Obama on Stem Cells: Victory for Science or “Deadly Order”?


O
bama continues to unwind the Bush Administration’s policies. Today, the president is expected to sign an executive order that will lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
    During the Bush Administration, federal research dollars could be used for stem cell lines created before August 2001. The reason was the source of new stem cells: human embryos that would have to be destroyed in the process. These embryos usually came from fertility clinics and would have been discarded anyway.
    One scientific problem was that the small number of pre-August 2001 lines – about 60, some which were questionable for research purposes. By lifting the ban, federal money could be used to start many new lines (or use others that were created after the August date.)
    Stem cell treatments, such as bone marrow transplantation, already exist. Possible future treatments – more likely without the ban – include treatments for cancer, Parkison’s disease, cardiac failure, neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, and many others.
This is a victory of science over politics, many say. Others, of course, don’t see it that way. In a New York Times article, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is quoted as calling the decision “yet another deadly executive order by President Obama” and “a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life.”
    Victory of science or a deadly executive order – either way, these are value judgments. Science is never free of values and moral judgments. Obama’s decision doesn’t remove politics from science. It just replaces one set of political values with another.
    What do you say about the decision to free up embryonic stem cell research?
    Do you see it as a victory for science?
    Or something else?

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