September 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Nicholas Wade of the New York Times again Misses the Stem Cell Boat

human cloningIn late 2010, Nicholas Wade, then a frequent science writer for the New York Times, wrote a frankly nasty piece on the stem cell field that was insulting and oversimplistic. I took him to task for it on my blog here back then.

Now today we have yet another piece in the NYT by Wade on stem cells, and he mostly makes a mess of it again, with one exception.

Starting with the good news, Wade’s perspectives on the difficulty of science reporting on changeable, emotional issues like stem cells and cloning are insightful and valuable. I enjoyed that.

However, his historical perspectives on the stem cell field are overly simplistic, extreme, wrong and in some cases dismissive.

Here’s a comment I posted on his piece at the NYT website:

This “rearview” commentary is interesting in some ways, but also did not work in others.

I find it fascinating how Wade opens up about the difficult challenges of reporting on important, but emotionally-laden issues like cloning and stem cells. That is helpful and important insight provided. Thank you.

However, to me as a stem cell scientist who follows the field closely, it seems that the historical views given of cloning and stem cells are very narrow and extreme in some ways in this article.

The author’s statements, for example, seem oddly dismissive to the field in general too: Yamanaka “guessed” on the 4 factors (Noble Shmobel), ES cells are just going to be so much flotsam in the history of the stem cell field (Advanced Cell Technology might cure blindness via ES cells? no big deal), cloning Dolly wasn’t really at all important, people unnecessarily got overly emotional about stem cell issues, etc.

These statements sound more like just one guy’s narrow perspectives, rather than a useful overall historical narrative on stem cells that could have been powerful & helpful. Anyway, that’s this one guy’s view of it.

Paul Knoepfler
Associate Professor
UC Davis

What do you think?

Paul

%d bloggers like this: