Friday, May 02, 2008

Paying for Politics, Not Cures

The Family Research Council draws on a recent Nature report that shows how political ideology controls the purse of medical progress in California. Dr. Bertram Lubin, a pioneer of ethical sickle-cell anaemia treatments, saw his research request for $5 million turned down by a 10-5 vote of the purse-keepers at California's Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) because, in part, he "lacked work on embyronic stem cells." No matter that he's already treating patients and seeking only to perfect his treatments through stem-cell research. What matters is that his research and treatment by-passes embryonic stem cells in favor of what happens to be the most promising path of stem-cell research -- adult stem cells. But the CIRM, with its $3 billion fund, is more committed to embryonic stem-cell research than to whatever line of stem-cell research is most effective. So the already-promising therapies are denied funding that would improve them and cure patients within a couple of years!

"We're not part of the 'in' crowd," Dr. Lubin told Nature. FRC President Tony Perkins' "Washington Update" for May 1, 2008 continues: "Even though embryonic stem cell therapies haven't yielded a single clinical trial, CIRM is willing to hold patients hostage who could be helped now by alternative research. It should be noted that one of the most controversial issues surrounding CIRM is that it has stacked its board with members who stand to benefit from ESC funding."

Chalk it up to ideology/political correctness and . . . "follow the money."

The Right Standard

Worthy of considering in a full essay is this thought: What is the right standard for Americans to use in all kinds of daily judgments, from deciding how much to trust someone selling a used car to choosing the next U.S. President? Here I begin considering this question, but only as preliminary notes toward a draft of such an essay.

The force of political correctness pushes us to apply the standard of proof required to convict a felon in court: proof beyond reasonable doubt. So if I don't trust Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton to be our next President -- but especially if I don't trust Obama (an anti-Clinton feeling is not politically incorrect for all kinds of reasons) -- I have not been righteous in that secular sort of righteousness that the PC crowd demands of us. I, as a white guy, must support Obama in order to prove, apparently, that I'm not racist. To be truly righteous is to be truly tolerant, open-minded, willing to ride roughshod over all kinds of yellow and red caution flags popping up inside my head (even, as pertains to approving homosex in our society, over conscience itself) to show that I've been washed in the . . . well, I'm not sure what, since the blood of Jesus is anathema to secularists . . . but to show that I've been, I suppose, truly enlightened.

And if I choose not to vote for Obama, the only way to justify it is to establish it "beyond reasonable doubt." No, his association with Rev. Wright and aging Weathermen, etc., don't rise to that rigorous standard. All these can be explained, and I should accept the explanations and ignore the enduring lack of trust I feel toward this man as President.

But this standard is wrong for everyday life and a whole range of decisions, including choosing a President. It is the right standard for criminal conviction because what's at stake is the depriving of the convict's liberty, property, and perhaps even life. And our religiously-rooted conviction about the inherent dignity of each person requires us to prove that he is guilty in order to justify taking any of these inalienable rights from him.

But not so for the used car purchase or the election of a representative at any level, from local school board to US President. For these, all our resources of judgment, including and especially those pre-philosophical sensors of knowledge -- those feelings that point toward trust or mistrust -- are part of our God-given apparatus for living well in His world. We should use them. Refine and improve them, of course. But not squelch them by insisting on using only the most rigorous standard we know. We are foolish to squelch them under pressure from culturally suicidal PC, unless we want to join the suicide.

Barack Obama's Muslim Past and the Question about His Truthfulness

I'm not interested in mudslinging, and Sen. Obama may be our next President, although I dread that possibility. But evidence suggests that he has not been honest about his Muslim past, which Daniel Pipes has patiently documented without histrionics or overreaching judgments. His conclusion from an article sent by e-mail today summarizing the evidence from a wide range of sources:

"Obama's having been born and raised a Muslim and having left the faith to become a Christian make him neither more nor less qualified to become president of the United States. But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president."