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.

France as the world’s new policeman

French President Sarkozy is the new George Bush, pushing the military intervention first in Libya and now in the Ivory Coast, where French-led UN forces, battling another murderous dictator, captured President Gbagbo, who was ousted in an election but refused to  leave office.  Now Europe is interventionist, while the United States comes in only reluctantly, if at all.  Like Europe used to do.

Barack Obama swept to power in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, while David Cameron entered Downing Street last year insisting that the West “can’t drop democracy from 40,000ft”.

Yet the past three weeks have found the  [UN security] council – this time with a less noisy Anglo-American wing – willing to pass stunningly powerful resolutions allowing missile strikes against murderous leaders.

Both resolution 1973 on Libya and resolution 1975 on Ivory Coast give external forces the authority to take “all necessary” measures to protect civilians from violence – practically a carte blanche.

A Western diplomat at the UN last night said the resolutions showed members were taking seriously the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, adopted in 2006, promising “timely and decisive action” against atrocities.

“TV pictures and the threat of humanitarian catastrophe have made people not want to wait for massacres to happen, as in Rwanda,” he said, in language strikingly reminiscent of the Blair-Clinton era.

The diplomat said that crucial in both cases had been the endorsement of action by the respective regional authorities – on Libya, the Arab League and on Ivory Coast, Ecowas and the African Union.

“It’s very difficult if you’re Russia or China to say ‘no’ if the Arabs and the Africans themselves are saying ‘yes’,” he said.

Also important has been the belligerence of Paris. The site of the Chirac-era “Non!” has become gung-ho, ensuring military – and symbolic – backing from the European mainland.

While Mr Obama has stayed almost invisible, the domestically embattled Nicolas Sarkozy has taken personal “ownership” of both interventions, rushing out his statements before anyone else.

via Ivory Coast: UN air strikes show West’s new appetite for military action – Telegraph.

See French troops capture Gbagbo..

The rights of the Earth. And of bugs. And of trees.

Before the UN, a proposal that Bolivia has already enacted, a new frontier of rights legislation:

Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as humans — having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country.

The bid aims to have the UN recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to “dominate and exploit” — to the point that the “well-being and existence of many beings” is now threatened.

The wording may yet evolve, but the general structure is meant to mirror Bolivia’s Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted in January.

That document speaks of the country’s natural resources as “blessings,” and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities; and the right to be free from pollution.

It also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth, and provides the planet with an ombudsman whose job is to hear nature’s complaints as voiced by activist and other groups, including the state.

“If you want to have balance, and you think that the only (entities) who have rights are humans or companies, then how can you reach balance?” Pablo Salon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, told Postmedia News. “But if you recognize that nature too has rights, and (if you provide) legal forms to protect and preserve those rights, then you can achieve balance.”

via UN document would give ‘Mother Earth’ same rights as humans.

How would one determine the inalienable rights of an insect?  Or of a plant?  Or of “Mother Earth”?  What would be the basis of those rights?  If this might some day be enacted, what do you think it could lead to?

Why Magician’s Nephew will be the next Narnia movie

Well, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie didn’t do so well, even worse than Prince Caspian.  Still, as we blogged about earlier, Walden Media is forging ahead with The Magician’s Nephew.  In an interview with Christianity Today, the head of that studio explains why:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe opened in December 2005 to a massive audience, earning more than $1 billion in box office ($745 million) and DVD sales ($332 million) combined. Critical reviews were good (76 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes), and the franchise was off to a great start.

But then came the next two films—2008′s Prince Caspian and 2010′s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian brought in less than half of the domestic box office that LWW had drawn, and VDT only about a third as much. Critical ratings at Rotten Tomatoes dropped from 76 percent positive for LWW to 67 percent for PC to a tepid 50 percent for VDT, which releases to DVD and Blu-Ray this week

With the dropping numbers, we asked Flaherty if the franchise was in trouble, and if not, which of the Chronicles would be the next film? The Silver Chair comes next in the sequence of books, but Flaherty said Walden and 20th Century Fox, which distributes the movies, have mostly decided on The Magician’s Nephew—Narnia’s “origins story”—for their next project. (Narnia scholar Devin Brown says Lewis himself would agree with that choice; see his reasons here.)

Why do The Magician’s Nephew next?

It’s a creative decision in terms of what story we felt has the best opportunity to draw the largest audience. The box office has pretty closely followed the sales pattern of the books.

Prince Caspian sells about half of the books of Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, and it did about half of the box office. Caspian sells about a third more books than Dawn Treader, and it did about a third more box office. That pattern continues to decline with Silver Chair being the weakest book in the series in terms of consumer demand.

We just think the origin tale of The Magician’s Nephew is a great one, and it brings back the characters that have proven to be the most popular—a lot of Aslan and the White Witch. It explains the origin of the lamppost and the wardrobe. The order of these books is something that few people agree on anyway. While Silver Chair certainly continues Eustace’s adventure, we never knew when Magician’s Nephew would come in the sequence of films. We never assumed it would be last, and we never assumed it would be first.

A lot of people say The Magician’s Nephew is their favorite.

In book sales, it is right behind The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. If you look at the superhero stories or any great franchise in recent years, they all have an origin story. We’ve yet to make our origin story. But rather than lead with Magician’s Nephew, we’re following Lewis’s lead on this—that it’s a lot more interesting if you’ve been teased with these things, like the wardrobe, rather than explain it right up front. Once people are familiar with the lamppost, the wardrobe, Narnia, and Aslan, Magician’s Nephew is a lot more powerful, to go back and explain where all of this came from.

via The Lion, the Witch, and the Box Office | Movies & TV | Christianity Today.

Demonizing the Republicans

Kathleen Parker gives some good examples of demonizing your opponent:

So why do Republicans hate art, the elderly and children?

Hint: Same reason parents hate their children when they say, “No.” We could just leave it at that, but this is too much fun.

The demonizing of Republicans for trying to seriously address our desperately ailing economy surely begs for a new metaphor. The GOP has become the army of Mordor, fat-gobbed predators who feed on children while destroying all that is beautiful in their relentless pursuit of greed.

Or so one would infer from the fiery rants emanating from the bowels of Capitol Hill and Hollywood.

“Why are the Republicans trying to kill the arts?” Chris Matthews on “Hardball” asked actor Kevin Spacey, who was in Washington to protest cuts to the arts. Elsewhere, actor Tim Robbins compared proposed cuts to an “old miserly man snatching a crayon out of a baby’s hand.”

He hoped that “more adult minds will prevail.”

Indeed.

Everyone is calling for adults these days. President Obama insisted that Congress “act like grown-ups,” adding that we don’t have time for games. I’m not sure where these adults are going to come from since almost no one seems to want to be one. Meanwhile, the vocabulary of evil and apocalyptic imagery has punctuated criticism of the GOP’s proposed 2012 budget, not to be confused with the 2011 budget.

It is helpful at this juncture to recall that Democrats failed to produce a budget last year, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. But back to the end times:

Jonathan Chait at the New Republic declared the proposed GOP budget “wildly cruel,” while Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) projected a biblical “no room at the inn” scenario with “lights out, doors wide open and the drumbeat playing as people are being rolled out of nursing homes in wheelchairs, with crutches, some on beds.” . . .

Gamesmanship can be entertaining when the stakes are small. But as the president correctly noted, the economy is not child’s play. As painful as the truth is, we can’t continue to live beyond our means. Every category of spending will have to take a hit, and we’ll have to figure out how to make the sucker float with a minimum of suffering. In the meantime, we might relax our reflexes just a tad and give hysteria a rest.

via Demonizing the GOP, losing the budget battle – The Washington Post.

Evangelicalism and Pietism

The noted Christian historian Mark Noll says that a revolution has taken place in our understanding of the history of American evangelicalism.  Citing the scholarship of British historian W. R. Ward, who died recently, Noll says that the origins of American evangelicalism are now understood to lie not in Puritanism or frontier revivals but in 17th century German Pietism:

Never from within the Anglo-American community of historians working on the modern history of Christianity has there been such an encompassing challenge to received historiography, nor such a well-documented appeal to reorient evangelical history away from the narrow precincts of the North Atlantic to the broad plains of Central Europe. The challenge that Ward’s scholarship mounted for the rest of us very ordinary historians was extraordinary. Ward’s achievement provided what not even German scholars have attempted, which is a general interpretation of the history of evangelicalism from within the standpoint of German history and German historical scholarship.

The Central European roots of evangelical religion have changed perceptions of evangelical origins in at least five ways. First, by situating evangelical history against the backdrop of 17th-century European political history, Ward demonstrated that distinctly evangelical beliefs and practices emerged in response to political pressure from powerful states, such as those in the Habsburg empire, or powerful state-churches, both Protestant and Catholic. What he summarized as “the almost universal history of revival as resistance to assimilation” led Ward to Central European beginnings for such essential evangelical themes as the opposition of “true Christianity” to formulaic, systematic, or imposed orthodoxies; and to small-group enclaves as the necessary nurturing medium in which “true Christianity” could flourish. By showing how the political power of nation-states and state-churches played a defining role in the earliest evangelical movements, he showed all scholars the often covert political protests found in almost all evangelical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, and probably later as well.

Second, Ward insisted on the foundational significance of 17th-century events and circumstances for evangelical history. By so doing he made a convincing case that accounts of Anglo-American evangelicalism are necessarily stunted if they do not include figures like Johann Arndt, Jakob Böhme, and Pierre Poiret (who are almost never mentioned) as well as those like Philip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke (who occasionally appear as mere anticipations of what came later).

By insisting on the importance of 17th-century politics and 17th-century European religious history for all later evangelical history, Ward, thirdly, also showed how necessary it is to connect events in the 18th century back to the era of the Reformation and Catholic Reformation. Reformers like Spener returned to Luther for inspiration; in him Spener and like-minded Pietists discovered precedents that would come to mark all evangelicals. Even more, Ward showed that complex lines of influence continued to link mystically minded Catholics and pietistically inclined Protestants straight through the 17th and 18th centuries, and that those links can be best explained by common patterns of reaction to the orthodox state-church establishments that defined European religion after the Reformation.

Fourth, Ward insisted that reforming, revivalistic, anti-statist, and small-group Protestantism was always and everywhere a pan-European phenomenon governed minimally, if at all, by national and linguistic boundaries.

via Rewriting the History of Evangelicalism | Books and Culture.

 


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