Friday, July 07, 2006

Honesty - What Michael Kinsley is missing in the stem cell debate.

In today's Slate, Michael Kinsley has a long article on embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization and prolifers. His basic thought is this: Prolifers don't oppose the deaths of human embryos at in vitro fertilization clinics as strongly as they oppose killing human embryos for research. Therefore, the majority of prolifers opposed to killing human embryos for their stem cells are "willfull(y) ignoran(t) and indifferen(t) to logic."

Some excerpts:
As one of those people myself (I have Parkinson's), I am not an objective analyst of what the U.S. government's continuing near-ban on stem-cell research is costing our society and the world.
It's amazing that in a piece where he accuses prolifers of willful ignorance, Kinsley can't come anywhere close to being honest about the political controversy regarding embryonic stem cells. To say the United States has a "near-ban on stem cell research" is laughably absurd. Neither adult stem cell research nor embryonic stem cell research is anywhere near banned in the United States. In fact, both types of research (though I'm assuming Kinsey is specifically referring to embryonic) receive millions of dollars in federal support. A number of states have also committed millions (billions in California) to embryonic stem cell research. To assert there is a "near-ban" on research which is completely legal in the United States and funded by the federal government and state governments is something only a less-than-serious commentator would write. Kinsley has written previously about President Bush's policy on stem cell research so he is well aware that it is nothing like a "near-ban."

It's also important to point out that the current political controversy over embryonic stem cells being fought in Congress isn't over whether embryonic stem cell research should be legal or not and not over if embryonic stem cell research should receive funding but over whether embryonic stem cell lines created after August of 2001 should receive federal funding. Kinsley doesn't mention any of these details - I guess simply stating "near-ban" must have been so much easier.
Naturally, I think it's (the U.S.'s mythological "near-ban"- JJ) costing too much. No other potential therapy—including adult stem cells—is nearly as promising for my ailment and others. Evaluate that as you wish.
Kinsley's evidence for this assertion...... crickets chripping......I feel sorry that Kinsley has been so misled or so misled himself to the point where he thinks embryonic stem cells are more promising for his ailment (Parkinson's) than adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are nowhere near treating people with Parkinson's while adult stem cells have already treated a man named Dennis Turner with rather amazing results.

After misleading his readers regarding basic stem cell research facts, Kinsley proceeds to explain how more human embryos are created than IVF clinics plan to implant, how human embryos are often discarded by in vitro fertilization clinics and how many human embryos fail to implant (in both IVF and natural reproduction).

Kinsley then attempts to make the argument that prolifers who don't publicly oppose certain IVF clinic practices as much as they oppose embryonic stem cell research shouldn't be taken seriously. Now this type of argument does nothing to prove the moral claims of prolifers opposed to embryonic stem cell research and its federally-funding wrong. It's merely a semi-sophisticated ad hominem attack which attempts to discredit prolife arguments by attacking those who make these arguments instead of working to actually prove the arguments wrong.

It also seems that Kinsley is relatively ignorant about how a number of prolifers feel about in-vitro fertilization and how it is often practiced (Serge summed up his feelings on IVF here ). Now Kinsley is probably correct in assuming that a large percentage of prolife people are ignorant about how human embryos are often treated in IVF clinics. But are prolifers who are ignorant about how IVF is often practiced "willfull(y) ignoran(t)" or are they just not informed.

I could go on and on with more of Kinsley's assertions and positions but I'll leave it at this, for now at least.

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