Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Today, Anne Applebaum complains that the Kerry campaign is using simplistic "lift the ban" rhetoric to explain its position on a complex issue - stem cell research. She asserts that no real "ban" exists, and laments that the Kerry campaign is not going into excruciating detail about present federal research and funding policies, and explaining precisely how its approach will differ from the Bush Administration's. Applebaum states,
The question now is whether we want, as a nation, to continue to have long-winded and complicated debates about complicated issues, or whether we want to resort to slogans such as "lift the ban" and "unleash the wonders of discovery."
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that a speech from Kerry on the intricacies of federal policy on stem cell research would be ignored by the news media and public, while providing endless fodder for the late night comedians (as was Ron Reagan's effort to get into the details in his convention speech), I wasn't aware that we were having those "long-winded and complicated debates" beforehand. I am not aware that Bush has ever given a "long-winded and complicated" explanation of his position on stem cell research, or that Applebaum has ever complained that he substitutes lines such as "respecting the sanctity of human life" for such an exposition.

After complaining about the role of sick people and pollsters in presenting this simplistic view, Applebaum continues her lament,
At some point we also need to make some distinction between science and "magic." It is true that funneling more money into biological research will produce more breakthroughs and more cures. It is also true that even with unlimited funding, Reeve might never walk again. This is research, not abracadabra. Talk of "magic" doesn't do much to reverse widespread scientific illiteracy either, which remains a far greater obstacle to scientific progress than the president.
That's quite a magnification of Ron Reagan's comment about the promise of stem cell research sounding "like magic" - and it seems more than a bit disingenuous of her to attribute that position to the Kerry campaign itself. But perhaps this is the only way that Applebaum can avoid addressing the real conflict, which is not of "hard science" versus "science as magic", but is about whether we should permit religious groups to strongly influence or dictate our national policies on science and public health.

Applebaum may be a little bit slow this morning, but isn't that how most voters see the question?

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