Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Daily Southtown: Illinois has a good stem cell bill

The Daily Southtown Editorial here.

A quote from Senator Shoenberg last April,

“This issue is one of the most morally compelling challenges facing those of us in the public arena,” said Schoenberg, the chief sponsor of two earlier legislative efforts to expand stem cell research that failed narrowly in the State Senate. “Millions of Americans are affected directly or indirectly by chronic illnesses and medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer and spinal cord injury-- all of which have the potential to be cured by embryonic stem cell research.”

“We must succeed because we are not only rebuilding their bodies, but we are also cradling their souls.”
I'm not a Christian. I'm too secular for souls and Schoenberg sounds odd to me when he writes of cradling them.

I see humanity in an embryo though; a humanity which should be cradled. Not tissue to be harvested regardless of what good could for others could come of it.

Ryan Anderson wrote of the parable of the Good Soccer Mom in First Things.

She summed up her findings: A human embryo is a whole member of the human species. Each human being entered life as an embryo. And all human beings are subjects of profound, inherent, intrinsic worth in virtue of what they are, not what they can do. And if they are subjects of worth in virtue of what they are, then they bear this worth from the moment that they first come into existence.
One need not be Chrisitan to find talk of harvesting embryos for research and eventual commercial therapies (legitimate therapies and not the bogus ones sold now. Read LA Times: Outside the U.S., businesses run with unproved stem cell therapies ) very troubling.

The morality of it far clearer for me though then abortion. This seems to open up the potential for the grossest kind of human exploitation.

Update: Ryan Anderson writing in the Weekly Standard,
In July of 2005, the Slate magazine science reporter William Saletan argued in a five-part series titled "Organ Factory: the Case for Harvesting Older Human Embryos" that given the current acceptance of embryo destruction there is no reason to limit it to the early embryo. He pointed to studies from around the world arguing that seven-week old embryos are what researchers really want. And Saletan made the case that they should have them: "Don't be scared. We don't have to grow a whole new you. . . . an embryo cloned from one of your cells would need just six or seven weeks to grow many of the tissues you need. We already condone harvesting of cells from cloned human embryos for the first two weeks. Why stop there?"


Skeeter,  1:58 PM  

Do you believe that in-vitro fertilization should be banned?

district 14 voter,  2:29 PM  

Great question, Skeeter. Have heard sermons at church arguing against all forms on contracepion and fertility, in a church full of people who have used both. That includes my family members.

When you see those "miracle births" of 6+ kids on tv, it's often because the fertility drugs are kicking out multiple eggs.

crash-dev 2:49 PM  

It is interesting trying to put an ordinal relationship on the morality of abortion versus stem cell research.

At first I was of the exact opposite opinion of you. I considered stem cell research less morally questionable than abortion.

Both practices have social benifits and ethical considerations. I won't get into the social benifits here. Instead I want to look ath the ethical considerations. I assume the objectionable aspect of Stem Cell research would be that we are experimenting on humans, which brings to mind ideas of Eugenics programs of Nazi Germany and America as well as others. In both cases, human fetus's are prevented from fully maturing, abortions much later on.

Looking at moral blame, who is responsible. With the abortion case, the moral cost can be born by the parents and the doctor. When it is just in the scientists hands we get more nervous. There is no hippocratic oath for science, although I bet most doctors who work on this stuff are MDs.

Is it exploitation if you can't know it? Not don't know it, I am saying can't know it. In the sense that there are not enough nuerons to encode any of the emotions or sensory input that could be contrived as exploitation.

Government funds numerous things that elements of its population find morally reprehensible, aspects of elements Education and Defense to name a few. I'm always interested in how these issues affect voters as well as my own opinions on them. As you probably know from previous post, I'm a leftist. But these two issues are not the ones that drive me to the polls.

Sources for thinking about this stuff:


Anonymous,  3:22 PM  

But the fact that the embryos may otherwise be tossed into the trash is no big deal?

How about IVF couples who discard the excess embryos once fertilization (and birth) is achieved?

How about some logic and rationality?

I am not dismissing the moral implications, just looking for consistency.

crash-dev 3:35 PM  

Agreed, and props to you and Skeeter for pointing it out. I was just trying to get a bunch of my thoughts together.

And just because we have consistency does not mean our beliefs are morally correct.

Skeeter,  3:49 PM  

Sure there are moral implications.

But the question is, do the moral questions outweigh the benefit?

If you are going to object to stem cell research, then you need to tell those childless couples that they are out of luck. As per the note above, if you ban stem cell research but allow in vitro, then those embryos really do go to waste.

I don't view this as a close call at all. Sometimes the benefit outweighs the potential harm. This is one of those instances.

crash-dev 4:03 PM  

Perhaps, just because we are already there with in vitro doesn't make it right.

But yes, I agree if you are going to ban stem cell research, then you need to ban in vitro fertilization.

There is the notion of government money, but I don't think this issue is any different than war funding or money being given to oppressive regimes. I know that I have to pay to it to live here. Therefore I either suck it up or I move to Canada. As with any basic reseach, it requires government funding to get off the ground, so people need to deal with it or move to Canada.

I agree given that what we know, and what we know we don't know, and where we are as a society, this is something the government should definitely be backing.

I do think issues like this are good opportunities to radically consider where we are as a country and what our opinions and priorities are.

crash-dev 4:10 PM  

skeeter, My interest in this was the ordinal relationship of ethic-ness between Abortion and Stem Cells,

Namely, Bill Barr's distinction that embryotic stem cell work is less ethical than abortion. I have always felt the opposite.

I know a number scientists who do lab work on rat brains and other things like that. I could see myself as one of them. But if I was to have a child, I am not sure I would be ok with my girlfriend or wife having an abortion.

Bill Baar 4:52 PM  

My views have changed with time. Not too many years ago I would have been with the Liberal consensus.

Abortion seems a clash of rights to me. A woman's right to control her body vs the unborn child's right to life. I used to feel the woman's right far outweighted the unborn but partial birth and learning about the born-alive laws changed me there. But it's still a clash of rights.

But Stems Cell research seems so hyped; holding out promises to a lot of ill people without much certainity. (My friends mother was getting it for Parkinson's diseaase maybe 20 years ago know and it was explained to me in real hushed tones because they were so uncertain of what they were doing).

...but go ahead and assume the therapies are here now. That stem cells can cure all these diseases and relieve pain and suffering. Would it mean harvesting stem cells from human embryos on an industrial scale? Seems that way.

We'd be asking women to concieve children and harvesting embryos, or doing it in dishes from their eggs and doner sperm...

Those embryos have a humanity for me and I think it wrong; regardless of benefit. It's very different than abortion for me.

And Skeeter, yes, I have a lot of concerns now with the fertilization industry. What happens with all these extra embryos was the big question when it started (I remember that) and I don't like the way it's unfolded.

I sure don't care for Senator' Schoenbergs rhetoric... if he's going to get into the cradling of souls I think he's on real thin ice here.

Skeeter,  4:59 PM  

Crash -- I agree with your comments.

Part of the reason is that there is no clear line between "cells" and "baby" but instead there is a progression.

For me, an embryo in a dish is much farther removed from a baby than is an implanted growing embryo.

Skeeter,  5:02 PM  


You danced around the issue.

Are you for or against in vitro?

On a related note: How do you feel about organ donation? It has the potential for abuse. In fact, there are stories that actual abuse has occurred (Chinese prisoners). As a result, are you ready to ban organ donation?

Or should we move forward with organ donation -- and in vitro fertilization -- but at the same time work to end any abuses?

Bill Baar 5:29 PM  

If you push me, I'd say against. Certainly against anything that leaves all of these embryos afterwords.

As for organ donation... yes, I've seen it abused. It should be heavily regulated although we seem unable to deal with what's happening in China, Pakistan...

Bill Baar 6:00 PM  

PS I'd sure ban organs harvested from China! (And I think we do.)

You would allow? Perhapes because the come from people at a phase of life that makes them less than human?

Skeeter,  8:22 PM  


Are you going to ban masturbation?

After all, at one time both you and I were at a phase of life when we were nothing more than individual sperm.

That didn't make us less human, did it? If an unimplanted embryo that has no chance of developing into a human unless a doctor acts on it to implant it, and then it turns out that the embryo has what it takes to develop (most do not by the way) is a phase of life, then certainly a sperm that merely needs to implant itself it an egg and then have the resulting mass implant itself is also a phase of life.

If we don't stop masturbation, all those lives will be ended at the time when they are most vulnerable!

What is your plan to end that abuse? Or does this all seem a bit extreme, comparing sperm or unimplanted embryos to implanted and developing babies.

By the way, if an unimplanted embryo is a phase of life, then I would like to be frozen for a few years, and then come back to life in 2008 just in time for the next election. I don't enjoy the Bush years and I would prefer to be frozen until they are near the end. As you said, these are merely different stages of life, and they should be treated the same. Correct? If it is medically safe to freeze and embryo and then have it later turn into life, and both adult humans and embryos are equivalent, then that shouldn't be a problem.

Unless, of course, it is more than just a "stage of life." Maybe they are different altogether. Enlighten us, Bill. Is just a stage of life or is there more to it?

Skeeter,  8:24 PM  

With regard to China --

Sometimes a practice is good and useful, despite the fact that at times and places there can be abuses.

Just because China abuses organ donation doesn't mean the rest of the world should end organ donation.

Similarly, just because there may be some abuse in the in vitro process does not mean that we should end all in vitro.

That's obvious to most people, other than Baar and his crazed right wing pals.

JB Powers 8:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JB Powers 8:51 AM  


"Are you going to ban masturbation?", no but should we ask Senator Schoenberg for a subsidy for it?

Why does the State have to pay for every risky business idea, when it cannot fund its pension system?


Skeeter,  9:00 AM  


Because some of the basic research is not profitable. Through basic research, doors are opened to the specifics.

There is a difference between opening a diner (a business venture) and doing basic research now that may in 50 years result in a cure for paralysis.

JB Powers 9:27 AM  


I have a long list of unprofitable projects the state could take on, each of which has as good of a chance as stem cell research of curing paralysis. With the glut of Venture Capital money out there, surely people would be throwing money at a project to cure paralysis.

Could it be politics trumping science?


Skeeter,  9:48 AM  


I don't think that is the case. If you know of venture caps looking at basic research, have them call the hospitals. The money is needed and despite your claims, there remains a lack of funding for basic research.

Good thing you weren't around during the JFK years. You would have told him that all this "moon" crap should be left to the private sector.

Sometimes government needs to get involved to promote the public interest.

That being said, I believe you are right. For you, it is politics trumping science. You don't like stem cell research for political reasons, and as a result, you don't want government funding of basic science. Come clean on this one. We can all see the truth here.

JB Powers 11:04 AM  

First and foremost, I don't like stem cell research for the economic uncertainty of the product. If I am investing money, Jeff Schoenberg and Governor Blagoevich are two of the last people I would ask for advice.

Not coincidentlly, if I were doing medical research Jeff Schoenberg and Governor Blagoevich are also two of the last people I would ask for advice.

In general, I am in favor of governmnet support for basic research (and little else). On any specific issue, one should probably explain why embryonic stem cells should be a favored investment over, say, phrenology, which has at least as successful record as embryonic stem cells.


JB Powers 11:13 AM  

Come to think of it, is "the State should fund X, because no sensible banker will fund X" a very good reason to spend money on a technology?

Using that logic, what technology couldn't you fund? Perhaps the State should fund Healing crystals, laetrile, and witch doctors; no bank will touch them either.


Skeeter,  11:17 AM  


If you don't like the economic uncertainty, then don't invest in it.

Where is the economic certainty of going to the moon?

Where was the economic certainty in messing around with mold that got us some of the wonder drugs?

That's exactly the point: There is no economic certainty but the potential benefit to society is massive.

Face the obvious, which is that you don't want government to pay for stem cell research for moral reasons. Come clean, since for you, this is clearly a moral issue. It is bad form to lie about moral issues, even to yourself.

Be truthful: If it is shown that stem cells form abortions can save lives, you would still oppose them. You oppose the morality of the stem cells and not the economic benefits.

district 14 voter,  11:22 AM  

Regarding masturbation, if it were outlawed, most of the posters here would be going postal in a McDonalds or on top of a bell tower w/in a month - screaming "This is for you, ma!"

Skeeter, you have a point re: the moon. Where would the internet be today if it weren't for ARPANET and ARPA/DARPA? Before any Al Gore jokes pop up, I'll be the first to admit he has (had?) the verbal dynamics of John Kerry. However, many of the innovators of the internet give him credit for propelling it forward..,1283,39301,00.html...

Please, this is not an effort to re-argue the statement. It is to highlight the impact vision in science, by any administration, can have.

I often find it funny that the government doles out research funds (sometimes in earmarks, others in standard budget outlays) to universities, yet can't claim patent to anything the Universities create (I don't believe the gov't can patent anything - please correct me if I'm wrong).

The free market argument is "When conditions and a favorable market arrive, we'll put money in it". Yes, venture capatalism has a huge failure rate, but I'd be interested to know if we'd still be trolling Europe and Asia, as Queen Isabella would have said, "Nice idea, Chris, but can't you get this thing privately financed?"

Pell Grants and low interest loans to students, are in a way, VC by the gov't. Take 10 kids. 2 will crash and burn, and probably not pay back loans. 6 will go on to graduate, pay off loans, and get better jobs w/an education (and pay higher taxes over their lifetime). With luck, 1 or 2 will really excel, and that low interest loan / aid will pay back in hundreds of thousands, hell, millions, of returned to the government in the form of taxes, investment in capital (which helps expand the economy), property taxes, etc. I can use this example of my family and 6 kids who went to college, while the other took advantage during a layoff to learn computer skills to change a career.

Lastly, anybody reading the first paragraph and not smiling should stay home Sunday. The rest of you, Happy New Year.....

JB Powers 1:58 PM  


No, the morality is sketchy and unclear, and rational people can make a moral case for either side.

The economics are much more clear. I am not convinced a rational person can make a case for wasting money, while the state is essentially bankrupt.

I repeat, is "no sensible person or bank will invest in it" a good reason to ask the State to invest?

Can't Sen Shoenberg, Rep Coulson, Blago, or Dan Hynes come up with a better pitch than that?


Skeeter,  2:13 PM  

"I repeat, is "no sensible person or bank will invest in it" a good reason to ask the State to invest?"

That is EXACTLY the reason that government should invest.

If private financing would take care of it, we would not need the government.

The government should never be in competition with the private market.

We've gone off on a tanget though.

For Baar, the financing is not the issue. He wants to make it all illegal, whether done by private investors or by government.

JB Powers 2:17 PM  


I have 100 plans that no rational person would invest in.

Can we arrange for Sen. Shoenberg to get me grants as well?

Do we really want politicians making these decisions outside of any scientific methodology?


JB Powers 2:17 PM  

"If private financing would take care of it, we would not need the government."

In most cases, we don't.


Skeeter,  2:46 PM  

Your first 2:17 post was pretty insane.

Based on the current status of research, you view stem cell research as junk science? Was that your point?

Or were you agreeing witn my point, i.e. no rational person would spend their own money to go to the moon, but doing so had benefits for us all, and as a result the government should become involved?

JB Powers 5:52 PM  

From what I read, Embryonic Stem Cell research is highly speculative, with gains sitting out there 50 years, if things work out right.

Going to the moon wasn't a good investment (satellites were), but it was also not a 50 year time frame project.

There must be some other reason other than "nobody outside of politics wants to invest in this" for me to want the State to invest in it.


Skeeter,  7:32 PM  

Actually, going to the moon was about a two thousand year project. I suspect that we could come up with tons of funding from the Middle Ages.

JFK was just responsible for the last couple of those years.

Like somebody else here referenced -- good thing that you were not around in the 1490s. You would have talked the governments out of funding that highly speculative sea voyage.

JB Powers 7:50 PM  

Given that the Basques had been fishing near Rhode Island for about 200 years without a State sponsor, it seems like you made the point exactly.

Rod Blagoevich is not exactly Queen Isabella when it comes to being a good character judge.

Ask yourself, do you really want a soon to be incarcerated-Elvis impersonating-friend of Tony Rezko's-making scientific and moral judgments for the rest of the state? Or perhaps, just perhaps, let scientists use their own project selection mechanisms to determine what to research rather than having a collection of C-Student politicians determine research priorities.


Skeeter,  11:50 AM  

"their own project selection mechanisms?"

How do you think most university research gets funded?

You apparently believe (and correct me if I'm mistaken):

1. Government should only invest where it is in competition with the private market, i.e. where the private market has approved of an idea, the government should toss in more money to compete; and

2. University research comes from money raised from the air, without government intervention.

What color is the sky in this strange world of yours?

By the way -- I hear Blago believes that restaurants should be free of rats and that highways should be paved.

I expect you now to start the Pro-Restaurant Rat lobby, along with the No Pavement lobby.

Just because you personally hate Blago does not make him wrong on everything.

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