Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rove, Stem Cell Opponents Make Inaccurate Claim about Stem Cells

When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president's moral qualms with research on human embryos.

In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post's editorial board that researchers have found "far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells."


But Rove's negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research--echoed by many opponents of funding for such research [JA: Including our very own Asher!]--is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story.

The field of stem cell medicine is too young and unproven to make such judgments, experts say. Many of those researchers either specialize in adult stem cells or share Bush's moral reservations about embryonic stem cells.

"[Rove's] statement is just not true," said Dr. Michael Clarke, associate director of the stem cell institute at Stanford University, who in 2003 published the first study showing how adult stem cells replenish themselves.

If opponents of embryonic stem cell research object on moral grounds, "I'm willing to live with that," Clarke said, though he disagrees. But, he said, "I'm not willing to live with statements that are misleading."

Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the stem cell center at the Oregon Health and Science University, is a Catholic who objects to research involving the destruction of embryos and is seeking alternative ways of making stem cells. But Grompe said there is "no factual basis to compare the promise" of adult stem cells and cells taken from embryos.

Grompe said, "I think it's a problem when [opponents of embryonic research] make a scientific argument as opposed to stating the real reason they are opposed--which is [that] it's a moral, ethical problem."

Last week, the journal Science published a letter from three researchers criticizing the claim that adult stem cells are preferable to embryonic stem cells. The authors included Dr. Steven Teitelbaum of Washington University in St. Louis, who has used adult stem cells to treat bone diseases in children. The authors wrote that the exaggerated claims for adult stem cells "mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients."

(Chicago Tribune, via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)


brian said...

its sad, the way the extreme right has distorted this issue. i talk about another aspect of their distortions in this entry , namely that they make it look like those advocating research are destroying embryos in order to save lives, when the truth is the embryos in questions will be destroyed anyway!

swurgle said...

Who are these people? Have they no dear relatives suffering from the debilitating effects of parkinson's, dementia, altzheimer's or MS? How could they favor flushing something the size of a pinpoint made up of 100 cells down the toilet rather than using it to help advance cures for these horrible diseases?

The good news is that they've lost my republican and very Catholic inlaws on this issue. I'm sure my inlaws are not the only conservative Catholics who part with the administration on stem cell research.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate over here. If a cure a disease could be found, but it would require killing humans, no one would accept it. No medical research discovered by Dr. Mengele is used, no matter how valuable. It's simply immoral.

How could they favor flushing something the size of a pinpoint made up of 100 cells down the toilet rather than using it to help advance cures for these horrible diseases?

Would you support testing things on people with terminal illnesses?

People who oppose stem-cell research think that the cluster of cells the size of a pinpoint is life, and should be protected as such.

Jewish Atheist said...


Just to be clear, my post is about a specific, false scientific claim quite often made by those opposed on moral grounds, not about the moral arguments themselves. Do you have any comment about that?

asher said...

There has to be a reason why Germany has recommended to the EU that it not support embryonic stem cell research. They believe that due to Germany's history with research on human beings during WWII, embryonic stem cell research would be seen as the same thing. And Germany is as secular a country as you're going to find.
Where is the Christian right in Germany?

Please explain

Jewish Atheist said...

Care to address the actual post instead of trying a whole new line of argument? You were the one who inspired me to post it, after all.

skcorefil said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

If Rove is wrong, then he's wrong. What is there to comment on? It's a factual issue, not a policy or ethical issue.

And my rant was in response to Swurgle, who doesn't seem to undertand the ethical implications that many see in this. I'm sure there are plenty of religous conservatives that that have diseases that may be cured by stem- cell research. But that doesn't mean they have to support every method of finding a cure.

Jewish Atheist said...


I don't get your point. The article is about the usefulness of umbilical cord stem cells. Who was arguing that they aren't useful?


And what will you say if Rove and other people against embryonic stem cell research continue to be "wrong" about factual issues despite knowing better? Isn't this just another example in a long pattern of this sort of thing from that side of the aisle? Whether the issue is stem cell research, Terri Schiavo, global warming, sex education, or evolution, they consistently make arguments which are factually incorrect. Either they're unconscionably ignorant or they're outright lying. Which do you think it is? Are you okay with blatantly false propaganda as long as it supports your side?

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Actually I'm in favor of stem-cell research.

The other issues you bring up aren't as clear-cut.

Juggling Mother said...

going off topic to answer Asher:

Umm, do you know ANYTHING about germany as a country & culture? It's not a very secular country at all, especially by western european standards. out of a population of 82million, 52 are protestant or catholic christians. (from US Dept of State figures'>, just to make you trust them a little more than european stats.)

As for the religious right in Germany, two of their mainstream political parties represent the RR (the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social union), and the far right national Democratic Party are rapidly gaining votes across the country. Angela Merkel (Chancellor) is a conservative, and they have their fair share of right wing idiots bombing immigrant muslims. (look up the dusseldorf bombings)

Although I will agree with you that they are, as a country, completely paranoid about anything that could vaguely be associated with eugenics. They have been against all stem cell research from the beginning. Personally I'm all in favour of eugenics, although I know that virtually everyone misunderstands the concept.

Jewish Atheist said...


That wasn't my question. My question pertained to the pattern of false scientific claims made by many Republicans.

skcorefil said...

The second part of the article discussed the possible benefits of adult stem cells over embryonic stem cells and some problems with embryonic stem cells. I was showing that not all experts agree that

"no factual basis to compare the promise" of adult stem cells and cells taken from embryos.

Regardless of the moral outlook.

asher said...

Juggling Mother,

You are in favor of eugenics? And you let that pass?

For those of you who might not know what eugenics is, it's the idea that certain people are inferior and that to have them breed would corrode society. It depends who is in power who makes this decision but the inferiors might include, Jews, left handed people, feeble minded, insane, addicts (of any kind)and those with very bad driving records.

I guess I misunderstood the concept.

Random said...

Juggling Mother,

With the greatest possible respect, but if you are going to accuse others of ignorance it would be best to show some knowledge yourself. Germany for example has some of the lowest church attendance figures in Europe (in the ex-communist east the figure is just 5%, which is I believe *the* lowest figure in Europe), and the figure of notional believers is nothing to write home about by European standards either. Asher's characterisation of it as as a secular place is fully justified.

As for the CSU/CDU - characterising them as what Americans would understand by "religious right" is so far off the ball as to be ridiculous. Yes, they're mildly right of centre by German standards and mildly religious by German standards, but if they were in the USA they'd be somewhere on the centre-right of the Democrat Party - they certainly wouldn't be "religious right". As for the NDP - putting that bunch of thuggish neo-Nazis in the same box is nothing more than sleazy guilt by association. They're definitely right (at least as the left likes to use the word - they genuinely are National Socialist with both parts of the name being relevant), but hardly religious.

And frankly linking the German chancellor with the Dusseldorf bombing is beneath contempt.

Asher -

Eugenics can simply refer to practices like pre-screening couples to see if they are likely to pass on any hereditary illnesses when they are deciding whether or not to have children, it doesn't have to refer to a liking for leather shorts and martial music. I would hope JM is using the term in the milder sense of the word.

And JA -

Sorry for the diversion, but to get back to your main - yes, it is bad form to deliberately (or accidentally) misrepresent the state of the science to make a political point. If you have a decent moral argument you should use that, not a poor science argument. Still, it's not as though everybody doesn't do it - the left is often at least as culpable when it comes to issues such as global warming or nuclear power, after all.

Juggling Mother said...

Asher - go loook up the term eugenics in a dictionary. Yes you have misunderstood the concept. random stated it correctly.

Random, please re-read my comment. I did NOT link the chancellor with the bombings. I said the chancellor was a conservative, and quite a strongb one in European terms. I also said that Germany has had right-wing terrorist attacks such as the Dusseldorf bombings. there was no link between the two made or intended.

I'm not going to argue statistics with you, as they can say whatever you wwant, depending on what & who you ask. But in my personal experiance, having lived in both, Germany is a far more "christian" country than England, with more church attendance, less "minorities" and less interaction.