It is a sad day for science. It is a sad day for Americans.
Today, President Bush brandished a pen, which, as it turns out, was mightier than any sword in striking down legislation to ease limits on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
What scientists already know is that stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types. Serving as a kind of repair system, stem cells can divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. The thing is, only embryonic stem cells do this indefinitely. Adult stem cells and those culled from cord blood, while important, are not as encompassing.
There is enormous potential that could come from the study of these amazing cells, specifically embryonic cells. But Mr. Bush seems to be worried about only one: Cloning.
Instead of saddened, Americans should be irate.
The only thing Mr. Bush has done by vetoing this legislation is send a clear message that the United States of America cares only about the potential for human life and not the quality of life for humans.
The problem is that we do care. We care deeply. The mainstream wants to make life better for the living, too. We want scientific discovery to continue to serve us as we struggle.
What we should be looking at is why should he care? He is not a man of science. He is a man of religious conviction, which includes an End Times belief widely held by Evangelical Christians called The Rapture. The Rapture is an occurrence wherein all properly saved Christians will be taken from Earth by Jesus Christ into Heaven by a celestial force. Only the non-saved will remain to deal with Gods wrath. No, he's definitely not a man of science.
Nor is he, it would seem, a man of complex morality. Isn't it ironic that Mr. Bush will fight tooth and nail over frozen embryos that will never become living breathing people but he is willing send young men and women to war, prisoners to death, and thwart research that might ensure a better quality of life for people with debilitating disease? And yet, by his own accounts, he sleeps well at night.
I think it is unconscionable to value life so narrowly. To look at the babies born from invitro fertilization peppering the audience behind him for effect as he addressed the press with his signature smirk, one can only imagine he would advocate next that every drop of sperm in this country be federally protected, too. Rest assured, embryos will not disappear for those who wish to conceive.
Perhaps federal funding of stem cell research won't come about under his watch, but the research will continue privately and in other countries. And eventually, under another administration, our government will get onboard and pony up some cash. And I trust when it does, and when cures exist because of the research, Mr. Bush will not avail himself of the fruits of this labor should the need arise. Afterall, he's got his moral standards.