WaPo Sees No Social Liberals: Obama Aims 'To Shield Science From Politics' on Embryo Killing

The Washington Post covered President Obama’s decision to allow federal subsidies for embryo-destroying stem cell research with the gloss of Science triumphing over politics. The headline on page A-2 was "Obama Aims to Shield Science From Politics: Memo to Accompany Stem Cell Action." Or does Obama aim to shield science from ethics, or shield science from debate? The Post certainly did, quoting no opponent of Obama's "science" agenda or embryo-destroying research. In paragraph eight, reporter Rob Stein made a quick reference to opposition:

But the research is highly controversial because the cells are obtained by destroying embryos, which some consider to be immoral. On Friday, officials confirmed that Obama would fulfill a longtime promise to lift those restrictions today, thrilling supporters but stirring intense criticism from opponents, who argue that there are alternative approaches free from ethical concerns.

The story carried two quotes from White House aide Melody Barnes and three from Harold Varmus, an Obama science advisor. Liberals five, conservatives zero. The official Obama view dominated, including the first paragraph:

When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research today, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said yesterday.

The idea that liberals aren’t ideological came across in this sentence: "The decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for stem cell research has been seen by critics as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions across an array of issues, including climate change and whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales."

Just isolate that sentence: how is it not a political or ideological conflict when liberals want to make an over-the-counter abortifacient drug easily available to teenagers trying to hide a new pregnancy from their parents? Science is only a part of our struggle over how sexuality is debated in our culture.

The bias in the Bush sentence should be obvious. It could read: "Bush’s policies were seen by liberal ideologues as a pattern of letting ideology to influence scientific decisions." The Post wants to assist the liberals in associating liberalism with Science and an utter lack of ideology. 

The Post shouldn’t be so attached to the liberal movement that it can’t consider the possibility that some liberal social and medical policies are driven by liberal ideology as well as scientific concerns. It ought to at least let conservatives make that case. What if embryo-killing research does not provide cures? Then won’t it look like the fervent hope for a cure was driven by ideologues who "knew" anything conservatives opposed must be a scientific breakthrough in the making?

Washington Post Rob Stein Melody Barnes Harold Varmus
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