September 25, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Anti-stem cell extremists attack Univ. of Minnesota and specific scientists

The anti-stem cell folks have the University of Minnesota in their crosshairs of late, even making personal attacks on specific stem cell scientists.

What the heck?

Let me explain what is going on.

The propaganda arm of the anti-stem/anti-women’s rights movement is the National Right to Life News (NRLN). This is one of those extremist opinionated websites that for some inexplicable reason Google treats as a News organization and hence gives it prominent places in search results.

NRLN is not happy with University of Minnesota to put it mildly and has taken the strategy to launch personal attacks on specific scientists working on stem cells.

The University of Minnesota is going to start offering an undergraduate class on stem cells, which is a fantastic idea.

Apparently the anti-stem cell/anti-women’s rights movement of course want to control what is the curriculum and don’t approve of what the educators at University of Minnesota have done in the way of the curriculum. Big surprise, huh? Not really.

In a somewhat snotty opinion piece on the issue a couple weeks ago, the author says that the University of Minnesota should take an ethics class. O-K, yeah right.  One thing that apparently gets on the nerves of the author is that Professor Jeffrey Simons, who will teach the course, is quoted mentioning “fertilized embryos”. So what? Assuming Dr. Simons said that, what he meant was early stage embryos shortly after fertilization.

Of course they also do not like that the University of Minnesota does ES cell research and that the stem cell class will talk about ES cells without stigmatizing them.

Today the same “news” website attacks the University of Minnesota again for winning an award for advocacy at the World Stem Cell Summit. This is news? I was a speaker at the Summit, which took place 2 months ago. One gets the feeling that the NRLN is simply looking for excuses to go after the U. of M.  The piece says some very nasty things about the U. of M. and specific researchers there. This is pure propaganda and the personal attacks on scientists are sleazy.

But that is what we’ve come to expect from the opponents of stem cell research and we can expect more.  The question is how best to deal with this kind of propaganda, especially when it becomes a personal attack on specific scientists? I myself was the subject of this kind of personal attack a few months ago and when I tried to have a discussion with the attacker, he just became more virulent.

These are not people you can have a real discussion with, so what do we do? I think we continue to educate and take the high road when it comes to dialogue. We educate through the web much more than we are now and also in the classroom as the U. of M. is doing. Hopefully here at UC Davis we will also start offering undergraduate education in stem cells and this kind of class will spread across the nation.