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Are social and religious conservatives antiscience? Many are. But resistance to public funding of stem cell research is not an example of it. Democrats are obviously trying to connect Bush's stem cell veto to issues such as evolution and global warming, where conservative opposition to science is clear. But the stem cell issue is not in this category. There is no debate at all about the science involved. The issue is one of moral judgment, as it is in abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia (though the claims that can be made on behalf of an infinitesimal embryo, though similar, are weaker).
A far-left outfit called the Campaign to Defend the Constitution has been strumming the antiscience guitar for the Democrats, buying full-page ads in the New York Times at $200,000 a pop. One ad derided Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson as "America's Most Influential Stem Cell Scientists," the implications being that (1) religious opponents are as nutty as Falwell and Robertson, and (2) nobody's opinion on the subject can be taken seriously unless he or she is a stem cell researcher.
Another of the group's ads raises the name of one David Prentice, identified as "a lone voice who breaks with the mainstream medical establishment in his rejection of embryonic stem cell advancement." Can this group really believe that only one scientist resists public funding for this research? In fact, there are many mainstream scientists who oppose the killing of tiny embryos and many more who think that because this research is essentially a morally dicey entrepreneurial effort, maybe the entrepreneurs should raise their research money themselves.
Opponents of public stem cell funding are regularly hit by the arguments that their resistance is somehow a violation of church-state separation (the Campaign to Defend the Constitution is fond of this tactic) or an example of how small minorities can frustrate democracy. The church-state argument is foolish. Even conservative Christians are presumably allowed to vote their moral beliefs, and at any rate, we are not talking about banning anything, merely about subsidies.
The resentment about minorities winning is highly selective, though the mainstream press, which has been a major lobbyist for stem cell funding, is very fond of it. (It can be found right there in the top paragraph of the New York Times today.) The frustration of majorities is rarely mentioned during Democratic filibusters or in the current immigration debate, where majorities in the 70 percent range are having an extremely hard time getting the press and the political establishmernt to come out for a hard enforcement effort.
Similarly, the mainstream press would be lost without the semiofficial newsroom adjectives of "placate" and "appease" to explain why President Bush occasionally responds to the people who elected him. Those who allegedly are being placated and appeased fear that public funding of embryo killing is a gateway issue sure to lead to more morally obtuse decisions. Columnist and author Anna Quindlen, who favors this funding, frankly thinks and hopes it will help increase support for abortion. It undoubtedly would. This is why many of us who cannot think of the killing of infinitesimal embryos as murder are still willing to be "placated" and "appeased" on this worrisome issue. At least it's worth keeping our tax money away from such stuff.