Friday, March 27, 2009

We Aren't ND... (updated: ...or maybe we are!)

EDIT: Within hours of receiving news that a large right-wing protest was on the rise to shame the University of Notre Dame into retracting an invitation to President Barack Obama to give the commencement speech for the class of 2009, I got this from a former professor:
Thank you for standing with Notre Dame and supporting its decision to host President Obama. In less than 24 hours we collected more than 20,000 signatures.

Click here to tell your friends and family about the ‘We Support Notre Dame’ campaign. After we launched our petition drive on Thursday, the Notre Dame administration announced that they were not backing down. The far right isn’t letting up either. Those attacking Notre Dame are claiming more than 190,000 signatures.

We need all hands on deck to spread the word about and to put the brakes on this latest effort to misuse the language of faith for political gain. Please help build the momentum and share this link with your friends and family.

Our nation's colleges and universities are meant to be places that embrace open dialogue about the issues of our day. Don't let Notre Dame cave to political pressure. Help send a clear message that we welcome President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame by encouraging others to join the campaign.

Good on you, ND. Maybe I will hang my diploma on the wall, after all. :D

Please join the cause if you agree. No affiliation with the university or Catholicism is necessary - we will be grateful for the support of anyone and everyone:

Original post follows:

Well, I was going to post a new pattern, but I'm too miffed to do it right now.

My alma mater has decided to invite the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to give the commencement speech for the class of 2009.

I find this awesome.

Other people do not find this so awesome. In fact, they are actually bitching out the current and former presidents of the university for even considering such an affront to their religious sensibilities (or lack thereof).

What the hell?

President Obama has reversed a BushII policy that restricts federal funds from being used to further embryonic stem-cell research which uses newly developed cell lines. Shorter version, "Now all the stem-cell scientists can use the money for their projects, not just the ones using the old cells." This research is (now) considered worthy of federal funding because of it's potential to develop treatments for the most challenging and serious diseases of our time, and yes, I am going to list them, because no matter how many times you hear the lineup, it is critical to remember that each one is still a raging epidemic out there.

Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease. Leukemia and lymphoma. Bone disorders, blood disorders, and immunological disorders. Paralysis, blindness, deafness.

Diabetes. Heart disease. Brain damage.


People suffer from these. They die from these. Not just theoretical people somewhere else in the world whom you will never meet, but your mother. Your father. Children. Sisters and brothers. Best friends. Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your husband, your wife. Anyone and everyone you love.

Now, there are many perfectly healthy people who have dedicated their lives and their careers to stopping this from happening. They are not famous, they are not rich. They bend over microscopes, beside MRI machines, under blacklights, at the bedsides of the ill, with families who know they will lose that mother or father, son or daughter, unless the work of these dedicated people should soon succeed.

They have sought to find the cures for decades. They are still struggling today. Not to gain anything for themselves, but to save.

To save others. To save parents and children, best friends and lovers. To save the lives of theoretical people somewhere else in the world, whom they will never meet.

How is this disregard for life?

How is this a sin?

Bring the stem-cell researchers to the commencement. Let them give speeches. Maybe then the class of 2009 will learn what the honest "sanctity of life" is.

New pattern later, maybe after a few people finally come to their senses.


Sarah said...

This is a really tough issue. I don't know quite as much about stem cells as you probably do, but personally I don't see it as being a sin, at least no more so than abortion, only this is for a much better purpose. Although I do think that maybe they could carry out more research into other sources of stemcells such as adult tissues, or possibly even cells from mice. Good on you for posting about this.

Ku said...

Thank you, Sarah. It is a tough issue, I agree. Adult stem cells and stem cells from foreign species only complicate the matter, because they seem to offer alternatives, when in fact they don't merit the same possibilities at all. A friend in the organic chemistry field once explained it to me like this:

First, lemonade is the cure for cancer in humans.

Embryonic stem cells are like filtered, distilled water. You could make great lemonade with them, but it will take some work. You'll have to measure and add the sugar and boil it into syrup, then juice the lemons and get the mix right. In the end, however, you'll get perfect lemonade.

Adult stem cells are the equivalent of muddy water from a pond. You could try to make lemonade with it, but the contaminants already present in the water are going to make your final product into muddy lemon water, not lemonade. It won't be useful -- it may even be harmful.

Stem cells from mice or any other creature (except, perhaps, chimpanzees) are like orange juice. There's just no way to make lemonade out of orange juice, nor either can you somehow revert the orange juice into water and start from there.

The only way to get the pond water clean is to distill it to it's most basic form, which can only be done by forcing two cells to merge in the way a sperm and egg would, creating an embryo, and harvesting the uncorrupted cells from it. So there's the embryo again. ._. Darn.

Finally, I wonder if enough people understand where embryonic stem cells actually come from. They're not collected from abortions. In fact, by the time a pregnancy can be detected, the fetus is already well beyond the stem-cell stage. Embryonic stem cells come from a tiny, globular cluster of less than 200 cells, formed in the first 4 or 5 days after conception. The stem cells used for medical research are collected from in vitro fertilization, where the egg and sperm are introduced to each other in a test tube; they are never taken from a woman's body.

*sigh* We will get there someday.

Sarah said...

Okay... I hadn't quite realized that adult cells were somehow inferior. My biology teacher had been making it out like they were a viable alternative, but I guess even teachers can be wrong. The lemonade analogy is a good way of describing it.

I hadn't thought that they came from abortions, but I will admit I only had a foggy idea of where they did come from.

I guess it shows how easy it is to form an opinion based on very little information. It just seems a shame to me that certain people go out of their way to deny themselves information on it by refusing to attend events like this but still insist on being opinionated.

Thank you for clearing things up for me!

Ku said...

o.o My goodness, Ms. Sarah, you are remarkably open-minded, especially for someone so young. You couldn't possibly be from America, I suppose? ;D (How is Perth this time of year? Autumn, right?)

In any case, I'm very surprised and pleased that you've been taught anything regarding stem cells in biology class. It's embarrassing how few students in the US get any instruction on topics like this, or evolution, or practically anything that a major religious group takes offense to... -_-;

In any case, thank you so much! I feel much better having someone rational to talk to. :D

Sarah said...

Hi again. I guess in Australia there's a lot of people from different backgrounds so we're surrounded by people with a range of views on various issues. My biology teacher last year, for example, didn't believe in evolution, so he taught us both sides of the argument. I saw a TV show about how controversial this is in America and I was quite insulted to find that many people think high school students are incapable of understanding more than one theory.

About the painting; It's based on an art doll our teacher brought in, but I like your description! I was sort of going for a dream-world feel with the swirly background. :)