Laura Bush could not have expected to end the
argument over stem cell research with her tepid proclamation:
"We don't even know that stem cell research will provide cures for anything -- much less that [cures] are very close."
Do you see that next hill? We're not going to climb it because there may be nothing worthwhile on the other side.
That's not how Americans approach life or the
world, of course. We climb the hill. So what Mrs. Bush is really doing
is making a
persuasive casefor upending her husband's restrictive policies, which have severely limited research on therapeutic cloning in this country.
After all, the Wright brothers could not have
known that their clumsy contraption would shrink the globe, allowing wide-ranging
that has transformed whole cultures. They didn't even know the darn thing would fly. But they believed it would.
Powered by their own relentless optimism, they
finally managed to keep their weird craft aloft for 12 seconds. In so doing,
they ushered in the age of human flight.
Jonas Salk could not have known his concoction
of weakened polio viruses would protect against the deadly disease. But
believed it would. And millions of Americans dared to believe with him. Many parents were worried by the prospect of intentionally
infecting their children with a lessened strain of a hideous virus. But faced with an epidemic, they made the leap. And they ended up
protecting their children from the scourge.
President John F. Kennedy could not have known
that the United States would put men on the moon when he dared to dream
in 1961, ratcheting up the space race with the Soviet Union. Kennedy died years before his dream was achieved, but the United States
put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969.
Scientific and technological research always involve
a leap into the unknown. And, since the Middle Ages, science has had to
not just with uncertainty but also the forces of resistance, tradition and religion. The Catholic Church threatened Galileo with
imprisonment because he dared follow the path of Copernicus in declaring that the Earth revolved around the sun -- and not the
other way around. The church had declared Galileo's finding in conflict with Scripture.
The opponents of broader, federally funded stem
cell research don't represent anything like a majority of Americans --
or even a
majority of believers. They are the minority at the end of the spectrum, the absolutists who believe life begins the minute sperm fertilizes egg.
Nancy Reagan, the widow of the man who made conservative
Christians a force in modern politics, has called on President Bush
to change his position. Fifty-eight senators have joined her.But Bush still kowtows to the extremists.
The president has limited research that could
-- of course, no one knows for sure, but many scientists are quite optimistic
-- lead to
cures for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and even some cancers. Some of those cures could be
decades away. But we can't get there until we get started.
I've never understood a set of religious principles
that attach so much importance to unfeeling, unseeing blastocysts and so
actual living, suffering human beings -- children with diabetes, or middle-aged adults enduring the body's breakdown through
Parkinson's, or adolescents condemned to a wheelchair because of a car or diving accident.
And I certainly don't understand a 21st-century
superpower that devotes billions to building smart bombs to destroy life
but refuses to fund the research that could save or enhance the lives of millions of its citizens.
No wonder Mrs. Bush didn't have anything more
persuasive to say about her husband's position on stem cell research.
It is a ludicrous policy for which there is no enlightened defense.
return to bartcop.com