October 25, 2006

Stem cell politics in a YouTube world.

I hate the way the stem cell research issue is used to manipulate voters' minds, and the Michael J. Fox ad is just one more thing. But I've got to jump in and talk about the reaction to it:
Republican strategists who saw how quickly the commercial was downloaded, e-mailed and reshown on news broadcasts certainly thought so. Rush Limbaugh rushed in to discredit Mr. Fox, though he mostly hurt himself. Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, told his listeners that the actor either “didn’t take his medication or was acting.” Mr. Limbaugh later apologized for accusing Mr. Fox of exaggerating his symptoms, but said that “Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democrat politician.”

Republicans cobbled together a response ad that did not mention Mr. Fox but attacked the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. It included testimonials by the actress Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” At least in the advance version shown on YouTube last night, Mr. Caviezel’s introduction seemed either garbled or to be in Aramaic.
Wheeling out Jesus, mumbling in Aramaic, is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in a political ad. And accusing Michael J. Fox of hamming it up, looking extra-sick, is mindbogglingly stupid.

I think there are going to be a lot more attempts to produce the kinds of ads that push the envelope and make everyone want to watch on YouTube. But that's going to mean there will be all sorts of mistakes and lapses for us to talk about for days. It's great blog fodder, but I'm afraid we're going to get terribly distracted by these things. And we're only just getting started.

94 comments:

David said...

Stem cell research will go on with private funding whether or not the feds pony up.

Reminds me of John Edwards implying that a vote for him and Kerry would save Christopher Reeve. I daresay any tangible progress in stem cell research will not involve killing babies.

Zeb Quinn said...

It's just another case of the Democrats wheeling out a victim to make incendiary political statements that Republicans aren't permitted to respond to. The real problem the Democrats have is that Republicans aren't gonna follow that script anymore.

Der Hahn said...

MJF has admitted to deliberately foregoing medication prior to appearing before Congress. I don't think it's a stretch to ask if he did it again.

Sloanasaurus said...

The Stem cell stuff from the Democrats is despicable. Democrats and the media fail to mention that:

1) Private embryonic Stem Cell Research is legal.

2) the federal gov already funds adult stem cell reseach and some embryonic research.

3) There have been really no advances in embryonic stem cell research that would hint to a cure for Parkinsons.

4) Cloning will be required for embryonic stem cell use.

5) There really isn't 600,000 frozen embryos that "will go to waste." This statistic is just not true.

Rush had a point about Fox's performance. In his TV shows, Fox takes his medication which alleviates his symptoms. For the commercial Fox does not take his medication. The whole purpose of this tactic is to make the debate emotional - for people to sympathsize with Fox and other people suffering rather than to think about the issue intellectually.

This would be no different than a person having an ad showing burning victims jumping out of the World Trade Center or showing Nick Bergs head getting cut off and then asking who is better to get the terrorists.

I fyou think the above would be despicable, than Fox's ad is also despicable.

Lars said...

Never forget: "Jim Talent killed Superman". Claire McCaskill approved this message.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7cR3VHwGDKM

LuteLib said...

when you're that far along in the disease, taking meds makes you so stone-faced, it's impossible to speak clearly. you either get stone-faced, scary mjf, or one who's able to speak freely.... he has said this.

the fact people take rush's words on meds is beyond me...

kathyb said...

The 2000 word Ammendment also defines cloning. Objections have been raised that the interpretaion of the definition of cloning would allow human cloning.

Sloanasaurus said...

when you're that far along in the disease, taking meds makes you so stone-faced, it's impossible to speak clearly. you either get stone-faced, scary mjf, or one who's able to speak freely.... he has said this.

Does Fox appear Stone faced in all the episodes of Boston Legal he was in last year? Maybe he did, I don't recall...

George said...

After watching the two videos, I showed them to my wife, without commenting on them. She doesn't follow politics. She's a midwesterner.

Here was her reaction...

1) Why is Michael J. Fox in Missouri? I thought he lived in Vermont.

2) Isn't he a Canadian? Why doesn't he mind his own business?

3) When you see him and his wife profiled in women's magazines, they never let on how sick he must be.

And best of all...

4) Didn't he and his wife play some super-duper Republicans in some TV show? Is he a Democrat? This is too confusing.

As for the GOP ad, she said...

1) That Patricia Heaton has had a lot of plastic surgery.

As weird as the GOP ad was (What is "Jesus" saying in Aramaic?), at least it didn't make me feel like I was being forced to enter a hospital ward. My heart goes out to Mr. Fox, but I sure don't like being "forced" to watch him suffer. And, yes, I understand that we should be "forced" to witness his plight so that we become more enlightened and vote correctly.

Alan said...

This issue is partly responsible for my frustration with the GOP. They don't hide it. It's not about money. The current GOP has no problem spending our money. It's all about the ordained by God pro-life view--even protecting discarded embryos. So if you support the war you have to vote in support of this BS. Which makes me hate the Democratic Party just as much.

LuteLib said...

ooh a link

BJK said...

2-3 weeks out of Election day is when the ads get really nasty. This is when campaigns put out their "home run" material - when it can stay fresh in the voter's minds.

In the last 3-5 days before the campaign ends, they switch over from attack ads to positive, fluff-spots (with the "independent" groups issuing the less-than-factual material).

Given the already high attention level and the expectations placed on this election....things are only going to get worse over the next week.

Seven Machos said...

If Democrats win Congress, people like Michael J. Fox won't have Parkinson's Disease.

Theo Boehm said...

Ooh, do-it-yourself political ads on the Internet!

The slick ones on TV are a reason enough not to watch. Now blogs will be oozing YouTube clips nonstop.

Another great reason to yank that ethernet cable.

SteveR said...

At "least" its not as bad as the GWB NAACP dragging James Byrd ad.

Not as bad..well two weeks to go

Henry said...

If Democrats win Congress, people like Michael J. Fox won't have Parkinson's Disease.

If the Republicans keep Congress, James Caviezel will raise Christopher Reeve from the dead.

sonicfrog said...

Stem cell research will go on with private funding whether or not the feds pony up.

True. But more funding = more research = quicker knowlegde / treatment developement which benefits science and medical practitioners = better, more effective treatments for you and civilization.

There have been really no advances in embryonic stem cell research that would hint to a cure for Parkinsons.

Interferon was a drug being developed in the late 70's that was touted as the future sure-fire magic bullet that would cure cancer. Lots of money went into its development. When they were finaly able to mass produce it through gene splicing, it turns out the drug was a dissapointment. Wasn't nearly as effective as they had hoped. BUT, it turns out it works well in treating other diseases like leukemia, MS, and hepatitus C. Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Sildenafil (Viagra) are other drugs that were designed to treat one ailment, but because of unpredicted "side effects", ended up being used for treatment of other things also / instead. If you're an insulin dependent diabetic, do you refuse to take the insulin that will save your life, because as an animal rights advocate, you can't take it because the insulin treatment was developed through decades of experimentation on pigs and dogs in a laboratory??? While it is entirely possible embryonic stem cell research may never lead to a cure for Parkinsons, or any other disease that is being associated with it, the research is destined to lead to many medical breakthroughs.

HIV / AIDS was once a death sentence. I know a few people who succumbed to the disease. But knowledge gained through HIV / AIDS research has lead to much greater understanding of the immune system, and that knowledge naturaly spills over into the treatment of other ailments. That is the way science works.

John(classic) said...

Announcer: This is Tommy.

(camera pans to Tommy a wheelchair bound 8 year old, moving spastically as he watches his friends paly baseball)

Announcer: Tommy likes baseball. He would be able to play it today:

(camera shows montage of kid sliding home, getting a hit, giving high fives to other kids)

Announcer: If Democrats like Smith had not diverted money from promising adult stem cell research and diverted it to embryonic stem cell research by their pals, Tommy might be able to play.

(camera shows despondent Tommy in front of megalithic research lab).

Tommy: V-v-v-vote for J-on-es. I w--ant to play.




Is this how we want our political campaigns?

Anthony said...

I'm still wishing for a P-Chip I can add to my television that would block all political ads.

As it is, the last couple weeks before national elections I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time watching ESPN/ESPN2/FSN.

"OOooooo. . . look! Junior college volleyball. . . ."

Joe Baby said...

Attacking Fox was a stupid move, as it ensured a 2nd day of questions like "what is wrong w/ Republicans?"

Would have been rather easy, however, to focus on the main problems w/ Fox's statement:

1. the phrase "stem-cell research" is confusing on purpose

2. isn't it fair to hesitate re: the use of human life? embryos don't go on to become house cats or Chevy Impalas -- they become human beings

3. cures, not hope -- Fox asks for hope, but adult stem cell research has already provided some cures

Beating up the messenger was just a stupid move, especially w/ so many points of argument that could have been made.

Hunter McDaniel said...

I'm skeptical as to whether many YouTube ads will ever find their way to truly uncommitted voters. The main value of such ads is to create a pseudo-controversy (as in this case) that causes the ad to get discussed by the legacy media. So as others have commented, the main mistake by the GOP here was to take the bait.

And the underlying issue itself is almost 100% symbolic to both sides, with no practical consequences. Like Gettysburg, it's an otherwise unimportant location where the conflicting parties have collided, leaving destruction in their wake.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Sloanasaurus: I'm not sure why you think your point about terrorism is favorable to Republicans who oppose stem-cell research. You're essentially saying that Republican policies on scientific research could arguably lead to the loss of life, just as Democratic terrorism policies could arguably lead to the loss of life. Those both seem like completely reasonable arguments.

George: I believe that Fox is an American citizen and has lived in the US for decades.

Mark said...

You people need to get your amateur pharamcology straight. When people who have Parkinsons fail to take medicine, they shake less, become stone faced, and in fact mostly freeze up -- difficult to move, talk, etc. They take the medicine not to control the shaking, but to allow themselves to unfreeze. So when they take the medicine, it allows them to talk and be more active, but the most common adverse side effect is that they shake almost uncontrollably, particularly hands and head movements. So Rush has it exactly backwards, as do most of the cynics posting in opposition to the advertisement on this Blog.

Also, asserting in defense of the GOP position on barring government funding for almost all stem cell research that there is no ban on privately funded stem cell research is extremely disingenuous. Scientific and medical research of all types is heavily dependent on federal funding through government research grants. If a private company accepts a federal grant to work on cancer cures having nothing whatsoever to do with stem cell research, and a different division of the same company works on purely privately funded stem cell research, that company would be in violation of the law, despite the fact that the stem cell research division is privately funded. That's because the government sees all grants made to a private organization as fungible. Few legitimate private medical researchers can turn their backs on all government funding.

Actually, the reason why the right is so up in arms over the Michael J. Fox commercials is that they are very effective in translating the issue of stem cell research into a tangible visual. To many people, stem cell research is an abstraction -- this ad makes it quite real. And Fox does not speak of cures - he speaks only of hope. When I think of the GOP efforts to chill and eliminate stem cell research, I seriously wonder how the GOP became so anti-science (and so indebted to the religious right) that they would rather see unused embryos from fertility clinics be thrown into the trash rather than allow them to be used to help improve and even save lives in some of the most promising medical research in our lifetime. In a campaign that will ikely turn on whether the GOP holds the security moms that they had pulled over to the red side in the last 2 elections, effective ads highlighting issues that relate to reproductive freedom, science and rejection of religious dogma are critical to the success of the blue side.

Sloanasaurus said...

It's all about the ordained by God pro-life view--even protecting discarded embryos

This is one of the big misnomers - that there are frozen embryos that would just go to "waste." It's just not true.

I suggest a compromise:

1) Anyone who has excess frozen embryos that they have decided not to use for themselves have two options. Option 1 is to offer the embyro for adoption. If the person is not willing to offer the embryo for adoption, then they can take option 2) which is to destroy the embryo.

If the embryo is offered for adoption and no one chooses to adopt the embryo after a reasonable period of time, then the embryo can be given up to research. The embryo cannot be given up to research unless it is first offered for adoption.

While this compromise does not resolve the problem of destroying human life, it does help prevent the debasement of life by limiting any potential future market to produce embryos. Conservatives such as myself who tend to lean more moderate on social issues might accept such a compromise.

kettle said...

Does the NYTimes always have to be so obnoxiously remiss about linking to the online content they discuss in their articles? They almost never supply any links other than internal ones referring you to unrelated stories on named entities that pop up in the articles you're reading. Grrrr!

George said...

Interesting that no one is talking about the candidates

With all attention now focused on an ailing TV star and Limbaugh, can that really be good news for the candidate who aired the spot?

Is this really motivating Missourians to vote for her?

Goatwhacker said...

You people need to get your amateur pharamcology straight. When people who have Parkinsons fail to take medicine, they shake less, become stone faced, and in fact mostly freeze up -- difficult to move, talk, etc. They take the medicine not to control the shaking, but to allow themselves to unfreeze.

I would have to disagree with you on this. Parkinson's meds such as Sinemet can often help the tremor, it's not taken solely to relieve bradykinesia as you imply. Now Sinemet can cause dyskinesias in itself, maybe that's what you are thinking of.

Anyway we should have a national discussion on the topic of stem cell research, but unfortunately right now it seems to be actors and radio personalities driving the discussion, neither of whom seem particularly well suited for it.

Sloanasaurus said...

You're essentially saying that Republican policies on scientific research could arguably lead to the loss of life, just as Democratic terrorism policies could arguably lead to the loss of life

Cohen, this was not my point at all. I was commenting on the advertisement and the use of gratuitious emotion to carry a message. There are a lot of very emotional conservatives (if that is not a contradictory statement) who would love to show commericals of a partial birth abortion procedure on prime time and then ask people whether or not they support it. MJF is entering that realm.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Sloan: I'm not sure you've really responded to my point. I didn't say anything about the abortion issue, nor did you in your original post. I agree that it would be inappropriate to show gruesome abortion procedures in a political ad. That's not the same thing as showing famous images of the attack on the World Trade Center (in the context of the terrorism issue) or a person who's living with Parkinson's talking about his feelings about scientific research (in the context of the stem-cell issue). I maintain that your comparison is not favorable to anti-research Republicans.

Badger said...

Thanks Rush!

And just for you, in case your usual dealers are out, I will personally try to help you out.

If the Senate should swing on your remark, I will also buy you a one way ticket with a fist full of Viagra.

But only one-way.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the attacks on Fox are reprehensible. I'm not upset with him. But McCaskill's use of a sick man to win office is pretty low. Then again, she's also stated that Bush left people to die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and black.

It's not infuriating that Fox presents a visible face to the issue, but that using his illness is a cheap way around a much-needed discussion on stem cells and research. Sloan makes a fair comparison to partial-birth abortion images.

I seriously wonder how the GOP became so anti-science (and so indebted to the religious right) that they would rather see unused embryos from fertility clinics be thrown into the trash rather than allow them to be used to help improve and even save lives in some of the most promising medical research in our lifetime.

I'm not sure how the President's compromise to fund ESCR is "anti-science." Regardless, the issue in Missouri is not frozen embryos but writing protection into our state constitution for a particular form of medical research which creates and destroys human life. The amendment, by the way, has received 97% of its funding from one couple who happen to own a stem cell research center.

And the arena of promising medical research is adult stem cells, not embryonic. Embryonic stem cells tend to do things like cause tumors, while adult stem cells are actually treating Parkinson's.

Sloanasaurus said...

I maintain that your comparison is not favorable to anti-research Republicans.

Whether its favorable or not - no doubt the pro-death democrats would complain if Republicans used images of burning victims leaping from WTC.

JohnK said...

I think the Fox ad is pretty disgusting if you ask me. The problem is that where is the evidence that stem cell research is ever going to help people like Fox. Moreoever, even if it does, why does that justify the moral implications of creating life for the soul purpose of destroying it to save ourselves?

There are no easy answers to those questions. Wheeling out the victim of a horrible disease in an purely emotional appeal for one side doesn't help the debate.

dick said...

I don't think the republicans are anti-research. The republicans are pro-research that is useful such as adult stem cell research. There has been no successful research conducted on embryonic stem cell research and that is the only kind that the republicans are against. That is also the only kind that the president vetoed. He did not veto research using adult stem cells.

The reason I am upset by these ads is that they are not telling the truth. There is a lot of research going on with adult stem cells and that is supported by the government. There is no research funded by the government being done using embryonic stem cells although if private sources want to do research using embryonic stem cells they can. What the dems are doing is using the ad to blanket the airwaves saying that the reps are against stem cell research and making it seem as if the reps are against both embryonic and adult stem cell research. That is not true and that is what I am against and I think that is what the majority of the reps are up in arms about. But then we should be used to the dems misleading the public with their claims. They have had a lot of practice these last few years. Burning black churches in Arkansas, anyone???

Revenant said...

Something that's always puzzled me is this: if stem cells promise to be such a panacea, why do we NEED government funding? Hell, curing just ONE of the diseases stem cells will allegedly cure would make the inventor of that cure filthy rich beyond his wildest dreams.

MadisonMan said...

JohnK, although you say you think the ad is disgusting, your comment reads like you haven't seen it. I haven't either, but even I know that Fox speaks just of hope, not of help, not of a cure, just hope that this technique might help. I think for sufferers of a fatal disease, hope is something to grab for.

Having not seen the ad, I must say it has to be pretty effective given the gymnastics the Right Echo Chamber is participating it to pull it down.

LuteLib said...

revenant -- gov funding is needed in the early stages of any technology for it to be viable (hybrid cars, the internet, etc)

dick - that argument basically is "well if there's no results then there should be no research" following that, it is certain we will never have results.

MadisonMan said...

It would be interesting, by the way, to produce a political ad for YouTube (although I'd have to equip my computer with flash so I could actually view it).

Would cutting snippets of News footage for a Political Ad be considered fair use? I suspect not. When there are snippets of Some Politician saying Stay the Course -- is the original distributor of that sequence of images being compensated?

mcg said...

Suggesting that Michael J. Fox is hamming it up may be stupid in a political sense. But only in that sense. The fact is, that is exactlywhat he has done in the past, by his own admission. Specifically, he chose to forego his medications when testifying before Congress so as to better illustrate the ravages of the disease.

Now to be honest, I don't have a problem with him doing that. In fact, I think it's a good idea, because it better illustrates the effect the disease has on the body. I do think there's a possibility that the same motivation could lead him to unconsciously exaggerate the symptoms as well. But even that I would forgive, if his intentions were honest.

But frankly, I don't think his intentions are entirely honest---any more than John Edward's intentions were honest when he said that Christopher Reeve and others in his condition would walk again if John Kerry were elected. In fact, I waver back and forth as to whether MJF's ad is worse than what John Edwards said.

On one hand, it's worse because MJF should know better, because he is such an involved advocate on Parkinson's research, that he knows far better than John Edwards how much BS he is peddling. On the other hand, it is hard not to sympathize with someone in the midst of such a difficult physical ordeal and their temptation to stretch the truth to accomplish what they might honestly think is the proper goal.

But that pity only goes so far---far enough to forgive him for his transgression but not enough to withhold challenge to his deception.

chickenlittle said...

Revenant said:
"why do we NEED government funding?"

Indeed we need less of it as practiced today, but without giving up on the science. The current system is much more corrupt than people realize, heavily relying on cronyism at the level of individual grant awards.
Also, there is tremendous pressure to be topical, rather than to conduct basic research because what little bureaucratic oversight does occur is typically of the sort:
“So doctor so-and so, you’ve had this grant for this long, why haven't you cured X yet?” Hence the steady emergence of fraud in science, something that was unheard of a generation ago.
Government-funded scientists are complacent because they have a monopoly. Recall the threat posed by J. Craig Venter several years ago. While he didn’t succeed in his audacious plan, he sure did light a fire under some butts.
I think it fair to say that a silver lining of the republican approach would be to repatriate and return some basic science to the private sector. Of course, that flies in the face of socialism.

Brent said...

Why do liberals insist on using laws to impose their views on the value of life through law over the rest of society?

JohnK said...

"but even I know that Fox speaks just of hope, not of help, not of a cure, just hope that this technique might help."

Madison Man,

As usual you completely miss the point. Who cares if he speaks of "hope". What the hell does that mean? It still is a shameless exploitation of his illness to make an emotional appeal and complete Mao Mao the other side in a very complex issue. The implication of the ad is "vote for the wrong guy in the Senate race and Alex Keaton dies a horrible death." I know that since you are a Democrat, you probably consider that kind of immoral tripe perfectly acceptable rhetoric, but those of us with morals and scruples do not.

dick said...

Chris,

If you have X amount of people and resources to use in research of stemcells and you have 72 positive research results from adult cells and zero positive research results from embryonic cells, the better choice would be to spend the resources on adult cells and let those who want to work in private industry work on embryonic cells if the choose to. There is a finite base of people who have the capability to work with these cells and the president rightly in my opinion chose to push the research that was working well.

I also have to emphasize that the advertising and the commenting in the MSM is sounding as if the feds are stopping all stem cell research. They conveniently forget to include the adjective adult or embryonic when they put out the news and that is in essence lying to the public about what the president did and said. This ad merely carries on with this lying.

The other question is who says that all initial research has to be funded by the feds. Take a look at the funding of the big genetic research companies. They are rolling in the dough. If they choose not to spend it on embryonic, that is their choice. That still does not mean that the feds have to pick up the slack.

Badger said...

But that pity only goes so far---far enough to forgive him for his transgression but not enough to withhold challenge to his deception.

Man this is some brilliant stuff.

I'm sure you have done some exhaustive research on the effects of Parkinsons, and can determine just how much he was deceiving us all.

So, please tell us in your best Fristian medical video analysis:

A little too herky-jerky? A little too much blinking? What was it that tipped you off to this deception?

Anonymous said...

97% of the money for the Missouri amendment is from one couple with a stem cell research center.

This is the new super-colliding super conductor. It was going to unlock the mysteries of the universe, remember? And it would have been great for the people of Waxahachie, too -- except research was already being done with existing particle accelerators. Some scientist always thinks cold fusion is right around the corner.

Except now we'll be paying to create and destroy human embryos, not particles.

Joe said...

I have seen the ad. I found it annoying due to it's fundamental deception.

To illustrate, at one point Fox states "Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."

As has been pointed out, embryonic stem cell research has actually been a non-starter. Adult stem cell research has, by contrast, already resulted in treatments that are in clinical trials. A common comeback is that the hasn't gone on long enough; but it has.

One other point; there is strong evidence that umbilical cords would be an excellent source of stem cells. But the pro-embryonic cell research folks want nothing to do with that any more than they want to talk about the success of adult stem cell research.

One final, and admitedly negative, note. Fox will never be cured. Even with all the funding directed just at Parkinson's the scientific community has barely scratched the surface. We may find better treatments in the next few decades, but a cure is a long way out and will likely not be possible at all.

(We know a lot more about the common cold and can't cure that.)

Old Dad said...

This issue begs for a mature, rational, and informed national discussion. Unfortunately that would require mature, rational, and well informed debaters and a proper venue. The Senate would work but for the Senators.

Could we have another Lincoln v. Douglas debate? I doubt it. Even if we could find another Rail Splitter and Little Giant, we'd lose interest after fifteen minutes.

But we should try it anyway. The question then becomes who to speak? Hillary v. Frist? Rudy v. Gore? They're all political pygmies.

J. Peden said...

"when you're that far along in the disease, taking meds makes you so stone-faced, it's impossible to speak clearly. you either get stone-faced, scary mjf, or one who's able to speak freely.... he has said this."

Wrong. The *disease* should make you look "stone-faced" = "flat affect", not the medication for Parkinson's.

On the video, Fox does not look like he has Parkinson's. Almost everything about his snippet is off-dx, including his swaying from side to side, the most dramatic part of his activity.

He might have Parkinson's, but he also has something else which is dominant, and is producing what you see, possibly a form of Chorea.

Revenant said...

revenant -- gov funding is needed in the early stages of any technology for it to be viable (hybrid cars, the internet, etc)

That's a load of crap.

MadisonMan said...

That's a load of crap.

Well, that convinces me.

I'm not sure if hybrid technology received a boost from government grants -- I suspect it did at some University. Certainly the internet did, since it started in the Dept. of Defense. But really, revenant, a good counterexample here would work wonders.

JohnK, I may be amoral and with no scruples. Another possibility is that I have observed the slow decline and death that Parkinson's offers someone, and seen what hope meant to them. And maybe I want to spare other families going through this. If Mr. Fox's ad changes a couple minds, and they decide that using embryonic stem cells in experiments is maybe a better use of them than burning them in a furnace, that's great.

I'll repeat that given the gymnastics that some employ in trying to pull down this ad, it must be powerful.

mcg said...

Badger: do please try to keep up. I am not claiming he is deceiving us in any way about Parkinson's. But he is most certainly deceiving us about the politics. And he's doing so by deliberately conflating stem cell research that destroys embryos will all other forms of stem cell research.

So, for example, he is flat-out lying when he says that Jim Talent "opposes stem cell research." There is no debating this.

And in my opinion he's also lying---but I would be willing to grant simply being disingenuous---when he says that "George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research." After all, adult and cord-blood stem cell research has far better track record in actual human treatments than embryonic stem cells. If MJF was willing to be up front about that, do you really think his claim that ESRC is the "most promising" would pass the smell test?

Maybe he hadn't yet heard about the most recent results on ESR-based Parkinson's treatments. You know, the ones that suggest that the treatments would cause brain tumors. Or maybe he had, but figured we couldn't be bothered with such details, when the research is just so promising.

mcg said...

Correction. MJF did not say Talent opposes stem cell research; he said he opposes the expansion of stem cell research. (And we're specifically talking about what he said in the advertisement.) But this is still false.

mcg said...

By the way, is anyone aware of the current status of Michel Levesque's work on using adult stem cells to treat Parkinson's?

I guess it must have been a big bust, because otherwise MJF wouldn't be able to tar the Republicans as attempting to prevent the most promising research, right?

Anonymous said...

Just remember: You can elect Claire McCaskill who shares his hope for cures.

Or you can vote for Talent, who, you know, doesn't want cures.

Personally, I want a candidate who shares my hope for cold fusion.

Richard Dolan said...

Embryonic stem cell research has been the subject of Congressional legislation, Presidential veto, and various initiatives in the states. Yet Ann says that she "hate[s] the way the stem cell research issue is used to manipulate voters' minds ...." Well, yes and no.

The MJ Fox ad for McCaskill, and the Pro-Athlete responsive ad opposing the ballot initiative in Missouri, both reduce complex issues to a simple emotional message. Rush Limbaugh and others complain that the Fox ad exploits a "sick man" for political purposes. I suppose it does, but only because the "sick man" wants to be used that way. So what. Political ads have always used (exploited) emotional angles to hit hard on larger policy issues. While that may be manipulative in one sense, it can also be clarifying in another.

Conservative Republicans have opposed federal funding for expanded stem cell research on frankly moral and religious grounds, and the President cited those grounds in vetoing the measure. Even if this were more promising as an avenue of research, they would still oppose it on those grounds. Good for Bush and the conservatives. The Democrats generally take the view that religious and moral considerations are out of place here; utilitarian values should rule this roost, according to them. Good for them. Politics is all about presenting the voters with a choice, and these ads help frame a clear choice for the voters to choose from, even if that choice is mostly framed in the subtext of the ads.

The two major parties differ fundamentally on where they look for the values that they think should be embodied in public policy -- the R team being the more friendly to overtly religious themes, values and appeals, and the D team being more overtly secular and thus unfriendly to the same religious sources. In that sense, the beginning of the Pro-Athlete ad, featuring Caviezel in a churchyard, standing near a partially displayed religious statue and mumbling something in Aramaic, made perfect sense to frame the issue (whether or not it proves effective is another matter). The difference between the parties at this basic level of values, and where they look to find them, is key to understanding the reasons why the parties so often differ on value-laden issues across the political spectrum.

Ann worries that ads of this sort will result in "all sorts of mistakes and lapses for us to talk about for days. It's great blog fodder, but I'm afraid we're going to get terribly distracted by these things." It's certainly true that there are lots of factual and medical claims that can be debated here. But I'm not sure that makes these ads a "distraction." Fussing about whether embryonic stem cell research is more promising than adult stem cell research, whether Fox didn't take his meds so he would look bad in this ad, whether either of the ads gets the relevant science even remotely right, is fine as far as it goes, but if that's all you see here, then I think you are missing the upside of ads like these. They focus the debate on fundamentals; they cut through the clutter and the details and give the voters a pretty good look at what values the contending candidates will bring to bear in deciding between policy alternatives; and they do it in a direct and clear way.

So, while those who are interested blog away on the "mistakes and lapses," real or fancied, that they see in these contending ads, don't miss the forest for the trees. Whatever you think about the merits of embryonic stem cell research, these two ads are pretty good at suggesting the reasons why the parties differ on issues like this. I don't have a problem with that.

tiggeril said...

But really, revenant, a good counterexample here would work wonders.

I'm not Revenant, but I'll point to the X-Prize as an example.

mcg said...

Whatever you think about the merits of embryonic stem cell research, these two ads are pretty good at suggesting the reasons why the parties differ on issues like this.

Then why is there no mention whatsoever of the word "embryonic" in either of MJF's advertisements? You would have a far better case if MJF made that distinction, maybe even saying something to the effect that "Republicans are more concerned about protecting a clump of undifferentiated cells than curing Parkinson's." I mean, that's still demagoguery, but it's a couple steps in the right direction.

dick said...

Richard Dolan,

Please at least notice that the president and the republicans are not against stem cell research. What they are against is embryonic stem cell research. Thus far embryonic stem cell research has accomplished nothing while adult stem cell research has 72 products in use.

The president and the republicans are also not against all stem cell research at all. They are just against government funding of embryonic stem cell research and only embryonic stem cell research. By leaving out the adjective you are misrepresenting the stand that the president and that the republican party takes on the issue. That is what a lot of us find reprehensible about the Michael J Fox ads. If you are going to speak about this or write about it, at least get the facts right.

Private industry is able to do all the research they want on embryonic stem cell research. The government is doing nothing to stop them. They are just not funding it by the government for the embryonic stem cels.

Smilin' Jack said...

To those on my side of the debate, the adult/embryonic distinction is meaningless. We don't make it because we just don't care. A stem cell is a stem cell, not a "human life," regardless of where it came from. Let the researchers decide what kind to use.

And if the government restricts its funding of embryonic stem cell research, then it is restricting stem cell research, period. If the government retricts funding of research on Mars, then it's restricting planetary research, regardless of how many other planets can still be studied with government funds.

MadisonMan said...

What technology has the X-Prize advanced that hasn't piggybacked earlier federally funded research?

Revenant said...

But really, revenant, a good counterexample here would work wonders.

Vaccination
Steam engines
Transistors
Internal combustion engines
Cars
Transplant surgery
Antibiotics
Printing
The telegraph
Airplanes
Blood transfusion
Radio
Most plastics
Photography
Television
Cellular phones
Liquid crystal displays
Fiber optics
X-rays
Air conditioning
... the list goes on and on.

So, to sum up, my analysis of the statement "gov funding is needed in the early stages of any technology for it to be viable" as "a load of crap" was spot on.

chickenlittle said...

Madisonman said:

"What technology has the X-Prize advanced that hasn't piggybacked earlier federally funded research?"

Gee we'll see. and if there's none, I doubt the X-Prize will be around.

I think the Human Genome Project is a better example.

But you're a Madison man though, as I once was, so you depend on government.

Internet Ronin said...

This is meant as a real question: Can anyone name an AIDS drug developed as a result of government funding?

Just a Lawyer said...

This is meant as a real question: Can anyone name an AIDS drug developed as a result of government funding?

Yes, Protease inhibitors with research into the last stages passed to private companies. The hard part -- all government money.

As to MJF not having sufficient drugs in him according to Limbaugh, stupid as he sounds, it seems he is already missing his foray into the prescription medicine closet.

Rush is experiencing another rush and needs detox again.

chickenlittle said...

Just a lawyer:

Hmmm, that doesn't jibe with the story told here:

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_protease_inhibitors.htm

Do you suppose that Mary Bellis is just a shill for Big Bad Pharma?

mcg said...

And if the government restricts its funding of embryonic stem cell research, then it is restricting stem cell research, period. If the government retricts funding of research on Mars, then it's restricting planetary research, regardless of how many other planets can still be studied with government funds.

Ah, Smilin' Jack, too clever by half. I understand your disinterest in the distinction, but you haven't succeeded in justifying MJF's lies.

First of all, MJF is not saying that "Jim Talent is hindering the expansion of stem cell research", he isn't saying that "Jim Talent is placing restrictions on the expansion of stem cell research". If he'd chosen phrases like this, you'd be onto something. Unfortunately for him, MJF is saying that Jim Talent opposes stem cell research. And that is directly contradicted by the material efforts Jim Talent has participated in to expand the non-controversial areas of stem cell research.

Secondly, it simply isn't true that "a stem cell is just a stem cell." The whole reason scientists want to get a hold of embryos is that they are a prime source of a particular type of stem cell (pluripotent stem cells) with different properties than adult stem cells. The distinctions are what motivate an entire branch of stem cell research to try and harvest pluripotent stem cells without resorting to embroys: not just for ethical reasons, I might add, but also because it eliminates the need to perform cloning in order to grow them. Finally, the distinctions are important for the very practical reason that adult stem cells have generated effective human treatments and embryonic/pluripotent cells have not.

It would seem MJF isn't really trying to play the semantic games you are, he's just lying.

mcg said...

Geez, there I go again. I said MJF said Talent opposes SCR, but he said he opposes the expansion of it. But again, that is simply not the case.

archeoman said...

I am surprised by the insistence with which opponents of embryonic stem cell research keep repeating the mantra that embryonic stem cells have not produced any viable cures. Before 1903 nothing man-made and as heavy as the Wright brothers' plane had ever flown before - despite numerous attempts - but that didn't invalidate the science that predicted that airplanes were theoretically possible. It's exactly the same with embryonic stem cells. The fact that scientists have not yet successfully deployed them to cure diseases does not mean that they never will. Are you really trying to argue that the numerous world-class researchers across the globe, working at such prestigious institutions as Cambridge (http://www.stemcells.cam.ac.uk/) or Stanford (http://stemcell.stanford.edu/)are perversely insisting on embryonic stem cell research for no good reason? Come on, these are ambitious scientists, not masochists! They want results and success, and would never waste their precious time and talent on a useless pipe dream.
And besides, embryonic stem cells have already successfully cured Parkinson's, in rats, without cloning. The problem is the cells then ran amok and grew into tumors. If scientists can now learn to program the cells to do the good (cure Parkinson's) while refraining from the bad (grow into tumors), we are well on our way to a cure for a terrible disease (and believe me, as far as the disease is concerned I know what I'm talking about).
I deeply and sincerely respect the moral argument against embryonic stem cell research, even though I may not share the conclusions of opponents. My personal view is that if there is life after death, then body and soul are not one, and just as there is a decaying body after the soul has departed, there may be a nascent or embryonic stage of the body when it does not yet have a life or a soul of its own. If embryonic stem cells represent that pre-stage of a person and are no more than a soulless "proto-body", then accepting stem-cell treatment is comparable to accepting a blood transfusion. The problem is that no one knows when (if ever) the soul enters the body. Certainly there is no consensus on this among world religions or even within Christianity - Orthodox Christianity, for example, does not teach that life in all its fullness begins at conception.

On balance, therefore, my personal view is that to sacrifice a microscopic clump of a few dozen embryonic cells to attain a cure for as devastating an affliction as Parkinson's is acceptable, especially if the alternative is that those cells will be discarded (and yes, they really are often discarded, not just in the US, but in countless other countries as well - in fact, in any country where in vitro fertilization is practiced). That is my moral choice, and it's neither easy nor free from doubt. For others, the choice may be different - I respect that. But please don't demean the moral stance you take by resorting to such patently nonsensical claims as "embryonic stem cells never have and never will cure a disease". You cannot know that. No one can know that. All you and I know is that some of the best scientific minds of this world disagree with you and are betting their life's work on the potential of embryonic stem cells to cure and give life.

Henry said...

Smilin' Jack and Archeoman --

Consider the possibility that federal money that doesn't go into embryonic stem cell research could go into some other type of research.

Now I know the answer to that proposal is "who the hell knows."

Nevertheless, any money to project x is less money available to project y.

By Smilin' Jack's logic, the federal government is restricting research into everything. No matter how much money the feds put up, they could up more. Anything they prioritize deprioritizes something else. Hey! I have a compost bin. Where's my grant?

I'm not a fan of the Bush administration's embryonic stem cell research stand, but the use of this issue as political fodder substitutes celebrity for science. Embryonic stem cell research isn't necessarily any better research than others the government could fund, but since it represents "Hope" that doesn't matter.

Freder Frederson said...

So, to sum up, my analysis of the statement "gov funding is needed in the early stages of any technology for it to be viable" as "a load of crap" was spot on.

Your list is interesting, but some of the items on it show how wrong you are. For instance, transistors came out of Bell Labs, which of course was a joint government/AT&T consortium that was one way the Bell system was allowed to maintain its telephone monopoly by reinvesting some its profits back into basic research for the benefit of the entire country. To say that transistors weren't a direct result of government funding and support is ridiculous.

As for airplanes. We are over one hundred years beyond the undisputed invention of the airplane and it still isn't commercially viable. Airplanes were nothing but the plaything of the extremely wealthy until governments invented military uses for them in World War I. Commercial aviation has never been viable without massive government subsidies and airplane manufacturers only survive because of their defense work or direct government subsidies. In fact I doubt you can name one method of mechanical transportation that would be viable without direct or indirect government subsidy.

It is obvious from reading this thread that many of you don't know the difference between basic and applied research or why private industry doesn't like doing basic research and why it is important for the government to fund and support it. The president obviously doesn't know either. I guess this is the fault of the deplorable state of science education in this country.

Basic research provides the building blocks upon which private industry can produce viable and profitable products. Basic research often leads up blind alleys and dead ends and is very risky and takes a long time with very uncertain results. That is why private industry, which is focussed on profits and results in the near term, is ill-suited to conduct it.

Abraham said...

In fact I doubt you can name one method of mechanical transportation that would be viable without direct or indirect government subsidy.

Bicycle?

Freder Frederson said...

Bicycle?

I should have said non-human powered. But that is correct.

Internet Ronin said...

You're right, Freder. A number of things on those lists (like the accomplishments of Bells Labs) would never have happened without government funding. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point out the more egregious errors. As it turns out, a lot longer than I anticipated.

Basic research provides the building blocks upon which private industry can produce viable and profitable products. Basic research often leads up blind alleys and dead ends and is very risky and takes a long time with very uncertain results. That is why private industry, which is focussed on profits and results in the near term, is ill-suited to conduct it.

Well said.

Smilin' Jack said...

Abraham said...
In fact I doubt you can name one method of mechanical transportation that would be viable without direct or indirect government subsidy.

Bicycle?


If you only ride your bike on privately built roads, you won't get far.

Freder Frederson said...

Before someone makes the correct guess, trans-oceanic shipping is probably one mode of transport that could survive, and has had a pretty successful history, without a whole lot of government subsidy. Inland navigation is a whole different story.

Freder Frederson said...

5) There really isn't 600,000 frozen embryos that "will go to waste." This statistic is just not true.

True but deceptive. The real number is around 400,000. Whatever the number is, the fact remains that there are hundreds of thousands of blastocysts sitting in freezers at fertility clinics slowly deteriorating. The vast majority of them will eventually become medical waste. If you think this fact is a horrible and waste of human life (and keeping babies frozen at -360 degrees is torture), then you should be lobbying your congressman to ban fertility treatments that create excess blastocysts (e.g. almost all in-vitro methods) and stop worrying about stem-cell research, because that is where the real Mengeles are.

What about all those parents who are willing to sacrifice or torture all their other "children" just so they can have one healthy one? Aren't they despicable? What kind of sick parent would allow their own child to be plunged into a vat of liquid nitrogen?

chickenlittle said...

Dear Freder

Nice comments so far, but you are being a bit disingenuous about basic and applied research. I'll cite one famous example which suggests that you have it backwards(though you do espouse the mantra that I learned):

Government subsidy wasn't neccessary to get Leo Szilard to conceive the nuclear chain reaction in 1933. It did take a sustained (and secret) government effort to reduce it to practice.

Getting back on topic, we're talking about a cure for a disease here, so the problem has already moved beyond basic research to applied research.

Even so, basic and applied research are not as distinct as you imply, thanks in part to Bayh-Dole. Anyone unfamiliar with that act should spend a little time researching it and consider what effect it might have on university's "basic" research. I think you really meant to take a swipe at "industrial research".

btw, you would be shocked, shocked to learn the level of my education hard science.

Freder Frederson said...

Government subsidy wasn't neccessary to get Leo Szilard to conceive the nuclear chain reaction in 1933. It did take a sustained (and secret) government effort to reduce it to practice.

Oh yeah, nuclear physics is where you really want to go to demonstrate that government funding isn't necessary for progress.

And I just love when people tout the X prize as an example of how private funding ecouraged a private breakthrough in space travel. It's a good thing that we had, what, three teams of ultra-rich people using their own money to pursue their pipe dreams.

Just imagine Sir Richard Branson pitching funding for his X prize project to the Virgin Board:

Sir Richard: "There you have it gentlemen, for $20 million, we have a very good chance of succeeding, although there are two other well funded teams that may beat us. But if we win, there is a $10 million prize"

Board Member 1: "You mean we have a one-third chance of making a 50% profit on our $20 million investment? That seems kind of risky."

SR: "Uhh, no. The total prize is $10 million."

BM 2: "You mean, at the very best, we will end up losing $10 million, but will probably just lose our entire investment just to do something the Americans and the Russians did forty-five years ago? Are you mad?"

SR: "Probably a little. But I've got tons of money and I'm a handsome bugger, so people mistake it for genuis."

Freder Frederson said...

Government subsidy wasn't neccessary to get Leo Szilard to conceive the nuclear chain reaction in 1933. It did take a sustained (and secret) government effort to reduce it to practice.

And here, of course you are confusing theoretical work (literally pencil and paper work) with research. Remember, Heisenberg--probably the best nuclear physicist in the world--never was able to get the math right to acheive a sustained nuclear reaction. Of course he claimed after the war this was deliberate, but we'll probably never know for sure.

chickenlittle said...

Your point about the Branson story is?...

My point was that you had myth-characterized the nature of basic and applied research, and had really just meant to take a swipe a "private industry" research.

chickenlittle said...

"And here, of course you are confusing theoretical work (literally pencil and paper work) with research."

Szilard's work was not "theoretical" he actually got a patent on the chain reaction in Britain (UK Patent 630726). He pushed the idea of a weapon and convinced Einstein to write his famous letter to FDR. Szilard came to oppose the development of the bomb, because the government gained control of the project.

I don't believe Heisenberg got the math wrong- he didn't have the engineering resources. But then, as you say, we may never know.

archeoman said...

Henry:

"By Smilin' Jack's logic, the federal government is restricting research into everything. No matter how much money the feds put up, they could up more. Anything they prioritize deprioritizes something else. Hey! I have a compost bin. Where's my grant?"

Of course federal government "restricts" research - the laws of nature restrict research. But who decides how much of our limited resources should go to which research? That is a legitimate political issue. I would argue that the government should decide how much money we can afford to spend on - broadly defined - fundamental medical research, and that a panel of experts should decide how that money can best be distributed. But what president Bush and congress have done is deny the experts even the opportunity to fund most types of embryonic stem cell research with federal funds. They do that on moral grounds - in other words with the express purpose of limiting the amount of embryonic stem cell research because it is morally questionable in their eyes, not because they think it holds no promise. Moral grounds for restricting research can be legitimate, but are often tricky. We can all give examples of totally unacceptable research - the type of "research" carried out by the Mengele-types in Nazi death camps for example - but what about animal testing? Most of us would agree to a kidney transplant if that could save our lives, but for some it is morally unacceptable. The fact is that moral standards are absolute only if they are genuinely shared by the vast majority of people.

Where stem cells are concerned there is certainly no such moral consensus. Nonetheless, Bush and his party have imposed their personal moral standards when they banned federal funding for most types of embryonic stem cell research. Whether that is acceptable in the Land of the Free is a separate issue, but what troubles me most is the sheer lack of logic and moral consistency in their stance. It is not OK te create NEW stem cell lines with federal money (but no problem with private funds), but it IS OK to continue working with existing lines. Where's the moral logic in that? Even worse, we're creating hundreds, if not thousands of new stem cell 'lines' every day for IVF, many of which end up becoming surplus and are discarded. How can it be morally more acceptable to discard these new stemcell lines than to use them for federally funded research aimed at finding cures for terrible diseases?
If Bush were really taking a moral stand, based on the conviction that every clump of stem cells is a human life that must be protected, then he should propose a ban on all embryonic stem cell research and probably also ban, or at least severely curtail IVF. He does not appear to be willing to go there, and that makes his stance on fed funding for embryonic stem cell research hypocritical rather than moral.

No politician can avoid a little hypocricy, and as long stem cell research remains something fairly esoteric and abstract, Bush can happily use his quasi moral stance to humor his Christian-conservative base. But it is precisely because of the latent hypocricy that Bush-supporters like Limbaugh are so stung by Fox's ad. Fox raises the stakes: stemcell research is no longer something remote and esoteric, but something that holds out hope for a cure to real people who are really suffering very badly. And Bush is obstructing research into that cure. The ad challenges us to explore the powerful reasons that compel Bush to do that, and Limbaugh knows full well that Bush's position - shared by so many on the campaign trail - is too hypocritical to show well in the spotlight. It will satisfy no one, whether proponent or opponent. So Limbaugh astutely changes the topic from stem cells to Fox (and Limbaugh).

Read the blogs, and you'l find more evidence of discomfort with the weakness of the Bush position on embryonic stem cell research. It has led to such nonsense as:
- "Embryonic stem cells are no good anyway; adult stemcells are much better". Wishful thinking. In reality we don't know that yet. We can't know that yet.
- "The destruction of 600 000 embryos left over from IVF is a lie". Denial. When your opponents resort to changing or denying the facts you know how weak their case is.
- "We can't fund everything". No, but rather than big-brother government I would like experts to decide which medical research is best served with funding by my tax dollars.

These are lame arguments that don't do the issue justice. Embryonic stem cell research poses a really significant moral dilemma. It deserves to be seriously debated, not charicaturized.

Freder Frederson said...

Your point about the Branson story is?

That the people who won the X prize spent $20 million to win $10 million, hardly a wise investment (and the two other teams competing spent similar amounts and didn't even succeed). Space tourism (or even privately funded competition to government launched satellites) remains the the crackpot pipedream of eccentric billionaires with way too much disposable income.

Five years after 2001, there are no PanAm flights to the moon. Heck, PanAm doesn't even exist anymore. Another victim of the still not profitable commercial airline industry.

And Heisenberg did get the math wrong. He claimed he did it deliberately to keep Hitler from getting the bomb, but not many people believe that anymore.

Revenant said...

For instance, transistors came out of Bell Labs, which of course was a joint government/AT&T consortium that was one way the Bell system was allowed to maintain its telephone monopoly by reinvesting some its profits back into basic research for the benefit of the entire country.

I realize that you're a leftist and therefore inclined to equate, as you did above, "the government didn't destroy the company" with "the government helped". But Bell Labs was a private enterprise, not a joint government-private project. Failing to violate AT&Ts rights by breaking up the company isn't the same as helping AT&T develop products.

As for airplanes. We are over one hundred years beyond the undisputed invention of the airplane and it still isn't commercially viable

Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. There are airlines that exist (and turn profits) without government assistance, and of course the private airplane business is profitable as well. The notion that the airplane isn't commercially viable has no basis in reality. The notion that the government's assistance is needed, when government meddling itself is responsible for most of the industry's problems, also has no basis in reality.

Basic research often leads up blind alleys and dead ends and is very risky and takes a long time with very uncertain results. That is why private industry, which is focussed on profits and results in the near term, is ill-suited to conduct it.

You don't have the foggiest fucking idea what you're talking about. American businesses spend far more on basic research than the government does.

Freder Frederson said...

Szilard's work was not "theoretical" he actually got a patent on the chain reaction in Britain (UK Patent 630726).

You don't actually have to build something to patent it. He proposed the idea that a sustainable chain reaction was possible and controllable. He didn't demonstrate it or even figure out what a critical mass would be. Did he even name Uranium 235 as the best candidate for the reaction?

sonicfrog said...

Consider the possibility that federal money that doesn't go into embryonic stem cell research could go into some other type of research.

In economics, that is called "oportunity cost". Example: by sitting here to type this comment, I now have 5 less minutes in the day to do something else.

chickenlittle said...

Freder said:

"You don't actually have to build something to patent it."

That is correct. But you also can't patent a theory.

Since you really appear to be clueless about what consistues basic and applied research, I'll cut and past portions from wikipedia:

"Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables (see statistics). It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest, or hunch. It is conducted without any practical end in mind, although it may have unexpected results pointing to practical applications..."

"Applied research is done to solve specific, practical questions; its primary aim is not to gain knowledge for its own sake. It can be exploratory, but is usually descriptive. It is almost always done on the basis of basic research."

Which of the above sounds closer to describing a cure for Parkinson's?

Again, I repeat, we're talking about a finding a cure for a disease here right?

chickenlittle said...

Freder said:

"And Heisenberg did get the math wrong. He claimed he did it deliberately..."

Highly unlikely, where did you learn that, a recent play?

Just a Lawyer said...

Chickenlittle said:

"Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables (see statistics). It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest, or hunch. It is conducted without any practical end in mind, although it may have unexpected results pointing to practical applications..."

"Applied research is done to solve specific, practical questions; its primary aim is not to gain knowledge for its own sake. It can be exploratory, but is usually descriptive. It is almost always done on the basis of basic research."

Which of the above sounds closer to describing a cure for Parkinson's?

The problem with stem cells is closer to basic research. It includes things as generating the best lines for propagation (which is useful for many different diseases), stages at which the cells are taken, methods for harvesting the cells, maintaining the cells, etc.

Many of these basis building blocks are incompletely known.

Any one of them can make a research program fail if not sufficiently overcome. For instance, a method that leads to a cure with a one in a ten thousand chance is not quite there, but one with one in ten or so may be worth the risk of undergoing the procedure.

These are basic science questions that are relatively hard, but not impossible, for the private sector to fund. As public funds generate a valuable public resource - knowledge, it makes sense to have governments and non-profits to take the lead in open ended funding.

Normal childhood is denied to the frozen embryos anyway. That seems to make the political and moral arguments even more dubious as the best chance for some of the embyos to live is as embryonic stem cell lines, unless we can come up with borrowed money to pay foster mothers to host these children (a pragmatic Republican solution)- or to compel a women to attempt at least once to host all of the embryos created in any in vitro procedure (the solution of the pragmatic Republicans). The solution moral core would just as well ban the procedure as well as any sloughing of skin or other tissues that may be used to generate embryos by any technique.

The practical approach of using the lines to attempt to improve the lives and cure diseases is of course the wasteful Democratic solution, more so if it is supplemented with private funding and management to deliver it as a realistic option.

tcd said...

archeoman said "but what troubles me most is the sheer lack of logic and moral consistency in their stance. It is not OK te create NEW stem cell lines with federal money (but no problem with private funds), but it IS OK to continue working with existing lines. Where's the moral logic in that?"

So to avoid being a hypocrite, President Bush should advocate a total ban on all embryonic stem cell research, even on existing lines of ESCR? Such a typical liberal stance of let's throw the baby out with the bath water.

President Bush's position is pragmatic, your proposal is idiotic.

tcd said...

Just a lawyer,
From what I've read on stem cell research, seems adult stem cells are "the best lines for propagation" and are actually producing results. So why the push for embryonic stem cells? I agree with you that unused frozen embryos from IVF should be used for ESCR, but what's to stop the ESCR or IVF industries from cloning human embryos for the sole purpose of harvesting them for stem cells? The prospect of creating human life only to destroy it for profit gives you absolutely no pause for reflection? And I say this as a socially-liberal, free market capitalist.

Chevyiii said...

According to Wikipedia, Michael J Fox is a Canuck with dual citizenship. I have to ask, has he not petitioned his own Prime Minister for stem cell research?

chickenlittle said...

Canada, I dare say, has no biotech to speak of. This is not to pass judgement on Canadians. Plenty of good and ambitious students study and work abroad.

chickenlittle said...

Just a lawyer said:

"These are basic science questions that are relatively hard, but not impossible, for the private sector to fund. As public funds generate a valuable public resource - knowledge, it makes sense to have governments and non-profits to take the lead in open ended funding."

The purest form of basic research is curiosity driven, driven by the researchers quest for knowledge, results to publish, a stellar degree.
While I'm certain that basic research remains to do on embryonic stem cells, the kinds of uses and applications that we've discussed here so far are applied- extremely applied. That we haven't yet cured Parkinson's may not be for lack basic research.