Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Brownback's war on science

The Anti-Sam, a blog dedicated to exposing our Senator for the intolerant extremist that he is, points out Sam Brownback's science advisor. It turns out, Chris Mooney wrote a little about him, in a Washington Monthly piece called "Research and Destroy":
Embryonic stem-cell research is another issue where conservatives have latched onto fringe science in order to advance moral arguments. A key protagonist of the stem-cell debate has been David Prentice, until recently a biologist at Indiana State University and now a senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council, a prominent conservative religious organization in Washington. In recent years, Prentice has made a name for himself by arguing that so-called "adult" stem cells--found in bone marrow and other parts of the body--have "as great, if not greater, potential for biomedical application" than embryonic stem cells (harvested from embryos created but unused by fertility clinics and donated by the patients, who no longer need them for in vitro fertilization).

In an interview, Prentice told me he considers himself a Christian and "definitely conservative," but added, "that's not how I argue these debates--I'm arguing from the science." Yet his scientific track record on adult stem cells is sparse. Prentice says he began collecting scientific references and reviewing the literature in the late 1990s, but confesses that he still hasn't managed to get a scientific publication on the topic into print. Nevertheless, Prentice has served as an "ad hoc" adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a leading opponent of embryonic stem-cell research. Prentice has also presented a "commissioned paper" on adult stem cells for the President's Council on Bioethics, arguing that these cells "have demonstrated a surprising ability for transformation into other tissue and cell types." For this reason, Prentice argues that scientists need not bother with morally troubling embryonic stem cells at all. In other words, embryonic stem cells could be banned on religious grounds without affecting the progress of research.

Most of his peers disagree including the National Institutes of Health and the respected International Society for Stem Cell Research, whose board of directors argued in a recent letter to President Bush that "research on all types of stem cells warrants increased federal funding." Although it's well established that embryonic stem cells can generate any kind of tissue found in the body--hence their potential usefulness in investigating, and perhaps curing, various degenerative diseases--adult stem cells, by contrast, are thought only to be capable of generating cells within their own tissue type. Some recent research has suggested that adult cells might have more plasticity than originally assumed--research that Prentice has trumpeted as firm evidence that we can do away with embryonic stem-cell research. But the field's leading experts note that the studies on which Prentice relies either suffer from poor design or have not been replicated by other laboratories. "Scientifically, there is no independently verified evidence today that a pure stem cell of one type--adult tissue, say blood forming--can turn into another tissue at all," says Stanford pathologist Irving Weissman.

There's a different David Prentice who is a speaker on the anti-evolution tour. Our Dr. Prentice focuses on his work for the Family Research Council.

These are the group's Core Principles:
God exists and is sovereign over all creation. He created human beings in His image. Human life is, therefore, sacred and the right to life is the most fundamental of political rights.
Life and love are inextricably linked and find their natural expression in the institutions of marriage and the family.
Government has a duty to promote and protect marriage and family in law and public policy.
The American system of law and justice was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic.
American democracy depends upon a vibrant civil society composed of families, churches, schools, and voluntary associations.
Meet your new presidential candidate, America. I haven't the slightest doubt that Sam Brownback is a Reconstructionist a.k.a. Dominionist, that bizarre movement to literally turn this nation into a theocracy.

So keep an eye on the Anti-Sam, there's some good info to come out of there.