Human Exceptionalism

Testing Time: Are Democrats Pro Science?

We hear a lot of sturm and drang that President Bush is “anti-science” because of his opposition to human cloning and full federal funding of destroying embryos for ESCR. But these positions don’t make the President anti-science: That dispute is about ethics. People can agree or disagree about the ethics, but one can be–as I am–both pro science and anti-human cloning.

There is a bill now before the Senate that will test whether the pro-ESCR Democrats are also pro-science. S.30, the “Hope Offered through Principled and Ethical Stem Cell Research” would federally fund “alternatives” to destructive ESCR, such as “reprogramming,” in which an ordinary body cell may be reverted back to its embryonic stem cell state–a feat accomplished already in mice.

This bill passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate last year and in the House, but not with a “super majority” needed to clear a procedural hurdle. Unfortunately, S. 30 is being held hostage to the ESCR bill–much like the umbilical cord blood banking bill was held up for years before finally passing. But whether or not one supports or opposes traditional ESCR, there is no substantial reason to oppose S. 30, given the dearth of ethical controversy and the great scientific potential. (Ian Wilmut, of Dolly fame, has stated he believes reprogramming will be usable for medical therapies before human cloning.) If the Democrats who control the Congress shoot down this bill, it won’t be because of ethical considerations but pure politics, and a desire to thwart one avenue of stem cell experiments in order to boost another. And that would be anti-science.

Yuval Levin has more on the issue here at NRO.

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