Thursday, October 26, 2006

One of the major debates of the upcoming US legislative elections is happening in Missouri: the question of stem-cell research. Now, I don't know anything about stem-cell research, certainly not enough to form my own opinion without help. So I googled "gregg easterbrook stem cell", and, what do you know, he's got a basic introduction to the subject over at

Assuming Mr. Easterbrook is telling the truth, and there is no reason to doubt him, private companies can do any sort of stem-cell and cloning research they want to right now, as long as there's no federal money involved. That seems fair to me.

Therefore, this Missouri state constitutional amendment is a red herring. It doesn't matter what the Missouri constitution says about stem-cell research; that research will continue to happen no matter what. And if we wish to use federal money to support stem-cell research, that's the business of the US Congress and the federal courts, not of the Missouri state constitution. I am willing to bet that very little Missouri state money goes to stem-cell research. So it doesn't matter which way you vote on Amendment 2, and this issue should not affect your choice of senatorial candidate.

But, of course, both sides are trying to make it a campaign issue, and the celebrities have pitched in. Michael J. Fox, who as you know has Parkinson's (full disclosure: so does my father), has made a TV ad supporting not only the Missouri amendment but also the Democratic party, trying to link the hope for a cure to a particular political option. Social conservative celebrities, including three well-known Jesus jocks, are hitting back with their own ad, bringing up fears of Brave New World, and Rush Limbaugh has piled on, which surprises me as he's usually more responsible.

Both sides are behaving disgracefully, trying to score political points off the issue of whether devastating illnesses should be treated or not--of whether ill people should live longer. Of course they should, and the fate of the rubbish at an abortion clinic does not concern me nearly as much as the fate of people with cancer. That doesn't mean either side is justified in using scare tactics.

Very important note: According to Mr. Easterbrook, chances of dramatic cures being discovered through stem-cell research are very slim during the next five or ten years, at least.

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