Earlier today, President Barack Obama delivered a major speech on science policy to the National Academy of Sciences. Read more about it in my previous post. Now, though, Andy Revkin of Dot Earth is trying to annotate the speech with relevant background information. Go help him out by providing relevant information in the comments section of his blog post.
I already submitted a comment about Obama's reference to his March 9th memo on political interference in science:
President Obama refers to a March 9th memo, which can be found at http://tr.im/jOUz. The memo emphasized his administration's commitment to scientific integrity and preventing political interference in science. It was released on the same day that Obama lifted George W. Bush's August 2001 restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in an executive order entitled "Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells" (http://tr.im/jOVc). As the Bush era restrictions were based largely on political ideology and not on science, it made sense for Obama to tie these two actions together. Just over a month later, on April 17th, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its new draft guidelines on hESCs, which greatly expanded the number of stem cell lines available for federally-funded research to include hESC lines derived from excess fertility clinic embryos (http://tr.im/jOWo). Obama has made eliminating political interference in science a major priority, since the Bush Administration was, of course, notorious for such interference (http://tr.im/jOYH), including a major scandal at NASA that the blog's author, Andy Revkin, was instrumental in uncovering (http://tr.im/jOZC). For more, check out http://tr.im/jOA4 (today's speech), http://tr.im/j4jk (new stem cell guidelines), and http://tr.im/jOYc (March 9th memo and executive order).
Also, it was noted in introducing Obama that he was one of only four modern era presidents to speak at the NAS annual meeting (preceded by Kennedy, Carter, and George H.W. Bush). There's more on that at http://tr.im/jP11.
Obama's embryonic stem cell seems irrational. While I disagree with Bush's policy, it at least was reasonable and consistent. The Bush policy was based on the premise that ethics and morality would trump science. As such, no more human embryos would be destroyed to further science. I disagree with that position, but I understand it.
I do not understand Obama's policy. He claims that science trumps ethics/morality/politics and that there is nothing immoral or unethical about destroying human embryos for scientific study. But then he turns around and bans the use of the embryonic stem cells which would provide the most scientific advances, namely those that were specifically created with known genetic defects and or qualities to study diseases and or disease cure. If there is nothing unethical or immoral about destroying human embryos, all human embryos should be available for funding.