The Magazine

Another Cloning "Breakthrough"

The world's first phony stem cells

Jan 2, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 16 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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In fact, though, Alzheimer's disease is extremely unlikely to be effectively treated with stem cells, whether cloned or natural. As Washington Post science reporter Rick Weiss allowed in a June 10, 2004, article, "the infrequently voiced reality, stem cell experts confess, is that, of all the diseases that may someday be cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer's is among the least likely to benefit." This is because Alzheimer's is a whole brain disease that "involves the loss of huge numbers and varieties of the brain's 100 billion nerve cells-and countless connections, or synapses, among them."

If stem cells have little "practical potential to treat Alzheimer's," why do proponents of cloned--embryo research continue to invoke a cure for Alzheimer's in their sales pitches? Weiss quoted Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "To start with, people need a fairy tale. Maybe that's unfair, but they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand."

So where are we in the cloning debate? At this point, we don't know whether human cloning has been successfully accomplished or not. We don't know whether embryonic stem cells have been derived from cloned embryos. We don't know to what depths the dishonesty of the seemingly most successful researcher in the field actually descended.

We do know that cloning proponents in this country are avid in their desire for billions in federal and state money to pay for morally problematic and highly speculative research that the private sector generally shuns. And we do know that some advocates of this public policy agenda are more than willing to play fast and loose with the facts in order to get their way. In short, the human cloning agenda is falling into public disrepute-and for that, proponents of the agenda have no one to blame but themselves.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His most recent book is the Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.