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Tilting at Windmills

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November 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ADULT STEM CELLS....Over at The Corner, today's big news about stem cells derived from adult skin cells is a hot topic of conversation. But I'm a little mystified. This morning, after Yuval Levin wrote a post lauding the discovery and suggesting that it might end the stem cell debate once and for all, he got this response from Ramesh Ponnuru:

Yuval is right: It's not a time for gloating. For one thing, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves in estimating the political impact of this breakthrough: We should wait at least a few days to see how the advocates of embryo-destructive stem-cell research react before concluding that the battle is over. (In the past, they have done what they could to minimize the potential of non-lethal methods of deriving pluripotent stem cells.)

I realize that we all have a tendency to demonize our political opponents, but this is crazy. Ponnuru seems to be implying that there's some sizable contingent on the left that prefers embryonic research for its own sake and will keep fighting for it even if this new approach proves itself completely successful. But why? Inertia? Political bloody mindedness? A demonic delight in destroying embryos for its own sake?

I guess we'll have to wait and see — though it's going to take more than a few days, since even the researchers working on the new skin-cell method admit that their technique isn't suitable for human experimentation yet. But in the past, my take is that those of us who minimized the potential of non-lethal methods of deriving pluripotent stem cells did so because, in fact, those methods really were clearly inferior to embryonic methods. If, by contrast, this new method proves itself to genuinely be the holy grail of stem cell research, I assume everyone will sing huzzahs and go back to arguing about something else.

Or maybe not. We'll see. But for now I'm putting my money on the non-cardboard cutout version of my fellow liberals.

UPDATE: Of course, I suppose there are different interpretations of what it takes to declare that "the battle is over." If the skin cell technique really works out, I'd be happy to channel federal funding solely in that direction because, after all, why not? We've got plenty of other stuff to fight about and who needs the grief? On the other hand, since I continue to believe that embryos aren't human persons in any but the most logic-chopping sense, I certainly wouldn't support a general ban on embryonic research, which likely has uses beyond merely generating stem cells, any more than I'd support a ban on fertility clinics that kill human eggs by the thousands. If that's what it takes for the battle to be over, then I guess it probably won't be any time soon.

UPDATE: Ponnuru responds here. My response: If that's what he meant, fine. But it's just not what his original post either said or implied.

Kevin Drum 6:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (80)

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Comments

Well - this is a window into the wingnut soul. They still deny global warming while knowing the evidence is overwhelming. They assume any liberal would wage the same kind of rear guard war on reality.

Posted by: Karelian on November 20, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

"A demonic delight in destroying embryos for its own sake?"

Ponnuru thinks we're the Party of Death, y'know...

Posted by: Petey on November 20, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

this is the loser who brought out 'party of death', right?
so he has already made it clear that in his own little fevered brain, liberals pursue death by preference, even when it is tangential to their stated aims.
this is just more of the same--he's a one-trick pony, and this is his one trick.

Posted by: kid bitzer on November 20, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

This probably won't work, it's really early, no one has reproduced the research. In other words, this means nothing.

On top of that, we KNOW for sure that old cells are different that young ones. As DNA splits time and time again, mutations occur. This might mean that this approach will be totally unstable, and totally unusable.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 20, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the reason why conservatives are gloating (as you call it) is because once again liberals and their liberal "science" have been proven wrong. Liberals told us over and over that the "scientific consensus" said embryonic stem cells were absolutely necessary for stell cell studies. Conservative scientists (like those at the Corner) said liberals were wrong and murder of the unborn was not needed. And what do you know. Conservatives were rogjt once again. Liberals should be eating crow for being proven wrong. Again!

Now that the liberal "scientific consensus" has been proven wrong, why aren't you willing to question other opinions of the "scientific consensus"? How do you know Al Gore and other liberals aren't wrong about global warming? How do you know maybe even (gasp!) evolution isn't true like liberals tell us like it is? Now, I don't expect you to act truely scientifically and question your liberal preconceptions about evolution and global warming. But for non-liberals, there is no reason to trust your "scientific consensus" anymore because the "scientific consensus" has been proven completely wrong.

Posted by: Al on November 20, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK
Ponnuru seems to be implying that there's some sizable contingent on the left that prefers embryonic research for its own sake and will keep fighting for it even if this new approach proves itself completely successful. But why? Inertia? Political bloody mindedness? A demonic delight in destroying embryos for its own sake?

Ponnuru is the author of The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life from Regnery Publishing. He makes a living selling the idea that the Left (which, despite being, in his presentation, an increasingly unpopular minority because of their anti-life views, also controlls all the levers of power in society) is on a senseless, diabolical, crusade against human life.

So, yeah, he says something that makes no sense except against the backdrop of that bizarre assumption. Similarly, the sun rose in the East and set in the West yesterday. Nothing of note here.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 20, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

RP is a moron. The best way to develop the safest strategies possible are to be able to compare induced stem cells with the real thing. Medical applications are many years in the future and unfortunately embryo-derived stem cells will likely provide the assurance that any method for inducing pluripotent cells from adult tissue is sound. Inducing stem cells involves genetic manipulation that underlies a wide range of possible pitfalls. Embryonic stem cells do not necessarily require these manipulations meaning there are several less variables to worry about, such as giving people cancer via manipulated, induced stem cells. The new work is a HUGE breakthrough, but we really can't trust the Corner to have any clue on how to realistically view a scientific problem.

Posted by: Pinko Punko on November 20, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

I love Al(s).

What Als most likely don't know is that we only know the induced stem cells look like normal stem cells is because people have done research on normal stem cells. "Induced stem cells" did not spring fully grown from Zeus' brain.

Posted by: Pinko Punko on November 20, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Even if this new stem cell derivation technique proves successful for human therapy, it's important to remember that the researchers were embryonic stem cell researchers (Thomson's lab isolated the first ES cells) and many of the culturing and experimental conditions were based on work done with the embryonic cell lines approved by Bush.

This research wasn't done in opposition to embryonic stem cell research, indeed, it might not have been possible without it.

Posted by: frogbox on November 20, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin misses, and what I think the guys at the Corner recognize, is that liberals want the stem cell issue as a political tool. They see it as a way of winning some close elections and they will try to preserve it.

Posted by: brian on November 20, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think the real reason the less ignorant wingnuts are hesitant to gloat is because they have a sneaky suspicion that they have been hoodwinked.... and they are correct.

To see what I mean, take the following quote from the NYT:

The two independent teams, from Japan and Wisconsin, note that their method also creates stem cells that genetically match the donor without having to resort to the controversial step of cloning.

This is BS semantics. I'm sorry, but as far as I am concerned, if you take a cell from my skin and genetically manipulate it back into a zygote, you have created a clone of me as much as if you had taken an ovum and inserted my DNA in it.

Now, I could care less either way -- neither IMO is a person. But if you are inclined to believe that the later is a person, I fail to see how you can logically believe that the former is not, unless you're willing to posit that the seat of personhood resides in ova, which leads to absurdities like murder by menstruation....

Of course, this debate has very little to do with logic, and everyting to do with semantics to begin with, so perhaps this new technique -- with the appropriate PR campaign -- will end up satisfying the ignorant.

My worry, however, even assuming that the new technique ends up fullfilling its promise, is that the older techniques will still be necessary in certain applications, but will no longer be available.

Posted by: Disputo on November 20, 2007 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

"What Kevin misses, and what I think the guys at the Corner recognize, is that liberals want the stem cell issue as a political tool. They see it as a way of winning some close elections and they will try to preserve it."

Yes, dumbfuck, liberals cure people and see the cure of people as a devilish trick. You cure people, and they keep voting. Conservaboobs, on the other hand, view the medical system as a way of killing off the opposition to win elections. Wow! What a fiendish plot.

The dumbfuckery exposed by this non-story boggles the mind. Conservaboobs are sure stupid these days.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 20, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin misses, and what I think the guys at the Corner recognize, is that liberals want the stem cell issue as a political tool. They see it as a way of winning some close elections and they will try to preserve it.

Yeah, I don't get that impression at all. I don't think it's a big enough political winner, and pro-stem cell support isn't like the fever pitch you get with pro-life. Most people that support it do so because it makes sense, not because there's some sort of ideological obligation to do it.

Anyway, sooner or later, the Republicans would make up for it by trying to shove a feeding tube down somebody's throat. It's not as though you really have to reach deep into the conservative bag to pull out a pile of crazy.

Posted by: Royko on November 20, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with using tissue cells, such as skin cells is they accumulate mutations. Now if a skin cell divides and one of its daughters has a mutation that effects how if functions as a skin cell that daughter will probably die. However if the daughter has a mutation that effects how a liver cell functions the daughter can live and divide as a skin cell.

So even if stem cells can be made from tissue cells, they should be harvested from fetuses before mutations accumulate.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on November 20, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

So why aren't these jerks campaigning to close down the fertility clinics that produce all these embryos? Why? Have they no moral compass, no consistency, at all?

They're just a__holes I guess.

Posted by: David in NY on November 20, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

What the anti-choice seems to have missed is that this development may really mess up their logic. If you can turn a skin cell into a stem cell, you've essentially turned it into an undifferentiated embryonic cell. Why not go a step further, and get it to grow like an embryonic cell? You've got a clone! Now every skin cell you scrape off is a potential human being with full rights, if an embryo is.

Posted by: Joe Buck on November 20, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Accumulated mutations are also a problem with fetal clones, in that the DNA comes from an N-generation cell.

Posted by: Disputo on November 20, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Wanna bet your life that THIS breakthrough pans out? 'Cause that is what we're doing. How many people have suffered and died because of the simpletons who equate a single cell with a human?

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 20, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Teleomeres. That's the term.

Dolly the sheep was cloned from a mature cell. She had all sorts of problems, and was not a functional animal in many ways.

Cloning from non-embryonic cells only appeals to you if you are squeamish.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 20, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well - this is a window into the wingnut soul.

Sorry, Karelian, but you're going to have to think of another word for it -- repository, dishrag, gopher hole... what have you. Whatever it may be, it ought to be obvious by now that the wingnut has no soul. ex-liberal, in fact, doesn't even cast a shadow.

Posted by: junebug on November 20, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin misses, and what I think the guys at the Corner recognize, is that liberals want the stem cell issue as a political tool. They see it as a way of winning some close elections and they will try to preserve it.

Brilliant analysis! Amazing political acumen you've got there.

Bwahahahahahahaha!

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 20, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Contrary to Brian, it's these guys who want to use this as the nose under the tent. If we agree there's something wrong with using embryonic stem cells, and we'd prefer to use others, then how much worse is there something wrong with abortions?

Harvest away.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on November 20, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that this method is or might be inferior, it's that the research is just so much farther along with embryonic stem cells. It will take a decade for scientists to get to the same level with adult cells, even if there are no other issues.

Posted by: Tracer Hand on November 20, 2007 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard several anti-science types pushing really hard the idea that since these new cells are just as good or better than embryo derived stem cells, we can stop working embryonic stem cell research forever.

Excuse me, but it's way to soon to say the new method is as good or better - and we really need to keep working with embryonic cells to prove if it is or not. You can't say one is as good or better than the other unless you do actual comparisons!

Further, having two different approaches to creating stem cells means you can now use one method to gain insights into the other, and vice versa. What researchers are trying to do is so complex, it's useful to have as many lines of attack on the problem as possible.

What I don't hear the defenders of the high moral ground admit is that if embryonic stem cell research is stopped, the primary source of those cells - fertility clinics - will just go back to flushing the leftovers from their work down the drain. And thus the sacredness of human life will be affirmed.

Posted by: xaxnar on November 20, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it looks like you and your commenters drew a little blood with your comments about Ponnuru's post. He has a new post up, which starts with: "Kevin Drum is either overthinking my post on stem cells, or not thinking enough. (His commenters are, as usual, idiots.)"

Aww, I bet he just pounded his wittle fists on his keyboard when he saw the mean things said about him on this website. Anyway, here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/yqwn4f

Posted by: mistermark on November 20, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

How does science, by moving on and finding more options, prove science wrong about what options worked for study years earlier?

Just because we can fly in airplanes no doesn't mean it was an option for Abraham Lincoln.

O-o

Posted by: Crissa on November 20, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, the lack of scientific reasoning evinced here is amazing.

Okay - first off, conservatives have been saying for -years- that adult stem cells have more promise. Liberals in this thread are -still- insisting, even in light of this discovery, that embryonic stem cells still have some sort of magical power.

Has any of you stopped to think about the single biggest obstacle in all of medical science - tissue rejection? What makes adult stem cell research a million times more valuable than embryonic is that advances in adult stem cell research can use cells -from the patient's own body-, thus completely eliminating any issues with rejection. Anything you can produce with embryonic stem cell research -will- involve major tissue rejection issues. If you could solve the tissue rejection problem, that would be the Holy Grail of medical science, you wouldn't even -need- stem cells because a hundred other therapies and transplants that otherwise only fail due to rejection issues would suddenly become viable.

And that is why adult stem cell therapies have had one breakthrough after another over the last decade, while embryonic research hasn't produced any comparatively significant therapies.

This is 9th grade science class stuff, guys. The fact that you all refuse to get it is why we suspect a larger agenda is at work. In my opinion, when Drum lists these: "Inertia? Political bloody mindedness? A demonic delight in destroying embryos for its own sake?", he leaves out the most obvious: It's a tool to encourage people to dehumanize embryos in order to keep their precious abortion - and therefore consequence free sex - legal. That's the real goal, and always has been.

Qwinn

Posted by: Qwinn on November 20, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Err,

Just because we have airplanes now, doesn't mean Abraham Lincoln had the option to jet-set to Europe.

Posted by: Crissa on November 20, 2007 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK


Looks like Ponnuru drew a little blood himself, since insults are not logical arguments & thus the semantic content of most of this page is zero.

Posted by: Boring on November 20, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

In my alternative evolution, we dispensed with the womb and evolved from a tadpole mechanism, little toddlers crawling out of the backyard pond to the waiting arms of their loving parents.

I guess, the point is, parents in my world are asexual, they just connect up to make pond technology ever more fantastic, but their sex lives consist of jacking off into the birth pond.

The point here, if there is one, and I am not sure, is that my alternative and reality meet with the home birth aquarium, sitting proudly in the nursery, safe from flying baseballs. You kind of crack the glass, and poof, a little one for the roommates to parent as they wish.

Posted by: Matt on November 20, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair, even the researchers have said that there are still differences between stem cells created in this manner and embryonic stem cells. It's unclear how significant those differences are. Yet it seems clear to me that the ability to produce stem cells (or stem cell-like cells) without the use of embryos is a great political advancement, and allows for science to flourish in this area. The debate over whether research over embryonic stem cells will continue I'm sure, but if this research holds out, it would hardly seem to be as pressing or relevant.

Posted by: Xanthippas on November 20, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

mistermark:

Anyway, here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/yqwn4f

Please do not use tinyurls in your posts - people like to see where they are directed and jerks like to rickroll. This blog can handle full URLs or you can even learn some HTML and hide them inside of <a> tags like most people do.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on November 20, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Ponnuru really knows how to dodge the issue: amazingly, he actually managed to quote HIMSELF out of context, stripping out the key part that actually made the implication to which Drum refers. Ponnuru's restatement? That people have in the past "minimized the potential of non-lethal methods of deriving pluripotent stem cells"

What did he actually say?

"In the past, they have done what they could to minimize the potential of non-lethal methods of deriving pluripotent stem cells."

If he doesn't see the difference in connotation there, then he is the one that cannot read. But given that he carefully removed that part of the sentence, perhaps he already did see the difference.

Posted by: Bad on November 20, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK
Kevin, the reason why conservatives are gloating (as you call it) is because once again liberals and their liberal "science" have been proven wrong. Liberals told us over and over that the "scientific consensus" said embryonic stem cells were absolutely necessary for stell cell studies. Conservative scientists (like those at the Corner) said liberals were wrong and murder of the unborn was not needed. And what do you know. Conservatives were rogjt once again. Liberals should be eating crow for being proven wrong. Again!
The point of the liberal complaints wasn't that an alternative stem-cell method would never be found. At the time, embryonic stem cells were absolutely necessary for stem cell studies. What people objected to was that Bush was prepared to aggressively defund any laboratory with any connection at all to stem cells, blocking all medical research in this area during the wait for some alternative method yet to be found, which at the time would be for an unknown number of years. And, it turns out, that number turned out to be six. I mean, let's not forget that we had to wait six years for this, years flushed down the toilet while you assholes imposed your religious beliefs on the rest of us, watched people die of ultimately treatable diseases, and gave the rest of the world a six year head start on us. Posted by: MillionthMonkey on November 20, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Qwinn, your statement of the issue is bogus. The point and promise of embryonic research is not necessarily that embryonic stem cells themselves will be used in treatments: it is that by studying them, we hope to unlock the secrets of just how cells differentiate, at the most basic level. It's not clear at all that any of these adult line advances can even now fulfill that research role. If they are, great. But no one has advanced any reasonable argument as to why we shouldn't study everything we can get our hands on, rather than just the religiously correct items.

The joke is, of course, on you in the end in any case, because if therapies are successful in creating adult stem cells that can freely differentiate, they will basically BE embryonic stem cells in function... even up to being able to grow into persons.

Posted by: Bad on November 20, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I don't understand how this discovery solves the ethical hurdle that opponents of ES cell research offered. These reprogrammed cells, if identical to ES cells, have the same potential to create life as other embryos (the Japanese group proved that their mouse version of reprogrammed skin cells were really like stem cells by growing up actual mice with the reprogrammed cells; this was their groundbreaking work published over the summer). So doesn't that mean that, when you treat the newly programmed ES cells with reagents to promote differentiation into tissues you are playing God with that little human life and turning it into a neuron?

This looks to me like conservatives realised that they were holding an idiotic losing hand and are trying desperately to find a face-saving way out of their mediaeval position without any regard for ideological consistency. Which is fine by me! I just wish they'd acknowledge their flip-flopping.

Posted by: reader on November 20, 2007 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

MonkeyBoy: "Rickroll" is a new one for me, I've never heard that term before. But your point is well-taken and I'll use HTML links in the future.

And as far as the "insults are not logical arguments" line of commentary goes, sorry, I'm not inclined to show a lot of respect for a guy whose main claim to fame is writing a doorstop called "The Party of Death", who then clutched his pearls every time people pushed back against him regarding his choice of title. For that matter, I'm not inclined to show a lot of respect for you either, Boring.

Posted by: mistermark on November 20, 2007 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

The real reason why stem cell research has been quashed in USA is to protect the patent interests of pharmacutical manufacturers. "Ethics" is just a smokescreen. Why do we keep dancing to that tune?

Posted by: omonubi on November 21, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Glad no one cares about my science. A million pseudo-experts reading every preliminary report and abstract could get tiring.

Posted by: B on November 21, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Ramesh's acrobatic defense of himself here was so notable that I just couldn't help but try to preserve it for future generations. Misquoting yourself is pure genius.

Posted by: Bad on November 21, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK


Mistermark, argumentum ad hominem is a logical fallacy. Logical fallacies don't prove anything, although repeated use of them tends to demonstrate an inability to think, reason and learn. I don't care who you do or don't respect, but I am laughing at your pathetic inability to reason, and the fact that you and others keep proving Ponnuru's point for him.

Posted by: Boring on November 21, 2007 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

I have long had the feeling that a significant reason embryonic stem cell research was being promoted was that it would add motivation for advancing abortion rights. I speculate the precise motivation would be, "Not only is the fetus just tissue, the tissue will cure disease. Get an abortion, save a life!"

Posted by: Jim C. on November 21, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, the lack of scientific reasoning evinced here is amazing.

Check out the previous thread, which was about the science, and where tissue rejection was discussed.

This thread is primarily about the reaction of ignorant wingnuts such as yourself. Thanks for proving us with more evidence.

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Jim C. at 12:44 takes the prize for pure unadulterated dipshittery. And in other news, masturbation does indeed cause blindness!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Jim C., you should just get to know a few real women, it would broaden your horizons. I have had the pleasure of knowing many, and there view was that 1) guys like you did not own their body and a single-celled organism or even a little bigger one inside was none of your fucking business and 2) that forcing women to stay pregnant was horrible for both the woman and the unwanted child, and 3) that stem cell research had nothing to do with any of this, since the cells were produced in fertility clinics that no one is objecting to, will be thrown away otherwise, and might cure diseases like that suffered by Ronald Reagan. Hey! Maybe you could get an appointment with Mrs. Reagan and find out why she favors stem cell research! Bet you'd learn a lot.

Posted by: David in NY on November 21, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Qwinn> It's a tool to ... keep their precious ... consequence free sex - legal.

Ahem. Now we get down to what Qwinn is actually upset about. As ever.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on November 21, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

As I argued in another thread, and as several others are suggesting here, the supposedly ethically unburdened adult stem cells should, from the standpoint of a winger, be anything but.

The point is, the stem cell discovery appears to be, if anything, too successful. It can enable adult cells to be turned into just about any kind of cell, and indeed can presumably be used to create another human being. Indeed, the Japanese scientist used adult mice cells and created from them a cloned mouse.

The question then becomes (or should become) for a winger: what is the status of any life created from these cells? Suppose they were allowed to develop into a human organism that exactly resembled an ordinary prenatal child of 8 months capable of feeling all the things they say are so essential to its being a human being. Are they going to assert that that organism is not a human being? On what possible grounds? Can we use that organism to harvest organs?

The further question is, if adult stem cells can be used to create such life, on what grounds are these truly pluripotent cells now any different from stem cells from an embryo? Given their potential to create life, why should killing them off be any less ethically fraught than killing off a normal embryo?

In short, all the same questions recur in the case of these new stem cells, yet wingers refuse utterly to deal with them, as best I can make out.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 21, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is a step, but my understanding is that the use of viral DNA in this procedure makes the cells unlikely to be usable for actual therapy. So other steps need to be taken, even if this result turns out to be as strong as claimed.

Posted by: idlemind on November 21, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

I think the inability of wingers like Ponnoru even to entertain what it means to be able to create a new mouse, and, almost certainly, a new human being from adult stem cells demonstrates just how shallow and foolish their "philosophy" is. You'd think that they might try to deal with the moral consequences of this obvious implication of the new research.

But no.

In fact, they're posturing idiots.

But I'm guessing you knew that.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 21, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

Boring, you need to learn what a logical fallacy is before you start lecturing anyone on them. The fallacy of ad hominem involves trying to argue that an argument is wrong because of who made it. Merely pointing out that someone is a douchebag, or insulting someone because they made an argument you've already otherwise refuted, is NOT the same thing as committing the fallacy.

In fact, ironically, refusing to address someone's arguments because they've peppered their prose with insults IS an example of the ad hominem fallacy.

Posted by: Bad on November 21, 2007 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

What Bad said.

To put it another way, saying that Ramesh is a douchebag, and that his argument is wrong because of that, would be an ad hominem fallacy.
However, that is not what has happened.
It's more along the lines of "Ramesh has made lousy argument, because X is pure fantasy, Y raises more questions than it answers, and Z is an ad hominem fallacy - all of which serve to further demonstrate the depths of douchebaggery to which he has sunk."

See?

Posted by: kenga on November 21, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Was I the only one who read that this new stem cell technology is limited because it causes cancer and thus can't be used for producing organs?

Let's table all triumphant talk until they solve that problem, ok?

Posted by: SJH on November 21, 2007 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

SJH - at least one of the genes used to alter the cells, so that they have the characteristics of stem cells, has been ID'd as possibly/probably cancer-causing.
Another possible pitfall is that they used a number of viruses to transfer those genes to the adult cells, and it remains to be determined if those viruses will cause illnesses, or if other innocuous(hehehe) viruses can be used to similar effect.

Posted by: kenga on November 21, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Let's sample the argument stream:

"Ponnuru is the author of The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life from Regnery Publishing."

"RP is a moron."

"Conservaboobs, on the other hand, view the medical system as a way of killing off the opposition to win elections. "

No fallacies there, kenga? No ad hominem there, Bad?

I've seen better logic from grade school children.

Posted by: Boring on November 21, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

[Pick a handle, Boring, and stick with it. --Mod]

Posted by: Adult on November 21, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

No fallacies there, kenga? No ad hominem there, Bad? I've seen better logic from grade school children.

LMAO!

If Boring had a spine he'd admit that he's a Ponnuru sockpuppet.

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

So...Sockpuppetry is now considered "Adult"?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Boring,

Why is it that a guy who has such a big moral problem with clones finds himself so happy to create sockpuppets?

Shouldn't that be left for God?

Posted by: frankly0 on November 21, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an interesting comment I found in the press:

"I do believe that over time these new cells will be used by more and more labs, and embryonic stem cells will be gradually used by fewer and fewer labs."

Anyone care to guess who said that?

Posted by: Boring on November 21, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Adult, you don't seem to understand what the debate is about.

The problem is not that the anti-stem cell research crowd is against using "genetically unique blastocysts" -- it is that they are against using any blastocysts at all, including those formed by inserting the DNA from an "adult person" into an ovum (which is preferable for therapeutic use in any case), which you seem to be ok with since "nothing unique has been destroyed".

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

POed lib wrote:
"This probably won't work, it's really early, no one has reproduced the research. In other words, this means nothing."

So two different teams using slightly different approaches that achieve the same result maps to "no one has reproduced the research"? Is that science, POed lib? Looks more like a faith-based approach...

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone care to guess who said that?

It's my guess that no one wants to engage you

Posted by: Volatile Compound on November 21, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo, the new technique does not use ovums at all, why are you bringing this up? Both the Yamanaka team and the Thompson team used four genes to reprogram cells; Yamanaka reprogrammed skin cells, Yu (in Thompson's lab) worked with fetal skin cells and cells from a foreskin. Nothing here about ovums, is there?

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK
Looks like Ponnuru drew a little blood himself, since insults are not logical arguments & thus the semantic content of most of this page is zero.

The conclusion here does not follow from the overt premise, which itself is a false generatlization. An insult can be an argument (though it may not be an argument about the thing you wish to discuss), and something can have semantic content without being an argument (any logically consistent, non-tautological proposition has semantic content, irrespective of whether it is an argument.)

Of course, the more important, implicit premise (that most of the posts on this thread are nothing but insults) is, also, false.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 21, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Volatile Compound, it won't be the first time that liberals didn't want to engage with reality. Nor the last.

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

So two different teams using slightly different approaches that achieve the same result maps...

My concern is that proven research will be tossed in favor of unproven, simply to satisfy a vocal minority who will likely find fault with all therapies. After all, they grew an entire new mouse out of these cells. The anti-science crowd will bitch about and demonize any stem cell therapy.

And - it's also folly to jump on a new bandwagon every time one comes along.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State, are you suggesting that politicians should pass laws to prevent scientists from doing science as they see fit? I thought you were opposed to that? Should Dr. Ian Wilmut be forced to continue fetal stem cell research, and prevented by law from using Dr. Yamanaka's method? Is that what you want?

Looks like a faith-based approach, not one based on science...

"Dr. Ian Wilmut, the British scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, recently told the Telegraph that he will abandon the cloning method that produced the animal in favor of Dr. Yamanaka's method of producing cells."

I'm wondering, when the original stem cell techniques were published, did you also say at that time "It's folly to jump on a new bandwagon every time one comes along"? Or was that somehow...different?

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK
Logical fallacies don't prove anything

Incorrect. Logical fallacies don't prove the thing they are offered to prove. Many fallacies do prove something else, and the fallacy lies in conflating proof of one proposition with proof of another, usually somehow related, proposition.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 21, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

it won't be the first time that liberals didn't want to engage with reality.

That is a human trait, and not limited to liberal or conservative political leanings. Witness Conservatards like "neverwasa-liberal" and Iraq.

Posted by: Volatile Compound on November 21, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, the new technique does not use ovums at all, why are you bringing this up?

My gawd you're a fucking idiot. I was taking issue with your socket puppet's contention that the issue was genetic uniqueness. I didn't realize at the time that that was yet more ridiculous redherring sockpuppet trolling, or I wouldn't have bothered.

Really, Ponnuru, if you like commenting so much, how about you open up your blog to comments instead free-riding here?

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

It is indeed a human trait, Volatile Compound, congratulations on that insight. Now, care to guess who said that quote? Go on, give it a try. Think of it as "Name That Wingnut", and pretend there are prizes...

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK


Disputo, you are confused. Perhaps you should actually read the arguments you are replying to, rather than just bang away at the keyboard?

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Way to jump to the extremes there, "Boring Adult" but be careful on the landing lest you spend your holiday on crutches.

It would be folly to stop current proven research methods in favor of the unproven - but you knew that already.

When we started ESCR, I certainly did not say to abandon ASCR. Scientific research and development of methodologies and treatments are frequently not "either/or" propositions.

Now - that said...Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. My baby arrived last night from Geneva and I hear her in the shower. I only have her until Monday when she leaves for her first ICRC posting. Nothing personal, folks, I like you all just fine, but I love her with all my heart.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ponnuru seems to be incapable of admitting to an error in reasoning and/or phrasing. His insistence that proponents of embryonic stem cell research may continue to support research, even if using embryos is unnecessary, and will do so for non-technical reasons, obviously implies that they lack morals and ethics equal to his. His ego was on display.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R. Stahl on November 21, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, you are confused. Perhaps you should actually read the arguments you are replying to, rather than just bang away at the keyboard?

Finally we have a perfect example of the /ad hominem/ fallacy being used in this thread. Thx Ponnuru!

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State, I'm just asking questions, no jumping or leaping is involved. Rather than take you step by step to see where your argument leads, I just decided to point out the obvious.

The obvious is this:

1. The top researchers, including Wilmut the creator of Dolly the sheep, find a great deal of exciting possibility in this reprogramming of cells.

2. They expect to do much more in this area, and much less in cloning. Prof. Wilmut said, "Cloning has had its impact, it seems we should all focus our efforts on reprogramming."

3. You don't want that? You want to tell them what they can and cannot research, is that correct? You say that research is not an "either/or" proposition, but stem cell research that doesn't involve embryos somehow should not be pursued, or should be pursued very slowly? Is that correct? Or am I reading things that are not there? Because it seemed to me, and seems to me, that you want government to mandate to researchers what they must do, which directly contradicts positions you seem to have taken in the past.

Curiouser and curiouser. But please do enjoy your weekend away from stuff like this, time is precious and we only get so much of it with family. I mean that sincerely. We should all take the weekend off, or part of it anyway.

Disputo, not only should you read the arguments that you are replying to, you should learn what an ad hominem is. Review some basic biology while you are at it, so that you understand what it means when a blastocyst has a unique genetic structure...

Now why is it that not one posting here has actually come out and said "Ponnuru is wrong because" followed by fact? Calling him names, declaring that because his book is too big he's therefore wrong, fussing about his ego...none of these things refute what he stated. In fact, the rather desperate hope that somehow cell reprogramming won't work out suggests that some liberals here have an attachment to embryo-based techniques that are not based on science, but rather on some emotional need.

Which is rather in line with Ponnuru's point, isn't it?

PS: It appears that Dr. Thomson's research was funded at least in part by the NIH. If liberals are as rational as they claim to be, the fact that a breakthrough in adult stem cell work was funded at least partly by the US government ought to permanently end the popular claim that "George McChimps BusHitler banned stem cell research!", as it clearly is not factually true. However, I won't be holding my breath on that one. Too many people have an emotional investment in that meme to give it up, no matter what the facts are.

Posted by: Boring Adult on November 21, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Or am I reading things that are not there?

Yes, I fear you are. I am not advocating abandoning any avenue of research. Stem cells are a nascent field of research and there is much left to learn. Hell, what we know is not a thimble of the ocean. I don't know which approach is going to be the most promising. And speaking as one who spent a career in labs, and a fair chunk of it doing research, I bristle at politicians without scientific training sticking their noses in...except that's where the money comes from...and another reason I said "fuck it" and cashed in and retired young to spoil my one and only grandkid.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Boring: "No ad hominem there, Bad?"

Didn't I just explain to what a logical fallacy is and what it isn't.

Insults aren't ad hominems unless they are themselves the argument. If you cannot turn an insult into a syllogism in which the fallacy is shown, then it isn't a fallacy, period.

You don't seem to get this: you just keep referencing ad hominem as if it were some sort of gotcha buzzword, without understanding what it means.

"Which is rather in line with Ponnuru's point, isn't it?"

You mean the point he won't admit to having made?

I've many times discussed and debated Ponnuru's arguments. I find them unconvincing and often misleading. If you'd like to debate them, then compose a basic summary of what you think is the best of his core argument, and I'll be happy to post it and respond to it at length on my blog.

Posted by: Bad on November 21, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
Now why is it that not one posting here has actually come out and said "Ponnuru is wrong because" followed by fact?

Ponnuru's claim should be dismissed because it is based on claims about others covert motivations for which neither Ponnuru or his sole, sockpuppet-using defender here (presuming they are not one and the same), nor anyone else that I've seen bleating the same claims, offer any factual support.

Satisfied?


Posted by: cmdicely on November 21, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, guy. I highly doubt Ponnuru would bother pseudonymously defending himself in a comment section he regards as a den of idiots, especially when he has his own much much louder bully pulpit to argue his case if he wants to. If you think your opponents are capable of anything, then you might as well go whole hog and battle your imagination directly.

Posted by: Bad on November 21, 2007 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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