Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cutting Gordon Smith Slack on Stem Cells

Brian Hines offers up the proper amount of righteous anger at President Bush for threatening--and apparently planning to make good on the threat--to veto a stem cell research expansion bill that would allow harvesting of new lines. Hines points out the hypocrisy and convenience represented by frozen embryos that will ultimately be destroyed. It's a political game being played by the President at Karl Rove's behest, to excite conservatives towards the ballot box.

I wrote a fairly well-read Oregonian piece about the rightward lurch of Gordon Smith, who has managed to elude scrutiny or comment in the major media for his prodigal turn. (It was nice to see four letters to the editor in response, odd to notice that none of them really addressed the true point of my ire, which are the major media themselves. Everybody just wanted to talk about Smith, yea or nay.)

Given all that, I probably owe it to the guy to congratulate him on the decision to buck the President at this juncture (an admittedly easy vote if you know he's going to veto it. The harder vote is the next one, to sustain or not--and of course he won't). Smith offers a rationed defense of research that seems to address opponents to research on a humane level, and so despite firm ideological differences on most days, today all we can offer are hallelujahs and amens:
I believe it would be a tremendous loss to science and to all humanity if we choose to hold back the key to unlocking mysteries that have long mystified scientists and physicians. That is why it is so important that my colleagues cast a vote in favor of HR 810, a very pro-life vote.

…After years of reflecting on this issue, it has become increasingly clear to me that being pro-life means protecting both the sanctity and the quality of life. By allowing research on stem cell lines derived from unused IVF [in vitro fertilization] embryos, we could forge a path that will one day lead to cures for some of mankind’s most dreadful medical maladies.

…I do not believe that religion and science are in conflict on this issue. I believe that one of the great gifts of the United States, the best example of the United States to the world, is our pluralism—religious pluralism. It is something that we see in absence, tragically, in too many places of the world

You see blood running in the gutters of the Middle East as we speak, because of sectarian views which are held to the point of murder. We therefore do not serve the public well by taking the narrowest theological positions and trying to impose them on public policy. We should be open enough to include other considerations of ethical ideas, of scriptural interpretations, and scientific hope.