all when saying that humans should be compassionate towards one another."

"Silly old goat, you are full of shit.
Asshole."

I don't know how much more of this "compassion" I can take. It's beginning to overwhelm me.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

SF:

but not being in sync with the divine volition are you really "true blue" or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?

Really, Siver Fox? "Thrill seeking" atheists? Is that what I'm doing when I donate my anonymous monthly sum to the Grameen organisation? I'm showing off to my neighbours when I donate blood and plasma and put myself on the list for organ donation when I die? When I volunteer at the animal shelter and muck out the cat boxes I'm merely showboating to other animal carers?

Question, though: How do they know I'm actually an atheist and only in it for the kicks I'm getting from the approval of my fellow hedonistic non-Zeus-worshippers? It's not like we have a place where we all gather once a week to slap each other on the back in smug piety, or a metal pendant we hang from our necks to remind others of our Specialness, or some weird and creepy hand gesture we make to point out to others what good atheists we are.

So please tell me how we "self-serving" thrill seekers can be sure that we're successfully impressing our neighbours when we -- like honest citizens with only our immediate lives to enjoy -- only pretend to do kind things for each other.

By Happy Trollop (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Silver 'By my own logic Christianity is no more valid than atheism' Fox wrote:

Well that's all fine and good but not being in sync with the divine volition are you really "true blue" or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?

As opposed to the showboating of those run-of-the-mill guilt-ridden, self-serving theists who are doing it to suck up to God because they fell for the scam that was Pascal's Wager?

Besides, what does it matter what the motivation is? Still, I'm not surprised that a Christian can't see that doing good for people is its own reward, rather than a way to score brownie points with the hateful sky-monster.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Well that's all fine and good but not being in sync with the divine volition are you really "true blue" or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?

Of course, the same claim of "showboating" could be made about you.

Do you really believe in God, or is that just something that you repeat to people to impress them?

I don't know how much more of this "compassion" I can take. It's beginning to overwhelm me.

You could always give up and leave forever. You don't need to showboat for us. Save it for your religious friends.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

OT: Apparently Facilis has made it big! He's been quoted at FSTDT.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

"doing good for people is its own reward, rather than a way to score brownie points with the hateful sky-monster."

You see that's just the point. If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others. "Its own reward"? Yes when the fat lady sings. I think there are a lot of closet theist on this site. It's okay, you can "come out". PZ won't dungeon you.

By Silver Fox (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

You see that's just the point. If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others.

*facepalm*

Good job making my point for me, SF. That does make things a lot easier.

@Silver Fox

If the network gave me nothing but threatening calls (or else) or telemarketers promising one version of paradise or another as my only reasons to be good, of course I'd have it disconnected.

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Okay. I understand that there's good reason to use embryonic stem cells in research.

Still. I just feel like there's something important being lost.

I mean, what am I going to spread on my bagels now?

By JFK, hyperchar… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Silver 'I stupidly invalidated my own Christianity via my inability to disprove other gods' Fox wrote:

You see that's just the point. If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others. "Its own reward"? Yes when the fat lady sings.

Ah, sociopathy Christian love at its finest.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

"A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." - Albert Einstein

It doesn't make sense to look out for others if you're an atheist?

FYI, I did a quick poll at the emergency department I run. Figures are rounded a bit, but this was what I got from the doctors:

Atheist 60%
Agnostic 30%
Believer (muslim & Xian) 10%

Clearly we're all in it for the money.

I reminded myself of that last week while spending several hours dealing with one of out frequent-flier alcoholics. And you know what - I can even manage to care sincerely about him, unlike my 'religious' colleagues who are all too eager to duck out of having anything to do with him.

Tell me, SF, why do my religious colleagues care less about him than I do? I am a 7/7 atheist - no doubts whatsoever. Explain to me why I care?

By tielserrath (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

You see that's just the point. If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others. "Its own reward"? Yes when the fat lady sings.

So the central tenet of your faith is meaningless to you unless you get something in return? You know "Love your neighbour as you love yourself".

I think you just failed your entrance exam.
Going down! Mind the doors!

On a same subject but different note.

If i, as a woman.. would like to donate all my eggs to get fertelised and than used for stemcell research.. where would i go?

I don't want any kids and i feel guilty for just letting them bleed out every month.

Silver Fox, sadly, you must be a damaged, empty person if you can't comprehend how helping others feels rewarding in and of itself.

And you're an idiot if you can't comprehend why altruism and compassion would be beneficial traits in a social species.

Pascalle, IIRC, no embryonic lines will be created specifically for research. Leftovers and unwanted embryos created for IVF will be used instead of being discarded. You could, however, donate your eggs for IVF where you'd have a chance to help an infertile woman have the kids she desires, and maybe have some end up in research. Two good deeds in one.

Ragutis:
I have thought about that as well.. I have even looked up a clinic that's nearest where i live (i live in the netherlands and there is a clinic that accepts donations in belgium)

I wouldn't mind people having "my" kids, sometimes it also feels like such a waste to not spread those 165+ iq genes.
But sometimes i just don't know.. I always think that people (even in that clinic) will find me odd.

This is great news for sicence.

PZ you said:

"But of course significant advances have been made in this line of research, it's just that Milloy isn't competent to know about them, let alone report on them. As one example, we've made progress in understanding the triggers that can induce the stem cell state, work that lays the foundation for turning somatic cells into new tissues at will. This is the kind of work that the anti-stem-cell Luddites want scientists to do, but they ignore the fact that it depends on understanding the stem cell state."

That is a point that you don't hear being made anywhere near often enough in discussions of hESC and iPS cells, though it is one that Shinya Yamanaka (the iPS pioneer) has made on several occasions.

Ugh, it seems that the intellectual black hole left from the Bush maladministration is still active in the circles that created it.

Being smart in this world is a hell in itself. The future is hot and bereft of biodiversity, probably compounded with war for dwindling resources and coastline. Let the dumber ones make their own children; we are each the punchline, but their offspring will be mercifully less cognizant of the joke.

By JFK, hyperchar… (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

Boy, Barb and Silver Fox can't see the point for inane rhetoric. Between them there might actually be one brain. And don't confuse them with the facts. Stupid delusional trolls.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I see that SF is about this morning. Welcome back. You may be disappointed by the number of theists you encounter, closet or otherwise. I will differ with you in that if you wish to become more knowledgeable about that which you comment on, you have few better things to do than to read about science. Religion not so much since there have been so many that almost anything you can come up with is held as divine truth somewhere.

Happy Trollop @105 has it spot on. No regular meetings, no cheesy icons to wear, just the work itself for a reward.

To the Steve Milloys of the world, science denialism is a wonderful way to make money. Whether it's climate denialism, HIV denialism, ozone-hole denialism, smoking-causes-cancer denialism, or what have you, Milloy's site is one-stop shopping for anti-science conspiracy theorists I don't think he even cares about the truth. Milloy gives prebiotic slime a bad name.

By Ray Ladbury (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

"Boy, Barb and Silver Fox can't see the point for inane rhetoric."

Possibly; I think it could be as likely that they get the idea, but choose the insane (= dishonest) rhetoric because it makes them points with others on their side.

I've already encountered people in my area spreading the "legalized baby killing", "cloning is here" line. Two are on record as saying that would be their approach, simply in an attempt to raise resistance against this policy. I suspect that's the goal of both barb and SF.

I need to confess something to all of you on this blog: I brought BARB into the blogosphere. Wait, don't pick up your stones yet until you've heard me out.

I run my own blog, The Man with the Muck-rake, back in Toledo. One day an editorial appeared in the local newspaper that piqued my interest. It was the usual gay-bashing nonsense penned by an oh-so righteous fundamentalist. I blogged about the hatefulness and lo and behold, its author, Barbara R., appeared in the comments of my blog.

Her righteousness, biblical quotations and bigotry dripped from each verbose set of comments she made. Sometimes she would lay 500 words of pap upon us at a time. She was so happy in creating havoc on my blog that, shortly thereafter, she began her own righteous, biblical, and homophobic blog.

Her utter disdain for common courtesy nearly shut down an international blog run out of France. The original team members of that blog had tired everything to get her to stop posting her crap there. At last, after someone Photoshopped her head attached to a nude hanging on a cross, did she 'get it' and ceased harassing their blog.

She 'visits' as many 'godless' sites as she can in order to teach them the ways of God [and homophobia]. Many have been ravaged by her actions. She gets a kick out of doing that, but her severe religious OCD will not allow her to give up on bring the Gospel and the words of Deuteronomy and Leviticus to all she encounters.

Her science ken is vacuous, as you have noted above, but that does not stop her. She views a blastocele as an embryo or as a fetus or a baby. Facts never inhibit her righteousness because, the Bible tells her so.

Mea Culpa, mea maxima culpa!

You may now pick up your stones, ala the Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery.

Posted by: Silver Fox | March 10, 2009

" it is unnecessary to invoke god or religion at all when saying that humans should be compassionate towards one another."

"Silly old goat, you are full of shit.
Asshole."

I don't know how much more of this "compassion" I can take. It's beginning to overwhelm me.

Silly old goat, you are the one who is making the claim that people like me are not truly able to act in an ethical manner. You deny me my basic humanity. Not very compassionate.

In my treatment of you, I am merely using bad words> I do not make the argument that theists cannot be decent people for I can see that is not true. But I would argue that their decency is not rooted to their religion.

Fuck off you stupid and disingenuous old goat. Isn't time for you to swallow an other nugget from VD?

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

PZ...

Would you consider writing a response to this story? I would love to have someone write an educated reply with a more accurate depiction of the duty of science. I, unfortunately, am not qualified.

If not PZ, will someone write a response. Without a scientist's reply, plenty of people out there will read this and decide that this research is worthless... (plently will decide that even with a scientist's reply)

The degree of contempt I have always held for Dubya can never be overestimated; for seven years he prevented our best minds from even looking for possible solutions that beckon from the realm of embryonic stem cell research. In those seven years, maybe, just maybe, another medication could have been developed for the dear husbeast. As a slow progressor with ALS, he will still be around for a few years (maybe), but there is no way for stem cell research to produce something useful in that time, and (unless his bad heart brings him a merciful death sooner), he will become increasingly disabled, until nothing remains of him but the ability to move his eyes - his brilliant mind will be trapped in a useless body. The small consolations, all produced by SCIENCE, are that he will have many ways to communicate with his loved ones and the world through computerized technology - for that at least I am grateful. I shudder to think of what it must have been like for the ALS sufferers of an earlier generation.
So to Barb and the other poisonous obstructionist cretins with their hypocritical self-righteousness and slavish devotion to their genocidal thug of a deity, I wish a hearty fuck you. Be assured that I joined the ranks of outspoken atheists a number of years ago, and sincerely hope that my lack of fear translates into others doing the same. You cretins deserve the ash heap; I only wish I could live long enough to see it.

By Lee Picton (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I think there are a lot of closet theist on this site.

I'll take Moronic Wishful Thinking for $400, Alex.

Do you want to know why I volunteer, Silver Fox? Because I care about other people! Not because some invisible man in the sky tells me that, if I don't volunteer, I'll go to hell. I do it because I care about other people. That's it.

Or, how about when my friend's friend passed away, and she called me, becasue she needed a distraction? I spent time with her, because I care about her. I didn't spend time with her to make good with some invisible man in the sky.

Unlike you, my motivation is other people, not some dude that doesn't exist. I don't NEED something or someone else to tell me to be good; I JUST AM, or at least, I try to be.

I find it kind of scary that you think, without your god, you'd be unable to do any good. That's just freakin' creepy, man.

@46,

Not exactly accurate. It would be more accurate to say that people's expectations are unrealistic because they do not understand the full scope of the science behind such events. They see the event and presume that everything important to that event happened right then.

Nuclear research was going on for years in several countries before FDR organized the Manhattan Project. Research into jet and rocket technology that eventually made the Apollo program possible had been going on since the 1920s and earlier. The discovery of penicillin came about independent of the need for mass production.

In each case the basic scientific concepts and research came about in advance of those notable accomplishments. Only when the concepts and technology had proved itself to have real potential did government and industry gave them the directions that we historically think of as inevitable.

Without WWII it's possible that we would have had viable nuclear power before nuclear weapons. Without the Cold War we probably would still be working toward getting man into Low Earth Orbit due to the enormous cost. It's even less likely that we would have landed on the moon.

Penicillin would probably have entered mass production regardless due to the economic benefits it provided at such a low monetary cost to the individual. But the basic research had all ready been accomplished when the decision for mass production came about.
It is the failure of people to understand the full scope of science that creates this vending machine view. If the average person really understood how the many layers of scientific research build up over several years, decades, or even centuries into such events we probably wouldn’t have this point of view. Well, it wouldn’t be so bad.

By DGKnipfer (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

The state of Georgia is about to pass legislation that would give personhood and civil rights to embryos. This would make all research using stem cells illegal in Georgia. It would also make IVF and other fertility treatments illegal since embryos found to have defects could not be destroyed. So in this crap economy Georgia will lose a huge chunk of scientific research jobs and the fertility industry will leave the state. This is the state where Emory University and Georgia Tech are located. I attended one of them and they are top notch science universities. Many of the scientists on the NASA missions are from Ga Tech. Now the Georgia Right To Life people want us to go back in time 100 years. They also offer no care or shelter for abandoned or defective embryos that the owners can no longer afford to care for. So fertility clinics would be held responsible for their upkeep forever to keep from being charged with a crime. I wonder just how many embryos or adopted children the members of the Georgia Right To Life have taken as their own?

PZ -

What Milloy, Princeton University legal scholar Robert George - whom I had heard this morning on the Bill Bennett radio talk show - and others of their ilk don't understand is exactly the point which you make, that for us to understand how human tissues originate and differentiate, then we have to start with embryonic stem cells, not adult stem cells. There are ample legal and scientific ethical safeguards present in the Institutional Review Boards of every major research-oriented college, university, medical center or institute I can think of, including yours. That, sadly, is an important distinction which critics of Obama's decision have overlooked.

John

By John Kwok (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

PZ points out that even "failed" research is useful: "what we have is a strong foundation for plunging deeper into the mechanisms."

But does he have any evidence that this Steven Milloy person would even entertain the idea that living things are mechanisms? It sounds like what he wants is a miracle, not a better understanding of the mechanisms of living things.

By AmericanGodless (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I am continually amazed at how Christians who claim to be compassionate people are more than willing to put their religious and ideological "principles" ahead of the relief of human suffering. Stem cells, abortion, birth control -- their conviction that embryos are full human beings, despite a lack of Biblical injunction to that effect, and that sex is bad (for which they do have some Biblical backing), has led to far more human suffering than the churches have relieved with all their good works.

As the spouse of a paraplegic, I also have a personal stake in the stem-cell issue. I rather doubt my wife will see the benefits of this research, especially since 8 years have passed since her injury -- just about the amount of time that research has been hobbled thanks to the self-righteous and inhumane policy that has been in place until now.

By Invigilator (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I am not a professional scientist, yet I find the arguments on this site very coherent and accessible. Thanks.

By uppity cracka (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

SilverFox: You see that's just the point. If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others.

Thanks for coming out and claiming to be evil. Any ideology/theology/poetic nonsense that gives you cover is therefore itself fundamentally evil. QED and all that -- SilverFox is proof that Christianity is an abomination (throw in your favorite Abrahmaic religion for Christianity), a beard for the amoral and positively immoral. The unfortunate good folks in those folds are unwitting accomplices in positive evil by hiding these monsters and perverts among themselves.

Hi there, Invigilator at #140:
I see we have much in common; the husbeast is not yet a paraplegic, though he will be, soon enough. At least society is beginning to realize how important the role of caregiver is. Ain't it just great how the imbeciles of religion manage to turn our road into a steeplechase?

By Lee Picton (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I've only quickly skimmed this thread, so please forgive my drive-by commenting. First frog:

PZ: you don't do science with the immediate goal of finding cures.

I've never agreed with you more, PZ. It's why the whole NIH model is bad science and a waste of money.

I agree with PZ's fundamental point, but not so much with the conclusion you draw: It's NIH, not NIS, and while you might not do science with the immediate goal of finding cures, it doesn't necessarily follow that you don't do public health with that goal. But if we're going to do public health, I'd hope we're doing it in a manner that's consistent with good science.

I actually think there's a need for both applied (i.e., goal-oriented) research and basic research. I don't see the two as in conflict; rather, I see the former as a customer for the results of the latter. Where there's a compelling public interest, we should eagerly fund both basic and applied research... and we should insist that both are carried out on a fundamentally sound, scientific bases, and are kept independent of political meddling (in which category I include religiously motivated political meddling).

On the question of what motivates moral behavior (i.e.,...

If you don't have a chip in the big pot, it doesn't make sense to look out for others.

...and similar), let me stipulate for the sake of argument that, absent a god-belief, we do good for others solely for the sake of self-gratification. That is, say that nobody ever does anything for anybody for any reason other than it makes them feel good, or brings them some other benefit. Now let me ask...

So what??

Let's say I give my wife and daughter gifts at Christmas and their birthdays only because it pleases me to do so. I'm entertained by the act of shopping for and choosing gifts, and their pleasure in receiving the gifts makes me feel good about myself. It's entirely selfish. However... that doesn't make the gifts any less valuable to them!

If someone rushes into a burning building to save your life, SF, does the fact that s/he does so only for the self-congratulatory purpose of feeling like (and being hailed as) a hero make you any less dead?

This current, natural, fleeting life IS the only "big pot" there is, and these ARE the "chips"!

I'd argue that "selfishness" as a motivation for good works is A Feature, Not a Bug™, and that feeling personally gratified by doing good for others is a pro-survival adaptation (note that I'm no sort of expert on evolutionary theory, so consider that a metaphor rather than a true scientific assertion).

I actually don't pretend to be wise enough to know with any certainty what the fundamental roots of altruism truly are; I'm only saying that even in the most cynical, least poetic interpretation, good works are still good, no matter why you do them.

In any case, as others have pointed out, those who claim their morality is grounded in religious belief aren't acting out of pure, selfless altruism anyway: They're motivated by the promise of an eternal reward for themselves... or (unhappily, more often) the fear of eternal punishment. Tell me again why "I do good for others because if I don't Sky-Daddy will torture me forever" is nobler than "I do good for others because it's good for me"?

I would really like to know what qualifies these folks to conclude that nothing good has come out of embryonic stem cell research? Do they have the first clue about what has been done, and the implications thereof?

If they are right and nothing is coming of it, then they don't have to worry. Scientists won't waste time pursuing useless endeavors. Oh sure, some will continue to try, but their colleagues won't give it to them easily.

In fact, the best solution is to put the money into the general NIH fund, and let stem cell researchers compete against everyone else for it. Whether they get funded or not will depend on the quality of the work and the potential gain. Who is to judge whether the work is worth it? The scientists, not the politicians (just like it is done in all other scientific fields).

If embryonic stem cell research is really such a dead end, that will become apparent, and it will be abandoned. Stem cell researchers are like everyone else, they will ulimately have to justify their continued work - not necessarily to the public, but absolutely to the scientific community. Fortunately, scientists have a very different perspective on what is considered "successful" research.

The state of Georgia is about to pass legislation that would give personhood and civil rights to embryos.

"Pass"? As in, make it all the way through the legislative process, get signed by the governor, and take effect? Is there some sort of exception carved out for abortion, to comply with Roe, or are they just serving themselves up as a batting practice pitch for the SCoTUS?

Taken literally, wouldn't this mean every act of heterosexual intercourse without contraception (hereinafter known as "making whoopie") would put the participants at risk of criminal prosecution for reckless homicide/manslaughter? After all, any pregnancy is statistically more likely to result in spontaneous abortion (i.e., to "kill a person," if you call an embryo a person) than any single instance of driving drunk is to result in a fatality; if the latter gets you done for manslaughter, why not the former?

And presumably any woman who was careless with her prenatal care and then suffered a miscarriage would be on the hook for something like first degree manslaughter? Is Georgia a death-penalty state? Are they making plans now to execute both abortion doctors and their patients (murder-for-hire is usually a capital crime)?

Teh stooopid! It burrrrrnzzz!!

Bill: I agree with PZ's fundamental point, but not so much with the conclusion you draw: It's NIH, not NIS, and while you might not do science with the immediate goal of finding cures, it doesn't necessarily follow that you don't do public health with that goal. But if we're going to do public health, I'd hope we're doing it in a manner that's consistent with good science.

Public health should be consistent with science; but it's not science in essence, public health is the application of science. Two distinct things.

Of course we should fund public health. But we shouldn't fund science under the delusion that we are funding public health -- delusions deform everything. It's the Reality Principle -- lying, even with good intentions, is ultimately systematically destructive.

Most NIH science isn't "public health". Yes, the biology may ultimately prove fruitful to public health -- but then it may also prove fruitful for semiconductor research, or climate research, or ecological management. It's fucking Science -- the applications are unknowable until long after the research has been accepted.

Everybody writes grants with "white lies" in them about the "applicability" of their science -- but no one can possibly know that. The funding model is bad and deformative -- it's as if physics research was being done with express purpose of developing better communications systems! That would actually retard the application of physics research, by tying it much to closely with the ultimate goal -- it would look like NIH biological research, where everyone looks under the same lamp post instead of looking in the dark (In biology, you see huge funding going for Protein X, or Y or Z because you can justify it in a grant -- rather than looking for general mechanism that may find the X or Y or Z are ultimately epiphenomena, which is not very fundable).

We should cut the NIH down to actual public health funding levels --- and shift most of the research being done under the auspices of "cancer" or "AIDS" or ... which is not the development of direct applications of already worked out science to some other organization, such as the NIH, and fund them on the basis of their scientific merit, and not on some misguided and ultimately self-defeating notion of "applicability". Really, how much of PZ's work is going to intentionally and clearly result in improved public heath? And yet I bet he gets NIH money, and has to stick in weasel words about how his work will ultimately "help cure X or Y", which only deforms his research and distracts him from making the kind of discoveries that could actually, but unintentionally, "cure ???".

An elderly man once suggested to me that I should work to cure "Parkinson's". He gives lots of cash to Parkinson's research, since he has developed Parkinson's. I didn't have the heart to tell him that more than likely, any therapies won't come out of Parkinson's directed research, but is equally likely to come out of almost any biological research -- if we knew where to look already, we would be 99% of the way to actually developing the therapy and private corporations would be clamoring to fund patent development. Directed funding only works once you already have "the cure" that you want -- once you know the solution (or at least the general form of the solution), then you just have the hard work of nailing down the details and making its delivery cost-effective.

NIH #4 should be NSF (anything but NIH).

which is not the development of direct applications of already worked out science to some other organization, such as the NIH ANYTHING-BUT-NIH, and fund them on the basis of their scientific merit

@ 144,

I have to fundamentally disagree. I do good deeds not because they make me feel good but because they need doing. I give gifts to my family to help make them feel better and/or to give them something they need. If I wanted to give them gifts to make myself feel better I wouldn't have to wait for a holiday or birthday. If it really was about self gratification I’d spend the money on caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and sex.

By DGKnipfer (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

"President Obama signed a bill lifting the Bush restrictions on stem cell research..."

Now that's a stem-ulus package I can believe in.

Malloy is an amoral hack for sale to highest wingnut bidder.

By mayhempix (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

"Posted by: Pierce R. Butler | March 10, 2009 12:46 AM
Dr. Hoofnagel thinks Obama’s stem cell research ban reversal is little more than symbolic."

A bit misleading don't you you think? If you read on he concludes that;

"Ultimately this had to be done because symbolism matters. Yes, ES cells will largely be supplanted by iPSC, because the cells will allow us to study a far broader group of individuals - often with specific medical and genetic conditions - and will allow us to bypass the immunologic issues that would prevent easy implementation of ES cell technologies. However, the fact is that the research should never have been restricted on the basis of a religious belief in ensoulment. From a scientific point of view, life does not "begin". Life is a continuum. Eggs are alive, sperm are alive. The fusion of the two is alive. The pre-implantation embryo is alive, as well as the post-implantation embryo. There is no beginning. No dead state in human reproduction. But certainly you wouldn't equate the value of human life to that of sperm or eggs, and I don't see any rational reason why the fusion of the two is that much more special than the two on their own. To come to the conclusion that a conceptus was somehow more human than its constituents, you must impute some mystical relevance to the process of fertilization.

What we had was a religious ban on science that had to be reversed, and a point that had to made that no one religion should be able to veto scientific research because it conflicts with their dogma."

By mayhempix (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

I have to fundamentally disagree. I do good deeds not because they make me feel good but because they need doing.

Actually, you're not disagreeing with me here: I wasn't asserting that altruism is really selfish; I was only stipulating that worst-case position, for the sake of argument, and asserting that even so it wouldn't stand as an argument that altruism must needs be rooted in a god-belief.

That said...

If it really was about self gratification I’d spend the money on caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and sex.

How sure are you that the brain chemistry involved in Doing Good for Others™ is really all that different? ;^)

SF and Barb are examples of those who are 'god fearing.' They follow the lard -- or else burn in hell. Whatever 'good works' they do is either: 1> out of fear of the lard; 2> to score points with the congregation; or 3> to score points with the lard. For SF to claim that the atheists show compassion to 'show off' is contrary -- anecdotally, FME I've seen those that make SURE others see what good they do are the most 'religious.' Those that show true compassion don't announce it and are the most sincere.

Doesn't that make their god an existential terrorist? See Job for example of their 'loving god.'

At least Cthulu and the Great Old Ones would devour, not just play with, you.

frog:

I don't know enough about the mechanics of publicly funded research to have a useful debate with you, so I'll let it ride.

As an interested citizen, though, I want at least some of the public's research money to go to goal-oriented, applied research. I'm a huge believer in the notion that basic research always returns benefit in the end, but I don't think that automatically means there's never any value in focusing on the actual problems you want to solve.

Posted by: Shadow | March 10, 2009 5:07 PM

FME I've seen those that make SURE others see what good they do are the most 'religious.' Those that show true compassion don't announce it and are the most sincere.

Hence the need for them to regularly gather into groups to enumerate their good deeds, rather than simply doing them and moving on about their day. I mean, if you do it that way, you might not get a gold star from the big guy, and then it'll all have been a waste!

@Shadow and Job:

The story of Job is very interesting. From what I understand, there are two major layers -- a primitive story, and some clerical additions to force it to have the "right message".

The right message is of course that God is a terrorist. But the primitive story is about exactly the opposite -- God is the amoral "vitalistic" force that is beyond good and evil, and honestly could care less about whether you worship him. At most, it makes a fun bet against his siblings -- but that's as far as he actually cares. That God is almost Einstein's God -- he is the universe itself personified.

I think that's pretty good evidence that we should lay the blame on the priests, rabbis, imams, and pastors for the bulk of evil in religion. It's the authoritarianism that comes from authoritarian social structures that drives the worst ideologies/theologies/poetry. Kill the priests, kings and their most rabid followers, and most religion would become fairly reasonable aesthetic choices (Woo that is nobody business but the woower).

BD: As an interested citizen, though, I want at least some of the public's research money to go to goal-oriented, applied research. I'm a huge believer in the notion that basic research always returns benefit in the end, but I don't think that automatically means there's never any value in focusing on the actual problems you want to solve.

I think we essentially agree. What I worry about is that too much science funding goes under the cover of public health. It forces scientists to lie to themselves, and of course they end up believing it which is Not Good. We need public health funding, and we need funding for application -- "translational research". But the proper mechanisms for that are different than those for basic research, the judgments on the merits are different, and the organization should be different.

Just look at the money we've thrown at "curing paralysis". Instead of splitting out basic research from applied research, we've cheated both. Too little of the money goes into applications that in the short to medium term could actually help people with paralysis, and the long term money is chasing pie-in-the-sky cures, rather than in really understanding development and homeostasis of peripheral nerve tissue. We get neither good public health, nor good basic research -- we get instead industrial labs that are primarily good at justifying grants and spending money.

peripheral central.

I'm not reading myself well today.

frog @158:

I rather like the test the FFRF has where they've boiled down the book of Job to: "I tortured him because Satan dared me to."

That's a loving deity.

Of course, the pious point out that Job got back more than he lost (in the end). I doubt the replacements for his wife and children made up for the anguish of losing the 'originals,' though. I'm not sure how I'd feel about the diseases, either. The rest is material goods.

Shadow:

Of course the pious don't point out that the paragraph after the whirlwind looks tacked on. It doesn't fit stylistically at all, just like the justifications for God's behavior by his three friends. The clerics weren't very good artists, unlike the bards of the oral tradition they were stealing from.

Obama describes science as "the urgent work of giving substance to hope, and answering those many bedside prayers"

Everytime I hear Obama talk about science my impression of him actually being a closet-atheist or at least a deist grows. It gives me warm and fuzzy feelings to think that he has the mental fortitude to break away from religious mind slavery and is just talking about his personal "faith" to appease the United Stupid of America.

@Kaderin:

He's definitely conflicted about church/state issues, and it saddens me that someone as blazingly intelligent as President Obama can get bogged down in this slush, but he still comes out way ahead of ... ahhh, you know. The last guy. If you read Dreams From My Father he actually tells us what happened. His father was nominally muslim but not religious, and his mother didn't push faith at him, so he had a good start, but when he came to Chicago and started getting active in politics someone took him aside and told him that if he wanted to be listened to in this country (especially in the African-American community) he needed to be seen as a churchgoing christian. From what I've read United Church of Christ is a fairly progressive subspecies of the genus, so even if he does trip himself up on marriage equality and superstition based initiatives, I manage to keep my hopes up.

By ChicagoMolly (not verified) on 10 Mar 2009 #permalink

The funding model is bad and deformative -- it's as if physics research was being done with express purpose of developing better communications systems!

this is an excellent point, and one of the main reasons I have personally moved away from federal funding for my own research, and instead have focused on getting funding from various nonprofit funding groups.

It's worked out MUCH better, and the grant apps don't have to be fucking novels like they do for NIH and NSF.

I would highly recommend any PhD student or better who is seeking funding for their work (and who isn't, right?) to spend time exploring the nonprofit funding networks.

google is your friend, and there are hundreds of applicable granting foundations for just about any project imaginable.

Moreover, unlike the fed agencies, the nonprofs actually LIKE funding independents who work with other nonprofs; the overhead is so much lower.

Well, you see, Ray has this picture in his head that embryonic stem cells have this tiny little disk-shaped cracker in their nuclei directing all the doings and that's what makes 'em so sacred. He just doesn't like the idea of scientists telling it what to do.

By astrounit (not verified) on 12 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oops: I meant 'Steven' has the picture in his head. Ray too though.

That's what comes of reading multiple posts simultaneously.

By astrounit (not verified) on 12 Mar 2009 #permalink

Well that's all fine and good but not being in sync with the divine volition are you really "true blue" or is this volunteerism on your part a mere showboating for neighbors and friends to let them know that you are not just a run of the mill thrill-seeking, self-serving atheist?
#99

I wonder what is really required to be "in sync" with the "the divine volition?" I would ask, however, how do we know that your volunteering isn't just showboating or keeping up with the Jones'? How do you differentiate the two. All you are doing is splitting this board into "you" and "THEM" categorizes and that is just bad on all accounts.

I would ask everyone, whether this discussion of science has become an argument of religious ideals? And I will further ask, is Barb a perpetual denier of science?

Maybe? Well what makes up a denier (lets do it in general and for all fields)?
If you or anyone you know meets any number of these criteria alarm bells should go off:

1) Have there been any assertions of a conspiracy to suppress the truth? If so did the conspiracy fail to address or explain the observation and only generates more unanswerable questions?

"But let us think about such conspiracies for a moment. Do they stand up to even a cursory evaluation? Is it really possible to make thousands of scientists, from over 100 countries, and every national academy of every country toe the same line, falsify data, and suppress this alleged dissent? I certainly didn't get the memo. At the heart of all denialism are these absurd conspiracy theories that require a superhuman level of control of individuals that simply defies reality."

2) Cherry Picking Data

3) Fake-experts/unqualified and or the recycling of fake-expert quotations as well as the use of documents/findings that have been refuted or proven to be falsified.

4) '"Moving goalposts or impossible expectations"...the tendency to refuse to accept when denialists' challenges to the science have been addressed. Instead, they just come up with new challenges for you to prove before they say they'll believe the theory. Worse, they just repeat their challenges over and over again ad nauseum.

This may be their most frustrating tactic because every time you think you've satisfied a challenge, they just invent a new one. The joke in evolutionary biology is that every time you find a transitional fossil all you do is create two new gaps on the fossil record, one on either side of the discovery. Similarly with global warming denialism, there is no end to the challenges that denialists claim they need to have satisfied before they'll come on board.

It's important to recognise that you shouldn't play their game. They'll never be satisfied because they simply don't want to believe the science – for ideological reasons.'

and 5) Logical fallacies and ad hominem arguments.

If anyone ever reaches all 5 I suggest you give up because they're not looking for knowledge they looking for control.

For these rules applied to climate change and creationists check out: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/mar/10/climate-change-d… I didn't omit or change much.

Unfortunately, I was thinking of Barb when I should have been typing Silver Fox. I hate when I do that.