A Right-Wing War on Science? Really?

Posted: Aug 03, 2010 10:02 AM
The Left has launched an all-out assault on scientific integrity and evidence-based decision making, all the while accusing the Right of opposing science.

The notion of a Republican or conservative “war on science” has been advanced by liberal politicians and commentators for decades. The phrase, which captures conservatives’ alleged attempts to undermine or interfere with the scientific process for political or ideological reasons, was heard on the 2008 presidential campaign trail almost as often as “hope” and “change.”

Conservatives have rarely mounted a defense against such claims. Yet on many science-related issues, the conservative position has either prevailed or gained considerable ground. What’s more, there is increasing evidence that the Democrats, faced with the burden of governing, are doing precisely what they accused conservatives of doing: dismissing the best science, creating false consensuses and otherwise putting their preferred policy goals ahead of the best available evidence.

In the August issue of Townhall Magazine, Daniel Allot, a senior writer at American Values and a Washington fellow at the National Review Institute, debunks the left-wing claims that conservatives are anti-science and offers evidence that it's the Left that is actually waging a war on science, placing political correctness in the driver's seat ahead of actual evidence.

Of the many major "science fights," one of the most politicized has been the one over embryonic stem-cell research. Pro-lifers who believe life begins at conception oppose the destruction of life in the name of science, but they've been all for adult stem-cell research. They would say that it's not science they oppose -- but immorality.

From the feature, "A Right-Wing War on Science? Really?":
The War That Wasn't

During George W. Bush’s presidency, the popular perception was that Republicans were trying, as Hillary Clinton put it, “to turn Washington into an evidence-free zone.” Bush and his congressional allies were regularly rebuked for allowing religious faith and political ideology to trump the prevailing science.

But it was a weak argument. President Bush funded scientific research proportionate to past administrations, and science funding increased steadily through his two terms.

And on many of the issues raised by liberals as proof of a Republican war on science, the evidence now vindicates the conservative position. For instance, Bush’s 2001 executive order limiting federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) was decried by the Left as “anti-science.” But not only does ESCR destroy nascent human life, it also has failed to produce any medical cures or treatments. Dr. Bernadine Healy, a former National Institutes of Health director, wrote last year, “Embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes, are obsolete.”

Meanwhile, ethical adult stem-cell research, which President Bush funded, is thriving. Dr. David Prentice, a leading expert on stem-cell research and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, recently told me that adult stem cells treat more than 70 conditions in more than 50,000 people a year.

The 2006 successful “re-programming” of human skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells was lauded by the science community. It won Science magazine’s 2008 “Breakthrough of the Year.” ESCR pioneer Dr. James Thomson predicted, “A decade from now, [ESCR] will be just a funny historical footnote.” The conservative position on stem cells, it turns out, is not only the ethical position but also the “pro-science” position.
Read the entire in-depth report in the August issue of Townhall Magazine.

And yesterday, CBS had this report that adult stem-cell research is, as conservatives have long noted, leaving embryonic stem-cell research in the dust.
For all the emotional debate that began about a decade ago on allowing the use of embryonic stem cells, it's adult stem cells that are in human testing today. An extensive review of stem cell projects and interviews with two dozen experts reveal a wide range of potential treatments.

Adult stem cells are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes. Some early results suggest stem cells can help some patients avoid leg amputation. Recently, researchers reported that they restored vision to patients whose eyes were damaged by chemicals.

Apart from these efforts, transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. "That's really one of the great success stories of stem cell biology that gives us all hope," says Dr. David Scadden of Harvard, who notes stem cells are also used to grow skin grafts.

"If we can recreate that success in other tissues, what can we possibly imagine for other people?"

[...] Adult cells have been transplanted routinely for decades, first in bone marrow transplants and then in procedures that transfer just the cells. Doctors recover the cells from the marrow or bloodstream of a patient or a donor, and infuse them as part of the treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. Tens of thousands of people are saved each year by such procedures, experts say.

But it is harnessing these cells for other diseases that has encouraged many scientists lately. In June, for example, researchers reported they had restored vision to people whose eyes were damaged from caustic chemicals. Stem cells from each patient's healthy eye were grown and multiplied in the lab and transplanted into the damaged eye, where they grew into healthy corneal tissue. ... And on Friday, Italian doctors said they'd transplanted two windpipes injected with the recipients' own stem cells. [...]

Some of the new approaches, like the long-proven treatments, are based on the idea that stem cells can turn into other cells. ... [S]cientists say they're harnessing the apparent abilities of adult stem cells to stimulate tissue repair, or to suppress the immune system.

"That gives adult stem cells really a very interesting and potent quality that embryonic stem cells don't have," says Rocky Tuan of the University of Pittsburgh.
To read more on the Right's war on science that wasn't -- and the Left's war on science that is -- subscribe to Townhall Magazine today to ensure you get the August issue.
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