Health

Newt Gingrich Deceives On Stem Cell Research, Mocks Evolution

Our guest blogger is Chris Mooney, a editor of The Intersection.

In a Q&A after his event yesterday to announce a “New Contract With America,” Newt Gingrich was asked if he would work to make “Christian social issues the law of the land,” by a questioner who cited stem cell research in particular.

Here was his response:

I am very much for adult stem cell research, and I am very much for stem cell research that comes from, for example, any device other than killing an embryo. But I am opposed to getting involved in a process of killing children in order to have research materials. And I think you’re finding, you look at what’s happening with stem cell research, we have less and less demand that you have anything except regular stem cells, because we’re learning how to use them. So I think that’s an ideological fight, rather than a scientific fight.

The bit about “killing children” is absurd. According to the NIH, most embryos used are leftover from in vitro fertilization clinics, and have been designated for research with the “informed consent of the donors.” They never have any chance of becoming children because they’re never implanted in a womb.

And not only are there no dead children here. Gingrich’s claim about adult stem cells — the “regular” stem cells, he claims — is also way off. He’s engaging in classic hype that the religious right uses whenever this issue comes up — claiming that we don’t really need embryonic stem cells because adult stem cells are so wonderful that they can take care of everything. That would surprise the International Society for Stem Cell Research, which offers this statement on adult stem cell hype by Dr. David Scadden:

Adult stem cell therapies are powerful, but they are not as wide-ranging as claimed. They have a narrow record of disease types for which the therapy is extremely valuable, a success story that is enormously encouraging evidence for stem cell research leading to methods of positively affecting people’s lives. It took approximately 25 years between discovery and routine clinical application of adult stem cell therapy. It is not known how long it will take for embryonic stem cells to become a useful therapy or whether they will ever directly do so. However, it would be unwise to ignore the potential for either adult or embryonic stem cells to result in a meaningful new approach. Adult and embryonic stem cells are complementary subjects of research and studying them side by side offers the greatest potential to rapidly generate new therapies.

Sorry, Newt. And this is a guy who likes science, at least when it suits him.

Gingrich ends the latest clip with a lampooning of evolution — we’re talking Bishop Wilberforce-type stuff.

I always tell my friends who don’t believe in this stuff, fine, how do you think — we’re randomly gathered protoplasm? We could have been rhinoceroses, but we got lucky this week?

Evolution by natural selection is not a random process–though this is a standard creationist talking point. So Gingrich almost hit an anti-science trifecta here — all he had to do was snub global warming too. So close!