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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Signs of American Decline in Science

PZ Myers points out an excellent strib editorial.

Fallout from the corruption of secular science by the Bush administration and its religious allies continues to pile up. The latest is a particularly harmful blow: Two of the world's best geneticists will leave the National Cancer Institute and move not to Stanford University, which had heavily recruited them, but to Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. The reason is simple: They will face far fewer restrictions on their research, which involves stem cells.

Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins are a husband-wife research team. They are famous for developing methods that identify cancer-causing genes, work completed during their three decades at the Cancer Institute. Their ultimate goal is to develop drugs to block those genes; in effect, they seek a cure for cancer. They're leaving the institute because of restrictions on the use of stem cells imposed by the Bush administration. They had hoped to move to Stanford to take advantage of the $3 billion fund California voters approved for stem-cell research that circumvents the federal restrictions. Unfortunately, lawsuits by antiabortion groups have held up use of those funds. Thus the move to Singapore, where they will join geneticist Edison Liu, also formerly of the Cancer Institute.

The United States is accustomed to being the beneficiary of brain drains, but in the biological sciences that has now been reversed because of the unreasonable restrictions imposed on the use of embryonic stem cells for research. The irony in this is staggering: To prevent researchers from using surplus embryos from fertility clinics -- already slated for destruction -- opponents will forgo willingly the promise of cures for cancers and assorted other diseases that afflict millions of human beings. There are ethical considerations in this research, but they can easily be answered, if opponents were willing to engage in a dialogue. But they're not; despite their self-identification as "prolife," they'd rather see the stem cells in surplus embryos killed than kept alive and used in scientific research that might help heal people in the future.

The University of Minnesota will do embryonic stem cell research using private funds. There is a policy in place to make sure that there are ethical guidelines, and also to make sure that private funds are used.

In reaction to this, Tim Wilkin in Eagan, one of the worst legislators in the body introduced this nonsense.

1.9 An individual or entity conducting research using human
1.10 embryos or human embryonic stem cells is not eligible for state
1.11 funding of any kind and for any purpose. This restriction on
1.12 funding does not apply if an individual or entity conducts
1.13 research using human embryonic stem cell lines eligible for
1.14 federal research funding and listed on the Human Embryonic Stem
1.15 Cell Registry established by the National Institutes of Health,
1.16 and does not conduct research using human embryos or other human
1.17 embryonic stem cell lines.

This nonsensical bill attracted a number of authors:

Wilkin; Otremba; Howes; Holberg; Koenen; Dill; Abeler; Krinkie; Seifert; Finstad; Jacobson; Borrell; Klinzing; Gerlach; Vandeveer; Fuller; Olson, M.; Adolphson; Penas; Anderson, B.; Lindner; Powell; Hackbarth; Erickson; Johnson, J.; Cornish; Nornes; Severson; Smith; Kohls; Eastlund; DeLaForest; Westerberg; Soderstrom

Some of the authors, such as Duke Powell, Tom Hackbarth and attorney general candidate Jeff Johnson should know better. Others are predictable. For example the know nothing, outspoken creationist, Karen Klinzing is a co-author. The notorious and recently defeated Arlon Lindner is also listed.