In a move utterly devoid of shock value to Catholics who have been paying attention at all, the Vatican has announced plans to fund NeoStem, a small adult stem cell research company in New York. According to the Los Angeles Times,
[NeoStem CEO Dr. Robin] Smith . . . was quick to emphasize that the Vatican is not investing in her company, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Most of the collaboration will involve a nonprofit company established by NeoStem, the Stem for Life Foundation, she said. The Vatican’s role will include fundraising, launching educational campaigns, contributing to research and sponsoring the Rome conference, Smith said.
The Vatican signed a $1 million contract with NeoStem, and will be co-hosting an adult stem cell conference in Rome in November. The Church supports adult stem cell research, but condemns embryonic stem cell research because it requires the destruction of the human embryo. The LA Times article explains,
Embryonic cells are believed to have certain advantages over adult stem cells because they have the ability to develop into any kind of human cell.
“Typical magical thinking by the scientific magisterium,” snorted Horace J. Schmiddlapp, a Catholic layman who devotes equal time to taking care of his family, volunteering at the local hospice, and yelling at the radio.
‘Are believed to have?’ ‘Have the ability to develop?’ Wow, that’s helpful. They refuse to look at the scientific evidence in front of them, and instead choose to perpetuate these pie-in-the-sky myths that prey on the fears and superstition of the hopeless and the vulnerable!
Adult stem cells do work, but embryonic stem cells might work? Okay, whatever. It’s all about what you want to be true, and what you hope will happen, and never mind the science. Geez, get out of the dark ages, people!
Schmiddlapp’s frustration is well-founded. Adult stem cell research is ethically sound (read: doesn’t kill anybody). In a November 1 interview with National Public Radio, Smith says:
“What people don’t realize is for 30 years, we’ve been using adult stem cells . . . That’s called a bone marrow transplant. Diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, anemia — this is all part of the standard of care.”
Embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, is in its second decade of testing. Its taxpayer funding was reinstated in 2009 by President Barack “Kill ‘Em All and Let the Flying Spaghetti Monster Sort ‘Em Out” Obama, and hundreds of companies devoted to the field have received billions of dollars in funding.
And yet the field has shown mixed results, if by “mixed results” you mean “dismal and unmitigated failure.” When asked to list “diseases cured by embryonic stem cell therapy,” Google Chrome said, “Aw, snap. The information you are looking for does not appear to exist.” It then asked, “Did you mean ‘adult stem cell cures?’” and offered 13,700,000 results.
The NPR story states
[Sean] Morrison, a leading stem cell researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center” suspects that “the Vatican is using its support to undermine research using embryos.
The Catholic Church replied in a bored chorus,
“Yes, of course the Vatican is using its support to undermine research using embryos. Undermining evil? It’s kind of . . . what we do.”
A few random nuncios were seen to roll their eyes and remark, “What are we, savages?”
The Church then yawned collectively at the superstitious myths promulgated by the scientific community and got back to work trying to save actual lives.