Today President Bush vetoed legislation that would have loosened federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. In so doing he continued the not-so-fine tradition of elevating nonsensical religious doctrine above scientific fact and human compassion.
Here are some remarks from Sen. Arlen Specter that I caught on C-SPAN. I have to fault Specter for his lack of knowledge about Galileo (whose heresy was for claiming that the Earth revolves around the sun, not that it is flat), but otherwise his sentiments resonate with my churchless soul.
We have seen in our historical perspective where Galileo was imprisoned because he believed that the Earth was not flat, that Boniface the 8th stopped the dissection of cadavers which retarded medical science for centuries, where women were denied anesthesia by the Scottish Church in childbirth because it was God’s will that they not have that kind of relief.
And a century from now people will look back on what we are doing today in wonderment at how there could be any doubt about using these stem cells to save human lives and save human suffering.
Amen to that. There will come a time—and I hope it is much less than a century—when the sanctimoniousness of right-wing fundamentalists in the year 2006 will seem as bizarrely closed-minded as the Church’s indictment of Galileo in the year 1630 does now.
If you, a friend, or relative has diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, a spinal cord injury, or any of a host of other medical problems for which embryonic stem cell research holds great promise, come November remember that the Republican Party is anti-life.
As I wrote yesterday on my other weblog, Bush considers that using microscopic embryos for stem cell research, rather than discarding them, is murder. Yet there simply is no rational basis for believing that eight cells growing in a piece of lab equipment is a human life.
But reason and clear vision are deactivated in the minds of those who cling to theological fantasies. Which includes not only George Bush, but everyone else who elevates faith to an undeserved position on the scale of human values.
The faith that God is more pleased that a few embryonic cells remain frozen in an in vitro fertility clinic than used for research aimed at preventing human death and suffering obviously is a dangerously misguided faith.
Yet just as stem cells are able to become many different kinds of organs, so can faith morph into many different forms of superstition. The seemingly positive faith that “Jesus saves” and the clearly negative faith that “research on a microscopic embryo is murder” flow from the same well of gullibility.
We have not yet evolved out of a Middle Ages consciousness. Not by a long shot. Not so long as United States Senators can open up a book written in pre-scientific times and orate with a straight face, “I cannot vote for this bill because it is contrary to the Bible.”
The Inquisition is no longer with us in a manifest form. However, its spirit lives on in the narrow fundamentalist minds of a disturbingly large proportion of our nation’s leaders. Sadly, our President is among them.