Thursday, September 21, 2006

Us vs. Stem

Our two major political parties have migrated to an adversarial relationship not unlike how civil courts arrange spouses against each other even for uncontested divorces. When two parties resolve to be in opposition as Republicans and Democrats or divorcing spouses are, no one is permitted a decent act lest the other party look bad. Nor is either party permitted to change its position lest the other appear correct on an issue. As a result, the custody battle over public policy drags on without progress or hope.

On terrorism and Islamic fascism the Democrats are wrong. Bush may not have handled it gracefully but terrorism doesn't respond to grace. More-liberal-than-you author Sam Harris makes this case better than any in his recent LA Times article, Head-in-the-Sand Liberals.

The Republican Party is wrong on Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ES). It's not hard to understand why. Many (most?) Republicans have taken positions opposing ES based on its proximity to abortion, bolstered by the fact both ES and abortion share many of the same advocates. From a Republican's point of view whenever Democrats, the press, and Hollywood are aligned together (as they frequently are) their purpose is likely to pervert the constitution, widen the distribution of pornography, corrupt youth, promote abortion, disparage Christianity, or provide comfort and intelligence to America's enemies. Given the usual agendas of the usual suspects Republican politicians' suspicions on ES may be warranted--but they are still wrong.

The good news is pro-life values needn't be sacrificed even if Conservatives' pride may sting a little in the admission.

To avoid using the medical jargon with words that sound too similar let's instead pretend we're talking about tiny marble bags with even tinier marbles inside them. Except these aren't your ordinary marbles and bags, they're magic because a bag with one marble will soon have two, then four, eight, 16, 32, and pretty soon you need a bigger bag and a computer to count all the marbles.

Regardless where marble bags come from conservatives object to throwing them away. The good news from marble researchers is they believe they can mend a broken bag using a single marble from a good bag. A single magic marble's affect on a sick bag is nothing short of miraculous. Marble-ologists call it Ethical Marble Therapy. Nothing is harmed. Nothing is broken. Nothing is thrown away.

That is precisely how Republicans can acquiesce on ES without sacrificing their position on the sanctity of life.

Across the nation women visit fertility clinics every day with bags of marbles for clinicians to examine for defects. A single marble is removed from each blastocyst to gage its health. Healthy blastocysts are returned (implanted) with a single blastomere (marble) missing. These blastomeres may be ethically used to create new stem cell lines, hopefully fulfilling the hope we all have to repair spinal cord injuries and cure blindness, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or countless other birth defects, genetic disorders, and even replacing lost limbs.

For purposes of good sportsmanship we'll call the compromise policy Ethical Embryonic Stem Cell Research (EESC, sounds like EASY).It's time to put this issue behind us and let EESC progress domestically as rapidly and with as much financial and moral support as America may provide its brightest scientists with the highest ethical methodologies.

Time is wasting. Let not our political disagreements delay this important research. This is an issue both parties must become not just responsible custodians for, but committed supporters as well.

For more information on Embryonic Stem Cell Research visit:


  1. Thomas,

    Your opinion is entertainingly well stated, with a nice, calculated balance of selected fact and whimsy. However, you've fallen prey to a pitfall common to others whom have sought to interject a level of objectivity into their argument. This pitfall is a natural, ego driven, human inclination to bend semantics and to selectively gauge ones objectivity. True objectivity means being open to consideration of all of the facts, not just those that can be selectively chosen to support or enhance one's established preconceptions.

    The fundamental reality of this issue remains; since the successful mapping of the human genome in 2003, science can now tell us irrefutably—with no consideration or regard for personal, philosophical or religious belief—that a distinct, human, life, (in fact every human life) begins at the moment of conception. How this fact is relevant when considering our Constitutionally guaranteed rights under the 14th Amendment, is key to this debate.

    The use of designated terminology such as blastocyst and blastomere is a common tactic. It's intent is to essentially deflect this fundamental reality by de-humanizing our references. Zygote, Blastocyst, embryo, fetus; are all simply designated terms that we use to describe various stages of... human development. They are no different than infant, child, adolescent, adult, geriatric, etc... The effectiveness of their usage in an argument such as yours, is directly related to most peoples' lack of familiarity with them. Please check out the new Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures web site at Their strategy is the same.

    You seem like a very bright guy and it's obvious you have a wry sense of humor, which I always appreciate! You also seem to have a pragmatic bent; your parting comment, "Time is wasting," only enhances this notion. Be careful, pragmatism can lead to flimsy rationale. Your assumption that it would be entirely ethical to use genetic material extracted from a developing human, ostensibly to test for genetic defects, but in reality for the purpose of biological experimentation—without that persons consent—is highly questionable.

    Thomas, thanks for listening! A fellow Republican!


  2. I do have a problem with artificial insemination and it's similarity to abortion. Our anonymous friend, Jon has a point about terminology. Can we really say that the use of non-implanted fertilized eggs is different than abortion?

    In the name of consistency and integrity, I'm finding it difficult to support research of this type.

  3. I must not have been clear.

    "Can we really say that the use of non-implanted fertilized eggs is different than abortion?"

    EESC is using the stem cells from the /implanted/ egg. Not the non-implanted eggs.

    "I do have a problem with artificial insemination and it's similarity to abortion."

    Difficult ground but perhaps a separate issue from the ethical question of creating new stem cell lines without destroying a fetus, which is what I think we can be in favor of.

  4. Thomas,

    I don't know if it was just a slip of your pen, or if your recent comments/response to russel were intentionally misleading. Embryonic stem cells are not extracted from "eggs," implanted on non-implanted. They are extracted, again, from a blastocyst, a recently new, developing human being. It's extremely important to keep your terminology correct in this debate.

    Thanks again, —Jon

  5. Slip of the pen. I was trying to give deference to your comment about using terminology that may dehumanize the blastocyst. I was intending to reinforce it was a developing person.

  6. Jon,

    Nothing in my article was intended to suggest the blastocyst is anything less than it is--a person. I wanted first to make sure people understood that a fully-intact person would develop normally even with a missing marble.. er.. blastomere. I was trying to emphasize that embryonic stem cells can be successfully extracted without damaging the cell they're removed from.

    If there's no harm and no foul, I'm unclear what reasonable objections there can be.

    The imperative, "Time is wasting," personalized the timeline for me. I have no knowledge what disorder or disease my, my family's, or anyone else's bodies may succumb to, but it can't hurt to get going on the research sooner than later.

    As far as consent goes, I expect parental consent would be required for any dependent medical procedure whether it be EESC or a trip to the dentist.

  7. Tom - I'm sure that most responses to your blogs come back at you quite soon after receipt, and mine sometimes do also. I'm glad, in a way, though, that I wasn't able to respond immediately.

    Todays Det. News editorial (you were ahead of this media curve) puts a perspective similar - though not as interesting - on the stem cell research matter. While I have mixed feelings on this matter. My big concerns are that cells not be "created" or come from abortions, and that in the wrong hands the cells could be used in an attempt to create new life.

    If REAL science - not just fishing trips based on the pressure brought by some movie star to get face-time for themselves and their pet sickness - and REAL ethics are used in handling these cells, the research should be allowed.

  8. Tom, I took a moment to re-read the marble account. You get high points for attempting to be creative and get the debate out of the old deadlock. But you have flatly missed the point of life destroyed. And that includes the recent announcement of a new breakthrough that would get past the problem. The dearth of ethics in scientists that will seek any argurment to get their project forward continues to gall me. The prior post from Jon states it more cogently than I have the time for.

    I have no problem with the reality that my body and those of loved ones has limits.

    We must look not so intensely to this world but to the next and be ready to answer; have we been with him or against him.


  9. Frederick says: "We must look not so intensely to this world but to the next and be ready to answer; have we been with him or against him."

    Frederick, while it's true that this life is temporary, let's not forget that in the parable of the talents, it was the servant that did not improve the situation he was given that was cast into outer darkness. Those that improved their lot were rewarded.

    To deny advances in medical science on the grounds you suggest would be to eliminate all medicine and I don't think that would be considered good stewardship.

    I'm pretty sure that Tom is not advocating the destruction of life in any sense but presents a scenario akin to organ donation. Which, to my way of thinking, moves things in a more positive direction.

  10. "The dearth of ethics in scientists that will seek any argurment to get their project forward continues to gall me."

    If we look only for the bad we'll find a dearth of ethics in any profession, including little league coaching and parenting. That shouldn't require we punish all parents for the transgressions of the few that make the press any more than we should paint all scientists and researchers with the same brush used by Dr. Mengele.

  11. Kind and thoughtful folks:

    If there remains any continued to and fro I'll jump back in. I agree entirely with the 'talents' reference. We must work to improve our condition in life. Not to do so is almost is repugnant as the taking of life. Reaching a little its nearly the same.

    Clearly we must remain engaged in science and medicine. It is the ethic that must be regained.

    The world I see is full of those that make no attempt to know or engage in the contemplation of right and wrong. No - I do not look for these examples. I receive the daily interjection into my life. Honestly its a far 'noiser' and intrusive lot than the contrary.

    Having said all that good, kind folk, it appears we may be on the same page more than not.