Month Archives: April 2009

Yes, We Can . . .

by Peter Sprigg

April 16, 2009

 … blame activist judges for same-sex marriage in Vermont.

Although advocates of homosexual “marriage” had succeeded in overthrowing the natural definition of marriage in Massachusetts, California (briefly), Connecticut, and most recently Iowa, they have had to live with the albatross that it was only through the judicial usurpation of the legislative function that they had achieved this anywhere. Not one state had ever enacted same-sex “marriage” through any process that could be described as democratic.

Vermont has changed that. On April 7, the elected Vermont legislature succeeded in overriding a gubernatorial veto of a bill to grant civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Homosexual activists have gloated that, at long last, they have achieved a victory that we conservatives cannot blame on “activist judges.”

Their historical memories are too short.

Let’s remember that the Vermont Supreme Court, in a decision issued late in 1999, was the first in the nation to rule that same-sex couples must be granted 100% of the legal rights and benefits of marriage under state law. Only under the coercive pressure of this ruling did the Vermont legislature, in 2000, coin the now familiar term “civil unions,” in order to comply without actually changing the definition of “marriage.” And it was only because Vermont had already experienced nine years of desensitization, under the court-imposed counterfeit of “civil unions,” that the legislature finally capitulated to the demands of homosexual activists to be granted the word “marriage” as well.

In the pro-homosexual war to destroy the meaning of marriage, court rulings have been the aerial bombardment, meant to soften the defenses. By accepting specious claims that homosexual “marriage” is a “civil rights” issue, courts have made it easier for liberal legislators to advance the same claim. Only now, and only because of those judicial assaults, has the ground invasion-serious efforts to legislate same-sex “marriage”-begun.

Advocates of same-sex marriage will argue, of course, that it’s perfectly legitimate for the courts to drive social change. After all, didn’t Brown v. Board of Education (1954) pave the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The problem with that argument is that the Brown decision was clearly rooted in the constitutional language of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which established the principle of racial equality (albeit unfulfilled) nearly a century earlier. I’ve written elsewhere about why race is not comparable to homosexual conduct. But if advocates of same-sex “marriage” really see themselves as heirs of the civil rights movement, let them first amend the U.S. Constitution-and only then appeal to the courts.

A Stroke of Successful Therapy with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

April 16, 2009

The good news continues to flow about the first stroke patient successfully treated in Houston using the patient’s own adult stem cells. The patient, Roland Henrich, was originally admitted to the emergency room at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center on March 25, 2009 with signs of stroke—he could not speak and had significant weakness on his right side. Because it was beyond the few hours window for use of the clot-dissolving drug TPA, the adult stem cell trial was his only option. The next day some of his bone marrow was removed, the adult stem cells separated, and returned intravenously to the patient. In less than a week doctors noted that he was recovering remarkably well and had not shown any signs of paralysis. Within 11 days of the treatment Mr. Henrich was walking, climbing stairs unassisted, and said his first word after the stroke, captured on a local news video and surprising his own doctor and leader of the clinical trial, Dr. Sean Savitz. His wife says now he has spoken several single words and phrases and has fed the cows by himself.

Stroke is the nation’s third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. This breakthrough has the potential to drastically change the way stroke patients are treated in the future. The trial marks one of the latest advances involving the therapeutic abilities of adult stem cells. Researchers have found that adult stem cells can transform into various specific kinds of tissue and that they contain proteins that foster healing.

The stroke clinical trial builds on previous research projects in Houston. Trials conducted by Texas Heart Institute doctors involve heart failure patients and heart attack survivors; another, conducted by UT-Houston doctors, involves treating children within 48 hours of a head injury. These trials are also ongoing.

New Eggs for Old?

by David Prentice

April 15, 2009

Chinese scientists have published a study in Nature Cell Biology that suggests even older females retain adult stem cells that can stimulate fertility, including the production of more eggs. The evidence is in contrast to the usual dogma that women have a finite number of immature eggs, some of which mature and are ovulated, and that the number of eggs becomes depleted with age. Tilly et al. recently reviewed the evidence for and against production of new eggs after birth. Tilly’s group was one of those recently to challenge the dogma with evidence that new egg production could occur in mammals.

What the Chinese group showed is that ovaries contain stem cells that can produce more eggs, similar to the stem cells in testes that produce sperm. The group isolated these female germline stem cells (FGSCs) from newborn and adult mice and grew them in culture. When female mice that had been sterilized were injected with the stem cells, fertility was restored including birth of healthy offspring. The injected FGSCs had been labeled with a fluorescent gene so that they could be tracked and some, though not all, of the offspring contained the fluorescent gene.

The new evidence doesn’t prove that these stem cells actually function in the normal ovary. They may age and that’s why the ovary runs out of eggs and menopause occurs. They may stimulate egg formation by secreting factors that affect other cells to maintain eggs rather than forming eggs themselves. More studies will be needed to see what is their normal function. But if similar cells could be found in humans, it might lead to treatments that extend or rejuvenate fertility. It could also pose a concern if those who want to do cloning try to use the cells to create large numbers of eggs for experiments.

Healing Bones Using In-the-Body Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

April 15, 2009

Patients confined to wheelchairs have been able to walk or live independently again because their broken bones finally healed, thanks to a drug that stimulates their adult stem cells. Preliminary results presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society meeting found 93% of those with an unhealed bone fracture had significant healing and pain control after treatment for only 8 to 12 weeks. Half of the 145 patients studied had non-healing fractures for 6 months or longer. The drug, teriparatide (Forteo), was approved by the FDA in 2002 for treatment of osteoporosis. A team led by Dr. J. Edward Puzas at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that this drug can also boost the body’s bone adult stem cell production to the point that adults’ bones appear to heal at a rate typically seen for young kids.

Australian researchers reported similar success in 2008 at treating non-healing fractures, using the patient’s adult stem cells. The U.S. team’s results are the initial observations from a clinical trial led by Dr. Puzas. Out of an estimated 6 million fractures in the U.S. each year, approximately 5% show slow or incomplete healing, and a large portion of non-healing fractures occur in older adults. Discovery of this in-the-body adult stem cell therapy that can jumpstart the body’s natural bone healing process will be a boon to many patients.

Talk to the Arm

by David Prentice

April 15, 2009

Third-Ear-on-arm2.jpgAustralian performance artist Stelios Arcadiou, known as Stelarc, has a third ear implanted on his arm. The ear was grown in the lab using human cartilage and cells, and then surgically implanted. Next he’d like to implant receivers and transmitters so others can listen in over the internet to what the ear hears. Some have criticized the extra ear as not clinically necessary and potentially offensive to those who have lost an ear in an accident. Supposedly he wouldn’t hear the criticisms if he wore a long-sleeved shirt…

Al Gore Supports Ethical iPS Cells Over Embryonic

by David Prentice

April 15, 2009

Al Gore has thrown his considerable weight (and his support, too) behind ethically-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells.) Gore is part of a $20 million venture capital investment to develop iPS cells for drug development and basic research. The funding will support collaboration between iZumi Bio, Inc., and Kyoto University’s Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, who was the first in 2006 to develop the iPS cell reprogramming technique; the technique was named “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science for 2008. While iPS cells are virtually identical in characteristics to embryonic stem cells, they are made without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. Gore’s support for iPS cells is a welcome counterweight of priority for real stem cell science against the over-exaggerated hype for embryonic stem cells and cloning.

More Diabetic Patients Treated with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

April 14, 2009

Another success for adult stem cells, again treating Type I (juvenile) diabetes patients. As reported in a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 20 of 23 patients became insulin-independent after treatment with their own bone marrow adult stem cells. This report is a follow-up to the previous report by Voltarelli & Burt in 2007, and includes new patients as well as a longer period to follow the patients. Some of the patients have gone for four years insulin-free. The authors note in the paper that this adult stem cell treatment “remains the only treatment capable of reversing type 1 diabetes in humans.”

Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

April 14, 2009

Here’s what we are reading today.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson

by Robert Morrison

April 13, 2009

Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Born in 1743, Jefferson was described at age 32 as a young man who could “could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.”

Jefferson referred to his election as President as “the revolution of 1800.” It was even more hazardous than the famous “hanging chads” of the Florida recount in 2000. His two terms as President were followed by two terms for his closest friend and political lieutenant, James Madison. These two terms were followed by two terms-almost uncontested-for Jefferson’s second closest political ally, James Monroe. By the time John Quincy Adams was elected President in 1824, this son of an old political rival also counted himself a Jeffersonian.

As President, Jefferson doubled the size of the nation with the Louisiana Purchase. He ordered Lewis & Clark on a Expedition of Discovery that was the nineteenth century’s version of the Apollo Moon program. It would be hard to accept the view of one leading Evangelical scholar that Jefferson left office “in disgrace.”

This American renaissance man was incredibly gifted. His birthday ought to be a national holiday for defenders of religious liberty. Jefferson famously vowed “upon the altar of God eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” His Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786) set a world standard for religious liberty and is one of the three achievements Jefferson asked to have inscribed on his tombstone. 

Jefferson was a famous man of science. He served, after Benjamin Franklin, as the President of the American Philosophical Society, the new republic’s leading scientific organization. In his mind, religious liberty and science did not clash. Nor should they.

But they do clash in Pennsylvania. There, two and a half years ago, a federal judge banned the teaching of Intelligent Design in the Dover public schools. Claiming that ID is a thinly veiled attempt to introduce impermissible creationism into public school classrooms, the judge predictably cited Jefferson’s “wall of separation” in his opinion. Even in the U.S. Supreme Court had not hopelessly confused the meaning of that famous phrase from President Jefferson’s 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptists, it is certainly odd to cite Jefferson in clamping down on freedom of inquiry.

If Judge John Jones knew his man, he might have considered the strange fact that Jefferson was himself an advocate of Intelligent Design. He actually used the phrase “intelligence in the design” in rejecting the atheism of his French philosopher friends. In a long letter to his reconciled political foe, former President John Adams, Jefferson was at pains to describe what he had learned, not from Holy Scripture, but from his scientific studies about the origins of the universe. (Let’s preserve Jefferson’s eighteenth century spellings and punctuation. It’s still less fraught with error than that judge’s ascerbic opinion.)

On the contrary I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it’s parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to percieve and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it’s composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with it’s distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it’s course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view, comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have existed thro’ all time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe.

Design, cause and effect, superintending power, restoring power, a fabricator of all things-not the kind of fabrication we see in the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence-but a Maker, oops, a maker. How many ways could he have said it? This ain’t all an accident, folks.

So, today, in the service of the Supreme Court’s rendering of the First Amendment, we have a chapter-and-verse denial of the worldview that Thomas Jefferson and his dear friend James Madison thought was fundamental. Well, you have to watch out for those fundamentalists, you know.

Judge Jones said that Intelligent Design was just a subterfuge to sneak creationism into the classroom. The horror!

Perhaps Judge Jones should read Daniel Boorstin’s Lost World of Thomas Jefferson. There, he would learn that Mr. Jefferson-and all the most advanced scientific minds of the early republic-believed fervently in a Creator. Perhaps that’s why they thought we also had unalienable rights-endowed by our Creator.

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time,” Jefferson wrote in his famous 1774 pamphlet “A Summary View of the Rights of British North America.” That pamphlet was his audition for the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence.

Delegate John Adams was so taken with Jefferson’s ideas-and with his “peculiar felicity of expression”-that he drafted the draftsman to pen America’s founding document.

One wonders whether in Pennsylvania’s public school history classes it would be permissible to teach that the founders of this republic-without exception-believed in a Creator God.  Or that the Declaration and Constitution are suffused with their enlightened understandings.

Pennsylvania has other constitutional oddities. In their Supreme Court chambers in Harrisburg, you can see Moses carving the Ten Commandments. The famous Violet Oakley mural lists each item of the Decalogue and even refers to these Judeo-Christian tenets as “Revealed Law” (capital R, capital L).

Until they were caught in the act, Pennsylvania Supreme Court officers had intentionally blurred the Oakley text in pamphlets they printed for visitors. How strange that Alabama’s elected Chief Justice Roy Moore was forced off the bench for bringing into his courtroom a marble monument of the Ten Commandments. Yet, Pennsylvania’s seven justices have sat placidly for a century under a full-color representation of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments-replete with fire and lightning!

Jefferson knew what he meant when he pledged eternal hostility to all forms of tyranny over the mind of man.

I had the honor for several years of taking groups of students to Mr. Jefferson’s amazing home at Monticello. There, I would note what columnist George Will’s famous quote about Jefferson: “He lived as a free man ought to live.” No, I would emphasize. Honest John Adams lived as a free man ought to live. He never freed his slaves because he never had any.

Even so, Jefferson should be honored by all. As President Kennedy memorably said in 1962 when he hosted a dinner for forty-nine American Nobel Prize winners: “I think this is the most extraordinary [collection of] talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

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