PZ Myers reports on Nature’s election 2008 edition, He is understandably very proud of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s response to a question on evolution:
I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.
It’s a very straightfoward answer that marks Obama out as the candidate for science. Also of interest in Obama’s answer on Bush’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Stem-cell research holds the promise of improving our lives in at least three ways— by substituting normal cells for damaged cells to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal-cord injury, heart failure and other disorders; by providing scientists with safe and convenient models of disease for drug development; and by helping to understand fundamental aspects of normal development and cell dysfunction.
For these reasons, I strongly support expanding research on stem cells. I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.
I recognize that some people object to government support of research that requires cells to be harvested from human embryos. However, hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in the U.S. in in-vitro fertilization clinics will not be used for reproductive purposes, and will eventually be destroyed. I believe that it is ethical to use these extra embryos for research that could save lives when they are freely donated for that express purpose.
I am also aware that there have been suggestions that human stem cells of various types, derived from sources other than embryos, make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. I don’t agree. While adult stem cells, such as those harvested from blood or bone marrow, are already used for treatment of some diseases, they do not have the versatility of embryonic stem cells and cannot replace them. Recent discoveries indicate that adult skin cells can be reprogrammed to behave like stem cells; these are exciting findings that might in the future lead to an alternate source of highly versatile stem cells. However, embryonic stem cells remain the “gold standard,” and studies of all types of stem cells should continue in parallel for the foreseeable future.
Rather than restrict the funding of such research, I favor responsible oversight of it, in accord with recent reports from the National Research Council. Recommendations from the NRC reports are already being followed by institutions that conduct human embryonic stem cell research with funds from a variety of sources. An expanded, federally-supported stem cell research program will encourage talented U.S. scientists to engage in this important new field, will allow more effective oversight, and will signal to other countries our commitment to compete in this exciting area of medical research.
Filed under: politics, science | Tagged: barack obama, creationism, election-2008, embryonic stem cells, evolution, nature journal, research, science education, science policy, stem cell research, stem cells |