Kathleen Parker, "Behind the Cell Curve: Why Is the President Ignoring a Scientific Gift?" March 11
Michael Gerson, "Stem Cells, the Right Way". March 11
PACE nearly every fourteen-year-old Jewish-Christian political philosopher and legal scholar I know of, modern American "conservatism" is precisely a sexagenarian issues-whore on whose gone-to-flab anatomy the faint blue tattoos of categories of principle which once, apparently, meant something can still be dimly made out if the light is right and some bright and helpful child is standing by to interpret.
Nowhere is that so apparent as with reproductive rights, aka ABORTION, the Single-Issuers' Single Issue, the model of, and in many cases the stated justification for, the Party and its principled adherents spending the last four decades refusing to talk to anyone but themselves. The particular robustness of Bronze Age paternalism, the largely unforeseen profound psychological, if not pathological, grip exerted upon the developing infant taught that Sex is Icky and Must Be Punished, not to mention its frequent survival into senescence, natural or premature, coupled with the power of excommunication and the rise of tax-free Local Access Cable Begging, well, these things were simply unexpected in 1973. At the very least phenomenal growth based on shameless manipulation of superstition, misogyny, and profound sexual dysfunction was thought to be a loser's bet, as well as damaging to the SS Ship of State Herself, which it proved to be, except the lesson took about four decades longer than expected. This was not naïveté; we already knew these people were in favor of nuclear brinkmanship, the Third Degree, and the impromptu death penalty in cases of ogling White Women, and opposed to fluoride. Naïve people in 1973 were the ones fearing that 1984 and 1984 had some sort of mystic connection, and hoping that Simon and Garfunkel could still patch things up.
ABORTION is the template for modern American "conservatism": the metaphysical certainty of the correctness of one's position, both factually and, especially, morally, and the attendant Manichaeism; the holy distain for opposing positions; the demonization of those opponents; the solution to complex problems via the bumper sticker slogan and/or Reagan quip; the refusal to address the argument in its own terms, and the willingness to lie one's way out of any unavoidable corners. All this may, in fact, be symptomatic of the human condition, or endemic among political party animals, but for "conservatives" it was seriously compounded by talking to themselves for so long, a congenital inability to sense humor, a serious, and reality-based, mass intellectual inferiority complex, compounded by a preference for cinematic alien life forms and loud explosions safely distant. This was then brought to full boil by the Reagan and Gingrich "revolutions" and served at a public masque which presented them as Outsiders even as they controlled the debate for thirty years.
And they were the only ones who'd eat it, though they wouldn't stop talking long enough to notice. The result is sadly predictable, though the only real sadness is that the rest of us fell victim. It's the rare public "conservative" pundit who can even construct an argument these days, let alone one that acknowledges facts, Mr. Will, or holds itself accountable to a reasonable level of consistency, Mr. Brooks. The efficacy of Incontinent Tax Cutting, the Myth of Global Warming, the academic hearing denied Intelligent Creationist Design, the Threat to the Very Institution of Holy Matrimony, the Quaintness of the Geneva Conventions; how did these things become "conservative" benchmarks? Principle? Or two generations of inbreeding?
It may be difficult to top the outright denial of accepted scientific thought, let alone fact, but the transfer of ABORTION irrationality to what Norbizness, RIP, called the Blastocyst American comes close. Monday the President, as you no doubt already know, lifted the restrictions on federally-funded embryonic stem cell research. Out come Parker and Gerson to demand the same degree of fairness they've shown the other side when they were in power. Oh, wait, I mean the opposite. Ladies first:
As he lifted the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research Monday, President Obama proclaimed that scientific decisions now will be made "on facts, not ideology."
This sounds good, but what if there were other non-ideological facts that Obama seems to be ignoring? One fact is that since Obama began running for president, researchers have made some rather amazing strides in alternative stem cell research. Science and ethics finally fell in love, in other words, and Obama seems to have fallen asleep during the kiss. Either that, or he decided that keeping an old political promise was more important than acknowledging new developments. In the process, he missed an opportunity to prove that he is pro-science but also sensitive to the concerns of taxpayers who don't want to pay for research that requires embryo destruction.
Yes, damn you faintly, Mr. President, for keeping campaign promises, and let's hope it's not the start of a trend or anything.
Here's the point about the long, long-term refusal to address the issue on the face of it: what does your reproductive fetish have to do with the law? Millions of Americans oppose the death penalty, or massive military spending and the wanton destruction it sometimes entails, based on that very same moral notion, and I don't recall you asking George W. Bush to take it easy on them. Millions more disagree with your premise, object to the conveniently inconsistent application of moralisms, or believe that your metaphysical dogma will become relevant once you demonstrate it's True, preferably as you're being Raptured. Still others would simply like to know where your concern for the millions of Frozen Blastocyst Americans was hiding for twenty years before a few lines of stem-cell research animated it.
Then there are those like me who just wish you'd shut th' fuck up about science altogether, at least until the day the State begins threatening to vacuum your ladyparts and lease the harvest for the same price per acre as prime Federal drillin' land.
That goes for you too, Mike:
The breakthrough is stunning: four genes introduced into normal skin cells, enticing them to act like embryonic stem cells, which can be transformed into the 220 cell types of the human body. Somehow a piece of skin, after a few weeks of lab work, can become the cell of a beating heart.
The technology must be perfected; the cells may not prove to be exactly like embryonic stem cells; and the possibility of repairing hearts or spinal cords is still a long way off.
But the reaction of researchers has been close to giddy, and for good reason. The technique, unlike cloning, is relatively easy and inexpensive. Because the skin tissue will come from the recipient's body, the transformed cells would not be rejected. And the source of these cells, as one researcher said, is "ethically uncomplicated." A representative of the Catholic bishops agreed that there is "no moral problem with it at all."
Remind me, again: where does the Archbishop of New York stand in line of Presidential succession?
This is wonderful news for humanity -- and vindication for President Bush. In 2001, he slowed the rush toward public funding of research involving the destruction of human embryos. Instead, he directed millions of dollars toward alternative methods of obtaining stem cells, hoping science would eventually find a way around the problem. And it has.
Yeah, I'm sure the Japanese research team was real grateful for the funding.
This is that pure, principled lying about shit because you're better than everyone else in early Spring bloom. Bush permitted some lines of research to continue while introducing Federal funding. This amounts to what? in your view: just a little murder? Isn't consistency the single fucking requirement when making a moral argument? Playing tennis with the net down is one thing; getting to announce, "For the next five minutes the ball is invisible, too," is quite another.
Look, God-boy, we don't know, and we're not likely to. We don't know what, if anything, was lost in eight years of embryonic stem cell research impeded by what The Decider thought was the politically required amount of pandering to people who talk to dead carpenters. We don't know what sort of energy was wasted looking for "moral" alternatives; we don't know if recent non-embryonic-cell discoveries will turn out to be what is hoped. We don't know. We can doubt it would have been enough that my demented mother would have the will these days to push herself up out of her chair instead of sitting there staring out her window. We don't know. But we do know that whatever potential was lost was lost to salve the theological wounds inflicted on you types by the 19th century. And that all your magical beliefs will never cure one person of anything, excepting maybe sanity.