Case in point; in his last column, Goldberg argues that medical research into stem cells can continue without destroying embryos. I pretty much called this when I wrote, "Expect the right wingers to ignore this and bring up amniotic stem cell research all the time -- they did the same thing with adult stem cells."
The 'this' that the wingers will ignore are the words of amniotic stem cell researcher, Anthony Atala:
"Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion," wrote Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University, the author of a study published this week and widely seized upon by opponents of embryonic stem cell research as a more moral option.
In a letter to sponsors of legislation up for a House vote tomorrow, Atala wrote that it was "essential that National Institutes of Health-funded researchers are able to fully pursue embryonic stem cell research as a complement to research into other forms of stem cells."
Amniotic stem cells show as much promise as embryonic stem cells. How many ways are there to treat cancer? To abandon one line of research because another shows promise makes as much sense as dropping all cancer research in favor of chemotherapy.
But that's just dishonesty -- a lie by omission. Just as he neglects to mention that embryos used for research would be destroyed anyway, he misrepresents amniotic stem cell research. Nothing new there, it's what we've come to expect from rightie columnists. But like I say, Goldberg thinks he needs to hammer his point into the ground. That's when things really get crazy.
Suddenly, the side of the argument that embraces such solid facts as global warming denial, creationism, and a 6,000 year old Earth have science on their side.
But it appears that Hermes (the Greek god of science) is proving to be a fickle ally. New research shows that there are other, perhaps more promising, sources of “pluripotent” cells (i.e., ones that can become any other cell) that don’t involve destroying embryos. Wake Forest researchers found rich sources of stem cells in simple amniotic fluid. Pro-lifers are now using this research to cast themselves as the true allies of science. Hermes’s sword, it seems, has a double edge.
Correction, pro-lifers are now using the Wake Forest study as a PR tool, ignoring what the researchers themselves say. And 'perhaps more promising' is a really crappy argument for abandoning an entire line of research. The father of the US (and nazi) rocket program, Wernher Von Braun, once said, "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." In other words, you do research into what you don't know.
Science, as Goldberg seems to understand it, is the search for pleasant truths. Unpleasant truths should be ignored. Although he writes, "Science is morally neutral," he doesn't really seem to believe it. Science for Goldberg -- and far too many americans -- is the magic creator of Frankenstein's monster on one hand and the finder of cures for diseases on the other. What science actually is is no more than separating the true from the untrue. Goldberg's beef isn't with science, he just thinks there are things people should always be ignorant of. He writes:
Embryonic-stem-cell research, however, has changed the focus of that argument because, for reasons good and bad, ESCR advocates want to stop talking about those who are pro-life and start calling their opponents “anti-science,” as if being anti-science — whatever that means — is an immoral stance.
See, here's the problem; if science is the search for truth, then being anti-science is logically synonymous with being anti-truth. And, yeah, that's immoral. Science is neutral because facts are neutral.
Toward the end (with Goldberg it's usually around the middle -- he's getting to be a procrastinator), he goes off into goofy argument land.
Slate’s William Saletan recently chronicled how the age of retail eugenics has arrived. Gender-selective abortion is commonplace in the developing world. In the developed West, we’re more selective at the embryonic level. For example, a handful of deaf parents are deliberately selecting embryos that will become deaf — and doctors are helping.
Meanwhile, researchers at Oregon State University recently revealed that hormone treatments can reverse homosexuality in sheep. Predictably, lesbian activist Martina Navratilova and others complained that the sheep’s “right” to be gay was being violated. While no one called Navratilova “anti-science,” it’s not hard to see the slippery slope she’s concerned about.
See, here's the problem; none of this has anything to do with stem cells, embryonic, amniotic, or otherwise. In trying to find an example of stem cell science gone mad, he came up empty, so he throws a bunch of crazy stuff at you and hopes you don't notice he's lost the thread. In fact, wait a few weeks and he'll be arguing that homosexuality is a 'lifestyle choice' again, ignoring that he said here that '"pro-science" champions may soon see a world where homosexuality is eradicated in utero..."
Let me boil this argument (such as it is) down for you; a 'handful' of deaf people are deafening their children, people in India are practicing sex-selective abortion, and Oregon State is 'curing' gay sheep. Therefore, embryonic stem cell reasearch should be abandoned.
Make any sense to you?
Technorati tags: politics; embryonic stem cells; amniotic stem cells; science; abortion; genetics; National Review writer Jonah Goldberg is worried about gay sheep -- therefore, we need to halt embryonic stem cell research