November 25, 2007

Equal Like a Dream Versus a Song and a Dream

Justin Katz

It would have been too much, I suppose, to hope that the New York Times would take the opportunity of the recent stem-cell breakthrough to correct a longstanding falsehood in its analysis spin of the issue to date. It is, nonetheless, disappointing that it persists:

Early in the controversy, opponents, including Mr. Bush, often said they supported studies using so-called adult stem cells that involve cells extracted from blood and bone marrow. But those cells have more limited potential than embryonic stem cells, and proponents of embryo experiments said it was like comparing apples to oranges. The reprogrammed skin cells, by contrast, appear to hold the same properties as embryonic stem cells, more an apples-to-apples comparison.

Perhaps one can say that there's nothing factually incorrect in the quoted paragraph, provided one limits "potential" to meaning "theoretical potential." As I've noted before (for two), "so-called adult stem cells" have already produced cures and treatments. One cannot say, however, that the recent "findings have put people on both sides of the stem cell divide on nearly equal political footing." One side is willing to dive into an ethical morass on the oversold promise of any-day-now medical miracles, as long as we plow through objections to killing embryos and cloning. The other side now has not only a slate of present-day accomplishments, but a very high likelihood of entering the very same miracle race.