One of my personal biggest pet peeves with regards to the current political system in America, and for that matter a large and vast number of society is how few people actually use evidence to back up their position. Rather than presenting facts we are presented with ad homein attacks, personal stories and told what people feel rather than what research shows and demonstrates is true. Today the Congressional Representative Randy Neugebauer for the district I live in sent out one of his email newsletters.
In the newsletter Rep. Neugebaur talks about Pres. Obama’s recent decision to reverse a Pres. GW Bush era policy of restricting government funding on any new human embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9th 2001. Quoting from the newsletter (emphasis mine):
Today, President Obama reversed the Bush Administration’s policy of banning federal funds from going to research that involves the destruction of human embryos.
I am disappointed in President Obama’s executive order. I strongly believe the rights of the unborn need to be protected from the point of conception, which is why I cannot support the use of tax dollars to fund research that millions of Americans, including myself, believe destroys human life.
The major advances in stem cell research have come from adult stem cells, not embryonic ones. Several findings have recently been made that show stem cells found in umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, and bone marrow tissue have the same flexibility as embryonic stem cells. Research using adult stem cells is being used to treat diseases, and taxpayer research dollars should go toward advances that are producing results.
Let’s discuss some of Rep. Neugebauer’s points, most importantly the “believe destroys human life”. Not that it does destroy human life, because well there is no evidence of such, just people’s belief that it does. There is no evidence of any such destruction of human life in those blog posts, articles or links presented by Google, in fact most of them talk about just the opposite, about how scientific research is making it less and less necessary for stem cells to be grown in the labs from human embryo’s.
Update: I made a mistake, but it actually works out favorably. According to Scientist and Engineers for America: “The Executive Order does not affect the prohibition on using federal funding for creating destroying, or discarding human embryos. This prohibition first became law in 1996 and is known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment. Subsequent laws appropriating money for the Department of Health and Human Services all carry this prohibition (shown here in H.$. 3043, the 2008 appropriations for HHS). After today, federal dollars can go toward research on hundreds of cell lines in existence, but not to creating new lines.” So Rep. Neugebauer can’t even claim that federal dollars are going towards destroying human embryos. Sorry about the mistake.
Which might make you ask, so what’s the big deal about the executive order then if it really isn’t needed? Two points here, first of all that science has yet to find a fully reliable source for stem cells as embryos grown in the lab. Second to quote PZ Myers: “You don’t get to hobble the horse and then complain that it hasn’t won any races!” So first of all to fully find a reliable source of stem cells that doesn’t involve growing embryos scientist need to study actual embryonic stem cells (embryonic stem cells have the unique characteristic of being the most adaptable and thus the best avenue for areas of stem cell research). Also Rep. Neugebauer wants to say that the research hasn’t presented anything of any value while at the same saying that science should somehow magically produce results with the main source of science funding cut off. Okay I have a business and decide to cut off 90% of their funding, let’s see the company produce something wonderful, sure.
My final point along this topic is that Rep. Neugebauer or more likely one of his staffers hasn’t linked to a single news article or scientific paper in any of his newsletters describing his actions or providng a more thought out reasoning for why he thinks the way he does. Though what’s to be expected when Obama is the first president “to speak about data in his inaugural address, and only the second to mention statistics.”
That to me is the absolute saddest state in American politics that our presidents aren’t more willing to use data and statistics to back up why they make decisions that they do.
My hope is that we can change this chart around at some point.
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