William Saletan on the stem cell debate

Slate Magazine’s William Saletan made an apt and useful comparison between the debate about embryonic stem cell research and the use of water boarding in CIA interrogations:

“On Monday, President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding of stem-cell research using destroyed human embryos. If you support this research, congratulations: You won. Now for your next challenge: Don’t lose your soul.

“The best way to understand this peril is to look at an issue that has become the mirror image of the stem-cell fight. That issue is torture. On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order prohibiting interrogation methods used by the Bush administration to extract information from accused terrorists. “We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture, but that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need,” the president declared. “We are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”

“The next day, former Bush aide Karl Rove accused Obama of endangering the country by impeding interrogations of the enemy. “They don’t recognize we’re in a war,” said Rove….

“To most of us, Rove’s attack is familiar and infuriating. We believe, as Obama does, that it’s possible to save lives without crossing a moral line that might corrupt us. We reject the Bush administration’s insistence on using all available methods rather than waiting for scrupulous alternatives. We see how Rove twists Obama’s position to hide the moral question and make Obama look obtuse and irresponsible.

“The same Bush-Rove tactics are being used today in the stem-cell fight. But they’re not coming from the right. They’re coming from the left. Proponents of embryo research are insisting that because we’re in a life-and-death struggle — in this case, a scientific struggle — anyone who impedes that struggle by renouncing effective tools is irrational and irresponsible. The war on disease is like the war on terror: Either you’re with science, or you’re against it.” — William Saletan, Slate Magazine

He’s exactly right, of course. Rather than slowing down to debate the moral problems, the Obama administration has played a trump card: People are dying; we have to find cures wherever we can.

People are dying; we have to protect our national security by any means possible.

The end justifies the means.

Read Winning Smugly by William Saletan in the March 9th issue of Slate.

Thanks to Patrick, the Paragraph Farmer, for linking to Saletan’s excellent article.

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  1. Excellent connection.

    I find myself a bit uneasy with the free pass scientists seem to get in “intellectual” circles for determining their own ethics. I does smack of the same smugness we’ve seen in some political/military/security corners these past 8 years.

  2. You have the right idea, true scientists would explore all options in this controversy, and learn from the past trials. The Lord will hold America accountable for these attrocities.

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