President Clinton Highlights the Problem with Stem Cell Research

March 12, 2009

President Clinton is probably seen as more intelligent than President George W. Bush by most of the mainstream media.  However, he revealed his complete ignorance of basic biology in a recent interview on CNN, in which he claimed that stem cell research would be embraced by the American public as long as the embryos cannot “be fertilized and become little babies.”  Click here for an article describing the interview; here is the video:

Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure I know that an embryo is by definition “fertilized”.  I confirmed it in an online medical dictionary (“Embryo: The organism in the early stages of growth and differentiation from fertilization to, in humans, the beginning of the third month of prenancy. After that point in time, it is termed a fetus.”).  An embryo is a living human life in a stage of development (after fertilization) toward becoming a “little baby”.  To borrow the quote provided in the WND article linked above, Clinton said, “I think the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen that’s never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research.” 

Despite the oxymoronic idea of an embryo that isn’t going to be fertilized, Clinton is on to something: maybe Americans would support stem cell research that didn’t harm early developing human lives?  Indeed; they already did that under the supposedly anti-science Bush administration.  In fact, if you click the link I just inserted, you’ll see that there are already non-embryonic (i.e. “unfertilized”) stem cells that “are genetically identical to patients and are generated without destroying human embryos”.  Indeed, according to another article, those alternative stem cells “meet the defining criteria we originally proposed for human embryonic stem cells, with the significant exception that [those stem] cells are not derived from embryos”. 

So, to summarize: under the Bush administration, there was federal funding of non-embryonic stem cell research that apparently has proved as valuable as the unethical embryonic stem cell research that kills human life.  Even Bill Clinton sees the ethical problems with funding the killing of embryos, as evidenced by his confused comments in the video above, where he essentially admits that harming a “fertilized embryo” (which is redundant) would be unethical.  When he says he thinks the American people would support stem cell research that does not support killing growing human life that could “become little babies”, he is right, and they already have

Furthermore, there is not, and never was, a ban on stem cell research under the Bush administration; not even on embryonic stem cell research.   It has always been legal.  The only issue is that Bush would not allow federal tax payer money to be used for (most) embryonic stem cell research (Bush did permit funding for embryonic stem cell research on cell lines where the embryos had already been destroyed before Bush’s new policy was issued).  The federal government continued to fund non-embryonic stem cell research throughout the Bush administration. 

Thus, the only thing Obama is changing from the allegedly anti-science Bush administration is that he is taking federal tax payer money and directing it specifically at embryonic stem cell research.  Quite the promotion of science.  Perhaps another thing Obama could do to promote science is hand Mr. Clinton a ninth-grader’s biology text book. 

One final note: the CNN reporter who interviewed President Clinton was a neurosurgeon.  I find it amazing that he gave Clinton a complete pass on such an obvious gaffe.  I have to think that if it was George W. Bush on the other end of the microphone, he gets laughed out of the room after the neurosurgeon tears him apart.  Even if not, Clinton definitely should have been questioned about whether he finds stem cell research on living human beings (and cloning of living human beings) to be unethical.  His answers probably would have hurt Obama’s plan, though.  Perhaps the CNN neurosurgeon was worried about that?


3 Responses to “President Clinton Highlights the Problem with Stem Cell Research”

  1. When I heard about Clinton’s interview, I became so angry! Angry because if this “gaffe” was accidental, then he needs to get his facts straight, realize that his views are fundamentally pro-life, and stop promoting death. And even more angry because this “gaffe” could have been a planned and purposeful attempt to distort science and confuse the kool-aid drinkers.

  2. unrelevant Says:

    I love how all of the sudden, politics are being taken out of science because the government is getting involved in embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research was never prohibited by the government, just not paid for. In fact, if corporations felt it would have been profitable to do so, they could have done this research. However, they’ve chosen the route of adult stem cell research, which has proven to be effective in many cases.

  3. thenaturallawyer Says:

    And even more angry because this “gaffe” could have been a planned and purposeful attempt to distort science and confuse the kool-aid drinkers.

    You know, I didn’t really think about that possibility, but you are right. There have certainly been plenty of public misrepresentations in the stem-cell research debate. Like the constant newsmedia phrase “the ban on stem cell research.” There has never been any ban on stem cell research, and everyone is in favor of non-embryonic stem cell research. If anything, there was a “refusal to federally fund embryonic stem cell research”, but I guess that isn’t pithy enough for a newsmedia that places a higher value on short phrases than it does on accuracy.

    If Clinton was intentionally misrepresenting the facts for political purposes, that is indeed infuriating. And he only would have done so if he was comfortable that the CNN interviewer wouldn’t call him on it, as he no doubt could have. But I can’t recall anytime that CNN was especially hard on Clinton, so Clinton probably could rely on that, if he ineed was misrepresenting facts. I’m inclined to think Clinton just has no knowledge of what an embryo is, but if he was intentionally misrepresenting the nature of embryonic stem cell research, Clinton is every bit as Machiavellian as I’ve always suspected.

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