Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush vetos stem cell research bill for the wrong reason

George W. Bush’s greatest failing is his faith applied to politics. It is no secret that one major reason Bush was re-elected in 2004 is because he fired up the significant minority of evangelical Christians in the USA to vote. For all of the Democrats who despise Bush, he fired up the hell and brimstone religious conservatives to keep him in power. He hasn’t forgotten them.
He has used his Presidential veto the first time in his Presidency to veto a Senate Bill for federal government funding to use human embryo stem cells in medical research.
I'm an atheist and I believe it was the right thing to do, but not for the reason Bush believes. The federal government should not be using taxpayers’ money – money taken by force – to fund research that many taxpayers would not choose to fund themselves. That is what the bill was about - it wasn't about allowing stem cell research. That is not prohibited, it was about the federal government funding it.
Unfortunately, Bush’s veto had nothing to do with freedom, but everything to do with his own personal view. He believes stem cell research is immoral. It isn’t. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the Bill, and many Republican Senators did too. As typically conservative Senator Orrin Hatch said “A critical part of being pro-life is to support measures that help the living”.
Embryonic stem cell research could bring enormous medical benefits to cure diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease and spinal cord injuries. This should be wholeheartedly supported – but it should be supported from money given out of choice. I would certainly do so.
However, government does not exist to force people to pay for research that offends them. If the federal government was funding research into the “intelligent design theory” it would be widely derided, and rightly so. Similarly if it was funding research into alternative therapies, like reiki or iridology, or how about whaling for scientific purposes. How about government research into whether masturbation was good for you? .
How about research being funded by those who support it?


GMR said...

I mainly agree with your assessment, except for one detail.

Essentially, I don't think that governments should be engaged in any research in which the end result would be something that is patentable. Looking for a new vaccine, for instance, is probably something that is better undertaken by private drug companies: let them put their money on the line. Ditto for any industrial research.

However, for discoveries in which the end result is going to be so broad that it is fundamentally non-patentable, then I guess the government does have a role in doing that research.

I don't know enough science to know if stem-cell research falls into this category. I think there's been a lot of silly talk about it, like the cure for Alzheimer's is just around the corner but Bush won't let us.

But suppose that the cure for Alzheimer's can be discovered with stem cells. If the entire process can be patented so that whoever discovered it can benefit for 10 years or whatever until the patent runs out, then let the private companies do it. But if it's something that is more general in nature, or something that cannot possibly be patented, then the government is the only entity that should do the research.

In most cases, let private industry do research, but for broad-based research, the government should have some role.

libertyscott said...

I understand your point, although there are plenty (i.e. Gates Foundation) who will do research for the "good of mankind" rather than for profit.