November 11, 2008

Scientists ask President Bush for advice on stem cell research.



ADDED: I ran across that video while looking for video of President Bush's August 9, 2001 address on stem cell research, which I found here. The text (which is also available at that link) is part of the materials for my Religion and the Constitution class this afternoon. We're also reading John F. Kennedy's September 12, 1960 address on the separation of church and state, which you can watch -- in 3 parts -- here. Text here. Kennedy said:
I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office....

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
Bush said:
As I thought through this issue, I kept returning to two fundamental questions: First, are these frozen embryos human life, and therefore, something precious to be protected? And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives?

I've asked those questions and others of scientists, scholars, bioethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my Cabinet, and my friends. I have read heartfelt letters from many Americans. I have given this issue a great deal of thought, prayer and considerable reflection....

My position on these issues is shaped by deeply held beliefs. I'm a strong supporter of science and technology, and believe they have the potential for incredible good -- to improve lives, to save life, to conquer disease....

I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your President I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.
Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?

58 comments:

chuck b. said...

Aaaiiieee!!! No safety glasses?!

Luke Blanshard said...

Preachy, not funny. One funny line: "I believe in the sanctity of human life. Throw them in the trash!"

Ann Althouse said...

I didn't think it was funny either, but I thought it made the argument very effectively. I was impressed by that.

John Lynch said...

So there was no religious reason for Kennedy's support of Civil Rights? None at all?

Synova said...

I'm waiting, you know, for murder to be put off limits as a religious issue.

And theft.

Marcia said...

"Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?"

No, unless Bush actually believed his decision was bad for America. And there's no evidence of that.

Whether other people think the decision was bad for America is irrelevant. Especially under Kennedy's theory.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

That video, just like the arguments that Bush stopped stem cell research, is specious or more directly a lie.

There was no stopping of stem cell research. Private industry was never stopped from conducting stem cell research. The ban was expansion of "government funding" of such research.

The decision will certain limit the number of government funded research projects but it has no effect on private stem cell research except that there will be a continuing ban on the cloning of embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells. Because this technology is so promising, it is likely that there will be privately funded research. Because of the limitations, there is minimal funding for embryonic stem cell research although there is significant funding of other types of research involving stem cells

Since many taxpayers have strong objections to this funding I don't see that there was anything wrong in Bush's decision.

He didn't ban anything. Just the government funding of what should be a private industry matter. This is also very much the issue that bothers fiscal conservatives with the government funding and take over of private industry. Just how much government control do we want/need?

Marcia said...

"I'm waiting, you know, for murder to be put off limits as a religious issue.

And theft."

Synova -- Separation of church and state is an issue-specific problem. For example, the Dem. plan for higher taxes (on "the rich") is justified by the Catholic Church's teachings on social justice.

Maguro said...

In my opinion, the "Kennedy theory of church and state" was mostly idle campaign rhetoric. But since you're using Kennedy's statement as your guide, how do you figure Bush's decision on stem cells violated the national interest? I don't see that it did.

Revenant said...

Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?

Absolutely not. Kennedy called for public servants to resign if their conscience required them to violate national interest. Bush is quite clearly saying that he sees the promotion of the sanctity of life as being in our national interests.

Kennedy was addressing the concern that he'd be obligated to obey the Pope's wishes, which could conflict with those of America (e.g. the Pope opposes a war that America has declared, and the President is Commander in Chief).

Don Pedro Newmexicapanteuhctli said...

However nice Kennedy sounded, what he said was dumb. What issues are there that require a decision from an elected executive that do NOT involve acting from principle?

I think Kennedy was really just promising not to let the Pope dictate American policy. To say that a president shouldn't let his personal beliefs dictate his decision-making is idiotic.

(And in practice, there is little difference between a principle derived from religious tradition and one that isn't. Principles are, by definition, intimate and non-rational. There's no such thing as one uber-morality derived from pure "Reason, no matter how many times philosophers try to develop one. Pure "reason" can still lead to diametrically opposed moralities -- just ask Nietzsche and John Stuart Mill. So it's pointless to distinguish between "religious convictions" and any other type of ethical philosophy and say that one is appropriate for a president and another is not. All ethics boil down to a leap of faith somewhere. Even those of the ultra anti-religious idiocy of Peter Singer and others like him.)

John Lynch said...

Kennedy was the first Catholic President. It was rhetoric to calm the fear that he'd take orders from the Pope. Stupid, yes, but that belief existed.

Lem said...

Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?

Kennedy - in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest,

Bush - believe as your President I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.

Sorry, I dont see a conflict.

Is the question who has a superior conscience?

Skyler said...

1. No, Bush is not required to resign. No Kennedy that I'm aware of has ever failed to let his own personal philosophy and beliefs affect his votes or decisions, nor should anyone do so.

2. That video is another example of how the left has succeeded in distorting a legitimate political/philosophical disagreement into something it isn't so that they can ridicule those they disagree with.

Bush never moved to make stem cell research illegal. He simply stopped using federal funds for paying for it. The continued stem cell research industry in this country is proof of that. In fact, that industry will likely be better off without being fettered by the government.

That video would not be effective to intelligent people who remember what the argument is, and don't rely on one side to frame the issue in the most distorted and favorable light possible.

Ann, usually you are quite objective but here you've lost your bearing.

birdie bob said...

DBQ is exactly right. This debate was rendered moot about a year ago as per the excellent Charles Krauthammer article Stem cell vindication
The only reason to try to make this argument now is to dishonestly support the argument for abortion. But there is absolutely no scientifically valid reason to use embryonic stem cells for research.

Meade said...

"Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?"

Yes. Bush made his decision with "regard to outside religious pressures or dictates" when he consulted with, among others, "religious leaders." Kennedy specifically ruled that out. Yesterday's visit to the White House by Barack Obama would have been with President Dick Cheney.

Jason said...

No.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Under the Kennedy theory of church and state, did Bush have the obligation to resign for dealing with the question the way he did?

If Bush HAD banned all stem cell research based on his personal religious feelings, then yes, I would agree.

But, he didn't do that. He removed the federal funding of private industry research without banning the science. I think it was a good compromise.

Skyler said...

I just wish Bush had removed all federal funding of all research for any reason. That he limited his ban to only one part of federal funding is cause for concern.

chickenlittle said...

He removed the federal funding of private industry research without banning the science.

And lest anyone forget, several states stepped up their support for such research.

Sofa King said...

Listening to this video lecture on about stem cell research is like listening to Freder Frederson lecture on about the conservation of energy.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"He removed the federal funding of private industry research without banning the science."

And lest anyone forget, several states stepped up their support for such research.

Right, and in California, the people voted to fund this research. So the minority, the people who voted no for whatever reason lost, do we see the masses of them acting like the Prop 8 losers? Holding their breath until they turn blue and acting in general like 3 year old's throwing tantrums.

I voted no, not for any religious reasons, but because I didn't think the government should be involved in private industry: and still don't. So I lost and someone else won. Nothing new here. If people (on whatever issue) lose, they should regroup and try again in an adult and legal manner.

Linda said...

No - he didn't have the obligation to resign. There are 2 issues here - the scientific desire to use the available resources, regardless of ethics or morality, and the Constitutional obligation to consider the essential human rights of the embryo involved.

Scientists needn't care, but Presidents must. It is their job to weigh the immediate profit with the moral issues that hang in the balance. That's the essence of what we, as Americans, have done. We have created a Constitution that enshrines the moral dimension of humans.

Whether the embryos are destined for the trash is the responsibility of the person that aborted them. It is NOT the responsibility of the public to find a use for those embryos to salve the conscience of the - almost - mother.

Darcy said...

Thanks, birdie bob, for the article by Dr. Krauthammer.

If what Dr. K says is true, why are we having this debate? Seems to me that both sides should be relieved at Bush's decision.

Glen said...
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Glen said...

The two are not easily compared. Kennedy's statement is only a hypothetical. Bush was addressing a decision which he actually made.

Only one of the two presidents mentions factoring in the opinion of other Americans. That was Bush.

Neither says anything about deferring to the will of the people.

Skyler said...

Darcy, the reason we keep having this debate is because people who should know better keep spewing the lie even though the lie has been exposed.

The people of this country keep relying on something called "journalists" to clean out disputes that are not relevent, but the journalists are the very ones creating the lie. Thus no traction can ever be had against it.

It's been like this on issue after issue with lie after lie for years now. There's no way to keep up with disputing the lies, from plastic turkeys in Baghdad, to stem cell research being banned, to global warming, the left has succeeded in hamstringing dissent by forcing everyone to continually fight to correct the perceived facts instead of addressing the actual argument.

Whereas you, Darcy, may now understand the issue correctly concerning stem cell research, the rest of the media will keep repeating the lie. It's not that they're lazy and don't want to be bothered knowing the facts. It's not that they are stupid and don't understand the facts. It's that they don't want the facts to be known.

And even the usually insightful Ann Althouse doesn't seem to have detected the lie on this one.

Shahid said...

Didn't see the video. (Can't at work.) However, I did want to correct a misconception about Bush stopping anything. He didn't. There was no federal funding for embryonic stem cell research before Bush's speech and the initiative it launched.

What he and his administration did was allow federal funding for the first time but within the defined constraints. Obviously, many believe the constraints are too harsh and too limiting, but let's be fair.

Bender said...
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Bender said...

Kennedy -

Didn't know what he was talking about as a matter of politics.
Didn't know what he was talking about as a matter of Catholicism.

Meade said...

Kennedy's theory of church and state, as expressed in his September 12, 1960 address, indicates that a president who makes a decision "on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject" with "regard to outside religious pressures or dictates," should be obligated to resign his office. Bush consulted "religious leaders." Under Kennedy's theory, Bush was obligated to resign.

Under my theory of grading, the Professor should give me an "A" and move me to the head of the class, right next to Simon. Rest of you are free to discuss your many interesting I'm sure opinions - outside of class and on your own time. Until President Obama's free tuition plan kicks in, I'm shelling out a lot of my own hard-earned money here and I expect to get my dime's worth.

Darcy said...

Thank you, Skyler.

So the point is to continue to make President Bush look like he denied important research that could save and benefit lives. And we're going to continue to talk about how narrow minded the man is and was in this regard. How convenient.

Let's pay no mind to the facts that Shahid just pointed out - President Bush offered federal funding in this area for the first time. Limited, yes. But he funded it.

Further, the argument that embryonic cells are being thrown out anyway is supposed to convince me that yes, we should ignore that ethical boundary (and therefore possibly create a demand for such embryonic cells) without any consideration for the fact that apparently we don't need to.

Perfect.

Triangle Man said...

Darcy said...

(and therefore possibly create a demand for such embryonic cells)


Do you mean to suggest that people would choose to go through fertility treatments and create more embryos because they could used for research? I thought the argument was that there would not be a decrease in research (and therefore no change in demand) because private funding would fill the gap.

Darcy said...

No, Triangle Man, I am not suggesting that. Is there any other source of discarded embryos that you can think of, though?

Chip Ahoy said...

I saw a video here where words are put into the president's mouth, words he didn't say, or they wouldn't have needed to be provided. Then a dialogue was written around what the president didn't say. Didn't say, and didn't suggest.

There's a word for this in logic, but I'm not going to bother with with pedantry today because I'm tired of this argument.

Please don't make me review what the president actually did say, and what the president's position really is. Do that yourself, I won't be goaded.

This video doesn't make a case, much less a strong one. Why? Because nobody's advising to throw away anything.

I'm tired of arguments that make a case against what isn't being said, and where terms are switched. That's rhetoric, not logic.

When I say, I saw a video here, I mean I saw a video 1/3 of the way through here before dropping it out of aggravation and getting on with satisfying things like looking through pictures of puppies.

KaziA said...

Let's not rush to hold up John F. Kennedy as any sort of morally astute politician who held to any "principals" whatsoever.

He knew it was politically advantageous to disown his faith, just as it was sexually advantageous for him to disown his marriage vows.

Faith and morals inform our consciences, that Bush was honest about what motivated his decision stands in great contrast to Kennedy, who was only concerned with appeasing the religious bigots of his day.

SteveR said...

I participate in an online massgae board for Multiple Sclerosis patients. Onne in a while the subjest of stem cell research providing a cure is raised and wirthout fail someone will say "because Bush stopped stem cell research, I'm still suffering".

I can somewhat (but not too much) understand someone directly affected by something that stem cell reasearch has the potential to help with, being so uninformed about the topic but not intelligent people.

Nichevo said...

I had a friend die last year of kidney failure, long time coming, he was sick even as a kid. He muttered bitter things (actually he often muttered, and was often bitter, ike Stephen Maturin, but I loved him much) about President Bush and stem cells.

But at the time, a) nothing was on the plate in any form which would have helped him, b) all the non-Akira results were achieved with adult stem cells, c) if Bush walked on water Mike would quip that d) Bush can't swim and e) the water was supplied by Halliburton.

Believe me, if there was anything that could have saved his life, I would have gone out and got it for him (closely pursued by police, perhaps).

In his case, what he really needed was better doctors, or at least better treatment from the big-name croakers and hospitals they brought him to. It could have been fixed a long time ago, but by high school his shit was already going.

Bush split the baby as best he could. And he did what he thought was right. Religion sometimes informs morality which sometimes informs policy. Bush needed no outside pressures and succumbed to none. It is one of many things for which he should be credited.

Mark said...

Who cares about The JFK "theory"? He didn't, except as far as it advanced his candidacy. It certainly obligates Bush not at all. The Althouse appeal to JFK as an authority is not serious.

Jack said...

This video does a good job of capturing the sheer horror many people feel living under Republican maladministration. This is why we danced in the streets around the world when Barack Obama was elected.

Thank God it's finally over. The horror of the Bush years -- finally at an end.

Nichevo said...

jack,

Don't be silly. It is a sign that you don't know what horror is.

Alex said...

Nichevo:

It's a case of defining horror down. It used to be gulags, concentration camps, mass executions. Now it's not federally funding embryonic stem cells. The way the left celebrated on Nov 4th reminded me of the old WW2 Victory-day celebrations - as though the Nazi monster were vanquished. IT sickened me.

TMink said...

"First, are these frozen embryos human life, and therefore, something precious to be protected?"

Yep, they sure are. I made dinner for three formerly frozen embryos tonight. Tacos, soft for Peter and Thomas, hard for me and Lauren.

These were left overs from a couple who could make them, God bless them! They wanted to share, and we and our triplets are the beneficiaries of their wisdom.

The deal was that the doctor thawed three, hoping that two would be grade A. They would implant these and there is a 33% chance that each would take. Weird thing happened, all three thawed as grade A, so they put all three in without telling us. They were honoring the donor parent's wishes.

Then all three took, and well, I am making dinner for triplets.

Are they human life? You betcha.

Trey

Patm said...

No, Bush should not have resigned. When people are told what Bush actually did, how he reasoned it, and what the results were, they're usually shocked, because the press and the left have done a tremendous job of distorting this issue and misinforming the public. President Bush actually deserved credit on this one - people forget, but before the left had their talking points memo on this issue, public persons like Michael J. Fox (Parkinsons) and Mary Tyler Moore (diabetes) Chris Reeve (spinal cord injuries) all applauded what he'd done. REALLY. You could look it up - I saw the transcripts online just recently at CNN.

Can't we finally start giving Bush a little credit, or is the left so insecure that they'll need to continue to beat the good man beyond what is honest, ethical or necessary?

Oligonicella said...

Short answer Ann, no. One cannot have it only one way.

His words: "I've asked those questions and others of scientists, scholars, bioethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members of Congress, my Cabinet, and my friends."

One should note he spoke with a range of people and his rationale for his decisions were based on his beliefs in science and religion.

No folding to an outside authority.

I will note you purposely merely asked a question. But I will also note that the question was directional. Will we be seeing similar questions about Obama when he makes decisions? He has stated he has religious beliefs, you know.

Triangle Man said...

Darcy,
Thanks for the clarification. Since embryonic stem cells can come from IVF, miscarriage, or abortion, I am guessing now that the "demand" you mention relates to abortion. From a policy perspective, a distinction could have been drawn between sources of stem cells, but wasn't. The linked video specifically deals with question of stored embryos from IVF. I don't think that it is an exaggeration to say that the origin of this policy is the belief that a fertilized egg is a person. If this belief is applied to the question of abortion, then the natural conclusion is that abortion should be prohibited. The ethical conclusions regarding IVF itself, or the disposition of unused embryos seem far less clear.

TMink said...

"The ethical conclusions regarding IVF itself, or the disposition of unused embryos seem far less clear."

Not really. Come over and babysit my three previously frozen embryos that were the leftovers from another couples IVF.

Please! 8)

Trey

Richard Fagin said...

AS DBQ says, he stem cell research issue has been mischaracterized once again, so it's time to set the record straight. President Bush did not ban stem cell research. He ordered a halt to federal funding of stem cell research except for certain stem cell lines. Private entities were and are free to continue research on their own.

It is flatly wrong to characterize the President's action as seeking to impose his religious views on the country. His actions were a lawful exercise of his discretion as President. The fact that the exercise of discretion may have been based on religious belief makes it no less lawful. What personal substantive rights have been violated by Bush's decision? What person suffered an individual harm as a result of Bush's action?

Who in here is going to argue that stopping research on chemical weapons or nuclear weapons is somehow an imposition of religious belief on the country, because the belief in the necessity of stopping such research is in fact based on a personal moral code. Logically, it amounts to the same thing as stopping federal funding for stem cell research based on religious belief.

We have elections to settle the matter of whether or not you like the President's exercise of discretion.

Darcy said...

Trey: Thanks for your recent comments. What a beautiful outcome!

BJK said...

Unless having sex with Marilyn Monroe was "in the national interest," shouldn't JFK have resigned out of conscience (or did he not believe in the Church's teaching on adultery)?

Why should we hold President Bush up to JFK's standard when JFK himself didn't live up to it?

Roger J. said...
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Roger J. said...

Emryonic stem cell research is a sop to the pro abortion lobby--nothing more or less. Research on embryonic stem cells has continued apace in the private sector; moreover, recent science has obviated the need for embryonic stem cells from fetuses. Finally, ADULT stem cells appear to be for more efficacious in treatment protocols. But we would not want to let science or demonstrated outcomes stand in the way of abortion.

Triangle Man said...

Trey,
Your story is wonderful, as are the stories of all my friends' kids who were conceived through IVF. I am genuinely interested in your (and others) perspectives on this issue.

How would you generalize your personal experience to the ethical and policy considerations of IVF? Since more embryos are created than can reasonably be expected to be implanted, what should be done with "extra" IVF embryos?

TMink said...

Triangle man asked: "How would you generalize your personal experience to the ethical and policy considerations of IVF?"

Triangle, it is very difficult for me to think in any sort of a logical way about this experience. My daughter just brought a tray of "breakfast" to me as I typed this. Now here is my son Peter, flapping a bat he made at school around the room. I think they are trying to tell me something like "Get off the computer!!!!"

My wife and I could not go the route of IVF because her eggs had prematurely aged. Hearing that in the doctor's office was one of the worst days in my life, right up there with my father dying. I felt so bad for my wife, knowing that she had to feel like a failure.

We started plans to adopt immediately. We had finished the home study and were looking to adopt some babies from Hispanic background. Neither my wife nor I are racist, so we told the agencies that we would be happy to adopt children from any background. At that time, Hispanic babies were easiest to adopt.

Adoption is expensive, and we figured we would be able to adopt one child. At this same time, the fertility clinic that we had used to try to conceive on our own children called us and asked if we were interested in donor embryos. We said not really because we could never afford it.

Boy were we wrong. The total treatment was under $2000, less than half what the adoption would cost. There is a racket there somewhere.

Our children were left over IVF embryos that had been frozen. The donor couple were prolife and could not allow the extra embryos to be thrown away. Those of us who worked for our children are typically prolife I think.

That is why the physician put three embryos inside my wife. They thaw three hoping to get two good ones, and they have another one on ice just in case they do not get two viable embryos. All three thawed perfectly, and the doctor followed the donor couples wishes by not destroying any of the viable embryos.

This was without our knowledge! We went in for an ultra sound a while later and the other doc got a funny look on her face and asked "Why did you guys have three put in?" This was the first we had heard about it!

Terror is not too strong a word to use concerning our reactions. I did not speak of it for 6 weeks because I was so intimidated. The pregnancy went pretty well, my wife is 5'10, and she was able to carry the children till 32 weeks. She was in to the hospital for a check up, I was riding to join her for the ultrasound and hold her hand when the doctors noticed that Thomas was in distress. He had some sort of infection.

My wife called me and told me that I needed to get there fast, as we were about to have our children. I was there for 10 minutes before they did the C section.

Words fail me as I try to convey how amazed and humbled I was (and am) at what God gave us, what He entrusted us with. Later that night, as my wife was enjoying her pain meds, our pediatrician and the NICU doc came in and told me that Thomas was in distress and that he would probably not make it through the night.

My wife was not at a place where she could understand this, so I went home and cried and cried. It is very difficult to not cry now just writing about this. Our pediatrician, who is also our Elder at church, called every person in our congregation who is known to have a gift for prayer and we all prayed and prayed.

And Thomas completely recovered. He is our best reader and healthy as a horse. None of the kids wear glasses or have hearing problems or any other problems sometimes associated with multiples.

So as you can see, this issue is beyond emotional for me.

Having typed all that, it is quite clear to me that our children were a wonderful gift from God. I understand, that is the wrong word as I do NOT understand, I hear that the Catholic Church eschews IVF as sinful. I would love to introduce his holiness to our little abominations! I am in favor of adoption and IVF. Technically, our children are adopted as they are not genetically ours. But I am so happy that my wife was able to be pregnant in this amazing manner.

We will tell them this story when they are a bit older. I was adopted the old fashioned way and do not remember when my parents told me. They were always my parents! It was good to learn that family is about love, not genes at an early age.

Now the parents who have 5 children at a time scare me a little, to be honest. But I am not really in any place to judge them if I am honest.

"Since more embryos are created than can reasonably be expected to be implanted, what should be done with "extra" IVF embryos?"

I am sure you know my response to that, they should be donated to people who are as lucky as us. People like us, and perhaps you, will love these children and raise them as good citizens.

That is my opinion, but I am hopelessly and forever biased on the subject.

Thanks for asking. Sorry I took so much space to answer, but the post kind of took on a life of its own.

Trey

TMink said...

Darcy, thank you. I appreciate your kindness.

Trey

Darcy said...

Oh, no...thank YOU, Trey.

I'm glad I came back to this thread to read this. A fitting ending to this thread, I think.
Bless you!

Triangle Man said...

Since this thread has grown old you may not make it back to check, but I wanted to thank you Trey for your post(s). I think stories like yours, and the feelings behind them, are often lost in policy debates.

TMink said...

Triangle man, nah, it was too important for me to write. Thanks for asking, and taking the time to read that mother of all posts!

As a PS, I got to see TMBG about three months ago. They were touring with a band it it was a total hoot. I cannot recall if they did Particle Man, but it remains one of my favorite of their songs.

Take care pal.

Trey