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Radically Inept
Monday, March 29, 2004
  Religion v scientific progress Again via KurzweilAI.net is this link to this Salon Article that does an excellent job for summarizing the current debate on embryonic stem cells:

Salon.com Technology | Thou shalt not make scientific progress
In its deliberations on embryonic stem cell research, the council has framed the issue as one offering no middle ground. There is no safe position in this debate, the council's report suggests: You either believe that very early-stage human embryos -- embryos that are just several days old -- deserve special "moral consideration" and should not be used for research, or you do not. You either believe that destroying these embryos is justified in order to realize the medical miracles that researchers say are possible with stem cells, or you do not. Bush has made clear that he believes embryos must not be destroyed. What's interesting is that his own council indicates that by the logic of Bush's position, the president will have a hard time ever changing or expanding his policy -- even in the face of amazing new advances -- without abandoning what he says is his considered moral position.

[and about two pages later, this] In a sense, then, Bush is boxed in by his own moral decision, and so are we all. He is committed to his line of thinking, whatever the cost. As the bioethics council points out in its report, Tommy Thompson, Bush's secretary of health and human services, has actually said that "neither unexpected scientific breakthroughs nor unanticipated research problems would cause Bush to reconsider" his policy, because it is based on "a high moral line that this president is not going to cross."

Also in the Salon article is a link to this article in the Washington Monthly, which does for the history current politics of science what the Salon article does for embryonic stem cells: "Science Friction" by Nicholas Thompson:
"Like Gingrich, Bush favors investments in scientific research for the military, health care, and other areas that garner strong public and industry support. Indeed, the White House quickly points to such funding increases whenever its attitude toward science is questioned. But for an administration that has boosted spending in a great number of areas, more money for science is less telling than how the Bush administration acts when specific items on its agenda collide with scientific evidence or research needs. In almost all of those cases, the scientists get tuned out.
Ignoring expert opinion on matters of science may never cause the administration the kind of political grief it is now suffering over its WMD Iraq policy. But neither is it some benign bit of anti-elitist bias. American government has a history of investing in the capabilities and trusting the judgments of its scientific community--a legacy that has brought us sustained economic progress and unquestioned scientific leadership within the global intellectual community. For the short-term political profits that come with looking like an elite-dismissing friend of the everyman, the Bush administration has put that proud, dynamic history at real risk."


Both are good reading, and provide some depth to arguments on both sides of the issues raised. 
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