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Dean Forgets His Religion

Dean Criticizes Bush On Stem-Cell Ban

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean criticized President Bush on Friday for restricting stem-cell research based on religious beliefs, even though he now says his own faith affected his decision to extend legal rights to gay couples.

The difference, Dean said, was that Bush's decision could deprive people of the ability to recover from serious illness, while his was an issue of morality or ethics.

... "I think we ought to make scientific decisions, not theological and theoretical decisions," Dean told voters at a town-hall meeting. "I think that what the president did on stem-cell research was based on his religious beliefs, and I think that is wrong."

I would say that to "deprive people of the ability to recover from serious illness" is manifestly a moral or ethical issue. I agree with Dean that Bush made the wrong call on stem cells, but I'm not happy with his technocratic rhetoric. Too often, politicians of both sides try to hide their moral choices behind the veneer of scientific objectivity. I'm starting to tune out any claims that we need to base policy on "sound science," because in the mouths of politicians it seems to mean so little. Yes, we need science to help us understand the consequences of our actions, and Bush did misunderstand, or misrepresent, the science of stem cell research in overestimating the number and utility of stem cell lines currently available. But in the end there's always a moral decision to be made. Politicians need to honestly take responsibility for their ethical vision, rather than dodging it with the claim that science will tell us what to do.


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