The Zika mystery & Zika abortions

Some women who get Zika have babies with severe birth defects, but some don’t.  In Brazil, some regions plagued with Zika have a huge percentage of babies with microencephaly.  But adjoining regions also plagued with Zika don’t.  Also, young, black, and poor women are being hit especially hard.

So researchers are now investigating whether Zika does its damage by being paired with other factors.  There had been speculation that the birth defects were caused by a government-administered pesticide.  But researchers have confirmed a direct link between the virus and the birth defects.  Still, things may not be so simple.

Now that Zika has come to the United States, 15 babies have been diagnosed with microencephaly related to the Zika virus.

Also of concern:  Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes or sexual contact, is being used as a pretext for abortion, even late-term abortions, since microencephaly can’t be diagnosed until late in the pregnancy.  Read Zika Outbreak Could Reignite Abortion Debate.

[Read more…]

A shark that was 512 years old?

It turns out that Greenland sharks routinely live to be 272 years old.  One was caught recently that may have been 512 years old.  That is to say, she would have been born in 1504.

She had been swimming in the northern sea, starting only 12 years after Columbus discovered America.  She would have been 13 years old when Martin Luther posted his theses.  She could have eaten a Pilgrim.

This would make this species of shark the longest-living vertebrate.  Scientists are trying to figure out how these creatures can live so long, hoping to apply their findings to human beings.

UPDATE:  The shark, whose long life was ignominiously ended when it was caught in a fishing net, was female.  So I have changed the earlier pronoun “he” to “she.”  Also, as the linked story says, the scientists determined that the shark was between 272 and 512 years old, probably more likely 400 than the upper limit.  But still, that’s old.

[Read more…]

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  But now, reports Timothy Willard,  the National Institute for Health has rescinded the ban.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…]

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…]

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…]