The lies of embryonic stem cell research

Embryonic stem cell research, contrary to the rhetoric, will NOT lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s.  And it probably won’t for Parkinson’s disease, either.  According to Joe Carter, stem cell scientists know this, but purposefully lie about it to overcome pro-life opposition to the destruction of embryos:

Several years ago I worked for a Christian bioethics think tank when ESCR was being hotly debated in the media. Although the ethics of the issue were contested, there was not much disagreement about the basic science involved. Yet some scientists were making claims about ESCR that no one with even the most basic knowledge about the subject could honestly believe were true. But they fooled others into believing them.

For example, the Democratic Party was so convinced that it included in its 2004 platform the claim that, “Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses—from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s.” Even at the time, researchers knew that ESCR could never cure such diseases as Alzheimer’s, and would likely never be useful for treating juvenile diabetes or Parkinson’s either.

While all Christian bioethicists were quick to point out that these claims were inaccurate, few were willing to say that the scientists were lying. However, Art Caplan—the “dean of liberal bioethics”—has no qualms about calling them out on their dishonesty.

via Lying About Embryonic Stem Cell Research » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The post then links to this interview with Caplan.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • William M. Cwirla

    This argument is overstated and attributes motive and intent. Scientists routinely over-hype “hopes and possibilities” when writing for grant money. It’s almost the style sheet for grant proposals. The truth is they do not know. And the scientific fact is that you cannot know unless you try the experiment. They could not “know” for a fact that embryonic stem cells would not work without doing the controlled variable experiments. Therefore, they were not “lying.” They were simply stating why this research was worth pursuing in their way of thinking.

    The ethical question is whether one ought to do something simply because one can do it or that it holds out even a remote possibility of a cure. In the case of harvesting human embryos for their stem cells, the answer is “no” even if scientists knew for a certainty that it would work.

  • William M. Cwirla

    This argument is overstated and attributes motive and intent. Scientists routinely over-hype “hopes and possibilities” when writing for grant money. It’s almost the style sheet for grant proposals. The truth is they do not know. And the scientific fact is that you cannot know unless you try the experiment. They could not “know” for a fact that embryonic stem cells would not work without doing the controlled variable experiments. Therefore, they were not “lying.” They were simply stating why this research was worth pursuing in their way of thinking.

    The ethical question is whether one ought to do something simply because one can do it or that it holds out even a remote possibility of a cure. In the case of harvesting human embryos for their stem cells, the answer is “no” even if scientists knew for a certainty that it would work.

  • Matt

    I have recently taken a class on stem cells at a Lutheran college. The professor took the ethical dangers associated with stem cells, specifically embryonic stem cells, extremely seriously. While he may not have explicitly said that discarding embryos used for research was killing human beings – he wanted us to think deeply on this issue and hear arguments from both sides – it was obvious that he leaned strongly in that direction.

    He also was clear on the promise of stem cell technology. No one can be certain that a specific scientific breakthrough will occur, but stem cell technology is among the most promising technologies scientists have ever created. What makes stem cells so valuable is that they can become any type of cell. If, for instance, someone has a heart attack, some of the heart tissue they once had is now dead. Stem cells can then be induced, in vitro, to become heart cells and then those cells can then, theoretically, be injected into the heart to recreate working tissue. It’s already a fairly straightforward procedure to induce heart cell formation (or many other cells types) in a dish – I’ve done it in two weeks with mouse stem cells and I’m at the undergraduate level. The technical hurdles are in injecting the cells and making sure those cells are making a damaged heart more effective and not causing tumors. Similarly, a type of paralysis caused by cell death in the spinal cord could also be alleviated through stem cell technology. In fact, a human trial is currently ongoing that attempts to do just that. Stem cell technology can, and likely will, be used for a whole variety of medical applications.

    The moral problem is a serious issue, and I adamantly disagree with any embryonic stem cell research. However, I get the feeling that the general public does not make the distinction between embryonic stem cells and other types of stem cells, the most promising of which are induced pluripotent stem cells. While embryonic stem cells are taken from the early stage embryo (after which the embryo is destroyed), induced pluripotent stem cells are cells taken from, for instance, an adult (which means no embryos are destroyed in the process) and then these cells are genetically engineered to be pluripotent. A pluripotent cell is a cell that can become any cell type within the adult body. Pluripotency is same trait that makes embryonic stem cells so valuable. While challenges remain, induced pluripotent stem cells would seem to be the best, morally acceptable option for future research. To call stem cells anything other extremely promising, if not a lie, could only come from a very biased standpoint.

  • Matt

    I have recently taken a class on stem cells at a Lutheran college. The professor took the ethical dangers associated with stem cells, specifically embryonic stem cells, extremely seriously. While he may not have explicitly said that discarding embryos used for research was killing human beings – he wanted us to think deeply on this issue and hear arguments from both sides – it was obvious that he leaned strongly in that direction.

    He also was clear on the promise of stem cell technology. No one can be certain that a specific scientific breakthrough will occur, but stem cell technology is among the most promising technologies scientists have ever created. What makes stem cells so valuable is that they can become any type of cell. If, for instance, someone has a heart attack, some of the heart tissue they once had is now dead. Stem cells can then be induced, in vitro, to become heart cells and then those cells can then, theoretically, be injected into the heart to recreate working tissue. It’s already a fairly straightforward procedure to induce heart cell formation (or many other cells types) in a dish – I’ve done it in two weeks with mouse stem cells and I’m at the undergraduate level. The technical hurdles are in injecting the cells and making sure those cells are making a damaged heart more effective and not causing tumors. Similarly, a type of paralysis caused by cell death in the spinal cord could also be alleviated through stem cell technology. In fact, a human trial is currently ongoing that attempts to do just that. Stem cell technology can, and likely will, be used for a whole variety of medical applications.

    The moral problem is a serious issue, and I adamantly disagree with any embryonic stem cell research. However, I get the feeling that the general public does not make the distinction between embryonic stem cells and other types of stem cells, the most promising of which are induced pluripotent stem cells. While embryonic stem cells are taken from the early stage embryo (after which the embryo is destroyed), induced pluripotent stem cells are cells taken from, for instance, an adult (which means no embryos are destroyed in the process) and then these cells are genetically engineered to be pluripotent. A pluripotent cell is a cell that can become any cell type within the adult body. Pluripotency is same trait that makes embryonic stem cells so valuable. While challenges remain, induced pluripotent stem cells would seem to be the best, morally acceptable option for future research. To call stem cells anything other extremely promising, if not a lie, could only come from a very biased standpoint.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    William, your point on “grant application exaggeration” is well taken, but is it not yet true that “plausible deniability” is not exactly the same thing as honesty?

    Personally, count me “less than shocked” that those who would support the legal dismemberment of human beings for profit would also “shade the truth when it’s convenient to do so.”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    William, your point on “grant application exaggeration” is well taken, but is it not yet true that “plausible deniability” is not exactly the same thing as honesty?

    Personally, count me “less than shocked” that those who would support the legal dismemberment of human beings for profit would also “shade the truth when it’s convenient to do so.”

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  • Pingback: where embryonic stem cells come from | StemEnhance™ and StemFlo™ | Stem Cell Enhancer


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