James Sherley of anti-ESC lawsuit calls on NIH to think like he does

Dr. James Sherley, the scientist behind the lawsuit against federally-funded ES cell research, has penned an opinion piece in The Daily Caller today calling on NIH to, in his words, ‘do the right thing.’

James Sherley
Dr. James Sherley.

However, what Sherley is really asking is for the NIH, other stem cell scientists, and all Americans to think like he does. In fact, U.S. News and World Report just came out with a poll indicating that 72% of Americans support embryonic stem cell research using lines that remain from IVF procedures. According to the poll, 58% of Republicans support ES cell research as do 69% of Catholics and 58% of born-again Christians.

At the core of science is freedom of thought and although I disagree with Sherley on many issues, I respect his right to form his own opinions. But Sherley presents his own opinions as facts in this article. He’s entitled to his opinions, but to call them facts is wrong.

Sherley Opinion #1:  NIH human subjects research guidelines apply to research on existing ES cell lines. To the best of my knowledge, this is incorrect.

Sherley Opinion #2: human embryos are living human beings. The same as you and me reading this article.

I respect his right to believe this, but it is an opinion, not a fact. There is no data to support his opinion. In fact, the view on when life begins varies greatly around the world and in different religions. For example, both Judaism and Islam specifically indicate that life begins at around 40 days of gestation. Many Americans do not believe that a human embryo is a living human being. The very early embryos used for production of ES cell lines typically only have a few dozen cells. No heart, no brain, no organs of any kind. Is this the same thing as a living human being with trillions of cells? I don’t think so, but that’s my opinion, not a fact.

Sherley Opinion #3: adult stem cell research is universally better than ES cell research for leading to therapies. This is not a fact, but again a point of view. Many stem cell scientists believe that for certain conditions, particularly nervous system disorders, ES cell research is far more promising.

I think what Dr. Sherley means by ‘facts’ in his articles is actually ‘truths’ as in things that one believes based on one’s own religious and ethical beliefs.  Facts are based on data in science and they tend to be realities that the vast majority of people can agree upon.

Sherley’s call to NIH to ‘do the right thing’ tips his hand and indicates he is not really talking about facts. He is not interested in fact, but rather this is all about his own beliefs and his own truths.  Of course the right thing in this case is simply Sherley’s own opinion of what is right and sorry to say, many people do not agree with him.