One of the common complaints about Intelligent Design is that it’s a science stopper. Something about how the idea that the conviction that intelligent agents are have produced extraordinarily advanced technology will discourage intelligent agents from producing extraordinarily advanced technology. With that in mind, I thought it’d be worth focusing on a recent, if not ID-related, science development. The Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded to two men for their work in adult stem cell research – and the awarding of that prize is worth pondering.
Scientists from Britain and Japan shared a Nobel Prize on Monday for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day regrow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.
John Gurdon, 79, of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and Shinya Yamanaka, 50, of Kyoto University in Japan, discovered ways to create tissue that would act like embryonic cells, without the need to collect the cells from embryos.
Opposition to fetal stem-cell experimentation was originally branded as an anti-science move. By maintaining ethical objections to the practice of reducing unborn children into a flesh-slurry so their precious, delicious biological resources could be harvested, opponents of the experimentation were accused of being anti-science. And really, it seems like a pretty direct equation: experiments can be done on fetal stem cells, some people oppose these experiments being done, opposing them being done means (if successful) the experiments aren’t done, ergo you’ve discouraged experiments from being done – and that’s anti-science in a nutshell. Right?
Well, no. The same opponents of fetal stem cell experimentation, including (but of course not limited to) the Catholic Church, encouraged and promoted alternative, more ethically sound research – such as adult stem cell research. The two scientists awarded the Nobel cited the ethical questions about fetal stem cell usage as a point of concern, which their own work helps bypass altogether. It was a point of encouragement and drive to pursue their own research.
So the result is clear: opposing one kind of research on ethical grounds itself produced incentives to focus on other kinds of research, which now includes Nobel Prize winning research that helps to reduce or even eliminate any need to engage in fetal stem cell experimentation altogether. Indeed, the very thing these researchers discovered – the ability to use adult stem cells to achieve what fetal stem cells could potentially accomplish – was considered impossible previously. And, without that ethical opposition, this discovery may have been missed or delayed severely.
The whole affair is yet another good reason to be skeptical whenever someone starts throwing out claims of “you’re being anti-science!” for daring to find some experiments unethical or immoral – or, in the case of ID, for daring to think in ways that defy the consensus.