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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.3 > Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research

Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research

California’s $3-Billion Experiment in Public Science

When Does Personhood Begin?

Twentieth century medicine has succeeded in treatingmany infectious diseases very effectively. But against severe conditions of cell injury or loss such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type one diabetes, and spinal cord injury, the past century’s drugs and vaccines have remained all but powerless. Hence the excitement in 1998 when embryonic stem cell lines were first derived in James Thomson’s laboratory in Wisconsin. Stem cells provide the building blocks of every tissue type and might, it was anticipated, restore organs of the human body much as rebuilding a damaged foundation, wall, or roof rehabilitates a house.

The Federal Impasse

Since no one is exempt from severe illnesses, popular support for medical research to find remedies is enormous. At the same time, though, over the past half century the very idea of government intervention to improve human lives has been vigorously contested in the U.S. Many functions of government, ranging from education (charter schools) and incarceration (private prisons) to fighting war (out-sourcing military operations to private firms) have been privatized. Scientific research funding has been subject to privatization as well. Mick Mulvaney, the former Congressman from Virginia who is currently the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, asked in September 2016, “do we really need government funded research at all?” Such doubt, voiced strongly by officials in the current administration in Washington, is rekindling the perennial debate about public versus private support for science. Relevant to that debate is California’s investment in stem cell research, which illustrates both the advantages and the challenges of government sponsorship of scientific enquiry.

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About Skeptic

SPECIAL ISSUE: Did a Mysterious Unknown Advanced Civilization Help Ancient Peoples Build Their Monuments? SPECIAL SECTION — EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR AN ADVANCED LOST CIVILIZATION: Debating Science and Lost Civilizations: My Experience on the Joe Rogan Experience by Michael Shermer; Conjuring Up a Lost Civilization: An Analysis of the Claims Made by Graham Hancock in Magicians of the Gods by Marc Defant; Lost Civilizations and Imaginative Conjectures: An Analysis of the Myths and History of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods by Tim Callahan. SPECIAL SECTION — AN ACADEMIC HOAX: Failure to Communicate: Why We Published the “Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax Exposé by Michael Shermer; The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies by Peter Boghossian (aka Peter Boyle, Ed.D.) and James Lindsay (aka, Jamie Lindsay, Ph.D.); More Fashionable Nonsense Some thoughts on “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” Hoax by Alan Sokal. ARTICLES: Big News on Homo naledi: More Fossils and a Surprising Young Age by Nathan H. Lents; The Real Origin of UFOs and Aliens: How the Media Shaped Our Ideas About Extraterrestrials by Tim Callahan; Publicly Funded Stem Cell Research: California’s $3-Billion Experiment in Public Science by Raymond Barglow; How to Tame a Fox and Build a Dog by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut; Science, Facts, and “Provisional” Knowledge by David Zeigler. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Juicing for Health or Torture by Harriet Hall, M.D. The Gadfly: Our Angry Era by Carol Tavris. JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Zombies: The Gruesome True Story of Zombies by Daniel Loxton
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