I bring this very hopeful story up, not so much because of its substance, although it is a very hopeful apparent breakthrough. Rather, I want to illustrate an important point: In all of the brouhaha over cloning and embryonic stem cell research, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that most biotechnological research is not controversial, and indeed, is moving forward steadily to develop potentially outstanding therapies. And I am not just writing about adult stem cells. It appears that South Korean researchers have genetically engineered a virus that destroys cancer cells but does not harm healthy tissues. What a splendid approach to treating one of the banes of human existence.
In state debate after state debate, we hear that unless biotechnologists are allowed to clone to their hearts’ content, patients won’t be cured, economies will collapse, and the “theocrats” will return us to a dark age of barbers treating patients with leaches. (I made that last statement up.) But so much is happening beyond the cloning controversy that belies these assertions. Unfortunately, most of the good that non controversial biotechnological research is developing receives only subdued coverage. After all, a virus that destroys cancer cells won’t undermine the Bush embryonic stem cell funding policy.