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call me SCUM

by chris at 02:49 AM on March 02, 2006

60 minutes blew it for the second week in a row. In back to back shows they had segments on stem cell research. You'd almost think they had an agenda, pointing out that stem cell research does not move forward because of conservatives like George Bush. However, in each episode they failed at opportunities to drive home key points that the American public needs to be aware of.

The first is that they didn't make a distinction between blastocysts and embryos. They didn't use the word blastocyst at all. They kept saying that embryos need to be destroyed in order to get stem cells, but in actuality, blastocysts are used for obtaining stem cells. One reason the distinction matters is because people can attach meaning to the term embryo, because it cannotes structure and form, progress in development that people can identify with. A blasocyst on the other hand is only a ball of a fewer than 150 cells with no discernable structure to an untrained eye. Some would argue that life begins at conception so it doesn't matter if it's a zygote, a blastocyst, or an embryo, all stages are sacred. But those people should also have to explain why it is then, that 2/3 of conceptions flow through the womb never to implant or develop into anything. Nature seems to insist that two thirds of humanity is disposable.

The second thing they missed is the most important. George Bush says, "We can't destroy life to create life." Yet that's exactly what we do. As a society we allow in vitro fertilization. We allow the creation and destruction of blastocysts to treat the medical condition of infertility. When eggs and sperm are mixed in a petri dish, they form zygotes which are screened for normal morphology. Those which look normal are kept and either frozen or implanted. The rejects could be used for stem cells, but are discarded. The ones that are frozen, if not implanted, will also be destroyed - rather than being used for stem cell research. 60 minutes mentioned this, but they let people skate with slippery answers.

No one was forced to answer the question: why is a garbage can a more sacred fate for a blatocyst than helping someone with a fatal disease or a spinal chord injury? If the concern is for the soul of the blatocyst, why is it better to toss it into the garbage, than to allow it to help humanity and allow human life? There's no doubt that the 150 cell blastocyst, that we voluntarily created to treat a medical condition, will be destroyed. Why not allow it to make a contribution to human knowledge on the way out?

I firmly beleive that the reason is because George Bush is intellectually lazy. I don't think he asks himself such questions. He has a track record of not challenging his assumptions and demonizing those who do, and as a result humanity is held back. People will suffer because we could be solving problems, but instead his ignorance ties the hands of the brightest scientists.

That the uninformed convictions of one man can hold back an entire nation creates a palpable feeling of frustration, and a sense that something must be done. When katrina wiped out New Orleans, a nation of people responded by reaching into their pockets and raising 3 billion dollars for hurricane relief. How about raising money for Bush relief?

I don't want to be held back by George Bush. So if the federal government won't embrace the future to help humanity by funding stem cell research, we should do it ourselves. After all, we ARE our government. Just as I can check a box on my tax return to give money to various causes, so too can I reach into my pocket to fund my own stem cell research.

If there were an organization devoted strictly to the progressive cause of funding stem cell research, I would gladly join the "progressive American" club and donate money for Bush relief. Progressive Americans could step forward with pride that they are paving the way to a better future. Perhaps it would be the start of an entire movement. We could even have a nice acronym such as S.C.U.M, for Stem Cell Underwriters Movement. If the response were anywhere close to what was raised for Katrina, it would virtually replace what the government would spend anyway.

The conservative leaders have let you down. Join the SCUM, and take back your future.

comments (10)

To deem W intellectually lazy is to say Pam Anderson has big tits. Or something.

by anna at March 2, 2006 7:35 AM

I'll join if we get T-shirts.

by Long Time Lurker at March 2, 2006 10:45 AM

How did Bush become president again? He won at poker, or something, right? I forget.

by Ex Crimson Guard NCO at March 2, 2006 12:50 PM

Hey, curious, do you have a source on the information that confirms your statement about 2/3rds of conceptions flowing thru, never leading to pregnacy? I'd like to use this factoid in my rants about this stuff. thanks! Actually, sources for any of your points would be helpful for me. :)

by fcsuper at March 2, 2006 7:44 PM

I'm not a very religious person. I don't really believe in heaven or hell, any kind of higher power, or an afterlife. I believe what can be proved to me, or in some cases what can be proved to someone who knows a lot more about it than I do, and then explained to me in fifth grade terms. Clearly, you know a lot more about this than I do, and you've done an admirable job explaining thigs.

Still, and I hope you'll believe me when I say I still constantly surprises myself that I feel this way, I'm just not willing to accept any sort of scientific explanation for when "life" begins. Is it at conception? The moment when you jump from a blastocyte to a zygote? Birth? There is clearly a sceintific definition, but it makes me uncomfortable to rely on science on this particular question.

Call me intellectually lazy if you will, but I don't know, and I just don't want to make a judgement about something as important as life without erring on the side of overwhelming caution.

by mg at March 3, 2006 12:07 AM

Life begins the first time you get paid. Or laid.

by anna at March 3, 2006 6:27 PM

There are many references as people have been trying to estimate this kind of thing for a long time. Edmonds et al. (1982) Early Embryonic mortality in women. Fertility and Sterility (38) 447-453. Wilcox et al. (1988) Incidence of early loss of pregnancy NEJM (319)189-94. Henri Leridon (1977), Human Fertility, Ch. 4 Intrauterine mortality. Univ of Chicago Press. Some estimates reach very high (as in more than 3/4 of conceptions do not result in birth) e.g. Roberts and Lowe (1975). Where have all the conceptions gone? Lancet (1) 498. There's a good essay written by Richard McCormick (in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal) where he writes, "...there is enormous loss of fertilized ova prior to achieving implantation - conservative estimates suggest at least two-thirds of them are lost."

However, I'm most impressed by simply speaking to in vitro fertilization technicians. How many conceptions are viable for implantation? "About 1 in 4" is a common answer. This get's directly at MG's comment. The main point I was trying to make in the essay above has nothing to do with the question of when life begins. Rather, I'm trying to point out the hypocrisy of a position which states that blastocysts are too sacred to be destroyed for human welfare when we already destroy them for human welfare - especially because even if they were used for stem cell research - WE WOULDN'T HAVETO DESTROY ANY MORE THAN WE ALREADY DO (for IVF).

When fighting voluntary wars, the current administration doesn't do body counts. However when fighting against stem cell research they do. So let's use some simple math and see what we come up with.

Let's use some very conservative numbers similar to those above. A couple wants to have a child by in vitro fertilization, and we'll do a comparison of the death rate, with or without allowing stem cell research.

We'll assume 4 conceptions, 1/2 unimplantable, and 1/2 of the remaining 2 do not implant once placed in utero.

Number of embryos destroyed for couple to conceive one child: 3
Number of embryos destroyed for couple to conceive one child, and also allow stem cell research: 3

3 = 3. But then again, Bush doesn't like funny math. We need Bush relief. We need SCUM.

by Chris at March 4, 2006 4:15 AM

Cool. The thing is, with Stem Cell research, liberals and conservatives alike can be absurdly against it. Me sorta like it. I like the company Genentech. I am afraid that You might end up raging against the stem cell machine, because it will become 'corporatised', even though you seem to like stem cell. But if Stem Cell becomes Unhipster, you might change your mind.

by lockheed at March 5, 2006 11:59 PM

I think I'm a clone.
At least I want to be one.

That way I'm never alone.

by Long Time Lurker at March 6, 2006 9:55 AM

The question isn't when life begins but if it ever does.

by anna at March 7, 2006 7:43 AM

comments are closed