Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Spinmeister Art Caplan

Bioethicist Art Caplan has a new column out about the whole Michael J. Fox/Rush Limbaugh/embryonic stem cell controversy.

The column contains a number of obvious mistakes that are usually standard in the columns of newspapers writers who are largely uninformed about stem cell research and shouldn't be found in the column of someone who is supposedly an expert on this issue. For example, Caplan writes:
A constitutional amendment on the Missouri ballot would legalize embryonic stem cell research.
Hmmm.... since when did Missouri ban embryonic stem cell research? Caplan is well aware that embryonic stem cell research is already legal in Missouri and he knows that this amendment does much more than simply legalizing embryonic stem cell research. Caplan also references this despicable and dishonest commercial and labels it as "tough."

More bad "facts" from Caplan:
Just a few months ago a Republican Congress came very close to overriding the only veto that President Bush ever made — to block public funding of embryonic stem cell research. How did it happen that Congress, which was strongly opposed to such funding back in 2002, and being lobbied hard by the influential pro-life lobby, shifted with a majority supporting public funding in both the House and the Senate by 2006?
Congress strongly opposed public funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2002? What vote was that Art?

According to National Right to Life's 2002 scorecard there was no vote about the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. There was, however, a vote on legislation to ban human cloning. Is that the vote you're talking about Art? Aren't those quite different things?

He uses this phony apples-and-oranges comparison to attempt to argue that Congress was strongly influenced by the lobbying efforts of disease advocacy organizations. I'm sure those disease advocacy organizations had some impact on some legislators in Congress but not the impact Caplan is delusionally imagining.
For the first time ever, these groups pulled together and made their lobbying presence felt to the point where a Republican Congress came close to abandoning a president from their own party.
I'm not sure about Caplan but I don't see Republicans voting 180 to 50 (in the original legislation) and 179 to 51 (in the attempt to override Bush's veto - 51 votes short of overriding the veto) against the legislation to increase the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research as coming close to "abandoning a president from their own party."

Caplan's article almost seems like an attempt to convince himself that large portions of voters are going to cast their vote based on the issue of funding embryonic stem cell research. Maybe he should read this poll (question #5) from Newsweek which finds that only 3% of those polled (1% of Republicans, 4% of Democrats and 6% of independents) think the stem cell issue is the most important issue to them. To 4% of those polled, abortion was the most important issue. Both of these issues are dwarfed by the situation in Iraq (29%), the economy (21%), healthcare(14%), terrorism(14%), and immigration(11%).

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