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Stem-Cell Alternatives


A reader asks a good question about my latest article:

If I were judging this like a debate round, I’d give it to you on points. You’ve convinced me that your opponents have misstated some facts and you haven’t. That helps me know who to trust. But I don’t think you’ve answered one of their most important arguments: that most scientists think we have to go the embryonic route. I’m a fence-sitter on this issue, so I’d like to hear what you have to say.

You’re right, I didn’t respond to that. Moreno and Berger write, “Ultimately, the scientific community has reached its consensus: there are no viable alternatives to embryonic stem cells.” They offer no evidence that this consensus exists, and at this point I don’t trust anything they say in the absence of evidence. Meanwhile, here’s science journalist Rick Weiss, who has a decent track record, writing about amniotic-fluid stem cells in the Washington Post:

The new cells are adding credence to an emerging consensus among experts that the popular distinction between embryonic and “adult” stem cells — those isolated from adult bone marrow and other organs — is artificial.

Increasingly, it appears there is a continuum of stem cell types, ranging from the embryonic ones that can morph into virtually any kind of tissue but are difficult to tame, up to adult ones that can turn into a limited number of tissues but are relatively easy to control.

Moreno and Berger would have you believe that there is a “consensus” among scientists that destroying embryos is the only way to get pluripotent stem cells. If Weiss is right, the “emerging consensus” is very different.


President Clinton’s bioethics commission concluded that “the derivation of stem cells from embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research” (p. 53). More and more, it appears that such alternatives exist, much as the Center for American Progress wishes otherwise.


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