It keeps popping up like weeds in your garden. Just when you think you’ve weeded out all their myths and falsehoods, the advocates of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) are back pounding on your door and demanding your tax dollars to fund this latest example of junk science masquerading as the real thing.
The Senate is once again taking up the matter at the behest of Majority Leader Bill Frist, a doctor who ought to know better and who is going all out to revive the issue and push for federal money to fund embryonic stem cell research, now all but banned from getting taxpayer dollars by presidential fiat. As always, the proponents of ESCR have one big thing going for them: vast public misunderstanding of what it’s all about.
Thanks to the liberal media, opportunistic politicians and a highly vocal segment of the dollar-hungry research community, opponents of ESCR are universally pictured as being against stem cell research. They are never identified as being wholeheartedly in favor of non-embryonic stem cell research, the most promising kind, but instead as being against all stem cell research, period.
This is an important distinction which has not been made, so the majority of the American people have been convinced that opponents of ESCR are a bunch of yahoos who don’t understand or appreciate science and those who practice it, or the medical miracles ESCR research promises.
Poppycock! It needs to be said right up front: at this time those promised ESCR
miracles are merely the products of the proponents’ hopes and dreams, and mostly based on the now admittedly falsified claims of a South Korean scientist — not of the current reality, which is grim. Far from curing everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to spinal cord injuries, and a whole host of other medical problems as proponents promise, all ESCR has produced thus far is cancerous tumors in lab animals. And even top ESCR scientists now admit that any progress in the field is 25 years away, after they stop killing lab animals, that is.
Yet you hear proponents say that cures for Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries are right around the corner and if only science had been allowed to go ahead with ESCR a long time ago my dad could have been cured of Alzheimer’s and Christopher Reeve would have lived to walk again.
The ESCR community based most of their inflated claims on the work of South Korean scientist Huang Woo-suk, who claimed to have created the world’s first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, raising hopes of cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Dr. Huang was widely acclaimed as a world-class stem cell pioneer and treated as a hero until investigations disclosed that he had fabricated key data in two papers published in the U.S. journal, Science. He has now admitted the fraud and has been indicted along with five of his associates.
It’s important to remember that there is no ban on embryonic stem cells research. Anybody who wants to do it is free to do so, he just can’t do it on the public’s dollar. If it held the promise that proponents claim, top pharmaceutical companies would be vying for chances to throw their research dollars at it. After all, if it worked as promised they could expect to make huge profits. That they don’t see such prospects should tell us something.
As a result, those seeking to continue to spend their time working on ESCR have to go looking for other sources of funding, and all that’s left for them is the federal treasury. And that’s what it’s all about.
©2006 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley email Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.