Obama, Embryonic Stem Cells, and Cloning: My $0.02

Just yesterday, a friend of mine on Facebook–JG, who is VERY liberal–posted the following comment in his status: “Is it bad that I’m not 100% sure I agree with a ban on reproductive cloning?

My answer: given your ideological bent, it depends.

From a Christian standpoint, embryonic stem cell research (ESC) and reproductive cloning are not defensible. Commoditizing humans for the purpose of killing them and harvesting their stem cells is not a Christian value. Funding the practices with tax dollars is all the more damnable.

Still, JG raises a good question, in light of President Obama’s recent decision, which (a) lifts the ban on federal funding of ESC research and (b) keeps in place the ban on federal funding of reproductive cloning.

(NOTE: neither practice was illegal before; it was merely the policy of our government not to fund the practices with tax dollars. Firms, however, were–and still are–free to seek funding for their research through investment banks, private capital, and venture capital groups both nationally and internationally.)

By lifting the ban on federal funding of ESC research, Obama claimed that science, not ideology, would drive research.

If that is the case,

(a) why have a ban on federal funding of reproductive cloning? If “science”, not “ideology”, must lead, then why ban funding of one but not the other?

(b) how is the new policy less politically-motivated than the Bush policy of old?

Under Bush, ESC research and reproductive cloning were perfectly legal. Any firm wishing to pursue such research was free to sell their ideas to Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Credit Suisse Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and any number of hedge funds or venture capital groups.

Under the old policy, researchers had the burden of proof of showing that they could actually provide a return on investment; i.e., that their “research” was capable of (a) producing results, and (b) producing results that could deliver profitability to cover the cost of the capital.

Fact is, if ESC really held the key to curing cancer, or Parkinson’s Disease, or arthritis, or even jock itch or athlete’s foot, then every venture capitalist, hedge fund, and investment bank in America would be pouring their dollars into it. In fact, this would be the next economic bubble if it held such “promise”.

That is not to say that ESC research has no potential at all. In fact, one firm has actually secured an FDA go-ahead to do testing on humans to demonstrate that an ESC therapy does not pose a tumor risk. (That therapy is not being tested for efficacy.) This is a case where a firm–without federal funding–is forging ahead.

(I don’t like that research, but–given that abortion is perfectly legal–there’s not a world of things you can do about it.)

Still, to claim that funding ESC research is allowing “science, not ideology” to lead, while maintaining a ban on reproductive cloning, is purely a political decision, not a scientific decision.

Moreover, if “science, not ideology” is supposed to lead, then what’s the fuss with harvesting body parts from newborns who are profoundly handicapped? If “science, not ideology” is supposed to lead, then there are no moral imperatives that should hold any research back, as we pursue a “positive evolutionary advantage”.

President Obama has shown that he is more politically-motivated than any of his predecessors on this matter.

One thought on “Obama, Embryonic Stem Cells, and Cloning: My $0.02

  1. Obama claimed that science, not ideology, would drive research.

    I wish ethical science would drive research. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for quite some time in medical research. What is so “face palm” to me about this is that Obama is acting like ideology is not influencing his lifting of the ban.

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