The Politics of Cloning

When new facts undermine a position you've previously advocated, you have two choices: Either change your position, or blow smoke to obscure the new facts. Advocates of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research -- which means taking a life -- are choosing to blow smoke. Professional, peer-reviewed scientific journals have carried over one hundred papers on adult stem cells during the past year -- compared to almost nothing on embryonic stem cells, the whole point of cloning. Embryonic stem cell advocates are losing credibility, so they eagerly embraced a March 14 article in the British journal Nature, entitled "Stem-cell powers challenged." Researchers put adult and embryonic stem cells from mice in the same petri dish. The two "fused" together, in some cases forming abnormal cells that "carry double the normal amount of DNA, and may be sickly." Nature magazine opined that adult cells produced mutations -- calling into question the viability of adult stem cells. Popular media picked up the story -- including a Washington Post article subtitled "Adult Cells Found Less Useful Than Embryonic Ones." However, Indiana State University biologist Dr. David Prentice points out the magazine got it exactly backwards: The conditions in the experiment could never occur inside the human body. Our bodies contain no embryonic stem cells. If anything, we should conclude from the report that you'd never put embryonic stem cells into an adult body. National Review commentator Michael Fumento notes, "Bizarrely, the Nature writers . . . act as if [adult stem] cell therapy is still experimental," yet adult stem cells are being used medically in more than 16,000 transplants every year. Contrary to the hype over embryonic stem cells, researchers realize adult cells are the real wonders. In the human body, adult stem cells assume the characteristics of surrounding tissue and repair it. When they cluster in a heart, kidney, or another organ, they become healthy cells of that organ. In January, University of Minnesota researchers discovered human bone marrow stem cells that differentiate into any of the 210 types of tissue in the body. A San Diego firm announced, "All the benefits claimed for embryonic stem cells, we are finding can be replaced by adult stem cells." Fumento writes, "[T]he Nature [magazine] line is the equivalent of declaring . . . the earth is flat ten years after Magellan circumnavigated [the globe]." Then why do some people continue to push the increasingly discredited line that human cloning is necessary and that embryonic stem cells are superior to adult stem cells? Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association, answers, "[T]here's a group of scientists and institutions that have heavily invested in embryonic stem cell research -- both with their reputations and their finances . . . [T]hey . . . have formed for-profit companies . . . [and] want to get to the federal trough . . . " He adds, "If they're looking for a stock market return, they'd better cut their losses and invest where the real action is: in adult stem cells" -- available without cloning, without destroying human embryos, and without blowing smoke over the facts.   Take Action: Some U.S. Senators are still undecided about a total ban on human cloning! Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to connect with your senators, and urge them to support S. 1899, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act. Call today! Sources: Helen Pearson, "Stem-cell powers challenged: Fusion may explain stem-cell morphing," Nature, 14 March 2002. Michael Fumento, "Stem-Cell Political Science: Nature's Agenda," National Review, 28 March 2002. "Adult Stem Cells Can Save Lives Without Sacrificing Lives," Christian Medical & Dental Association, 5 March 2002. Sylvia Pagan Westphal, "Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered," New Scientist, 23 January 2002. For further reading and information: "Bioethics and the Christian: A 'BreakPoint' Conversation with Joni Eareckson Tada" "Stem Cells: A Primer," National Institutes of Health, May 2000. Nigel Cameron and Lori Andrews, "Cloning and the Debate on Abortion," Chicago Tribune, 8 August 2001. BreakPoint commentary, No. 020313, "Superman and Utilitarianism," 13 March 2002. BreakPoint commentary, No. 010124, "Embryonic Stem Cell Research," 24 January 2001. Learn more about the Wilberforce Forum's newest initiative, the Council for Biotechnology Policy here. You can subscribe to its free e-newsletter, the Biotech Policy Update, by sending an e-mail to  


Chuck Colson


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