Thursday, June 25, 2009

White House War On Science


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Science: The president's Council on Bioethics is summarily dismissed when it disagrees on the need for more federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The scientific method doesn't include firing those who disagree with you.

Read More: Science & Technology

Inspectors general are apparently not the only ones to pay for annoying the White House by doing their job. The 18-member council existed to provide the president with advice on the moral and ethical implications of the rapid advances in science and medical research. It exists no more.

The council existed to ponder whether we should do something just because we can. Apparently President Obama wanted not advice but agreement on such matters, particularly with regard to one of the panel's areas of interest, embryonic stem cell research. So he has fired them.

In March, 10 members of this panel, created by President Bush in November 2001, issued a public letter saying the decision to expand federal funding for ESCR was "a step backward" because it ignored the moral and ethical reservations still held by the American public.

Reid Cherlin, a White House press officer, told the New York Times that Obama saw the panel as "a philosophically leaning advisory group" handpicked by the Bush administration, and that he wanted to appoint a new bioethics commission that instead offered "practical policy options."

The council's mandate expired last September, so Obama could have just continued to ignore them. But he apparently didn't want them around to comment on new guidelines for ESCR to be issued by the National Institutes of Health on July 7. The guidelines were requested by Obama when he lifted restrictions imposed by Bush.

The president's executive order overturned restrictions put in place by Bush and permitting federally funded ESCR research only on 21 stem cell lines already in existence. For that decision, which did not stop such research funded privately, he was said to have declared war on science. Critics ignored the fact that Bush was the first president to fund ESCR research at all. President Clinton had spent nothing.

Dr. Peter Lawler, chairman of the department of governmental and international studies at Berry College, was one of those terminated by Obama — via a note saying he would no longer be a member of the council by the end of the next business day.

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Lawler said the council was not a rubber stamp for Bush's pro-life views, but in fact was a diverse group "full of experts who disagreed on what the science says about who we are."

On one side you had the likes of Princeton's Robert George, who talked of the latest studies showing embryos were genetically unique and identifiable human beings no different from the adults they would become.

On the other side, you had people like our nation's leading neuroscientist, Michael Gazzaniga, who argued that being human meant having a heart and a brain, of which an embryo had neither.

They certainly did not ignore, as the administration apparently has, the very real scientific progress being made by non-embryonic adult stem cells. This research has resulted in real treatments and therapies that have helped real people. Adult stem cells also leave behind the moral and ethical dilemmas of using embryonic stem cells.

We have chronicled these adult stem cell success stories, and the future looks even more promising.

Ottawa scientists have identified a protein that increases production of adult stem cells in muscle, boosting the body's ability to repair muscle tissue. Rod McInnes, scientific director of the Institute of Genetics at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, says the discovery "brings us a step closer, in the long run, to using muscle stem cells in cell replacement therapy for muscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy."

How's that for a "practical policy option"? And just who is making war on science?

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