Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stem Cells: A Political History

In the November 2008 issue of First Things Joseph Bottum and Ryan T. Anderson wrote an enlightening essay entitled Stem Cells: A Political History, which is now online. They review the recent political, moral, and scientific debates on stem cells and seek to offer lessons that we can learn.

Here's the conclusion:
The history of the stem-cell debate is a study of what happens when politics and science reach out to each other. The politicians were guilty, but the scientists were more guilty, for they allowed no, they encouraged—politicians to make stem-cell research a tool in the public fights over abortion, public religion, and high finance.

In the small demagogueries of a political season, the science of stem-cell research became susceptible to the easy lie and the useful exaggeration. A little shading of truth, a little twisting of facts yes, the politics corrupted the science, but the scientists willingly aided the corruption. And with this history in mind, who will believe America’s scientists the next time they tell us something that bears on an election? We have learned something over these years: When science looks like politics, that’s because it is.
Read the whole thing.