President Obama Reframes Stem Cell Research As He Lifts Bush's Ban
by Todd Beeton, Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:44:26 AM EDT
This morning, President Obama reversed Bush's ban on federal funding of stem cell research. The order allows for taxpayer money to be used to fund research on any stem cell lines created after Bush's August 2001 order. It does not, however address a separate ban precluding the government from funding the development of stem cell lines. Obama has left that up to congress to address.
During his remarks at the ceremony (TPM has them HERE), President Obama did three really important things. First, he slammed the Bush administration repeatedly for its war on science and promised to usher in a new era of government-supported scientific inquiry. Notice how he appeals to Americans' nationalism, a decidedly right-wing appeal.
Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield. [...]
This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let's be clear: promoting science isn't just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient - especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda - and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.
By doing this, we will ensure America's continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.
Obama also advanced the idea of the importance of government intervention in medical research, again appealing to a sort of nationalistic pride:
Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research - from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit - and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome - that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.
And finally, Obama also addressed the false choice the right has set up between science and religious faith. The idea that the two are mutually exclusive is at the heart of right-wing arguments on anything from evolution to abortion to stem cell research and has contributed to the idea that liberals are anti-religion. Obama ripped this argument to shreds by reframing the funding of stem cell research as a moral imperative.
But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research - and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.
To paraphrase Rachel Maddow, the president praising science and the role of government in medical research? I hardly recognize my government anymore.