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The great stem-cell debate has been portrayed in the mainstream press as a conflict between science and religion, between facts and prejudice. This has never been fair, but The Washington Post sinks to a new level in its take on the strongest evidence so far in favor of the administration's refusal to fund new embryo destruction. Their news report on an extraordinary Harvard story reads like an op-ed, and it has the almost incredible title: "Stem Cell Advance Muddles Debate: Work May Stall Efforts to Lift Research Limits."

This reads like a headline from The Onion. Scientists come up with a Nobel-level breakthrough allowing scientists to convert human skin cells into embryonic stem cells. They have the honesty to publish results that are politically inconvenient (because we can now say, "I told you so, ethical science works"). And the press frames their achievement as if it "muddles" the debate—because, of course, it makes it harder for those who want the federally funded destruction of embryos.

Never fear! The scientists themselves are already backtracking. Under intense pressure from the forces in the science establishment who are desperate to manufacture and harvest embryos, they themselves are playing down their results: "This technology is not ready for prime time," said lead author Kevin Eggan. "This is not a replacement for the techniques we already have." And the Post gives the last word to Jim Greenwood, former congressman who is now runs BIO, the trade group that is fixated with the need to clone embryos: "It would be a colossal mistake for any member of the United States Congress to pretend he or she knows enough about this process to foreclose any other process." In other words, forget the science along with ...

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Life Matters
Nigel M. de S. Cameron is now president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His "Life Matters" column, a commentary on bioethics issues, ran from 2005 to 2006.
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