In short order, Barack Obama made it all the way from relative
obscurity to the presidency of the United States, and to international
fame and popularity, on….what? His ‘eloquence’ and charm and sense of
gravitas and self-confidence and purpose, especially to change things and inspire hope. And a lot of promises he made to powerful special interest groups.
He now governs as he campaigned: saying he wants to hear other
voices, but shutting them down if they disagree. Take the announcement
of his executive order on embryonic stem cell research, for example.
The announcement was classic Obama: advancing radical
policies while seeming calm and moderate, and preaching the gospel of
civility while accusing those who disagree with the policies of being
“divisive” and even “politicizing science.”
Robert George is one of the top voices in this country on social
moral issues and the orthodoxy of secular liberalism. In fact, his
latest book Embryo is a brilliant dissertation on the
humanity of the earliest form of life at conception. He can debate like
few others, and always from the foundation of reason and the logic of
natural law. And he brings clarity to the obfuscation politicians and
media thrive on.
“Moderate” Mr. Obama’s policy is not. It will promote a
whole new industry of embryo creation and destruction, including the
creation of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are
destroyed. It forces American taxpayers, including those who see the
deliberate taking of human life in the embryonic stage as profoundly
unjust, to be complicit in this practice.
And George and Cohen point out two particular points of contradiction in Obama’s claim to be taking politics out of science:
First, the Obama policy is itself blatantly political.
It is red meat to his Bush-hating base, yet pays no more than lip
service to recent scientific breakthroughs that make possible the
production of cells that are biologically equivalent to embryonic stem
cells without the need to create or kill human embryos. Inexplicably —
apart from political motivations — Mr. Obama revoked not only the Bush
restrictions on embryo destructive research funding, but also the 2007
executive order that encourages the National Institutes of Health to
explore non-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells.
Second and more fundamentally, the claim about taking politics out
of science is in the deepest sense antidemocratic. The question of
whether to destroy human embryos for research purposes is not
fundamentally a scientific question; it is a moral and civic question
about the proper uses, ambitions and limits of science. It is a
question about how we will treat members of the human family at the
very dawn of life; about our willingness to seek alternative paths to
medical progress that respect human dignity.
And no amount of finesse can escape the fact that what we’re talking about here are humans.