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Stem cell research at last

I’m pleased, as is anyone in the pro-science camp, at Obama’s expected reversal of Bush’s ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. I especially appreciate these comments he made.

“Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama said. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

That last is another richly deserved rebuke of the Bush administration, and its kowtowing to fundamentalist ignorance in issues of science. In particular, the Right Wing Cult of the Fetus is driven berserk by the idea that “babies” are being “killed” so that mad scientists can do their freakish lab experiments. The point that the fetuses being used are among those routinely destroyed as surplus by fertility clinics is not the kind of inconvenient fact that will pierce the armor plating of their righteousness. Nor is the fact that these fetuses will still be available for infertile parents who wish to conceive in vitro.

As for the results we may one day enjoy from such research, which are also disputed by the RA crowd (Righteous Anger), well, we cannot say for sure right this minute that, fifty years from now, paraplegics will be dancing the rhumba after having their new spines installed as an outpatient procedure, or that we’ll have eradicated dozens of diseases, or what have you. But the possibility is there, and not to be ignored, and that’s why research is so vital. If we can better the lives of people, we should. That’s basic.

Still, though, sometimes I think conservatives cannot only think long-term, but literally can’t understand anything that doesn’t appear to have an immediate, tangible benefit. It’s as if scientific research isn’t worth doing if it doesn’t work like an ATM, spitting out instant gratification. Get a load of Republican Rep. Eric Cantor’s ignorant and hypocritical whimper, which he tries to couch in terms of the economy.

“Why are we going and distracting ourselves from the economy? This is job No. 1. Let’s focus on what needs to be done,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Once more with feeling: Cantor’s party bequeathed us this tattered economy, so that’s quite enough pretense from their side of the aisle that theirs is the party that’s all about fiscal responsibility, thank you kindly. And with the stimulus package now signed, well, let’s say that the l-o-n-g road to economic repair is, at least, being mapped out.

But what’s doubly stupid about Cantor’s remarks is his failure to understand that a country engaging in strong and well-funded scientific research is one whose economy is thriving. Not only does it put researchers to work — you know, jobs — but if their research really does bear fruit, and we begin to see real treatments emerge that we’ve never had before…well, that means money, dammit, and plenty of it. It means medicine we can export, it means more students getting advanced degrees in the sciences due to the increase in jobs in the wake of these new treatments…I mean, there’s no downside.

The only downside to scientific research is when ideology hurls itself bodily in science’s path. I’m glad that, for right now at least, we have a president who respects the role of science in benefiting humanity. And the economy.

Comments

  1. says

    Aint it nice? To finally have the Executive branch being led again and not just drifting about doing nothing but parceling out checks to military contractors (signed “X” by G. Cro-magnon-man Bush) and religious leaders?I can actually watch pres. press conferences on TV now for the first time in 8 years without compulsively having to change the channel…

  2. says

    Last year on Independent Lens, PBS aired a documentary about John Kessler, a doctor in Chicago who's been working for a number of years on nerve regeneration. He's THIS close, but he's been held up these past several years because of – you guessed it – the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and the subsequent loss of private funding that followed it.He was able to make some progress with adult stem cells, but unfortunately, not enough.Naturally, now that we get someone in the Oval Office who has frakking brain, no one (thanks to the policies of his predecessor & co.) has any money. If Kessler does manage to get a few bucks, we could see spinal cord regeneration within the next five to ten years.Unfortunately but understandably, Independent Lens (unlike NOVA and Frontline) can't make its films available online, but here is the website with some info, as well as a brief interview with Kessler:http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/stemcell/index.html

  3. says

    When you take into account the truly scary fact that a significant number of these religious right politicians actually believe that the world will end – judgement day, rapture, whatever – IN THEIR LIFETIME – it’s easy to see why there’s no long term planning.Who cares about any research that might benefit our grandchildren? Why bother making any conservation efforts in order to provide them with a healthy environment in which to live? We’re all going to be having tea and sandwiches with Jesus in a couple of years, right?

  4. says

    sometimes I think conservatives cannot only think long-term, but literally can’t understand anything that doesn’t appear to have an immediate, tangible benefitHmmm….could this be linked to their inability to understand evolution? I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve heard Hovind say things like “no one has ever seen an animal give birth to another kind of animal”.

  5. says

    WOW… I’m not even sure where to start… should I start with the original author or the misguided posters after. Quick shots should cover it:1 IS – Blatant Bush hating, why, he’s out. Get over it.2 Cipher – 2 things 1st stem cells from adults have proven harder to obtain but significantly more stable. 2nd do you really think a researcher “this close” so solving anything significant would be receiving his funding from the government? Sorry to break this to you but the answer is NO.3 Paul – No, most if not all religious minded people do not believe the rapture is coming. They use that language to instill a seriousness to those of a like mind. If they were truly concerned with the futures of our grandchildren then they probably would have considered that during several of the other moves the government has made which has essentially bonded our children and grandchildren to a form of government controled slavery to payback the money spent over the last year. That is a whole seperate argument and not really for this blog. As for time spent with Jesus, I get the feeling you won’t need to clear your schedule.4 Sparrowhawk – evolution? you chose to jusmp from stem cells to evolution? fear not there are very few religious people who doubt the science behind the proof of evolution. The newest term is “intelligent design”. This theory is actually a blending of the philosophies as to not rule out the science. Unfortunately, science has not been able to explain evolution beyond the fact that “random mutations” must have steered a genetic change. Funny how science relies on the faith of a random mutation creating a new species (which has never been documented or proven), but rules out the presence of God (since he/she/it has never been documented or proven). Well with all of this attempting to clear up and straighten out my fellow bloggers, I’m too tired to even post about how misguided the original post was.

  6. says

    Cipher – 2 things 1st stem cells from adults have proven harder to obtain but significantly more stable.The continual whine from the (mostly Christian) Right. I doubt seriously that you have enough knowledge to justify such an opinion, which contradicts every informed opinion I’ve come across – but don’t let that stop you from shooing off your mouth.2nd do you really think a researcher “this close” so solving anything significant would be receiving his funding from the government? Sorry to break this to you but the answer is NO.Well, as I said – private funding diminished after public funding was cut off – and there was never enough to begin with. Are you an expert in this field as well?Sorry to break this to you – but you’re a moron.Actually, I’m not sorry at all.

  7. says

    “[..] most if not all religious minded people do not believe the rapture is coming.”Hehe… I’m not sure whether this naivete or an outright lie.”As for time spent with Jesus, I get the feeling you won’t need to clear your schedule.”That is a shame; I had some cracking questions and awesome turkey sandwiches.

  8. Martin says

    Well with all of this attempting to clear up and straighten out my fellow bloggers, I’m too tired to even post about how misguided the original post was.Why not just admit you can’t? Because if you could have, you would have. After simply whining that I was engaging in Bush hating (to which I’ll eagerly admit — face it, the man left behind any number of reasons to hate him), you did not even attempt a refutation of my post’s central themes, which were…a) that Bush did in fact allow his subservience to religious ideology and his arch-conservative base to interfere with his policy-making regarding science; b) that a society that supports strong scientific research will have a healthy economy; and c) that while we cannot say exactly what the results of research on embryonic stem cells will be, the potential for some remarkable advances makes further research vital. I stand by those points as being eminently sensible. If they really are misguided, perhaps you could explain why. But as that would require you to take laughable positions such as “scientific research hurts the economy” or “Bush bravely stood up to the Christian Right,” I really don’t think you can. So, like your average troll, you think copping an indignant attitude somehow stands in for an actual argument. Hint: not really. And your ignorant remarks about evolution are fairly typical of the uninformed dimwits in the “ID” camp, containing the kinds of basic errors that any introductory biology course could correct, if you cared to be educated rather than simply self-righteous. Thanks for playing though.

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