Friday, May 29, 2009

Disappointed by embryonic stem cell research? But I thought it was going to cure, like, everything?

Via First Things blog, I've come across this piece by the staff at Scientific America (a hardy embryonic stem cell research proponent) in which they call for the public to accept a reality check regarding the potential of embryonic stem cells.
So scientists at last mostly have what they have been asking for. And the public should now prepare to be disappointed.

Perhaps “disappointed” is an overstatement, but a realistic recalibration of expectations is surely in order. The problem with turning a scientific issue into a political football is that the passionate rough-and-tumble of the game can leave the science itself rather scuffed.
You don't say? Did Scientific America ever discuss this scuffing of science when embryonic stem cell proponents were falsely claiming cures were right around the corner?
When opponents of ESC research likened it to genocide and Nazi concentration camp experiments, its proponents countered by emphasizing how irreplaceable ESCs were and how miraculous the cures arising from them could be. Whether or not those claims wandered into rhetorical excess, at least a few false hopes and misimpressions have probably been left behind.
Oh, I get it. If opponents of ESC likened killing human embryos for research to other kind immoral experiments where human beings were killed for research then it's okay for scientists to lie about how promising ESC are so people could get over their moral qualms about killing human embryos for research. If your opponents make a comparison you don't agree with, it's okay to intentionally mislead people. Got it.

This is a horrible excuse for the hyping of research especially since the claim that how the opponents of ESCR argued lead to the hyping is extremely dubious. The hyping occurred because the first time this debate came around in the Clinton years, scientists were more measured about the prospects of ESCR and they didn't get what they wanted. They learned their lesson. Being realistic about ESCs wasn't going to get them the public support they needed to get the public funding they desired.

The article goes on to say that therapies are still years away, "many if not most of those future therapies based on ESC research may not actually involve ESCs," it would be a "technological headache" to use ESCs which matched a patient's immune system, and adult cells will probably be used instead.

Those claims may sound familiar because they're what opponents of ESCR have been saying for years.

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