I don't mean to be an alarmist, but I found our President's decision to fund and expand embryonic stem cell research using federal tax dollars truly frightening. First, he told us that in doing so, he was defending "science" based on "facts and not ideology." Those are strong words. He is in effect, demonizing the former administration and his present political opponents as anti-science and pro ideology (another word for lies and propaganda). One must be careful in how one defines the people on the other side of an argument. Can the people who have deep moral misgivings about destroying human embryos to produce stem cells be written off as ideologues? Does their opposition to this kind of research really make them anti-science? As a Christian, I found his dismissive attitude toward my concerns about the sanctity of human life profoundly disturbing. He claimed to be a uniter and the post-partisan candidate. On this issue, he has proven to be the great polarizer and as deeply partisan as any leader we have ever had.
In defending his action in this way, he is elevating science to an almost sacred status. Because his opponents are opposing science, they are opposing all that is good, true, and beneficial. Science becomes something that should never be questioned or opposed. To be fair, he did acknowledge that there were legitimate moral concerns behind these issues, but he assured us that the science would take place under the guidance of our "humanity and conscience." The problem is these assurances aren't very re-assuring. A great many terrible things have been done in the name of "science." The forced sterilizations that resulted from the "science" of eugenics is just one example. One must be careful about invoking science. Science has been a wonderful tool for the benefit of all mankind, but it has also produced weapons of mass destruction. We have used science both to cure and to kill. We must be careful in giving it free reign because it is morally neutral. It will kill or cure depending on those controlling it. So we must ask the question who controls science and to what standards will they and it be held accountable. It appears that President Obama is releasing it to the control of the scientists themselves, but this, it seems to me is a dangerous choice. Science, in the last 100 years at least, has been enlisted in the service of methodological naturalism and the implicit denial of any religious or spiritual reality. I know of no moral system that can be built upon naturalism except a rationalistic utilitarianism. Even with the addition of "humanity and conscience," utilitarianism gives us no protection from the unthinkable and the unspeakable.
Finally, we must think long and hard before allowing human beings to be defined as just biological organisms. At that point, we have given up our humanity and even our conscience, since these can easily be explained away in biological and naturalistic terms. If we are just organisms, even the constraints the President imposed are gone, and we are left at the mercy of pure utilitarianism. Already, we see the fruit of this view. We may want to write him off as an eccentric, but Dr. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, was a proponent of the "new eugenics." He openly endorsed human genetic engineering in 1998 and asked three telling questions that science can not answer, "Why shouldn't we do it? What's wrong with it" and "Who's telling us not to do it?" On a PBS special not long ago, he advocated for the mercy killing of the insane and the retarded. Dr. Watson was not crazy, read what he says, watch the videos in which he defends his policies. He is certainly rational in the sense that he is consistent with his naturalistic and atheistic worldview. The problem is that science as we define it in our culture today, has no answer for his three questions. And if we make the issue of Embryonic stem cells, which is really about how we define human life, merely a biological question, we have no answer for the three questions either.
Be very afraid.