NRL News

Whether Nobel Prize Winner or Everyday Pro-Lifer, Don’t be Afraid to Challenge “Established Knowledge”

by | Oct 6, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Shechtman

Dr. David Prentice is a gift to the Movement, a man whose work we publish and reprint often. The last couple of days he’s blogged about the new Nobel Prize Winners.

Without getting bogged down in material WAY beyond me, the point is that the thinking of Daniel Shechtman, the Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, was completely unacceptable to the scientific establishment. Dr. Prentice writes

“The structure of molecules that Shechtman discovered in quasicrystals was considered impossible at the time of his discovery, 1982. Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science to get his information published and accepted in the scientific community. Daniel Shechtman’s discovery of the quasicrystal pattern was wrong according to accepted textbook science. But Shechtman concluded that the scientific community must be mistaken in its assumptions.”

What particularly caught my eye came at the end. Dr. Prentice explained that the Nobel committee publishes something called “information for the public.” It concluded with this:

An important lesson for science

“Daniel Shechtman’s story is by no means unique. Over and over again in the history of science, researchers have been forced to do battle with established ‘truths,’ which in hindsight have proven to be no more than mere assumptions. One of the fiercest critics of Daniel Shechtman and his quasicrystals was Linus Pauling, himself a Nobel Laureate on two occasions. This clearly shows that even our greatest scientists are not immune to getting stuck in convention. Keeping an open mind and daring to question established knowledge may in fact be a scientist’s most important character traits.”

Does that ring a bell, or what? To take just two examples, those new to the Movement probably have not even heard of fetal brain tissue transplants.

In the 1990s National Right to Life in general, National Right to Life News in particular doggedly fought the accepted scientific orthodoxy that brain tissue taken from aborted babies possessed almost magical powers to cure an assortment of neurological ailments, starting with Parkinson’s. That couldn’t be true for a gazillion reasons that we do not need to go into here.

Suffice it to say eventually it was conceded by the very same media cheerleaders who led the charge that not only did these transplants not work, they had bizarre side-effects.

I’m not saying that the same level or kind of negative after-math will be associated with stem cells harvested from human embryos (ESCs). What I am saying is that the triumph of hope over experience with ESCs is almost as rampant here as it was with fetal tissue transplants, and, in some ways worse. The “established knowledge” about ESCs meant that anyone who disapproved or pointed to ethically unobjectionable alternatives was denounced as a Luddite.

But experience has proven that there ARE proven alternatives, therapies from ‘adult’ stem cells, a loose designation for everything other than embryonic stem cells—for example stem cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and other tissues. They are treating thousands of patients around the globe, with an estimated 50,000 adult stem cell transplants occurring annually worldwide.

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