May 21st, 2009 by M. French

In the wake of news concerning the “missing link” fossil, an internet poll was recently released by OneNewsNow asking the question “Do you believe you evolved from an ape-like creature?”. With the site geared toward a predominantly conservative Christian audience, the results were overwhelmingly negative. PZ Myers, a biology professor frustrated with the poll, posted the following article on ScienceBlogs.com, entitled OneNewsNow.com makes the most truly stupid polls:

Would you believe what kind of inane question they’re asking now?

Do you believe you evolved from an ape-like creature?
Yes – 7.10%
No – 91.07%
Unsure – 1.83%

Gaaaah. I am an ape-like creature. My mother and father are ape-like creatures, as are my brothers and sisters and grandparents and distant relatives and ancient ancestors, going back tens of millions of years. And I’m proud of them all, every one of them, except for the lackwitted atavisms who squat in squalid ignorance at Christian news sites, congratulating each other on how their ancestry is only 6,000 years old…and every one of their parents was a similarly mindless blob with no connection to the deep history of life on earth.

Following the article’s posting, ScienceBlogs.com readers started going to the OnewNewsNow poll to change the results. One commenter said: “… we rock. Just sat there and clicked refresh on the poll for a couple of minutes. Watching yes creep up and no creep down.” followed by “Awesome, the poll is currently crashing at a rate of 2%/min…”, “almost 50/50 now…”, and ” “Boy, that handy ‘refresh’ thing they have under the poll is great. You can watch the numbers change practically in real time. Right now, it looks like it’s moving at about .01% toward ‘Yes’ every second. Wheee!” By the end of the day, the poll had swung from over 90% “no,” to over 80% “yes.”

Internet polls are notoriously unreliable, and quite prone to yielding skewed results like these (click here to find out how a 21-year-old college dropout named Christopher Poole was voted the most influential person in the world on a Time Magazine poll), thus it comes as no shock that the poll was affected in this way. It does however serve as a snapshot of the larger conflict going on with regard to human origins.

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March 9th, 2009 by Bethany French

President Obama has overturned the restrictions on the federal funding of stem-cell research that were set in place by the Bush administration in August 2001, when President Bush limited funding because of “fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science.”

President Obama showed his lack of concern for these “fundamental questions” when he made these statements:

Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values…

It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology…

Promoting science ‘is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.’

Restrictions from the Bush administration on stem cell research allowed scientists to work with stem cells which were not obtained through the exploitation or destruction of human embryos.  Those restrictions are now lifted:

“The president is, in effect, allowing federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to the extent that it’s permitted by law — that is, work with stem cells themselves, not the derivation of stem cells,” Varmus said in a conference call with reporters Sunday.

While conceding that “the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown” and “should not be overstated,” Obama nevertheless expressed hope that the order will help spur faster progress in the search for cures to afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries…

Researchers highly value embryonic stem cells because of their potential to turn into any organ or tissue cell in the body. Stem cells have this ability for a short time. A few days before the embryo would implant in the uterus, it starts to develop into specific cells that will turn into skin or eyes or other parts of a developing fetus.

When the embryo is 4 or 5 days old, scientists extract the stem cells and put them in a petri dish. With the removal of these stem cells — of which there may be about 30 — the embryo is destroyed.

Several polls from different sources indicate that the majority of Americans were in favor of these restrictions being lifted.  Scientists are hoping to use stem cell research to eventually develop treatments for people with diabetes, cancer, spinal injuries, and many more debilitating conditions, which garners support from many Americans.  However, the ethics involved in embryonic stem cell research are questionable.  Some opponents of the bill have this to say about stem cell research:

“Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said the Bush policy imposed proper ethical limits on science.

“My basic tenet here is I don’t think we should create life to enhance life and to do research and so forth,” Shelby said Sunday. “I know that people argue there are other ways. I think we should continue our biomedical research everywhere we can, but we should have some ethics about it.”

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America [says this]: “President Obama’s order places the worst kind of politics above ethics. Politics driven by hype makes overblown promises, fuels the desperation of the suffering and financially benefits those seeking to strip morality from science.”

President Obama set his “ethical limits” at using stem cells for human cloning.  Such cloning, he said, “is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society.”  One might ask, since he has made such clear statements about science not being limited by ideology, why he sets the limits at human cloning as wrong and dangerous?  Once the value of human life has been removed and disregarded for the sake of “scientific progress,” why couldn’t the same argument he is making for “science” eventually be used for what many now consider unethical boundaries?

Scientists in Nazi Germany performed many experiments on Jews in concentration camps in the name of advancing “science,” some of the results of which have been banned from being used or taught in the medical community, because of the unethical way in which they were performed.  Yet many of their “experiments” were in order to find treatments and cures for diseases, which is the same argument being used for the justification of embryonic stem cell research.  The Nazi ideology had so far dehumanized the Jewish people in the German culture that these horrific experiments were allowed and encouraged.

How far have we fallen as a culture, when the majority of Americans (according to some polls) no longer consider these helpless embryos as human, and their lives can be taken simply to bring possible benefits to those who are stronger and have voices that can be heard?

Posted in News, Revolution & Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,