Monday, September 1, 2014

The ALS Ice Water Challenge - the Good, the Bad, and our Nation's Response


 The nation is being hit with a wave of cold, icy water. And it's altogether deliberate. Yes, you already know what I'm referring to: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness and support for research in order to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system, which refutes the sufferer's brain signals to the rest of his muscles. This leads to paralysis, and eventually heart failure (the heart is a muscle). Needless to say, it is a terrible disease, and if people dumping freezing water over their heads in order to post the video to facebook helps in any way, I'm all for it. But the question is, does dumping freezing water over your head and posting it to facebook really help? Remember, the challenge is, do it OR donate. While some people take the challenge as well as donate, the publicity is really what it's about, raising $100 Million, as of August 29st (see source). All too often the publicity is all one really thinks about, giving many self-absorbed youngsters an excuse to strip down to their swimsuits, drench themselves for social media, and create a little network of friends to do the same. This being done, they are not obligated to donate. However, the motive doesn't matter as long as those with ALS get help, right? They are getting help, aren't they? The ALSA (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association) is taking steps to find a cure. Steps, yes, but in my opinion - both moral and practical - not the right ones. Let me explain:
 I'm always very leery of any organization asking for my money. With the amount of medical and charitable organizations in the US alone, and the amount of money they acquire every year, you'd think that every problem in the world would be eradicated. Whether that is my ignorance speaking, or simply my cynical nature, I cannot say, but nonetheless I believe it is one's duty to find out what their resources are actually going toward. For example, many "non-profit" groups make their founders into millionaires because the proceeds collected goes straight into whomever's pocket he sees fit. While I'm sure that's not the case with ALSA, the method of research used may be a waste of time and human life. In fact, I'm absolutely sure it is both.
 Many medical research groups - including the ALSA - use the highly controversial Embryonic Stem Cell Research. It's been a sore spot in the news, and some states have banned the practice. What's the big deal?!
 Stem Cell Research takes stem cells from the base of one's brain, which can be experimented on in hopes of being transfused into someone else's body to heal and regenerate their own cells. It has taken remarkable strides and while still experimental, has already saved lives! To master Stem Cell Transfusion would be holy grail of medical science!
 Embryonic Stem Cell Research is similar, except it uses stem cells from frozen embryos created specifically for science, killing them in the process; duplicating children in labs in order to harvest their cells. The unavoidable question has been raised: "Is it morally right to kill in order to cure?" Many Christians say "absolutely not!" Because of this reaction, they've been categorized as morons constrained by outdated morality who would rather blast Bible verses from atop their holy mountain than advance science, turning a blind eye to those in need. Is this true? Does "thou shall not commit murder" really apply to advancing our ability to heal? Oh, God forbid it. (irony)
 Actually, contrary to Adult Stem Cell Research, Embryonic Stem Cell Research has proven Zero Percent
The sad reality is that he may not have needed to wait
- and the embryo would not have needed to die - if
adult stem cell research had been used.
effective. ZERO PERCENT. Not one case of embryonic stem cells has proven effective. Countless lives have been lost, millions - perhaps billions - of dollars have been wasted, our nation becomes sicker by the hour, and we wallow in a sea of blood and failure rather than waltz grandly into the future of health, free from the ancient chains of morality.
 Putting all morality aside, just for a second, would you donate to, or even humor, an organization that takes such fruitless measures? I won't try to tell you what your response should be. Just ponder that question.
 Coming back to the ethics of the matter, do you believe that it is right to manufacture children in their most vulnerable stage in order to use that life for science, even for the possibility of a cure for ALS, Alzheimer, or Cancer? Even an adult who is already deceased cannot be an organ donor without familial consent, or seeing to it himself to register beforehand. Human rights and the constitution would see to it that these children would at least have a shot at living. But perhaps we've outgrown such base beliefs as "rights" and "life." (that was sarcastic)
 But what else is there to do?
 Adult stem cell research has proven to have potential, and does no bodily harm to the donor, since they are highly regenerative. Also, one might look elsewhere, such as healing from the natural world (non-medical). Natural medicines and treatments, though unverified by Governmental organizations, have made well many sufferers, including cancer patients. It is uncertain whether there is a cure or not, so I believe all options should be tested.
 All cures aside, let's consider what else we can do. It seems to be our nation's mark to do anything possible to avoid making time to help someone with their own hands. We'd rather give a part of our paycheck or douse ourselves in ice water than take the Bible's advice and visit those in need (James 1:27). In fact, out of the 5 million American Alzheimer's sufferers, 800,000 of them live alone. Many sites exist with a big red "donate" button, but just as much as these people need a cure, they need care. Our nation's response is to skirt the real issue, and that is to love one another. Giving money may be one way to love those in need, supporting science may very well be another, and maybe going viral for something silly you did will raise awareness, but how will you know unless you take personal initiative. To Care as well as Cure. And I can't say that embryonic stem cell research can make either one of those claims.


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More information on stem cell research (from secular view):

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