Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bravo Mr. President on Stem Cell Research -- and Scientific Integrity

I'm thrilled about the President's announcement yesterday overturning the Bush administration's ban on embryonic stem cell research. How exciting it is to think that this vital research that has the potential to ease suffering can now proceed once again.

I'm even happier it was in the context of a "guarantee [of] scientific integrity" in federal policy making, and a commitment that the Obama administration will make "scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

Could the end of the ineffective, medically inaccurate, and immoral federal abstinence-only-until-marriage program be next?

Check here tomorrow for our exciting announcement.


Anonymous said...

But even the Washington Post editors today expressed the concern that a policy that merely says "whatever science CAN do it SHOULD do, regardless of possible moral or ethical problems" is a deficiency in Obama's approach to this issue. And there is an editorial in the same Washington Post (I can't link to it because it requires a free membership to the website and I can never find my password...I subscribe in hard copy...)by Yule Levin that points out that science should be governed by politics. Science may be able to DO many things but whether or not it SHOULD do things that even only a significant minority of Americans believe to be immoral or unethical (here in American we theoretically don't believe in supporting a tyranny of the majority) is a question that science itself cannot answer.

If any moral or ethical restrictions on science are to be dismissed as "ideological" then science should go on untrammeled regardless of any human rights. Why stop at destroying days-old embryos? Why not harvest the organs of newborn babies (especially unwanted ones)? Science CAN do this - why let ideology get in the way?

Why not let doctors routinely implant 8 embryos and let women carry all 8 to term? Why let ideology prevent or restrict this? Don't women have a right to control their own fertility?

In fact, Obama has merely substituted his own ideology - one that sees value in human life only based on its convenience and wantedness - which appeals to a lot of Americans - for an "ideology" that respects the dignity of life from conception to natural death, even if this means accepting some inevitable limitations to protect that life. He is not freeing science from ideology. He is - as I suppose victors have a right to do - celebrating and asserting his right to impose his own ideology.

I guess when all the wonderful sure-fire just-around-the-corner cures for dread diseases come around (and if human embryos do have to be destroyed, I certainly hope they find a cure - especially for childhood leukemia, which my three-year-old has), that we will need to find a way to harvest enough eggs to guarantee some kind of equal access to these cures. Since science SHOULD do whatever science CAN, maybe we can get some egg-harvesting operations going on developing-world women, because heck, they're already exploited in so many other ways, what's one more? And why should ideology get in the way of science?

Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting topic of conversation. For those particularly intrigued, it may be worthwhile checking out http://www.irdialogue.org/submissions/ , the Website of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue™. The Journal is seeking submissions for its issue on "Engaging the Taboo: Gender, the Body, and Sexuality in our Religious Traditions."

Debra W. Haffner said...

Actually Pam, I share your question, "just because we can should we?" You might be interested in our new Open Letter on ARTS that raises some of these questions. The issue, as you know, is whether already created embryos that would otherwise not be implanted can be used for scientific research. I wouldn't support creating embryos just for research, but as I understand it these exist and would either remain frozen or be discarded. Can you imagine that using them for research to cure diseases is at least as moral?

PS I hope your son and your family are well!