President Obama today signed an Executive Order rescinding President Bush’s ban against federal funding for stem cell research. The scientific community, among others, was jubilant to have a president proclaim that religion and politics would no longer play a role in decisions regarding scientific research.
When this story was reported on PBS’s Evening News Hour with Jim Lehrer, two “experts” were brought on to discuss this issue. This is a usual PBS technique employed by the News Hour, and I often wonder why PBS feels there are always two sides to everything. For this particular story, the professor from the University of California who works in stem cell research obviously was quite capable of discussing this issue as one working in the field. But to present “the other side,” the program invited a gentleman by the name of Tony Perkins who is from the Family Research Council. This seemed a rather disingenuous move. He is obviously not from the scientific community. More to the point, from his floundering answers to questions, I would venture to say he has no scientific background at all.
The major point he had to make was that he objects to scientists deciding what is right and wrong in working with stem cells, but cannot tell us who should make these decisions. Except that it should be someone who is looking out for what is “right.”
I think it is patent nonsense to invite someone to discuss a subject on which he may have some strong opinions but is obviously totally ignorant. He was totally incapable of understanding the issue in all its ramifications, although he thought he was qualified, perhaps from his “moral” point of view. It reminds me of some of our Congressmen whose strong opinions do not stem from knowledgeable positions, but ideological bases.