Month Archives: December 2010

Register today for ProLifeCon

by Krystle Gabele

December 28, 2010

Come join other pro-life internet activists at ProLifeCon, the premier conference for the online pro-life community. On January 24, 2011, ProLifeCon will take place at the Family Research Council headquarters and will feature experts and legislators to inform you about the issues impacting the pro-life movement and give you ways to make a difference on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the rest of the online world.

Confirmed speakers include:

Register today by clicking here.

SPLC Equates FRC to Neo-NazisSo Whos Demonizing Whom?

by Peter Sprigg

December 22, 2010

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which last month declared that Family Research Council, American Family Association, and several other socially conservative organizations are anti-gay hate groups, seems to be growing increasingly frantic in their efforts to defend this smear. But in their desperation, they have doubled down on the charge, only reinforcing how absurd it is.

On December 16, SPLC President and CEO J. Richard Cohen sent a letter to several of the individuals who signed an ad urging that liberals Start Debating homosexuality and Stop Hating groups that express disapproval of homosexual conduct in a civil manner. In defense of the hate group designation, Cohen stated this in his letter:

If a neo-Nazi group said all Jews are vermin, no one would argue with our characterizing it as a hate group. The same should be true for groups that knowingly spread demonizing falsehoods about gay men and lesbians.

There you have it. Cohen openly declares that he considers FRC fully equivalent to a neo-Nazi group that says, all Jews are vermin.

Where is Mr. Cohens evidence that Family Research Council, or anyone who works for FRC, has ever said that all gay men and lesbians are vermin? You will search in vain for such a statement.

For the record, FRC believes that every human being, including those who experience same-sex attractions and those who engage in homosexual conduct, is created in the image of God and is loved by Him. How this qualifies as hate is a mystery.

We will be preparing a more detailed response to Cohens charge that FRC spreads falsehoods in our well-documented research, which does show that certain harms are associated with homosexual conduct. Those wishing to examine that research in the meantime can refer to the FRC book Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows About Homosexuality or to our recent pamphlet, The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality.

However, if comparing a large, widely-respected public policy organization (whose mission statement calls for defense of a Judeo-Christian worldview) to a neo-Nazi group that says, all Jews are vermin is not a demonizing falsehood, I dont know what is.

New Survey Shows Interesting Trends in Online Activities

by Krystle Gabele

December 21, 2010

A recent Pew Internet Project Survey focused on the online activities which each generation participates in and the changes that have occurred over time. This survey is particularly interesting, especially in the areas of using the internet to obtain religious information and donating to charity.

According to the survey, the G.I. Generation, those ages 74 and older are more than 50% likely to go online to look up religious information among other things, like email or social networking. Compared to the G.I. Generation, the other groups surveyed were less than 50% likely to go online for the same information. This demographic did not change over time either.

On the other hand, donations to charity remain at less than 50% likelihood across the generations. The statistics on giving were constant without any noticeable increases, and this can be attributed to the current economic climate.

Overall, the results from this survey are not surprising, since there is a generational shift towards social networking.

Infectious Idea for Toys

by David Prentice

December 19, 2010

If you’re looking for that special Christmas gift, want something for your favorite biologist, or have a slightly macabre sense of humor, a company is selling cuddly stuffed versions of various germs and cells. The toys depict each microbe at a million times its actual size or larger, and each comes with an information card about their origins and avoiding illnesses they spread.

According to the owner of “Giant Microbes“, Drew Oliver:

From the beginning they were designed to be whimsical, of course, with the eyes and features like that, but also scientifically sound - to the extent that a plush doll of a germ can be.”

The toys are meant to be educational, and have been used as teaching tools in numerous settings. Categories include Health (e.g., flu, common cold, stomach ache), Calamities (e.g., Black Death, anthrax, ebola), Tropicals (e.g., malaria, leishmania), and others. You can even search categories for your favorites based on the common or scientific name.

The Corporeals category includes an Adult Stem Cell (“The miraculous stem cell is the body’s dreamer it can grow up to be whatever it wants to be.”)

Work Out, Pump Up Your Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 17, 2010

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have found what they called a “fountain of youth” for aging muscles—exercise. They showed that endurance exercise can increase the number of muscle adult stem cells, and enhances their ability to rejuvenate old muscles. In a lab version of the rat race, young and old rats ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for a 13-week period (can’t you picture them working out in little sweat pants and head bands?) Younger animals showed a 20-35% increase in muscle adult stem cells retained, while older animals showed an even greater benefit, with a 33-47% increase in muscle stem cells, compared to sedentary controls. Endurance exercise also improved the levels of “spontaneous locomotion” in older animals, what the researchers called the feeling that tells our bodies to just get up and dance.

Prof. Dafna Benayahu and her team say their findings, published in PLOS One, explain for the first time why older people who have exercised throughout their lives age more gracefully. As we age, there is a decline in muscle mass and function as well as bone mass; this explains the increased risk of falling in the elderly. She hopes eventually to find a method to ameliorate the negative effects of aging by stimulating adult stem cells in the muscle.

Other studies have shown that exercise can stimulate production of new neurons and new brain cells from adult neural stem cells.

So get up and dance!

Cloning Fraud’s Conviction Upheld, but Not for Fraud

by David Prentice

December 16, 2010

A South Korean appeals court upheld the conviction of Hwang Woo-suk on embezzlement based on faked research and violating bioethics laws. The court reduced his sentence to 18 months (suspended for two years), for the embezzlement charge and threw out the fraud charge.

In 2004 and 2005, Hwang published papers in the journal Science claiming that he had created the first cloned human embryos, and obtained embryonic stem cells from the clones. In late 2005, it was found that Hwang had faked the results. He was indicted on fraud and embezzlement charges.

In October 2009 he was convicted of embezzling $719,000 in research funds and illegally buying human eggs.

Despite the fraud and problems associated with cloning, there are scientists and politicians who still want human clones.

Response to Reuters FaithWorld article on MARRIs release of the Index of Belonging and Rejection

by Pat Fagan

December 16, 2010

Overall I agree with the direction of FaithWorld’s questions on MARRIs release of the Index of Belonging and Rejection, but first a few clarifications (followed by almost-disagreements):

1: I am Catholic, not Evangelical (though FRC is an Evangelical organization. It does believe in religious freedom and builds across honest divides rather than keeping them.)

2: I would have gladly put in the religious attendance data but Census NEVER collects such data though I wish they would (other federal surveys do and the American Community Survey would be so much better if it did). I hope you will push for that.

3: We have covered this anomaly (high worship and low marriage) and brought lots of attention to it. See our own study which does this —- based on the federal National Child Health Survey

4: Bill O’Hare, former editor of the Kids Count from the Annie E Casey Foundation was the first I know of to point out this anomaly. (Mississippi is the highest weekly church attending state but the lowest intact-family state). This clearly points to a family / marriage crisis within the church. Probably most within the Black church — but not solely there. One cannot call oneself a serious Christian (unless one also calls oneself an unreformed one and a sinner) while simultaneously breaking universal Christian doctrine on sex and marriage. This bears further digging into.

5: All the deep digging into the relationship between religious practice and marital stability points to a very clear and very strong relationship between both. (We have a review of that literature coming up on our website in the next few months. This will only heighten the anomaly, not diminish it.

(a) Our Mapping America Project , drawing on federal surveys only, repeatedly illustrates that the intact family that worships weekly is the strongest social unit and the most productive by far. So weekly religious practice and marriage are very important for the strength of the country. Let’s not pit one against the other.

(b) What one can likely take from the data is that if the Southern states did not have the high levels of worship they do have they would be in an even worse situation.

6: The Mormon states do very well and overall most exemplify (at the state level) this strength of relationship, a relationship which holds across all denominations. There is clearly grist for the Christian church-leadership mill here.

7: Our data point towards a need for reform within the church. History teaches two lessons about Christianity: practiced it yields enormous benefits, talked about but not practiced it yields untold suffering and it a great cause for scandal and shame.

10: The history of Christianity is a history of reform upon reform upon reform. Seems like we need it again.. at least that is what I take from the data.

8: As I hope this will make clear (and I hope FaithWorld will notice) MARRI is interested in the truth, not ideological point-scoring. There is much to unravel in the tension between the macro data (state level marriage vs. worship data) and micro data (the greater the religious attendance/ prayer the stronger and more stable the marriage). But it is precisely these “contrary” data that are the source of intellectual breakthrough.

9: To add to this dilemma: The social sciences (to date and probably always) cannot measure the heart (the inner workings, desires, cover-ups, prayers — or lack thereof). It is confined to measuring externalities —- measurable behaviors and words. Getting to the hidden interiorities is beyond its competence. Christ excoriated the religious leaders of his time for what was not in their heart even as the externals looked rather devout. We may be in the same situation. I know I often am.

Adult Stem Cell Protein Improves Hearts

by David Prentice

December 16, 2010

Duke researchers have shown that applying a protein secreted by adult stem cells can repair heart function and reduce scarring. The group had previously shown that adult mesenchymal stem cells could reduce heart and restore function in rodent hearts. Their newest study looked at the mechanism behind the success of adult stem cells in treating heart damage.

They found that a natural protein, called “secreted frizzled related protein 2 (sfrp2)”, was a key factor in the heart repair seen with adult stem cells. In a rat model, they found that application of the protein after heart attack prevented fibrous scarring within two weeks, and began to restore heart function within four weeks.

Dr. Victor Dzau, senior author of the study, said:

We found that giving the study rats the protein sfrp2 strongly improved heart function in the critical pumping chamber, the left ventricle, after a myocardial infarction. We observed that sfrp2 at therapeutic doses reduced heart muscle death and also directly prevented deposits of collagen, and thus reduced the scarring that can affect heart function.”

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A Perpetual Adult Stem Cell?

by David Prentice

December 16, 2010

Scientists at the University at Buffalo have engineered adult stem cells that can grow continuously in culture. Normal adult stem cells have a limited lifespan in the laboratory, which frustrates scientists who want to study them over the long term, but does not prevent their being grown and used for current adult stem cell transplants.

The scientists developed the new cell lines by genetically engineering mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell from bone marrow that can form other cell types and repair various tissues. They named the new cells “MSC Universal”. The new adult stem cells show no evidence of aging in culture, function as normal mesenchymal stem cells, and do not form tumors in animal testing (unlike embryonic stem cells).

According to the project leader, Dr. Techung Lee, an MSC-Universal cell line could be generated from any donor.

Our stem cell research is application-driven. If you want to make stem cell therapies feasible, affordable and reproducible, we know you have to overcome a few hurdles. Part of the problem in our health care industry is that you have a treatment, but it often costs too much. In the case of stem cell treatments, isolating stem cells is very expensive. The cells we have engineered grow continuously in the laboratory, which brings down the price of treatments.”

One of the mechanisms by which adult stem cells help regenerate or repair damaged tissues is by releasing growth factors that encourage existing cells in the human body to function and grow. Lee has previously published evidence showing that injecting adult stem cells into skeletal muscle can stimulate repair of the heart. More recently his lab has identified some of the factors involved in the stimulation of repair, published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

The University of Buffalo has applied for a patent to protect Lee’s discovery, so there is as yet no publication about the new cells.

Protesting Too Much: The Evangelical Left Doesnt Get Capitalism and Doesnt Want To

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 16, 2010

Poor Jim Wallis is almost beside himself.

In an article published in The Huffington Post, Wallis’ class warfare rhetoric pours forth without stint or measure, spilling over upon those of us who have the audacity to believe that when a person earns money legally, it should not be unduly confiscated by the government.

Here is a sampling of Wallis’ careful, nuanced, ruminative, above-the-fray language:

  • higher tax rates on the very rich”
  • the very wealthiest Americans”
  • Goldman Sachs traders”
  • hedge fund gamblers”
  • a handful of very rich people”
  • There is socialism in America, but it’s only for the rich.”
  • ” … fighting the people whose greed, recklessness, and utter lack of concern for the common good have led us into this terrible crisis”
  • casino gamblers on Wall Street”
  • More tax breaks and benefits for the very wealthiest people in America is not only bad economics and bad policy; it is fundamentally immoral.”

Anyone for the barricades?

These huzzahs of indignation, full of stereotyped Leftist boilerplate, reflect either ignorance of how the economy grows or else a bitter ideological conviction that wealth is wrong and that the wealthy are ontologically evil.

Neither proposition is appealing, or convincing. After two years of massive federal spending and micromanagement of the economy (to the point where a President of the United States actually fired the head of General Motors), job losses have climbed and we are now facing the prospect of actual deflation.

Wallis would be more credible if he would simply announce what everyone who has ever read his books or op-eds has known for decades: He is a man of the Left and a highly partisan Democrat. His claim to be “post-partisan” and a man of neither Left or Right is as hollow as it is insistent.

Consider this statement, near the end of his piece - President Obama “waited too long” to “counter the distortions of the Republicans who clearly don’t mind adding huge sums to the deficit as long as it benefits their wealthy patrons.”

Ah, now I understand: Republicans opposed allowing tax rates to go up because they want to do favors for “their wealthy patrons.” Sort of like Wallis’ donor George Soros, perhaps?

Or perhaps they opposed allowing rates to rise because they believe that no poor man ever created a job. Or because they know that capital investment by those who earn the most is essential to those Wallis claims to champion, lower- and middle-income Americans. Or because they realize that a tax increase on those who pay the most in taxes to begin with is both unfair and, as a matter of economic policy, plain nuts during a time of economic duress.

Playing on populist indignation is cheap only if it is a rhetorical ploy. Wallis —- along with others like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren —- actually believes this stuff. That is why Wallis uses the language of moral outrage to advocate policies that demonstrably don’t work. If he cares as much as he protests that he does for “the poor,” would he not support policies that produce jobs for them?

Socialism failed to deliver the bacon or the paradise. Capitalism delivered the bacon but not the paradise,” wrote University of Maryland economist Robert Nelson. Excellent point, but it should be said that no economic system ever will deliver paradise. Only God can do that, and will not do so in an age throbbing with the falls curse.

However, capitalism —- properly understood —- never claims to be the precursor to the Millennial Kingdom. It is a system of commerce, not a pathway to salvation. Christians should, and mature ones do, get that.

Materialism, acquisitiveness, greed, human and environmental exploitation, raw consumerism: These are the sins not of a system but of those who misuse it or whose confidence in its possibilities is misplaced.

Capitalism offers great financial reward for thrift, creativity, risk-taking, and shrewd marketing. It can, practiced properly, dignify labor, strengthen families, and foster a higher standard of living for everyone. John F. Kennedy was right: A rising tide lifts all boats.

The way to ameliorate the excesses of capitalists themselves is not by jettisoning the system that permits its own abuse. No economic system in history has produced the prosperity, medical innovation, or the quantity or quality of food and clothing and housing and transportation or improvements of virtually everything that can be conceived, designed, produced and utilized than capitalism.

The challenge for Christians and for a moral society in general is to encourage generosity in place of greed, fair pay for honest labor, liberty instead of constrictions that impede wealth-creation, appropriate and wise regulations that discourage injustice but not opportunity, including the simple act of hiring an employee because your business is beginning to grow.

That challenge is unmet when one demonizes his fellow citizens with puerile epithets (to Wallis, “Wall Street” seems to be an obscenity) instead of pondering seriously how to address inequity, job loss, and economic disadvantage.

Wallis’s hatred of the prosperous is visceral, grounded in his unrepentant Students for a Democratic Society ideology, such that he cannot juxtapose his loathing of the wealthy with the fact that only the well-off produce employment.

Thus, he clings to the mythical belief that only the central government has the wisdom to allocate resources wisely, assigning to the state a benign omniscience the Bible assigns only to God.

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor, says the Psalmist (140:12). Christians, who are called to imitate their Lord, should do this on His behalf. But the way to do so is not by continually lamenting over the state of those in need while advocating policies that hurt them. Its to find what works, and apply it ethically and effectively.

Sadly, this simple premise seems to have eluded Jim Wallis for far too long.

Unfettered capitalism, unrestrained by any regulation? No. But capitalism that, under what the Founders called ordered liberty, can thrive? For the sake of those on the downside of advantage, yes. Indeed, yes.

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