Sunday, April 12, 2009


My friend and editor from Catholic responded to my PREVIOUS POST about Dr. Oz, Michael J. Fox, on Oprah. This is my response to her.


Mary, you are right when you suggest that embryonic stem cell research is connected to the hip with a thirst for power, and that such power dwarfs any concern for the lives of tiny humans. And while to some "players" the argument is not really all about "therapeutic good" -- that is the horse to which they've strapped their saddle. Thus, revealing their true motives (power and greed) may be a more productive strategy for pro-life researchers and pundits.

Let me explain.

There are two arguments in the embryonic stem cell debate that to the thinking Catholic are attached at the hip, but to those less insightful (and innocent in their ignorance) are separate issues. The first is the search for cures to protect adult life, the second is the protection of embryos, tiny human life. Yes, there is the obvious connection that to kill a life to protect another is evil. But to accept that argument you have to believe that embryos are indeed human life, and most people don't believe that because it is not common sense—that an embryo is human life is not a commonly observable phenomenon. Thus, embryos as human life becomes more an article of faith even with scientific evidence.

I get the sense that the former argument (the search for cures) is more important to one group (those of improperly formed faith), and the latter (protecting embryonic life) is more important to the other (those with properly formed faith). The ratio of importance to these two groups is so large that the other argument is lost in the shadows. And I believe that people like Oprah and Michael J. Fox are at heart not sinister killers of the innocent. In their ignorance they want what is good for the common person. I suggest that they would enjoy supporting life in all its forms as long as it does not seem to conflict with their understanding of life in the throes of battling deliberating diseases. Understand that the effects of Parkinson's Disease is far more a common sense thing than embryonic life. One is easily observable on national television, and the other is essentially invisible and not available to our common senses. Thus, I think the segment with Dr. Oz was a huge (although stealth) stake in the ground for the "hip" -- that is where the two arguments are connected.

The common terminology for that "hip" (which to us "moralists" is "cool" as well as "connected") is NATURAL LAW. No matter what any liberal, atheist, corrupt politician, or demonic figurehead does, they cannot beat natural law. In a big way USSR's dissolution resulted from the slow but real discovery of natural law. Obama can pontificate, and the liberal congress can legislate, and Tony (hypocrite) Blair can "Catholicgate" as much as they want, but in God's timing, (not mine, dang it) they will all come to kiss the feet and the feats of Natural Law. You can't beat it in the long run.

The embryonic stem cell debate occurs on these two levels—health and morality. Many of us yell and scream on the moral side, but the other side of the coin is the physical science of how man is still incapable of manipulating DNA and impersonating God in creating and growing life. When man does mess around with the moral side of things, he simultaneously messes around with physical science (as God knows it, not man's marginalized understanding). The result is cancer. (Pun intended for there is both a moral and a physical cancer, and Dr. Oz mentions the physical, but we "moralists" see that his mention is simply the metaphor for the moral. You cannot separate the psychological and spiritual dimension from the physical—as all good sacramental Christians should fully understand, as well as readers of my book, "The Moral Premise" -- an unabashed plug).

It is King David that proclaimed time and time again, "I love Your law O Lord. I study it all day long. Your command makes me wiser than my foes, for it is always with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, because I ponder your decrees ...." (Ps 119:97 ff). When David says he studied God's laws "all day long" he is not referring to pouring over the text of the Mosaic Law, but rather to observing how Natural Law wins out in every case throughout his vast kingdom, especially in his own moral life. It is entirely possible that Nathan (David's prophet in residence) saw the guilt that riddled David after destroying Uriah & Bathsheba's marriage, and confronted David after hearing the roar of the palace rumor mills. Did Nathan hear from God directly? Possibly. But, 2 Samuel 12:1 says that "the Lord SENT Nathan to David". It doesn't say that the Lord had to explain to Nathan what was going on. Natural Law would have prompted a blanket of guilt upon David and the officials that assisted David in his immoral task. And Natural Law would have fostered the kingdom's rumor mill to the hilt (and most of it was probably not rumor). When it came time to write Psalm 51 and Psalm 119 there was plenty of evidence that you can't beat natural law, and in it we have ultimate faith that what is right will prevail.

Thus, Dr. Oz, with Oprah and M. J. Fox at his side, on national TV, is like Nathan popping his head up and saying, "You can't beat Natural Law." Submit you fools! (Except Oz is nice about it... he wants to be invited back to the Queen of daytime television. Which makes me wonder if Nathan came to the King of the daytime court, where all the world was watching and listening.)


Getting back to the sinister debate. There is another force at work that I have never heard mentioned, but I suspect is actively driving the embryonic stem cell argument from a lack of salience or knowledge about the division in medical research groups. In the medical research profession there are at least two groups that could not be more different, yet may appear to have the same credentials. There are medical researchers who look to business models to fund their livelihoods. Their research creates a product (e.g. drugs and therapies) that meet needs, and then they sell their products for a profit. These are profit (not necessarily prophet) oriented companies that get their funding from business investors and enter the free market to make their money.

The second group of medical researchers look to a grant model to fund their livelihoods. Their first step is to create public awareness of a need (real or invented), and then ask the public, through government grants, to fund the research. If this group is successful, their work may result in patents and make the researchers and research institutions where they work, richer. These institutions are university research centers, who have far less money, less sophisticated apparatus, and an inferior infrastructure to support their research desires. The university researchers cannot generally go to the business community for funding unless the business investors see the likelihood of success and a return on their investment. In the case of embryonic stem cell research my guess is that investors are going to fund adult stem cell research because of the vast disparity in success between embryonic and adult stem cell prospects. There are over 70 successful therapies developed from adult stem cells, and utter failure, along with cancerous tumors, resulting from embryonic research.

But the university researches have the "benefit" of a monopoly on the embryonic public debate since no good business will come near it. And further we need to remember that the liberal politics of public universities are attached at the hip to state funding, and a public that is currently sensitized to liberal policies. Thus, liberal university medical researchers are having their moment in the lime-light. What they don't realize is that lime is dumped on corpses to stop the spread of contagious disease. Ah, well, it will take them time, but someday they'll realized that you can't beat natural law, even if it does take time for the cancer to spread a ways.

My instinct is that pro-life pundits should follow the money, and reveal the greed and thirst for power and prestige that university researchers are lusting after. Their celebrity status will be short lived, for sure, as Dr. Oz suggests when he says, "the stem cell debate is dead." But even in a short time lives will be lost, and public dollars squandered.

Dr. Oz made that point, discreetly with Fox and Oprah. So, let's follow the money and reveal the financial and prestige motives of embryonic stem cell researches, which I claim are closer to the surface and more exposed to common sense. Greedy researchers can hide behind their moral claims of improving life for the common good by finding cures of diseases, but they can't hide easily behind their bank accounts and the prestige that running a large state funded research facility offers.

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