The religion of stem-cell research.

Science, technology, and life.
Aug. 10 2004 7:11 PM

Revelation of the Nerds

The religion of stem-cell research.

(Continued from Page 1)

Two days after Weiss' article appeared, Kerry used his radio address to peddle the Alzheimer's fairy tale. He spoke of "the limitless potential of our science" and of things unseen: "the cures that are there, if only [scientists] are allowed to look."

He emphasized the power of will, hope, and belief in the absence of evidence.

There is a moment after you get the call from a doctor that you or a loved one must face a disease like Alzheimer's where you decide that it can't mean the end—that you won't let it. So in our own way, we become researchers and scientists. We become advocates and friends, and we reach for a cure that cannot—that must not–be too far away. Some call this denial. But I'm sure that Nancy Reagan—the wife of an eternal optimist—calls it hope. … Millions share this hope, and it is because of their commitment that stem-cell research has brought us closer to finding ways to treat Alzheimer's and many other diseases.

Advertisement

A month later, on the eve of her convention, Pelosi called stem-cell therapy "the biblical power to cure." At the convention, Ron Reagan likened it to "magic." Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin trumpeted its "medical miracles." Rep. James Langevin of Rhode Island, a paraplegic, proclaimed his "strong faith that we will find a cure." "I believe one day I will walk again," said Langevin, adding, "Embryonic stem cell research offers new dreams to so many people." Democrats even engraved the myth in their platform: "Stem-cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses—from Alzheimer's to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson's."

In his radio address this weekend, Kerry blamed Bush's stem-cell restrictions for "shutting down some of the most promising work to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's." With the salesmanship of a faith healer, Kerry dangled promises no responsible scientist would countenance. "At this very moment, some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are right at our fingertips, but because of the stem-cell ban, they remain beyond our reach," said Kerry. "To those who pray each day for cures that are now beyond our reach—I want you to know that help is on the way. I want you to hold on, and keep faith, because come next January, when John Edwards and I are sworn into office … we're going to lift the ban on stem-cell research."

Kerry's appeals to faith and prayer don't end there. He asks voters to believe, on the same spiritual basis, that science will create ethical boundaries for itself. "We must look to the future not with fear but with the hope and the faith that advances in medicine will advance our best values," he pleaded in a recent speech promoting stem-cell research. "I have full faith that our scientists will go forward with a moral compass," he added. All we must do, he advised, is "pursue the limitless potential of science—and trust that we can use it wisely."

I want to have faith, John. I want to hope and dream. I want to believe in the magic and the miracles and the power of prayer. But if you want to preserve trust in science, stick to the evidence.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in The New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 7:13 PM Deadly Advice When it comes to Ebola, ignore American public opinion: It’s ignorant and misinformed about the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.