Saturday, May 16, 2009

Response to a friend on my letter re: stem cell research

Hi S----- -thanks for your interest and comments. I think many scientists are reluctant to get involved in political debates - sometimes just getting footnoted in a political article can result in research funding being terminated or program cancellations. Even though I agree with much of what the new president says, and the courage he has demonstrated in some of his actions, I think that scientists will continue to be cautious until they are more certain about the outcome over the long term. (doesn't that restate the scientific world-view?) The conservative position taken by the drafters of the new NIH stem-cell research guidelines indicates to me that they still don't know how far the new president will allow them to go especially in the face of the reaction from the Council of Catholic Bishops. The NIH probably had a more liberal set of guidelines drafted but decided to lead with the conservative ones until they are more certain of the president's support - that might be decided at Notre Dame this weekend!

Most people who are involving themselves in the stem cell debate are like you - family members or friends of people who suffer from diseases potentially treatable - even curable - through embryonic stem cell research. Many of those people are devoted christians who disagree with the clergy on this issue but are afraid to speak out. (despite what Roosevelt said - there are more things to fear than fear itself - one is being exposed to your co-religionists as a tool of satan and being shunned by your former friends and family. A daily form of terror that we should make war against!) My case of Parkinson's sounds more like your father's - up to this point mainly tremors - more a nuisance than a disease. Thanks again for your comments and support on this

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