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No stem cell research
March 24, 2004 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Thou shalt not make scientific progress. "Medical research is poised to make a quantum leap that will benefit sufferers from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and other diseases. But George W. Bush's religious convictions stand in its way."
posted by homunculus (45 comments total)

 
Expect more of this daily between now and Nov as Metafilter becomes just another pundit box.

Now, just so I don't complain without trying to help, how about we decide that all FPP's are going to be honorary "Flash Friday" till the elections are over?
posted by soulhuntre at 10:02 PM on March 24, 2004


I agree, but all the bad news seems to come out on friday..
is thursday good?
posted by Elim at 10:08 PM on March 24, 2004


Thou shall pander to thine religious base.
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 PM on March 24, 2004


Thou shall shalt pander to thine religious voting base.

Easy there. Bush is just a slightly dumber & luckier politician - as much as it may rub against the grain here, it'd be a mistake to cast him as a zealot
posted by Ryvar at 10:33 PM on March 24, 2004


sleepy addendum: feel free to characterize every other person in his administration besides Condi and Powell (both of whom have their own problems) as a nutbag zealot for a pseudo-religious cause, though.
posted by Ryvar at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2004


Well shoot, folks, did anybody actually read the article? Seems like a fairly balanced look at what's happening (just judging by the fact that it doesn't try to trash anybody in particular.)

Something just sprang off my cuff and demanded attention: Has anybody ever looked at public figures position on stem cell research vs. their age? I have a feeling that the older peeps don't expect any personal benefit from all of this. And I do not own a tin-foil hat.
posted by skyscraper at 10:43 PM on March 24, 2004


how about we decide that all FPP's are going to be honorary "Flash Friday" till the elections are over?

Darn, I knew I should have posted this instead.
posted by homunculus at 10:49 PM on March 24, 2004


this issue is one that has a friend of mine who is staunch bush supporter and one that is actively involved in the medical community ready to jump ship ...


drip drip drip
posted by specialk420 at 11:01 PM on March 24, 2004


Easy there. Bush is just a slightly dumber & luckier politician - as much as it may rub against the grain here, it'd be a mistake to cast him as a zealot

He talked about god telling him it was ok to invade Iraq. That pretty much marks him as a zealot in my book. Of course, the title of my book is People Who May or May Not Be Religious Zealots but ones I Categorize as Such.
posted by The God Complex at 11:15 PM on March 24, 2004


Ryvar -- you're going too easy on Condi.

Powell, on the other hand... I feel pretty bad for him. One term as secretary of state and his whole political future is shot.
posted by clevershark at 11:15 PM on March 24, 2004


I'm sure he's received a handsome price for his soul.
posted by subgenius at 11:54 PM on March 24, 2004


scientific progress goes boink, you know.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:56 AM on March 25, 2004


Ballot measure seeks to make California stem cell capital

"If passed, the measure would make $295 million available annually for 10 years, far exceeding the $10.7 million awarded by the federal government in 2002."
posted by eddydamascene at 2:06 AM on March 25, 2004



how about we decide that all FPP's are going to be honorary "Flash Friday" till the elections are over?


how aobut we agree soulhuntres whining about FPP's he disapproves of as we go through the most important campaign since nixon II is either:
1) fascist supporting fanfare, and ignore him, or,
2) hungry infant noise, and shove a tit in his mouth to shut it off?
posted by quonsar at 3:02 AM on March 25, 2004


quarsan? . . . Is that you?
posted by Ryvar at 4:03 AM on March 25, 2004


"But George W. Bush's religious convictionspandering to right wing nut fundies for their votes stand in its way."

Does anyone really believe aWol is sincere in his "religious convictions?" Wanna buy a bridge?
posted by nofundy at 4:33 AM on March 25, 2004


most important campaign since nixon II

That's ridiculous: this is certainly the least important Presidential election of the last hundred years. I can't recall any other election where the candidates have had such identical platforms.

The economy: both support deficit spending in a recession, maintaining almost-identical tax cuts, mild protectionism.

Foreign affairs: both candidates supported the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, neither plan any more wars, both want a gradual withdrawal from Iraq.

Health: both in favor of increased spending on Medicare etc.

The only differences are in the never-never land territory of things that aren't going to happen: Mars programs, constitutional amendments, NAFTA "reviews" with foregone conclusions.

As always in politics, the hatred and vitriol is directly proportional to the triviality of the actual differences. Both sides spend all their time name-calling, because without any essential differences there's nothing of substance to debate.

In fact, this may well be the most irrelevant election ever.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:50 AM on March 25, 2004


Couldn't this type of research be done in a less restrictive country? Somewhere in Europe, Canada? The US cannot have a lock on this type of research, so why try and restricit it?

the most important campaign since nixon II is either:

important, yes.
Lamest choice of candidates ever, yes.
Next 4 years screwed either way, yes.

Who will run in '08? That is where I am already looking. Who are the new leaders? Who is worthy?
posted by a3matrix at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2004


this may well be the most irrelevant election ever

You keep believing that.
posted by archimago at 5:41 AM on March 25, 2004


"how aobut we agree soulhuntres whining about FPP's he disapproves of as we go through the most important campaign"

And here after I went to all the trouble to make a constructive suggestion and everything. Hell, I didn;t even use the term "KerryFilter" :)
posted by soulhuntre at 5:41 AM on March 25, 2004


I think Flash posts generally suck, but - Soulhuntre - why not post some really good non-political material of your own, to address the perceived imbalance?

Meanwhile......

"That's ridiculous: this is certainly the least important Presidential election of the last hundred years. I can't recall any other election where the candidates have had such identical platforms." - Just like the 2000 election, when the Gore and Bush campaigns had very similar platforms, eh?

Problem was - and is - that campaign promises are just that promises.

Of course, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks changed everything! - Such as, they made it politically possible for the Bush Administration to build a trumped up case against Iraq, and with constant insinuations by Bush Adm. cabinet members of an Iraqi connection to 9-11 and Al Qaeda, so that Bush could then do a complete 180 degree reversal on his campaign pledge to not engage in any "Nation Building".

Of course, numerous reports - that the Bush Administration put the invasion of Iraq as it's top priority from day one of Bush's new presidency - suggest that his campaign promise was, even as Bush was making it, utter dog crap......or should I just call it Bush crap?

Strange thing this, a presidential administration diverging 180 degrees from many of it's campaign pledges. Remember George W. Bush's "Uniter not a divider" pledge?.......uhuh. Yup. Numerous polls and studies show that Americans are now more polarized than at any time, at least, in the last 50 years.

So GW Bush is merely incompetent? Well, one certainly might get that impression, from the Bush Administration's failure to react to numerous warnings about the impending 9-11 attack or to heed any warnings from Richard Clark or from the Hart-Rudman commission (on national Security and terrorism which stated, in it's executive summary:

"The commission believes that recent changes in the security environment mean the rise of new threats, particularly the likelihood of an attack on American soil resulting in thousands of casualties. As a consequence, the commission calls for major changes in the organization of national security institutions in order to respond adequately to these challenges."

President Bush told the Commission authors, Senators Hart and Rudman, that Dick Cheney would pick up the study, and take action on it. M'kay. He did, I imagine - he picked up the study off his desk and through it in the trash.

And how was it that the Bush Administration made such a remarkable 180 on Bush's campaign pledges of fiscal conservatism? If the currently projected yearly 500 billion federal deficit is any measure of the Bush Administrations actual intent, I'd say that we have, in GW, a sort of FDR from hell - a republican FDR intent on jacking up defense spending, boosting the stock prices of military-industrial associated companies associated with the administration, and shovelling huge amounts of federal money - through tax cuts skewed to the upper 1% and above, and through the many types of tax code sleaze so well documented by David Kay of the NYT - into the insatiable maw of the hyper-rich.

"Both sides spend all their time name-calling, because without any essential differences there's nothing of substance to debate." - I might agree with this statement if I were a chitinous, silicon based insectoid alien scientist observing the current election, and humanity in general, from my passing space ship.
posted by troutfishing at 5:47 AM on March 25, 2004


troutfishing: nonsense.

Iraq: Kerry supported the Iraq war, same as Bush.

Economy: Yes, rather than going for rigorous "fiscal conservatism", Bush adopted a Keynesian, FDR-like strategy of deficit spending. Yes, that's traditionally Democrat territory. That's the point. Both parties have converged on the same center ground.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:06 AM on March 25, 2004


"nonsense" - a resounding refutation? ......Ummm.

I could belabour the point - and I would, gleefully - but I must now be off to work. But, the Bush economic and tax policies - which are rapidly accelerating the decades long trend of the concentration of wealth in America in the hands of a fraction of a percent of the population - amount to a convergence towards the center?

Up is down, black is white, and I sure wouldn't hire you, my friend, as an architect. My house would wind up being built upside-down. But I would certainly hire you to write PR copy.

...and with shovelling huge amounts of federal money - through tax cuts skewed to the upper 1% and above, and through the many types of tax code sleaze so well documented by David Cay Johnston of the NYT and others - into the insatiable maw of the hyper-rich.

"I might agree with this statement if I were a chitinous, silicon based insectoid alien scientist".......or if I were a Republican intent on reducing voter interest in the elections.

Sleep, little democrat-hobbitses! Yes preshuss - sleep, nasty little democrat-hobbitses. Crawlses into nasty little burrows, preshuss, and sleeps, oh yes. Tells them, preshuss, that they'll be cosy and safe in nasty little dirty houses, yes preshuss, tells them everything will be safe, and while hobbitses sleep..... [casts terrified gaze toward the White House where the flame wreathed, mostly-seeing, eye of Rove - blinking only occaisonally - glares out in scheming malevolence] but we must be careful, careful - yes preshuss. He knows, yes, he knows! And we knowses, yes preshuss, but nasty little democrat-hobbitses mustn't know! Oh no, my preshusssss......
posted by troutfishing at 6:22 AM on March 25, 2004


While I understand where TheophileEscargot is coming from, I think he's wrong on this. On the surface, it may look like Bush and Kerry would be indistinguishable in the White House. The differences between the two are found in the details.

The president legally is not particularly powerful; one thing he can do without any oversight is get us into a shooting war, which Bush has shone a willingness and even eagerness to do. I sincerely doubt Kerry would have pushed for invading Iraq, given the same set of circumstances that faced Bush in late 2002/early 2003.

Another area of presidential power that would differentiate Kerry and Bush is the political appointment process. With Kerry in office we would not have as the head of the DoJ the biggest threat to civil liberties since J. Edgar. We would not have the Dept. of the Interior pushing to drill big holes in the ground in a protected wildlife refuge in Alaska. We would not have a proposed slate of federal and appeals court judges willing to turn back the clock on everything from environmental protection to civil rights. We would also not have the threat of another Scalia, or, worse, Thomas nominated to the Supreme Court.

And, of course, we wouldn't have the problem that this post is talking about in the scientific/medical community. At least I hope we wouldn't.

On preview, troutfishing has it right. This administration might have appeared moderate or center in the 2000 campaign, but they have decisively demonstrated to me that they are anything but. Whether Kerry would be better for the country is for you to decide, but to claim a la Nader that the two candidates are political twins is simply not the case.
posted by deadcowdan at 6:36 AM on March 25, 2004


That pretty much marks him as a zealot in my book.

No, he's a cynical liar who uses his alleged "faith" to rally the superstitious behind him. He may believe, but he was raised Episcopalian and is currently a Methodist (and admits that he doesn't know the difference in doctrine between the two faiths). Those are hardly hard-line, consuming religions. They're more hobbies.

The truth is that spouting on about God and Jesus will get you votes from idiots who don't actually read the red type in the New Testament but call themselves christians. Bush's handlers, as soon as he entered politics, told him "You're a big christian now, because it will get you votes." and he said "Okay."

It's the more agressive version of Reagan's deciding that he actually had a religion when he ran for president.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:40 AM on March 25, 2004


Couldn't this type of research be done in a less restrictive country? Somewhere in Europe, Canada?

Not only can this research be done elsewhere, but it is, with ever-increasing success. Which is yet another reason why these policies are idiotic -- the United States, with its ample resources and unequaled knowledge base, will lose its competitive advantage in the sure-to-be-profitable biotechnology industry.

Of course, that's not to mention the sheer costs in terms of quality of life, and life itself. This is the reason I'll be voting for John Kerry, even though I still believe liberating Iraq was worthwhile. This issue dwarfs Iraq.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:47 AM on March 25, 2004


To the issue at hand, and related issues, A QUESTION, for All:

What *is* the limit of scientific intrusiveness?

In other words, what Frankenstein did, in his time, was unacceptable. But the idea of reanimating dead tissue would easily pass the ethical bar today. No big deal. "Progress."

Questionable ethical dilemmas which come to mind: selling organs for xplant; patenting lifeforms; near-human, but genetically non-humans for animal testing-like experiments(*); clone bodies for organ xplants; genetically selected or modified people, human embryos, or fetuses; experimental drugs and surgical procedures on human volunteers, or non-volunteers; mining aborted fetuses for adult repairs; releasing GM anti-pathogens into the environment.

(*) humans and chimpanzees share 98% of their DNA. What is something that shares 99% of its DNA with humans? What determines either "humanity", or that "we shouldn't experiment on it like an animal?"

I don't even know if there are any right answers.
posted by kablam at 7:46 AM on March 25, 2004


pardonyou? is right. Look up cryptography for a recent predendent.

Bush adopted a Keynesian, FDR-like strategy of deficit spending. Yes, that's traditionally Democrat territory.

I don't know about traditionally, but certainly not lately

What *is* the limit of scientific intrusiveness?

I don't this is a pertinent question ("What is the limit of scientific *knowledge*?" would be more like it); nor is it fair the way you frame it, throwing together a bunch of unrelated items. Specially telling is the "mining aborted fetuses for adult repairs".

Ho-hum, would that be "mining aborted fetuses for *human* repairs"? I'm pretty certain you are aware that, hey, 1 year olds (and younger) ocasionally also require spare parts.

If I wanted to use your same cloak, I'd now ask if you really want those babies to die. But I'm not like that and will thus withdraw the (senseless anyway) question.
posted by magullo at 8:02 AM on March 25, 2004


Hi kablam! Welcome! Over here Frankenstein is a fictional character in a book by Mary Shelley and not an actual historical figure. How do I get to where you came from?
posted by wobh at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2004


Not to mention that his monster is clearly human in the book - despite it being a tale of horror etc, the reanimated flesh is no zombie killer, but just a misunderstood and deformed man.
posted by mdn at 8:24 AM on March 25, 2004


Kablam:

Disease and sufferring are teh suck. Imagine you are in the prime of your life and some mysterious misprocess begins to strip the insulation off of your nervous system till you can't even feed yourself... Rare is the person who would decline cutting edge treatment that offers hope of relief. Any science that gets you there is good

The larger issues are the ever wider limiting of such treatment to those who can afford it (and the over-population it will contribute to as age spans increase but thats a side issue to this thread).
Medicine should inherently be socialist, its the christian thing to do, and therein lies yet another deep irony of the conservative platform.
posted by BentPenguin at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2004


FDR-like strategy

Ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!
Whoop!!
ROTFLMAO!!!
Too damn funny dude!
"aWol is like FDR."
What are you smoking?
posted by nofundy at 8:31 AM on March 25, 2004


No, he's a cynical liar who uses his alleged "faith" to rally the superstitious behind him.

Source?
posted by callmejay at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2004


wobh, Frankenstein is an archetypical tale of unforseen complications and problems that can arise from using knowledge. It's fiction, but that doesn't prevent it from being apt to sciences inability to properly grapple with certain kinds of questions.

The thing that I object to most about phrasings of the trouble like "But ______'s religious convictions stand in its way" is that in a number of circles, it seems to amount to "But ______'s arbitrary convictions stand its way" and thus assume there's no grounds concern about proceeding. When in reality there are ethically driven arguments for being careful about how we proceed that have nothing to do with I listened to a Diane Rehm interview a few weeks ago where they discussed cloning and stem cell research and one of the guests was a philosphy/metaphysics prof, and I think he made his case for a cautious policy rather well. There are ends-means arguments, arguments about a slope of attitudes towards human life that are only loosely tied to religious beliefs except in the sense that religious beliefs are one thing that encourage you to think about them.


Disease and sufferring are teh suck. Imagine you are in the prime of your life and some mysterious misprocess begins to strip the insulation off of your nervous system till you can't even feed yourself...

Well, I had Guillame-Barre at one point, so it's not hard to imagine, although it's been a long time. And while I can sympathize (and in some cases actually empathize) with the cases of people who could be helped with this, it's not the only relevant point of the argument, and perhaps not the only point. GWB used a similar argument to justify the invasion of Iraq -- we would be freeing people who were suffering under a terrible dictator from oppression, right? C'mon, that has to be good! Anything we can do that would make that possible would be alright, right? And yet many here (including myself) found that reasoning untenable (as well as incredible). The good that can be accomplished by a course of action isn't in itself a justification.
posted by weston at 9:05 AM on March 25, 2004


He talked about god telling him it was ok to invade Iraq. That pretty much marks him as a zealot in my book..
Please, where was this quoted. I've heard people say this so I have listened to him speak to hear it too. The only thing that I have heard him say was he prayed about making the decision. Never did he mention the ok came down from God.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2004


thomcatspike: The Palestinian Prime minister is reported as quoting Bush saying "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them." Judge as ye will.
posted by biffa at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2004


Iraq: Kerry supported the Iraq war, same as Bush.

posted by TheophileEscargot

The reasons why they supported the war are important. Kerry supported the war because he believed what his president told him, that WMD were found and Iraq was a threat to our nation.

Why Bush supported the war is still unclear to me. He knew the WMD threat was a lie. He targeted Iraq before 9/11. So, we can only guess as to why.

Back to the posted article

George Bush's beliefs prevent him from supporting stem cell research. I hope they comfort him on his death bed, but one man's beliefs are not going to stop anything. Science marches on, folks, and whether or not science has a free hand in this country, stem cell research will continue.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2004


thomcatspike: The Palestinian Prime minister is reported as quoting Bush saying
That is creepy.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:41 AM on March 25, 2004


GWB used a similar argument to justify the invasion of Iraq

Terrible analogy. I'd say most scientists do not have a clear-cut objective in mind and jump on to any and all possible excuses to get there. That is certainly bad science.

I agree that the goal does not justify the means. But which goal are we talking about here? The only visible clear-cut goal I see here is to STOP USING STEM CELLS RIGHT THIS MINUTE, PERIOD. This as opposed to a following a carefully monitored research method (which is what science is).

I'm not saying necessarily that there is no limit to that. But certainly one camp does come across as more sound and reasonable than the other.
posted by magullo at 9:51 AM on March 25, 2004


Apparently you didn't read the title of my book.
posted by The God Complex at 10:12 AM on March 25, 2004


The day is fast approaching when simple cells (epithelial, for example) will be made to reproduce and differentiate in a controlled fashion. One awaits Bush and other fundamentalists bringing manslaughter charges against those who brush their teeth.

As an aside, it is a source of endless fascination that those who feel strongly about "the rights" of a few cells are not usually outraged by the use of truly sentient creatures in medical research.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:55 AM on March 25, 2004


My point was that there are scientists out there who seemingly have *no* ethical limitations. I tried to pick across the spectrum of things that irritate people today; but the same rule applies over decades.

Why don't we use nuclear explosives to dig ditches and make earthen dams? Only tiny bits of contamination, gone in a few weeks. Who will be the first to clone a human--who cares what the consequences--it will be like being the first man on Mars!

Why not recklessly spread GM lifeforms around? They must be better, they're GM! Animal experiments? Fine, it's not like they feel pain like humans do. Eugenics? No problem. Sterilize the defectives, because everybody else is doing it, and we can't fall prey to the "Eugenics gap".

Stem cells are the current issue, love 'em or hate 'em. But my point is: is science going wild?

This is not to be anti-scientific, but shouldn't there be limits to some research? Some shock at things like the Tuskegee experiment; or giving terminal cancer patients lethal doses of radioactive compounds, just to see what will happen; or spreading "harmless" bacteria in subways to see how they disperse; etc., ad nauseum.

Nobody been really punished for doing insane and inhuman science, at least since WWII. Must we debate each issue separately, or can we erect an ethical wall for scientists, saying that "the price for this new knowledge is too high."
posted by kablam at 4:41 PM on March 25, 2004


Luddite! Luddite!

No, really - many of these fields of research promise to confer such wealth and power that - without binding international agreements (that it is to say, agreements backed both by international law and sanctions both economic and military) - these fields of research WILL be explored, and their Pandora's box cornucopia of perils and benefits will be unleashed and deployed as new technologies.

The dynamic which drives this is one and the same with the ongoing arms race - which has continued more or less uninterrupted, with occasional lulls, since the dawn of recorded civilization. Military technology and medical technology - both in essence scientific ventures - confer power and benefits which give the most technologically advanced a competitive edge in the Hobbesian, or Darwinian struggle for human supremacy.

Unfortunately, I can't see the sort of international cooperation which would be necessary to even put the brakes on the emergence of such new research and technologies emerging out of the current Bush Administration's imperfect and at times quite hamfisted "Pax Americana" project. Quite the opposite, in fact.

*A scant few hundred years ago, plagues and epidemics, diseases in general, and infection were claiming more lives in war than were killed on the battlefield. Disease, until recently, has been the most significant (and somewhat random) determinant of military success or failure.
posted by troutfishing at 5:44 PM on March 25, 2004


Sorry kablam. My response to your post was snarky but if it makes you feel any better you've had me thinking about the future in a parallel world in which man has discovered the power of life all day long now. I've now got a fair amount of background material for a steampunk novel. And now of course I'm going to have to reread Frankenstein. Thanks! (really!)
posted by wobh at 11:16 PM on March 25, 2004


Oh, I've got a treat from another reality!

The book, "Education for peaceful uses of nuclear explosives".

Published right when the anti-nuclear movement was getting its legs, and lots of universities still had non-weapons oriented programs for nuclear explosives engineering.

The anti-nuke movement stopped the whole thing cold, but you have to wonder what the world would be like if we were routinely digging canals and making earthen dams with nuclear weapons.

The best nuclear willies short of the Titan II Missile Museum!
posted by kablam at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2004


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