Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Frees Science from the Shackles of "Political Ideology"

On March 9th, at a ceremony in the Oval Office, President Obama signed an Executive Order reversing George W. Bush's 2001 ban on funding certain forms of stem cell research.

Here's how the Time article characterized it:

"The sigh of relief in labs across the country was almost audible. In Boston, Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, gathered his entire staff to listen to Obama's announcement and served cake in celebration. James Thomson, the University of Wisconsin scientist responsible for isolating the first human embryonic stem cells in 1998, flew to Washington at Obama's request to watch the signing in person.

"The President's decision does much more than expand funding for stem-cell research. It heralds a shift in the government's view of science, ushering in an era in which it promises to defend science — and the pursuit of useful treatments — against ideology. 'It is about ensuring that scientific data [are] never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,' Obama said in his opening statement. (emphasis added)

"Without discounting the moral concerns that some Americans have about using embryos — which many consider to be fully realized human life — for scientific research, Obama said that moral values do not necessarily preclude the study of embryonic stem cells, particularly those obtained from the pool of 400,000 or so embryos currently stored in IVF clinics around the U.S., most of which would have been discarded. 'I believe we have been given the capacity and the will to pursue this research — and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly,' he said."

The article grudgingly admits that "New techniques in generating stem cells from skin cells may prove in coming years more efficient and reliable than using embryonic stem cells."

But the article goes on to say, "Monday's Executive Order is less about pitting the promise of one type of stem cell against another's and more about re-establishing the authority of science, of ensuring that any and every potentially useful avenue of research will be pursued to its end. As the President noted, the new policy will not guarantee stem-cell treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's disease. But it does guarantee a commitment to the kind of promising research that this Administration — and many people in the scientific community — believe must be followed." (emphasis added)

We should all be grateful for Time's impartial and "scientific" reporting of the facts.

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