Embryolitics

|

Reason writers around town: At Tech Central Station, Ron Bailey considers how President Bush's toothless biotech decisions may come back to bite him.

NEXT: Through a Tourist's Eyes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Stem cells will cost Bush the election… Gay marriage will cost Bush the election… Howard Stern’s “outraged” fans will cost Bush the election… Hurricane Charley will cost Bush the election, blah blah blah

  2. I don’t get it. So there’s no restrictions on privately-funded research? Only federally-funded?

    And everybody grouses about private-enterprise as superior to government intervention? But nobody is pursuing stem-cell research with any effective vigor?

    Without any other details about funding restrictions, should I conclude that a form of centrist economics is required to determine a politburo mandate that a certain number of people are helped with stem cell research? And what might this number be? Is it economically viable?

    Perhaps not. Perhaps there’s a more effective way of achieving the same results. Or perhaps it simply demonstrates that a lot of science is about intangible benefits, which automatically clouds the issue with other intangible benefits, like “Is it moral?”

    This is really a cultural issue, rather than a scientific one. The problem I have is that it is portrayed in the guise of impeccable statistics and empirical method.

    So over 60% of people affirm stem-cell resaerch, which must make those other 40% wrong? Yeah, and I would guess that over half the country’s people are registered with the two major political parties. Too bad if you’re one of those minority libertarians, you must be wrong as well. All this statistic shows is cognitive dissonance. But apparently that’s not news, that’s science.

  3. A short “me, too” regarding privately-funded embryonic stem-cell research. I’ve got no problem with that, myself. This survey question:

    Do you favor or oppose Federal funding of research on diseases like Alzheimer’s using stem cells taken from human embryos?” seems flawed. Are those asked necessarily aware that “taking” those cells will make those embryos non-viable? If the respondents think that embryos can give cells the way a full-grown person can give blood, or a even a kidney, and still live, they might be more likely to express support.

    This “science=good”/”moral qualms=bad” riff about stem cells is unworthy of libertarians. I don’t have to share the POV of fundamentalist Christians, devout Catholics or even CSPI-type luddites to oppose federal funding of morally suspect research. I oppose almost all federal funding of research, anyway. That a fundie like Bush would strike the middle position that he has is almost enough to make a cranky atheist like me believe in miracles. Almost.

    But me no utilitarian buts, either. Adult stem cell research is also a promising avenue for research, including cells recovered from umbilical cord blood.

    Kevin

  4. Is everyone who posts on here an atheist?
    It seems like there’s a large percentage of people who seem all proud of the fact that they’re so “sure” that Dog doesn’t exist.

    “I’m too cool to believe in God, man.”
    *hits joint

  5. Like funding for the arts, this issue really just drives home the need to keep government out of funding. I have no problem with stem cell research. I understand that others do. I disagree with their viewpoint, but am sympathetic to the idea that they shouldn’t feel compelled to help pay for it.

    Bush is stuck playing the funding game. Is he really stuck though, or is it a choice? As such on my checklist of things to like and dislike about Bush this is in the negative column. My issue is that Bush will do what he can to keep the culture warriors happy. I have never been pleased with class warriors on the left, and remain equally unenamoured with the culture warriors on the right.

  6. Why Ronald Bailey is Wrong: an Exercise in Statistics

    Almost everyone is familiar with the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” While statistics may be accurate, conclusions drawn from statistics can be dubious at best. Allow me to demonstrate.

    Ronald Bailey says, “The bottom line political lesson here is that Americans strongly support medical research [on stem cells] that they believe could someday help them or their loved ones.”

    We can ask whether or not this support is strong because people believe the research will be effective, or because they believe it is simply too important to be left unstudied, whether they have a personal stake in it. We are frequently reminded that religious people want to cram their personal values down everybody’s throats, yet in this instance we are supposed to believe that we should be in favor of stem cell research for personal reasons, like our “loved ones?”

    The statistics from the Annenburg study fail to support that conclusion. Let’s look at the question and the numbers:

    Q. Do you favor or oppose Federal funding of research on diseases like Alzheimers using stem cells taken from human embryos?

    ……….for…….against…(unclassified)
    Rep…..53%….38%……….9%
    Dem…..74%….20%……….6%
    Ind…..67%….26%……….8%
    Con…..46%….44%……….2%
    Mod…..72%….22%……….6%
    Lib…..81%….13%……….6%

    Avg…..65.5%..27.16%…….6.16%
    Ann…..64%….28%……….8%

    ………..for……..against…(unclassified)
    Swom….58%….32%……….10%
    Mwom….58%….32%……….10%
    Allmen..67%….25%……….8%
    Allwom..60%….31%……….9%

    1. The question is a push poll. It asks a question about Federal funding combined with a question about stem cells in such a way that it makes it impossible to tell if people favor Federally-funded research, or research in general. The question is like the phrase, “Have you stopped beating your wife lately?” It forces an answer based on a false premise. Perhaps some people favor private stem-cell research because they believe the benefits will be realized faster, or they favor Federally-mandated research because it will help to morally-regulate the process. We can’t tell.

    2. The stats fail to describe the Unclassified variables. Since the Annenerg study doesn’t mention them, I have included the percentage difference. Additionally, the average combined total (ANN) is slightly more or less than a raw average (AVG) for all categories. This is important because it skews the total possible correlation for uncategorized responses, as we shall see.

    3. Assuming the study compensated for errors which would affect all categories (such as dropped calls, refusal to respond, and projected number of people nationwide who categorize themselves using the above terms, etc.), we can make several interpolations.

    First, we know that the percentage of Unclassified respondents indicates a response more complex than the study can handle. It may be that people had no opinion or had an opinion that could not be categorized. We don’t know either way. But what we can logically infer is that the higher the Unclassified result, the greater fluctuation of answers overall per category.

    Second, answers which fall closer to a 1:1 ratio are more firmly held by respondents because there is less chance for changing one’s mind; polarization equals less chance for a marginal response. It may be possible an overwhelming 8:1 out of 10 people favor a given topic, but we can’t be certain since the greater resulting percentage of Unclassified people is higher (in this case 10%). All we can know is that when more people are more polarized, the more it is statistically measurable that people who believe strongly within a given category will provide a decisive answer, and are therefore probably better-informed (even if the information they base their decision upon is inaccurate).

    4. Keeping this in mind, when we look at the numbers again, there are some revealing results. First, conservatives appear more informed and equally-divided than all other categories. This challenges the stereotype that religious conservatives are ignorant or biased.

    Second, the highest opportunity for fluctuation of opinion appears within the Republican, Independent, and female categories (SWOM and MWOM). This means that there is a greater opportunity for variation and debate within those categories, and therefore the chance of greater democratic vigor. Considering that most Conservatives are Republicans– and that there is less fluctuation among Conservatives themselves– this is truly startling.

    Third, the Annenberg derived average of 8% (Uncategorized), correlates to the Independent category. The raw average of 6.15% (Uncategorized) correlates to the Democratic, Moderate, and Liberal categories. Since error factoring should have occured across all categories (not just the total average), we can assume that the 8% in the Annenberg study correlates with a bias toward Independents (who typically vote Republican), while the raw average which I have derived from the individual Annenberg categories correlates with a bias toward Democrats, Moderates, and Liberals. Since Democrats and Liberals are most likely in favor of the question, and are on par with the average Unclassified results across all parties, the large Unclassified numbers supporting a diversity among Republicans should be deemed accurate. It should not be assumed that there is a strict link, but the correlation itself tends to show an effect.

    In conclusion, which party will be most open to debate? Which party contains the most well-informed people? Which party is more likely to make a nuanced policy decision regarding Federal funding? I think this demonstrates that the Republicans have less to lose than the Democrats, and are more likely to win even if the issue was decided solely on the basis of stem cells.

    Link here: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/naes/2004_03_stem-cell_08-09_pr.pdf

  7. OK; I’ve made many posts attacking government restrictions on cloning, but I’m with Bush on this issue if the ban is only on federally funded stem cell research and not privately funded research.

    It’s not fair to force folks who think that it’s wrong, to pay for stem cell research. BTW, if the race to decode the human genome, as well as myriad other examples, is an indication the private concerns will do stem cell research more effectively.

  8. All of you are right wing nutcases…heck ya,I support emybronic but you right wing nuts go to far in your restrictions…I think we should let the emybros grow…then we could learn more about the scientific process of stem cells…We should be allowed to kill two month old fetuses, five month old, 6 month old. And Why should we stop at birth…Some research should definitely be done on 1 and 2 year olds. The entire development of the stem cell process does not end just because and individual is born…We should extend abortions up until the age of 17, that will give us a full spectrum of the biological aging process of stem cells…This will allow to end such deadly deceases as hangnails and the common cold…

  9. All of you are right wing nutcases…heck ya,I support emybronic but you right wing nuts go to far in your restrictions…I think we should let the emybros grow…then we could learn more about the scientific process of stem cells…We should be allowed to kill two month old fetuses, five month old, 6 month old. And Why should we stop at birth…Some research should definitely be done on 1 and 2 year olds. The entire development of the stem cell process does not end just because and individual is born…We should extend abortions up until the age of 17, that will give us a full spectrum of the biological aging process of stem cells…This will allow to end such deadly deceases as hangnails and the common cold…

  10. “The Kerry campaign has needlessly distorted the stem cell issue — there is no “far-reaching ban on stem cell research” as this official campaign press release claims.” – that was from the Bailey TCS article.

    But there is an attempt to ban ‘therapuetic cloning’ by Bush, Brownback, and their conservative allies in Congress. Why does everybody conveniently ignore that fact when they go on about ‘Bush isn’t for banning private funding, etc…’ True, but he is for a ban – of the kind of stem cell therapy that shows the most promise.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.