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As Michael Crichton so eloquently put it, “Politicized science is dangerous.” Source: Political Science is Dangerous When the desired conclusions of research are put to the forefront, the science suffers.
Science Funding Edit
Scientists are one of the largest beneficiaries of large public spending. This funding enables them to perform research of a quality and at a pace unrivaled around the world. The findings of publicly-funded science support the work of private companies that develop treatments for a wide range of ailments. Also of great importance, federal funding allows for human beings to use the scientific method to explore their world. The scientific method consists of three simple steps that we all use every day: 1. Observe an event 2. Guess (hypothesize) how that event occurs 3. Test whether your guess is correct. There is really nothing more to pure science than that. As long as a barrier remains between politics and scientists, this is what federally-funded science will be.
According the NSF Budget Internet Information System NSF funding in terms of 2003 dollars increased by about 8% annually during the first 4 years of the Bush administration, as compared to around 3.3% annually during the 8 years of the Clinton administration, and a running average of around 5% since 1952. The real changes in science funding have occurred through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During the Clinton administration, funding for the NIH increased from $8.9 billion to $20.5 billion NIH Budget Information. This increase has slowed dramatically during the Bush administration, increasing from $20.5 billion following the last year of the Clinton administration to $28.5 billion for 2005. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the NIH budget for FY2006 has increased by only 0.5%, to $28.7 billion AAAS R&D Funding Update, lagging behind the rate of inflation.
An issue worthy of debate is whether or not redirecting federal funding to private groups for science funding would be a use of resources that creates fewer political conflicts (or appearance of conflicts). Many groups could benefit from an influx of federal funding, and have already developed systems for distribution of funds to deserving scientific projects. Some of these groups include The American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association and The Alzheimer's Association. Would this change in funding structure increase the already huge diversity of scientific projects?
Stem cell research Edit
Embryonic stem cells are taken from a developing embryo at the blastocyst stage, destroying the embryo, a developing human life. This is an important ethical point, but should be weighed against the potential usefulness of these tools for curing diseases afflicting millions of living human beings.
Adult stem cells are often pointed to as an alternative to the use of Embryonic stem cells. This is an inappropriate comparison. Adult stem cells do not exhibit the same capabilities to transform themselves into all cells of the body, nor do they exhibit the same capacity for growth. While adult stem cells will surely be excellent research tools, they do not offer the same types of opportunities as embryonic stem cells. Based on the often-stated assumption that adult stem cells can revert to a state similar to embryonic stem cells, a philosophical question is 'what makes destroying an adult stem cell better than destroying an embryonic stem cell?'
It is possible that the controversy over this field of research will increase, especially in ethical issues, since South Korean scientist, Woo Suk Hwang, was discovered to be faking results. His results were thought to be the most promising examples of creating stem cells from adult cells. If they had been true, they could have eliminated an ethical barrier to the production of pluripotent cells for treatment of human ailments. The revelation that his data in these publications was faked has certainly led many other scientists to reexamine their own data, that might have been based on assumptions from his work.
Political Issues Edit
Currently in the United States of America, the federal funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research is prohibited. Private research is not banned, despite the weasel words used by those in favor of throwing tax dollars at their pet projects.
For adult stem cell research Edit
While embryonic stem cells are still used mainly in the research lab, adult stem cells have already been successfully used in numerous patients, including for cardiac infarction (death of some of the heart tissue) and tissue regrowth.
Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council, a non-scientific organization, has constituted a list of 72 diseases Adult Stem Cells (ASCs) can cure. There are currently 1,175 clinical trials for ASCs. This is a wonderful example of the good that publicly-financed science can provide for society, but has little to say about the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research.
- On July 3, 2006 a team at the University of California at Los Angeles reported they had transformed human embryonic stem cells into immune cells known as T-cells, offering a way to restore immune systems ravaged by AIDS and other diseases.
- In June of 2006, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore transplanted stem cells from mouse embryos into paralyzed rats and helped them walk again. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine have done similar work using human embryonic stem cells in rats.
- In April of 2006, Dr. Anthony Atala at Wake Forest University in North Carolina reported he had grown bladders from adult stem cells, in this case immature cells taken from the patients' own bladders. Atala's team has also found stem cells in human amniotic fluid.
"What makes destroying an adult stem cell better than destroying an embryonic stem cell?" The harvesting of adult stem cells does not destroy the host, nor require an aborted fetus.
See also Edit
- Issuepedia: Science