Salvo Links November 6 2015

This Isn’t A Culture War. It’s A War On Culture
by David Harsanyi, The Federalist

When liberal Houston — a city with a three-term lesbian mayor — overwhelming rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance for the transgendered (among others), a hysterical New York Times editorial accused voters of being transphobic hate mongers with blood on their hands. There are, perhaps, some other possibilities.

The New Dumb Debate: What Counts As ‘Hard Work’?
S. E. Cupp,

Meet MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, whose routine discovery of controversies that don’t actually exist would make the Bigfoot hunters jealous. Last week, she stumbled upon the Patterson-Gimlin film of fake controversies, declaring the term “hard worker” offensive.

Female student pens scathing review of ‘rape culture’ for college course
By Ashe Schow, Washington Examiner

The student responded by condemning Sulkowicz’s behavior as “a parody of all the worst parts of radical or ‘Tumblr’ feminists” and said she was “ashamed to even belong to the same species as her.” The student was outraged by Sulkowicz’s accusation, especially after having followed the accused student’s side closely. “Not only was Emma’s false accusation abhorrent and did she inflict physical and emotional trauma on Paul [the man Sulkowicz accused], but her response to the widespread media attention is the most immature and attention-seeking action she could’ve possibly taken,” the student wrote.

The Suffragettes: Pro-Life Women

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, writes on the Time magazine website about how The Suffragettes Would Not Agree With Feminists Today on Abortion.

Anthony has been my organization’s namesake since 1992, when we began the Susan B. Anthony List to amplify the voices of pro-life women in federal and statewide office. She understood that the rights of one group could not be built upon the broken rights of another. That’s why, for example, she worked so closely with her friend Frederick Douglass to advance not only women’s suffrage, but voting rights for African Americans as well. “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less,” she said.

Today, our mission is equally simple. Women who join us reject the idea that feminism requires them to be at war with their own children, or to direct their tax dollars to organizations that perform abortions. In so doing, they honor the legacy of the original champions of women’s rights.

Salvo interviewed Marjorie Dannenfelser a while back. This and other articles of interest on this topic (from the pages of Salvo) below:

 Women & Children First: An Interview with Marjorie Dannenfelser by Marcia Segelstein

On the Emancipation of Frederick Douglass by Means of Liberal Education by Thomas Jodziewicz

Mad About Babies What’s Sex Got to Do with It? by Jennifer Fulwiler

Criminology Professor Mike Adams Has a Few Opening Remarks

He kicked off the new school year with a bang: Professor’s EPIC Class Intro Has Gone VIRAL; Here’s Why

Welcome back to class, students! I am Mike Adams your criminology professor here at UNC-Wilmington. Before we get started with the course I need to address an issue that is causing problems here at UNCW and in higher education all across the country. I am talking about the growing minority of students who believe they have a right to be free from being offended. If we don’t reverse this dangerous trend in our society there will soon be a majority of young people who will need to walk around in plastic bubble suits to protect them in the event that they come into contact with a dissenting viewpoint. That mentality is unworthy of an American. It’s hardly worthy of a Frenchman.

Let’s get something straight right now. You have no right to be unoffended. You have a right to be offended with regularity. It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don’t understand that you are confused and dangerously so. In part, I blame your high school teachers for failing to teach you basic civics before you got your diploma. Most of you went to the public high schools, which are a disaster. Don’t tell me that offended you. I went to a public high school.

Of course, your high school might not be the problem. It is entirely possible that the main reason why so many of you are confused about free speech is that piece of paper hanging on the wall right over there. Please turn your attention to that ridiculous document that is framed and hanging by the door. In fact, take a few minutes to read it before you leave class today. It is our campus speech code. It specifically says that there is a requirement that everyone must only engage in discourse that is “respectful.” That assertion is as ludicrous as it is illegal. I plan to have that thing ripped down from every classroom on campus before I retire.

One of my grandfathers served in World War I. My step-grandfather served in World War II. My sixth great grandfather enlisted in the American Revolution when he was only thirteen. These great men did not fight so we could simply relinquish our rights to the enemy within our borders. That enemy is the Marxists who run our public universities. If you are a Marxist and I just offended you, well, that’s tough. I guess they don’t make communists like they used to.

Unbelievably, a student once complained to the Department chairwoman that my mention of God and a Creator was a violation of Separation of Church and State. Let me be as clear as I possibly can: If any of you actually think that my decision to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence in the course syllabus is unconstitutional then you suffer from severe intellectual hernia.

Indeed, it takes hard work to become stupid enough to think the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional. If you agree with the student who made that complaint then you are probably just an anti-religious zealot. Therefore, I am going to ask you to do exactly three things and do them in the exact order that I specify.

First, get out of my class. You can fill out the drop slip over at James Hall. Just tell them you don’t believe in true diversity and you want to be surrounded by people who agree with your twisted interpretation of the Constitution simply because they are the kind of people who will protect you from having your beliefs challenged or your feelings hurt.

Second, withdraw from the university. If you find that you are actually relieved because you will no longer be in a class where your beliefs might be challenged then you aren’t ready for college. Go get a job building houses so you can work with some illegal aliens who will help you gain a better appreciation of what this country has to offer.

Finally, if this doesn’t work then I would simply ask you to get the hell out of the country. The ever-growing thinned-skinned minority you have joined is simply ruining life in this once-great nation. Please move to some place like Cuba where you can enjoy the company of communists and get excellent health care. Just hop on a leaky boat and start paddling your way towards utopia. You will not be missed.

Our own Terrell Clemmons has written about Professor Adams in Salvo a number of times over the years.

Can We Make an Embryo in a Dish?

Induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells are functionally equivalent, but should we be concerned about making embryos in a dish?

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been hailed as the discovery of the decade, providing an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Both types of stem cells are pluripotent, which means they can potentially make all of the cells in they body. This is contrasted to totipotent cells, which can give rise to an entire organism. The very early embryo consists of totipotent cells.

Induced pluripotent stem cells have technical advantages over ESCs because the patient’s cells can be used rather than donor cells, and they are easier to control compared to ESCs. However, one of the concerns with iPSCs was whether they are truly equivalent to ESCs because of the various transcription factors that need to be turned on or off to get the cells to regress back to their pluripotent state. This debate was laid to rest with a new research report in Science, demonstrating that while iPSCs are genetically distinct from ESCs, they are functionally equivalent.

Before deeming every iPSC procedure ethical and effective, consider the question several researchers from Australia, The Netherlands, and the U.K. ask in a Nature Methods commentary “What if stem cells turn into embryos in a dish?” Their reason for asking stems from research that shows how pluripotent stem cells (both iPSCs and ESs) can form organoids, small three-dimensional clumps of cells that are comprised of a particular organ’s cell type. The techniques to make pluripotent stem cells undergo the self-assembly and morphogenesis required to form an organoid also causes these cells to have many of the properties of embryos at the gastrulation stage of development.

Without delving too deeply into the complexities of embryonic development, the gastrulation stage is a key point when it comes to regulations for human embryo research. (See here for a simple summary of recent research about stem cells that have been dubbed “gastruloids”). The U.K. has a fourteen-day limit on human embryonic research. Human embryos are not allowed to remain intact in vitro beyond the fourteen-day point or after the formation of the primitive streak, whichever comes first. Australia has similar regulations. The pluripotent cells that appeared to reach the gastrulation stage seemed to form a primitive streak and showed signs of forming the beginnings of the Central Nervous System.

There are two things to consider. First, while these are hallmarks of a particular point in embryonic development, it is not the case that this clump of cells is an embryo. The stem cells are self-organizing, but they are without the same kind of holistic directionality that an embryo has. So while these stem cells proliferate in a more “organized” way than, say, a tumor, they lack key embryonic features. However, the authors pose an important question that needs to be addressed because the technology could eventually make embryos in a dish.

Consider two situations in which it is possible to make an embryo without two genetic contributors, a mother and a father. The first is cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the second is making gametes using iPSCs.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer has been successfully done in both animals and humans, although only animal cloned embryos have been implanted and birthed. Cloned animals tend to be unhealthy and often die young. This continues to be an area of research, as evidenced by a recent article in Cell Stem Cell in which researchers from South Korea reported more efficient methods for cloning human embryos.*

Gametogenesis is another active area of research. If induced pluripotent stem cells could be induced to differentiate into gametes (egg and sperm), then this would theoretically allow the creation of an embryo. This embryo may only have one parent if the egg and sperm were made from the same donor. Or, it could be made from two parents who are the same gender. This is not yet possible because the oocyte is particularly tricky to form, but there is ongoing research attempting to produce both types of gametes from induced pluripotent stem cells.

Whether one uses somatic cell nuclear transfer or gametogenesis via iPSCs, the creation of a human embryo is ethically problematic for many reasons. The authors of the Nature Methods commentary raise important questions that hinge on when an embryo becomes an embryo in the laboratory setting. There are valid reasons to give the embryo a special status whether it is ever implanted in a uterus or not. As technology allows us to unravel the complex operations that go into meiosis and embryogenesis, we must carefully consider where moral lines are drawn.

Because making an embryo in a dish would be taking the technology too far, drawing ethical lines may require a nuanced approach to just what types of experiments are okay and where in the technical process the line must be drawn so that pluripotent stem cells remain at the pluripotent stage.

* Technically, “clones” like Dolly the sheep are really chimeras, meaning there is a small amount of DNA from the oocyte donor that is different from the nuclear DNA. The clone would produce an embryo from one genetic source if both the original cell and the oocyte came from the same animal.

11/07/15 – This post has been changed from the original to clarify some of the scientific terms.

St. John Paul II, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and The Fight Against “Anti-Personalist Ideologies”

A message I just received from The Hildebrand Project, which I’m sharing with you in it’s entirety.

The two greatest threats to life and dignity of the last century — Nazism and communism — were double heads of the same monstrous totalitarian ideology. It is a small but significant hope that such evils call forth men like Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II) and Dietrich von Hildebrand, who lived respectively under one and the other. Helmut Kohl, former Chancellor of Germany, called Dietrich von Hildebrand “a witness from a dark era of German history.” Indeed, we might add: human history.

Our new series of videos examines the witness, thought, and resistance of Dietrich von Hildebrand and Karol Wojtyla.

At the heart of their resistance was a remarkable understanding of the ideas at stake. Both perceived that the root corruption of communism and Nazism was a radical anti-personalism, as Karol Wojtyla later articulated in a famous letter to Henri de Lubac:

“The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person. This evil is even much more of the metaphysical order than of the moral order. To this disintegration, planned at times by atheistic ideologies, we must oppose, rather than sterile polemics, a kind of ‘recapitulation’ of the inviolable mystery of the person.”

Our new series, The Struggle for the Person, is a contribution to this “recapitulation.”

The videos are from our 2015 Summer Seminar, for which we brought together three eminent scholars — Rocco Buttiglione, Michael Novak, and John F. Crosby — all of whom were close personal friends of St. John Paul II, and one of whom, Prof. John Crosby, was among the last students of Dietrich von Hildebrand. Together, they share not only philosophical insights, but personal remembrances of these great moral heroes.

I invite you to join them in our intellectual journey, as we recommit ourselves to the ideas that are capable of defending us still today from new encroachments of anti-personalist ideologies, but also, to join us in celebrating the inexhaustible witness of two great champions of truth.

I myself have heard professor Rocco Buttiglione speak on his relationship with John Paul II (My Friendship with the Pope of the Family), and I highly recommend any of his lectures to you.

Renaissance Baby Explained

I’m assuming many of you have seen the somewhat amusing post at Buzzfeed comprised of uncomfortable looking renaissance babies with captions like “This baby just can’t even anymore.” Well, here’s the thing: Most of those paintings have an explanation. For example, did you know there is a reason that the baby Jesus is naked and alone on the hard floor of the barn in this Renaissance painting?

You can learn all about symbolism employed in this painting over at the Touchstone website. I recommend this fascinating article to you. Hugo van der Goes’ Portinari Altarpiece by Mary Elizabeth Podles