Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Common sense on ESCR

You may already have seen this rare display of common sense from a United States judge:

WASHINGTON — A US court on Monday ordered a temporary halt to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which President Barack Obama had authorized, saying it involved the destruction of human embryos.

US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of a coalition of groups, including several Christian organizations, which had sought a temporary injunction on funding of the research ahead of a planned lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits," Lamberth said.

The coalition argues that President Obama's March 2009 lifting of a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research violates legislation that prohibits government funding for research in which embryos are discarded or destroyed.

"ESC (embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed," Lamberth's ruling said.

"To conduct ESC research, ESCs must be derived from an embryo. The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo."

Judge Lamberth also had this astonishing bit of common sense to add:

And he said that because there was no conclusive proof that ESC research could help Parkinson's or Alzheimer's sufferers, the suggestion that they would be harmed by the injunction was "speculative."

Truth is, adult stem cell research has far surpassed embryonic stem cell research in terms of treatments and hope for the curing of various conditions and diseases. Yet there are plenty of scientists who cling almost religiously to the notion that cannibalizing human embryos is the way to a bright path full of hope for the eventual eradication of just about anything that human beings can suffer from. This clinging to an irrational belief in spite of the total lack of evidence that they will ever be proved right about their ideas doesn't seem very scientific, does it? One almost suspects that they like the ritualistic destruction of nascent human life for its own sake, and refuse to accept any limitations on the ability to engage in that ritualistic destruction...


Siarlys Jenkins said...

As a matter of law, the judge is wrong. Primary and mandatory authority on the matter is that a fetus, much less an embryo, is not a "person." (Yes, that was decided in Roe v. Wade - district judges follow the law, they don't consider whether it is valid.) Whether you agree with Roe or not, this decision is "judicial activism" and grandstanding of the first order, which will undoubtedly be overturned.

This is not uncommon among federal district judges. They are a diverse lot who tend to rule according to their own lights on matters they personally feel strongly about, as this judge obviously did. That is why there are courts of appeals to overturn their decisions. Ten to one, this never makes it to the Supreme Court.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, I recommend that you read the article to which I linked. The question here is whether federal funding for ESCR violates the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a 1996 act of Congress which prohibits funding of research in which human embryos are destroyed.

The ESCR-federal funding measures have argued that since the embryo is possibly destroyed in a non-funded phase of the research, the funding may continue without violating Dickey-Wicker. The judge has ruled otherwise, saying that if the project involves destruction of embryos (whether directly federally funded or not) the language of Dickey-Wicker prohibits the funding of the remainder of the project.

Nowhere is a question of personhood raised. It is simply illegal, according to Dickey-Wicker, for the federal government to fund research in which human embryos are destroyed; no discussion of the personhood of the embryo is necessary.

Sarah said...

Two points. 1) Roe did not state anything definitive about the "personhood" of the fetal human. The Court punted that question and basically said "We don't know." 2) The president does not have the power to violate the law. This decision was not "judicial activism." Rather, it was an appropriate use of checks and balances.

Anonymous said...

"One almost suspects that they like the ritualistic destruction of nascent human life..."

That is very low, and not worthy of you, Erin.

People get tunnel visioned about subjects. It happens. Think of all the so-called "Christians" who were so gung-ho for the Iraqi war and torture. Do you think they enjoy the ritualistic torments, or is it something else that drives their beliefs?

Successful argument for your point is not enhanced by asserting unseemly motives to those who disagree with you. You would certainly take exception to those who insist that Catholics "just want to control women" etc.


Red Cardigan said...

Respectfully, Elizabeth, I was merely poking fun at a certain brand of New Atheist, who does indeed insist that Catholics want to control women, etc., and use irrational superstition to do so.

Thus far ESCR has utterly failed to show the promise of adult stem-cell research. The continued insistence that ESCR will be a miracle-cure for just about everything thus seems like...irrational superstition, directed against the unborn. I find the parallel humorous, myself.

David said...


I'm delighted to find someone else optimistic of people's traits, but unfortunately what you've singled out is all part of Erin's character. No, it's not low for her at all, and she is impressively consistent on that point. Sweeping generalizations of any party or ideology not of her own is almost a guaranteed treat when you visit And Sometimes Tea. It's partially why I like visiting, since the motives are so transparent :)

As for this topic, I know too little on the merits of embryonic v. adult stem cell research to comment on the issue at hand. As I am also not rhetorically "pro-life," I suppose some might find my reluctance to delve into the distinction callous...and that might be a fair assessment.

Red Cardigan said...

Well, David, I am glad that you are entertained.

And may I just return the compliment, and say that I find you astonishingly consistent--even predictable--as well?


c matt said...

Well, I would not go so far as saying it is not scientific to continue down a research path that is realtively new, even if it has not showm particular promise. It isstill evil, mind you, but not unscientific (even evil scientists of both the fictional and non-fictional world are still scientists).

As for the ruling, it was a perfect application of the law to the facts before the court. Roe v. Wade is irrelevant - this was a case interpreting a piece of legisation that forbade research involving the destruction of human embryoes. RvW says nothing about such research. The isue in this case was whether the plaintiffs showed reasonable likelihood of success that the involved actions would vioalte the law, and that irreparable harm would occur, and that little or no harm would result from enjoining the action. These elements were met, and the judge ruled accordingly.

David said...

Thanks, Erin.

I think we make quite the smarmy pair :)

But I do truly enjoy it, even if you don't feel the same about my company.

I don't think a blog can attract people if it doesn't have that air of contention...being fair-minded or unwilling to comment on things you don't completely know everything about leaves very little to opine over, little to raise the hackles of other observers.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Erin, you're right, again as a matter of law. I did read the article, but I didn't read all the way down, because it didn't look like it was leading to anything new. If there is a law on the books which forbids federal funding for research in which human embryos are destroyed or discarded, then the quibbling about exactly at what stage they are destroyed is ludicrous. Whether I like it or not, whether Arnold Schwarzeneggar likes it or not, that is the law.

In that case, I do wonder why President Bush bothered to issue an executive order on the subject. Or, if there was some valid ground to do so, maybe the law doesn't cover all the ground the judge found it does. But its equally likely all the executive orders, both ways, were so much grandstanding.

Sarah, I'm afraid you are wrong about Roe. I've read the decision from beginning to end, more than once.

beginning on page 156:

IX. A. The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses

for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. [Footnote 51] On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument [Footnote 52] that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

and on page 158:

All this, together with our observation, supra, that, throughout the major portion of the 19th century, prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn. [Footnote 55] This is in accord with the results reached in those few cases where the issue has been squarely presented.

The question was not punted. It was squarely decided.