Friday, July 21, 2006
On Wednesday, Mr. Bush vetoed the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement
Act." The first veto of his presidency was exercised to protect
surplus embryonic stem cells in fertility clinics from research,
thus preserving their "dignity" so they can be put out with the
garbage. He did so on the grounds that using them in research
would be "murder." This is based on the ancient belief in a
"vital life force," or "soul," which is said by some Christians
to be assigned at conception. The first sign of differentiation
in embryonic cells occurs in about 8 weeks. Jews, however, say
that infants don't get a soul until they draw their first breath.
They cite Genesis: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of
the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul." On the other hand, superstition
may not be the best guide. Why not turn to science?
Four years ago Rusi Taleyarkhan, then at Oak Ridge, claimed in
Science magazine that he had achieved d-d fusion in collapsing
bubbles (WN 1 Mar 02) . The
bubble burst three months later, but he moved to Purdue and again
claimed fusion. Others still found nothing. In March of 2006,
Purdue, citing "extremely serious concerns," announced a full
review of Taleyarkhan's work. A story in Nature this week raises
serious questions about slow progress and secrecy of the review.
In 1984, President Reagan called on the scientific community to
render nuclear missiles "impotent and obsolete" with the Star
Wars missile defense system. Nine years and $30B later SDI was
terminated. There was nothing to show for it. George W. Bush,
who knows as much science as Reagan did, declared we would have a
missile defense by 2004. When North Korea announced last month
it would test a missile capable of reaching San Francisco, the
Pentagon revealed our missile defense had never been turned on.
Why bother? The reason ballistic missile are such a powerful
threat is that they are virtually unstoppable, but if we learned
anything from 9/11 it is that terrorists can strike us without
ballistic missiles. We have only the threat of preemptive
strikes or retaliation. The Wall Street Journal today called for
an ABM system to deter terror regimes, "they won't invest their
money in weapons that won't work." No, only we do that.
Last week I agreed to any penance readers thought appropriate for
allowing myself to be used on the (bleep) ABC Primetime program
about Adam Dreamhealer. By consensus I mean two readers called
for the same punishment. I am to obtain a DVD of "What the Bleep
Do We Know" and watch it all the way through - twice.