mm442: Blast from the Past! No. 35

July 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s baaaaaack! Mid-summer lethargy. Another in a string of Midwestern 90/90 days.

So begging your indulgence yet again, we bring back another gem from the dim, cool and crisp past, last October.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm164: A Nation of Christians is Not a Christian Nation,”

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

Read the rest of this entry »


mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance despite the neocons

November 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Last post, we picked up on the report that stem cell researchers have an alternative source for the miracle tools. The writer of that NYTimes story follows up with a sidebar on the lead scientist, James A. Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, who has played a leading, even defining, role in stem cell research for more than a decade.

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By GINA KOLATA

If the stem cell wars are indeed nearly over, no one will savor the peace more than James A. Thomson.

Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate.

And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo.

Turns out that Dr. Thomson was, as he and his UW colleagues report it, concerned about the ethical implications of stem cell research from the beginning.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It – New York Times

Some of the commentary others in the blogosphere have shared since the original story hit the other day have expressed a good deal of knee-jerk cynicism regarding the nature of this latest twist. It’s just so perfect that this latest news fits so well with Bush administration dogma. See, you can do your research without abortion!

People, this isn’t politics, or religion; it’s science. Forced by ethical, political and/or religious imperatives to curtail stem cell research, many wrung their hands, took off to more scientifically adventurous locales, or found a new field to pursue.

Thomson, and, separately, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, decided that the potential for breakthrough discoveries was too important, and figuratively lit a candle rather than curse the darkness, and began the work that resulted in this weeks breakthrough announcements.

MUDGE chooses to suspend cynicism (after all, it’s a holiday in the U.S. today!), and believe the best. Okay, so this fits with distorted agenda of the neo-con know-nothings who have distorted too much and spread a huge swath of medieval ignorance over too much of our culture.

But, sometimes, even good news for the dolts is good news for humankind, and this discovery, whose potential to accelerate further discoveries into the cause, prevention and cure of many neurological diseases that have caused such misery in the world, is worthy of our Thanksgiving celebration.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil, we now have an alternative source

November 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research, emblematic of all that’s promising regarding the ability of scientists to remedy hitherto incurable diseases. Stem cell research, emblematic of the George III administration’s wrong-headedness in nearly every important issue of our times.

Until yesterday, stem cell researchers found their most promising source material in human embryos, whose availability is, one presumes, mainly dependent upon the supply resulting from aborting pregnancies.

Since 1973, such supplies have been legally available to science in the U.S. Since the Bush administration outlawed the practice (or severely curtailed the use of new embryonic material by restricting federal funds required to finance it), researchers into cures for the crippling and fatal diseases that include multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have been thwarted from fully pursuing this most promising field of research.

Now it appears that scientists have discovered an alternative to embryos as the feedstock for stem cells.

nytimes3

By GINA KOLATA

Published: November 21, 2007

Two teams of scientists reported yesterday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

Science in the pursuit of prevention or remediating disease is critical, and the fact that it has been hamstrung over this moral quandary, mainly promoted by those same folks who brought you Creationism, is yet another embarrassing lowlight of the past seven years.

So much of what research has been occurring moved offshore (as so many other occupations have). But, science is always attempting to navigate new ways around knowledge gaps, and this promising achievement is an eye-opening demonstration.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells – New York Times

So there’s much work left to do before this new process is proven successful — the fact that a cancer gene is part of the process sounds distressing — but we can’t help but be hopeful that, after years of roadblocks, necessary research into the causes, prevention and cures of some of the most dreadful diseases can resume at full throttle.

In the long run, the new process might prove to be more useful, with wider application than the controversial one. So in a way, maybe the know-nothings did science a favor.

Irony. Today’s sixth sense.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm164: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

October 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

The only acknowledgment of God in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed.

The founders of this nation were not irreligious men, although a religion that allowed many of those residing in the southern states to reconcile faith with the holding of slaves has to be judged harshly (perhaps a topic for another day).

But they understood, apparently better than many of their modern-day successors, that the freedom to practice one’s religion is a cornerstone of this nation.

After all, flight from religious persecution was and has been a consistent motivation for waves of immigration, both before, and for nearly every year since the signing of the Constitution.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation – New York Times

Messers Falwell, Robertson and McCain: Leave the rest of us alone to practice, or not, the religion of our choice, free from coercion and the pernicious attempts to undermine education in this country with “creation science” and the like.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

If you want a Christian nation, I’ve got one for you: France! Should you want a pure theocracy, try Iran! Go hence and prosper, if you can.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE