Bloggers on the stem-cell research breakthrough.

Bloggers on the stem-cell research breakthrough.

Bloggers on the stem-cell research breakthrough.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 21 2007 5:26 PM

Stemming the Controversy

Bloggers discuss the implications of a new way to harvest stem cells without using human embryos. Also, Mike Huckabee leads in Iowa.

Stemming the controversy: Scientists announced Tuesday that they've discovered a way to cultivate stem cells using skin cells instead of embryos. This could mean that potential cures for everything from Parkinson's disease to Alzheimer's might circumvent the morally fraught debate over whether stem-cell research is a handmaid to infanticide, as many critics have claimed.

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Yuval Levin at the National Review's Corner asks why critics of the president can't take "yes for an answer": "[T]he case for extending federal funding to encourage the destruction of new (essentially randomly selected) embryos originally produced for fertility treatment … should make essentially zero sense now even to people who don't themselves see ethical problems with destroying embryos."

Brandom Keim at Wired's Science says the breakthrough circumvents the bioethical conundrums that has bedeviled everyone: "[E]ven if ESC-producing cloning is refined, there are still society-splitting ethical problems … to deal with, not to mention a shortage of eggs. That's why turning skin cells into near-embryonic stem cells is so amazing. Why even worry about ethics, or messy cloning, when all you need is a cheek swab?"

Reason's bioethics man Ronald Bailey writes at Hit & Run: "I do wonder how will pro-lifers feel about using stem cell treatments that were developed by methods that they find morally objectionable?" Joseph Bottum, the editor of the conservative religious journal First Things, defends pro-lifers. At On the Square, he says: "All those editorialists and columnists who have, over the past ten years, howled and howled about Luddites and religious fanatics thwarting science and frustrating medicine—were they really interested in technology and health, or were they just using all that as a handy stick with which to whack their political opponents?"

Andrew Sullivan is optimistic: "[W]e're facing another moment when science in effect rescues us from our political and moral impasse. … [It] does make the practical impact of those debates less zero-sum, and the theoretical debates that much more ... theoretical. In the end our knowledge doesn't only damn us; it can also save us."

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To which John Cole at Balloon Juice ripostes: "Hogwash. It is only a moral dilemma in the sense that if I somehow, out of the blue, decided my sperm was a human being and then got myself wrapped into a moral quandary over whether or not I was committing murder while I had meaningless sex in the shower. It was a stupid artificial debate, little more than pandering, and pretending it is a real moral dilemma is to cede the ground to people we should be ignoring."

Read more about the stem-cell breakthrough.

Iowa hearts Huckabee: Thanks largely to support from conservative Christians, Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee is just four points behind Mitt Romney in the Iowa polls. That doesn't mean his chances for the nomination are any better than, say, Pat Robertson's were in 1988, but it does underscore Romney's failure to capture the hearts and minds of the GOP heartland.

Giuliani supporter Mark Hutcherson at the Hutch Report thinks these dark-horse tropes are tied to media ennui: "I believe some members of the media get bored covering presidential campaigns, day in and day out, and when something like a potential dark horse win by Mike Huckabee gets legs, it is just what the doctor ordered to add a little bit of excitement back into their lives."

Against that, Matthew Continetti at the Weekly Standard's CampaignStandard argues that "a third-place finish for Romney in Iowa would be a serious blow to the governor's candidacy—but it may also position him for a strong showing in New Hampshire and the inevitable 'comeback kid' stories that would follow."

Noam Scheiber at the New Republic's Stump has advice for Romney: "If I were Romney, the one thing I'd consider before launching an attack is how high Huckabee's ceiling is in Iowa. … I don't know the answer to that, but there's a case to be made that he's pretty close to it now—it's still very hard to see him winning the nomination, after all—in which case maybe you hold off, concede Huckabee his bloc, and just concentrate on driving up your own turnout and winning over current undecideds."

David Knowles at AOL's Political Machine explains the Huckabee bandwagon like this: "While much of Mitt Romney's campaign has been spent trying to convince voters that he is the real conservative in the pack, a direct comparison of conservative credentials (especially of the social variety) is not necessarily one that Romney wants to partake in with Huckabee. The latter exudes sincerity on the conservative question. Romney, on the other hand, has to continually make his case."

Read more about the Huckabee "surge."

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.