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Stem Cell Research Renews Conservatives Culture War, Progressives Need To Fight, Win It

March 10, 2009

Whatever amount of change that President Obama hoped to bring to Washington, and the degree of change he might truly leave behind when his years there are finished, one thing has never escaped me.   There is a clear divide in the nation that does exist on core social issues, and there is no alternative path except to deal head-on with these matters.  There is a fierce divide in this country that results from a thread of puritanical thinking, an absence of sound education, and a lack of mental curiosity.  However, in the end the progressive side will need to prevail.  Society always moves forward, but even given that fact we must not be timid in our approach in how to deal with conservatives who are more interested in dragging our country down and back, instead of up and forward.

The level of rhetoric that the conservatives have used in only 24 hours since the correct decision by President Obama to undo the limits placed on the research of stem cells has underscored what I always felt.  It has been dismaying and perplexing to this blogger’s mind how the concept of using science as a foundation for policy is scary, evil, or in some way a wrong avenue on which this nation should travel.  I had to smirk when some of the conservatives whined that Obama had betrayed them, as if his campaign promise to do exactly what many Americans wished was somehow a line that was not meant to be taken seriously last year.  Conservatives have had a dim light bulb do their bidding for so many years in the White House they do not know to react when they discover an educated mind now is our leader.

There is no way that the most strident of the conservative base, that same base that finds higher education a suspicious undertaking or worse, should be treated as anything but which they are; a block in the path to this nation’s future.   Last night as I listened and watched I felt insulted hearing the roar from the conservatives, and also wondered if we do not need more tax dollars spent on education in this nation.  I felt embarrassed for a few who clearly were only repeating lines from a pastor.  That is not a slam on religion, but a call for more education for everyone.

Last night as I listened to a variety of shows on all the networks concerning the stem cell debate it was clear that some would be happy to think that earth is at the center of the universe, and the sun rotates around us.  It would not be hard to find some who actually believe that.

Whether we are talking about research from using stem cells so to alleviate medical problems, providing equal rights through marriage to all couples, insuring that abortion remains legal and unencumbered from regulations, or accepting climate change as a reality it is vital that we push ahead and do what is best.  The lowest common denominators held sway on the great issues of the day for the past eight years.  Looking at any method of evaluating the outcome from their hands on the levers of power over the past should only make our spine stronger about pressing forward without timidity.

One Comment
  1. Patrick permalink
    March 10, 2009 10:42 PM

    In the end science reduces all things–and all people–to objects. Each time a new barrier is crossed, the next seems more reasonable until there are no limits, nothing that cannot be tried, examined, employed. I think reasonable people might disagree as to when life–human life with rights and liberties begins. The old, puritanical answer is that life begins at conception. The new answer is simply “whenever it suites me.” I’m not sure that the newer answer is better or more ethical, but I believe that we are therefore called to caution, to respect life and not reduce it to the status of the object.

    Scientists working under the bush guidelines were free to research whichever lines of stem cells they wanted to–just not with government funding. The government sponsored research enabled scientists to make many advances which avoided the ethical problems created by embrionic stem cell research. Many of these advances were made here in wisconsin. While I am no expert in stem cell research, I don’t believe there were any advances promised by embrionic research that could not have been done under the old rules.

    I’m sure you will remember that Clinton left the scientific community to create its own rules regarding stem cell research, but he found what they produced to be so troubling that his administration could not accept them–as they allowed everything.

    Finally, we should remember that the same scientific mindset that wants to cure “insert your feared disease here” that also gave us the atom bomb, mustard gas, and all the other horrors of the modern battlefield. Shouldn’t we employ certain restrictions as they manipulate the genes and elements of life? Since there are no concrete answers to these questions, caution and deliberation are our only refuge.

    I’m not sure that these questions make me a caveman.

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