This isn’t much of a surprise, really
When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president’s moral qualms with research on human embryos.
In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post’s editorial board that researchers have found “far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.”
The administration’s assessment of stem cell science has extra meaning in the wake of the Senate’s 63-37 vote Tuesday to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The measure, which passed the House last year, will now head to Bush, who has vowed to veto it.
But Rove’s negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research–echoed by many opponents of funding for such research–is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story.
“[Rove’s] statement is just not true,” said Dr. Michael Clarke, associate director of the stem cell institute at Stanford University, who in 2003 published the first study showing how adult stem cells replenish themselves.
If opponents of embryonic stem cell research object on moral grounds, “I’m willing to live with that,” Clarke said, though he disagrees. But, he said, “I’m not willing to live with statements that are misleading.”
Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the stem cell center at the Oregon Health and Science University, is a Catholic who objects to research involving the destruction of embryos and is seeking alternative ways of making stem cells. But Grompe said there is “no factual basis to compare the promise” of adult stem cells and cells taken from embryos.
Grompe said, “I think it’s a problem when [opponents of embryonic research] make a scientific argument as opposed to stating the real reason they are opposed–which is [that] it’s a moral, ethical problem.”
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius on Tuesday could not provide the name of a stem cell researcher who shares Rove’s views on the superior promise of adult stem cells.
This is standard operating procedure for the Bush administration: if the moral argument is dubious, make bogus factual claims – and if the factual argument is dubious, make bogus moral claims. Or, better yet, just lie.