I've had a busy travel and writing week, so I did not have time to comment on President Obama's stem cell policy announcement and accompanying statement on the "restoration" of "scientific integrity to government decision-making." Fortunately, Charles Krauthammer wrote an excellent column on the announcement (even if he overdid his praise of President Bush). Here's a bit of it:
Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men. Such as his admonition that we must resist the "false choice between sound science and moral values." Yet, exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds later he went on to declare that he would never open the door to the "use of cloning for human reproduction."
Does he not think that a cloned human would be of extraordinary scientific interest? And yet he banned it.
Is he so obtuse as not to see that he had just made a choice of ethics over science? . . . Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not. . . .
Science has everything to say about what is possible. Science has nothing to say about what is permissible. Obama's pretense that he will "restore science to its rightful place" and make science, not ideology, dispositive in moral debates is yet more rhetorical sleight of hand — this time to abdicate decision-making and color his own ideological preferences as authentically "scientific."
Whether or not one agrees with the specifics of the President's new stem cell policy — Krauthammer, who found the Bush policy too restrictive, thinks the Obama policy too permissive with the use of federal funds — there is no defense of the accompanying science charade.
UPDATE: Scott Gotleib also has some advice for the Administration if it truly wants to encourage medical innovation.
Unveiling his stem-cell policy, Mr. Obama remarked that "Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident." They also, however, don't happen through federal funding alone. They require a thriving private-sector research enterprise. Pouring federal funds into basic research while at the same time blocking the path for its translation into human therapies is no way to advance medical innovation.