Fund the Future

California wants you to pay for stem cell research

(Page 2 of 2)

Norsigian dismisses the criminalization threat raised by Robert Klein. "Brownback is a nut, everybody knows that," she says. "His bill was never going to go anywhere." Although her arguments have some coherence from a leftish point of view, they invariably come back to opposition to embryonic stem cell research itself, and a slippery-slope argument about human reproductive cloning. "We have to worry about the crazies," she says. "There are people out there right now trying to do reproductive cloning."

This is what makes it hard even for a staunch opponent of public funding of research to get on the anti-71 bandwagon. In the actual tussle of voting and electoral politics, a defeat for Proposition 71 won't be interpreted as a principled stance against costly bond issues in a financially troubled state. It will be seen as a vote against embryonic stem cell research. (For what it's worth, the most recent poll figures indicate plurality support for the measure.) In a slightly better world, no such proposition would be on the ballot, and voters in Californian would not have to worry about such things. But then, in a better world, Superman would walk again.

This is the kind of topsy-turvy logic public health pieties have left us with. You can't discuss a matter of science in any terminology other than that of public policy and taxpayer money. The future may or may not hold medical breakthroughs due to stem cell research. But it definitely will hold more scientists getting public funds and then complaining about the politicization of science, more demagoguery featuring unborn babies and celebrity patients, and more situations in which even reasonably thrifty and cautious citizens will have to say, "Well, it's only three billion dollars."

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