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Back when Steve Martin and Saturday Night Live were funnier, the ubiquitous comedian starred in a dark sketch in which he played "Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber." Theodoric attempts to heal using primitive techniques, usually involving bloodletting or leeches. Not surprisingly, most of the patients end up dead or deformed. Toward the end, Theodoric ponders the destructiveness of his "cures," musing, "Perhaps I've been wrong to blindly follow the medical traditions and superstitions of past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test these assumptions analytically, through experimentation and a 'scientific method.' … Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance!"

But Theodoric then delivers the devastating punch line: "Naaaaaahhh!"

Unfortunately, Christians who express moral qualms about embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, which currently requires the destruction of nascent human life, are being typecast as medieval barbers holding back a golden age of scientific discovery. "Medical progress has stirred religious and moral objections throughout history—objections that were overcome as the benefits of medical advances became overwhelmingly obvious," condescendingly writes Deborah Blum in The New York Times.

Such anti-science smears resurfaced after President Bush vetoed a bill last July allowing more federal funding for ESC research, presumably using the estimated 500,000 "extra" frozen embryos produced at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics nationwide. Usually safe Republican seats in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere appear vulnerable.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 68 percent of those surveyed favor more taxpayer money for ESC research, with just 27 percent opposed. ...

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Foolish Things
Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today and author of Missions in the Third Millennium and All That Jesus Asks. His column, "Foolish Things," ran from 2006 to 2007.
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November 2006

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