So does this vindicate the Kerry-Edwards proposal to expand government funding for embryonic stem cell research, which California has already now done with their own state funding? Well, look at the fine print. It turns out this wasn't from embryonic stem cells at all. These are cord blood stem cells. ... This is actually an important discovery for the pro-life argument against needing embryonic stem cells for this kind of thing. There's still greater potential for embryonic cells if the overcome the biggest obstacle to using them at all, which there's been no progress on, but cord blood stem cells do in fact work for this sort of thing, so I don't know how embryonic stem cell advocates can see this as anything more than a mixed result for them.I heard about this story from Tony Perkins, at the Right-Wing Family Research Council. His response was, predictably, similar to Jeremy's:
In what will likely be a recurring theme, the pro-life community can say to supporters of embryonic stem cell research, we told you so. A South Korean woman paralyzed for twenty years is walking again after her spinal cord was treated with stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. Advocates of embryonic stem cell research can only dream about this type of result. The difference between the use of embryos and the use of umbilical cord blood is literally the difference between life and death, between cures and false hopes. The killing of human embryos for scientific research crosses an ethical line, but, as science proves, actual cures are to be found with stem cells obtained ethically. There is now walking evidence that there is no justification for destroying embryos for failed science, much less using taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research. Stem cells obtained from cord blood and other ethical sources should be regarded as the hope of the future, rather than science that kills human life for the sake of some researcher's curiosity. The scientific world and the public officials who subsidize their work with taxpayer money should take notice.Jeremy is right, of course -- this news doesn't particularly vindicate those of us who support embroyonic stem cell research. But Perkins definitely goes too far when he says this constitutes an argument against embryonic stem cell research. Why should progress in one area count as an argument against doing research in another area? I don't feel like embryonic stem-cell research is in particular need of vindication at all; embroyonic stem cells *might* cure important things, or might just lead to useful -- or even merely interesting -- scientific advancement, and that by itself is a perfectly good reason to use them. I guess arguments like the one that Jeremy aptly observes doesn't apply here, which I don't particularly care about, might be important for a supporter of this research who believes that embroyos have moral worth, and that destroying them is, ceteris paribus, morally wrong. That person would need to justify destroying embroyos with good evidence that in the end, more good will come of it. But I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone endorse that combination of views.