John Leo, in this week's USNEWS, decrys a full page ad by DEFCON in the New York Times which names James Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson as America's most influential stem cell scientists. Mr. Leo says the efforts by the Religious Right are about the moral debate on stem cells and not the voracity of the science (hmm.. does voracity and science constitute synonyms?).
Having been on the front lines of the debate here in Georgia (See Down the Rabbit Hole Part 2) — I have to disagree with Mr. Leo's innocent defense of the trio. Language placed in the proposed law regarding stem cell research had everything to do with science, or what the Religious Right wished the science to be as they defined life as beginning with a single cell, and denied scientists access to methods that could be used either for embryonic or adult stem cell research. And, the tactics used by the Georgia Christian Coalition (Ms. Fields, et al), the Georgia Familiy Council, and other allied support groups were exactly what were used in the fights over evolution (which Mr. Leo agrees are attacks on science).
If this were truly a debate about the morals, and the treatment of embryos in general, then why was the debate disguised as a creation of an umbilical cord blood bank (which already existed) versus a complete discussion of how embryos are managed? Why was discussion not allowed on what happens when embryos (or fertilized eggs) are discarded in fertility clinics? The US Senate is considering a bill to liberalize the Bush doctrine on stem cell research – discussion of using normally discarded fertilized eggs is center stage in that debate.
Legislating morals is what legislatures do — no problem here. But, defining science, and scientific methods is not a core competency of any elected (or unelected) legislative body.