What timing. Just as I’m hurrying to leave town and have no time to blog, this major stem cell decision comes down and the media go apoplectic and there’s so much to say and I’ve no time to say it….

Michael Cook did a far better job than I would have, anyway, so I’m relieved to point you there.

If you’re not already familiar with the story, the basics are that a federal judge blocked federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, because it violates federal law. Let’s look at a few key snips from this Chicago Tribune story:

The ruling came in the form of a preliminary injunction in a case involving two scientists who challenged the Obama administration’s stem cell funding policy, which was designed to expand federal support for the controversial research.

That’s a loaded sentence. Those two scientists happen to work on adult stem cell research and therapy, the only sort proven to be promising and successful. But the Obama adminstration’s funding policy has been stretched to cover previously unacceptable and frankly unsuccessful research on human embryos. Why? Because pop science drove up investments in the biotech industry at a frenetic pace several years ago when pop media used beloved actors like Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox to convince the public that the only compassionate way to help people who suffered from disabilities and degenerative disease was by voting for embryonic stem cell research……though the ads never specified that the stem cell research they were promoting was on embryos.

In the intervening years, it didn’t pan out. But you didn’t hear that from big media. So reporting on this ruling was as hyperbolic in declaring fake doom as those ads were in selling false science.

Embryonic stem cell researchers said the decision would throw the field into turmoil…

“It’s going to be chaos,” Trounson said. Researchers will have to furlough some of their staff in order to keep their labs open, he predicted.

Then there’s this gem…

UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin, an expert on stem cell legal issues, said the ruling was “a terrible decision.”

By considering all research part of an unbreakable continuum, the decision implies that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment has no limits, which is an unconvincing interpretation, Korobkin said. “It suggests that by conducting research on an acorn a scientist would also be conducting research on an oak tree, because acorns come from oak trees,” he said.

Aside from the assault to dignity and sensibility of comparing humans to trees, this argument breaks down even further on the assumption that as an acorn will only later become a tree, an embryo will only later become a human being. When, in fact (easily learned from basic medical texts) the human embryo is a complete human being already in existence.

In June 2008, a 7-4 majority decision threw out [Judge] Schreier’s order, clearing the way for the informed-consent law to take effect. The court found that the state of South Dakota’s “evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician.”

Embryonic stem cell research was never grounded in truth. In its own convoluted way, this New York times article finally arrives at that conclusion, in a roundabout way.

“Things are very much in flux,” [Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch] said. “We will probably need human embryonic stem cells for a while. And then we probably will not need them anymore.”

As bioethics expert Nancy Valko notes:

If embryonic stem cell research is so ethical and promising, why is the goal not to use them?  The reality is that embryonic stem cell research doesn’t seem to be working as supporters promised.

And that is clearer all the time.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....