Monday, April 13, 2009

President Barack Obama Warped and Twisted Science With Embryonic Stem Cell Order

President Barack Obama Warped and Twisted Science With Embryonic Stem Cell Order

by Joseph Infranco
April 13, 2009 Note: Joseph Infranco is senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

On March 9, with a stroke of his pen, President Obama signed an executive order that provides federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The president’s terse but chilling justification was that “science should trump ideology.” The statement is a masterpiece of legerdemain, disguising its false premise and frightening implications while miscommunicating the nature and meaning of science.

The first problem is the use of the word “science” to mean a coherent body of truth independent of ideology. Science is a systematic way of approaching the study of the material universe; it is a process or method of research, but it can never be free of ideology. As long as experiments are done by human beings, there will be ideologies.

The Nazi scientists who experimented with eugenics or measuring the human reactions of subjects as they froze to death, were practicing science: ghoulish, even devilish science to be sure, but science nonetheless. Setting science above moral considerations is the age-old myth of neutrality, and the subtle self-deception of one who mistakes his view for objective truth.

That’s the trouble with blind spots; by definition we never see our own.

Once science is viewed as a discrete inquiry, separate and apart from ideology, individuals are free to pursue their ideologies with impunity. So long as the activities are cloaked by the cover of “science,” no moral or philosophical inquiries should weigh down progress.

Let’s take a current but little-known topic like chimeras, for example.

The chimera in Greek mythology was a monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a dragon’s tail. It was universally viewed by the Greeks as a hideous creature, precisely because of its unnatural hybrid makeup; Prince Bellerophon, who was assigned the unhappy task of fighting the creature, became a hero when he slew it. If we fast-forward to today, the chimera, or combination of species, is a subject of serious discussion in certain scientific circles.

We are well beyond the science fiction of H.G. Wells’ tormented hybrids in The Island of Doctor Moreau; we are in a time where scientists are seriously contemplating the creation of human-animal hybrids. The hero is no longer Bellerophon who killed the creature; it is, rather, the scientist creating it.

On one level, the creation of a chimera can be viewed as a purely scientific inquiry.

Someone might ask, “How will human gametes genetically combine with, for example, simian genetic material? Are such unions viable, and if so, how long will these beings live?” These are quintessential scientific inquiries, capable of yielding verifiable results that can be neatly summarized in columns of data and bar graphs submitted to Scientific American.

Does President Obama believe that his “science trump(s) ideology” formula works here? What about the scientific practice of vivisection, or the use of animals in experiments? Would the president even attempt to answer animal “rights” activists with his dismissive answer? If science does indeed rule over ideology, then why should an ideology concerned with animal pain and suffering trump the scientific quest for useful information?

Contrasting the processes of science with the inescapable questions of morality and ideology is a meaningless comparison. It would be like asking, “Do you prefer driving on freeways or driving a BMW?”

Why would the president even make such a statement? Because it short circuits the debate for political objectives. Raising moral questions allows the questioner to be branded as a ranting Fredrick March in Inherit the Wind, determined to stop scientific truth with his narrow and mean bigotries. The inquiry need go no further.

The second problem with the president’s formulation is that it ignores the moral question framing the debate.

People objecting to the president’s actions are not, contrary to the media hype, opposed to stem cell research.

Adult stem cells, in fact, have been responsible for virtually all the breakthroughs in this field. An easily missed irony here is that the president’s position on embryonic stem cell research is unequivocally ideological. With virtually no success stories coming from this route, venture capitalists, unsurprisingly, have avoided it in favor of other technologies.

If private investors have no interest in funding embryonic stem cell research, what avenue is left for the ideologue? There is only one: government funding. Insisting that taxpayers foot the bill for unproven technology can only be explained by an ideology that has summarily decided thorny issues, like when life begins.

Let us state the moral objection plainly so there are no misunderstandings: science should not create life for the purpose of destroying it – even to benefit another human being.

This is the crux of the moral and ethical quagmire, and the president’s order ensures that our tax dollars must fund the policy. To better grasp the nature of the moral objection, let’s use a hypothetical situation. Imagine a baby with a defective heart in need of a heart transplant. Let us imagine the parents, to save the life of the child, hiring a surrogate to carry their fertilized egg to create a genetic match for the baby. Let’s further imagine that the surrogate carries the baby to nearly full term, and then a surgeon performs a procedure in utero in which he removes the baby’s heart and provides it to the first baby for the needed transplant. We have created a life, for a part or parts, to save another life. Does the example make you recoil?

Now, the objection may follow that this is a full-term baby able to survive out of the womb and not a “mass of tissues,” as some like to euphemistically refer to a fertilized egg.

Taking that premise, let’s work backward to find a point at which ideology should be ignored. How about taking a developing baby’s lungs at eight months? A liver and pancreas at six months? How about skin for a skin-graft at four months? Bone marrow at three? Who do we trust to draw this line? An unspecified group of men and women whom we collectively refer to as “science?” And whose ideology among the scientists will make the determination?

The president’s explanation for why tax dollars should fund this deplorable practice rings hollow. Science becomes the refuge of scoundrels who are presumed to know better than the rest of us, though they are never required to explain why.

President Obama’s “understanding” of those who disagree with creating life in order to kill it doesn’t change the fact that he did not, in fact, choose science over ideology. Quite simply, he decided to use the money of dissenters to suit his own ideology – that it’s okay to further one life at the at the expense of another that cannot defend itself. The problem with this immoral proposition is that the facts show that little life, if any, is benefiting from the practice, so the effort is ultimately pointless.

This realization is sobering and not hard to see for those who look at the truth. But sadly, many who further the deception have it down to a science.

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