Reader (and now fellow blogger) Brian Gillin recently had an op-ed published in the Washington Times in which he thanks Pres. Bush for his help in advancing stem cell science – that’s right, advancing it:
Thank you, President Bush, for not allowing science to be divorced from ethics. In 2001, you struck a balance on embryonic stem-cell research, limiting the millions of federal funding toward that field of study to those stem-cell lines already created, from human embryos already destroyed. You also devoted generous amounts of funding to studying adult stem cells which have already treated thousands of actual human patients, and signed an executive order for more study of “alternative” methods of obtaining stem cells. Your opponents mischaracterized your view as “religious,” and reviled your policy as “anti-science” (or, worse, as “anti-cure”), but the positive results speak otherwise.
A little more than a year ago, scientists successfully reprogrammed ordinary adult cells to an embryonic-like state – one of the “alternative” methods you had outlined. Many researchers are now turning away from embryonic research and toward these induced pluripotent cells – for reasons of both ethics and practicality. Your policy did not impede research; it helped it to advance.
Sadly this will not be his legacy in the eyes of many, but it’s the truth. Because of his fidelity to the sanctity of human life and ethics in science, he’s characterized, as Brian says, of being “anti-science” and “setting our country back” in the area of stem cell research when in fact his policies helped bring about one of the biggest breakthroughs in stem cell science to date. A breakthrough that is not only more ethical, but already proving to be more productive than research using human embryos. Meanwhile Congress (not to mention his successor) still insists on pushing to increase funding for stem cell research that, even if it one day overcame its serious complications and cured the deadliest disease known to man (unlikely, to say the least), would be so tainted by its use and destruction of nascent human life that it would not be much of an advancement for science or the world.