Friday, October 27, 2006

In all seriousness

Warning: This post might piss people off. So, if you can't at least try to have a civil and intelligent debate about political issues -- and respect people with opposing viewpoints -- I suggest you read something else.

Everyone else is talking about stem cells this week, and, even though I mentioned it previously, I didn't really provide any commentary. But I've decided to get serious for a minute here, and then go back to my regularly scheduled nonsense.

Anyway, this might sound dismissive, but I think the stem cell issue is really quite simple: Michael J. Fox is right, Jeff Suppan and his ilk are uninformed (and wrong), and Rush Limbaugh is a blathering idiot.

Full disclosure: As noted in prior comments, I am pro-stem cell research. And yes, I've had family members suffering from Parkinson's disease -- not to mention diabetes, which is another disease that might benefit from stem cell research.

Stem cell research is, unquestionably, a good thing. It's the stem cells themselves that cause all the ruckus. Or, more accurately, the ethics of obtaining the stem cells.

Opponents argue that life begins at conception -- blah, blah, blah. But even if you accept that as gospel, it's a red herring. The Missouri amendment at the heart of all the controversy is intended to provide guidelines for stem cell research while prohibititing ethically questionable practices such as forming embryos for the mere purpose of research, selling embryos, harvesting stem cells from actual fetuses and -- surprise, surprise -- human cloning.

So, if the embryonic stem cells in question are not coming from embryos that are going to be implanted -- and therefore, there is no chance whatsoever that they could become a person -- what's the problem? It boils down to a question of whether unused embryos from fertility clinics should be discarded or used for very important scientific research.

Garbage or research? Hmmm. Tough decision. No wonder the Republicans are so worried about it.

And, as an aside, Michael J. Fox is now campaigning against George Allen for Jim Webb. Hopefully this will make up for the fact that, due to some "bizarre glitch," Webb's last name isn't appearing on some ballots.


Bo W. said...

As the really only Republican who writes in complete sentences on the board, I figured some one has to be a little different. The problem is, am I? First, to some one like me who is in the pretty strong pro-life camp (though more middle of the road than you would think), I look at embryonic stem cell research a lot different than I do something like late-term abortion. In other words, why I have some slight reservations about it, I completely respect people who are for it. I think the argument that the embryo is a human life is a very honest opinion for people, including myself, but I also understand the point that if these embryos are going to be discarded anyway, with the “parents” permission, why not try to use them to foster cures for certain diseases. Like I said the other day, I am not on one side of the fence or the other, and strangely enough is not an issue that weighs heavy with me.

The main ethical argument to me is one that may be a little “out there”, but thought I would formulate. It is “Where do we stop?” Is it with couples that are trying to have children and have left over embryos (which some one like me can accept), or will science start paying people for their sperm and egg so they can create embryos for research (which I would have a harder time with). And if we wanted to get a little out there, why stop at embryos, but I think that view is probably in the minority.

To me a major issue is federal funding. Like you Dara, I think a lot of things should be left to the state. Is stem cell research the federal government’s job, or should it be up to the states or the private sector? I of course lean private sector with my skepticism of federal government bureaucracy. Don’t tell my Republican friends I am saying this, but I admit I would rather see my tax dollars go to fund cure for diseases than fight a stupid war in Iraq (though I would rather have my money go for a national defense to protect me and the private sector tackle cures).

Finally, call me shallow, but the Cards winning the World Series is actually more important right now. I like both Fox and Suppan, so I will continue to watch re-runs of Family Ties and root for Jeff pitching.

Finally, my political quote of the day, courtesy of the Blackadder: “If you can’t laugh what can you do? Take up politics, perhaps!”

Dara said...

Bo: As always, it's surprising how close our opinions are.

I think that, in all the hoopla, the point of the Missouri amendment is missed. It's one state's attempt to draw that line you're talking about. And the proposed position is discarded embryos are okay; anything else is not.

And, while I agree with you about the whole state-funding thing (and skepticism re: Federal bureaucracy), I do have a problem with restrictions preventing federal funds from going to perfectly legitimate research. And totally ditto on the tax dollars.

Call me shallow, but I am just glad that Suppan did not get the "W" last night.

DSL said...

I agree with several of the points both of you make. And congrats Bo for giving such a fair, well thought out point of view. My immediate question is this. Isn't artificial insemination also a slippery slope? It's given us multiple embryo pregnancies (some of which will in all likelihood not be able to survive), discarded embryos (which can absolutely be put to better use in research), and the possibility of human cloning. Part of me says the stem cell research issue has become an issue of one group trying to force their "morals" on another. I mean when have people fought so hard for the lives of born children?

Dara said...

Debby, your point about artificial insemination is interesting. I wonder whether the majority of those fighting against stem-cell research are against these kinds of fertility treatments, or if they have even thought about the question.

To me, it seems that supporting the science of creating embryos so people can have kids but opposing the use of excess embryos by science would create a heck of a lot of cognitive dissonance.

And yeah, society as a whole would do a lot better if it stopped caring so much about theoretical future children and concentrated more on the ones that are already here.

Bo W. said...

This is an FYI post instead of a debate post, but going to what you all were talking about artificial insemination, I have known several people who feel like they have been put in this “dilemma.” That is, do not believe in wasting embryos because they believe they are living, but still trying to get pregnant with the use of these methods at the same time. You all may know people like that, but it is interesting how that is such a dilemma for some people, especially some conservative church going Southerners that we know. Just an FYI for what it is worth.

And Dara, I guess I do not get as caught up with people’s politics and how they are as entertainer/athletes, but I am sure there are a lot of liberal, democratic or pro-embryonic stem cell Cardinal fans who are glad the Cards won but Suppan go a ND. :)

Justin S. said...

I might be one of the Cardinals fans Bo is talking about. Although I can separate my wishes for success as a pitcher with his political ideology. In fact, I REALLY hope the Cards re-sign him next year.

Dara said...

Bo: This is getting close to dangerous ground -- and I probably shouldn't open the floodgates. But I can never help myself and your point makes me wonder about one of my issues with the pro-life agenda. So here goes: If the people that you're talking about are so inherently pro-life that they're having problems reconciling their beliefs with fertility treatments, then why aren't they adopting?

Justin: I have a hard time separating a celebrity from their beliefs/actions. That's why I have problems with Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Curt Schilling, and some others that I'm not remembering right now. I'd add Kirk Cameron, Britney Spears and Stephen Baldwin to that list, but honestly, I can't say that I ever respected them enough for it to matter.

Bo W. said...

Dara: Great question, and I am not sure I know how to respond becasue while I know some of their dilemma we really haven't gone down that path. I can obviously understand wanting to have your own baby no matter how its done, and this may be the most important thing to them. Of course, I don't know how this stuff works (1 for 1 in fertility so far!), so maybe they have some agreement on using all embryos (big family, huh?) or something else with them - I don't know. Plus, isn't it very difficult to adopt, especially if you want a white, blue-eyed baby in America? So, without delving into my friends psyches a little more, I wish I could answer you question better.

Oh yeah, as a Repub if I didn't like people based on their politics, I would never be able to watch anything, haha.

Justin: How 'bout them Cards?

DSL said...

Thanks Dara for asking one question I think about a lot. Wasn't sure whether to go there. And I still won't because it could bring up even more sensitive issues, but not every unwanted, unexpected child can be a cute, white, healthy baby. Lot of issues to think about.

Dara said...

Debby & Bo: See, fundamentally, most of my political theory is based on realism. So, even though I can understand the ethics behind the pro-life movement, but ultimately I wind up asking questions like "If there is no abortion, who's going to take care of the unwanted babies?" Same goes for taxes -- sure, lower taxes would be great, but we need roads, and schools, an army, etc., etc.

So, how does this effect the issue at hand? Simple -- my position is that it's fine if politicians can agree on legitimate ethically-motivated restrictions on scientific research, and limit funding accordingly. But don't completely prohibit potentially lifesaving research using what is otherwise fertility clinic garbage.

Maybe I should forget about the lawyering and start writing position papers for political candidates.

DSL said...
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DSL said...

True, but it's still a very emotional issue. What about barring rape and incest victims from having abortions? (and this may seem brutal, but would you want to adopt a baby if you knew that the father was a rapist?)

Maybe the stem cell issue would have more resonance with some people if the patients it could potentially help were of a younger demographic?

Justin S. said...

Bo: World Series Champs! And no matter what the detractors say, they can't take it away.

Dara: The Suppan situation is different than Mel Gibson, etc., for me. If Suppan was saying anti-semetic stuff, etc., or if John Rocker was a Cardinal, of course I'd want him off the team. I guess stem cell research just doesn't reach the same threshhold. I could be friends with someone who opposes stem cell research. It's a difference of opinion, and I don't think it's an evil opinion, just one I disagree with. Anti-semitism, homophobia, racism, even anti-Brooke Shield's-ism (for all of Tom's problems, that's the only one I find unforgiveable).... that's a different story.

Dara said...

Debby: Clearly, I am pro-choice, since on this and most things, I think that in a truly free society, people need to be able to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. But I understand (1) it's a complicated, emotional issue and (2) like most things, there's a need for some governmental regulation.

If I wanted to have a child, and couldn't, I'd adopt. I wouldn't care where the kid came from, or what color it's skin was. And yeah, it's difficult and expensive, but so are fertility treatments.

I think that people don't know a lot about stem cell research. For example, until the Michael J. Fox ads, I don't recall anything publicly out there explaining that it's being used to develop treatments for things other than Parkinson's, such as juvenile diabetes.

Justin: I'm not sure that it's that much a question of degree for a lot of people as you think. Imagine if someone in middle America -- like Suppan -- stood up for the other side of the debate. It wouldn't go over well at all, and they'd likely find themselves on the next bus to somewhere more tolerant of liberal causes.

I can still watch a Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson movie, but their behavior makes me much less inclined to want to do it. And, despite disagreeing with their public statements, I can see why people would want Suppan and Curt Schilling (and even John Rocker back in his heydey) on their teams. But I probably wouldn't cheer when their name was announced.

DSL said...

Justin: I assume you were joking that anti-Brookism is Tom's most unforgiveable fault.

Everyone is entitle to their own opinions, no matter how stupid or misguided they may be, as long as they don't use the platform of their celebrity to push them.

And as long as they aren't hypocritical. Unfortunely, most people voicing strong opinions can't pass this last test.

Justin S. said...


I have to respectfully disagree with you on the "middle america" thing. Having lived there, I can tell you it's much more evenly split than you imagine... If it wasn't, the stem cell vote in Missouri wouldn't be as close as it is.

And Suppan wouldn't be run out of town. Suppan could do anything he wants right now short of killing puppies in public and he'd be a considered a hero in St. Louis right now.

Debby: I don't mean anything specific about Brooke, but I do think the most despicable thing he's done is trashing Brooke the way he did. The couch jumping on Oprah, while weird, is not a reason to despise someone. And I think Katie's an adult and able to make her own choices, so the relationship doesn't bother me.

DSL said...

I was maining referring to the trashing of psychiatry and medications that have been incredibly beneficial to many. By the way, Tom has apologized to Brooke.