Dr. Blackburn, a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, last made national news back in 2004 when she was ousted from former President George W. Bush’s advisory Council on Bioethics.
Some 170 researchers signed an open letter to the Republican president protesting that Dr. Blackburn’s dismissal was politically motivated; insisting that she was kicked to the curb because her views on embryonic stem cell research did not comport with those of the Bush administration.
But while advocates of embryonic stem cell research tried to adapt Dr. Blackburn as their scientific poster gal, she really didn’t share their blind faith that embryonic stem cells were going to cure practically every disease known to humanity – from AIDS to Zellweger syndrome.
“Scientists,” she remarked back in 2006, “need to be willing and available to inform public debate on stem cells. We need to ensure that accurate science is provided for the discussion. We mustn’t over-interpret what has been achieved to date. In truth, we don’t actually have enough information to choose a path forward.”
Unfortunately, advocates of embryonic stem cell research – which involve the usage and destruction of viable human embryos – play fast and loose with the science to advance their cause. They have routinely over-interpreted what embryonic stem cell research has achieved; they have overstated the efficacy of the morally-offensive research.
At the same time, the promise of adult stem cell research – which does not entail the destruction of human embryos – has been gross understated. Indeed, last time I checked, not one human patient has ever been cured of a disease by use of embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, adult stem cells have been used to successfully treat thousands of patients.
That the scientific community continues to promote embryonic stem cell research over adult stem cell research seems illogical. That is, until you take into account the political motivation of scientists whose advocacy of embryonic stem cell research has less to do with sound science than with contempt for those who support the right to life for embryos.