We were unable to get away from New York to attend President Bush’s stem-cell speech yesterday, but our friend Wesley J. Smith flew from California to see the event, and he promised to let us know how it went:

I attended President Bush’s stem cell speech yesterday, and I have to say, it was a real thrill as an American to be invited to the White House to hear the president of the United States give a major policy address. Here is my impression of the day: I was seated in the third row on the right side of the podium and so had a very clear and close-up view of the president. His body language and, particularly, the “on fire” look in his eyes, convinced me that, agree or disagree with Bush, he believes in his stem cell policy wholeheartedly. And he is keeping a campaign promise¯imagine that in a politician! In other words, Bush is not “pandering to his base,” as some have said. Nor is he being uncompassionate about people needing medical treatments. He truly believes that he has drawn an important moral and ethical line that does not place the imprimatur of the United States on harvesting nascent human life¯as if so many ears of corn¯but which at the same time does not impose his moral view on a country that substantially disagrees (at least when the embryos are “leftover IVF embryos due to be destroyed anyway” are concerned).

At a deeper level, Bush’s policy has kept the ethical debate where it belongs: Does human life have intrinsic value simply because it is human? With his stem cell policy and advocacy to outlaw all human cloning, Bush says yes. And whether the issue is the ethical propriety of embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, redefining death so that people like Terri Schiavo can be harvested for their organs, human enhancement, personhood theory, or a myriad of other biotechnological and bioethical controversies of the day, that is the fundamental issue that our nation and our world faces. Kudos to President Bush for understanding this and acting accordingly.

Meanwhile, Carlos Lima has published his research demonstrating that a patient’s own adult stem cells and olfactory mucosa can treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. This study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine , reports on seven patients treated with the procedure. (Lima has treated at least two dozen more.) Two of the seven regained bladder control. One regained control of the anal sphincter. This alone is huge! “Every patient had improvement” in “motor scores.” “Most recovered sensation below the initial level of injury that was repaired.” No side effects other than those associated with any surgery.

Let us caution: This isn’t a cure. It is an apparently effective treatment that may one day substantially improved the quality of lives of spinal cord injury patients and may return some to the potential of mobility.

I hope I am wrong, but I will bet that the mainstream media ignores the story. They will be too busy reporting on rats with improved mobility from embryonic stem cells.


In addition to which :

Robert Louis Wilken’s remembrance of his friend Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) includes this: "In the last generation, it has become fashionable among historians of Christian thought . . . to suggest . . . that orthodox Christianity made its way not by argument but by power and coercion. The real heroes in Christian history are the dissidents, the heretics, whose insights were suppressed . . . . Pelikan never succumbed to this temptation." Elsewhere in the same August/September First Things , Avery Cardinal Dulles gives reasons for valuing the traditional teaching of the Church in his article, "The Orthodox Imperative." Educate yourself this summer with a subscription to First Things .

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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