Thursday, March 12, 2009

Steve Chapment writing for Reason Magazine’s website:
You don't have to be part of the pro-life movement to have qualms about this kind of scientific inquiry. James Thomson, the University of Wisconsin biologist who pioneered the field, has said, "If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." The president's new order suggests we shouldn't think too much.

In 2001, supporters of embryonic stem cell research called on Bush to allow experiments using "surplus" frozen embryos in fertility clinics, arguing that they would be disposed of anyway. But Obama didn't limit his new policy to these fertilized eggs.

On the contrary, he left open the possibility of funding studies using embryos created specifically so their cells can be harvested—which Congress has barred, but which some advocates would like to allow. The president took no position on whether scientists should be permitted to create embryos for the sole purpose of dismembering them for their stem cells.

He did, however, reject another option. "We will ensure," he said, "that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society, or any society."

Is that a scientific judgment? No, it's a philosophical one, reflecting Obama's moral values. Apparently, the folks in the white lab coats can't be relied on to answer all questions.

But this position is hard to square with his professed approach. On one hand, the president says his policy is "about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion." On the other, he will use coercion to keep them from doing reproductive cloning.

What this mandate means is simple: It may be permissible for scientists to create cloned embryos and kill them. It's not permissible to create cloned embryos and let them live. Their cells may be used for our benefit, but not for their own.

There lies the reality of embryonic stem cell research: It turns incipient human beings into commodities to be exploited for the sake of people who are safely past that defenseless stage of their lives.

It's a change that poses risks not just to days-old human embryos. The rest of us may one day reap important medical benefits from this research. But we may lose something even more vital.
And Mona Charen writing at National Review Online noticed the same disconnect:
In reversing his predecessor’s executive order regarding embryonic stem-cell research, the president outlined the choice as follows: “In recent years, when it comes to stem-cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent.” You see, there really is no moral quandary worth considering because “I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.” Everyone is for easing human suffering. So, would the president be in favor of easing human suffering if it required using the organs of, say, six-month-old fetuses? The problem is not that some people are against “sound science,” but rather that science cannot answer questions like “When is human life worthy of respect and protection?” Those are inherently political questions that can only be answered by the whole society.

A few sentences later, President Obama himself acknowledged that “sound science” is not the only consideration. He declared that “we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.” Come again? What if human cloning could get paraplegics to walk again or deliver diabetics from a lifetime of needles? What if the federal government’s refusal to fund such research caused “some of our best scientists [to] leave for other countries that will sponsor their work”? Apparently there are moral constraints on science and President Obama stands ready to impose them.
Obama's glibness seems to have everybody so mesmerized that few hear what he is actually saying, no matter how contradictory. Personally, I find the man to be a snake-oil salesman. I didn't always agree with George Bush (or even understand), but I always felt he believed what he was trying to say. With Barack Obama, I feel like I am listening to the president of a college fraternity explain that their latest kegger was a actually a charity event because they sent twenty bucks to Planned Parenthood when they woke up the next morning.


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