“To Be Determined,” or the Schrodingder’s cat* version of human rights.
Does the possession of inalienable human rights depend on unknown future facts? Can the moral worth of a human being be determined by the actions of another human being – or by fate, the available and utilized medical technology?
Sherif Girgis discusses the theory of Princeton philosopher, Elizabeth Harman, in today’s Public Discourse. The professor’s view that abortion is – or may be – a neutral act has been the subject of discussion since she appeared in the YouTube video, Philosophy Time, produced by actor James Franco and Eliot Michaelson.
Besides the obvious problems pointed out by Girgis of defining “consciousness” and the TBD “kind” of a human fetus, there are other problems.
First, any concept of “inalienable” human rights would need to be discarded. There goes the Declaration of Independence and the basis of the United States Constitution.
In addition, Professor Harman’s theory would presumably allow the use of bodies of the human species for the benefit of humans with “moral worth,” as long as those bodies are never allowed to become conscious. This is the current practice of researchers using embryos, including those created for the purpose of manipulation and destruction.
But there’s nothing in this philosophy to prevent the intentional manipulation of a human body for research or to benefit others, as long as the body is never allowed to develop consciousness. Continual sedation or mutilation of the brain from the beginning – before consciousness – would prevent the development or acquisition of moral worth and rights.
In the process, “human” rights would cease to exist. The actions of others, laws and location and the potential use of technology would finally determine who is human enough to possess the right not to be killed. (Forget the right not to be “enslaved.”
What happens if (as Girgis proposes) the abortion itself is aborted or fails? Or if the brain isn’t damaged sufficiently to prevent consciousness?
Forget about opening the box: don’t put humans in there in the first place.
*I saw this analogy on a Facebook thread, but thought the same thought before I stole it.
Edited to correct my misspelling of Dr. Harman’s name.
Poor Robin. She conflates ethics and philosophy with science. Although observing what “is” can lead to insight about which actions and manipulation lead to harm and which improve individual and group well-being, Science cannot prove or disprove philosophy, or determine what we “ought” to do.
Ms. Charo continues her career-long advocacy for elective, interventional abortion and against the inalienable human right not to be killed – all in spite of her assertion that she has no conflicts of interest in this essay. By declaring that Trump Administration appointees “embrace alternative science,” Robin makes her own gross scientific error. In addition to confusing “science” and philosophy, she bases much of her objection on an emphasis on “established pregnancies” and ignores the existence of the human embryo after fertilization but before implantation.
The very odd complaint about definitions of gestational age assumes that time varies according to when we start counting days.
Some state legislatures have tried to redefine pregnancy dating, shifting from the standard measure of time since last menses to time since probable fertilization. Such a definition falsely enhances the viability statistics for lower gestational ages and helps to bolster arguments for 20-week limits on abortion rights.
Again: Science is about what 《is,》 while ethics ought to be, not about true 《oughts.》
Salon.com has an article, “The End of the World as We Know It,” on the possibility/probability that the world will experience an apocalypse causing the extinction of humans in the very near future. They quote and photoshop Stephen Hawking into the apocalypse which may/might/could be due to either climate change, the shrinking biosphere, “superbugs,” out of control technology or the deliberate efforts of the “religious.” Lots of data, little that’s truly on point. A lot of speculation and more than a bit of projection – the psychiatry kind, not the scientific kind.
The author, while naming groups that might deliberately cause human extinction, equates the Christian belief that Jesus will return at the end of time and the Muslim belief that the 12th Iman will soon return, leaving the reader — and far too many of those commenting on the article — to the belief that Christians, like many main-stream Muslims, believe that we can hasten the end times by causing the end of the world (“as we know it”).
These guys are much more pessimistic than I am. The reason may be, as the comments reveal, far too many non-believers think Christians believe that we can bring on the end times by hastening an apocalypse.
However, when Jesus spoke of the end of the age and the time of His return to the world (possibly two separate events), He never said anything to imply that we can even know, much less effect that time.
“No man knows.” “Only the Father.”
And there’s no mention of humans causing or precipitating the Apocalypse in John’s Revelation.
Unfortunately, many of the comments in response to the article are from non-believers who ascribe world-ending motives to Christians. (There are few if any that refer to the real beliefs of some Muslims that the end times can be brought on by human actions.)
Do you know of a scripture or a Christian teaching that we can gain heaven by acting to end the world?
The latest wins came this month, when the Office of Personnel Management announced that government-contracted health insurers could start covering the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for federal employees, retirees and their survivors, ending a 40-year prohibition. Two weeks earlier, a decades-old rule preventing Medicare from financing such procedures was overturned within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Unlike Obama’s support for same-sex marriage and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay troops, the White House’s work to promote transgender rights has happened mostly out of the spotlight.
Some advances have gone unnoticed because they also benefited the much larger gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. That was the case Monday when the White House announced that Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In other instances, transgender rights groups and the administration have agreed on a low-key approach, both to skirt resistance and to send the message that changes are not a big deal, said Barbara Siperstein, who in 2009 became the first transgender person elected to the Democratic National Committee.
What about evolution?
The Obama administration said Thursday it is placing a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.
Dan Ashe, the agency’s director, said he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico — but said the agency was following the best science available.
“The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits,” Ashe said in an interview. “The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade.”
The prairie chicken, a type of grouse known for its colorful neck plume and stout build, has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat, mostly because of human activity such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and construction of power lines and wind turbines, Ashe said. The bird, which weighs from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds, has also been severely impacted by the region’s ongoing drought.
Biologists say a major problem is that prairie chickens fear tall structures, where predators such as hawks can perch and spot them. Wind turbines, electricity transmission towers and drilling rigs are generally the tallest objects on the plains.
And BOR is a much better acronym than anything I could make up.
The Burnt Orange Report is Texas’ own quintessential leftist blog, spinning and twisting any stories or facts to make conservatives look bad.
Good little far-left Democrat media tool that the BOR is, it seems almost superfluous to note that the blog is pro-abort. However, the reason I’m bringing BOR to your attention is Part 1 and Part 2 of “Why Texas Women Need Access to Later Term Abortions by someone named Natalie San Luis.
The BOR enjoys bold exaggeration in its fonts, to highlight the most emotional rants. There are the usual facetious arguments that women need abortions after 5 months such as, “wealthy women who have the means can jump over the barriers, but more and more women can’t” and “Amniocentesis, which tests amniotic fluid for fetal abnormalities and genetic problems, is sometimes performed as late as 22 weeks.” (The babies of less than wealthy women and their mothers deserve protection, too. And amniocentesis is usually done much earlier and is still legal, just as it is at 30 weeks or 35.)
Ms. San Luis would also have us develop sympathy for doctors who fear the liability of making a decision about whether a baby’s birth defect is compatible with life.
After. 20. weeks.
Because: ” Accounting for factors like the woman’s health history and future complications, it is almost impossible to accurately guess the likelihood of fetal survival in each of these cases. “
(Maybe that’s why they can’t get local hospital privileges.)
While I can mock the poor logic of the author, it’s better to catch her repeating easily checked, but false “facts.”
The founder, President and CEO of the San Antonio Abortion facility, Whole Woman’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller, is quoted as saying, “We’ve seen a 10 percent increase in second trimester abortions just since the sonogram bill has passed,”.
Besides the fact that there’s only one year of data available “since the sonogram bill has passed” and went into effect in late 2011, the numbers don’t back up that statement, unless it’s local to the San Antonio facility. According to numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 136 fewer 2nd trimester abortions in Texas in 2012 than in 2011.
Year Total Abortions 2nd Trimester Abortions 1st Trimester Abortions %1st
2012 66098 5204 60882 92.1
2011 72470 5340 67121 92.6
2010 77592 5542 72042 92.8
(I couldn’t resist showing the steady decrease in abortions in Texas, even though it horrified me to put those large numbers into the calculator.)
Did anyone else notice that there’s no obvious way to make comments on BOR?
Edit 10/10/13 – correcting punctuation, removing my own redundancies — BBN
In the Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis notes that, “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.”
Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a “Perspectives” column, “Life or Death for the Dead Donor’s Rule?,” in which the authors illustrate Lewis’ point with their redefinition of non-maleficence to better serve a re-defined autonomy.
They would convince us that there is no harm in hastening the death of a dying patient even by intentionally causing it if he or his surrogates ask. They ignore a 2500 year old First Principle of Medical ethics,focused on the health of the patient in front of us: “Cure when possible, but first do no harm, ”
Autonomy, like all rights, is a negative right: the patient has the right to refuse invasive medical interventions that will harm him or that he does not want. Patients and surrogates, if they can compel the use of medical skills and invasive technology, can only do so for the medical benefit of the patient himself.
Illogically, in these times of reducing costs, the authors would have us consider taking a patient from the ICU to the OR “and then take him back to where life support would be withdrawn.” The return to the ICU is nothing but our own “medical charade.”
I want to thank Nancy Valko, who runs an email list covering a range of traditional ethics issues, her email alerting me to this editorial.
For years, I’ve told patients that we need to periodically screen for hypertension and diabetes because most people don’t feel bad when their blood pressure or blood sugar is high. The Center for Disease Control reports that about a fifth of people with high blood pressure and that nearly a third of diabetics are undiagnosed.
But these facts didn’t impress the Society of General Internal Medicine, which released their “Choosing Wisely” list suggesting that doctors not ask non-insulin dependent diabetes patients to check their sugars at home or schedule “routine general health checks for asymptomatic adults,” including the ‘health maintenance’ annual visit” The SGIM claims that these common medical practices cause more harm than good — or is it that they cost more money than they save?
Texans paid for this study by the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts, Texas Policy Evaluation Project, founded to “evaluate” the effect of the 2011 State budget cuts on Family Planning, ignoring the deep cuts on everything else the State funded. (Speaking of ignoring: the website hasn’t updated the information on Family Planning since the 2013 Legislature added over $200 Million dollars to the program.)
Tx-PEP, as they call themselves, got some publicity on a San Antonio radio station, WOAI, today, complaining that women will have to “go without” elective abortions.
A pro choice activist group says the strict new abortion restrictions which were approved by the Texas Legislature in July will result in more than 22,000 Texas women per year being unable to undergo an abortion, 1200 WOAI news reports.
“Women particularly in rural areas and outside of cities who want to terminate a pregnancy, will have no recourse because there will be no late term providers left,” Jody Jacobsen of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, told 1200 WOAI news.
Elective abortions are “elective.” These are not abortions to save the life of the mother. They are abortions due to “choice.”
Of course, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project doesn’t admit that none of the current abortionists are in rural areas. In other words, anyone seeking an elective abortion today must go to a big city and may be inconvenienced.
Forget any pretense at impartiality:
The laws do not cover women who are less than twenty weeks gestation, and abortions will still be available to them.
But Jacobsen says it’s all a matter of personal freedom.
“Who is Rick Perry to tell me what decisions I should or should not have made, or what any other woman should or should not have made,” she said.
Bookmark this page: “Choosing Wisely: Lists.”
Whether you are seeing your doctor for a cold, a routine physical or a “new patient visit,” or when you suspect that he’s offering you the
famous notorious “blue pill or red pill,” how do you as a layman know whether a medical test or procedure is needed? Will it lead to a treatment decision or just more tests? Does it help? Or does it actually cause harm?
Or politically, will ObamaCare cost cuts and rationing deny you a procedure, test, or treatment that would be helpful?
The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation asked the various physician sub-specialty organizations in the US to list tests, treatments and procedures that don’t help or might actually hurt patients. The lists are published on the “Choosing Wisely” website.
Remember, there’s a difference between screening tests that look for something you might have, and diagnostic tests to explain a symptom from your history or chief complaint, a finding on an exam or to determine whether a treatment is working or harming. And there’s certainly a difference between starting a treatment, doing a procedure or ordering a test that leads to more risk than the disease or condition we’re treating just because . . . of money, out-of-date knowledge, or patient desire. Or because we can.
Whatever health care problem or concern you have, take a look at the list from the medical specialty for the pertinent body part or organ system. Which tests and procedure do you need, and which have you had that are on these lists?
I don’t quite agree with all the items on all the lists. After all, patient care is not a recipe from a given cookbook – and besides, patients’ bodies can’t read the books to follow the recipes.
Let’s talk! Ask me questions and/or let me translate the jargon.
It’s possible that I can be bought, and no one’s come up with the right amount of money (or pens or pizzas), yet.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m honest. Of course not!
I’m assumed to be guilty (where’s the opportunity to prove innocence, much less their duty to prove me guilty?) of all sorts of fraud by authors of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act included in the thousands of pages of PPACA – otherwise known as Obamacare:
From now on, companies must keep track of virtually every payment and gift bestowed on each clinician and report them to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which will report them to the world.
This accounting exercise stems from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that seeks to expose the financial dealings between industry and physicians and discourage conflicts of interest for the latter that might skew education, research, and clinical decision-making. Under the ACA provision, called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, drug and device makers must report any “transfer of value” of $10 or more made to a physician. Transfers of value under $10 — a cup of coffee, say — aren’t reportable unless they add up to more than $100 in a year. Companies also must disclose whether physicians have any ownership stake in them.
Of course lawmakers assume that we’re being bribed – that’s what they do! Why aren’t the limits at least as high as those our Senators and Representatives are allowed? Like Democrat Senator Harry Reid, can we form a “Friends of Dr. Practice” and get more, as long as we don’t accept donations at our office?
BTW, there’s an app available to help doctors keep up with the bribes.
“Success in life comes not from the ability to choose between the four presented answers, but from the rather more difficult and painfully acquired ability to formulate the questions.” Mamet, David (2011-06-02). The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (p. 28). Sentinel Trade. Kindle Edition.
I’m reading “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,” by David Mamet. Those of you who follow me on FaceBook or Twitter have probably seen a few quotes that I’ve shared.
I’m afraid that I might be indulging in the same thing Mr. Mamet accuses the Liberal Left of doing: surrounding myself with like-minded thinkers and writers. If so, Mr. Mamet at least expresses himself differently than most of the Conservative writers I read.
As an example, I was struck by his description of the new love story, in which two people who don’t even like each other are thrown together by fate and somehow decide they are meant for each other. This is in contrast to the traditional love story in which a couple first falls in love but are separated by outside forces, finally triumphing by their will to be together. (Compare “Sleepless in Seattle” with the movie it references, “An Affair to Remember.”) The difference is subtle, but one of fatalism vs. making a deliberate, conscious choice.
Mr. Mamet is critical of Liberal Arts education, socialism, “change” and “hope.” He explains why Conservatism is better than Liberalism in phrases that go far beyond sound bites and the bumper sticker he sometimes refers to.
“The Good Causes of the Left may generally be compared to NASCAR; they offer the diversion of watching things go excitingly around in a circle, getting nowhere.”
“The essence of socialism is for Party A to get Party B to give something to Party C.”
“. . . Wrights, Cyrus McCormick, Henry Ford, Tesla, Tom Edison, Meg Whitman, Bill Gates, Burt Rutan, and Steve Jobs. How would they and American Industry have fared had Government gotten its hands upon them at the outset—if it had taxed away the capital necessary to provide a market for their wares; if it had taxed away the wealth, which, existing as gambling money, had taken a chance on these various visionaries? One need not wonder, but merely look around at the various businesses Government has aided.”
“Government itself, where waste is the end product.”
Mr. Mamet’s central point is that culture is the unconscious and pre-verbal adaptation of people that creates predictability, allowing us to get along with one another. When we throw out our culture and try to create a new one, the “change” leads us to uncertainty and the necessity to weigh each new stimulus because we don’t know what it means under the new conditions.
“The tool of culture is the capacity to predict the operation of the social environment—a property right little different from a right in land or wealth. This cultural right exists not limitlessly—for any property right is limited, by chance, death, inflation, erosion, theft, laws, confiscation, etc. but, as with a material property right, founded upon an abstract concept: predictability, which differs from omniscience, but is of immeasurably greater worth than ignorance. Culture exists and evolves to relegate to habit categories of interactions the constant conscious reference to which would make human interaction impossible.”
(Mamet, David (2011-06-02). The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (pp. 12-13). Sentinel Trade. Kindle Edition.)
He compares the new situation to “The First Night in A New Home,” where each creak or thump is unfamiliar, and could mean danger or nothing. No one gets any rest, many will get angry, and far too many will simply stop evaluating those noises for themselves. In societies, those who stop questioning and wish only for peace, end up ceding their will and ability to innovate and create to the herd.
Kindle will let you read the first chapter, free. (I don’t profit from promoting the book.)
Orange t-shirts admittedly outnumbered those of us in blue at the Texas State Capitol on Sunday, June 23. However, in the long run, what mattered in the passage of the House version of Senator Hegar’s Senate Bill 5, sponsored in the House by State Representative Jodi Laubenberg, is that Texas voters had sent a clear majority of pro-life Republicans to the House of Representatives.
If you’ve always wondered about the meaning of “chubbing,” look at the 6/23/13 record of the House video, available at the House website. Pro-abortion Democrat after Dem took the microphone to bring an amendment, with fellow pro-abortion Dems standing to ask questions and run out the clock.
You can also watch the effects of “POO,” or calling for “points of order” around 4:30 PM. House Democrats called for a review of the Rules, resulting in adjournment and restart after a delay of 2 hours.
As to those t-shirts, someone showed up with 1000 t-shirts to give away. Where did that money come from? Interestingly, the women who gave out the shirts also wore Planned Parenthood buttons and successfully instructed those in the shirts how to act in the Gallery. And the orange shirts obeyed immediately.
One theme the Dems repeat is that SB 5 is not the protection for women that the Republicans say it is. They claim that pro-life laws are not about human life and ethics, but rather, simply about winning Republican primaries. This is a great example of “projection” of one’s own motives and wishes onto another. While I believe that Jessica Farrar would abort everyone with spina bifida and that Thompson is convinced that the embarrassment of the trauma of rape and incest is cured by abortion, the ultimate reason for the long night of interruptions and delays is that the clock is running out on the Special Session. If the Dems manage to delay long enough, SB 5 will not pass in the House. Even when it passes, the time used up in the House decreases the time that will have to be wasted in blocking it by filibuster in the Senate.
In the long run, the Democrat members in the Texas Legislature have repeatedly called for unfettered and unregulated elective abortion on demand.They claim that abortion is better for women and families than spending money on babies and children, that allowing babies to be born will ruin women’s lives, that it’s better to abort children with “fetal anomalies” and “birth defects” even when the “defective” human could live and make his or her own way through life. Senfronia Thompson even brought out a coat hanger to shake at the House and claimed that the cure for the “embarrassment” of the trauma of rape and incest is abortion, even after 20 weeks. Every one of the Dems seemed to have no understanding that the facility improvements will not be required for 15 months.
SB5 was passed finally in the House this morning. It will now have to go back to the Senate. There may not be time enough for reconciliation with the Senate version because of delays caused by both the House Republicans and House Dems. I hope that the protections in the Bill become law to protect the women who make the choice to abort their children and to protect the lives of fetuses at 20 weeks and greater.
Edited 7/11/13 for grammar and spelling errors – BBN
Another study claims to find psychological differences between conservatives and liberals:
In two experiments, we investigated the possibility that conservatives would be more strongly motivated to avoid dissonance-arousing tasks than liberals.
“Because we were interested in reactions to dissonance-arousing situations, all participants were asked to write counter-attitudinal essays. Thus, if a participant indicated in the initial survey that he or she preferred George W. Bush and Macs over Barack Obama and PCs, respectively, this participant would be instructed to write essays arguing that Obama is a better president than Bush and that PCs are better computers than Macs. Participants assigned to the high choice condition were able to respond “yes” or “no” to the request; if they responded “yes,” they were directed to the essay task, and if they responded “no,” they were instead taken to the next section of the experiment. Participants assigned to the low choice condition were simply directed to the essay-writing task.”
My title reveals my own dissonance with the authors. If there’s no right or wrong, if all views are of equal weight and validity, why argue – or do research – in the first place?
The authors begin with a weak premise: that subjects’ willingness to write a positive essay about a given politician (in this case Bush vs. Obama and Reagan vs. Clinton) reveals their comfort with “cognitive dissonance” (Miriam-Webster definition, here. “Simply Psychology” discussion, here), or the ability or willingness to hold two different beliefs at one time. The classic example is knowing that smoking is bad for you while continuing to smoke.
In fact, they found that while not one conservative was willing to voluntarily write an essay claiming that Obama is better than Bush, conservatives were more likely to follow explicit instructions when not given a choice. In addition, there was no real difference between conservative and liberal participants/ willingness to write “dissonance-arousing” essays about non-political issues like Macs vs PCs or tea vs. coffee.
The authors do not mention principles at all and only use the word, “values” in the discussion about statistics and in the following sentence,
“Subsequent research in psychology and neuroscience has corroborated the notion that, all other things being equal, adherence to conservative (vs. liberal) ideology is associated with certainty-oriented forms of epistemic motivation and behavior, including . . . a reluctance to acknowledge and engage in integrative policy trade-offs involving potentially conflicting values.“
I’m used to having conflicting views on certain topics. When confronted with the evidence in real life, I try to admit that the dichotomy exists and, for important issues, weigh the importance of one in favor of the other. That doesn’t mean that I’d easily lie or betray my values for the sake of “policy trade-offs,” much less in voluntary participation in an experiment. (I would have been one of the refusals in the “low choice” arm.)
As an example, I was once asked to write an opinion on a sexual abuse case, assuming that I’d be testifying on the side of the victim. When I learned that the attorney was working for the defendant, I could only continue after deciding that I had an obligation to keep my word, that my problem was my fault for not asking more questions, and that the facts of the case were such that I wouldn’t really be much help for the defense, anyway. I even explained the latter to the attorney before writing and billing for my opinion.
At least the authors do admit that “many people hold stronger attitudes about political than non-political matters.”
There is no more “scientific” justification for killing humans with “fetal anomalies” before birth than for killing them after birth. The decision to kill is always a moral decision – or an immoral one.
Would this author support “after birth abortion” for the babies born with the same anomalies? That must make all those around her – or working at her organization – who were born with or diagnosed with other “variable onset anomalies” feel secure and supported!
Of particular concern are two classes of fetal anomalies that cannot be detected early in a pregnancy. First are the variable-onset fetal anomalies. These anomalies begin at variable gestational ages but are often detected beyond 20 weeks. Second are the late-onset anomalies that develop late in the gestational age of the fetus, typically in the second or third trimester, or are undetectable until the abnormality is at the end-point of a pregnancy. Importantly, the 20-week bans passing across the states generally do not include exceptions for lethal fetal anomalies, meaning women are forced to carry fetuses with anomalies to term, regardless of viability.
I’m not making a simple “anti-choice” statement. We know that in nearly all cases, abortion at this stage is more dangerous for the mother than carrying to term.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, here’s the “science:”
Advocates of 20-week abortion bans generally rely on junk science based on the pseudoscience of fetal pain to warrant the state laws prohibiting third trimester abortions. Their claims stem from erroneous assertions that the fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, despite several comprehensive literature reviews demonstrating no credible evidence of fetal pain until the third trimester.
This is not how science is done. Science is not a consensus, it’s observation and reporting of data that can be reproduced. The definition “agreed” upon by pro-abortion advocates involves emotions and is nothing but a neo-scientific construct, that igores real scientific evidence of higher brain response to noxious stimuli.
The same ethics hold for abortion as for any other intentional, elective killing of a member of our species: only kill when it’s absolutely necessary to save another life endangered by the first – the life of the mother.
If they can kill you, why not lie a little, too?
And so much for “peer review:” Rush to publish: The Cloning article I wrote about last week was “accepted” 3 days after submission, 12 days to publishing in the journal.
That big story from Cell really, really wanted cloning humans to be true.
The first problem was an image duplication. Figure 2F, which shows a cloned stem-cell colony “with typical morphology”, is reproduced in the top left of Figure 6D where it is labelled as “hESO-7” — an embryonic stem-cell line derived not from cloning but from in vitro fertilization (IVF). Mitalipov says that the duplication was intentional but that the labelling was reversed. The top left panel in 6D should have been labelled hESO-NT1, indicating a cloned colony, as in Figure 2F. The top right figure should have been hESO-7.
He says that label reversal also explains another set of duplicated images — the top right figure in 6D and the top right figure in Supplementary Figure S5. With the labels reversed, the identical images are both representing the hESO-7 cell line. “Then everything falls into place,” Mitalipov says.
Even so, the decision to use the same image to illustrate two different properties, once to show typical morphology (2F) and once as a basis for comparison of cell markers between embryonic stem cells from normal IVF embryos and cloned embryos (6D), is “not ideal,” says Martin Pera, a stem-cell expert at the University of Melbourne, Australia. “It’s considered bad form, unless you have a reason to do it.”
How reliable is a US government funded study that uses the term, “astroturf?”
Research using your tax dollars is under scrutiny – once again – and the subject of recent hearings in Congress. The National Cancer Institute, a wing of the National Institutes of Health, paid for this “study.” It was published in a “peer reviewed” journal, Tobacco Control, one of the “BMJ Group” (British Medical Journal) publications.
The tobacco companies have refined their astroturf tactics since at least the 1980s and leveraged their resources to support and sustain a network of organisations that have developed into some of the Tea Party organisations of 2012.
What this paper adds
Rather than being a grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party organisations have had connections to the tobacco companies since the 1980s. The cigarette companies funded and worked through Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of Tea Party organisations, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda. There has been continuity of some key players, strategies and messages from these groups to Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and other Tea Party-related organisations.
Funding This research was funded by National Cancer Institute grants CA-113710 and CA-087472. The funding agency played no role in the selection of the research topic, conduct of the research or preparation of the manuscript. SAG is American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor in Tobacco Control.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
I don’t know how long my comments will stay up, so here’s my part:
The author only quoted half a sentence. The article clearly states, “Induced abortion had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer, but we found a statistically significant increase in risk among women with a history of second-trimester abortion.”
And here’s the link to the article in question. Please note that even this research must adjust for the age at first pregnancy and for number of pregnancies.
My testimony begins at 1 hour, 12 minutes in on the video of the hearing. I actually focused on the protective effect of pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, according to the National Cancer Institute. This information is only given to women and girls who are already pregnant, after all.
Interestingly, we learned how little the Committee members understood about scientific research and resources. Follow the hours of testimony on HB 2945 and HB 2365 and Rep.Jessica Farrar’s obsession and apparent slow realization about the meaning and significance of “peer review” and “PubMed” and “Medline.“At one point, 1:26, Ms. Farrar, who admits that she “barely got through biology,” asks whether the research was “peer reviewed” by “the Medline or PubMed.”
As the day went on, it seems that Farrar was educated that peer review is conducted by the Journals themselves, and that PubMed and Medline are merely indexes of scientifc literature.
I testified in front of the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The video is here, House State Affairs 2/20/13 (Free RealPlayer program required.) Mr. Raymond comes up at about 3:30 minutes in, and my effort starts at 8 minutes in. It’s short and sweet.)
HB 142, authored by Representative Richard Raymond of Texas’ House District 42 in Laredo, looks a lot like his HB 1829 from 2007. These are “clone and kill bills, which nominally ban cloning, but actually redefine cloning, and would force the killing of any human embryo intentionally killed by nuclear transplantation. HB 142 ignores the history of the last 6 years, and uses inaccurate terminology.
Watch this space for alternative language that would actually ban human cloning.
I’m in the middle of reading Willie Nelson’s latest book, the semi-biographic stream of consciousness, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road.
I enjoy the stories about his life and family, but I’m continually irritated by his confused comments on politics and ethics.
It really knocks me for a loop when I encounter someone like Mr. Nelson, who has obviously thought long and hard about certain issues but doesn’t seem to understand the basics of ethics or logic. Because he doesn’t know *why* some things are right and others are wrong, he ends up proving one of the homey proverbs he quotes in the book: if you don’t stand for something, you’ll end up falling for anything.
I love to hear Willie Nelson and his songs. My husband and I went to see his band play at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio last January and were very impressed by the Nelson concerts — both of them. Lukas Nelson’s band, Promise of the Real, opened for his father and sons Lukas and Mikah joined the Nelson family on the stage.
It’s tempting to reference Laura Ingraham’s book, Shut Up and Sing, along with the theory and demand behind it. Just because a person is a great singer, songwriter and guitar player, doesn’t mean he’s a great person, much less that he’s a great philosopher or thinker. It certainly shouldn’t mean that his philosophy should be given greater weight than that of other people because of his celebrity and access to the press.
The fact is that Mr. Nelson is a leader and he influences a large number of people. It’s a shame it’s not for the right reasons.
In this book, Mr. Nelson praises the Occupy Wall Street protests, says he agrees with Warren Buffet “that it just ain’t fair for people like us to have all the advantages,” and states that the Second Amendment shouldn’t apply to today’s weapons because they aren’t designed for hunting, only for killing people. His religious comments are mostly just silly ramblings.
However, the cause Mr. Nelson is best identified with – and the one for which it would be simplest to correct his logical errors – is the legalization of marijuana. He writes about his founding of the “TeaPot Party” in the book. Mr. Nelson’s reason for legalizing marijuana is simply that people want to smoke it and there are other legal substances that are worse. And he proposes a Statist’s plan as flimsy as his utilitarian ethic: “Tax it, regulate it and legalize it!” to raise money for the Government:
It’s already been proven that taxing and regulating marijuana makes more sense than sending young people to prison for smoking a God-given herb that has never proven to be fatal to anybody. Cigarettes and alcohol have killed millions, and there’s no law against them, because again, there’s a lot of money in cigarettes and alcohol. If they could realize there is just as much profit in marijuana, and they taxed and regulated it as they do cigarettes and alcohol, they could realize the same amount of profit and reduce trillions of dollars in debt.
Nelson, Willie; Friedman, Kinky (2012-11-13). Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road (p. 20). William Morrow. Kindle Edition. (accessed 12/03/2012)
It might surprise some people that I – the self-proclaimed “hot air under the right wing” – agree that marijuana shouldn’t be illegal to grow, own or use. I base my belief on a plain reading of the US Constitution. How on Earth can our Federal government outlaw a plant that literally grows like a weed and doesn’t require manufacturing or processing to use? In fact, my theory as to why the plant is illegal is because it would be hard to regulate and tax.
Or maybe not.
Back in the mid-1990’s, I attempted to grow a traditional herbal medicine garden and ran into trouble obtaining Oriental poppy seeds, Papaver somniferum. Most of the orders I placed were cancelled, so I started doing some research. I learned that the Clinton Administration was raiding gardens and arresting people for growing and sharing the seeds of heirloom plants passed down from their mothers. This was in spite of the age-old use of the plants in gardens and herbal medicine, as well as the ready availability of food grade fertile Oriental poppy seeds for cooking and baking.
The more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that the Federal government’s “War on Drugs” is not Constitutional and it’s not conservative. I agree with Mr. Nelson that this “war” is a costly abuse of government that strengthens organized crime and too many American freedoms have fallen as collateral damage. But the reason is not because people want to abuse drugs or because the Government could make money off the taxes. It’s because there’s no justification for outlawing a plant in the Constitution.
This is what happens when we the People don’t know our own Constitution and allow our Legislators to habitually pass abusive laws: the infringement of our inalienable rights.
And anyone who supports his views is at risk, too.
In June, WingRight.org reported on the publication of Mark Regnerus‘ article, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” in Social Science Research. The adults reported more problems when compared to adult children of “intact biological families.” The early complaints from critics were that the data didn’t distinguish between types of homosexual relationships in the same way that it did among heterosexual families. The adult subjects were designated as having Lesbian Mothers (LM) or gay fathers (GF), without breaking out smaller groups by how long or stable the relationships of the parents were. This was a weakness in the study that was recognized by the author.
Legitimate criticism was rare. One article, here, by Walter Olson under “Gay Voices” at least looks at the data itself, although dismissing much of it and declaring the author’s own bias. Critics repeatedly point to a very few small studies of carefully chosen – often self-selected -upper-middle class LM families that are written by very biased authors, who openly advocate for same-sex marriage and parenting. Somehow, they believe that bias in favor is not significant, but any data or mention that there might be negative consequences from alternative families – or documentation of positive outcomes from intact biological families – is immediately dismissed as bigoted and discriminatory.
However, instead of focusing on the problems described and noting that adult children of divorced and step families also fared poorly compared to IBFs, the conversation in the media and on line quickly became attacks on Dr. Regnerus, the source of the funding, the Witherspoon Institute, and the connections between the leaders of the Institute and the National Organization for Marriage.
An article in “The New Civil Rights Movement,” an online site devoted to “gay rights and issues and marriage equality,” very literally attacks not only Dr. Regnerus, Witherspoon and NOM, but also tears apart the motives and history of a man who came forward to tell his story after the Regnerus piece was published. The author, gay rights activist Scott Rosensweig who writes under the name Scott Rose, is most certainly biased. His piece is loaded with emotional rants, using words such as the repeated use of “gay-bashing”personal attacks on the author of the Witherspoon essay.
And now, the heat is on the University of Texas to somehow censor or censure Dr. Regnerus. Due to a “formal” complaint by Rosensweig, author of the article above, UT is conducting an inquiry to determine whether to fully investigate Dr. Regnerus and his methods. Rosensweig’s letter evidently charged that “Your employee, Professor Mark Regnerus, is shaming and disgracing your institution by violating your university’s academic honor code,” he wrote. “If you take no stand against Regnerus’ coordinated political anti-gay hate campaign then you are leaving your institution’s reputation in a garbage-bin of iniquity.”
I’m forwarding my own essay to the University and suggest that those of you with an interest in the issue, or who pay taxes in Texas, send them your own polite informative notes. President Bill Power’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
I was reading an amateur pop-psychology post on the differences between Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and would-be-Senator-for-life, Ted Cruz. After dispensing with the body language voodoo, the author inserted the obligatory quotes that I’ve heard Cruz repeat for four years.
Or should I say, “all my life?”
What always gets me is Cruz’ “my whole life” line, as in, “I’ve been fighting for the Constitution my whole life.”
- As though law school and law clerk are equivalent to service in the Air Force and CIA;
- As though debate club is the same as World class cutting horse competition in your 60’s; or
- As though becoming one of 1200 partners in what he calls a “global law firm” while running for first one, and then another office is the same as scratching out a $200+ Million successful energy business and then running for and winning first one, and then another, State-wide elective office.
Of course, there’s also Cruz’ claim that Dewhurst is a “career politician,” although the Lieutenant Governor didn’t run for office until he was 10 yrs older than Cruz is now and after accomplishing all of the above. Does Cruz truly believe that running for two different offices for the last 4 years makes him any less a “career politician” than actual service in two different elected office for 13 yrs?
Vote @DavidHDewhurst 4 #TxSen for life of service, not spin.
The Atlantic has a funny little interview with physicist Lawrence Krauss, the author of last year’s A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing,
Krauss states that he likes to “provoke people” and believes that science is meant to make people “uncomfortable.”
The joke is that the interview’s subject is whether science has made philosophy and religion “obsolete.” What they should really be discussing is the claim by Krauss that physics can answer the question, “Why?”
Science is pretty good at answering the questions “How?” and “What?” In fact, one of the criteria of a scientific experiment or statement is that observers around the world should be able to replicate that experiment if they work with the same variables as the first reporter.
But science never answers “Why?”
The hypothesis of the article is that theoretical physics has answered enough “whys” that philosophy and religion – and the notion of a Creator – are “obsolete.” That’s the “hook” that Krauss says he was looking for in order to make his book sell. It also won him praise from (Red Letter Evangelical) atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.
It’s ridiculous to talk about any aspect of natural physics within this universe as though the discussion or findings rule out the existence of a Creator. Obviously, what is within the Universe, what can be observed, measured, or even “presumed,” must adhere to the laws of physics of this universe – whether or not there is a Creator.
The problem of “something from nothing” is resolved by Krauss by imagining an infinite number of universes, interconnected so that this universe is not a closed system: “infinite” “calculable” “multiverses.” Where did those multiverses, and the conditions that make Krauss’ quantum physics exist, come from?
We still get back to “something from nothing.”
Without philosophy, I dare anyone to explain the existence of concepts such as “like,” “provoke,” and/or “meant to.” Or “Beauty,” “Truth,” and “Justice.” And religion is the best way to explain “Love” and to answer “Why?”
Everyone who questioned the endless emphasis on patient satisfaction surveys in modern healthcare might be vindicated by a new study. The Cost of Satisfaction: A National Study of Patient Satisfaction, Health Care Utilization, Expenditures, and Mortality concluded,
Conclusion: In a nationally representative sample, higher
patient satisfaction was associated with less emergency
department use but with greater inpatient use, higher overall
health care and prescription drug expenditures, and
The results may be skewed by a phenomenon noted in the article: among seniors, there is no correlation at all between satisfaction and the “technical quality of care.”
I also question research that indicates that less and/or cheaper care is better, or that doctors over-treat their patients. I sometimes suspect the motive is to advocate for knee-jerk protocols and eventual rationing along with the removal of individual physician judgement in the treatment of individual patients. (Dont’ think “death panels.” Okay, go ahead.)
However, this particular research looks at whether doctors order tests and treatments their patients ask for, whether or not the evidence supports that route. The researchers correlated these “discretionary” treatments and tests with satisfaction and with mortality, and came up with a 25% higher risk of mortality or death with in the time studied. (In the world of medical statistics, this is not a very high risk, but it is significant to those who die, right?)
The caveat is to watch and wait as the medical community evaluates the study and how the data was “cooked” by the statisticians. One area where the conclusion may be weak is that the health status of the patient was self reported (although mortality was not). I’d like to see correlation with lab values such as measurements of kidney function.
One of my fears has always been that I might become like some of the older docs I saw when I was training: a very nice doctor who is well-liked but incompetent because I’ve failed to keep up my skills and knowledge. I should have worried about being the doctor who goes along to get along – or to make more money because my pay is directly related to how happy – not how healthy – I keep my patients.
Love this line: “science readers should just ignore the conclusion woo.”
Seriously, the authors are evidently expanding their publication of research (along the line of this prior study, “Disgust sensitivity and the neurophysiology of left-right political orientations,”Free access at Pub Med), using eye movements and skin conductance changes in response to visual stimuli (pretty bunny vs. violent images and Republican vs. Democratic politicians) and conclude that there is an evolutionary purpose/causation.
The conclusions the researchers draw are not as grounded; rather than showing that tolerances are why people pick parties, they try to say evolution is at the root, claiming political leanings are at least partial products of our biology, which goes to show you that political scientists and psychologists who don’t understand biology should not invoke it, at least as cause and effect. But the new study’s use of cognitive data regarding both positive and negative imagery adds to the understanding of how liberals and conservatives see and experience the world and that has value, even if the more broad conclusions are not evidence-based.
UNL professor of political science and psychology John Hibbing goes too far when he tries to play evolutionary psychologist, claiming the results might mean that those on the right are more attuned and attentive to aversive elements in life and are more naturally inclined to confront them, which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, he said. That would mean humans are two distinct species, but only in America, so science readers should just ignore the conclusion woo and focus on the negative/positive responses they found in people already left or right and see where it can take us.
Universal Truth at work again. I would have loved to be there in order to watch heads explode and hear the susurus of “Did he say that?” buzzing around the room.
Newer and safer forms of stem cell therapy will likely overtake research into the use of human embryonic stem cells, the scientist whose team cloned Dolly the sheep told his peers at a stem cell conference in La Jolla.
Direct “reprogramming” of adult cells into the type needed for therapy is gradually becoming a reality, Ian Wilmut told an audience of several hundred at the Salk Institute at the annual Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa. Such a feat was once thought impossible, but in recent years it has been demonstrated in at least two publications, he said.
But it’s been unclear which types of stem cells would prove most useful: the “adult” kind that have a more limited potential to change, or the embryonic kind. The emergence of direct reprogramming provides a promising new option scientists should consider, Wilmut said.
“I’m not quite sure why this hasn’t been pursued more actively,” Wilmut said.
It is difficult to achieve purity in embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells because they are prone to forming tumors.
Direct reprogramming of cells from one type to the other avoids that danger, because the cells never enter the pluripotent stage to begin with, Wilmut said.
Direct cell reprogramming didn’t exist when California voters approved the stem cell program in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71. That program was mainly aimed at funding embryonic stem cell research the federal government wouldn’t fund.
However, the program can also fund research with other types of stem cells, such as “adult” cells from umbilical cord blood.
The use and value of embryonic stem cells is an intensely controversial issue.
Many people object to their use because human embryos, which they consider human individuals, are killed to get the cells. Critics also point to the success of adult cells in approved therapies, while no therapy with embryonic stem cells has yet been approved.
Only one treatment with embryonic stem cells is in clinical testing in people. And that company, Geron Corp., recently ended its involvement in what was described as a business decision.
Just one more failed “stimulus” project? This past week, Geron announced they are no longer pursuing their research in embryonic stem cells. They laid off 66 employees.
The US government should never have been in the business of picking and choosing business winners and losers. We certainly shouldn’t be giving money for destructive embryonic stem cell research.
Included as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the QTDP program provided a tax credit to encourage investments in new therapies to prevent, diagnose, and treat acute and chronic diseases. Companies, such as Geron, that cannot currently use a tax credit were allowed to apply for a cash grant
in lieu of a tax credit.
To be eligible for the program, projects must show reasonable potential to result in new therapies to treat areas of unmet medical need; prevent, detect, or treat chronic or acute disease and conditions; reduce long-term health care costs in the United States; or significantly advance the goal of curing cancer within a 30-year period.
In addition, preference was given to projects that showed the greatest potential to create and sustain (directly or indirectly) high quality, high-paying jobs in the United States, and advance United States competitiveness in the fields of life, biological, and medical sciences.
Projects were selected jointly by the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Geron is getting out of the business of doing Embryonic Stem cell research. Trust me, if there were any objective truth to the idea that destructive Embryonic Stem cells could make money, the Corp. would stay in.
Earlier this week, the Geron Corporation announced it was abandoning its research into using embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injury. Geron was the first company to get the green light from the FDA to conduct clinical trials using embryonic stem cells. That was way back in 2009. And now, citing, quote, “capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions,” the company is looking to sell off that part of its business and focus on other work.
Since everyone is talking about that third Agency that Governor Perry forgot in last week’s debate, I decided to post this note from “Junk Science” from last month.
Rick Perry has performed terribly in the presidential debates… no argument… but unlike, say Mitt Romney, the energy plan he released today aims directly at the runaway Obama EPA.
Perry’s four main goals are:
Expand energy exploration offshore and on federal and private lands across the country by executive order, creating over 1.2 million jobs
Eliminate current and proposed activist EPA regulations from the Obama administration, saving 2.4 million jobs by 2020 and lowering projected costs by $127 billion
Reduce, rebuild, and refocus the EPA federal regulators, returning authority to the states
Level the playing field for all energy producers, removing Obama’s practice of picking winners and losers and ending the Obama war on coal and natural gas production
World Net Daily sometimes goes off the path, but this time, they are posting emotional noise in the article, “’My headache’s about to explode’: U.S. girls just dropping dead.” Author Joe Kovacs even goes so far as to support the claim by the organization, Judicial Watch, that the vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus, Gardasil, is harmful by citing a case of “meningococcal disease,” caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitides.
The article or the claims have no basis in fact. There was one case of anaphylactic shock, but no other deaths due to the vaccine. There has been no pattern of serious adverse effects and the major problems have been sore arms and fainting which looks like a seizure to those who haven’t seen it before. (I’m a Family Physician who has had fathers faint in my office and the hospital while watching procedures or shots. Mothers tend to sit when I ask them to, so they’re less likely to faint.)
Gardasil is not derived from the actual HPV virus. It is made the same way that insulin is made for patient injection for diabetes: bacteria is tricked into producing proteins that “look” like bits of the virus, but are never in any way active as an infectious agent.
The article notes that there have been over 35 Million doses of Gardasil given in the United States. We have 10 years of experience. Back in 2006, before Governor Rick Perry made news my adding Gardasil to the list of mandatory vaccines for school children, we already had five years of history and reviews of the vaccine. We have all sorts of studies and surveillance going on currently. Take a look at the world-wide surveillance.
Everything that has an effect is likely to have a side effect. However, this article and the hullabaloo over Gardasil is hysteria. There are mechanisms that allow us to predict bodily reactions and enable us to practice medicine: we know how the body is likely to react to disease, a new exposure or stress, or to medications. There is no mechanism for the “my head is going to explode” symptom.
We do know enough to be able to say what does not have a basis in science. Science and medicine are getting *better* at predicting outcomes, not worse. Read up on “biological plausibility.”
In the comments, people are saying that the CDC and FDA are part of big conspiracy, that people shouldn’t trust their doctors. The reason that there are more recommended vaccines is because we are doing research to find more vaccines to prevent diseases, not because some horrible conspiracy is growing.