William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Is It Moral To Use Embryonic Stem Cells In Cancer Therapy?


From an anonymous reader comes this question:

Situation: Doctor is referring me to an oncologist because I may have Myeloma. Note that I have not yet gone for additional screening. Internet is useless in looking for statistics on false positives. I am in the dark.

Problem: Indications are that actual death results from not being able to take the pain anymore. So I have been sentenced to death by agony.

Ethical dilemma: Some websites indicate total remission from a stem cell replacement process. So, if a doctor of medicine tells me I can live a long time by using murdered baby stem cells, how should I morally respond?

Myeloma is blood cancer and stem cell therapy is one of the treatment options, one which is not always indicated. Hematopoietic stem cells are those which make blood in the marrow. Only 1 or so out of 10,000 cells in the marrow are HSCs. According to the NIH guide,

The longevity of short-term stem cells for humans is not firmly established. A true stem cell, capable of self-renewal, must be able to renew itself for the entire lifespan of an organism. It is these long-term replicating HSCs that are most important for developing HSC-based cell therapies. Unfortunately, to date, researchers cannot distinguish the long-term from the short-term cells when they are removed from the bloodstream or bone marrow.

The study by Child and others “High-Dose Chemotherapy with Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Rescue for Multiple Myeloma” is, as far as I can tell (and I am not a physician), typical. They say, “High-dose therapy with supporting autologous stem-cell transplantation remains a controversial treatment for cancer. In multiple myeloma, first-line regimens incorporating high-dose therapy yield higher remission rates than do conventional-dose treatments, but evidence that this translates into improved survival is limited.” Their statistics show wee p-values for slightly longer survival times for high-dose therapies. The conventional-dose was a standard therapy of chemotherapy (cycling through drugs over a set time). The high-dose had chemo plus HSC replacement.

Where do the HSCs come from? The NIH says they used to come from bone marrow donors, but that now “doctors now prefer to harvest donor cells from peripheral, circulating blood [from donors].” Umbilical cord blood and the placenta are “rich” sources. Cancer kids injected with HSCs harvested from these latter sources do okay; some “have now lived in excess of eight years”. No panacea, then.

Now some HSCs are taken from “tissues of fetal animals”—and this includes human animals. “Gallacher and others reported finding HSCs circulating in the blood of 12- to 18-week aborted human fetuses that was rich in HSCs.” Yet some embryonic stem cells “can now be cultured in the lab”.

Amounts are important. “Doctors are rarely able to extract more than a few million HSCs from a placenta and umbilical cord—too few to use in a transplant for an adult,” but which might be sufficient for a child. From my understanding, sufficient amounts cannot be taken from aborted babies for direct use in therapy or transplants, although any amount can be used in research.

Those are the facts. Now the morals. Killing an enwombed baby is taking the life of an innocent human being, and it is therefore immoral (and sinful) no matter what. In the past—and this is important—the bodies of the slaughtered were used in research, and this research led to knowledge of how to culture stem cells in the absence of fresh meat.

Some conclusions can now be had. If a therapy directly uses aborted babies, it is immoral. I mean, if your doctor, at your behest, put in an order at Planned Parenthood for such-and-such number of corpses for use in your therapy, it is immoral. You cannot kill an innocent to save your life. If a therapy indirectly uses aborted babies such that corpses are required to “tune” research for your therapy, it is immoral. For instance, your replacement HSC source are not aborted corpses, but these are needed in the process to test this or that, then the therapy is immoral.

Now some knowledge already exists because of previous abortions. Using this knowledge is not immoral, as long as it does not provide temptation (for you or others) to collect new corpses to gain new knowledge. Those who order murders are as immoral as murderers. The same argument holds for stem cell cultures that might have, in the past, originated in baby corpses. As long as this happened before, without your desire for it, and it won’t create temptation or facilitate the occasion of future killing, then you’re acting morally.

Of course, there’s a fine line there. I’m not sure where exactly to draw it generally. What causes sufficient temptation depends on the individual circumstance.

The therapies provided by HSC replacement do not always lead to greatly extended life over conventional drug therapies, and they often provide no additional benefit. Also, all of the therapies that I have been able to discover here in the USA do not directly use blood taken from aborted corpses. If this is right, you can’t be tempted. Blood taken from babies that died naturally (miscarriages or other misfortunes) can be used. Note also that even if HSC therapy gave complete remission, it changes nothing above.

Do not despair. Many myelomas, it seems, are not painful and some, at early stages, do not require treatment. I’m not giving you medical advice nor am I advising you to avoid seeking a physician. I’m sure the readers of this blog will say a prayer for you.

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Has Free Will

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Here we go, sisters and brothers. The crux. Free will, in God and in us.

Chapter 86 That a reason of the divine will can be assigned. (alternate translation)

[2] …For the end is the reason of willing the means. Now God wills His goodness as an end, and He wills all else as means to that end. Therefore His goodness is the reason why He wills other things which are different from Him…

[4] Again. As we have shown above, supposing God to will a certain thing, it follows of necessity that He wills whatever is required for that thing. Now that which imposes necessity on something else, is the reason why this other thing is. Therefore the reason why God wills that which is requisite for a thing, is that the thing for which it is requisite may be [may exist]…

Chapter 87 That nothing can be the cause of the Divine will. (alternate translation)

[1] Now although it is possible to assign some reason of the divine will, it does not follow that anything is the cause of that will.

[2] For the end is to the will the cause of willing. Now the end of God’s will is His goodness. Therefore this is the cause of God’s willing, and is the selfsame as the act of His will…

[4] Nevertheless it is clear that there is no need to allow of any discursion in the divine will. Because where there is one act, we cannot find discursion, as we have proved above with regard to the intellect. Now God by one act wills His goodness and all else, since His action is His essence.

[5] By what we have said we refute the error of some who say that all things proceed from God according to His simple will, so that no reason is to be given for anything except that God wills it.

Chapter 88 That in God there is free will. (alternate translation)

[1] IT is possible to conclude from the foregoing that free-will is to be found in God.

[2] For free-will is applied to those things that one wills not of necessity but of one’s own accord: wherefore in us there is free-will in regard to our wishing to run or walk. Now God wills not of necessity things other than Himself, as we have shown above. Therefore it is fitting that God should have free-will.

[3] Again. The divine will, in those things to which it is not determined by its nature, is inclined in a way by the intellect, as we have shown above. Now man to the exclusion of other animals is said to have free-will, because he is inclined to will by the judgment of his reason, and not by natural impulse as brute animals are. Therefore there is free-will in God.

[4] Again. According to the Philosopher [Aristotle] (3 Ethic.) will is of the end, but choice is of the means to the end. Wherefore since God wills Himself as end, and other things as means to the end, it follows that in regard to Himself He has will only, but in respect of other things choice. Now choice is always an act of free-will. Therefore free-will is befitting God.

[5] Further. Through having free-will man is said to be master of his own actions. Now this is most befitting the first agent, whose action depends on no other. Therefore God has free-will…

Notes Two common mistakes in discussing human free will, since I think most will accept what Thomas has here, at least arguendo, that God has free will. First, free will does not apply to every action of the workings of our body—and thank God for that. How hectic would it be to squirt enzymes into your stomach of just the right amount for every bite you take! And don’t get me started on intestinal fortitude. But anything which is a decision necessarily involves free will. This includes deciding to answer this argument with some (self-defeating) rebuttal. Second, that free will is an “illusion.” This is empty. Only a person with free will can have an illusion. We know there are illusions because we have free will. See also last week’s comments about contingency in the face of an Omnipotent God’s will.

The problem of “determinism” isn’t solved by running to science. I think somebody last week asked for an example of science’s shortcomings with regard to God. This is the prime example.

We’re fast coming to the crucial discussion: if God is good, and has free will, why is there evil? Stick around!

This Week In Doom: Death Education & Blind Science


This week, entries from readers (I’m woefully behind).

Science Is Blind

Blind on purpose. Elizabeth Murphy recalls a lecture “delivered at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador recently sponsored by the Dept. of Sociology.” The “Henrietta Harvey Lecture: How Climate Change Became Controversial: Examining the Denial Counter-Movement” which took place Thursday, Oct. 01, 2015, but a fellow named Dr. Riley E. Dunlap. Here’s a PDF of the announcement (see p. 8).

Fascinating thing about this is that Dunlap is purposely ignorant about why people join the global-warming-of-doom anti-counter-movement. I mean, as far as I can tell, he has made no effort whatsoever to study fully the subject on which he is a purported expert. For instance, he edited the review article Dunlap, Riley E. (ed.). 2013. “Climate Change Skepticism and Denial.” American Behavioral Scientist 57: 691-837. And he is co-author of McCright, Aaron M. and Riley E. Dunlap. 2011. “Cool Dudes: The Denial of Climate Change among Conservative White Males.” Global Environmental Change 21:1163-1172. And so forth.

This Dunlap isn’t alone. Many, many scientists these days start out with a belief and then charge after anything which might support that belief, and these folks are constitutionally unable to search for evidence which might deny their belief. Their beliefs are just true, and the only question they can conjure is “Why isn’t everybody like me?”

Incidentally, I say people join the doom movements because they believe in the solution to global warming. About the physics, they are usually ignorant.

Shaming People Into Abusing English

The desperate-to-remain-relevant John McWhorter wants to shame people into dropping standard English pronouns and instead embrace insanity. “Goodbye to ‘he’ and ‘she’ and hello to ‘ze’?”

We are opening up to the idea that binary conceptions of gender are unnecessarily rigid and don’t correspond to the self-image of a great many people, and even that people’s sense of their gender may not correspond to their biological sex. In this new world, a bland opposition between “he” and “she” seems increasingly antique, and even insulting, to many.

This guy calls himself a linguist. I’m guessing from the Ministry of Education.

Death Becomes Us

Nina Rhea points us to the latest thrust in education: death awareness.

Here is a quote from an essay written in 2011, which favors Death Education.

“This article uses Pinar’s (1992) theory that the ‘concept and realities of death need to be integrated in everyday conversation and in everyday curriculum, and not treated as exotic topics of extreme anxiety. As life leads to death he asks us not to tempt death but invites us to perhaps make friends with it.” From Death and Dying in the Curriculum of Public Schools: Is there a place? (pdf)

The document is 11 pages and has a bibliography of death ed books going back to the 1970’s.

This may be the first time you have heard about Death Education. It is so awful and disturbing. Humanists have invaded our public schools with their damaging ideas about life.

The push is on for the “right” to die with “dignity.” Just like with same-sex attraction, they start the propaganda with the young. Soon will come the day when junior comes home and says, “Mom? Why are we keeping grandma alive? She can barely walk. Teacher said it would be better if she were made into Soylent Green.”

Science Porn

Longtime reader Ken says, “Speaking of climate change, here’s an interesting study on pornography I just ran across. Doubt if it means much, and I question it somewhat, but there it is”. The study title claims “Porn watchers think more highly of women“.

I’ve run out of creative ways to say BS. Thing that caught my eye was this admission by the researcher: “Research estimates have suggested that between 25-95% of men and 2-85% of women use pornography.” Notice it’s use porn, not watch or view. Use. This is accurate, which is why it’s so startling.

The push here is obvious: porn is healthy and promotes diversity, etc., etc. That it, like death education, is deadly to families is ignored.

Unfairness Everywhere!

Thanks to longtime reader Al Perrella we learn the New York Times thinks college lectures are “unfair”. Why?

Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that the lecture is not generic or neutral, but a specific cultural form that favors some people while discriminating against others, including women, minorities and low-income and first-generation college students. This is not a matter of instructor bias; it is the lecture format itself — when used on its own without other instructional supports — that offers unfair advantages to an already privileged population.

Growing body of research my festering…ah, skip it. The Left is one big unfairness factory. Equality of opportunity is impossible, so here we have another target that can never be reached, and so will provide and endless supply of material to rile the base.

Distant Relations

From John Moore comes the find “We Are All Related! So Get Over It.” Yeah. We all descend from Adam and Eve, yet even Cain plastered Abel. And doesn’t the author know that family fights are the most internecine.

Racist Babies

Contributor Jim Fedako discovers “Is YOUR baby racist? Scientists discover a way to reverse racial bias in young children.” Just is what is causing these horrors in the womb! Recognizing your own mother is now racist.

Stream: Scientists Claim Zapping Brains With Magnets Can Treat Belief In God


Apologies to all. I thought this was going to run on Thursday, so I’m a day behind. If you’re one of the folks who asked about upcoming articles, these have been shifted to next week. Good news is that the Stream piece was featured on Drudge last night.

Today’s post is at the Stream: Scientists Claim Zapping Brains With Magnets Can Treat Belief In God.

Here’s the breathless headline: “Scientists claim they can change your belief on immigrants and God — with MAGNETS.

Wait. Attitudes toward God and immigrants? Are these a natural pair? The newspaper thought so. They tell of an experiment which “claims to be able to make Christians no longer believe in God and make Britons open their arms to migrants”. How’s it done? “Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation” researchers can “safely shut down certain groups of neurones” in the brain.

It seems to have worked. Volunteers were coaxed into having their brains zapped by giant magnets. And, lo! “Belief in God was reduced almost by a third, while participants became 28.5 per cent less bothered by immigration numbers.”

Whoa! 28.5%! That’s a lot! Yes, you didn’t know it, but botheredness about immigration can be quantified such that scientists can discern differences between 28.5% and 28.4%. Science is wonderful!

Oh, yes. Why. Why do such a study? Turns out the authors are interested in weeding out and treating those who are too religious for their taste. Yes.

JMJ, if you’re here. The other day you asked for examples of what happens when science ignores the reality of God. Here’s a juicy one. Some people believe (you’ll understand this when you read the article) because they were told to. And beyond that, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and deity; so that they are without excuse”. Also, all of these brain sciences fail at the point where they fail to realize that our intellects are not material—and so are not susceptible of being influenced by magnets, or anything else.

Another point: supposing the death ray rattles the little gray cells as advertised. It’s then not unexpected that answers to questions—any questions—might change. The analogy is being punched by George Foreman. In that case, I’d imagine somebody’s belief in God might increase.

Go there to read the rest.

Update The stuff I normally put in a review of papers like this I left out for the more general audience at the Stream. But here’s more details.

Sample size? 38. Details? “…to ensure that participants would respond aversively to a Latino immigrant’s criticisms of the USA, those who identified as ‘extremely liberal’ or as non-US citizens were excluded from participating, and four individuals who self-identified as ‘Hispanic/Latino’ after participating were dropped prior to analysis.”

Somebody asked about the “sham” control. It wasn’t, not really. “Participants in the TMS condition were stimulated at 80% of their active motor thresholds; those in the sham condition were stimulated at 10% of their active motor thresholds.” The aiming of the device was approximate, as I said. Who in the hell knows where the brain “center” for the joint espousal of God and immigrants is anyway?

There were more oddities in the answering of the questions. The priming on immigrants is silly. “Participants were next asked to read two essays (presented in counterbalanced order) that were ostensibly written by immigrants to the United States from Latin America” and feelings about the ostensible authors was pseudo-quantified. “‘I like the person who wrote this, (ii) ‘I think this person is intelligent’…” etc. This is what is being touted as feelings on immigration. Nonsense. The “religion” questions were very Christian-flavored, which is probably fine in this country. But the pseudo-quantification is nonsense.

The order in which the immigration essays were given provoked different responses, a 1-point increase and equal to the “effect” claimed from the magnets. The authors noticed this and said they “controlled” for it. But “control” does not mean “control” in statistics. It means “put in the model a certain way.” More confusion about what is causing what.

Wee p-values, of course, for only some modest effects. Then came the theory!

However, this study did not include problem-irrelevant modes of ideological endorsement, leaving open the possibility that, consistent with the RAM model, participants in the sham condition would have expressed more exaggerated ideological responses that were incidental to the problems of death or scathing criticism of one’s group values.

Given the prior evidence that downregulation of the pMFC decreases social conformity (Klucharev et al., 2011), the diminished expressions of group prejudice and religious belief observed here may stem from a mechanism sensitive to affirming consensus attitudes, insofar as out-group derogation and belief in God are considered normative (Navarrete et al., 2004).

You know, I’m coming more and more to the view that these theorizing sections are written by a computer algorithm.

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