Episode 54: Guns vs Murder Rate, the Stem Cell Debate is Over, and Government Upping the Ante on the Shutdown
Do more guns mean more murders and suicides? A Harvard study of European countries may surprise you. Or cause you to yawn in recognition of something we’ve long understood.
Is the stem cell debate — embryonic vs adult — now over with the discovery in Israel? It may just be. Some may still want to debate it, of course, but the results suggest that the fat lady has sung. (And she is a great source of stem cells!)
And places are being shut down that have never been shut down during this government shutdown. Gee, why would that be?
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A recent study out of Harvard concludes that gun bans do not reduce the murder rate. In fact, if anything, they increase it. Researchers looked at crime data from several European countries and found that countries with higher gun ownership often had lower murder rates. Russia, with very strict gun laws, has a murder rate 4 times higher than our own United States, which is, according to some, awash in guns. Meanwhile, European countries with significant gun ownership, like Norway, Finland, Germany and France, had remarkably low murder rates.
Basically, the study found no evidence, anywhere in the world, to suggest that more guns meant more murder.
Additionally, the study found, “the determinants of murder and suicide are basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the prevalence of some form of deadly mechanism.” That is to say, if you want to know why someone kills others or themself, there are loads of other things to look at than the gun.
I doubt you heard about this on network news. Consider this a public service. In short, Harvard found that guns don’t kill, people do. Not that we needed a study to know that. Well, I guess some people needed a study. The rest of us know that inanimate objects rarely, if ever, have a mind of their own.
Where you should look at the gun is in the many incidents where a gun was used to save lives. Check the show notes for a list of mass shootings that didn’t happen because of law abiding citizens carrying guns that stopped them.
Back when Christopher Reeves was still alive and getting the word out on stem cell research, the big push was for embryonic stem cells to be used in that research. All those in-vitro fertilized eggs that didn’t get used were just waiting to be harvested and experimented on. There was just one thing. Pro-lifers, like me, considered them human embryos, simply an earlier form of a regular human life, and therefore considered destroying them for experimentation it on par with abortion, with the added baggage that we’d be, well, experimenting on them. Adult stem cells, even back then, had been proving their worth in many, many situations, didn’t have a tendency to become cancerous when used, and if properly fed and cared for, would never be anything other than adult stem cells. That is, they would never become a human being. The ethical baggage simply wasn’t there, especially for those who thought science ought to be, indeed, ethical.
When President George W. Bush decided to limit the number of existing embryonic stem cell lines that could be used to experimentation, he did two things. First, he put a stake in the ground of scientific ethics; this far and no farther. Second, he lit a fire under the line of research that was trying to find a way to make adult stem cells, which cannot differentiate themselves in quite as many other kinds of cells as embryonic, just as flexible and changeable as their embryonic counterparts.
Research has been advancing quickly, and results have been getting better and better, until last month, this bit of good news came out.
Researchers have for the first time converted cultured skin cells into stem cells with near-perfect efficiency.
By removing a single protein, called Mbd3, a team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, was able to increase the conversion rate to almost 100% — ten times that normally achieved. The discovery could clear the way for scientists to produce large volumes of stem cells on demand, hastening the development of new treatments.
Almost 100%. From skin cells. Had we taken the easy way out, and not the harder, ethical one, A) the Left would not have branded the Right as “anti-science” over this. (Well, at least, not as much as they normally would.) And B) this research would not have continued at such a pace, allowing us now to produce stem cells at a rate we probably could not have done before.
Anti-science, indeed. More like pro-ethical-science, especially when you can have your ethics, and stem cells, too.
Ah, the government shutdown. Like the sequester, there are indeed those who are hurt by it, but they aren’t enough, according to the Conniption-in-Chief. In order to make this shutdown hurt even more and try to score political points, Obama is closing down things like open-air memorials, like the WWII memorial on the DC mall. Open air, means you an just walk into it, or even through it, if it’s between you and a Starbucks. Or it’s closing Mount Vernon, even though it does not own it. There are thing being shut down that have never been shut down for a government shutdown before.
Check out the show notes for a list of closings that the President is hoping you’ll blame on Republicans. But as an angry Park Service ranger said, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” Indeed it is, sir.