9 things the media messed up about the Obama stem cell story

Newsbusters reports:

Josh Brahm of Right to Life of Central CA has done the definitive dissection of the comprehensive media failure in reporting on President Obama's recent Executive Order allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

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Brahm's "9 Things the Media Messed Up About the Obama Stem Cell Story" is an exceptional magnum opus that must be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated. It identifies each of the 9 errors, links to well over 40 specific instances of media bias and/or ignorance, and tell us why those errors are significant. I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable in this subject area until I read Brahm's work....

I just read Josh's report and am impressed not just by the magnitude of corroboration but also by how Josh put together his piece in an eye-appealing way. Impressive use of fonts, graphics, and colors. It is important that we not only write well but present well. Josh has done both.

Josh also linked to a must read March 4 article by cardiologist " target=_blank">Bernadine Healy, M.D., US News & World Report's health editor, entitled, "Why embryonic stem cells are obsolete." Healy is the former head of the National Institutes of Health, the American Red Cross, and the College of Medicine and Public Health at OH State University. Jivin J previously linked to this piece, but it's worth a relink.


Comments:

This article was very helpful. Here is another one highlightingbad reasoning for Human Embryonic Stem-cell Research commonly utilised by Obama, the media and others.

Posted by: Madeleine at March 16, 2009 4:41 PM


Font, graphics and colors in place of accurate honest facts. ESPN has a flashy website, but I'm not going to Peyton Manning for my news coverage.

Posted by: Yo La Tengo at March 16, 2009 4:45 PM


If embryonic stem cell research is really so obsolete, what are you worried about? Nobody will take the funding, and no research will be done. What's the problem?

Posted by: reality at March 16, 2009 4:46 PM


Reality, because people will take the funding regardless of need. ESCR means big recognition and big money, even if the detail betray a need for it to begin with.

And YLT- Do you have any evidence at all that these fact are not honest?

Posted by: Lauren at March 16, 2009 4:51 PM


Lauren,

ESCR means big recognition and big money

How could it possibly mean big recognition if it can never produce results?

Posted by: reality at March 16, 2009 5:11 PM


Reality, we aren't saying that it can't produce results. We're saying that Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells can produce the same results without the ethical issues.

If the money is going to ESCR, why would a scientist without ethical qualm study Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells instead?

Becaue our society has been misled, the money and recognition is currently in ESCR.

Posted by: Lauren at March 16, 2009 5:15 PM


reality,

The recognition can come from the "trying". Not all scientists accept the results of research by their peers as fact. - It's human nature. In the case of ESCR, the point is that studies have shown the need for it is not there.... so why should the killing of embryos be tolerated...

Posted by: Janet at March 16, 2009 5:24 PM


Excellent article - Josh did a great job on this.

Curiously, I didn't see the definitive work on ESCR by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen:

http://www.amazon.com/Embryo-Defense-Robert-P-George/dp/0385522827

Posted by: Chris Arsenault at March 16, 2009 6:58 PM


ylt and reality,

Keep listening for the popping sound. After you've heard the pop then things will become much more clear, your analytical ruminating will begin to suside and your outlook on life will improve dramatically.

yor bro ken

Posted by: kbhvac at March 16, 2009 9:35 PM


Dr. Healy should know better. Not once does her article mention BASIC SCIENCE.

We need to study ESCs for basic-science reasons. That means understanding for the sake of understanding. We know this leads to clinical benefits in the MEDIUM-AND-LONG-TERM future. If not for our predecessors' wisdom in funding basic science we wouldn't know a stem cell from a hole in the ground.

We need to know HOW pluripotent cells sense their environments and specialize accordingly. ALL kinds of pluripotent cells--genetically de-specialized cells, adult stem cells, umbilical stem cells, AND embryonic stem cells. With enough information on environment-responsive specialization, we could learn to mass-grow transplantable organs in factories.

We need to know: HOW/WHY do embryonic stem cell transplants, but not adult stem cell transplants, grow tumors? Is there something the adult cells "know" that the embryonic cells have not yet learned? Or are the adults just slower generally, therefore less tumorigenic but also less useful? Can we learn to control the maturation process and dial up cells with minimum tumorigenicity but maximum plasticity? And yes, we need to know this about human cells as well as animal models.

Final point: asking Robert P. George to opine on a scientific issue is like asking PZ Myers to opine on the details of Catholic Canon Law. Not his field; also, the source (in both cases) has known prejudices and ideological adendas which make objectivity impossible.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 16, 2009 10:47 PM


SingingZombie,

Do you realize that many Nazis made the EXACT SAME ARGUMENT in the war crimes tribunals, while they were defending the use of Jewish prisoners in lethal and tortuous scientific experiments?

Pursuit of knowledge is all well and good, but there's a reason we have ethical standards in science. There are some lines that should not me crossed for ethical reasons, no matter what the alleged scientific gain.

reality - you do realize that cures made from embryonic stem cells can be patented, whereas cures made from one's own stem cells cannot? ESCR is potentially more lucrative even if adult stem cell research is more promising and has more potential. Follow the money.

Posted by: JoAnna at March 16, 2009 10:53 PM



"We need to know: HOW/WHY do embryonic stem cell transplants, but not adult stem cell transplants, grow tumors? "

Um, maybe it's a sign from God that we shouldn't go there??

********
JoAnna, Good point.

"Ethics" - What a concept!

Posted by: Janet at March 16, 2009 11:15 PM


Excuse me, JoAnna. The title of Dr. Healy's article was "Why Embryonic Stem Cells Are Obsolete", not "Why They Are Immoral". Therefore, the Nazis' moral violations (and everybody else's as well) are not relevant.

Generally, right-to-lifers have been arguing that ESCR is BOTH morally wrong AND scientifically misguided. I'm just saying they/you are wrong on the second count--the scientific part. Both sides are guilty of exaggerating the clinical side. Almost all scientists do that all the time. It's one of the requirements in the unwritten part of the job description. You're supposed to think your own thing is the most important thing in the world. But on this subject I almost never see anyone even raise the basic-science question. The idea that we might want to know more about something EVEN THOUGH it's not going to yield immediate clinical developments.

On the moral part, I agree with Michael Kinsley this time--if right-to-lifers were serious about embryonic cells meriting person-like moral considerations, they/you would be working to find ways of preventing spontaneous early miscarriages, which cannot be counted because they are almost always undetected, but could easily be killing one-third of all the pregnancies in the world. I know the line: "if God takes the life by miscarriage that's ok but not if humans do by abortion" but I can't buy it--If one-third of all the already-born babies in the world were dying of some natural cause, the Catholics, at least, would be shouting for something to be done about it. I can't see you saying "If God takes a life by starvation, that's His privilege, so we shouldn't bother sending food to hungry people." Similarly, if you were serious, maybe spontaneous miscarriages would receive LESS attention than the ESCR issue or the abortion-on-demand issue, but they'd still receive SOME significant attention.

Obama is not ignoring ethics. Only YOUR ethics. Which is good. Your ethics are designed for the purpose of motivating religious people to send money to right-wing organizations. Not for governing. It's OK as long as you're not in charge.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 16, 2009 11:25 PM


I'm not a lawyer but I would bet you're wrong about embryonic cells being more lucrative than other pluripotent cells because of patent law. You can patent a new technique. A technique for taking someone's cells, doing something to them, and transplanting them back into the donor. And you can patent the reagents you use for doing whatever you do.

Regarding this "sign from God" hypothesis, let's suppose you're right. Or even, that the tumors are a punishment from God for the moral violation. If either of those were true, then it would be even more necessary to understand the chemical mechanism of the tumorigenesis. Imagine writing the reaction equations for divine intervention! That would be something.

It is, however, evidence that someone went clinical way too soon. Parkinson's is not life-threatening. Like I said, all scientists do it. It's even worse in the Alzheimer's field. Someone notices something about the patients' brains and right away starts writing proposals based on the assumption that it's related to the illness or even causal. When I was doing it it was all about beta-amyloid deposits.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 16, 2009 11:50 PM


Similarly, if you were serious, maybe spontaneous miscarriages would receive LESS attention than the ESCR issue or the abortion-on-demand issue, but they'd still receive SOME significant attention.

You must be joking to say Catholics are not giving attention to fertility issues such as miscarriages. Obviously you are not an OB/GYN.

Ethics are universal and not "designed". Perhaps you mean morals?

Jill just posted an excellent YouTube video by Francis Cardinal George.
He states that "government should never come between a person and his religion".

Both sides are guilty of exaggerating the clinical side. Almost all scientists do that all the time. It's one of the requirements in the unwritten part of the job description. You're supposed to think your own thing is the most important thing in the world.

It's not often we hear this admission from your side. It just proves that scientists' pursuits are not always in "the peoples'" best interests

Posted by: Janet at March 16, 2009 11:52 PM


Yes, Janet, there's a City-of-Man/City-of-God thing in science. But, funding it is still very much "in the people's best interest". If you include the people in the future. The Human Species' best interest.

Janet, I didn't say "fertility issues such as miscarriages". I said, early spontaneous miscarriages. Where you typically never know you were pregnant. And, where you go on to become pregnant later. What are Catholics doing about reducing those? (If you call a gyn clinic complaining of a brown vaginal discharge, the first question they ask you is: are you trying to get pregnant?)

That's truly a noble sentiment by Francis Cardinal George. Is he working on getting Quakers exempt from paying taxes for defense spending? How about getting Muslims and Orthodox Jews exempt from paying taxes that go to pork-industry subsidies? After we finish those, then maybe there will be time to address your religio-scientific quirks too.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 17, 2009 12:12 AM


Zombie,

You did not say "early" spontaneous miscarriages. All miscarriages are spontaneous, except the intentional induced abortion.

The objection to ESCR research is that there is human intervention that causes the killing of the embryo. There is no intentional human intervention to cause a spontaneous miscarriage (with a few exceptions).

First and foremost, the Catholic Church teaches faith and morals. It is not responsible for solving ALL the medical problems of the world. You won't find them preaching about kidney stones any time soon.

"Imagine writing the reaction equations for divine intervention! That would be something."

Equations are not always necessary. Sometimes all we can say, in theological terms, is "it's a mystery".

Posted by: Janet at March 17, 2009 1:09 AM


Zombie,
As for the Quakers, Muslims and Jews, I think they would are more than qualified to handle those issues themselves if they so desire. Don't you?

Posted by: Janet at March 17, 2009 1:12 AM


On my last comment - remove the word "would".

Posted by: Janet at March 17, 2009 1:15 AM


Janet, if kidney stones were killing one third of all the people in the world, in infancy, then yes I would expect the Catholic Church to be active in trying to prevent them!

I already covered your point about human action vs natural death. As I said, if you were serious about embryos you would work to prevent their natural deaths AND their human-agency deaths. Just as you work to prevent the natural deaths, as well as the murders, of already-born babies. Maybe you'd work MORE on the human-agency killings--ESCR and abortion-on-demand issues--but you'd also work on the early-usually-undetected-miscarriages issue. The response to this issue has been a huge collective yawn, and why not yawn? Almost all of the women go on to have babies and never know they are mothers of additional, dead, miscarried children. Who cares about an embryo no one ever knew existed? It would only matter if someone REALLY believed embryos were entitled to person-like moral treatment.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 17, 2009 1:55 AM


Zombie,
It's late and I'm yawning. Can you be more specific as to your main point if there is one, or, are you just ragging on us pro-lifers in general? Either way is fine, I'd just like to know... Good nite.

Posted by: Janet at March 17, 2009 2:03 AM


Janet, OK. My main point is that the argument that right-to-lifers make about the SCIENCE--that ESCR is "obsolete" or unnecessary SCIENCE--is wrong, and stupid, and based on ignorance of what distinguishes good science from bad science.

The moral arguments are stupid and wrong too but less important because in the end they're only about YOUR morality, which doesn't really matter right now. As I said, you right-to-lifers are only dangerous when you're in charge.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 17, 2009 4:02 AM


The Singing Zombie, please explain why Induced pluripotent stem cells are "bad science."

Posted by: Lauren at March 17, 2009 8:32 AM


YLT: "Font, graphics and colors in place of accurate honest facts."

Did the facts not load for you, YLT? Have you tried FinallyFast.com?

Posted by: bmmg39 at March 17, 2009 11:05 AM


Singing Zombie,

As someone who has suffered early miscarriages--the kind where most people don't know they are pregnant, as you mentioned--I find your statements very offensive and in very bad taste.

I love every one of my children, even if I am not sure how many I have. I do everything I can to prevent their deaths, because they are my children, even if I might go on to have another.

Keep your ideology off my body, please, and do not insult my loved, wanted, prayed-for, and mourned children, no matter what their age was when they died.

I blame the abortion industry for the general disregard for the lives of the very young who are often ignored or disrespected. I think that the reason there is little focus on helping them is because so many want to kill them, and those wanting to kill them have convinced society they are nonpersons. I wish that doctors were doing more to save them--especially for women who suffer from recurrent very early miscarriage, rather than those babies who, tragically, have genetic defects making their survival impossible. (Not because those children are not valuable and worthwhile, but because it is likely nothing will allow them to survive--and I would rejoice if that could be changed).

Posted by: YCW at March 17, 2009 1:21 PM


Zombie, what ignorant statements. Of course those children matter to their mothers. All of my children, those here and those in heaven, matter to me.

Posted by: Elisabeth at March 17, 2009 1:27 PM


Lauren, iPS are not "bad science" and I have never said they were.

Posted by: TheSingingZombie at March 18, 2009 3:04 AM


"Keep your ideology off my body, please" said YCW...sounds like a pro-choice argument! I know it's not and he/she is definitely not but it made me giggle :)

Posted by: AM at March 18, 2009 2:46 PM


" "Keep your ideology off my body, please" said YCW...sounds like a pro-choice argument! I know it's not and he/she is definitely not but it made me giggle :) "

I think it was tongue-in-cheek, AM :)

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at March 18, 2009 2:51 PM