Embryonic Stem Cell Politics Update

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Today President Bush issued his second veto of legislation that would have expanded federal support for human embryonic stem cell research. According to the Chicago Tribune :

"I made it clear to Congress and the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line," Bush said in the East Room of the White House, the same stage he had used to veto the first bill. "Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us."

As an interesting counterpoint to the veto, the journal Science will publish a report tomorrow (not currently available) that finds that more than half of infertility patients with surplus embryos in storage would be willing to donate them to research–presumably without too much concern about how that research is funded. The Science summary notes:

Roughly half of the infertility patients that participated in a new survey said they were somewhat or very likely to donate their unused embryos for stem cell research rather then have them destroyed or donated to another infertile couple. These results, discussed in a Policy Forum by Anne Drapkin Lyerly and Ruth R. Faden, contrast sharply with previous estimates of the number of embryos that would be available for stem cell research if U.S. legislation permitted their use. The authors write that these results "suggest a remarkable concurrence between the preferences of infertility patients and the values and priorities of the majority of the American public who support progress in stem cell research through the use of post-infertility treatment embryos." The findings also indicate that a larger than expected number of embryos would likely be available to scientists if a currently proposed bill on human embryonic stem cell research were to succeed.

The folks over at the pro-stem cell advocacy group, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research don't put too fine a point on their displeasure with the veto. The CAMR press release fuliminates:

"With this veto, President Bush ignored the overwhelming majority in the medical, scientific, and spiritual communities who believe stem cell research holds the key to unlocking the future of better treatments and cures.

"With this veto, President Bush turned the page to start yet another chapter in a Presidential legacy of errors in judgment and bad decisions that needlessly cost American lives in the process.

"More than 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating diseases and disorders for which embryonic stem cell research holds great promise. Despite our anger and disgust at this second, most misguided veto, we will continue to do whatever we can to advance embryonic stem cell research in America . We will always be grateful for the strong, bipartisan support on this issue in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and among the American people."

Finally, a new poll finds that the president is swimming against the tide of public opinion on this issue. Now, 60 percent of Americans think that federal funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research should be eased.

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  1. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us.”

    Oh, and btw, if you didn’t support my Iraq War, it’s because you hate freedom.

  2. joe,

    I was going to say the exactly the same damn thing.

  3. 60 percent of Americans think that federal funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research should be eased.

    Screw that. Federal funding on research should be restricted to zero. Restrictions singling out stem cells may be misguided, but they’re better than no restrictions at all.

  4. This blog post should include Bush’s post-veto session of kissing James Dobson’s ass.

    I agree with you in principle, Warren, but decisions like this one aren’t made in the interest of fiscal responsibility.

  5. Ron:
    So what were you saying the other day about nobel prizes and Federal handouts.
    If this is that important maybe it should specifically be excluded from Federal funding.

  6. Clever jab at the war.
    Bush is doing a lot of aborting of fetuses in their 60th-80th trimester.

  7. “60 percent of Americans think that federal funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research should be eased.”
    Poll question, “So do you want to F*** up the lives of 100 million Americans with chronic diseases or do you want us to Federally fund ESC research, which as you know can possibly, probably cure anything.

  8. So let’s see here.

    Pre-emptive war? Moral line crossed.
    Torture? Moral line crossed.
    Spying on citizens? Moral line crossed.

    I guess he had to draw the line somewhere.

  9. @Warren

    Screw that. Federal funding on research should be restricted to zero. Restrictions singling out stem cells may be misguided, but they’re better than no restrictions at all.

    That would depend on how it’s funded. If Congress was going to appropriate additional dollars for stem cell research, that I would object to. But if the funding is going to come out of a pool of dollars already earmarked for research, I have less of a problem with that. If government is going to be spending my money on research anyway, then I don’t see the point in excluding stem cell research from competing for those dollars. That doesn’t save the taxpayer any money, it just prevents him from getting the best deal available for money he’s already spent.

  10. “More than 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating diseases and disorders for which embryonic stem cell research holds great promise”

    I find that hard to believe. 1 in 3? Really?

  11. Just because Bush is an asshole does not mean he’s wrong about this.

    Art,

    A good question. I don’t mean to get all Gary Gunnels about this, but Mr Bailey never answered my similar question in the comments about that article.

  12. “Now, 60 percent of Americans think that federal funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research should be eased.”

    Well, good for them. Then those 60 percent of Americans can put their money where their mouths are by sending contributions to the federal government with requests that it be spent on stem cell research, rather than extorting contributions from the other 40 percent who are morally opposed or who believe their money would be better spent elsewhere or who would rather make contributions directly to stem cell research institutes without the costs and wastes of government administration.

  13. Pig Mannix,

    Thank you for demonstrating why the federal budget will never shrink. Everyone has some pet project, or pet industry that they think should be supported “as long as the money’s being wasted anyway.”

  14. aaron,

    Holy shit, I didn’t even notice that in the original post. Good catch.

    Maybe they’re including senile dementia, which everyone who lives long enough will be at risk for, in the list of debilitating conditions.

  15. Of course, I’m getting awfully tired of the pro-ESCR lobby treating opposition to ESCR as tantamount to murder, when several years of research funded by private interests, states, and foreign countries have produced precious little progress towards actual therapies. Meanwhile, adult and umbilical blood stem cell research actually has produced a few leads, but those never seem to get much ink.

  16. Thank you for demonstrating why the federal budget will never shrink. Everyone has some pet project, or pet industry that they think should be supported “as long as the money’s being wasted anyway.”

    If you don’t think government should be funding research at all, I’m perfectly fine with that. I even agree with that. I’ll even agree that not an additional dime should be appropriated to fund stem cell research.

    But if, say, $10 million has already been appropriated for spending on research, then I have no additional issue with a portion of it being spent researching stem cell applications.

    If you want to take the $10 million for research off of the table altogether, you won’t get an argument from me. But having already been appropriated, I see little point in restricting it’s application.

  17. sigh.

    “moral lines” = fear of unknown and pandering to sexual conservatives.

    asshats.

  18. “Bush is doing a lot of aborting of fetuses in their 60th-80th trimester.”

    Hey Parrot! You ever watch the News Hour on PBS? Well I do. And they have this honor roll of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the stats they put up with each of the fallen is their age. I make a point of counting those over 30 and those over 40 (that would be the 90th and 120th trimesters respectively. Lots of old Army Staff Sergeants and the like. They comprise about 30% or more.

  19. Another question for Mr Bailey, or any others who care to answer: if human embryos’ deaths need not concern us, because they only represent potential life, why should the potential deaths of persons far in the future concern us? The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

  20. I asked before last time, I will ask again this time: since embryonic stem cell research itself is not being criminalized, and excess embryos at fertility clinics will be destroyed anyway, how the fuck is this veto preventing anyone involved from “destroying human life”, as Bush sees it?

  21. Meh. Private research forges on. If Bush and his Religious Right puppetmasters decide to work on legislation to ban the research outright, then I’ll be quite pissed.

  22. If ur gonna spends Billions on a War that the people don’t support…Then it’s NOT fiscally irresponsible to spend on Scientific Medical Research. In fact, I think that it is morally wrong to kill people…the president doesn’t think so….as long as they are ‘Bad’ muslim people.

  23. “I asked before last time, I will ask again this time: since embryonic stem cell research itself is not being criminalized, and excess embryos at fertility clinics will be destroyed anyway, how the fuck is this veto preventing anyone involved from “destroying human life”, as Bush sees it?”

    He’s preventing people whose research is predicated on getting federal funding from doing stem-cell research that destroys human embryos. More such research will become feasible if federal money is available.

    I agree with Warren’s 4:56 post — even if you’re an extremely pro-choice libertarian, the kind that thinks nine-month old fetuses aren’t human beings subject to protection until they’re outside the mother’s body, you arguably should be opposed to the federal government financing research at all, even if you object to this being the only thing on Bush’s chopping block.

  24. “More than 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating diseases and disorders for which embryonic stem cell research holds great promise”

    “I find that hard to believe. 1 in 3? Really?”

    Maybe “debilitating” only modifies “diseases” in that sentence. It could be that there are a few million with debilitating diseases that could be helped through stem cell therapies, and more than 90 million with “disorders,” such as baldness, ED, etc.

  25. I think that progress in stem cell research will continue without government funding. Bush’s veto does not prohibit stem cell research it only prohibits federal funding of it.

    It he were a true conservative instead of a religious ideologue he would still have vetoed it, but done so on fiscal reasons instead.

  26. More funding! We need more funding. Won’t someone think of the funding!

    Once you get past the rhetoric, that’s what this issue is all about: funding. Not banning any research, just not funding it at the federal level. Do you think everything should be funded by the taxpayer? Then this veto is a horrible evil. But if you think that stuff like this shold be funded at the state level, or with private funds, then this veto is correct. It has nothing to do with the embryos.

    Bush demonstrates yet again that a broken watch can still manage to do something right twice a day.

  27. The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

    By the logic of those who desire the Federal Government to fund ESCR, those “100 million” who are currently living with debilitating illnesses/conditions could potentially see results from well-funded research.

    In fact, if we moved far enough up the funding curve, we might see cures for those people who have already died as a result of these illnesses/disabilities as well.

  28. John Kindley,

    The Iraq war should be funded in the same way. Hell, all wars should be funded that way.

  29. WTF? If you support ESCR, you ought to be glad the government isn’t helping to fund it. All the government could possibly do is fuck it up.

  30. I asked before last time, I will ask again this time: since embryonic stem cell research itself is not being criminalized, and excess embryos at fertility clinics will be destroyed anyway, how the fuck is this veto preventing anyone involved from “destroying human life”, as Bush sees it?

    Don’t you know that life begins at -70 C?

  31. Another question for Mr Bailey, or any others who care to answer: if human embryos’ deaths need not concern us, because they only represent potential life, why should the potential deaths of persons far in the future concern us? The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

    Well, one important difference, I should think, is that the life it may save in the future will be that of a then sentient being capable of suffering. That suffering will indeed be quite real to the person who could otherwise be treated. So it isn’t simply about saving a “potential life” somewhere down the road, it is about alleviating real human suffering.

  32. if human embryos’ deaths need not concern us, because they only represent potential life, why should the potential deaths of persons far in the future concern us? The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

    What if we can save the lives of people who are already dead?

  33. JH: I actually oppose using tax dollars for the research myself. My point is that even though Bush’s veto itself makes sense IMO, his stated reasoning for it (seeing destruction of embryos as equivalent to murder) does not.

  34. My point is that even though Bush’s veto itself makes sense IMO, his stated reasoning for it (seeing destruction of embryos as equivalent to murder) does not.

    b-psycho:

    As libertarians, we are rarely treated to a right action done at the right time for the right reason. Sometimes we just have to stick our fingers in our ears and be glad for small victories.

  35. More than 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating diseases and disorders for which embryonic stem cell research holds great promise.

    I call bullshit. Unless they are going to grow special livers for drinkin’ beer. That is a debilitating disorder that needs to be rectified.

  36. Dr. Herbert West,

    You’re talking zombies here, aren’t you?

  37. Hmm…….just the other day our air strikes killed 7 children in Afghanistan. It was the Taliban’s fault, of course, for being in a place where children are adjacent, as if they had a choice. Such deaths of children are excused, as we are building future security, but we are not even taking life in order to save life, we are taking life in the hope that our actions will somehow create a better situation in the future. We know that we will continue to kill innocents, but we only hope that it will lead to a better situation in future. We don’t really know.

    So, what Bush is doing there as commander-in-chief is worse than taking life to save life, it is taking life in order that his pie-in-the-sky adventure in overseas social engineering may someday come out all right in the end.

  38. So, what Bush is doing there as commander-in-chief is worse than taking life to save life, it is taking life in order that his pie-in-the-sky adventure in overseas social engineering may someday come out all right in the end.

    I hardly think you’re the first person to point out the religious right’s hypocrisy on the subject of war.

  39. The problem is that supporters have been making the wrong arguement.

    These embryos are being denied the possibility of a life by Bush’s veto. Now they will be unused and destroyed, instead of enjoying an existence as someone’s revitalized organ.

  40. Marcvs and others: The 100 million number probably comes from a National Academy of Sciences report that had the bad fortune of being released on September 11, 2001. It doesn’t distinguish between embryonic and other stem cell treatments. The numbers are:

    Potential US Patient Populations for Stem
    Cell-Based Therapies.
    High incidence of the following conditions
    suggests that stem cell research could potentially
    help millions of Americans.
    Condition Number of Patients
    Cardiovascular disease 58 million
    Autoimmune diseases 30 million
    Diabetes 16 million
    Osteoporosis 10 million
    Cancers 8.2 million
    Alzheimer’s disease 5.5 million
    Parkinson’s disease 5.5 million
    Burns (severe) 0.3 million
    Spinal-cord injuries 0.25 million
    Birth defects (per year) 0.15 million

  41. crimethink and others: I basically agree with with Pig Mannix’s point on spending. Bush is not vetoing the bill to save money, but to save souls. In fact, Bush wants to spend more federal research money on stem cell research he likes.

    That being said, I still have not made up my mind about whether basic scientific research is a public good like the military and the courts.

  42. Killing extra babies is fine with me. But using their matter to try to cure 60 year olds of parkinsons is pure evil. If you dedicate all research funding to things that kill kids under four, I’d consider supporting it. Then again, why the fuck is government dabbling in this?

  43. Dear Mr. Bailey:

    “I have still not made up my mind…military & the Courts.”

    Just to help you make up your mind, basic scientific research goes on without federal support. The private sector is more likely to fund effective research. Once the Fed. steps in, there are more likely to be conflicts of interest, grants to incompetent researchers for political favors, etc. The basic principle is, the bigger the spigot, the more water is wasted.

  44. One thing I don’t understand: why doesn’t Reason.com adopt, well, reason, when it comes to this issue.

    Michael Fumento, a former contributor to this very magazine, Reason, has showed the reasons that embryonic stem-cell research is not nearly as promising as adult stem-cell research is, and Ron Bailey, who’s right on many other areas, is particularly ambivalent on frankly declaring the failure of this policy (indeed, the magazine cannot really decide whether or not it disagrees with California’s PUBLICLY-FINANCED version of it).

    Why the hesitation? Reason magazine, and reason.com usually have NO hesitation when it comes to the public trough being used for all sorts of unconstitutional uses, and expenses (rightly so); why the silence, and the sparing, selective commentary on this issue (which has been noticed, duly).

    I say this as a conservative who LOVES Reason magazine, and reason.com.

  45. Easy call. Fund stem cell research with a lottery , scratch-offs and pull tabs. Everyone’s a winner!!!

  46. If stem-cell therapy will really be the end all be all medical cure that will alleviate all of humanity’s genetic woes, why do they need government funding?

    One would think that pharmacuetical companies and venture capitalists would be having orgasms over the idea of a cure that has 100 million potential customers in America alone.

  47. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us.”

    Mr. Bush, in the future please leave some of the work for Stewart and Colbert. It’s more entertaining that way.

  48. The issue of whether or not to fund research at all aside…

    If the government is going to fund research, it seems that the role of the president should remain at the level of setting goals for that research rather than meddling in the conduct. One of the reasons governments are often ineffective in addressing problems is that they try and control the methods rather than setting the goals. If public funding of research is going to be most effective that funding should provide a goal and then let the scientific process proceed naturally towards the best solution. In this case Bush is saying he likes the goal, but is restraining the methods for getting there. Is it the presidents job to determine the parameters of ethical research? Are there not others more qualified to work out those details?

  49. If embryonic stem cells are not promising then this is a non-issue. Why are scientists going to waste their careers and corporations waste their money on something doomed to failure?

    I’d prefer that those scientists and corporations decide what is promising rather than having politicians decide.

  50. b-psycho says” JH: I actually oppose using tax dollars for the research myself. My point is that even though Bush’s veto itself makes sense IMO, his stated reasoning for it (seeing destruction of embryos as equivalent to murder) does not.”

    It makes sense from Bush’s perspective (or perhaps from the political posture he finds gets votes — it’s hard to tell what politicians really believe sometimes). You don’t agree with his supposition about when a fertilized egg becomes a human being — as a nominal but not fanatical pro-lifer, neither do I — but try, just for an instant, to get inside the head of someone who actually believes (or, again, finds it politically convenient to pretend to believe) that a fertilized egg, as an incipient homo sapiens, is a human being. It logically then follows that it is a life worth protecting, IF you accept the initial premise. It is just as reasonable to say that as a fanatical pro-choicer, that since a just-delivered baby is a human being, it is a life worth protecting, but all fetuses are not alive and thus not worth protecting, IF you accept that initial premise.

    Now get out of the head of that extreme pro-lifer before you hurt yourself, mmm-kay?

  51. …if human embryos’ deaths need not concern us, because they only represent potential life, why should the potential deaths of persons far in the future concern us? The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

    So the existence of an embryo that is not capable of feeling suffering at all somehow trumps the life a child dying painfully of cancer who could be saved via the stem cells produced by that embryo?

    Let me ask you a question: A hospital is on fire, and you can save one of the following: 1000 embryos from the fertility clinic or one four-year-old kid with a broken leg in the ER…

    …What’s it going to be?

  52. Akira –

    they’d hack out the fetus to save that first, of course.

    [ducks. runs off, evil laughter and evil music fading slowly away]

    and Fumento has a “pro life” agenda, so I’d discount what he says.

  53. Let me ask you a question: A hospital is on fire, and you can save one of the following: 1000 embryos from the fertility clinic or one four-year-old kid with a broken leg in the ER…

    …What’s it going to be?

    Not enough information to solve:

    (1) What’s the market price for embryos?

    (2) Does the kid owe me money?

  54. If embryonic stem cells are not promising then this is a non-issue. Why are scientists going to waste their careers and corporations waste their money on something doomed to failure?

    I’d prefer that those scientists and corporations decide what is promising rather than having politicians decide.

    Gee, scientists have never had an agenda, or for that matter had pet projects that they built their careers upon that they would kill to be able to continue researching in order to maintain their reputation.

    Science shouldn’t be any different than any other field of business: let the money flow to the projects that hold the most promise, and let that money come from informed investors who have a stake in the results. Federal funding of any science means that nobody is truly responsible for the (lack of) results.

  55. re: public good.

    Ron, I don’t see how the products of basic research are not public goods (except to the extent that they are protected by copyright). Maybe there are alternatives to funding them (think public vs toll roads), but that doesn’t make them not public goods.

    All, basic research usually has long time horizons and unpredictable marketability. However, the ROIs are high. Also, basic research budgets are massive. Few private organizations could sustain current levels of research.

  56. Ron, I don’t see how the products of basic research are not public goods (except to the extent that they are protected by copyright).

    You mean patents. Which covers quite a lot, basically everything except math and the most fundamental scientific discoveries.

    Building giant atom smashers is arguably a public good (also arguably a big waste of money). Medical research is not.

  57. “‘So, what Bush is doing there as commander-in-chief is worse than taking life to save life, it is taking life in order that his pie-in-the-sky adventure in overseas social engineering may someday come out all right in the end.'”

    “I hardly think you’re the first person to point out the religious right’s hypocrisy on the subject of war.”

    No, that was me. At 4:51. Scroll up.

  58. “The 100 million number probably comes from a National Academy of Sciences report that had the bad fortune of being released on September 11, 2001. It doesn’t distinguish between embryonic and other stem cell treatments. The numbers are:…” – Bailey

    So that 100 million number is used dishonestly in at least two obvious ways. One, as usual it conflates embryonic stem cells with all stem cell research. Two, it treats the gross numbers of people suffering from the various ailments mentioned and simply adds them together. Apparently without realizing, that there is a lot of overlap there. People with one of those illnesses are not unlikely to also have one, two or three others and may be showing up multiple times in those numbers.

    If the pro-embryonic stem cell research case is so obviously right, why do they feel the need to misrepresent their data like that, almost all the time?

  59. Ron, haven’t you broken Science’s embargo? I think you have.

  60. “destroying human life to save human life is not ethical”

    So, the Iraq War, support for capital punishment, etc. are then what?

    When people ask me if I’m a relativist I usually say, “Well, it depends on the situation.”

  61. Yes: I’ve heard explanations that are valid for why one can oppose abortion but support capital punishment. But the statement “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical” is simply inconsistent with Bush’s support of the death penalty as a deterrent.

    In short, far from being a moral principle, this is simply utterly incoherent.

    Honestly, the supposedly “moral” logic of people who think individual cells need rights and protections is just generally so awful I rarely even know where to begin, so this is par for the course. There are many legitimate arguments to be made about the immorality of abortion of a fetus: there’s a hazy line there.

    There isn’t even a hint of a line when it comes to an embryo.

    And good grief: the claim that the condition of future lives are “potential lives” is just comical: it pretty much exposes the vacuity of the “potential lives” claim all by itself. People in general will be alive in the future, and we can predictably work to not make their lives miserable knowing that they will be alive and experiencing things.

    How the heck does that have anything to do with the potential FOR a specific person developing in a specific way? Such “potential” lives are negated everyday when you fail to impregnate every woman that walks down the street. They are no more or less negated than if some developing cells never make it past the early stages of development. A specific person never coming to exist in the first place and thus never having any worries or concerns simply is not the same thing as a general person who WILL exist and who will have worries and concerns.

  62. But the statement “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical” is simply inconsistent with Bush’s support of the death penalty as a deterrent.

    To be maximally fair to Bush, we can assume that he meant “innocent life” when he said “life”, and put convicted criminals in the non-innocent category. That still doesn’t square the statement with his war policy.

  63. Side Note: “Ron, I don’t see how the products of basic research are not public goods (except to the extent that they are protected by copyright/patent).”

    If the the research IS to be funded out of Federal Dollars (whatever those are), then shouldn’t the Fed be the one who ultimately holds any patents on the end product? Sort of like that waiver I had to sign at my last employer about who actually owns whatever I create while I am under their employ?

    Just askin’.

    CB

  64. Late to the party, but:

    1) In general, it’s nice to know that the veto pen still exists. Now, if only it could get more use…

    2) I’m not concerned if the feds don’t fund stem cell research. However, I hope that the rules barring federal funds don’t constrain labs with mixed funding sources. For instance, if a university researcher is getting federal funds for a non-stem cell project, and private funds for a stem cell project, I hope nobody gets in trouble if a microscope gets some dual use, or if a research assistant paid on one grant occasionally lends some advice to the other project.

    These sorts of things happen all the time with other sorts of research, but nobody gets upset when a cancer biologist lets the neural development specialist down the hall borrow his fluorescence microscope. So whatever the official rules might say, it’s moot because the work still gets done and nobody cares if people share a bit of equipment or help each other out. But with stem cells, and all of the attendant controversy, I worry that people may be afraid to share and collaborate.

    Now, it would be tempting to say that recipients of federal funds shouldn’t complain about strings being attached. As a moral point, that’s a reasonable stance to take. But as a practical point, if you want to see researchers seek more private funds, we shouldn’t make it hard for labs with mixed funding sources to continue doing science in a sharing and collaborative environment.

  65. Why the hesitation? Reason magazine, and reason.com usually have NO hesitation when it comes to the public trough being used for all sorts of unconstitutional uses, and expenses (rightly so); why the silence, and the sparing, selective commentary on this issue (which has been noticed, duly).

    Isn’t it obvious? If we can characterize embryos as something other than a living human being with a right to life, then we shore up public support for abortion rights, without which the sexual freedom that is the lodestar of many or most Reasonoids would be more problematic.

  66. Ron,

    “That being said, I still have not made up my mind about whether basic scientific research is a public good like the military and the courts.”

    Don’t forget shoes. And food. And clothes. 😉

  67. Seamus –

    Please don’t do that; you are unfairly mischaracterizing Reason readers. Reason readers (and certainly libertarians in general) are not at all monolithically settled on either the stem cell/abortion issues.

    Primarily, I think it comes down to where the line is; I suspect most of us would agree that a human should get all the rights that come with being a human, but a lump of tissue is clearly owned by the person it’s attached to.

    The question of precisely when that lump of tissue becomes a person is still, painfully, unsettled. The fact that we have imperfect knowledge about this is, I believe, where the lion’s share of the disagreement about the matter comes from.

  68. Ah, yes, the well-known sexual promiscuity that characterizes libertarians…

    Hey, babe, wanna go curl up and watch some Milton Friedman videos?

    Only if you can roll above a 10 on 3d4.

  69. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

    I don’t see any reason for the feds to be mixed up in stem cell funding. It just makes government all the more contentious.

  70. Joe,

    Depends on her ThAC0.

  71. joe:

    I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m sexy. At least a 16 charisma …

  72. Nice principles ‘libertarians’. What happened to government restraint? This needs to be praised. You want to fund stem cell research, do it on your own dime. Bush needs to do more spending restriction vetos, not fewer.

  73. And we would praise it, if we really thought this had anything at all to do with “government restraint.” Instead, it looks more like a way to play favorites with the treasury, and I expect most libertarians think that’s bad, too.

  74. And we would praise it, if we really thought this had anything at all to do with “government restraint.” Instead, it looks more like a way to play favorites with the treasury, and I expect most libertarians think that’s bad, too.

    Exactly! My road to libertarainism is paved with government decisions made with somebody elses values as the make weight.

    …without which the sexual freedom that is the lodestar of many or most Reasonoids would be more problematic.

    Yes, we should just admit it and find our direction by the lodestar that says, “sex is sin.”

  75. “overwhelming majority in the medical, scientific, and spiritual communities who believe stem cell research holds the key to unlocking the future of better treatments and cures”

    two thing. one this is dishonest (or at least inaccurate), since the issue/veto was not STEM cell research but for EMBRYONIC stem cell research. the above is thus misleading.

    two, given the “overwhelming” support across the board for (presumably – EMBRYONIC stem cell research), it shouldn’t be hard to secure plenty of private funding, not to mention STATE govt’s.

    so, while i may disagree with the veto, i think the opposition (as usual) twists, spins, and plays gloom in a disingenuous manner.

  76. Why the hesitation? Reason magazine, and reason.com usually have NO hesitation when it comes to the public trough being used for all sorts of unconstitutional uses, and expenses (rightly so); why the silence, and the sparing, selective commentary on this issue (which has been noticed, duly).

    Isn’t it obvious? If we can characterize embryos as something other than a living human being with a right to life, then we shore up public support for abortion rights, without which the sexual freedom that is the lodestar of many or most Reasonoids would be more problematic.

    Good point Seamus. I think you’re right. Also, keep in mind that Bailey subscribes to “transhumanism,” which according to the Wikipedia article postulates that “human beings will eventually be transformed into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label ‘posthuman.'” The desire to hasten the onset of this brave new world may explain his reluctance to recognize that medical research is not a public good justifying forced “contributions” from the citizenry via federal taxing and funding.

    Check out this fact sheet for an egregious example of the federal government’s propensity to mismanage and abuse the medical research it controls with its federal funding and to positively harm the public health with outright deception: http://bcpinstitute.org/abc_nci.htm.

    Regarding your main point: I along with most libertarians believe that drugs should be largely or entirely decriminalized, and that the government should not be in the business of dictating sexual mores. However, this does not mean that on a cultural level drug use and sexual mores are unimportant. In the same (or next) breath that we say we don’t need government telling us what to do we should also say that it’s important for individuals to govern themselves and voluntarily to be good to each other, if we want to live in a good and viable free society. Reason writers generally disappoint me in this regard.

  77. Of course, I’m getting awfully tired of the pro-ESCR lobby treating opposition to ESCR as tantamount to murder, when several years of research funded by private interests, states, and foreign countries have produced precious little progress towards actual therapies. Meanwhile, adult and umbilical blood stem cell research actually has produced a few leads, but those never seem to get much ink.

    They don’t get ink in ESC funding stories. They do get ink whenever there’s an advance, usually out of all proportion to its significance. But, ESCs get a lot of hype, too.

    Contrasting available therapies derived from adult vs. embryonic SCs is misleading. ASC research had a 20 year head start. ASC treatments usually don’t work; ESC treatments usually work but sometimes lead to cancer. ASC, ESC, and cancer research each benefit from the others.

    Even CAMR’s spleen-venting doesn’t go near “murder”.

    The lives that the ESCR lobby claims to be trying to save are only potential lives, right?

    No, there are people with diseases right now who could reasonably hope for stem cell therapies within their lifetimes. Most everyone else will have one at some point. And people who will be born deserve more consideration than embryos which could be implanted but will be destroyed.

    So that 100 million number is used dishonestly in at least two obvious ways. One, as usual it conflates embryonic stem cells with all stem cell research. Two, it treats the gross numbers of people suffering from the various ailments mentioned and simply adds them together. Apparently without realizing, that there is a lot of overlap there. People with one of those illnesses are not unlikely to also have one, two or three others and may be showing up multiple times in those numbers.

    Hypothetically, anything that can be done with adult or umbilical SCs can be done with embryonic SCs, so that part is true. The 100 million number isn’t obviously right or wrong; there is some double-counting, but a) not as much as you seem to think and b) the numbers add up to 133 million. More importantly, those numbers appear to be people who have those conditions right now. Heart disease and cancer account for half of all deaths in the US. Those are the fates of 150 million, with no double-counting. Diabetes, another 9.3 million. Alzheimer’s, 8.4 million. And those are just the deaths.

    However, I hope that the rules barring federal funds don’t constrain labs with mixed funding sources.

    Unfortunately, they do. And while some might view that as a lesson on liberty and government, the federal government still manages nearly half of all health science research funding in this country–so the lesson more often is, work on something the feds like. This doesn’t bring us a dollar closer to getting the government out of research, much less any of the big-ticket items.

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