Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Could Jonathan Moreno be more obtuse?

With the news about researchers being able to reprogram adult cells into pluripotent stem cells, I'm trying to see how various former critics of the alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells are reacting to the news. One individual whose response I've found is Jonathan Moreno. Back in January of 2007, Moreno and Sam Berger wrote a piece for the Center for American Progress disparaging a white paper from the White House entitled "Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life."

In their piece, Moreno and Berger attack the White House for "exaggerat(ing) the potential of adult cell reprogramming." They even quote the James Battey referred to this research as a "pie in the sky." Their piece led the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru to respond, which led to a Moreno/Berger response to Ponnuru, and so on and so forth. In the Moreno/Berger response to Ponnuru on January 16 they assert, "Ultimately, the scientific community has reached its consensus: there are no viable alternatives to embryonic stem cells."

Well, it looks like Shinya Yamanaka and James Thomson missed that official Scientific Community Consensus memo.

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress posted a piece by Moreno discussing Yamanaka's and Thomson's iPS cells from reprogrammed adult cells. He says it "ranks as one of the most exciting achievements in modern biology" but doesn't believe prolife proponents of alternative methods should take any of the credit for it.

He falsely claims James Thomson said Bush's decision to limit federal funding on embryonic stem cells to those created before August 2001 "delayed the production of induced pluripotent stem cells by years." This claim makes no sense on its face since Bush's limits on federal funding wouldn't have affected research which didn't kill embryos. If you go to Moreno's link (a recent Washington Post article) to back his claim up you'll read a paragraph where the Post writer says Thomson believes the "ethical turmoil surrounding the embryonic cells set the field back four or five years." In its context it seems obvious that Thomson is claiming the ethical turmoil over killing human embryos set embryonic stem cell research field back, not iPS cell research. For Moreno to claim that his faulty reading of this paragraph is some kind of "fact" (which just happens to reflect the story line that Bush is the great stem cell stopper) is another piece of evidence on the overflowing pile that you should always check the sources of liberal bioethicists.

Moreno concludes by saying, "Ironically, this discovery reinforces the larger concerns of those who have opposed human embryonic stem cell research: the production of induced pluripotent stem cells is a giant step in the growing human mastery of biological nature."

Huh? The production of pluripotent stem cells without killing human embryos reinforces the concerns of those who both opposed to killing human embryos for research and who strongly promoted alternatives to killing human embryos like this discovery?

I hope to critique many more responses from bioethicists who originally downplayed alternatives methods of acquiring pluripotent stem cells because they favored cloning and killing human embryos but who now applaud this discovery and act like their preferred policies would have magically brought these results sooner.

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