Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bioethicist Art Caplan is now off the embryonic stem cell hype truck he was driving

Public Discourse has an interesting interview where Robert George and Art Caplan answer questions regarding the difference between science and ethics. In part of the interview, they discuss embryonic stem cell research and how some individuals hyped it up. Here's Caplan (who favors embryonic stem cell research and its federal funding):
Embryonic stem-cell research was completely overhyped, in terms of its promise. And people knew it at the time. I tried to say so myself at different times myself, even though I support embryonic stem-cell research. But this notion that people would be out of their wheelchairs within a year if we could just get embryonic stem-cell research funded was just ludicrous. Just simply silly.
So Caplan openly admits that embryonic stem cell research was way over-hyped, he knew it, thought about saying something about it but for some reason didn't.

Yet here's Caplan in 2006 advocating killing frozen embryos for embryonic stem cell research:
"You got people in wheelchairs. You got people trying to understand how to cure cancer," Caplan says. "You know, people who want to understand genetic diseases and you have embryos frozen that no one will ever use for any purpose whatsoever. There's a moral equation here, too. And it seems to be to lead toward research, not just perpetual freezing."

Here's a hysterical Caplan column from 2006 after President Bush vetoed legislation to expand the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research:
An administration that has shown itself over and over again to have trouble telling the truth is now telling Americans in wheelchairs, those with damaged hearts, babies who are diabetic and those left immobile by Parkinsonism not to worry. The president, whose grasp of science left him unable to identify creationism as a fundamentally religious idea, and his trusty sidekick Karl Rove, rarely seen in a white lab coat but who knows something about rats, having been in Washington for some time now, claim to know best which medical research is most likely to benefit diseased Americans in the future.......

Not too long after the president's first speech on the subject, the sick and ailing recognized the president was not wise, but rather wacky, and decided to do something about it. With the help of high-profile efforts involving Nancy Reagan, Christopher Reeve, Mary Tyler Moore, Michael J. Fox and a less visible but incredibly committed and hugely influential phalanx of disease advocacy organizations a sound policy about embryonic stem cell research was articulated.

The policy to permit closely monitored federal funding swung hearts and minds in both houses of Congress. Governors and state legislators and, yes, even those in the media began to understand that the only sensible strategy in the battle against disease, infirmity, disability and death is to put the chips of public funding behind all forms of stem cell research — embryonic and adult.....

The president has now told doctors, researchers and patients to drop dead.

When iPS cells were discovered,Caplan warned against abandoning embryonic stem cell research and ended his column by saying, "Too many lives are riding on this to be fooled into taking the wrong detour."

But Caplan was going to speak up about the hype, right? He "tried" to say so but for all the writing and media appearances he did on the subject he just could never find the time to tell the truth. He also could never find the time to call out the various campaigns advocating embryonic stem cell and human cloning on their ridiculous rhetoric. Caplan did, however, find the time to call out Wesley Smith for a column in which Smith notes how some proponents of embryonic stem cell research and human cloning use word games to mislead the public.

Talk about revisionist history!!!

For years, Caplan was one of the leading hype ringleaders on embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Over and over again, he misled people about President Bush's embryonic stem cell funding policy. He ludicrously claimed that spending $25 million dollars on embryonic stem cell research = banning the research and that proponents of embryonic stem cell research weren't so bad for "partly" hyping embryonic stem cell research. Over and over again, he hyped the importance of human cloning for research, claiming that it would "repair damaged hearts, severed spinal cords or worn out parts of the brain that lead to Parkinson's disease."

But now that President Obama is in office and has expanded the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Caplan suddenly comes completely clean. Isn't that nice?

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