Obama opens door to federally funded embryonic stem cell research

Posted on March 9, 2009

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Today President Obama removed restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, promising to usher in a new freedom in science protecting it from political agendas.

Hmmm …. I wonder if global warming falls under that category?

But I digress. Embryonic stem cell research is a prickly subject I won’t get entirely into here. I will say that Obama’s words today further the specious charge that somehow his predecessor Bush was anti-science, with his opposition to stem cell research being chief among the evidence. The fact is that stem cell research was still allowed to occur, funded by private foundations and donors, and the taxpayers were not en masse forced into support by their tax dollars research they may not have necessarily agreed with.

There is also some evidence, though still contested, that adult stem cells may provide as much, if not more, potential than embryonic stem cells. But let’s be clear – the potential for either is still somewhat amorphous at this point. Yes, there may be hope in stem cells, but the way the issue has been framed, you would think that stem cells will cure every disease befalling us, if only it weren’t for those durn Christians standing in our way!

That kind of thinking is just as dogmatic and rigid as opponents of embryonic stem cell research are vilified to be. Now the decision has been made, but I’m curious about how some of those Christian conservatives that voted for Obama are feeling about their decision.

Now, it’s absolutely true that the embryos that will be researched come not from abortion clinics, but from fertility clinics that have many excess embryos that are slated for destruction anyway. But let’s go out on a science-fiction limb here (one that I am emphatically stating is not ensured to happen by Obama’s action today; it’s just a thought experiment). Let’s say that embryonic stem cells do pan out. Is it such a slippery slope to consider that embryos might then be considered a valuable commodity for sale to the medical establishment? Is it such a leap to consider women not merely selling their eggs, but viable embryos for cash in strapped circumstances?

These are the things we as a society have to think about. Obama is right when he says that there is a false choice between sound science and moral ethics. But when, if ever, do ethics trump scientific advancement? Or do we merely continue to do, merely because we can?

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Posted in: News, Politics, Science