Friday, May 20, 2005

Send in the clones!

I'm still reeling from a grueling chemistry final and my mind is in a science-oriented mode. And just in time for that, today's issue of the prestigious journal Science reports that South Korean scientists have created the world's first human embryonic stem cells that are customized to injured or sick patients. This is considered a crucially important step toward growing patients' own replacement tissue to treat diseases, which is one goal of proponents of cloning research.

These are the same scientists who are headed by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University, who created a lot of buzz for Korea's cloning industry (which they completely copied from the Japanese and the Americans!) last year when they became the first to clone a human embryo.

The clonings last year were a genetic match to a healthy woman, not a sick person. But now the Korean scientists have cloned patient-specific stem cells, which is important to prevent rejection by the body's immune system.

The "subjects" were males and females from two to fifty-six, all suffering either spinal cord injuries, diabetes or a genetic immune disease. But, they warn, therapy is still years away from being tested.

The same lab also found ways to more quickly and more safely cull stem cells with far fewer donated eggs. It only takes twenty per try.

Not that Korean women are really using their eggs that much, evidenced by Korea's all-time low fertility rate of 1.15 births per woman. Maybe the government could utilize cloning to create more babies, which could be raised by the beneficent state in special centers to turn them into productive members of society (hat tip: Aldous Huxley).

UPDATE (December 15, 2005):
Ah, crap.

48 comments:

  1. This is a very impressive achievement, which means the K-bashers are going to have to find some way of discrediting it....

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  2. I hope they realize I was being sarcastic about South Korea completely copying cloning from the Japanese and the Americans.

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  3. what they are doing is not cloning. They get the DNA from nucleus of a fully-developed cell and put it into an egg with its DNA taken out.

    The egg thus germinated will grow and divide. If it divides about 20-100 times and continues to survive, then it could be called a cell line.

    I still think these Koreans include Dr. Hwang are liars. They are not sharing their great discoveries with any other scientific team in the world. Why is that? These Koreans will tell you that they do this to keep technology Korean but this is not normal way to do science.

    Their technique is not verified by a neutral third party. The same is true for "Dolly" made about a decade ago.

    You have to be very careful about these biologist types. Some of them are not scientists at all but shikesters and professional liars.

    We may be looking at an emperor without clothes.

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  4. bTW, the final was in what chemistry subject, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Quantum chemistry?

    I have MS in Chemistry (SUNY StonyBrook about 20 years ago). I am working toward a master in computer science these days.

    Do you know of any scientific endeavor merging these two areas?

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  5. Dr. Hwang's cell line is not cloning. The cell may not fully grow into a human being.

    Just the fact that it keep diving does not prove it has all materials to be a human.

    1) There is a question about what the cell he made. Is it a true baby or is it a somatic cell that acquired to make copy of itself? To do an entire a genetic squencing will take mega billion dollars. This is why Dr.Hwang can lie so boldly. Nobody can disprove him, either. We may be looking at a "skin" cell line. Now they are trying to put this cell back into a patient. What happens? A cancer!

    2) They are another set of DNA material in the cell. Mitocondrial DNAs. Dr.Hwang is lying when he says his celline is the exact copy of a patient's cell. It is not.

    3) Dr.Hwang is a born-liar. Somebody needs to psych exam on him. And, people worked under him would better speak out. You may find many "dirt" about this guy who ate up more than 10% of Korean science research budget all by himself. He is a master in playing the media game. He has many political friends. Definitely not a regular scientist like you and me.

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  6. Baduk:

    I got my BSc in Computer Science. I'm not much into the "cutting edge" of computing, but there is a field called "genetic computing" that is developing computing models based on observed biological behaviour.

    The Wikipedia article on the related concept of "biological algorithm" is here.

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  7. Kushibo wrote:

    "I hope they realize I was being sarcastic about South Korea completely copying cloning from the Japanese and the Americans,"

    in reference to:

    "who created a lot of buzz for Korea's cloning industry (which they completely copied from the Japanese and the Americans!)."

    Um, I didn't really pick up on it, but I have to admit I didn't get the joke....

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  8. Sewing,

    You were right first time as well. It is called "genetic algorithm", an algorithm that constantly correct itself to achieve a better fit.

    It is a form of AI technique.

    I like to do some great research merging these two fields. Computers are used frequently to find "matching DNA sequences" in different organisms.

    Protein folding problem is interesting but takes too much computing power. And, I do not believe the underlying quantum mechanics can find the true enzyme conformation. Too much solvent interactions!

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  9. Wow, you know your stuff a lot better than I do! (But then again, that's not my specialization at all. I'm just into developing humble bespoke applications for everyday business customers....)

    But definitely, if you're into a Masters program now and you've got a Masters in Chemistry, I say all power to you in merging the two fields. If you haven't chosen a topic for dissertation yet, definitely do some exploreing. (You don't have to tell me if you have chosen a topic: given how fierce academic competition is, I wouldn't want you to reveal it prematurely!)

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  10. "exploreing": exploring.

    Must think before I type....

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  11. Baduk:

    According to today's Chosun Ilbo, Hwang did work with at least one American scientist on the project. He and a number of other researchers in the US and Japan had good things to say about his work here.

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  12. I'm very glad to see such an important scientific breakthrough coming out of Korea, but I hope it doesn't turn into an 우리 민족 최고야 spin. (Although I notice the backdrop of Hwang in the Chosun photo has "Pride of Korea!" written all over it, so it may be too late....)

    We Canadians (to steal a page from Mizarv's book) are still crazy about the fact we invented Insulin, which was no doubt an important development, but it shouldn't be necessary to stake one's national pride on it.

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  13. Actually, screw it. I'm glad and that's that. Give credit where credit is due. Hopefully this'll put paid to comments like "Koreans can't do this"; "Koreans can't do that"....

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  14. This could be a house of card. Dr.Hwang's lab assistant from Korea went to USA and did a work on replicating a monkey.

    His technique was not given to any outside labs. Voodoo science at its best!

    Another thing I should add about Dr.Hwang's cell line.

    4) telomere

    If you can read Korean check this site.

    http://www.chosun.com/economy/news/200505/200505200276.html

    His cell line is basically nothing. It cannot do s***. Even about separating insuline, how are they going to tell the cells to produce insuline? I am repeating here, but just the fact that they divide is by no means a proof of them being a human. They could be "skin cell" with a cancer; cancer cells divide very fast.

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  15. Those people endorsing Dr. Hwang are "clone" researchers. They want to get funding for their research from their government by showing Korea is ahead.

    The same thing as the cold fusion lies. Scientists have to eat too.

    But, I just hate lies. And, it will undermine Korean reputation; Korean scientists will be viewed as "liars" in the future.

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  16. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on the telomere article. I can read Korean, but not high-level scientific or economic articles!

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  17. Baduk inquired:
    bTW, the final was in what chemistry subject, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Quantum chemistry?

    I'm almost ashamed to admit this now, but it is just General Chemistry, taken at the University of Maryland.

    I have a bachelor's degree in Social Sciences and a "minor" in biological sciences (I finished 90% of the bio degree, but decided to get out of O.C. as quickly as possible, like a non-Jewish Seth Cohen).

    Right now I am considering med or dental school, and I have been accepted into a PhD program in medical sociology (U Hawaii-Manoa), for which I plan to defer by one year.

    Anyway, to get into any of those programs, and to improve my scientific basis for med-soc, I am retaking all of the pre-med/pre-dent requirements, starting with General Chem and Biology, which I can take here in Seoul.

    It wasn't too terribly hard, since I was already familiar with a lot of the stuff, but about half of it seemed new.

    For the record, I have taken a year of General Chem, a year of Organic Chem, a year of Physics, a year of Calculus and Statistics, and Genetics, Biochem, Evolutionary Biology, etc., etc. But it was all more than five years ago, so it's like it doesn't count.

    I have MS in Chemistry (SUNY StonyBrook about 20 years ago). I am working toward a master in computer science these days.

    This reminds me of my dad... PhD level work and lots of master's in engineering fields and also computer science, but all of it from the 1960s.

    Nowadays, he struggles just programming a VCR.

    Do you know of any scientific endeavor merging these two areas?

    Nano-technology? Making materials that will allow smaller and smaller technology so that chips and the computers can be made smaller and smaller while having higher and higher capacity.

     

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  18. Baduk wrote:
    I am repeating here, but just the fact that they divide is by no means a proof of them being a human.

    They're not trying to make a human. They're trying to make human cells.

    They're trying to make human cells from a particular human that can be used for that particular human so that he/she can regrow body parts that have been diseased or damaged.

    The fact that it cannot grow into a human being is not a minus here (if anything, it's a plus, because it completely avoids the ethical issue about whether it's okay to clone a person and then make them do housework, which is why my parents did with us, except that we're hybrid clones).

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  19. Kushibo,

    I recommend you to a medical school. I do not think that Medical sociology will sell. However, one never knows. You could be a social worker at the hospital and get paid O.K.

    I believe California dental schools are easy to get into, even though I have never tried.

    You might also try some foreign medical school. Many pacific islands, including Phillipines, Guam,etc have medical schools. Even Yonsei univ. in Seoul may accept foreign students into its medical school.

    Be a doctor. Still the best way to earn a living.

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  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  21. SUNY is a good school. After all, you gain knowledge even in normal colleges.

    Anonymous, you seem to believe in Japanese idea of only the strong survives. The truth is knowledge is power, however you gained it.

    One thing is clear that I know more than you. Therefore, I can make clearer judgment on the subject than you.

    Do not believe everything printed on the paper. Dr.Hwang is playing the entire Korean population for his personal gain.

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  22. Koreans need a "scientific" idol so bad that they are willing to settle for Dr. Hwang whose discoveries are not verified in the third party laboratories.

    Dr. Hwang makes outrages claims about his discoveries. The cell line he made may not be a "baby", it may just be a "skin" cell line.

    Unless one does a genetic sequencin of his cell line, no one can know the truth. And, Hwang is not sharing his cell line.

    Why is that?

    Every cell line discoverer was willing to share his line with other scientists for the advancement of human kind.

    Dr. Hwang wants to keep it in his lab only. Is he doing that for Korea's future as he says, or is it because his cell line may prove to be a hoax.

    He hangs out with Wilmut (Dolly maker) who is also under suspicion by scientific community. This is the main reason no Nobel prize was awarded to him; nobody can check his results.

    Science is done with proofs and third-party verifications. This media circus way of doing science must stop. A science police agency must set up to investigate these falsifications and out-and-out lies.

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  24. Enough of this anonymous attack nonsense.

    Anonymous, if you don't identify who you are, your comments get removed.

    Perhaps I should set this up so only Blogger registrants can post.

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. I will tolerate "anonymous" posts up until the point where they're offensive or abusive.

    Mr./Ms. "Anonymous": play nice or go somewhere else.

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  27. Thanks, Kushibo. You got some power there. I am impressed.

    Well, I do understand the anonymous view. After all, I am bad-mouthing his/her hero. But, I have seen too many of these quakes come and go.

    Until Dr.Hwang's discoveries are verified by a neutral third party, there will no Nobel prize. Meanwhile, Dr.Hwang is grabbing all research money in Korea, buying up female eggs. Actually, it is sickening. Only atheists in Korea do this - destroying human lives.

    In the West, we look at life differently from Korea. Even if it is made from a body cell(this is a big if when I consider Hwang to be lying), it has a soul.

    When you grow that cell and make it divide, you are manipulating a "baby" at will. Nobody has right to do this.

    Even if it helps scientific research, I would not allow it! You are playing with a human being. Yes, I believe it has a soul.

    If this continues, some Christian nations may try to stop it even if it takes some military force.

    Meanwhile, Korea is becoming a savage nation in the eyes of Westerners! Korea will be condemned in the eyes of Western nations.

    Open up Dr. Hwang's research to the world communities. And, stop gathering eggs from women. It is not moral to destroy a human life in such way.

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  28. Baduk wrote:
    Thanks, Kushibo. You got some power there. I am impressed.

    When you have your own list or your own blog, you have to assert some authority to prevent the blog from deteriorating. And it's not like I warned the person.

    Well, I do understand the anonymous view. After all, I am bad-mouthing his/her hero. But, I have seen too many of these quakes come and go.

    Baduk, judging by your rhetoric, I think you are regurgitating religious right rhetoric about this. Regardless of what people in your church circles (or social circles who attend similar conservative churches) say, the guy is not a quack.

    This is the problem with the religious right in America: they are living in another world of their own creation, having separated themselves in a coccoon that filters out or alters any news or information that might upset their precise world view.

    So you get people who will have an aneurysm if someone tells them the world is more than 6000 years or that gay people aren't evil.

    I'm Christian, Baduk, but those views do not represent mine at all, and I resent that such people are trying to shove their Taliban-like brand of religion down my throat and throat of complete non-believers.

    To put it in evangelistic terms, it is their horrible witness that will turn people away from God and the teachings of Christ.

    Until Dr.Hwang's discoveries are verified by a neutral third party, there will no Nobel prize.

    Who's talking Nobel Prize? Those things aren't awarded until long after the discovery is made, to make sure it takes.

    My old prof, Dr. Rowland, didn't get his Nobel in chemistry (for something else you say you don't believe in, ozone depletion) until some twenty years after his research.

    Meanwhile, Dr.Hwang is grabbing all research money in Korea, buying up female eggs.

    "All the research money"? There are billions upon billions in research money, and he is taking up a fraction of a percent, I think.

    Actually, it is sickening. Only atheists in Korea do this - destroying human lives.

    This is an example of your religious right rhetoric. This is not true: There are Christians among his workers.

    In the West, we look at life differently from Korea.

    In the West? The same West that produced Dolly? The same West that is trying to use fetal tissue to treat or cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.?

    That statement of yours is utter nonsense.

    Even if it is made from a body cell(this is a big if when I consider Hwang to be lying), it has a soul.

    When does the soul occur? I don't think this has a soul.

    Your religious sect has determined that this has a soul, but that is on what basis? What part of the Bible?

    And why should everyone have to subscribe to your religious values?

    When you grow that cell and make it divide, you are manipulating a "baby" at will.

    You yourself said this has no potential to turn into a baby. Which is it?

    Nobody has right to do this.

    So we shouldn't do body transplants, blood tranfusions (those are cells, with a full set of DNA, aren't they souls?), ...

    What else would you ban, Mr. Taliban Man?

    Even if it helps scientific research, I would not allow it! You are playing with a human being. Yes, I believe it has a soul.

    Guess what, Baduk. It's not up to you. As a Christian, you can lead your own life in a good, clean, loving way. You can't force your beliefs on others.

    If this continues, some Christian nations may try to stop it even if it takes some military force.

    So the US might use military force against Korea to stop cloning you say isn't even happening.

    I'm serious, Baduk, if you really believe this and you say things like this to people in real life, I strongly urge you to get counseling.

    Meanwhile, Korea is becoming a savage nation in the eyes of Westerners! Korea will be condemned in the eyes of Western nations.

    The same Western nations that produced Dolly and push fetal tissue research?

    No, Baduk, Korea is admired by "the West" for this, not condemned.

    Open up Dr. Hwang's research to the world communities. And, stop gathering eggs from women. It is not moral to destroy a human life in such way.

    It is not human life. It is a bunch of cells that have a full set of DNA, just like in blood transfusions and other research. They are not going to turn into a human being.

    It is disgusting that people like you want to impose their religious views on a bunch of cells when using them might prevent the suffering of ACTUAL human beings who are afflicted with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

    My grandmother had Parkinson's. The slow deterioration she underwent was extremely difficult to watch. She suffered a lot.

    Out of love for human life, I would want to help people like her. Your affection for a bunch of cells that will never be human beings is misguided.

    (And the Reagans agree with me.)

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  29. Baduk...

    In the west Koreans are viewed as savages? This guy is talking nonsense. The west is lauding the research break throughs happenning in Korea.

    The stuff you say is the exact opposite of what's happening in reality. You're living in some reality distortion field.

    PS - SUNY rocks.

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  30. PS - I think baduk is a Chinese dude who's generally pissed about Korea's success. I've seen his comments on other blogs and all he does is make up a bunch of stuff to support his anti-Korean views.

    Facts are facts. I won't dispute those. But this guy just makes stuff up.

    PS - go SUNY go!

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  31. Kushibo...

    I'm playing nice now. Don't delete my comments please.

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  32. I am a KoreanAmerican. But, I am sick of Dr. Hwang's flag waving. He plays the media well.

    This clone with female egg thing will come back to bite Korea. This is much worse than dogmeat controversy. People will be calling Koreans evil savages that play with human eggs.

    I for one want to stop it. And, Kushibo, if you are a real Catholic, you should be listening to your pope who will make the right decision about this stuff.

    Science must stop when it kills a human or a humanoid. If those cells are all human DNAs then they must have souls. It is different from Dolly, which was just an animal, even though I think it was a hoax.

    Dr. Hwang must be stopped or Koreans will be condemned by the world community.

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  33. Yes, Anonymous, you are playing nice. But if you really had guts, you would just use a Blogger account to sign in.

    If you are a frequent poster from Marmot's, then you really ought to just sign in here, too.

    Of course, I can't force you, not while I have this set to "open."

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  34. I disagree with many of the things Baduk writes, although in some cases I do find myself agreeing with him. He represents a right-wing viewpoint, but he's definitely Korean. Not all Koreans are Uri Party supporters. If he feels the need to criticize the work of Dr. Hwang, that's his prerogative: that doesn't make him any less Korean.

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  35. I'm getting suspicious of baduk as well. he really seems to hate anything korean.

    anyway, perhaps, we'll be hearing about a nobel for the good dr hwang.

    noolji

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  36. Anonymous: are you the one and only Noolji? We don't see you around the Marmot much these days....

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  37. "Baduk", you total phony and thinly disguised troll, you claim that these cloning experiments haven't been verified by a 3rd party. Were you totally oblivious to the simultaneous news releases of Britain's success in cloning a human embryo using the South Korean team's method from last year?

    You certainly don't seem to understand why embryos from animals wouldn't be as effective.

    By the way, while you're espousing the typical fundamentalist sanctity-of-embryonic-life spiel, why not put your convictions on the line by signing a petition along with your ilk to ban yourselves from accepting any life-saving medical procedure that results from research on embryonic stem cells! (Yeah, I didn't think so, seeing as how you've all proven thoroughly hypocritical so far with regard to organ transplants, artificial hearts, etc.) Too bad you don't have the gumption to, since it would be a win-win situation in the long run! =)

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  38. well, yes, i am the noolji in question. i haven't been to mr marmot's board since he's changed the set up. something wrong with my computor which only shows a blank screen on the log in page. i've been in communication with him about this. perhaps soon.

    ps sewing, you got a really interesting blog. i hope you keep it up.

    and why kushibo, kushibo?

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  39. Kushibo.

    I just added my 2 cents on this cloning issue on my blog. I felt the urge to say something about it. Especially with all this negativity coming out of nowhere.

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  40. Noolji wrote:
    and why kushibo, kushibo?

    It's part of my philosophy on life. In any given group at least 95% of the people (usually more) are mostly good, decent people, while up to 5% (usually less) are bad, dishonest, vile people. The secret to life and happiness is to not let the <5% ruin things for you.

    Also there's the added (and inadvertent) fact that "kushibo" (九十五) looks just Japanese enough that some extreme knee-jerk Japan haters will go on a tirade and start calling me "Jap" or "Nip" or "족발새끼" at the first sign of anything they deem "anti-Korean," so it's fun to play with their heads.

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  41. Kushibo:

    Ah! I was wondering, too. Though I wouldn't go in for the head-playing part myself....

    Noolji:

    Thanks for your comment. Maybe the log-in problem is happening to others, since it's definitely been much quieter on the Marmot's hole since he imposed his login policy.

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  42. hk:

    A serious article on your blog? Oh, what is the world coming to!? ;)

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  43. Noolji,

    Not all Koreans are good: Kim Ilsung, Kim Jongil, KimDaeJoong, etc..

    We have to keep clear head about Dr. Hwang. He waves Korean flag too much. Is he a scientist or a politician?

    Be careful about whom you believe. Keep clear head. I love Korea, but hate lies.

    Just because I don't like Dr. Hwang, you don't like me? In Jolla province, if you don't like KDJ then you are an enemy.

    Is this your logic?

    I am a KoreanAmerican and I do believe differently about these people. Is this a reason for you to denounce and even kill me as those student activists killed suspected right-wing infiltrators?

    Plurality of opinions, people, plurality!

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  44. Sewing wrote:
    Ah! I was wondering, too. Though I wouldn't go in for the head-playing part myself....

    The playing with people's heads was never the intention, but just a nice little fringe benefit.

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  45. Baduk, I have said it before and I will say it again: it appears from your histrionic rants that your narrow religious views are causing you to selectively filter out and otherwise interpret information on this topic in order to fit that narrow religious view.

    It's very clear for others without your agenda that, although there is an ethical issue at stake, the facts are much clearer than you make them out to be.

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  46. We are biased in one way or another. I am not narrow; you are dogmatic.

    Just because I do not support Dr. Hwang, I am not a Korean patriot? Is Dr. Hwang a litmus test for being a Korean?

    Truths about these things will come out eventually. Perpetual machine discoveries were prevalent in 18th century England till the second law of thermodynamics.

    Differentiation of cells! Once we know the mechanism of how cells specialize, we may find Dr.Hwang's work was a lie.

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  47. I am not dogmatic, and my enthusiasm about this has nothing to do with Dr. Hwang being Korean.

    I am excited about this because, as a former biology major, I find this to embody science's spirit of discovery.

    And as a human, I find the potential rewards of this also exciting, especially since my grandmother suffered from Parkinson's Disease and my mother might, too.

    But I am not blinded by that excitement and enthusiasm. I have read up on this field and the work of others.

    What I have seen is a type of questioning that falls into the same pattern of attack in other cases that run contrary to the Unholy Alliance of the religious right and the political right.

    You are practically their poster child. "Dr. Hwang is a quack and a liar!" you tell us. "You'll see in the end."

    "Global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer, all lies!"

    What do these three have in common, nothing more than they run counter to what the Unholy Alliance of the political right and the religious right try to make us believe.

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