Sunday, September 23, 2007
The month of September sure has been a great one here at The Book Connection. Today the spotlight on talented writers continues as the multi-faceted Yvonne Perry joins us to chat about her new book Right to Recover: Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America. Yvonne is a freelance writer, author, and keynote speaker who enjoys assisting people on a spiritual path. She is also the owner of Write On! Creative Writing Services—a team of freelance writers located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Yvonne. What a great thrill it is to have you with us.
Let’s start off by getting to know more about you. How long have you been a writer? What made you choose this career path? How do your many other roles influence your writing?
Thank you for having me as your guest. It’s a pleasure to share with you. I’ve been a writer all my life, but I’ve been in business as a freelance writer since 2003. I was using my writing skills on the job as an administrative/executive assistant on corporate jobs I have held, and I got a lot of compliments on my writing. I decided to take a chance and see if there were people out there willing to hire me to write for them. My roles as a podcast host and public speaker definitely come in handy in promoting my book. My newsletter and blog serve as informational resources for anyone interested in writing, publishing or book publicity and it also offers me a way to connect with people looking for a writer or editor and to share my journey as an author. All writing contains somewhat of a spiritual slant, since I am unable to separate my body, mind, spirit from one another because they are all interconnected. Mind, body and spirit all work together in business—from manifesting what I want to create—to taking care of my body by knowing when to take a break from work and find balance in life.
Your author’s bio says your “open style is lovingly controversial and challenges people’s belief systems in order to help them grow spiritually.” How do you present controversial topics in a way that doesn’t automatically cause people to become defensive about their beliefs?
Sometimes you have to offend someone’s mindset before they will open up enough to view other options. I try to do that without offending the person or their integrity. Because I have been a religious fanatic in the past, I understand where right-wing ultra-conservative people are coming from, so I use my knowledge of Biblical scripture to approach them on their own terms without condemning them. I present both sides of the stem cell issue. Those who are the least bit open minded will appreciate the logic and educational information presented in my book.
The topic of stem cell research certainly is a controversial one. It is a subject that is sure to come up again in the 2008 presidential election. When did you decide to tackle the subject of stem cell research? Is it something that you’ve been interested in for a long time?
Before I form an opinion on an issue, I like to be sure I know enough to support my position. I decided to learn more about stem cell research when I had two clients mention the topic to me. This was in July 2006 when President Bush vetoed H.R. 810. I couldn’t understand why he was so against science and the potential of blastocystic (embryonic) stem cell research. As I began to dig for information, I realized that there was a lot of misinformation out there. Listening to my inner guidance, I embarked on writing a book using the information and contacts I had gathered during my research. When I found a publisher to represent me, she emphasized the timeliness of the topic as it correlated with the 2008 election campaigns.
Let’s talk about Right to Recover. According to the Table of Contents, there is a great deal of information included in its pages. How did you go about deciding what to put into this book?
Like with any book I write, whether for a client or under my own name, I look for ways to organize the material that I feel needs to go in the book. I knew there was a political and a religious component to the issue of stem cell research so both of those would have to be addressed. Understanding that science in one nation affects progress in all nations, I knew I needed to present both national and international material. I know a lot of people who might benefit from therapies resulting from stem cell research, and I wanted to get their stories and opinions. I’ve believed for a long time that our government has too much control over the freedoms we say we have in the US, so I decided to approach the Church and State issue. From there, it was a matter of deciding in what order to put the information.
How much of the research for Right to Recover was done before you started writing? What types of information did you verify or re-check after you began writing it?
I did a few weeks of research and decided there was enough information out there to write a book, but rather than just repeating what was already on the Internet, I wanted to add a personal component by offering interviews with the scientists who are actually doing the research. As I began writing, one person I interviewed would suggest I speak to another person, and as I interviewed that person they would mention another person in the field. When I connected with Don C. Reed of California’s Proposition 71, he put me in contact with political, medical, and religious experts who offered me a wealth of information. Don Reed is also a former editor, who helped me “hone my voice” and present my message clearly.
One of those persons is Frank Cocazzelli, author of “By the Better Angels of Our Nature,” which is a plan of action to revive centrist liberalism. Mr. Cocozzelli is a private practice New York City attorney afflicted with muscular dystrophy. He is a political advocate for expanded blastocyst stem cell research that could conceivably help him walk again. As a liberal Catholic, Frank speaks on issues of progressive faith.
Shane Smith, Ph.D. Science Director of the Children’s Neurobiological Solutions Foundation (advocate for California’s Proposition 71) took time out of his busy schedule to review my facts and help me edit the entire book.
There are three chapters that caught my eye as I browsed the Table of Contents--Chapter 3. BIBLICAL SUPPORT FOR BLASTOCYSTIC RESEARCH, Chapter 4. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, and Chapter 5. REBUTTAL OF BUSH’S STATEMENT. I would like to talk separately about each.
I read through the Bible verses noted in the Table of Contents. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, Ephesians 3:20, and also Ephesians 2:10 could perhaps be construed as Biblical support for stem cell research, but I struggled to find any connection between stem cell research and the Bible in the other verses mentioned. Can you briefly share with us how those connections were made in Right to Recover? How did religious leaders lead you to Biblical support of stem cell research? Were these leaders from a variety of organized religions?
Reverend Dan Bloodworth attended Rhema Bible College in order to better understand how right wing groups support their beliefs against blastocystic stem cell research His education led him to believe that stem cell research and any subsequent therapy is a gift from God.
"My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children."
Dan uses this verse to show that ignorance about a topic causes people to perish when the answer to their problem is right under their noses.
“I, the LORD, do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”
If God cannot change, and we need blood to be born the second time (Dan is referring to salvation through the blood of Jesus), then we can’t be born without blood the first time (natural birth).
"Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." (NIV)
Not of the flesh, not of human desire, nor of the blood but of the Holy Spirit. (KJV)
In other words, neither the flesh act (coitus) nor the desire to get pregnant, and not even the appearance of blood guarantees that life will begin. Life only comes if the Holy Spirit deems it to be. Some time after blood appears, the Holy Spirit enters the womb and purposes whether or not the potential life is to become a live human baby. The blood must be present before this takes place. Remember, God is always the same. He doesn’t do things one way one time and another way the next.
"------The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him." He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
God gives life, not the body. Humans look at the flesh and not at the spirit, which gives life. Cells have life, but no consciousness.
I Corinthians 2:4-5
"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power."
God always shows us an example of his greatness and the way he wants us to go. When a medical discovery is made, a loving God would want us to use it as a tool for healing, not as a subject for debate.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Stem cell technology, in the limited way we know it now, is a great gift for, and to, humankind. The future of stem cell technology is great. Imagine being on the donor list and being able to receive a heart without another person having to die in order to donate it. The heart and other organs may be created in a laboratory one day. Where do good gifts come from? How faithful will we be to use our God-given skills, abilities, and gifts to help others?
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
My grandmother and I raised a garden together for many years. When we were planting the seeds each spring, she would always remind me to plant four seeds to each hole we dug: two for the birds, one for the weather, and one for us. Even with our generous planting regime, we nearly always had to replant a second time to fill in the holes where none of the seeds survived.
Going back to nature, let’s compare a plant seed to a fertilized egg. Both a seed and a zygote hold the potential for reproducing life. When a seed is planted into the ground, it begins to draw nourishment from the soil. This can be considered the conception or beginning of life. It is the same with a fertilized egg. It must be implanted in a woman’s womb in order to become an organism. From this, we see that fertilization and conception are not synonymous and do not occur at the same time.
In order to determine whether we are talking about the beginning of cell division or the beginning of a pregnancy, we need to be reminded of the difference between fertilization and conception.
Fertilization of a human egg may occur in the fallopian tube or in-vitro by scientific means. It takes only a few hours after the sperm and ovum unite to start the process of cell division.
Conception occurs when a fertilized egg, which has become a blastocyst, implants itself into the uterine lining and begins to draw nourishment from the mother. This can be confirmed by testing hCG levels.
Thus, we correctly use the term “in-vitro fertilization” but not “in-vitro conception.” Be aware of the indispensable role of a woman in childbirth. Without a mother’s womb, there is no baby.
Chapter 4 discusses the issue of religious tolerance. What does religious tolerance mean to you? Why is it an important topic for this book?
Religious tolerance means that we can accept another person’s belief system or religion even when it differs from our own. Religion has caused many wars throughout history and until we learn to look past what separates us and begin to see what connects us, we will continue to have fighting and physical struggle.
This chapter also talks about the Nicene Creed. As a former Catholic, I am familiar with this creed. What is the role of the Nicene Creed in stem cell research?
The Nicene Creed is used as part of a detailed history of how the Church and religion came to be intertwined.
Chapter 5 of Right to Recover appears to address comments made by our president, George W. Bush. Its topics include the Sixth Commandment—Thou Shalt Not Kill; the issue of being Pro-Life yet Anti-stem cell research; and what is death, to name a few. I’m reminded of something I once heard about The Federalist Papers versus The Anti-Federalist Papers, which was how it is much easier to be in favor of something than against it. Did you ever fear coming out against these statements?
I realize that I have put myself in an uncomfortable position and will have to stand strong on my convictions when promoting my book.
You’ve also included chapters on the public opinion surrounding stem cell research and the importance of Federal Funding. Can you talk briefly about each of these?
There are two issues here because we are looking at two factors: in-vitro blastocyst stem cell research in general and the funding of such by using taxpayer dollars. In the surveys I reviewed, about 65 to 70 percent of Americans support blastocyst stem cell research in general, but only about 50 percent want their tax dollars used for the research. Even President Bush is not against blastocystic stem cell research, he is limiting the date that the cell lines were created to be before August 2001. As you may know, many of the “Bush-approved” lines have been contaminated with mouse feeder cells and cannot be used for research on humans. The technology used for harvesting blastocyst stem cells has improved greatly since 2001. What is so significant about a date? If the U.S. is willing to fund research on a limited number of IV-Bs, then why not fund research on all of them?
Researchers say that the Bush-approved lines are hard to work with, and most stem cell researchers won’t bother trying to grow new lines from them in the lab. The knowledge of how to work with the old lines is obsolete, and researchers who are new to this field do not have the “old” knowledge. Instead, they possess cutting-edge and up-to-date skills in working with newer lines that are easier to work with because they renew more quickly for reproducibility. These new lines would include diversity in race and genetic types.
Both H.R. 810 (2006) and The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (2007) would have released hundreds of new lines of in vitro blastocyst stem cells to be used for research regardless of the date they were created. Scientists don’t need a higher quantity of cells; they need higher quality cells.
The private sector has been funding blastocystic stem cell research under restrictive conditions for years, and, while we have seen tremendous progress, a lack of greater funds definitely limits advancement toward a cure for any ailment. Compare that to the medical technology we now have available with adult stem cells and you will see how much government funding helps in developing new treatments for disease.
Federal funding will allow more scientists around the world, including our nation’s most prominent researchers, to conduct research that will hasten the discovery of therapies, drugs, and treatments for a gamut of illnesses and injuries. Federal funding will ensure collaboration and information sharing among researchers and will lessen the overall costs of doing research. Efforts would no longer need to be duplicated in separate labs that isolate research conducted through federal funds from research conducted through non-federal funding.
Where can readers find a copy of Right to Recover?
Amazon.com, Nightengalepress.com; Barnesandnoble.com, Target.com, many online bookstores, and in all major book retail stores.
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with so many questions. What can I say—I’m a writer with a curious mind. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I hope you will check out my blog at http://www.right2recover.com. There are essays, articles, links, video trailers, surveys and a lot of information about stem cell research you might be interested in.
Thanks for sharing so much about how Right to Recover came into being and the research and opinions that shaped it. I wish you continued success in all your endeavors.
Thank you. It is a privilege to share with you and your readers.
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