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.

Newt explains his affair to Christians

Newt Gingrich is gearing up for a presidential run, so he is courting social conservatives.  That requires him to account for his three marriages, including the one that grew out of his affair with a young staff member even as he was lambasting President Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  What do you think of his explanation?

Newt Gingrich says his passionate hard work for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. In an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich – who recently converted to Catholicism – said he had sought God’s forgiveness for mistakes in his past.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich said.

“What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them,” he said. “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”

Gingrich went on to say that he and his third wife, Callista, now have a great marriage.

“Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice,” he said.

The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has said he had an affair with Callista, a former congressional aide, while married to his second wife. It happened at the same time he was attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

via News from The Associated Press.

So would you support him for president?

Sex survey surprises

A wide-ranging and embarrassingly detailed survey of Americans’ sexual practices turned up some surprises.  Abstinence among young adults is significant and growing.  More than twice as many women than men have homosexual attraction and behavior.  And quite a few people with homosexual attraction have never had a same-sex experience.

Among the findings of a sweeping federal government survey of American sexual behavior is one that may surprise those bewailing a permissive and eros-soaked popular culture: More than one-quarter of people interviewed in their late teens and early 20s had never had sex.

The latest round of the quaintly named National Survey of Family Growth found that among 15-to-24-year-olds, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males reported no sexual contact with another person ever – up from the 22 percent of both sexes when the survey was last conducted in 2002.

“The public’s general perception is that when it comes to young people and sex, the news is bad and likely to get worse,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, an advocacy organization in Washington.

The seventh and latest round of the survey, first done in 1973, provides a corrective to that view.

“Many, many young people have been very receptive to the message of delaying sexual activity,” Albert said. “There’s no doubt about it.” He added that the nearly 40 percent reduction in teen pregnancy since the 1990s – which experts attribute to both increased condom use and increased abstinence – represents “extraordinary progress on a social issue that many once considered intractable.”

The uptick in abstinence is one of many revealing facts arising from structured interviews with a random sample of 13,495 Americans, ages 15 to 44, that were done from 2006 to 2008. The findings provide evidence for almost every theory and supposition about the nation’s secret sex life. . . .

Across the entire age span surveyed – 15 through 44 – 13 percent of women reported some “same-sex sexual behavior” in their lifetime, compared with 5 percent of men. For women, the fraction was up slightly from 2002, and for men, it was down slightly. . . .

There were small effects related to education. For example, 9 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees or higher reported same-sex encounters, compared with 15 percent of women who had not graduated from high school. On the other hand, 6 percent of male college graduates reported such encounters, compared with 3 percent of men who had not finished high school.

The survey also asked about sexual identity and orientation.

Among 18-to-44-year-olds who described themselves as heterosexual, 9 percent of women and 3 percent of men reported having same-sex encounters. On the other hand, 15 percent of women and 12 percent of men who described themselves as homosexual or bisexual had never had a same-sex experience.

via A sweeping survey of Americans’ sexual behavior.

Harm reduction

Idly surfing the internet, I came across the tidbit that a socially conservative party in Australia opposes “harm reduction.” Not being familiar with that is, I dug around and found that it is an entire theory of do-goodism.

Harm reduction (or harm minimisation) refers to a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with recreational drug use and other high risk activities. Harm reduction is put forward as a useful perspective alongside the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction.

Many advocates argue that prohibitionist laws criminalize people for suffering from a disease and cause harm, for example by obliging drug addicts to obtain drugs of unknown purity from unreliable criminal sources at high prices, increasing the risk of overdose and death. Its critics are concerned that tolerating risky or illegal behaviour sends a message to the community that these behaviours are acceptable.

via Harm reduction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The idea is, instead of getting people to stop dangerous behaviors, we should make those behaviors less dangers.

This is where we get the thinking behind needle-exchange programs, to prevent heroin addicts from getting AIDS. Some countries, such as England and Switzerland, actually give heroin addicts heroin, so that they won’t steal to support their habit. There is an outfit in this country called DanceSafe that goes to raves and offers free testing of drugs, so that kids can make sure they aren’t ingesting dangerous impurities in their drugs, so that they will have a positive experience with their Ecstasy or crystal meth.

Other examples would be condoms in the schools, free rides for potential drunk drivers, less harmful cigarettes, and the like.

What do you think of this philosophy? Can we draw a line between reducing harm and giving approval to bad behavior? If we take away the harm from bad behavior, does that stop it from being bad?

Two different reasons to be civil

Michael Gerson asks, “Why, other than upbringing, should we be civil in the first place?”  He cites two different and competing reasons:

In the Western tradition, one answer has been rooted in epistemology – the limits of knowledge. Citizens, in this view, should not be arrogant or intolerant about their political, moral and religious views because no one has the right to be certain of his or her views. What our public life needs is more ambiguity, agnosticism and detachment. The humble are less strident, more peaceful.

This argument is made by a certain kind of campus relativist, who views the purpose of education as the systematic cultivation of doubt. But it is also reflected in the conservative tradition, which is suspicious of ideological certainties that lead to radical social experiments. Both the liberal and conservative variants of this epistemological modesty can be traced back to classical liberal thinkers such as John Locke, whose overriding concern was to prevent wars of opinion, particularly religious wars. If no one believed their opinions were absolutely true, there would be less incentive to attack or coerce others. In the absence of harmful certainty, society would operate by barter and compromise.

But there is a second, very different argument for civility – this one rooted in anthropology. The Christian and natural law traditions assert that human beings are equal and valuable, not because of what they think but because of who they are. Even when they are badly mistaken, their dignity requires respect for their freedom and conscience. A society becomes more just and civil as more people are converted to this moral belief in human dignity and reflect that conviction in their lives and laws.

Without a doubt, doubt is useful and needed at the margins of any ideology. The world is too complex to know completely. Many of our judgments are, by nature, provisional. Those who are immune to evidence, who claim infallibility on debatable matters, are known as bores – or maybe columnists.

Yet doubt becomes destructive as it reaches the center of a belief and becomes its substitute. A systematic skepticism may keep us from bothering our neighbor. It does not motivate a passion to fight for his or her dignity and rights. How do ambiguity and agnosticism result in dreams of justice, in altruism and honor, in sacrifices for the common good? What great reformers of American history can be explained by their elegant ambivalence?

via Michael Gerson – Two good arguments for civility – and passion – in politics.

So one is a negative reason  (we can’t know anything for sure, so we have to be tolerant of all views and the people who hold them).  The other is a positive reason (human beings have an intrinsic value by virtue of their creation by God and so should not be mistreated).

It seems to me that the first view will NOT be civil or tolerant to those who do have beliefs they are sure of.  Whereas the second view will be civil or tolerant to skeptics as well as believers.

A pound of flesh

Mississippi governor and would-be GOP presidential candidate has released two sisters from prison, after they served 16 years of a life-sentence.  One condition, though, is that one of the sisters donate her kidney to the other.

The mandated organ donor says she’s glad to do it, that she was going to do it anyway, but still. . . .What are the medical ethics of imposing a condition like that?

Freedom’s cost? One kidney | hattiesburgamerican.com | Hattiesburg American.


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