Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

The Washington Post article Obama opens up stem cell work, science inquiries tells of President Obama’s reversal of Bush polices regarding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This was one of Obama’s campaign pledges, so there is no surprise here. But what is disappointing is the lengths to which Obama went, when announcing the order, to jettison ethical judgement.

“Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” Obama declared as he signed documents changing U.S. science policy and removing what some researchers have said were shackles on their work.

This reminds me of the false choice between national security and our constitutional rights. I hope Obama doesn’t keep using “false choice”; it’s already getting trite. What Bush did in 2001 was attempt to find a middle ground. He permitted federal funding of embryonic research, but limited this funding to the use of existing cell lines. Of course, this did not prevent private funds from paying for this promising research. In fact, if it was so promising, one would think that private funds would have been flowing in. It seems to me that Bush did what Obama claimed he would do; listen to the two sides and then reach some compromise. When Bush permitted funding of embryonic stem cell research, it was the first time that the federal government had funded any embryonic stem cell research at all.

If science is science and moral values are moral values, and if there is no need to consider the latter when funding the former, then, for example, why would the National Institute of Health have a Department of Clinical Bioethics? Why would the NIH provide a guide to Research Ethics and Stem Cells?

The article continues

“It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,” Obama said.

But

Science, politics and religion have long intertwined and conflicted with each other. In his actions Monday, especially with the stem cell decision, Obama is emphasizing more the science than the religion, when compared with his predecessor, science policy experts say. But they acknowledged politics is still involved.  [emphasis added]

Of course politics is still involved. Politics is mostly involved. Let’s stop pretending that Obama is not another politician!