Human Exceptionalism

Lanza Lied; Embryos Died

This seems to be irrefutable proof that ACT mounted an intentional campaign of lying and deception about its embryonic stem cell non-breakthrough. According to a story newly published in Nature, in an August 23 podcast, ACT’s chief scientist Robert Lanza stated, “What we have done, for the first time, is to actually create human embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo itself.” That was flat-out, unequivocally, and unarguably false. And Lanza knew it.

Nature describes the researcher’s defense: “Lanza says he never intended to say more than that he had proved a principle, and that he is surprised by the reaction to the paper.” Does the man live in Never-Never Land? Read the many blog entries I have devoted here at Secondhand Smoke to this deception, in which I quote from ACT’s own press materials. They don’t speak of merely proving a principle or state that “in theory” an ES cell line can be derived without destroying embryos. The statements, as Lanza’s quoted above, either directly lie about what the company did or strongly imply that a new procedure has been created allowing for non destructive embryonic stem cell research.

So, why am I devoting so much time to this? A primary reason is that ACT’s deception casts a klieg light on a cancer that is sapping the life out of the practice of science: As Big Biotech and its allies seek desperately to destroy the Bush funding policy in order to garner hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, they are acting increasingly like a crass special interest willing to twist the truth to get access to the public trough. Ironically, since these special pleaders claim to be defending science, these major deceptions–and the many lesser examples of misleading advocacy by many in the science intelligentsia–are profoundly anti-science. Indeed, when science is reduced to chucking spin in the name of boosting science, it is akin to the oxymoronic statement made during Vietnam that a village was “destroyed in order to save it.”