Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scientific Authority

Bill Dembski reports on a surprising fact about Richard Dawkins. The man who claims to be a scientist has only one peer-reviewed paper to his credit, a paper written the year he received his Ph.D and which has never been cited by any other scientist.

In other words, Dawkins' only claim to fame is that he has written popular works on evolution, but he himself has not done any actual research since his student days in the 1960s.

This is interesting because one of the (unfair) criticisms of intelligent design theorists is that they don't publish in peer-reviewed journals and don't actually do scientific research. Yet someone like Richard Dawkins, who has much to say about the controversy between Darwinism and ID and who really has no more scientific authority than "a suburban school teacher," are given immunity from such criticism.


Tough Questions

Here are some difficult questions to ponder concerning human embryonic stem cells:

1. You oppose the use of embryonic stem cells in research laboratories and in medical applications because in order to obtain the stem cells a human embryo must be destroyed. You and your spouse are having difficulty getting pregnant, however, and seek the service of a fertility clinic so that you can have children. The clinic tells you that they will produce several fertilized ova and that of these only one will be kept alive, the rest will be discarded. Do you forego having children rather than participate in this practice?

2. You object to destroying embryos for stem cell research, but fertility clinics destroy excess embryos anyway. Do you object to these embryos, rather than being discarded, being used instead by researchers trying to find cures for various diseases and disorders?

3. If you oppose killing embryos for stem cell research should you not also oppose the practice employed by fertility clinics of producing multiple embryos if only one is going to be implanted in the mother's uterus?

These are tough questions, even for those who lean to the pro-life side of debates over "life issues." One thing that some readers may not be clear on is that, contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing stopping researchers from using human embryonic stem cells in their labs. The only restriction is that the federal government will not subsidize the research. Private money is free to do whatever it wishes, though, and there have been some remarkable recent developments.

For instance, see this article for some interesting information about advances made in the use of human embryonic stem cells in the treatment of serious eye and heart problems.

One hopes that stem cells taken from other sources will prove to be even more fruitful in treating injury and illness, but even if other kinds of stem cells prove useful questions #1 and #3 above remain.