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NIH Orders Halt To Embryonic Stem Cell Research 593

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-this-debate-again dept.
sciencehabit writes "Responding to a court order issued a week ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday ordered intramural researchers studying human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to shut down their experiments. NIH's action — probably unprecedented in its history — is a response to a preliminary injunction on 23 August from US District Judge Royce Lamberth. The judge ruled that the Obama policy allowing NIH funding to be used to study hESC lines violates a law prohibiting the use of federal funds to destroy embryos."
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NIH Orders Halt To Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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  • Buy one get one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:45PM (#33418662)

    The judge ruled that the Obama policy allowing NIH funding to be used to study hESC lines violates a law prohibiting the use of federal funds to destroy embryos."

    What if the scientists just charge for the research, but present an itemized bill that throws in the embryo destruction for free?

    I'm mostly kidding, but isn't there some decent way to weasel around this?

    • by SDF-7 (556604) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:48PM (#33418706)

      Lobby Congress and the President (who are rather in the majority at the moment) to change the law in the first place?

      Oh wait... that's not weaseling, sorry.. I'll come in again.

      • by olsmeister (1488789) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:55PM (#33418798)
        It would just get filibustered. A simple majority doesn't seem to cut it anymore.
        • by butterflysrage (1066514) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:07PM (#33418936)

          they need to get rid of that "agree to filibuster" thing they have going on.... if you want to tie things up for hours and hours, then by gum you should have to work at it and ACTUALLY tie things up for hours and hours, not just say "can we agree that we are going to filibuster this so we can all go home and go fishin'?"

          • by gorzek (647352) <gorzekNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:12PM (#33419012) Homepage Journal

            I agree. The Democrats should call the GOP on their threats to filibuster. Make them do it!

            • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:22PM (#33419130) Journal
              Except then the GOP gets a stump to stand upon. This is where C-SPAN causes a problem; all the rhetoric during a filibuster would be good for Republican PR, they could use the filibuster time to motivate their base, etc.

              "Agree to disagree" acceptance of threatened filibuster stinks, I agree. But the other option is to give the Republicans the pulpit for as long as they wish. I'm not sure the Democrats want that to happen.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                ok, but who watches cspan?

                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by Haffner (1349071)
                  The people who sit around all day and are too lazy to change the batteries in their remotes even when it dies while watching c-span. Which party does said person belong to?
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by gorzek (647352)

                Why? What do the Republicans have to say that would be convincing to anyone but their fellow travelers? I say let 'em get up there and display their stupidity for everyone to see.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Myopic (18616)

                  I wish that would work, but I was paying enough attention during the last few Presidential elections to know it won't.

                  Were you paying attention to Sarah Palin "displaying her stupidity for everyone to see"? How well did that work out for Democrats?

                  But I still think we should restore the original filibuster.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by Americano (920576)

                    Were you paying attention to Sarah Palin "displaying her stupidity for everyone to see"? How well did that work out for Democrats?

                    She's not the vice president today, so I'd guess that it turned out pretty darned well for the Democrats, didn't it?

              • by i_b_don (1049110) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:29PM (#33419230)

                "Except then the GOP gets a stump to stand upon. This is where C-SPAN causes a problem; all the rhetoric during a filibuster would be good for Republican PR, they could use the filibuster time to motivate their base, etc."

                So the hell what? Let the democrats motivate their base also! Present your arguments and then turn around and fight for them! It would be damn nice to get back to the days of the progressives actually fighting for their politics instead of just rolling over and playing dead.

                d

                • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:32PM (#33420176) Journal

                  So the hell what? Let the democrats motivate their base also! Present your arguments and then turn around and fight for them! It would be damn nice to get back to the days of the progressives actually fighting for their politics instead of just rolling over and playing dead.

                  You're basing this on the assumption that either side (now, I'm talking about the senators here) has ideas that they can defend. It's become pretty clear that the Democrats don't know how to run a government any better than the Republicans. There's a reason both sides have abysmal approval ratings (Democrats slightly better, but that's like saying horse poop tastes better than cow poop).

                  I agree with you, they should be forced into trying to filibuster, but I only say it because I would enjoy the sheer spectacle of it all, not because I expect either side to say anything remotely useful.

            • by cmiller173 (641510) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:02PM (#33419774)
              That is fine, but realize that the "anti-abortion/anti-embryo destroying" voters cross party lines. There will be a significant number of Democrats that will not vote in favor. Politics is not just a two sided coin.
          • by TheLink (130905) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:28PM (#33419208) Journal
            Wow and I thought US politics was like US pro-wrestling (two wrestlers, two sides, one commentator per side, each side supports its wrestler no matter what). Looks like I was wrong.

            At least in US pro-wrestling they actually take a chair from outside the ring (even if it's a stage prop) and smack someone with it. Rather than a wimpy fake "agree to chair"[1] somebody, they take the trouble to make a half-decent show of the whole thing.

            [1] I hear in nerdland Microsoft they even use real chairs (and it's not just a token ring either).
    • Re:Buy one get one? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:49PM (#33418712)
      There shouldn't be a need to weasel around this. I admin to being a Christian, but I refuse to allow the beliefs of anybody to get in the way of scientific research. These projects are important and the religious right needs to get off their damned high horse and let progress happen. These are the same people that years ago would have protested the use of antibiotics thinking that they would interfere with the divine will of their respective deities.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArsonSmith (13997)

        I refuse to allow the beliefs of anybody to get in the way of scientific research.

        The end justifies the means.

        • by Haffner (1349071) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:01PM (#33418870)
          I think that is an oversimplification - everyone agrees that the intended ends (cures for diseases, etc) are desirable, its just that a small but vocal minority says that the means are bad because some book can vaguely be interpreted to say so.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SideshowBob (82333)

            If you're talking about the Christian bible when you say 'some book', I don't even think you can use that as a source for the belief that abortion is wrong. The bible is pretty clear that an unborn fetus is not a person.

          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            I don't know what this "some book" says about abortion.

            If I kick a pregnant woman in the belly and she miscarriages should I be charged with:

            A. Murder
            B. Battery

            Think hard on this. What if she was only 1 week in? What if she was 8 1/2 months in? Does it make a difference?

        • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:20PM (#33419108)

          The end justifies the means.

          I can't exactly tell what you are trying to say by pointing out the underlying philosophy... but I'd like to mention that I think you have correctly identified it, and that many people's worldviews seem to include believing that the end does not justify the means.

          Of course, people then justify all kinds of actions by the end result, but most people seem to be willing to SAY that the end doesn't justify the means.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There shouldn't be a need to weasel around this.

        I totally agree, but yet, here we are.

        It just seems like, if people can find loopholes in the laws to do bad things, surely they can find one to try to cure diseases. (Up to a point.)

        • Re:Buy one get one? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Haffner (1349071) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:02PM (#33418886)
          While this would seem like a no-brainer, "Circumvent this law for the good of society, RIGHT NOW!" type moments, I have to say that the regulators obeying their legislative and judicial overlords is probably in the best interest of the country.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tophermeyer (1573841)

        I refuse to allow the beliefs of anybody to get in the way of scientific research.

        While I agree in general with the rest of your post, I feel like I have to caution you about this point. There are a lot of arguments (some more valid than others) that a human embryo is a potential person and is deserving of the rights and protections of any other human. I don't necessarily agree with this, but I don't know that it is completely untrue either.

        We would not terminate a person for the purpose of harvesting their organs. An adult human is capable of expressing a desire to donate their org

      • by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:53PM (#33419644) Homepage Journal

        I have no religious problem with embryonic stem cell research, just don't use my money (taxes) to do it.

        • by commandermonkey (1667879) on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:15PM (#33420664)
          I don't get it. If you have no moral problem with stem cell research than your opposition is to what exactly? More effective treatment for Alzheimer's? Possibly allowing a cripple to walk? Better treatments for cancer?

          Would you rather all work be paid for and patented by large organizations who will then control who gets to benefit? "Sorry Mrs. Jones little Johnny's is most likely going to die of Leukemia. Yes there are some incredibly promising and successful gene therapies but you can't afford the price that Merck set for the treatment. No, no the actual treatment isn't that expensive but its like HIV drugs, big farma owns the patent and even though the marginal cost is low they get to set the price. Well yes insurance would have covered it but you don't have any, maybe you should have accepted the job as a corporate officer rather than a hotel maid."

          I apologize for taking the argument to an extreme, but this person claims not to have a moral issue with the research (a position I can at least respect if not agree with,) rather they seem to have high school civics level view of the world that says the US federal government should not pay for anything. It's not like this is research for a malarial drug that will primary help poor black and brown people, this is research that has the potential to save the life of someone the poster knows and loves(even if it is themselves.)

          What makes it so much worse is that since now being a Tea-Tard is acceptable and so many people agree with the bind mantra of no government spending this somehow got modded insightful.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I refuse to allow the beliefs of anybody to get in the way of scientific research.

        That is until the tables are turned, right?

        Would you subject yourself to dangerous radiation RIGHT NOW so that scientists could study the harmful effects?

        That is basically what you are stating. The whole debate about whether an Embryo is a person gets real messy real fast - since there is no real line to draw it at, as everyone develops differently at slight variances. When they are born? What about during labour, moments before their first breath? Until they have a cerebral cortex? But they'll have one if

        • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:36PM (#33420214)

          If it's that you don't believe an Embryo is a person, then I have to ask where it is that YOU draw the line, because right now no one has agreed on it.

          I think birth is a pretty reasonable place to draw the line legally, given that most modern laws implicitly roll with that. For example, the date on which it's legal for you to drink isn't based on when you were concieved, when you entered the second trimester, etc. It's based on when you were born.

        • Re:Buy one get one? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jeff4747 (256583) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:40PM (#33420286)

          Until they have a cerebral cortex? But they'll have one if you don't stop it from developing

          Actually, when it comes to stem cell research, they'll never have a cerebral cortex. That's 'cause the stem cells are left over from IVF treatment. Abortion only enters the picture because the anti-abortion people have decided to make stem cell research part of their cause, not because the stem cells are connected to abortions.

    • Too late (Score:4, Informative)

      by overshoot (39700) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:53PM (#33418756)

      What if the scientists just charge for the research, but present an itemized bill that throws in the embryo destruction for free?

      The ruling applies to cell lines derived from more recent embryos -- they're already destroyed and would have been anyway, but the cell lines are already harvested. It's a strange ruling since it doesn't prevent any new embryo destruction (and wouldn't anyway, since they're excess IVF embryos and are headed for the biowaste system either way.)

      I'm mostly kidding, but isn't there some decent way to weasel around this?

      Nope. The Court has ruled. Unless and until a higher court reverses the ruling, it's binding.

    • Re:Buy one get one? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cfulmer (3166) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:19PM (#33419088) Homepage Journal
      Funny you should ask -- that's approximately the reasoning that the government used in the court case to try to say it was legal. Basically, they said "We're not funding the destruction, we're just funding all of the other activities that constitute research." The judge wasn't buying it -- the statute doesn't say "Federal money cannot be used to destroy embryos." It says (approximately) "Federal money cannot be used to fund research in which embryos are destroyed." And, under the relevant regulations, "research" was defined as the entire end-to-end process. In case anybody thinks this was an out-of-control judge on a philosophical bent, I'll note that this was the second time he heard the case -- the first time, he dismissed it because he didn't think the people suing had standing to sue. It was only after they appealed and WON that he decided to grant the preliminary injunction.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:46PM (#33418672) Homepage Journal

    ... Backwards ...

  • Lets be fair then, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kenja (541830) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:46PM (#33418674)
    Everyone who is against stem cell research should be unable to ever benefit from the results of said research.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:00PM (#33418850) Homepage Journal

      As a biomedical researcher, I wouldn't want the fruits of my labor to be withheld from anyone who needs medical treatment on the basis of their ideology. I would, however, like to see more people living up to their putative beliefs by refusing to make use of technology derived from practices they claim to find morally objectionable. If you're opposed to stem cell research, then refuse any treatment based on such research; if you're a creationist, then refuse any treatment based on modern biology at all; etc. This applies outside the medical realm, too -- consider the number of people who bitch about open source on Slashdot, or more generally, people using the internet to complain about how terrible the internet is. Put your money where your mouth is, folks.

      • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:42PM (#33419454) Journal

        ETHICS are indeed outside of biology. Are you suggesting that ETHICS has no basis deciding how we experiment in biology at all?

        So the ends justify the means? To what end and by what means are you willing to gain knowledge?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheLink (130905)
        In my personal view, it's actually a good thing if people treat human embryos specially even if they're "just a bunch of cells".

        You're going to have to draw an arbitrary line where a bunch of cells becomes human. No matter where you draw that arbitrary line it'll be stupid, but not drawing the line is even more stupid. Erring on the safe side is a good way of symbolically saying that "human life is special".

        Most human societies have agreed that human life is special. So even if some idiot takes a GPS, wande
    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:26PM (#33419180)
      Except I don't know anyone against stem cell research. I am however aware of many people opposed to embryonic stem cell research and most of them would be horrified to learn that they were receiving treatment that derived from embryonic stem cell research (of course that won't happen anytime soon, since there are no treatments derived from embryonic stem cell research despite lavish funding of it by the state of California and several other states and municipalities).
      • by IICV (652597) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:40PM (#33420280)

        (of course that won't happen anytime soon, since there are no treatments derived from embryonic stem cell research despite lavish funding of it by the state of California and several other states and municipalities).

        A bit of history: the laser was first theorized in 1917, by Albert Einstein. In 1947 Lamb and Retherford demonstrated the first actual laser. The first practical use of lasers that most people are aware of was the CD-Rom drive; the Yellow Book standards that described CDs were published in 1985. That's what, 68 years from theory to practice?

        For comparison, research into stem cells started in the 1960s. You're complaining that no treatments have been derived from it yet? Despite the fact that biological research is far trickier than physics? Despite the fact that the funding for stem cell research in the United States has all but dried up?

        Seriously, it's like some people don't understand self-fulfilling prophecies. If you stop funding stem cell research and focus on other things, of course you're not going to get results out of stem cell research.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antirelic (1030688)

      Yeah! I feel the same way about people who are against the military.

    • Ideology-testing for anything and everything is really, really stupid. It is mean-spirited and spiteful, as well as impossible to enforce. Let's suppose, just for fun, that the law is changed (as it will be) and federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is allowed. The people whom you wish to deny treatment are now having their tax dollars taken from them to do research they disagree with. Will you still deny them treatment? What if someone is opposed to war. Would you deny them any medical treatment

  • by Haffner (1349071) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:49PM (#33418708)
    Things always go smoothly. But seriously - the "debate" (can't believe there even is one) over creationism is harmful intellectually, but I doubt it is actively inhibiting research on anything. Stem cell research, on the other hand, IS being held back by religious groups that believe any fertilized embryo is a human. And I for one truly detest the role religion is playing in actively inhibiting research on diseases that are currently killing people. My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins - I can't find a clever way to say it, but why must this still not apply to religion?
    • by SDF-7 (556604) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:02PM (#33418888)

      Turn the argument around for a moment, though. Why must your beliefs mandate that another individual fund (via mandatory taxation) research they view as fundamentally unethical? (And yes -- there are other things taxes may pay for folks may find unethical... I have nothing but empathy for a true pacifist who has to help fund the War Department, etc.) Can you blame them for petitioning those who both impose the taxation and fund the research about their grievances (you know, participating in the democratic process and all)? If you feel they can be and should be outvoted -- get the law changed. If they can't and you want to fund it anyway, then don't use mandatory taxation funds to do so (fund it yourself, do it at the state level where you can get the law passed, etc.) The ruling isn't that the funding is unconstitutional -- you have reasonable redress here.

      • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:10PM (#33418974)

        Why must your beliefs mandate that another individual fund (via mandatory taxation) research they view as fundamentally unethical?

        I think the answer has to simply be: that's where we've chosen to draw the line in our Constitution.

        That is to say, we've set it up so that (in theory), the majority doesn't get to take your individual rights away, but they do get to decide what we collectively spend money on. (And in that context, I don't consider anyone to have a right to not have their tax dollars spent on something the majority agrees with, excepting, of course, when it abridges another individual right.)

        Overall I think that strikes a pretty good compromise between a government that can't do anything (even when it should) and a government that can do too much. It's not perfect, but it beats any alternative we've tried so far.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:07PM (#33418932)

      As with abortion, it all comes down to your fundamental assumptions - pro-life groups (largely) view an embryo as human at conception. Pro-choice and ESC supporters view it as not yet human. Killing a human who has done no harm is morally reprehensible, as is restricting the actions of humans due to something less than human. Unfortunately, without a true shared premise to reason from, there is no way to settle this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      Because this is a "Christian" nation and their right to not be offended by things like cursing, nudity, homosexuality, other religious views mustn't be called into question. It's just a matter of extreme arrogance and self centered behavior. There's a lot of people that genuinely believe that it's their right not to have to share the planet with people that disagree with their religious views even if said religious views are fucked up beyond belief. Which is why abortion is wrong, but fertility drugs and IV
      • by SDF-7 (556604) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:25PM (#33419166)

        Riiight... which is why the Catholic Church is such a proponent of IVF [catholicinsight.com].

        Oh wait -- that's in Bizarro land.

        As far as fertility drugs, they're apparently generally fine with them -- simply cautioning that large multiple pregnancies put both mother and infants at risk.

        Sorry to burst your bubble but some of these "arrogant and self centered" folk are more consistent than you think. (And I would think on at least the "arrogant" front that there's a little speech about not worrying about the mote in your neighbor's eye....)

        • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:53PM (#33419642) Homepage

          > Riiight... which is why the Catholic Church is such a proponent of IVF [catholicinsight.com].

          Except Catholics aren't included in the term "Christian".

          If you're not aware of this then you really haven't been keeping up with any of this stuff.

          The fundie nutbags that try to declare a monopoly on the term "Christian" think that Catholics are going to hell just as much as they think atheists are.

  • Law's the Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:51PM (#33418734)
    Well, it might suck, but presuming the legal basis of the court ruling is valid, I'm appreciative that they shut the experiments down.

    Before you flame me into a crispy marshmallow, answer me this: Is the NIH the sort of institution you want playing fast and loose with any law or court ruling that isn't blatantly, obviously unconstitutional or an instantaneous danger to human lives? I want NIH crossing their T's and dotting the shit of out their I's, for my own safety and peace of mind, and while I hope they fight this ruling (because stem cells will save lives in the long run) I'm grimly satisfied they obeyed it while it's legally binding.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeng (926980)

      So when will they put a halt to all IVF treatments that destroy embryos?

      The fact that this can be applied very very broadly is a reason to worry, and hope.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      and while I hope they fight this ruling

      After reviewing the law this ruling references, there is no benefit to fighting this ruling. This ruling is an accurate reflection of the wording (and almost certainly the intent) of the law it is based on. This was not a judge stretching the law to get the answer he/she wanted. This was a judge making a ruling on the clearly expressed intent of Congress. Not only that but the law in question is clearly within the Constitutional authority of Congress. The only group with the Constitutional authority to chan

  • by the Gray Mouser (1013773) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:51PM (#33418736)

    to adult stem cells - you know, the ones that have actually led to productive therapies.

    Embryonic stem cells are said to have a lot of "potential". Strange, by this time I would think they would have come up with something for all the hype made over them.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:56PM (#33418804)
      For effective stem cell therapy, you need to use your own stem cells. Those would only be available if you saved some at birth (there are companies that offer to freeze and store umbilical cord blood on the off chance that someday it might be useful.) But for most people alive now, adult cells would need to be used.
    • by Haffner (1349071) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:58PM (#33418824)

      By your logic:

      Cancer has been researched for decades. People still die from cancer. Therefore, the research was pointless.

      As another point - many times research bears no fruits initially. Just because there haven't been any results yet doesn't mean there will never be results

      .

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        No, by his logic, there would be many successful treatments for cancer by now, that is obviously not the case...oh wait, it is the case that there are many successful treatments for cancer, so I guess your attempt to show his argument as being logically flawed is...logically flawed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Algan (20532)

      Remove all the legal limitations to embryonic stem cell research and then we can compare results on an equal footing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ruke (857276)
      The results follow the research money. Embryonic stem cell research hasn't provided as much fruit as it is capable of because the NIH isn't willing to fund it, or any part of it. If your lab uses microscopes bought with an NIH grant, you cannot use those microscopes in embryonic stem cell research. And very few labs are fully stocked with equipment that hasn't been partially paid for with NIH funds.
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:59PM (#33419732)

      Maybe know [sic] they'll change their focus to adult stem cells - you know, the ones that have actually led to productive therapies.

      Then again, maybe not. Because of the federal policies which blocked most funding to hESC research prior to the Obama policy, there's already been far more funding available to adult stem cell research, which is why research in that area is more developed, even though the basic research that has been done on both suggests that embryonic stem cells have greater utility and are easier to leverage for many uses. As there has been no barrier to funding for research around adult stem cell research, its unlikely that people with high-value ideas for adult stem cell research have been suppressing them to focus on lower-value embryonic stem cell research. Indeed, its more likely that the reverse has been the case, historically.

      But, even with the funding differential, enough research has been done with hESC-based therapies that at least one is in clinical trials.

      Embryonic stem cells are said to have a lot of "potential". Strange, by this time I would think they would have come up with something for all the hype made over them.

      Your argument would make perfect sense if basic research to develop potential therapies, plus research to test those therapies in model organisms, plus human clinical trials are all essentially free, so that the availability of funding makes no difference to the pace of progress.

      In the real world, though, that doesn't seem to be the case.
       

  • Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjousts (1529427) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:53PM (#33418780)
    That one person's (or group of people's) belief in fairy tales should hold back progress that could save countless lives and easy the suffering of millions.
    • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:17PM (#33419054)

      It's not necessarily that. The belief that a fertilized embryo is a human isn't necessarily linked to religion (and I'm not sure how anyone can assume that link). I'm personally not religious, but I do hold that belief.

      We're not talking creationist "maybe some guy in the sky created everything but we can't prove it" sort of ideology here. We're talking about a BIOLOGICALLY IDENTIFIABLE marker in the stage of the creation of a new life: the fertilization of of a cell and the forming of a unique DNA sequence. To me as a non-religious person that is actually a much less vague point of definition as to use birth as the marker is too variable - a baby can be born at 5 months into the term or 10 months into the term and still survive in some cases. Some say viability outside of the womb, but the reality is that NO baby is self-sufficient outside of the womb (all of them need additional assistance from others). Even if you take it down to the level of "able to survive with external assistance outside of the womb" then you have a situation that will vary depending on the technological environment present. A baby born in a well-equipped modern NICU can survive MUCH earlier than one born into a 3rd world backwater.

      In short, completely aside from religion, fertilization seems to me like the most obvious point to declare a human life as started without getting into judgement calls and gray areas. Now, that may make certain research topics difficult, but that's the way things are. Experimentation on live humans would likely allow much faster progress too, but we as a society have agreed that the ethical implications of such research outweigh any potential gains.

      Indeed I find it much LESS scientific of a matter when many people's definitions basically boil down to condition that "it's not a human if I can't hear it complain", which to me is more of an emotional definition than a scientific one.

      • Re:Sickening (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:22PM (#33419126) Homepage

        I'm personally not religious, but I do hold that belief.

        So I suppose we should keep the shell that once held a now-dead brain alive via life support for as long as possible? I mean, according to your definition it's a human life, right? It still has "a unique DNA sequence". So "pulling the plug" should be universally wrong, period.

        Right?

        • Re:Sickening (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Psion (2244) on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:06PM (#33419810)
          So I suppose we should keep the shell that once held a now-dead brain alive via life support for as long as possible? I mean, according to your definition it's a human life, right? It still has "a unique DNA sequence". So "pulling the plug" should be universally wrong, period.

          Is it really so hard for you to see why some people might not see anything wrong with that statement? That treatments may yet become available that will someday restore that person to life? You should go back and have a look at the Terri Schiavo case. Or -- arguing from more of a continuum of gray areas -- that perhaps the destruction of an embryo that could become a fully functional human being today is unsavory for a variety of ethical reasons that don't necessarily share common territory with allowing a brain-dead patient to stop being a burden on perpetually grieving families.

          You're going to find a large range of positions both pro and against embryonic stem cell research, and it's a lot more complicated than a mis-characterization that it's just them stupid Christians agin us smart atheists. Oversimplifying this issue only marginalizes groups that don't conveniently fit within your model, and they aren't likely to sit quietly in a corner just to be nice.
  • And to think... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BergZ (1680594) on Monday August 30, 2010 @03:57PM (#33418810)
    We used to criticize the USSR because they politicized science [wikipedia.org].
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:04PM (#33418902) Homepage
    Given the wording of the law and the clear legislative intent, the decision seems to be legally correct. The solution here requires congress to act. An additional unfortunate detail is that the Democrats are completely spineless and so getting them to deal with this problem is going to be tough even though this majority of Americans support embryonic stem cell research (source- http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/poll010626.html [go.com]).
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:16PM (#33419044) Journal

      An additional unfortunate detail is that the Democrats are completely spineless and so getting them to deal with this problem is going to be tough even though this majority of Americans support embryonic stem cell research (source- http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/poll010626.html [go.com]).

      Here's the problem: the people who are against federally funded ESTR are sometimes vehemently against it; they will vote against a candidate that supports ESTR despite any other issues. On the other side, it's a not a voting issue. People will still vote against a candidate who supports federally funded ESTR.

      So you end up with politicians who will not risk taking action on any real issues, because they are afraid of alienating single-issue voters.

  • Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:04PM (#33418904)

    Why is everyone making a big stink about embryonic stell research anyways? Adult stem cell research appears to show a lot more promise and doesn't have all the abortion political baggage tied to it. I don't understand the Obama Administration's stance on this; they spend a lot of political capital on a science that is decades away from producing anything real when a comparable science, Adult Stem Cell research, could be supported without expending almost any political capital.

  • China (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wickerprints (1094741) on Monday August 30, 2010 @04:24PM (#33419158)

    Very soon--perhaps even already--China will be the premier center of stem cell research in the world. They are making enormous advances, due to their strong economic position and their lack of being hindered by religious conservatives or a two-party system. Researchers will go there, all the intellectual work will flock to China because they can get their funding and have the collaboration they need. And the US will become a short-lived historical footnote, an intellectual backwater led by a corrupt plutocracy, filled with ignorant evangelical nutjobs and greedy corporatists. Americans are stupid, greedy, short-sighted, superstitious, easily cowed, lazy, obsessed with violence and sex, and fiscally irresponsible.

    Make no mistake: I do not condone China's abhorrent record on human rights, politics, foreign policy, censorship, or the environment. I especially despise the way they have so brilliantly manipulated the US into conflicts with other countries and have essentially commandeered the global economy. But they have only done this because, again, Americans are too stupid and played right into the trap.

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