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Clark Withholds $60 Million Pledge to Stanford 469

Posted by michael
from the land-of-the-religious-whackos dept.
vocaljess writes: "In an op-ed piece in Friday's New York Times (which you have to register to read, blah blah blah), Netscape creator Jim Clark has announced that he will withhold $60 million he had pledged to donate to Stanford University to build a center for biomedical engineering and science. He states "I believe our country risks being thrown into a dark age of medical research. Biologists are at the threshold of the most important set of discoveries in history, and rather than teach and lead, our politicians react and follow a conservative few. This legislative action will cause the United States to miss a revolution in biology.""
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Clark Withholds $60 Million Pledge to Stanford

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  • by Ghoser777 (113623) <[moc.cam] [ta] [abnerhaf]> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:24PM (#2246110) Homepage
    So he's pissed at Bush for his descision (or indescision, if you take it that way) on stem cell research and how he see's conservatism effecting biological advances, so he doesn't give money to a college to biolgy research in protets? This doesn't make sense. Maybe if he gave his money to a college in Britain that has much more liberal stances on, well, everything. That might start to get the attention of people and make a statement. But this just seems stupid.

    F-bacher
    • Boy, you said it. Doesn't this read like, "Things aren't going my way in this game, so I'm going to pick up my ball and go home?" It seems like a childish response.

      If he's really concerned, he could spend that money on lobbying efforts and on educating the public. Because that's what the problem is; in a world of too much information, people only see the surface of the issues, and then talk about them as if they're experts. I'm as guilty of this as everyone else is. You'll find that just about everyone has an opinion on stem cell research, but very, very few know anything about it.

      Withholding the money strikes me as the worst course of action he could possibly have taken, outside of buying advertising time on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. He should still give that money to Stanford; even if they aren't able to use it for stem cell research directly, they can use it to spearhead educational efforts to help correct popular misconceptions. I don't say that out of love for Stanford (I have none -- my two favorite football teams are UT-Austin and whoever is playing Stanford), but out of more idealistic concerns.

      Two wrongs don't make a right. Someone should have told him that.
      • by blamanj (253811) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:47PM (#2246183)

        If he's really concerned, he could spend that money on lobbying efforts and on educating the public.

        No, he's much smarter than that. By withholding (note that he hasn't canceled or revoked the grant) the money, he's created an incredible amount of press and discussion, probably far more than he could spend on fattening up congresscritters and their lobbyists.

        Plus, he can renew the debate at any time by giving the grant money to a university in Europe instead of to Stanford, which would really pack a politcal punch. I think he's a pretty smart guy, he gets the lobbying and press relations for free and can still spend the money on the research he originally intended to support.

      • If you had $60 million dollars, and you were going to *give it* to a cause you felt strongly about, but then you felt that, due to the political situation, your $60 million dollars wasn't going to be well-used... wouldn't YOU find another way to spend it?
      • We're talking about a man who has second thoughts about donating $60 million because he doesn't think they will come to use in the way he wants it to.

        And you're critisizing him?

        Heck, I'm having second thoughts about donating $5 without being pretty damn sure that they will come to good use. Dunno about you, but I can't really be upset with anyone who doesn't want to part with $60 million without being pretty damn sure they will be used in a way s/he finds acceptable.
      • by BarefootClown (267581) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:55PM (#2246374) Homepage

        even if they aren't able to use it for stem cell research directly

        Sure they can. President Bush's decision was that federal money may not be used to generate new stem cell lines from fetuses. Private money, like Clark's, can be used for anything. Federal money can even be used for some research, including research on existing cell lines, and creating new lines that do not come from fetuses (i.e. cells coming from adults, or from umbilical cords). Bush's decision does not affect Stanford's use of Clark's money in any way; Clark is just throwing a hissy-fit.

        • by jbf (30261) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:42PM (#2246498)
          Bush's decision does not affect Stanford's use of Clark's money in any way; Clark is just throwing a hissy-fit.

          Not really; if he spends money to build a lab to do cutting-edge research, but most of the researchers are federally funded, then most of them wouldn't be able to use it on the kinds of stem cell research that he wants to be done in those labs.

          I think Clark should take the money and donate it towards creating new lines for research, if he feels so strongly about the issue...

          Incidentally, does anyone know if the Bush decision stops the use of federally-funded equipment with new cell lines, or just purchase of cells?

        • Stem Cells come from a freshly fertilized egg, still in the Zygote stage and before Blasti-something phase. Back when it is only between 2 and 8 cells.

          I spent a lot of time researching this when my wife and I pursued Invitro Fertilization. Fetuses don't come along until I bleieve 4th or 5th month. They are Embryo's for a while.

          The problem with some conservatism is ignorance. You should really look into where Stem cells come from, sometimes they are 'fake' fertilized eggs that have no chance of ever becoming a human.

          The last paragraph is my $0.02 and my opionon only. The rest is medical terminology.
    • You guys have the typical American attitude that the world stops at our borders. You probably think that Dubya's stupid, incoherent, and superstitious decision is going to kill stem cell research worldwide the way it's been killed here, don't you? As if no scientific research takes place anywhere else in the world except here in America, because we're so wonderful and advanced. Just look at our high school students' test scores in math and science. Look at all our native-born scientists (all ten of them). And just look at our president. We're very scientifically literate.

      By not giving his $60 million to Stanford, Clarke can instead give it to a research facility that can do useful research with the money- without being hampered by illogical directives from a president who is openly hostile to scientific research. Bush has prohibited all potentially meaningful stem cell research in this country. But stem cell research (or cryptography research, or any scientific research for that matter) is not going to stop just because it's been prohibited in the U.S. by American zealotry and corruption.

      Stanford is still getting money from Clarke- just $60 million less of it. They're still getting much more than that from him for other research (that the American government has not yet forbidden). Anybody who chooses to waste $60 million, by donating it to researchers who have been forbidden by the American government from making effective use of it, is a fool.

      In related news, Russia is warning its programmers to avoid traveling to the U.S.A. I feel so proud to be an American.
  • Applause... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by kypper (446750)
    Biologists are at the threshold of the most important set of discoveries in history, and rather than teach and lead, our politicians react and follow a conservative few.


    Jesus, he's one of us.
    Finally, someone who stands up for science instead of politics.
    Course, one has to consider he's MAKING politics by doing this. ^_~

    • "Course, one has to consider he's MAKING politics by doing this. ^_~"

      He's not making politics. The politics was already there; sadly, that's the way things work. We should be glad that money found its way into the hands of someone more enlightened who is willing to make an important point with it.
  • Alternate coverage (Score:2, Informative)

    by Troodon (213660)
    BBCNews have covered this [bbc.co.uk],
    which also forms part of one of their 'indepth' news anaylsis.
    They also have a link to Stanford where their president has issued his responce [stanford.edu].
  • Sciences need more money, not less. Next time he should just hold a press conference and talk about the issue rather than by with-holding money.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tshak (173364) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:31PM (#2246131) Homepage
    Driven by ignorance, conservative thinking and fear of the unknown, our political leaders have undertaken to make laws that suppress this type of research.

    Ok, so if you are liberal, your thoughts are OK because you are OPEN. But if you are conservative, you're thinking is CLOSED? If you're open to diversity of opinion, then you must accept ALL types of thinking! Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus. Honestly, I'm sick of people doing things "in the name of science" and calling all moral discussions "ignorant". I don't stand on either side of the stem cell issue, as I have yet to fully understand the moral implications (if any). However, I would say that it's ignorant to scoff those who are attempting to excercise discernment.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aiken_d (127097)
      Well, yes, I'd say that if you're "liberal" by your standards and want to trust people and society to navigate difficult moral ground, yes, that's "open."

      That's versus "closed," or the conservative vision that government should step in and use the threat of force to coerce individual or social moral decisions. It still hasn't dawned on conservatives (and many liberals, to be fair) that *there may be no one "proper" moral code*.

      Yes, there are legitimate moral issues surrounding stem cell research. No, government has no business taking those moral choices away from researchers, academics, and everyday joes.

      So yes, the quote you selected is 100% fair. Bush was driven by conservative thinking and fear of the unknown.

      -b
      • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by taxman_10m (41083)
        That's versus "closed," or the conservative vision that government should step in and use the threat of force to coerce individual or social moral decisions.

        Government is stepping in by not funding? Sorry, but that makes no sense.

        Yes, there are legitimate moral issues surrounding stem cell research. No, government has no business taking those moral choices away from researchers, academics, and everyday joes.

        Since government has no business taking the moral choice away from joe average then government should not be grabbing joe's wallet.

        • You make a good point. Mr. Bush placed no restrictions on private companies to do any research they want to. The problem is that the private companies want the handouts from the govt and don't want to carry the weight of the entire research.
          • You make a good point. Mr. Bush placed no restrictions on private companies to do any research they want to.

            No doubt, not because he didn't want to, or wouldn't, but because he couldn't. (at present, at least not by himself.)
            • Or he owes them a bunch of money. That 100 million he spent on the election had to come from someplace.
              • Or he owes them a bunch of money. That 100 million he [Bush] spent on the election had to come from someplace.

                Maybe it came from Microsoft?
          • Just what is a government handout? That's my money in D.C, too, you know. We pool our money down there because while you and I don't have $60 million to donate, together we can. Unfortunately, we send our money and it gets used to blackmail us. Seatbelt laws, BACs down to silly amounts, no research that the Christian Coalition doesn't like and no funding for anyone who can spell abortion.

            We don't know what this research will result in. We can predict, but we don't know. Until we research, we don't know if any of it will work. When we know what stem cell research can give us, then we can decide if we as a society want it. Don't shy away from knowledge, though. Even Kansas is now allowing schools to teach "Things changing slowly over time." If those morons can try to cope with evolution, can't the rest of us find out what science has before we ban it?

    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangermouse (2242)
      If you're open to diversity of opinion, then you must accept ALL types of thinking! Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus.


      Bullshit. Bush was struggling with some political issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetuses. Now, the people who put him in a position of having to care may have real moral objections to stem cell research, but I wouldn't attribute such thoughts to Bush.

    • Well that's not saying anything because the guy struggles to read his box of breakfast cereal.

      His struggle with the moral issues is bullshit.
      His decision was pure politics. He threw science a bone while appealing to his Taliban base.

      If he was truly concerned about the poor embryos, and the sanctity of life, why not ban in vitro
      fertilization and come out against abortion?
    • by ruin (141833)
      Ok, so if you are liberal, your thoughts are OK because you are OPEN. But if you are conservative, you're thinking is CLOSED?

      Pretty much. If you're conservative, in the sense of being resistant to change, then your thoughts are more likely to get stuck somewhere bad just because you don't want to change them.

      If you're open to diversity of opinion, then you must accept ALL types of thinking!

      Do I *really* have to point out what's wrong with that statement? Valuing knowledge means "accepting" (whatever that means) thinking might lead you to some useful new knowledge. Usually this means being more open minded than the average Amoral Majority member, although if you want to put it that way, it doesn't mean you must accept anything you deem to be incorrect. (Keeping in mind that you could be wrong, of course.)

      Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus. Honestly, I'm sick of people doing things "in the name of science" and calling all moral discussions "ignorant".

      There are informed moral discussions and there are ignorant moral discussions. Bush is considering whether or not it's okay to destroy the magical invisible souls of these precious groups of cells. He's decided that it's not okay, but he does concede the benefit of utilizing the already existing stem cells.

      I leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine whether this is an informed moral discussion or not.

      • magical invisible souls of these precious groups of cells

        Can I assume that your soul is both practical and visible, or is your life also of no consequence or value?

        Why is it that so many people are inclined to err on the side of caution in every area but this one? Demonstrated multiple murderers might reform someday. Let's give them a chance. We can't prove that nuclear power plants won't cause problems, so go slowly, or stop altogether. Global warming might be caused by CO2, so we'd better change how we do everything right now. But fetuses human? Obviously you're just a Christian fundamentalist who wants barefoot women in the kitchen -- there's no issue here.

        • by tshak (173364)
          Not all Christians are fundamentalists (Thank God). (Stem Cell == Evil) is not Christan Dogma.
          • Perhaps I needed to format my post differently. I realize that it is not Christian dogma (hell, I'm not sure there is "Christian dogma", although clearly there are points of Catholic dogma, or Russian Orthodox dogma, or I suppose Crazy Bob's Snake-Handling Car Wash Church dogma).

            My point is that it is American liberal dogma that anybody who has doubts as to abortion or fetal research must be a fundamentalist Christian, and must have an agenda of the oppression of women. No other motive, and no other possibility, is considered.

            Speaking for myself, I have some serious doubts, I'm an atheist, and I can't believe I'm completely alone in the American landscape.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gnovos (447128) <gnovos@@@chipped...net> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:09PM (#2246238) Homepage Journal
      Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus.

      I'm sure he was. In the same way that the pope must have felt about birth control pills or condoms and the witch hunters felt in the early 1400's...

      One thing I'm trying to say is that, despite the definitions that you grow up believeing, "morality" is not a static force. It is mutable just like everything else. Someday we will use genetic engineering on a daily basis and not even think twice about it. It will be as moral as apple pie and baseball. In that future era we will think our current debates are silly in the same way that you and I think the debates on the morality of dancing and the reports of witchcraft are silly. By then we will be having new and intersting debates of "morality", still thinking that it is an unchanging imperative.

      Half of our planet will think that using faster than light travel to seed the galaxy is a wonderful thing while the rest think that it goes against God's plan (A popular quote from that future time, "If God had meant humans to travel faster than the speed of light, he would have given us phaseo-transducers.") of humans living only on Earth.

      And in some future weblog this exact same argument will be made again... :)

      Pure science is the ultimate morality. Give it freedom.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus.


        I'm sure he was. In the same way that the pope must have felt about birth control pills or condoms and the witch hunters felt in the early 1400's...


        Or maybe in the same way people felt about sterilizing retarded people a century ago. Or maybe they felt the same way about frontal lobotomies or experimenting on concentration camp inmates.

        Pure science is the ultimate morality. Give it freedom.

        Yeah, right, we shouldn't have any other concerns besides the quest for knowledge.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by neoptik (130091)
      Hey, I have an idea. You are opposed to stem cell research?


      Alright. You start taking insulin shots in the stomach. 3-7 times a day. Oh, you also have to prick your fingers every time you want to eat. While you are at it, get Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis.


      Then you can tell me that the moral grounds are wrong.

      • by tshak (173364)
        First, I never said I was against it, I said that it was a moral struggle. Second, there's definately no garuntee that stem cell research will lead to cures. Third, your logic is flawed. Example: Why don't we just use organs and tissue from death row inmates for research that helps cure AIDS. (This is an ANALOGY not a DIRECT COMPARISON - I'm not comparing it directly to stem cell research). The ends don't justify the means.

        P.S. Parkinson's has been a genetic disease in my family and I have a very high chance of getting it, and have lost family members to it. Don't start making trolling assumptions as if these serious diseases don't affect my life as well.
        • We should experiment on death row inmates. There are lots of things we could do with them after they are put to death. I for one would be very much in favor of cryogenically freezing and then attempting to revive death row inmates. Give them the option, be put to death *this way* and maybe you'll come back to life (so to speak). I bet most inmates would like that opportunity. They are destined to be put to death -- if it so happens that the procedure is successful, then let them live the rest of their natural lives in prison.

          There are lots of things we could do to prisoners that would not be cruel or unusual and would advance medical science greatly. Of course, all experiments should be voluntary, and they really ought to be compensated in some manner regardless of the outcome. If the compensation were great enough there would be lots of takers for any experiment, no matter how dangerous. Most people who are in jail are gamblers of some sort, and they always think they are going to beat the odds or they wouldn't have attempted the crime that put them in jail in the first place.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by marxmarv (30295)
      But if you are conservative, you're thinking is CLOSED?
      conservative adj. 3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL

      And that's "your", not "you're". If they brought back literacy testing as a precondition to voting, we wouldn't be having these problems.

      If you're open to diversity of opinion, then you must accept ALL types of thinking!
      I don't have to accept any types of thinking other than my own. Ideas themselves are the only germane point of argument.
      Bush (not my favorite president to say the least) was struggling with some legitimate moral issues regarding stem cells from aborted fetus.
      Fact check: he just banned recovery from not just embryos, which is what you get just after the fertilized ovum divides and several weeks before a fetus, but waste embryos from such sources as redundancy for fertility treatments. I don't see that there are any morald to discuss: you either take what life you can from it and flush it, or you flush it. Which one is more pro-life, and why aren't they being consistent?

      Furthermore, most moral discussions are ignorant because the people involved are wailing and gnashing their teeth, usually to the exclusion of critically examining their own views, seeking out and examining evidence, and so on. If most Americans could be bothered to exercise any more discernment over their uninformed opinions besides "The guy in the black robe told me so", we wouldn't be having this battle.

      Power makes old men drunk.

      -jhp

    • While the President may have thought he was wrestling with "legitimate moral issues" he was in fact being manipulated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson's desire to protect a monopoly on "existing" stem cell lines for Thompson's hometown buddies here at the University of Wisconsin.

  • He is saying biotechnology is the next big thing. He is gonna donate this money, then get federal funding for the research and then patent everything that comes from it and make billions of dollars.

    I personally like the ol G Dubya's stand. The big compainies only want the federal funding for research so they don't have to spend the money, yet they still get the patents.

    If all these big companies think its sooooo important to have more than these 60 stem cells why don't they fork over the money for the research? Last I saw these companies weren't hurting for money, yet they had plenty of patents.
    • He is gonna donate this money, then get federal funding for the research and then patent everything that comes from it and make billions of dollars.

      Umm... no. He was going to donate the money to Stanford, not fund a startup with it.

      The big compainies only want the federal funding for research so they don't have to spend the money, yet they still get the patents.

      Possibly (companies always want something for nothing), but consider it from Joe/Jill Citizen's point of view. If Federal money funds the research then the government / public sector gets guaranteed dibs (low-cost licenses) to any resulting technology. Whereas if the research is funded solely by private interests, guess who reaps the rewards.

      If all these big companies think its sooooo important to have more than these 60 stem cells why don't they fork over the money for the research?

      Oh don't worry - they will. And so will the UK and other more enlightened governments. It's just the US public sector / universities that are in danger of falling behind.

      -Renard

  • Get a grip! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by klevin (11545) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:42PM (#2246171) Homepage Journal
    What really chaps my hide about this whole debate is that both sides seem to be deliberately ignoring the the fact that human embryos are not the only source of human stem cells. Proponents of stem cell research instist that only embryonic stem cells will do, and don't want to be bothered with researching the viability of stems cells taken from adults or the placenta and/or umbilical cord of new-born babies. Those who oppose the use of embyonic stem cells often blindly lump the other sources of stem cells right in with them.

    In the end, we end up with perfectly legitimate means of aquiring stem cells being ignored, because both sides have gotten on their high horses and, instead of working with researchers and ethicists to find a way to achive the goals without destroying/killing embryos*.

    This is what happens when a scientific and/or ethical issue (there doesn't seem to be too many scientific issues that aren't also wrapped up in ethical issues) enter the real of politics. All reasonableness and willingness to act for both the physical and ethical/moral well-being of others goes out the window. It becomes and issue of power and who will dominate who.

    * And I don't buy the, "well, they were going to be gotten rid of anyway" argument. Just because someone else was going to kill your neighbor down the street if you didn't doesn't mean it's ok for you to go ahead and do it.
    • both sides seem to be deliberately ignoring the the fact that human embryos are not the only source of human stem cells.

      Not. It is quite clear from research to date that embyonic stem cells are the most useful type.

    • And I don't buy the, "well, they were going to be gotten rid of anyway" argument. Just because someone else was going to kill your neighbor down the street if you didn't doesn't mean it's ok for you to go ahead and do it.
      Your analogy makes no sense. You aren't accounting for the fact that the embryo is no longer a viable life form and, for a limited time, is a useful item from which to harvest parts. The situation is similar to that of a motorcycle crash victim. Would you not, with the blessing of the next of kin, harvest whatever organs you could use before they're no longer useful? Then what makes fertilized eggs so special?

      Forced-birthers are too hung up on the quantity of potential life and demonstrate almost no concern about the quality of life for those who have developed nervous systems and can appreciate it. Their real concern is probably not life, but power. Religious extremists need to shut up and deal until such time as I can opt out of paying for oil wars in Saudi Arabia.

      All in all, I think it's good that a leading technologist (who has done more for society than the sadistic oppressive whore [geocities.com] known as Mother Teresa) suggested that mysticism has no place in science.

      -jhp

    • Re:Get a grip! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dachshund (300733) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:16PM (#2246433)
      And I don't buy the, "well, they were going to be gotten rid of anyway" argument. Just because someone else was going to kill your neighbor down the street if you didn't doesn't mean it's ok for you to go ahead and do it

      First of all, I'm glad you actually addressed this issue. George Bush somehow neglected to tell America what happens to the leftover IVF embryos not used for research, nor did he express his disgust at the number of "potential" human beings created simply to be tossed in the incinerator. It surprises me that we can so easily tolerate the "mass-murder" that is in-vitro while at the same time being so outraged over the small number of embryos that are used for research.

      As far as your not buying the argument, well, what is there to say? Drawing analogies between living humans and a couple of cells in a test tube (cells that will never be allowed to come to term and aren't capable of suffering) is truly a futile intellectual exercise. The embryos are being created, they are being destroyed for IVF. All of this is tolerated even by the right-to-life crowd because it's part of the process of creating life. But embryo research could also have that potential. The potential to save lives that already exist, and are capable of suffering, should be more of a justification than the "artificial" creation of lives that nature wouldn't allow. I suppose it's also worth noting that embroys can be twinned and twinned... So if I destroy one embryo am I guilty of killing one person or all of the "potential" people that embryo might have produced?

      Proponents of stem cell research instist that only embryonic stem cells will do, and don't want to be bothered with researching the viability of stems cells taken from adults or the placenta and/or umbilical cord of new-born babies

      This is just a gross simplification. Many, many researchers are working in these areas. Believe me, as clever as they are, the media did not invent the notion of using the placenta or umbilical cord to gather stem cells. If you're reading about it, that means that somebody is out there doing the research. Even if non-embryo sources worked as well as embryo sources, halting all research in order to refocus on new ways to harvest stem cells could waste years. During that time, a lot of (real) people could die. Are those lives worth less than the "lives" of a few cells? And how much farther does this go? Should we worry about every reproductive cell our body loses, every sperm cell or egg?

      The truth is, the American people are being taken for a ride by a few people with some very interesting ideas. Ask people on the street what they think about stem cell research and you'll get a lot of concern about the destruction of embryos. Ask the same people how they feel about IVF and they'll tell you that helping parents have babies is a good thing. Tell them that embryos get thrown away in the process too, it'll be the first time many of these people have heard about it. A lot of the remainder will justify it with the "creation of life" argument. Given the opportunity for some independent thought, most people won't equate the destruction of early embryos with murder. On the other hand, tell them that evil scientists are creating little babies for spare parts, and these people will freak-- provided the "right" people say it enough.

    • Re:Get a grip! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nullnvoid (177438)

      Researchers are not ignoring adult stem cell research; I'm afraid that your perception is misinformed, in this instance.

      Researchers have repeatedly stated that while adult stem cell research shows promise, at this time it is no substitute for embryonic stem cell research. In fact, the progress made in adult stem cell research has relied upon research already done on embryonic stem cells.

      Furthermore, researchers are on record as saying that we simply don't know yet if adult stem cells have the same abilities as embryonic stem cells.

      Yale researcher Diane Krause testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in July:
      "Work on embryonic stem cells is invaluable and work on adult derived stem cells is just beginning... To close off one avenue because of premature assumptions about the other is to play the odds with people's lives."

      Adult stem cells may be, in your opinion, a "perfectly legitimate means of acquiring stem cells," but it remains to be seen whether they can effectively replace embryonic stem cell research. One thing is clear, however; researchers acknowledge the research that has been done on adult cells, and have cautioned that research must go forward on both types of cells.

  • by Panaflex (13191) <convivialdingo@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @04:44PM (#2246176)
    While you may feel one way or the other on the issue, calling the roughly 45-55% of the people in the USA known as conservatives in this country "a few" is a lie. (Big suprise, though)

    I guess those "a few" get around..

    Pan
    • Now whose numbers are those "45-55%" from, how were they gathered, how old are they and what were their methodology? Were thewse numbers from a conservative think-tank, done 6 years ago, done using push polling and were the loosest standards for "conservative" used? If so that is a useless number. I'd look at the latest elections, Gore won the popular vote, the Democrats control the Senate and control of the House is slowly slipping though the fingers of the Republicans. Getting back on topic, in the polls I heard 60% of those polled were for stem cell research.
    • Uhh, Conservatives only make up around 15% of the populace of the United States.

      Liberals make up like 20%...

      The rest of us are Moderates.

    • If you're reading that from people who are republocrats, don't use those numbers. They only split people between really conservative, and very conservative. Now, if you had several parties (like Canada, et all) where there was a conservative party, a liberal party, a labour party, a more conservative party, etc, you could potentially say how many citizens are "at least conservative enough, or in agreement with the views, of the conservative party" to support them (and imply they are conservative).
  • Don't buy it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BrianH (13460) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:02PM (#2246216)
    Having taught electrical engineering at Stanford and benefited there from federal research funds, I can say that with no prospect of federal support, significant scientific inquiry in a field like stem cell research will stop. No research leader can forgo federal money.

    Oh puhleez. There have been virtually NO federal funds spent on embryonic SCR, and that doesn't seem to have much hindered researchers so far. The TRUTH here is that these researchers saw easy, string-free government money, and now they're just pissed because it's been limited on them. Let's make the situation clear: scientists who DO NOT have the funds to continue their research have been given open funding by the government to work with the sixty specified lines as they see fit. Scientists who DO have funds can work on any cell lines they want, and do virtually anything with them. These people were thumbing it, we've offered them a free Cadillac, and now they're complaining that it's not a Mercedes...sheesh!

    Could funds-free researchers do more with unlimited lines and no control? Sure they could, but when you're on the equivalent of scientific welfare you should be happy to get what you get. It is NOT the duty of the taxpayer to provide unregulated or unlimited funds to every scientist who think he can save the world...if only we'd give him a little money. Those sixty lines are as viable as any other embryonic lines currently available, and should provide a solid foundation for whatever projects those researchers may be pursuing.

    Personally, I wish that Bush had added one more restriction to the pile. People like Clark are complaining because his visions of getting even wealthier were set back a bit by GW's decision. Clark, like many financial backers of SCR, were hoping to parlay early investments and later government money into huge financial gains for whatever breakthroughs they attained. MANY people in the field want to use government money to make a big breakthrough, so that they can then patent, control, and royalty-fee it to death. They want to use YOUR money to make THEM rich. Screw that. IMO, any government funding should come with the stipulation that discoveries MUST be passed into the public domain and remain royalty and patent-free. I have no interest in having MY tax dollars spent on projects designed to make people like Jim Clark richer.
    • They want to use YOUR money to make THEM rich.

      Never mind, of course, that the only way THAT can happen is if these evil capitalist pig-dogs actually succeed in HELPING sick people.

      I guess your whole life is just one big zero-sum game, huh?
  • by PRickard (16563) <pr@ms - b c . c om> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:08PM (#2246237) Homepage
    The US government didn't ban stem cell research, all Bush did was prevent the government from directly funding research on new cells. Private industry and nonprofit groups can still do whatever they want with the existing or new cells, so long as they use their own funds.
    That said, Clark could distribute some of his billions to those groups to make up for money the government won't be giving them. But instead he's going to have a hissy fit and withhold that cash just to draw attention to himself (if he had given, we wouldn't have seen the story here). He's cutting off his nose to spite his face; shooting himself in the left foot because he's mad someone shot him in the right. It's totally counterproductive for him to do this.
    And it could be worse for him - imagine a scenario where Jim Clark was taxed at 90% and had no free money of his own, and then the government decided who and what got the money taken from him. Jim Clark should thank God and George W. Bush (I'm not putting them on the same level) that he lives in a nation where he can choose who and what gets his money instead of having it chosen for him. Jim can send his Bush tax refund check and a whole lot more over to BioWhoever and let them use it for cell research instead of just bitching about Bush not sending the money straight to them. Bottom line: Jim, put your money where your mouth is or stop whining.
    • It does seem to be consistent. I'm not really sure that the government should be involved, either.

      When I don't think of myself as a libertarian (small 'l'), I think of myself as a conservative. I typically think of Bush as a true opposite to a conservative. A rapacious lunatic. But he is generally for less government control. All this manages to prove is that any idea can be ruined if the wrong person is in charge of promoting it.

      OTOH, a president doesn't (probably doesn't) have the ability to just implement any choice that he desires. So it may not all be his fault. Quite. But the order in which he is choosing to remove government control speaks to me more of an oligarch than of a libertarian. And a conservative would never dream of opening the national parks to more extensive mining/oil drilling. The root of the word is *conserve*. I believe it was coined to describe Teddy Rooseveldt during the creation of the national park system. If not, it was certainly popularized at that time and for that purpose.
    • Jim Clark should thank God and George W. Bush (I'm not putting them on the same level) that he lives in a nation where he can choose who and what gets his money instead of having it chosen for him.

      Funny that you should bring God into this, since one of the items you don't have the option of withholding money from is faith based charities. If Bush really thinks we can rely on the private sector, why is he looking for more ways to spend money? It's time to admit that both parties are interested in taxing us highly (my $300 rebate pales in comparison to what I'm paying), and they just have different ways of throwing it away.

      At least Clark has realized who controls the huge amounts of money, and is campaigning to change its flow. Private donations are small potatoes compared to what the government tosses around.
  • by Salamander (33735) <jeff@pl.POLLOCKatyp.us minus painter> on Sunday September 02, 2001 @05:36PM (#2246322) Homepage Journal
    It is futile to think that private funding can make up what is being lost

    Yeah, well, that's sure of hell true when the private donors desert researchers in their very hour of need, breaking promises in the process. It seems likely to me that this has less to do with principle than with Mr. Clark feeling a little less rich than he used to.

  • Pinched for money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Drashcan (113359) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:23PM (#2246447)
    Mr. Clark is clearly pinched for money because of the Dotcom downturn. If he had at least a little bit of genuine "morale d'engagement" he would spend the money on fighting the regulation in civil society (Congress, Senate, whatever).


    Not to say that supporting scientists who persue research within the limits set by Mr. Bush is already a considerable step.

  • by update() (217397) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:36PM (#2246480) Homepage
    Anyone else wondering if the real issue is that Clark neglected to cash out of his options in time...?

    Seriously, though, this piece seems absurd to me. Whatever your views about stem cell research (personally, I think Bush came up with a fair compromise, and I'm no fan of Bush), clearly the ethical implications of biological research are crucial and are going to become even more so. Does Clark really think that _not_ having guidelines is the way to a bright future?

    By the way I agree that characterizing the voters who don't think precisely as Clark does as "a conservative few" is a contemptible bit of class bias. Those people may not rub elbows with Clark, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2001 @06:39PM (#2246492)
    This is something I've been starting to get concerned about. I'm seeing a pattern here. We have the DMCA squelching legitimate research in cryptographic areas. Russia has even gone so far as to put out a travel advisory for its programmers who are considering a visit to the US. Some academic conferences are also talking about meeting somewhere OTHER than the United States in the future. To avoid DMCA complications -- such as having conference speakers arrested.

    Now we are also having restrictions on research on stem cells and nonreproductive cloning. As is well known, there has already been one prominent scientist in this field who has left the U.S. to do his research in England, where the government isn't nearly so hostile towards this kind of research. If I remember correctly, his work was ENTIRELY privately funded. But then it turned out that in one of the buildings he did some work in, the lighting was paid for -- at least in part -- by federal funds. And so because of that, his entire laboratory counted as government-funded, making is research illegal. The only option would have been to build an entirely new building, using nothing but private funds, to do the research in.

    Unfortunately, compared to government funding, Jim Clarks $150 million would only be a drop in the bucket. Scientific research often depends on government support as its lifeblood. Especially expensive research.

    The United States has for so long been a great example to the rest of the world of how much progress can thrive in a friendly environment with government support and academic freedom. (And, incidentally, freedom of speech.) But now it seems that we are determined to relinquish our crown as the world's leader in new advances in science and technology.

    Someday -- far too soon, I fear -- the brain-drain will no longer be from other countries losing their best and brightest to the United States, but rather the other way around.
  • I'm going to help out the majority of you by explaining a few simple concepts of the US Constitution, as well as some principles of the free market - because most of you desperately need this assistance. It really bothers me that so many are so ignorant of the truth. Whatever you think the moral implications are of stem cell research, the fact remains that federal funding of it is unconstitutional. Most individuals on both sides of the political spectrum seemingly forget that the Constitution - the highest law of the land - settles nearly all of the issues concerning the size and scope of the federal government. It's when we as a nation choose deviate from the Constitution that we have problems.

    People may not want to admit it, but the Constitution of the United States of America prohibits federal stem-cell research funding. I'm not saying that it prohibits the research altogether, but it does prohibit federal funding. If you don't believe me, just take a look at Article 1: Section 8 [cornell.edu] of the Constitution, which details the powers granted to Congress.

    You won't see an "indiscriminate spending clause" or a "total jurisdiction clause" in there, because the federal government was never, ever granted those types of powers. The federal government is limited to some specific duties with very little wiggle room beyond that. The founders created a limited government purposefully, one that would serve to protect the nation militarily; one that would serve to preserve personal liberty. The founders did this because they hated the cesspool of European politics, and they knew the tendency for government to constantly expand and impose its will on its citizenry.

    Federal funding for stem cell research is simply unconstitutional; a majority of the taxes imposed and duties executed by the federal government today are also unconstitutional. The legality of stem cell research must be left up to individual states, and the funding for that research must be left up to the private sector.

    The checks on the federal government also arose from the realization that government can never match the private sector's performance. The simple economic principles of supply and demand and competition are at play here. When the government sets forth to complete an objective, it obviously has no competition and therefore no reason to work well. The government doesn't have to worry all that much about profits or losses - if it needs more money, it decides to tax the citizenry more. And the government can choose to embark on the wrong quest because it isn't constrained by supply and demand. The government is simply terrible at handling things that belong properly to the private sector.

    The private sector, in contrast, will constantly improve products and services - making them better and cheaper - because if one company doesn't strike, its competition will surely do so. Capitalism is the only way to go, and the subversion of capitalism, like the subversion of the Constitution, will send us down a dark path.

    A good recent example of the power of the private sector is the human genome project. The federal government provided funding to one group of scientists to do the work, while another group of scientists utilized the private sector. The government funded researchers had modest goals for completion of the product, when compared to the privately funded researchers. Long story short, the privately funded scientists finished much farther ahead of the government's scientists, simply because they had the incentive to succeed. The government's money was useless, because the private sector yielded completely superior results; the government didn't care about the money spent because they were only spending the people's money.

    And if you still can't grasp my point about government entering into the private sphere, please think for yourself for a moment about the government programs you like or think are productive. Can you think of any? Tell me if you like any of these public sector programs:

    The ever increasing cost of health care, courteous of government over regulation; subsidized government slums; the continued decline of American public education, despite the fact that the government spends a great deal more on it than it did 20 years ago; airline delays resulting from stone age technology employed by FAA air traffic control systems; being taxed half of your income; the sham of social security; privacy violations (carnivore, etc.); the IRS. . . Which of these features do you like?

    If you like any of that, you must also want the government to encroach on the rest of the private sector. Would you like government fast food and government clothing? Would you like a government controlled Internet or government controlled computer corporations? Government control of the media? Should the government take over all property rights? I mean, since most of you believe that the government should have a role in funding everything, it's only logical that the government should have control over even more than it has now - it should, according to most of you, control everything. What a commie-fascist paradise that would be, huh? The really problematic thing is, though, this nation's concept of government would only have to mutate some additional steps before American totalitarianism would be realized.

    Look, I'm not some kind of militia nut; I'm not preaching open rebellion against the sovereign. If what I've written has caused even one person to rethink his or her politics, then I would be a happy libertarian Republican. It is a real struggle to teach the truth, but it must be done. I will never back down when some challanges my principles, but no one ever said standing up for what's right is easy.

    If you appreciate any of the points I've made, I encourage you to read your Constitution and live by it - don't just pay it lip service. Vote for those candidates who are truly committed to ending unconstitutional practices of government; vocally support those personalities who share a like opinion. We must make a choice, on this day, to either be committed to liberty and the true American way, or else choose automatically to submit to the inexorable march of this nation toward totalitarian rule.
    • by Daffy Duck (17350) on Sunday September 02, 2001 @08:57PM (#2246880) Homepage
      Let me guess.. you've just recently been re-reading your Ayn Rand collection?

      I don't think the world is as black and white as you sketch here. For example, those terrible airline delays aren't only caused by aging FAA equipment, they're caused by the deregulated industry's capitalistic incentive to minimize costs by having fewer and larger hubs and maintaining fleets of the barest minimum possible size.

      Being taxed half your income sucks and does seem unconstitutional, but it's better than the 90% brackets that used to exist (most ironically even through the 50's, when the nation was in a frenzy to rid itself of those damn communists), and still much lower than most other nations.

      I don't see why you think government regulation is responsible for the high cost of health care. Don't you think the insurance industry has a whole lot more say in this? Ask a doctor.

      The free market is difficult to apply to health care - you can't really comparison shop. Are you going to have the same operation done by three different surgeons to see who has the best price/performance ratio? Should you have no more qualifications on which to judge your doctors than the content of their advertisements? The unregulated free market solution to health care led to such great products as snake oil and heroin powder.

      In principle (yeah, I know), the goverment funds research for things that will serve the public good. If all of this research were only done for a profit motive, then it would benefit only the highest bidder.

      The driving force of capitalism is greed. You want your stuff. I don't know who I'm quoting here, but someone said "your property is only yours through the courtesy of those who don't take it from you." Who's protecting your property rights? The police - the government. Care to privatize the police force? That's great if you're the one with the most money to hire soldiers, and it will quickly lead to feudalism, the ultimate in freedom.

      Part of government's function is to deal with the fact that we're living in a society and have to have a better way of getting along than just the law of the jungle. Centralized government clearly isn't the answer, but neither is a loose geographic agglomeration of 300,000,000 independent countries.

      I've been ranting so long I forgot what I was saying. Well anyway, um, I disagree.

      • Only on Slashdot would this rate a 4, while the parent sits at 2.

        It seems most people missed the point. The federal government simply does not have the right to fund anything. I don't care what your pet projects are, they simply do not have the authority.

        Part of government's function is to deal with the fact that we're living in a society and have to have a better way of getting along than just the law of the jungle. Centralized government clearly isn't the answer, but neither is a loose geographic agglomeration of 300,000,000 independent countries.

        No, that is what the states are there for. Please read the tenth amendment to the Constitution. Then read it again.

      • Who's protecting your property rights? The police - the government.

        Actually, the libertarian position is that this is precisely one of the very few appropriate roles for government: Protecting its citizens from the exercise of force. In other words, preserving the ability of individuals, who are presumed to have free will, to act in accordance with their own wishes -- so long as those actions do not impede the rights of others to do the same.

        You make some good counterarguments regarding the FAA and taxation (though I might still argue that having even half of the fruits of my labors confiscated against my will and squandered on programs I don't necessarily support is an obscenity... nah, I'm not in the mood right now). I do want to dispute the way you conveniently shift the blame for health care costs onto insurance companies, though. The financing of health care is admittedly a mind-numbingly complex issue (trust me, I got a tiny but frightening glimpse of this writing billing software for doctors' offices in a past life)... but insurance companies are hardly the biggest culprit in the escalation of costs. (They may well be a culprit as far as quality of care goes, but that's largely a different issue.) Yikes, as I start to prepare my mental arguments I'm realizing I could spend all night on this, but a quick summary: Consider the costs of developing new treatments and drugs; the fact that employer-paid insurance protects most people from price signals and encourages overconsumption; the fact that government payments for procedures under e.g. Medicare typically come nowhere near covering the actual costs of those procedures, so that privately insured individuals end up paying more than they really should; the cost of litigation and insurance against litigation; and the fact that modern, Western medicine is simply a highly complex, labor-intensive, and technology-intensive business, one that people place great emotional reliance on. Oh, and don't forget those omnipresent symbiotic gremlins of supply (somewhat limited) and demand (effectively infinite -- can you ever be too healthy?). I'm sure there are the usual doses of fraud, poor business practices, and so on to top all this off. Anyway, this is getting way off on a tangent, so I'm gonna hit Submit now and be done with it...

    • So many incorrect facts, so little time.

      You need to re-read the Constitution I'm afraid.

      Regarding federal funding, this falls under the "general welfare" statement in Article I. I believe the Supreme Court has said something on this matter. You know, the Court that interprets the Consititution?

      Concerning some of the offtopic points:
      Amendment 16 allows for an income tax. Was ratified by the US States I believe.

      Regarding state rights. They don't have any in reality. There was a little war concerning that idea. I think it was called the Civil War.

      Oh, by the way, just a bit of sarcasm in these remarks!
  • by Orbitalb (226365)
    I'm sure stem cell researchers have nothing but good intentions. However, good ends don't always justify the means you take to reach them. Remember, Dr. Frankenstein thought his biological research would benefit the world, but instead of a medical revolution that created life... the result of his work was a monstrocity that killed people.

    The American Government knows that if biological research is allowed to grow widly without controls, the results will be disasterous. This is the same reason that human cloning is being banned outright. It would open doors to the use of human life without accountability or assurance of ethical conduct.

    If fetal stem cell research went unregulated, then fetuses would become a commodity to be bought or sold. Imagine waking up tomorrow in a world where a woman can get pregnant, have an abortion, and sell her unborn child on the black market for.. lets say $100,000. Then she could go have another night at the bar scene, and a few months later she'd get another $100,000. Lather, rinse, repeat. If she does this a total of 10 times, then she's just made a million dollars, and 10 children are dead.

    Then suppose she's not independent, suppose she's a prostitute. A pimp with a dozen girls could make $1,200,000 per year this way.

    I know this sounds wild, and will probably never happen, but if we don't impose restrictions and safeguards on biological research then something similar - or worse - could happen.

    • Um, I'm not sure I quite understand your interpretation of reproductive biology:

      Imagine waking up tomorrow in a world where a woman can get pregnant, have an abortion, and sell her unborn child on the black market for.. lets say $100,000

      I'd be curious to know who would pay $100,000 for an aborted fetus. Perhaps you're assuming some kind of artificial womb technology that could sustain the aborted fetus to term? But if that's the case, then I don't see what's so morally reprehensible about the abortion/uteral transfer, since the fetus wasn't destroyed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 03, 2001 @03:01AM (#2247492)
    One thing that I haven't seen discussed (apologies if I missed it and am duplicating a thread) is that grants of federal dollars come with all sorts of strings attached. This is one of the reasons that religious groups are wary of President Bush's proposal to start federal funding of religion-based charities.

    The problem with the decision to restrict federal funding of stem cell research is that the restriction also applies to indirect costs. Indirect costs expenses are charged by the universities to pay for building upkeep, electricity, janitorial services, and anything else that is necessary to maintain the research space for the researcher. At Stanford University, for example, for every dollar that a university researcher spends from his/her federal grant, the university charges an additional 60 cents to the grant. The number varies from place to place, but it is usually a surcharge of this magnitude. It's sort of like rent.

    In order for new stem cell research to be done in a Stanford University building, no federal funding can be used, direct or indirect. So if a non-stem cell researcher down the hall receives a federal grant, then the stem cell researcher in the same building may not use any money, government or private, to perform research in that building. The restricted research must be done in a dedicated building for which all indirect costs are paid for through private funding. The building costs therefore may no longer be shared among researchers in several fields, but must be paid for by only researchers in the restricted field. A new research lab building costs of order $400 million to build. This amount of money plus the upkeep costs is too much for any single researcher or small group of researchers to raise through private grants. So the main effect of President Bush's executive order is to move new stem cell research out of university research labs altogether, in most cases.

    Okay, so the research is moved to private labs run by private companies, so what? The main effect here is that private companies will be reluctant to share new discoveries with the scientific community, unless the research is sufficently advanced to get a patent. Otherwise, there's no way businesses are going to recover their investment. Even worse, new processes can be kept proprietary if it suits the business strategy. Also, there is the phenomenon of the 'strategic patent,' where company A discovers that company B is working on a certain process, and to block them, company A will patent a necessary step in the process to make it cost-ineffective for company B to continue the research. (Note that this doesn't necessarily mean that company A plans on using company B's process.) New discoveries will still be made but the discoveries will come at a slower rate because of the lack of knowledge-sharing and of corporate hijinks.

    So the net effect is that people who need new treatments will have to wait longer for them. When they do come, most likely the patents will be awarded to academic researchers in the U.K. or elsewhere and those countries will see the benefits of the new economies formed by this technology.

    I wonder if the people who oppose this research now are going to refuse the new treatments developed thereof when it is their kids who are dying. I predict that they will find themselves able to temporarily suspend their moral judgements.

  • All the big drug companies have labs in several countries, so that if regulations change in one country, their huge investments are not that much at risk- they just conduct research on different projects according to what is permitted where. The recent GWB decision mostly will result in certain projects taking place abroad, and will guarantee that smaller companies cannot participate as easily, since they can't fork over for the licensing like the big boys can and can't spring for labs in a bunch of countries.

    American universities are at a big disadvantage here, since:

    • they are more reliant on federal funds than drug companies
    • they tend to have their research labs on campus
    So the recent decision will make the possible progress using stem cells happen abroad and privately, at least moreso than other biomedical research

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