Stem cell decision: “People need a fairy tale.”

That is one quote that Peter Steinfels cites in his excellent column today, “In Stem Cell Debate, Moral Suasion Comes Up Short,” about Obama’s stem cell decision. (My critique here).

A taste of Peter’s focus:

The more challenging objection — again, not to the president’s specific stance on embryonic stem cell research, but to the general form of his argument — went directly to a theme running through his announcement and echoed in enthusiastic comments from research proponents:

Science, it was said, should be isolated from politics, from ideology, from dogma, from religion.


Sounds good if all one means is that the current administration will treat science with more respect than many people believe its predecessor did. Sounds good if all one means by politics is partisan maneuvering or by ideology, dogma and religion, some form of blind belief unwilling to engage alternative viewpoints.

But these words frequently function as weapons. One person’s ideology can be someone else’s political philosophy or even morality. One person’s dogma can be someone else’s self-evident truths. And politics is the way that people decide how they will live together, by what moral standards and to what ends.

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Charles Cosimano

posted March 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Moral suasion only works if the parties share a common morality and are willing to be persuaded in the first place. Those of us who believe very strongly in pursuing embroyonic stem cell research frankly don’t give a damn about the moral arguments raised against it. They are a waste of breath and bandwidth because we are not going to even listen to them, much less be persuaded. So those who have such objections are in the position of being unable to persuade and lacking the power to coerce. In such an environment their words, no matter how eloquent they may sound to the choir, are of no more value than the squeaking of mice. Annoying, but of no practical consequence.
The research will be done and it does not matter if people like it or not.

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posted March 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Embryonic stem cell research offers HOPE to people who have diseases that destroy their lives. Cures won’t happen rapidly, but will happen. Not doing the research offers NO HOPE. Simple, really.

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David Gibson

posted March 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Charles Cosimano: I enjoy your moral certainty. How would you describe yourself? (Seriously.) Realist? Nihilist? Libertarian? Don’t care? Prefer not to say?

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