Four fibs and a waffle

On March 9, President Barack Obama gave my pro-life mother a nasty 95th birthday president: an executive order rescinding the restrictions that President Bush had placed on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. As policy, the executive order was even more an irresponsible blank check than many had feared it would be, according to Yuval Levin, who once worked on these questions at the President’s Council on Bioethics. Nor did the executive order deign to even nod to the moral debate that has raged around this issue for years. The President tried to do that in a speech announcing the executive order. Yet the speech, containing four fibs and a waffle, was even worse.

Fib One: According to the President, his executive order will “lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research.” But as Ryan Anderson, editor of Public Discourse, Ethics, Law and the Common Good,  quickly pointed out: There never was a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush was, in fact, the first president in history to fund embryonic stem cell research.“ The Bush compromise was to order funding restrictions that prevented the further destruction of human embryos in order to obtain their stem cells. Federal funding of research using existing stem cell lines was permitted.

Fib Two: President Obama claimed that the Bush compromise was a “false choice between sound science and moral values.” That is a false portrait of the choice Bush made, and of its effects; for by following the path of moral reason, President Bush pushed science in a more fruitful direction, such that stem cells that have the same properties as embryonic stem cells can now be obtained by morally acceptable means. Furthermore, what “moral values” inform an executive order condemning the smallest members of the human family to death?

Fib Three: The President claimed that his executive order was the first step in “letting scientists…do their job, free from manipulation or coercion…” This is a favorite Obama rhetorical device: set up straw men, then huff and puff eloquently until the straw man is no more. The truth of the matter, as Ryan Anderson pointed out, is that “critics of embryo-destructive research have never been hostile to science. The dispute is not about whether stem-cell research should proceed; it is about how it should proceed.”

No one who opposes the Obama policy is against listening to scientists; but since when is science absolved from moral scrutiny? Obama seems to think of scientists as secular high priests whose work cannot be questioned or subjected to the legal boundaries erected around every human activity that touches on the integrity of life. Perhaps the insightful German film, After the Truth, in which a fictional trial explores the “humanitarian” rationale for medical “experiments” under German National Socialism, should be screened in the White House theater; I’m sure the good folks at Ignatius Press will donate a DVD.

Fib Four: The President promised that the research allowed by his executive order would be “scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted.” But his policy flies in the face of the current trends in stem-cell science, where the most exciting possibilities involve “induced pluripotent stem cell” (IPSC) technology. IPSC technologies not only avoid embryo-destruction; they hold out the possibility of creating regenerative therapies that are patient-specific through the re-programming of a patient’s own adult cells.

The Waffle: The President vowed to oppose cloning for human reproduction; he did not say he would oppose so-called “therapeutic cloning,” in which clones are created and then destroyed for research purposes. But there’s no need for waffling if you really know the science: at the present state of research, IPSC technology looks likely to do whatever “therapeutic cloning” would do—and do it better.

His claims to the contrary, neither the President’s executive order nor his speech exhibited any serious wrestling with the arguments of those who believe embryo-destruction is immoral. The issues were misrepresented and the opponents’ views caricatured; the relevant science was ignored. This is change no morally reflective person can believe in—a presidentially mandated advance for the culture of death.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.