Monday, August 9, 2010

The Politicization of Stem Cell Research

David Prentice and Gene Tarne have an editorial in the American Thinker comparing the over-hyping of embryonic stem cell research with the recent Climategate controversy. They provide numerous example of how scientists, advocacy groups, celebrities and politicians made outlandish claims about embryonic stem cell research and downplayed the success of adult stem cells.

Like Climategate, the public policy debate over hESCR has shown that scientists are not always disinterested parties. Rather, scientists can be every bit as political and partisan as the politicians, selectively using scientific "evidence" to justify their ideological viewpoint.

The patterns of behavior promoting public funding of hESCR have been strikingly similar to Climategate: selective use of data, manipulation of the peer review process, demonizing colleagues who question the prevailing orthodoxies, and appeals to a bogus scientific "consensus," among others. Those who question this supposed "consensus" have been dismissed as scientifically ignorant and accused of playing politics with science......

The most ironic -- and most troubling -- aspect to the stem cell debate is that all the talk about "playing politics" with science obscured the fact that in an open society, there is and must be a role for politics in determining the parameters within which science will be conducted. By itself, science is not competent to set these parameters. Science is a method to obtain knowledge; it can determine that one way may be more effective or more efficient than another. But efficient does not always mean morally acceptable.