Category Archives: science

Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Success

Here is an interesting article from The Washington Post (via The Corner):

Embryonic Stem Cell Success

Scientists in Germany said yesterday that they had retrieved easily obtained cells from the testes of male mice and transformed them into what appear to be embryonic stem cells, the versatile and medically promising biological building blocks that can morph into all kinds of living tissues.

What’s most eye-catching about the article is not the content itself, though the experiments described are interesting. No, what’s fascinating is the headline – “Embryonic Stem Cell Success” – on an article that is not about embryonic stem cells. It’s not evident whether this is a result of some pro-ESC bias on the part of the headline writer, scientific illiteracy, or just plain sloppiness. Cells taken from adult mice are not embryonic cells, even if they’re transformed in some way to behave similarly to embryonic cells. The liberal war on science continues.

The left’s war on science

Ever since George W. Bush became president, some have been complaining about “the politicization of science” or the idea that the current administration is undermining, ignoring, and stifling science in the United States.

But what the complainers are usually doing is conflating science and policy. Various policy preferences can be supported with scientific evidence, but that doesn’t make the policy preferences themselves “science.” One can disagree with a scientist’s political or policy views without “undermining science.”

The NY Times yesterday reports on a gathering of disgruntled government-employed and -funded scientists who think the administration isn’t listening to to them enough when making policy. This, of course, is hysterically portrayed as “an attack on scientific freedom.”

At a Scientific Gathering, U.S. Policies Are Lamented

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 18 “” David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist and president of the California Institute of Technology, is used to the Bush administration misrepresenting scientific findings to support its policy aims, he told an audience of fellow researchers Saturday. Each time it happens, he said, “I shrug and say, ‘What do you expect?’ “

No examples of any misrepresentation were offered.

But then, Dr. Baltimore went on, he began to read about the administration’s embrace of the theory of the unitary executive, the idea that the executive branch has the power or even the obligation to act without restraint from Congress.

Hopefully Dr. Baltimore knows more about science than about legal theory. The “unitary executive” has nothing to do with “the idea that the executive branch has the power or even the obligation to act without restraint from Congress.” That’s the kind of nonsense one would read on some nutty Angry Left blog. The idea of the unitary executive, recall, merely holds that executive power resides in the executive branch. So we can begin to see where Dr. Baltimore is coming from here. Knee-jerk lefty talking points are not science.

Dr. Baltimore continues:

“It’s no accident that we are seeing such an extensive suppression of scientific freedom,” he said. “It’s part of the theory of government now, and it’s a theory we need to vociferously oppose.” Far from twisting science to suit its own goals, he said, the government should be “the guardian of intellectual freedom.”

But of course his freedom is not being suppressed, he can do all the scientific inquiry he wishes. First, he doesn’t have to do his experiments on the government’s nickel. Second, his real problem is that his favored policies aren’t being implemented. Again, science and policy are not the same thing.

Another speaker, Susan F. Wood, former director of the office of women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration, said administration interference with the agency’s scientific and regulatory processes had left morale there at a “nadir.”

“Administration interference” – note that the FDA is an executive branch agency; they work for the administration, not the other way around. Ms. Wood forgot that she was an employee, not the boss. And again, she’s objecting to a policy decision, not any suppression of scientific inquiry.

Dr. Wood, who received a standing ovation from many in the audience, resigned in August to protest agency officials’ unusual decision to overrule an expert panel and withhold marketing approval for Plan B, the so-called morning after pill, a form of emergency contraception. She said she feared that competent scientists would leave rather than remain at an agency where their work was ignored because “social conservatives have extreme undue influence.”

Uh oh, not “social conservatives.” This gives us a good idea of Wood’s political leanings. Note that “social conservatives” is not a scientific term. In other words, people, some of whom are also scientists (yes, some of those dreaded “social conservatives” are also scientists!), have different policy priorities than Wood. Differences in policy priorities are not an “attack on science.”

The Times piece ends with this:

Leslie Sussan, a lawyer with the Department of Health and Human Services who emphasized that she was speaking only for herself, drew applause when she said she saw the administration’s science policies as “an attack on the rule of law as a basis for self-government and democracy.”

A lawyer spouting some liberal political boilerplate at a conference supposedly opposed to politicizing science. Classic irony.

Previous:
Embryonic stem cells, science and morality
Who’s politicizing science?

Also linked at The Mudville Gazette

Dover, PA and “Intelligent Design”

Ramesh Ponnuru helpfully gets to the bottom line on the Dover, PA “intelligent design” decision handed down today, which found the mention of ID in public school to be unconstitutional:

I’ve read about 40% of the decision, and it appears, with the exception of a few foolish passages, to be a plausible–though perhaps not the only possible–application of the Supreme Court’s establishment-clause jurisprudence. That jurisprudence is widely, and rightly, considered an embarrassment. The idea that anyone who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment intended for the federal courts to get involved in local science curricula, or for them to make authoritative pronouncements about what “is science,” is of course nuts.

That pretty much sums up our take perfectly. Whatever one thinks about the issue of teaching intelligent design in school, it clearly isn’t something for the federal government to decide for every school in the nation.

Who’s politicizing science?

Jay Nordlinger had an interesting tidbit that caught our eye in his always must-read “Impromptus” column Wednesday:

My libertarian juices stirred a bit when reading this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek and other characters kids love should promote only healthy food, a panel of scientists recommended.

In a report released Tuesday, the Institute of Medicine said television advertising strongly influences what children under 12 eat.

The report said the food industry should spend its marketing dollars on nutritious food and drinks. That means SpongeBob, the popular animated star of the Nickelodeon cable TV network, and other characters should endorse only good-for-you food, the panel concluded.

This does not seem like a governmental directive yet, but does it nevertheless seem too Nanny State for you? Me too — or is it just that I likes me not-good-for-you food?

We’re constantly being told these days that “the right is politicizing science”, but here’s a typical example of how liberals quite often make political or policy judgments and try to pass it off as science. Otherwise, it’s irrelevant that “a panel of scientists” made the recommendation.

Scientists like Richard Dawkins go outside the bounds of science to make philosophical judgments all the time. This isn’t to suggest that no one on the right of the political spectrum ever tries to pass off their policy references as scientific fact, only that it is not a phenomenon solely or primarily of the right.

President George W. Bush, Environmental Visionary

From the NY Times today:

In December 1997, representatives of most of the world’s nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate a binding agreement to cut emissions of “greenhouse” gases.

….

But in the years after the protocol was announced, developing countries, including the fast-growing giants China and India, have held firm on their insistence that they would accept no emissions cuts, even though they are likely to be the world’s dominant source of greenhouse gases in coming years.

Their refusal helped fuel strong opposition to the treaty in the United States Senate and its eventual rejection by President Bush.

….

Some veterans of climate diplomacy and science now say that perhaps the entire architecture of the climate treaty process might be flawed.

….

But our President, George W. Bush, was way ahead of all of them. He knew the Kyoto Treaty was flawed, and he stood by that position, even in the face of all the criticism from many of the same people who now admit the whole thing was flawed from the start. It’s the vision thing…

Left-wing in danger: tinfoil hats no help, study shows

Howard Dean, call your office:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

The Kos-Kooks, MoveOn.org types, and other assorted denizens of the unhinged Democratic-left must be cowering in fear in their basements, if they’re even aware of the danger they face.

Also linked at OTB.

Hurricane question for liberals

Question: We know Bushitler-Rove sent hurricane Katrina into New Orleans because they don’t like black people. But why are they attacking their home state of Texas now, sending hurricane Rita in there? What’s the angle? Anyone?

Survey finds people do choose gay behavior

One popular line from the advocates of accepting homosexual behavior is that being gay is innate, like race. How often have we heard the line, “no one chooses to be gay”? The black civil rights movement is often invoked by those arguing for same-sex marriage, etc. Historical bans on inter-racial marriage are said to be analogous to the current ban on same-sex marriage.

Increasing acceptance of homosexuals and support for same-sex marriage show the effectiveness of this appeal. But is there any truth to it? Certainly for most people their sexual identity is very deeply ingrained, but that isn’t necessarily proof that sexual orientation is genetic, like skin color or gender.

A new survey from the CDC shows that indeed sexual behavior is in many cases a matter of choice, and societal acceptance of homosexual behavior leads to more of that behavior.

From MSNBC:

More women experimenting with bisexuality

More women – particularly those in their late teens and 20s – are experimenting with bisexuality or at least feel more comfortable reporting same-sex encounters, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The survey, released Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, found that 11.5 percent of women, ages 18 to 44, said they’ve had at least one sexual experience with another woman in their lifetimes, compared with about 4 percent of women, ages 18 to 59, who said the same in a comparable survey a decade earlier.

For women in their late teens and 20s, the percentage rose to 14 percent in the more recent survey. About 6 percent of men in their teens and 20s said they’d had at least one same-sex encounter.

This is evidence that either, a) the incidence of the gay gene in women has almost tripled in the U.S. population in ten years, or b) that culture and societal values affect sexual behavior. The former is unlikely, to say the least.

If evidence like this accumulates, and serves to debunk some of the propaganda coming from liberal gay activists, it will be interesting to see if that has an effect on attitudes towards same-sex marriage and societal acceptance of gay behavior generally. There must be some subset of Americans who are accepting because they believe “people are born that way,” who will be less accepting if they conclude that it means their own kid might experiment when they go off to college.

At the very least, the American people should base their decisions about changing something as fundamental as the traditional definition of marriage on the truth, not activist group propaganda.

Is Frist backing the wrong type of stem cell research?

In his article With Stem Cells, Frist Backs a Loser, Michael Fumento offers some perspective on the issue of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

He argues that a) embryonic stem cell research has not shown results, b) adult stem cell research has shown results, c) limited funds should be directed where success has been demonstrated, and d) the market will direct private funds to research that shows promise, and that is not toward embryonic stem cell research.

We previously supported Senator Frist’s stance on embryonic stem cell research here and here as far as whether it was a moral/ethical position. We stand by those arguments. We did not address the separate issue of federal funding.

A good argument can be made for leaving the federal government out of the equation – allowing private funding of embryonic stem cell research, but not providing taxpayer funds. The president’s position is too often, through a combination of dishonesty and ignorance, referred to as a ban on embryonic stem cell research. That has never been the case.

Federal funding of scientific research generally is not going away any time soon, so the issue before us is one of allocation. Fumento’s argument that limited funds ought to be directed where actual results have been demonstrated seems like a strong one.

Frist Flip-Flop 2

In our earlier post about Senator Frist’s change of position on embryonic stem cell research, we said, “It seems to us this is more akin to donating the organs of a deceased person than some Mengelian atrocity.”

Charmaine Yoest disagrees, and offers a challenge to the analogy between using an embryo for research and organ donation.

Given that the embryos in question are in a freezer, and that they will be destroyed in either case, we remain unconvinced. It seems to us there are two real possibilities – the embryos will be destroyed, then incinerated, or the embryos will be destroyed, then used for research.

So the “destroyed” part is in the equation either way. The only remaining question at that point is whether those embryos, once destroyed (dead) will be incinerated or used for research. That’s why we see it as morally more akin to (though not, perhaps, exactly like) organ donation than infanticide.