Touch Her Dress And Be Healed!

If there was any doubt whether Nancy Pelosi has ambitions beyond being Speaker of the House, this ought to answer it:

“Science is a gift of God to all of us and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure.”

Science is, of course, a wonderful thing and has greatly improved all our lives. But "biblical in its power to cure" sounds a wee bit more optimistic than mere humans ought to be. A good Catholic (hah!) like Ms. Pelosi should know this.

The subject Ms. Pelosi is discussing in the quote above is a new attempt by Congress to authorize federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush vetoed the last such bill and has said he will nix this one as well.

The controversy over ESCR involves a great deal of false information. The most common misunderstanding is that Bush has "banned" ESCR. He has not. Such research is perfectly legal in the United States. The argument is about whether the federal government should pay for it or not. No one is stopping scientists from carrying out ESCR if they can find other sources of funding.

Now stop and think for a minute. We are told that ESCR is the key to curing many painful and debilitating diseases. "The lame will be able to stand and walk" is one common claim. OK. Suppose this is true. Do you think people would be willing to pay for such a cure? Maybe pay a lot? Of course they would.

That being the case, if the cure really is just around the corner, why waste all this time and effort trying to get federal funding? Form your company, get backing from venture capitalists, and get to work. You are sitting on a gold mine.

This is, in fact, how most of our modern medical breakthroughs have been made. Private enterprise is a lot more efficient than government-funded research at actually getting things done. Investors zero in on the projects with the best chance of success, and if they are correct they get handsomely rewarded.

This is not happening with ESCR. Instead, people sit around moaning and groaning about how Bush is letting his religious beliefs stand in the way of scientific progress.

The fact is that scientists know that producing actual medical breakthroughs with ESCR is a very long shot. Big-money investors know it, too, so they aren't willing to gamble on ESCR. They will, however, be glad to let the taxpayers pick up the bill for research that may, once in a blue moon, actually turn out something useful. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will then use this "free" information to pad their own profit margins.

Meanwhile, research using adult stem cells, umbilical cord cells, and other sources that do not involve the destruction of young humans, and that has already produced actual cures and saved real people, proceeds along slowly but surely, out of the limelight. This is where the real promise can be found, but we don't hear so much about it.

I am against ESCR because it involves the destruction of a human life. Yes, it's a very young human life, but we were all there once. ESCR is really nothing more than a form of cannibalism, wherein we consume the young of our species in order to save ourselves. (Here is a good overview of the ethical issues surrounding ESCR.)

However, even if you disagree with the ethical argument against ESCR, there remains the economic question. Where we should direct our limited resources? Do we really want to trust politicians to decide which medical projects are funded? Keep in mind these are the same people who run the Post Office so efficiently and the IRS so compassionately. Need I say more?

ESCR is, for lack of a better term, a fraud. It is a blatant attempt by wealthy investors to have taxpayers subsidize research they will, maybe, if it ever works, use to make themselves even wealthier. This alone is reason enough to oppose it. The fact that young humans must die in the process is another reason.

Unfortunately, the truth about ESCR is obscured behind so much smoke that most people don't understand what they are really supporting. Pelosi will get her way, eventually. Will cures follow? Probably not. What will follow is more death and destruction. We never seem to learn.

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