Sunday, January 15, 2006

California Stem Cell Research: Hype, Folly and Contempt?

If you believe a Washington Post editorial and an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend, California should fold up its stem cell research rather than capitulate "to "the unholy lust of scientists."

Citing the Korean scandal, self-described "professional philosopher" David S. Odeberg called for separation of science and state in his piece in the Chronicle.
"How could the millions thrown at scientists be anything other than a veritable inducement to misconduct? When you combine it with the innumerable honors and awards that await the next would-be secular savior of humanity, one wonders that fraud is not even more common than it appears to be," he wrote.

Odeberg, professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, England, continued:
"It would be an act of utter folly and of contempt for honesty and integrity were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's beloved California Institute for Regenerative Medicine now to go ahead."

The Washington Post, whose editorial was carried on some California websites, also noted the pressures on scientists to overstate their results. But its main argument was that states are a "bad place" to conduct stem cell research because it would be politicized at the state level.
"In California, universities already are hiring scientists and building labs, even though lawsuits have prevented the state's $3 billion funding program from issuing any grants. This kind of hype makes it particularly difficult for states, which do little basic research funding, to judge the value of individual stem cell research projects."

The Post did not mention that the reason states are seeking to fund embryonic stem cell research is because of the President's own politics and personal beliefs and the political gridlock in Congress on the issue.

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