Consider the tadpole. What occurs deep in the dark recesses of the human body happens to Kemit's cousins in broad daylight . In either case the parallel processes start with the merger , uncoiling , and recombination of DNA from father and mother into a totipotent fertilized ovum.
It first few cell divisions give rise to 8–16-cell morula, each cell of which is still totipotent- able to develop into any kind of adult cell. the next few divisions yield a defined structure, the blastocyst, of 150–250 cells forming a hollow shell, the placenta-forming trophoblast, whose inner mass consists of 20 or 30 pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells, able both to multiply indefinitely and, more importantly, to differentiate into any tissue or organ, though no longer able to generate an entire individual.
Developmental potential- -pluripotency-- diminishes during the suceeding embryonic stages of blastocyst development until, at the end, all but a few cells in mature organ and structural tissues are irreversibly committed to their roles in the new organism's biology, no longer able to multiply or develop further. yet a few proliferative cells, adult stem cells, persist in most tissues, even in adults that already have offspring, and these cell nuclei can be reprogrammed by inserting them into an enucleated egg cell ,where they again can multiply, and generate totipotent clones able to undergo full-scale embryonic developmen. Welcome to the Clone Wars .
Peace almost broke out when it was reported that human skin cells- the stuff of dandruff rather than obsession, could be elevated to stem-cell-like pluripotency by introducing functioning copies of just four growth-controlling genes. But don't break out the champagne and ticker tape for the victory parade just yet --- it remains to be discovered if transformed and embryonic stem cells are really medically equivalent , though that has not stopped the shark cartilege and apricot pit purveying classes from concocting quack versions for the treatment of anyone desperate enough to pay.
Nor stayed the Christan Right from declaring a metaphysical crusade against the heretical doctrine that re-entwining the same DNA in vivo does not transsubstantiate it into a soul entrapment device endowed with certain inalienable rights. Even more remarkably and in the literal sense mysteriously , these groups fervently believe that there is no way making identical molecular combinations by fiddling about with dandruff in vitro ,or using DNA mundanely sequenced from bottles of chemicals on a shelf, can precipitate what they regard as a miracle, for to presume so would be Godless Materialism.
This may make some mutter about "moral relativism , but to The Base, the twin modern heresies of evolution and ES-cell biology are anathema to fundamentalists and theocrats of all creeds ,f or in denying human immutability they seem to mock the sanctity of the soul, which has quite a West Wing constituency, witness the president's 2001 ban on funding for hES-cell research.
Throwing this executive monkey wrench into the reserch machinery of The National Institute of Health , which life scientists can no more avoid using than the federal highway system, has caused a crack-up in US stem cell research in the US. The Presidential stem-cell edict cannot be fought in the courts like The Discovery Institute's attempt to insinuate creationism into public education under the guise of Intelligent design.
A recent review of 'Cell of Cells' in the TLS grafts Stalin onto Godwin's law by uncharitably comparing The Bush Doctrine on ES cells to " Stalin’s embrace of Lysenkoism. Representing a profound misinterpretation of Marxism, it was supposed to support the USSR’s political philosophy that everything, including genetic evolution, could be fitted into a “socialist” fabric, and it set back biology in the then USSR by at least fifty years."
The comparison more aptly applies to the Neocon obsession with the subject -- not a month pases without some Discovery Institute familiar writing on it in The Weekly Standard , and applying it to Republicans at large seems over the top , because unlike Stalin's Russia, America has a private sector- and states like California, that now how to ignore an executive branch showing signs of ideological derangement or fundamentalist zeal. Neither have the true believers gotten very far in lobbying their usual bete noire, the UN to impose a global cloning ban - politics makes strange test tube fellows, witness the latest salient in a battle even farther down-market- The Base's campaign to make cellular evolution go away.
Andrew Schlafly, son of Religious Right uberpundit Phyllis Schlafly and Editor of a wannabe Wikipedia clone called the Conservapedia, is outraged that taxpayer dollars have gone into breeding hundreds of thousands of generations of E.Coli under environmental stress in the form of wildly toxic fluorocitrate molecules, and that the little surviving buggers have reportedly up and evolved new biochemical pathways quite unlike those with which they were endowed by their Creator.
The very idea is too much for Andy , who wants to use his inalienable rights , created by the Freedom Of Information and Data Quality Acts, to seize a copy of every data point ,and bacterial culture generated in 20 years of research , to see if he can falsify the unwelcome and Metaphysically Incorrect news published in the Proceedings Of the National Academy of Science.
Never mind that all the data and experimental details appeared in the peer-reviewed article, or that no biologists have found fault with them. Schlafly , who has never published a scientific paper , made his demand for the raw data without first reading the PNAS article in detail, its conclusion alone being too much for so faithful an anti-evolutionist to stomach. He has accordingly issued a "Conservapedia Challenge' and is calling for lawyers to aid him in acquiring several tons ofpaper and a freezerful of frozen cells, at the researcher's expense, so that Andy can magisterially proceed to ...what ?
Spend the next 20 years in his non-existant biolab using his non-existant knowledge of biochemistry to retrace the steps of author Lembski? Or is The Conservapedia bent on setting research back as far as it can by an extended paper chase through the courts at taxpayer expense? How about asking NOAA to re-analyize every air sample gathered at Mona Kea since he was born in the hope of proving rising CO2 a hoax ? If this is what postmodern conservatism is evolving into , the extinction of liberals seems a slight consolation. Having known Sin at Hiroshima, science was bound to run into Metaphysics sooner or later. What better place than inside the Bible Beltway ?