You’ve Got Issues: The Ethics of Science

| Scene Reporter

John McCain

The Bush administration has consistently opposed legislation that would end funding restrictions on stem cell research. With the upcoming presidential election, many voters are wondering, “Would John McCain continue the scientific policies of President George W. Bush?”

The answer is still up for debate. Acting as the “maverick” that many have referred to him as, Senator John McCain rejected many of President Bush’s positions regarding stem cell research. McCain voted in favor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (H.R.810), the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (S.5) and the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S.2754), all of which would have increased stem cell research and were also supported by Senator Barack Obama. With his selection as the Republican presidential nominee, McCain has toned down his moderate stance on the issue in order to appeal to the Republicans’ vital base, Christian conservatives.

“While I support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress,” Senator John McCain says.

Although he has not entirely flip-flopped on the issue, his campaign website—www.johnmccain.com—focuses primarily on his more conservative initiatives concerning ethics and science and doesn’t mention his voting record in favor of stem cell research. It states that McCain opposes the creation of human embryos for the specific use of research, using the cells or fetal tissue of embryos formed in such a manner, human cloning and the use or collection of human cells developed in animals. Each of these claims is backed by McCain’s voting record in the Senate.

“As president, John McCain will strongly support funding for promising research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research and other types of scientific study that do not involve the use of human embryos,” his site says.

Is this just a clever campaign tactic or a genuine shift in ideals?

Barack Obama

According to the National Journal, Senator Barack Obama has been labeled “the most liberal senator in 2007,” a title determined by ninety-nine vital Senate votes. It probably comes as no surprise, therefore, that Obama agrees with the great majority of Democrats on the stem cell research debate.

In step with many of his other policies that oppose the principles of the Bush administration, Senator Obama has rejected President Bush’s suppression of research in the field of embryonic stem cell research. His campaign website—www.barackobama.com—emphasizes Obama’s support for increased stem cell research. Nevertheless, Obama and McCain agree that ethical standards regarding such research must be clearly outlined.

His voting record also supports these assertions. Although Bush later vetoed the bill, Senator Barack Obama supported the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (H.R.810), which would have permitted the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. The funds, however, would have only been used for those human embryos scheduled to be destroyed. Obama also voted in favor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (S.5), an act similar to the one of 2005. In addition, he voted in favor of the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S.2754), an act that would have increased federal funding for research on adult stem cells. While a senator in the Illinois state Senate, Obama even introduced acts to allow for embryonic stem cell research.

Are his positions on embryonic stem cell research too liberal, or are they right in step with the positions of the majority of Americans?

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