Monday, March 16, 2009

Stem Celling The Tide

I realize that sometimes I become so steadfast in my views that I have trouble recognizing that there is merit to the other side's point of view, and this is something I continue to work on. However, there is one issue where I consciously do not work on seeing and giving credence to the other side's perspective because the other side has no merit: stem cell research. Stem cell research has been somewhat of a hot button issue this decade and it is probably the only issue I have followed where I have not heard the other side (in this case, and in most cases, the conservatives) make a single legitimate argument that I found even remotely convincing. The heart of their argument on this issue lies in protecting the sanctity of life. It is beyond me how anyone could prefer protecting the "life" of discarded embryos that if not used in research, would otherwise BE THROWN OUT ANYWAYS, over potentially using them to save the lives of real, living, breathing human beings that are afflicted with terrible diseases. In the words of a renowned educator at one of the fabulous institutions of higher learning I briefly attended, "it doesn't make logic."

Remarkably, though, it was this central argument that prompted the Bush administration to block any funding for researching stem cells over the last 8 years. Now that President Obama has lifted the federal ban on stem cell research, conservatives are trying to push to limit the research solely to those stem cells that would otherwise be discarded (as discussed above in caps), rather than permitting the creation of new stem cells specifically for research purposes. As the Times editorial page points out today, this would be a terrible mistake. We have already lost 8 years in this fight, and this is not something to concede on. Sure, many scientists are skeptical about the practical potential that this research actually has, and maybe they're right. Maybe nothing will come of this and this research will not lead to any advances in the treatment of Parkinson's and other diseases. But maybe it will. Are we really not willing to risk some embryos to find out? More than that, by its very nature, scientific research is a pursuit whose goals and results aren't always contiguous. Maybe stem cells will prove useless for the objectives we intend to use them for, but by studying them we will learn something about human physiology that we can't anticipate right now. There's only one way to find out. Mr. President, I am all for bipartisanship and compromise when it is appropriate. So go ahead and feel free to compromise on the stimulus, on health care, on whatever other issues where you think it makes sense. But please, do not compromise here. It's too important.

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