Stem Cell Compromise

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The NIH’s draft guidelines on stem cell research funding have gladdened the hearts of common ground conservatives, as rounded up by Faith in Public Life. Scientists and hard-line conservatives, not so much, though both camps seem more shocked into silence than anything else. No one seems to have expected that the administration would propose a ban on funding somatic cell nuclear transfer, aka therapeutic cloning. 

As usual, an Obama move on a hot button social issue was disclosed on a Friday afternoon, and in this case was all but effaced by the Bybee memo commotion. Moreover, the guidelines were unaccompanied by any ethical or scientific justification, with the cloning ban tucked down at the very end. Speaking to the Washington Post, Susan L. Solomon, chief executive of the private New York Stem Cell Foundation, said, “I am really, really startled…This seems to be a
political calculus when what we want in this country is a scientific
research calculus.”

Everyone gets to weigh in during a period of comment, and in due course the president can be expected to provide a rationale for what is ultimately decided. So far, however, the politics seems to have been calculated perfectly.