The Dogma of Mad Science

Posted: Mar 09, 2009 2:01 PM
The Dogma of Mad Science

Dr. Frankenstein would have felt “empowered” on Monday, March 9.

That’s the day the Obama Administration not only reversed the Bush Administration’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but announced that it was freeing science from outside interference, such as people’s moral qualms.

Can’t you just picture the fictional monster creator jumping for joy?

The Obama Administration issued a memorandum “aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence,” according to The Washington Post.

Think of it: No more villagers or conservative Christians lurking outside with torches and pitchforks! Scientists will be able to do anything that strikes their fancy! And with taxpayer funding!

Unlike those troglodyte Bush lackeys, the Obama Administration, we’re told, is all about pure science, untouched by something as sordid as politics. Translated, that means scientists can kill human embryos for medical research, create and distribute abortion pills without any public input, and systematically shun any contrary information.

If they have any questions about how to do this, they can consult Al Gore’s followers, who have been frantically plugging leaks in their global warming dam as fast and as effectively as the proverbial Dutch boy. What, they found a new arctic ice floe the size of California? What, a cooling period is underway as sunspots wane? Pay no attention!

Likewise, as data pour in that challenge fundamental liberal assumptions, government medicrats under the Obama mandate will feel free to ignore it in the name of science. Never mind that adult stem cells have provided medical advances for more than 70 diseases or conditions, and that embryonic lines have yielded nothing. Or that some doctors have very serious reservations about the safety of patients using procedures derived from embryonic cells.

Harold Varmus, who co-chairs President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, said the president is determined “to use sound scientific practice, responsible practice of science and evidence, instead of dogma in developing federal policy.”

Of course, one man’s “dogma” is another man’s “principle.” Take respect for human life, for instance. That’s a dogma that has governed medical and scientific practice since Hippocrates’ day. In the United States, that dogma is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee of the “unalienable” rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for each individual.

At Dr. Frankenstein’s fictional lab, no such binding dogma would have interfered with the pure science going on. Nor did it hamper the real life, gruesome experiments of Dr. Mengele during the Third Reich.

Dogmas do not disappear; they just give way to new ones. The dogma that will now apparently drive federal policy is the idea that if science can do something, than it should do it. But science is merely a tool, not an ethical system. To say that science itself should determine its own purposes is like saying that a hammer can pound anything it wants, independent of the carpenter’s wishes.

Before the Obama Administration plunges fully into mad science, it might consider a warning from Dr. Bernadine Healy, M.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health. In a March 4 column for U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Healy said this:

“Even for strong backers of embryonic stem cell research, the decision is no longer as self-evident as it was … In fact, during the first six weeks of Obama's term, several events reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and diabetes, are obsolete. The most sobering: a report from Israel published in PLoS Medicine in late February that shows embryonic stem cells injected into patients can cause disabling if not deadly tumors. .. [this case] is neither an anomaly nor a surprise, but one feared by many scientists.”

If the Obama Administration cannot be convinced that it is simply wrong to kill human embryos, perhaps some sobering examples that the resulting techniques may be harmful might persuade them to put on the brakes.

But they would have to shed the rose-colored glasses of embryonic stem cell dogma and take a fresh look at the evidence.