Elizabeth Blackburn, the scientist recently dismissed from the President's Council on Bioethics due to her positive views on stem cell research, has documented her side of the story. Chris Mooney has a good analysis up at the Intersection which ends with the following thoughts:
According to this report from the Boston Globe, Blackburn's determination to publicly critique these two reports may have been her undoing. Shortly before her dismissal, Blackburn had shown Kass the critique she'd penned with Rowley, and told him of her determination to publish it. Moreover, a similar critique, exclusively of the "Beyond Therapy" report, was submitted to the journal Science. But according to the Globe, Kass demanded that Blackburn withdraw the letter, and she complied.
So it seems clear that Kass had a motivation to get rid of Blackburn. She was causing a lot of trouble on the Council with her scientific objections. Indeed, the facts of what happened with her firing are becoming increasingly clear. They all point in the same direction: To a case of egregious science politicization on the part of Kass and the Bush administration.
What to make of all this? While it's just a single panel in the sea of government dishonesty, all attempts to stop research into stem cells and regenerative medicine should be taken seriously. This research is our best near- and mid-term hope for curing age-related conditions and greatly extending the healthy human life span. It seems to me that the clear responses are to:
- vote and participate in the political process as you see fit to prevent this sort of behavior in government,
- speak out in protest against attempts to block vital medical research,
- work to make this a non-issue by advancing science using private funding