I'll change the topic tomorrow - I couldn't resist mentioning just a few more stem cell politics items. Firstly, a Wired article on changing public opinion:
The number of Americans who approve of embryonic stem cell research has increased from three years ago, while the number who disapprove has fallen by almost half, according to a recent Harris poll released Wednesday.
"The results of the poll indicate that journalists and scientists are doing a good job at educating the American people on the potential benefits embryonic stem cells may have. We need the support to explore the potential of these cells," said Jose Cibelli, a stem cell and therapeutic cloning researchers at Michigan State University.
Cibelli forgot to mention the hard working advocates - such as CAMR, Christopher Reeve, Stem Cell Action, or myself for that matter. I wonder how much progress advocates, scientists and journalists have made in generating support and understanding for aging and serious anti-aging research? That's an opinion poll I'd like to see.
Michael Kinsley writes another of his excellent pieces, managing to cut to the core of the debate as always.
As someone with a loved one (myself, as it happens) who has the disease (Parkinson's) for which stem cells hold the most promise, please allow me to say: Thank you so much, Mrs. Bush, for trying to make sure that I don't get too hopeful. While your husband and Sen. John Kerry make a major issue out of who is more optimistic, it is inspiring to have a first lady with the courage to say: Let's be pessimistic! Optimism is unfair!
But talk is cheap. While Laura Bush is destroying hope by the traditional method of spreading gloom and pessimism, her husband is bringing the pessimist's art into the 21st century by actually destroying the objective basis for hope. While she battles rhetorically against false hopes, he works to ensure that there is no hope at all.
Chris Mooney comments on the column, and takes aim at other aspects of current restrictive legislation via a recent interview transcript:
Which panel of ethicists is Bush talking about? I'm not sure. We know he met with Leon Kass and Daniel Callahan, who basically agreed with each other about embryonic stem cell research, and that Bush didn't hear a diversity of views at that meeting. But in any case, why was Bush listening to ethicists to determine whether the existing cell lines were sufficient for federal research? All the leading stem cell scientists at the time could have told him they weren't.
The funniest moment of the transcript is when Bush says, "I think my position is very reasonable." Try telling that to the countless Americans who can't understand why it's okay to destroy IVF embryos by throwing them in the trash but not okay to destroy them by extracting their stem cells. I think they will have a hard time understanding why, when you have the same net embryo loss either way, limiting research is "reasonable."
Let me finish up (really this time) by noting once again that Federal funding is not the big issue here - the big issue is that the current administration has been and is still continuing to try and criminalize therapeutic cloning, coupled with restrictions or outright bans on embryonic research at the state level. This creates an environment in which private investment for research is very hard to find and scientists are unwilling to enter the field.