Propagating the Lie That Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research

In one of today's editorials, "Stem cells and the suffering of real people," the Fish Wrapper editorial board attempts to do two things:

  1. Portray Michael J. Fox as a victim of big, bad Rush Limbaugh
  2. Continue to lead people to believe that embryonic stem cell research actually has promise.

First, they go after Limbaugh:

The scrapbook marked "Ugly" from Campaign 2006 is now nearly closed, but one moment stands out as uniquely grotesque. It almost requires an asterisk: No, we aren't making this up. It wasn't a cruel skit on "Monty Python." It really happened. Radio talker Rush Limbaugh really did accuse actor Michael J. Fox of deliberately avoiding his medications to accentuate the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease and thereby extort public sympathy -- and votes.

What they conveniently leave out are two facts. First, Fox has admitted to doing exactly that - avoiding his meds to accentuate the symptoms of his disease. As quoted by Limbaugh on his radio show:

"I did some research today, and I found his book that was published. It's 'Lucky Man,' 2002, but he admits in the book that before Senate subcommittee on appropriations I think in 1999, September of 1999, he did not take his medication for the purposes of having the ravages and the horrors of Parkinson's disease illustrated, which was what he has done in the commercials that are running for Claire McCaskill and Jim Talent...."

What the editors choose to leave out, however, is that Limbaugh did apologize:

All I'm saying is I've never seen him the way he appears in this commercial for Claire McCaskill. So I will, bigly, hugely, admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act.”

So if he's admitted to staying off of his meds before, then is it not safe to consider that he would do it again?

Another thing to consider when considering the ad he did in support of McCaskill, is the lack of evidence to back up the claims he makes in the ad. In an article entitled Doc Hollywood on the Campaign Trail, National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez takes apart Fox's claims:

Even in an emotionally wrenching package — you see Fox very visibly suffering from his disease as he unnervily jerks back and forth — these claims are familiar and disingenuous. George W. Bush, Jim Talent, Mitt Romney … any politician who has taken any kind of lead in opposing embryonic-stem-cell research (and cloning, which is rarely spoken of, but is a necessary element of much of what embryonic-stem-cell advocates want to do) is all too often portrayed as being against stem-cell research — and hope. In truth, President Bush was the first president of the United States to authorize federal funding for any embryonic-stem-cell research. In correcting a writer from The New Republic back in 2004, my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, “Actually, Bush provided funding for the first time. Congress had essentially banned funding, the Clinton administration issued preliminary regulations getting around the ban, and then Bush imposed a policy of funding with restrictions.”

Further, embryonic-stem-cell research is currently legal and completely unrestricted in both Maryland and Missouri, and in the vast majority of other states. It is largely personal and institutional ethics that keeps scientists from cloning research. The debate we’re having is almost always about government funding or radical measures like the one currently on the ballot in Missouri (Amendment 2), which would write a right to cloning into the state constitution.

Additionally, embryo-destroying stem-cell research is by no means the only or the most promising stem-cell research. Alternative research — including cord-blood research and adult-stem-cell research — is already working, unlike the embryonic-stem-cell research we’re all focused on as if it were a proven cure-all. As Princeton professor Robert P. George, who sits on the president’s bioethics commission, tells National Review Online:

the ads exaggerate the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells beyond anything that Michael J. Fox or anyone else has reasonable grounds to believe they can be used to accomplish. Adult stem cells — stem cells that can be obtained harmlessly from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, fat, and other sources — have actually been used successfully to treat people. They have been used to improve people’s lives. Embryonic stem cells have not helped anyone. No one knows when, if ever, embryonic cells will be used in therapies at all. Indeed, not a single embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in stage one of clinical trials. That is because the tendency of embryonic stem cells to produce tumors makes it unethical to use them in human beings — even in experimental treatments. By contrast, there are more than 1,000 adult-stem-cell-based therapies in clinical trials. In his ads, Michael J. Fox hides these crucial facts, thus creating an appallingly false impression and slandering candidates against whom the ads are directed.”

That brings us to part two; the real facts about stem cell research. What most people aren't aware of (and the DFW editors and reporters certainly aren't in any hurry to talk about), is that only adult stem cells are being used in actual treatments, where embryonic stem cells have yet to contribute to one treatment or therapy. This is explained very clearly by Mary Davenport in an article in The American Thinker:

The popular and appealing actor Michael J. Fox has taken to the airwaves in Senate battleground states Missouri, Maryland, and New Jersey with a highly misleading ad urging defeat of Republican Senatorial candidates opposing the use of taxpayer dollars to fund new embryonic stem cell line research. He states,

“Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s…. But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research.”

Mr. Fox and his ads’ sponsors are guilty of conflating embryonic stem cell research, which the GOP candidates and many Americans oppose for destroying a human life in the name of curing other people’s diseases, with stem cell research in general, which includes adult stem cell research and umbilical cord blood stem cell research.

The only limits in question are on federal funding of new embryonic stem cell lines, requiring the sacrifice of new embryos. Private and state-funded research (California voters are spending six billion dollars borrowing money to fund this) is ongoing. The implicit claim that research based on new embryos is “the most promising” is absurd, completely unsupported by the scientific literature, and an insult to voters, based as it is on the assumption that they are incapable of understanding the issue. Too stupid to tell the difference, is the elitist assumption underlying this campaign.

Flim-flam is a charitable description. Why would federally-funded research be more promising than state- and privately-funded research? And on what possible basis can the claim be made that embryonic stem cell research is more promising than adult stem cell research?

The plain fact is that embryonic stem cell research is proving to be a bust. There are currently 72 therapies showing human benefits using adult stem cells and zero using embryonic stem cells. Scientifically-minded readers can review this medical journal article on the status of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cell therapies are already being advertised and promoted while no such treatments are even remotely in prospect for embryonic stem cell research.

The fact is that adult stem cells have already produced remarkable cures, whereas embryonic stem cells have failed...

But the DFW editors don't let the facts get in the way:

There is no certainty that embryonic stem cell research will yield cures for any of them, of course, and that may be the strangest argument used against it -- that there's no certainty. Of course not. That's the nature of research. But this research is the best hope that hundreds of thousands of Americans have.

The best hope? Really? According to the actual evidence, adult stem cells have the best hope, because actual cures and therapies are being derived from them. This reminds me of the claims of Darwininsts; they keep hoping that the fossil records will vindicate them, but it has yet to happen, even though 99% of all fossil finds have been made since 1859. But I digress...

One final thought. In addition to propagating the lie the the real hope lies in embryonic stem cells, they also continue to whine about a lack of federal funding:

That's why Fox and other supporters of embryonic stem cell research were crushed last summer when President Bush vetoed legislation to expand federal funding. Bush has severely hampered the research by effectively limiting federal funding to work on about 20 lines of embryonic stem cells.

My question is this; why is government funding needed? We are a capitalist nation. When there is promise in research, private funding will be there for it. The fact that researchers are going to government indicates that there is no private funding. And why is there no private money available? Because capitalists know that there is nothing to be gained from further embryonic stem cell research.

To finish off this fine piece of journalism, the Fish Wrapper editors resort to the personal attack:

Has Limbaugh ever met a real-life sufferer from Parkinson's disease? You have to wonder. Maybe he just dwells, toadlike, in the terrarium of his broadcasting studio. He ought to get out more.

That's okay, though. Don't let the facts trip you on the way out, folks.

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