As with any discipline, science is susceptible to the temptation of ideology, in particular the false dichotomy between right and left. In so many respects, the dichotomy between these extremes is false precisely because their ends justifies the means rationales are so similar. It's just that the ends are different. Each and every day in this world, each of us are tempted by ideology to entertain such rationales in our day to day lives. Hypotheticals and what ifs are the aid of devils who come to us with smiles, offering us an excuse to budge just a little in the name of preventing a catastrophe that might occur.
Our first selection for today's Roundup comes to us courtesy of the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey. You see, while most of us have DNA from just two people, the individuals born as a result of the cytoplasmic transfer method pioneered by Professor Jacques Cohen, have DNA from three individuals: their father, their mother, and the egg donor.
Cytoplasmic transfer works as follows: cytoplasm from a donor's egg is injected into the fertilized egg of the mother, but in Cohen's methods, he didn't scrub the cytoplasm of all DNA. He and his team left mitochondrial DNA in the cytoplasm, resulting in the aforementioned three DNA profile for the children they engineered. Dr. Cohen is no longer at the IRMS, because he now works as the Laboratory Director at the ART Institute of Washington at Walter Reed National Military Hospital.
Here's the kicker: although this method became infamous on June 29 of this year when it was revealed that 30 genetically modified babies had been born as a result of cytoplasmic transfer, with 15 of the children conceived over the past three years in a IRMS fertility program by the embryology team that Dr. Cohen trained. Two of the one year old infants conceived through these methods have the genes of three parents, an unprecedented development in terms of human evolution and development.
The implications are unknown, because this has never happened before. These children will pass genes from three parents on to their own children. The first baby conceived through cytoplasmic transfer was born in 1997, and four years later, the two children referenced above were found to have had the three parent genetic profile. Still, cytoplasmic transfer continued up to the present day, even though all of this was known as early as 2001.
And this is just what we do know, and Cohen's own statements do not give confidence in what he might not be disclosing. Cohen has been quoted in the past as saying that cloning a child would be "an afternoon's work for one of my students," and that he had already been approached by "at least three" people who had requested his services in cloning a child.
But researchers from the IRMS were additionally disclosing the fact that one of the children conceived through cytoplasmic transfer had been diagnosed with "pervasive developmental disorder," a phrase that encompasses a wide range of symptoms from delayed speech development to autism. They did so in 2001. That was later changed to autism, and two other children among the original 17 were found to have an abnormal 45, XO karyotype. In laymen's terms, a chromosomal anomaly, which is significant because the FDA's own finding demonstrate a higher incidence of chromosomal anomalies among children conceived with cytoplasmic transfer than those conceived naturally.
Since the mitochondrial DNA inheritance is changed, and since heteroplasmy in mtDNA is associated with certain diseases, these children could conceivably be carrying a lethal and inheritable mtDNA that could lead to harm to themselves or their future children. We simply don't know what the possible outcomes might be, because there was no testing or research sufficient to gauge the risk of cytoplasmic research. Dr. Cohen developed the procedure, and then he just did it. His team of embryologists at IRMS did it as well after he left, and now 30 children that we know of have been conceived and born as result of this procedure, two of whom have been tested and found to have inheritable mtDNA irregularities as a result of their having genes from three parents.
Ethical safeguards are in place to check individual scientists like Dr. Cohen whose hubris outpaces their caution. Unfortunately, nothing like cytoplasmic transfer had been conceived of or successfully executed until Dr. Cohen did it, and so he was able to perform this technique with little if any oversight or restraint. These 30 human children are the result of his laboratory experiment, and how lucky they and their parents are to have lives of uncertainty ahead of them relative to the general population.
Our next example consists of tree cores from the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. Twelve tree cores, to be exact, which were used to prove that temperature had risen sharply from the mid 19th century onward. Dendrochronology, as it is called, uses tree cores to chronicle temperature based on tree rings. The issues with dendrochronology are well-known and documented, because the data from tree rings can vary from the data from instrumentation.
The data from the twelve trees in the Yamal Peninsula was not known to be data from just twelve trees when it was used to prove that temperatures had been rising since the 19th century, and that temperatures in the Middle Ages were cooler. The scientists who collected the cores refused to release their raw data until the editors of the Royal Society insisted that the full raw data from the Yamal Peninsula study be released in its entirety.
There were 252 cores in the Yamal data set, but the twelve that were picked had a curious distinction that set them apart from the other cores: they all showed temperature increases since the 19th century. Eight papers were written using the data from the twelve cores, as opposed to data from 34 nearby trees that showed the exact opposite result: a warm Middle Age period and no recent uptick in temperature from the 19th century. Those eight papers involved a number of senior climatologists from the Climate Centre Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. You know Climate Centre from the Climategate emails.
As it so happens, one of the major players in this charade was one Keith Briffa, whose 1995 paper alleging that the Middle Ages were really cold and today's temperatures were really, really warm with a rapid uptick in temperatures from the 19th century set off a lot of controversy. It turns out that Briffa used just three tree cores from Yamal to make his assertions. In other words, he selected 3 cores out of 252 that bolstered his conclusion and ignored all the other data from the other cores to the contrary.
For his sophistry, his lack of scientific ethics, and his total dishonesty, Briffa has been rewarded with a position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That's the UN panel that churns out all those nice papers proving global warming is man-made and real. Now, you've heard about the emails, but the mainstream media didn't bother to tell you about Yamal in any great depth. Emails can be interpreted, but the selective excerpting of data to manipulate conclusions cannot be interpreted for anything other than what it is: dishonesty.
Nearly every major climatology paper alleging sharp increases in temperatures over the past 200 years uses the Yamal data from those 12 cores. One Canadian mathematician by the name of Steve McIntyre wrote 7,000 blog posts and dozens of letters requesting the data and questioning the methods used by the scientists who alleged the cores from Yamal proved that temperatures in the Middle Ages were cold and temperatures today have been on a warming trend since the 19th century. When the raw data was released, McIntyre's suspicions were borne out.
These twelve cores are at the heart of just about every single climate science paper over the past two decades alleging a sharp increase in temperature during the last 200 years. Peer review did not detect that the scientists, who have names like Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Darrell S Kaufman, and Michael E. Mann, were engaged in what can only be classified as purely unethical data excerption to prove their preconceived notion. Even though these scientists refused to release the raw data they used to generate their conclusions, the scientific community at large did not object.
This despite the fact that the two Russian scientists, Hantemirov and Shiyatov, who had collected the 252 cores and published their findings from the data in 2002, found no warming trend over the past 200 years whatsoever. Briffa had fought McIntyre at every turn from 2005 to 2008, refusing to publish the raw data until he was forced to by the Royal Society. In 2008, Briffa began to publish the raw data, but he did so in a data format last used in the days of punch cards, with no metadata to let anyone know where the data had come from. In other words, Briffa was making it difficult to verify his findings, a clear sign that those findings were not scientifically credible. By the time the entire amount of raw data had been released in 2009, McIntyre was able to find not only data from the Yamal area, but also data from nearby areas as well collected by other scientists.
And when McIntyre began to look at those data sets against the 12 cores used by Briffa, he found no hockey stick uptick whatsoever. The warming trend was gone.
Our final selection for today's Roundup comes to us courtesy of Duke University, which allowed oncologist Anil Potti and his partner cancer geneticist Joseph Nevins to proceed with human clinical trials based on their research even though Duke had been put on notice about the flaws inherent in the research of Potti and Nevins leading up to the clinical trials. Duke University allowed the trials to proceed without bothering to notify the human subjects. Dr. Potti gained further infamy for lying about being a Rhodes Scholar and fabricating his statistical analyses.
The human subjects of the clinical trials and their families are now suing Duke University, alleging that when Duke was informed about the flawed science underlying Potti's and Nevin's work, it chose to respond in a deceptive manner in order to "protect its reputation and proprietary interests." Though eleven settlements related to Potti's trials have been finalized, the North Carolina Medical Board has allowed Potti to keep his medical license. Additionally, Potti has been issued medical licenses in both South Carolina and Missouri. Of the 40 publications by Potti that have been examined by Duke University, fully two thirds will be retracted in whole or in part.
While Potti will likely never again have credibility as a researcher due to his unethical conduct, he still gets to practice oncology on human patients thanks to the medical boards of three states. And Dr. Jacques Cohen, whose methodology has left some 30 children conceived through his technique with a great deal of uncertainty about what the future might hold for them medically speaking, is now an employee of the U.S. federal government at Walter Reed. The climatologists who used just 12 Yamal cores to kickstart a global warming frenzy that has been the basis of countless are still employed and still pounding a narrative that man-made global warming is real and based in sound science rather than cherry-picked data.
That concludes today's Roundup for Saturday, July 21, 2012. However, if you'd like to continue the contrarian and examine the flawed science of the anti-smoking lobby, you may do so here.