Not only has our new president reversed Bush’s stem cell policy, and directed his science adviser–who really, really needs to be Senate confirmed–to “develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making” (something I and many others have called for). But in some ways better still, he has given a big speech about embryonic stem cell research that is scientifically accurate, cautious, and does not oversell its potential–while still explaining why we ought to support it.
At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.
But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work.
These words are right at the outset of the speech. They don’t hurt its rhetorical force one little bit. And they make the speech scientifically sound–much different from the over-promising that some times occurs in the stem cell arena. Heck, Obama even gets in a great explanation of why we need to support basic research, even though it doesn’t always pay off in predictable ways.
Man, what an anti-science president we’ve got here. I can see why the political right is so up in arms.