A pig with a human brain

The ethical issues involved in combining human DNA with animal DNA are so great–and so obvious–that the federal government at first refused to fund those kinds of experiments.  But now, reports Timothy Willard,  the National Institute for Health has rescinded the ban.

Willard reports on the kind of experimentation your tax dollars will be going towards:  A researcher from the University of California, Davis, that is planning to inject human embryonic stem cells into a pig embryo.  The fetus will then be implanted into the womb of a pig, who will give birth to the human/pig organism (known as a “chimera” for the mythological monsters who are combinations of various animals).

The researcher says he is doing this for the universal excuse of some day curing disease and making more compatible organs to transplant.  But he openly acknowledges what can go wrong.

Since he can’t really control what those human stem cells might turn into, if two adult chimeras mate, the result might be a a human baby with a pig as his or her parents.  Or we might have a pig with a human brain and human consciousness.

But don’t worry, he says.  If anything goes wrong, he will abort the fetus.  This is apparently what convinced the NIH that the experiments can be ethical.

[Read more…]

Empiricism, common sense, and flossing

First we were told that we should avoid food that is high in cholesterol; then we were told that such food doesn’t get into the blood so it doesn’t matter. We were told to avoid eating fat; now we are told that fat can be good for us. Sometimes coffee has been described as harmful and sometimes as helpful.  Drinking alcohol used to be considered unhealthy; now we are told it’s good for the heart.

But there has always been an eternal healthcare verity:  Be sure to floss.

Now that maxim too is under assault:  Researchers are now saying that there is little to no evidence that flossing actually works.

Read the story excerpted and linked to after the jump, and then consider what I say afterwards, how this may reflect a bigger intellectual issue:  the difference between valid deductive reasoning and empirical proof. [Read more…]

Update on the Zika plague

The Center for Disease Control has issued a travel advisory warning people to stay away from Miami’s Wynwood district, an artsy area where the particular mosquito that carries the Zika virus is resisting efforts at eradication.  Fifteen people in the district have come down with Zika, which causes birth-defects in new-born babies.  This is the first time that the CDC has issued a travel advisory for the United States.

Scientists have proven the direct link between the virus and micro-encephaly, or extra small heads in babies.  The center of the plague is still Rio de Janeiro, where the world’s athletes and fans are assembling for the Olympics.  Despite efforts to allay concerns, experts say the danger of spreading the disease throughout the world is real.

[Read more…]

The brain is NOT a computer

Brain researcher Robert Epstein explains that, contrary to what we keep hearing, the brain is NOT a computer.  We don’t process information, we don’t retrieve memories, and we won’t be able someday to download our minds into the internet. [Read more…]

Obamacare funding ruled unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that the mechanism for subsidizing insurance companies under Obamacare violates the Constitution.  That document reads, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” (Article 1.  Section 9).  The Obama administration has been paying that money without Congress having passed an appropriation to do so.  The ruling is on hold, pending appeal. [Read more…]

Human embryo grown outside the womb for 13 days

Scientists have set a new record in keeping a human embryo–that is to say, a developing baby–alive outside the womb for 13 days.  Then they let it–rather, him or her–die.

The law in England, where the experiment took place, sets a limit of 14 days, the time of “individuation” after which identical twins cannot split off from each other.  The experiment was cut short to avoid going over that limit, but reportedly the embryo could have been allowed to keep developing.  Now scientists are calling for the limit to be extended.

How scrupulous they are to obey the government’s law, while being oblivious to the moral law against killing the helpless, not to mention the violation of parenthood. [Read more…]