Human Exceptionalism

Lead Into Gold: “StemCell Vindication” for Bush

Charles Krauthammer, the Washington Post columnist who favored ESCR funding but also saw that the scientists would never be satisfied with being limited to leftover embryos, has a column on the great iPSC breakthrough. He writes (prematurely in my view) that “the great stem cell debate is over:”

Which allows a bit of reflection on the storm that has Bush got it right. Not because he necessarily drew the line in the right place. I have long argued that a better line might have been drawn–between using doomed and discarded fertility-clinic embryos created originally for reproduction (permitted) and using embryos created solely to be disassembled for their parts, as in research cloning (prohibited). But what Bush got right was to insist, in the face of enormous popular and scientific opposition, on drawing a line at all, on requiring that scientific imperative be balanced by moral considerations.raged ever since the August 2001 announcement of President Bush‘s stem cell policy. The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president–so vilified for a moral stance–been so thoroughly vindicated…

Bush got it right. Not because he necessarily drew the line in the right place. I have long argued that a better line might have been drawn–between using doomed and discarded fertility-clinic embryos created originally for reproduction (permitted) and using embryos created solely to be disassembled for their parts, as in research cloning (prohibited). But what Bush got right was to insist, in the face of enormous popular and scientific opposition, on drawing a line at all, on requiring that scientific imperative be balanced by moral considerations.

A willingness to draw moral lines is going to become increasingly important as life sciences gain power once consigned to the gods. I think atomic energy is a rough, but good analogy. Like the current strides being made in biology and biotechnology (think artificial viruses, for example), the tremendous scientific gains made by physicists in unlocking the atom unleashed great potential for both tremendous good and catastrophic evil. Yet, nobody said in the face of that awesome power, as Senator Specter did the other day about stem cell research, that science should be “unfettered.” Rather, all agreed that at least some parameters had to be placed around the use of atomic energy and we have since engaged in long and sometimes bitter debates about the extent to which we should use our knowledge and ability to make uses out of the atom. Like the debate over stem cell research, that is right and proper in a democratic society.

For those who think that Krauthammer can’t know what it’s like to be sick or is ignorant of the science, or must be religious: He is a secularist, a physician, psychiatrist, and near-quadriplegic from a spinal cord injury.

Read the whole column. It is well worth your time.

Most Popular

Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
The Economy

Here Comes the Biden Blame Game

During the eight years that President Obama and his team managed the economy, Americans were regularly assured that the president’s Keynesian policies would deliver striking growth in the years ahead. The growth repeatedly failed to materialize, and what followed was a master class in blamesmanship. No matter ... Read More
The Economy

Here Comes the Biden Blame Game

During the eight years that President Obama and his team managed the economy, Americans were regularly assured that the president’s Keynesian policies would deliver striking growth in the years ahead. The growth repeatedly failed to materialize, and what followed was a master class in blamesmanship. No matter ... Read More
Elections

Election 2020’s Endgame

Today on the menu: States are certifying their votes, and Trump's legal team is in turmoil. The 2020 Election Starts to Wind Down Michigan and Pennsylvania are set to certify their election results today, and Nevada is scheduled to do the same tomorrow. Saturday night, U.S. district judge Matthew W. ... Read More
Elections

Election 2020’s Endgame

Today on the menu: States are certifying their votes, and Trump's legal team is in turmoil. The 2020 Election Starts to Wind Down Michigan and Pennsylvania are set to certify their election results today, and Nevada is scheduled to do the same tomorrow. Saturday night, U.S. district judge Matthew W. ... Read More