Home » Science » Opposition to Fetal Stem Cell Experimentation Encouraged Nobel-quality Science

Opposition to Fetal Stem Cell Experimentation Encouraged Nobel-quality Science

One of the common complaints about Intelligent Design is that it’s a science stopper. Something about how the idea that the conviction that intelligent agents are have produced extraordinarily advanced technology will discourage intelligent agents from producing extraordinarily advanced technology. With that in mind, I thought it’d be worth focusing on a recent, if not ID-related, science development. The Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded to two men for their work in adult stem cell research – and the awarding of that prize is worth pondering.

From ABS-CBN:

Scientists from Britain and Japan shared a Nobel Prize on Monday for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day regrow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.

John Gurdon, 79, of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and Shinya Yamanaka, 50, of Kyoto University in Japan, discovered ways to create tissue that would act like embryonic cells, without the need to collect the cells from embryos.

Opposition to fetal stem-cell experimentation was originally branded as an anti-science move. By maintaining ethical objections to the practice of reducing unborn children into a flesh-slurry so their precious, delicious biological resources could be harvested, opponents of the experimentation were accused of being anti-science. And really, it seems like a pretty direct equation: experiments can be done on fetal stem cells, some people oppose these experiments being done, opposing them being done means (if successful) the experiments aren’t done, ergo you’ve discouraged experiments from being done – and that’s anti-science in a nutshell. Right?

Well, no. The same opponents of fetal stem cell experimentation, including (but of course not limited to) the Catholic Church, encouraged and promoted alternative, more ethically sound research – such as adult stem cell research. The two scientists awarded the Nobel cited the ethical questions about fetal stem cell usage as a point of concern, which their own work helps bypass altogether. It was a point of encouragement and drive to pursue their own research.

So the result is clear: opposing one kind of research on ethical grounds itself produced incentives to focus on other kinds of research, which now includes Nobel Prize winning research that helps to reduce or even eliminate any need to engage in fetal stem cell experimentation altogether. Indeed, the very thing these researchers discovered – the ability to use adult stem cells to achieve what fetal stem cells could potentially accomplish – was considered impossible previously. And, without that ethical opposition, this discovery may have been missed or delayed severely.

The whole affair is yet another good reason to be skeptical whenever someone starts throwing out claims of “you’re being anti-science!” for daring to find some experiments unethical or immoral – or, in the case of ID, for daring to think in ways that defy the consensus.

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4 Responses to Opposition to Fetal Stem Cell Experimentation Encouraged Nobel-quality Science

  1. notes on Adult Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells:

    Umbilical cord, & Adult Stem Cells v. Embryonic Stem Cells – 2007
    So which is better: embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells? Thus far, embryonic stem cells can’t currently treat any diseases, while adult stem cells have helped patients with 73 conditions.
    http://www.stemcellresearch.or.....tments.htm

    Stem Cell News: Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: Dr. Gregory Brent (UCLA) told an audience Saturday night that embryonic stem cells have yet to produce one treatment, while adult stem cells are currently treating millions.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100118a

    Brave New Chimeras – August 2011
    Excerpt: Adult stem cell research continues to offer promising treatments, while news about embryonic stem cell progress is notable for its absence. In just the last ten days, these gains were reported for ASC research:

    Researchers improve method to create induced pluripotent stem cells (PhysOrg).
    Researchers create reprogrammed stem cells for disease studies (PhysOrg).
    Patients’ own kidney cells could cure kidney disease (Medical Xpress).
    Fibroblast Growth Factor-2 Primes Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Enhanced Chondrogenesis (PLoS One).
    Gladstone scientist converts human skin cells into functional brain cells (Medical Xpress).
    Doctors begin major bone marrow stem cell trial for Multiple Sclerosis patients (BBC News).
    http://crev.info/content/110731-brave_new_chimeras

    150 human animal hybrids grown in UK labs: Embryos have been produced secretively for the past three years – July 2011
    Excerpt: ‘At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.
    ‘Of the 80 treatments and cures which have come about from stem cells, all have come from adult stem cells – not embryonic ones.
    ‘On moral and ethical grounds this fails; and on scientific and medical ones too.’
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sci.....years.html

    Dolly Scientist Says Abandon Embryonic Stem Cell Research – December 2011
    Excerpt: Ian Wilmut, the scientist who achieved international notoriety for cloning the sheep Dolly, is now urging his fellow scientists and researchers to abandon embryonic stem cell research.
    His comments at a conference follow on the major news that Geron, a cloning company the Obama administration funded to undertake the first human clinical trials involving embryonic-like stem cells, abruptly canceled the trials and got out of the embryonic stem cell research business.
    http://www.lifenews.com/2011/1.....-research/

  2. @nullasalus: Your logic is not sound.
    From the same article:

    That meant new stem cells could only be created by taking them from embryos, which raised ethical objections that led to research bans in some countries.

    Science :-(

    Nobel for adult stem cell discovery

    Science :-)
    Result: :-|

  3. JW,

    Your logic is not sound.

    Sure it’s sound. The same ethical concerns which led to discouraging unethical experimentation also encouraged research. In this case, that encouragement resulted in some Nobel Prize winning science – in fact, science which helps completely obviate the need for the unethical experimentation, and which otherwise may not have received as much attention.

    Well, aside from the whole ‘adult stem cells have yielded results that fetal stem cells have yet to’ bit.

    But, I’ll meet you halfway: I’ll agree, in spite of the encouragement for and results from adult stem cell research, that opponents of fetal stem cell experimentation were anti-science – so long as you agree that anyone who supports bans on experiments such as the Tuskegee experiment are anti-science as well.

    Whaddya say?

  4. I wonder if Nobel quality science is similar to Nobel quality peacemaking?

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