Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an executive order that authorizes expanded federal funding for research using stem cells produced by destroying human embryos. The announcement was classic Obama: advancing radical policies while seeming calm and moderate, and preaching the gospel of civility while accusing those who disagree with the policies of being "divisive" and even "politicizing science."
Yuval Levin in the Washington Post - Science Over All:
The executive order Obama signed omits any mention of ethical debate. The entirety of the case it makes for itself is that "advances over the past decade in this promising scientific field have been encouraging, leading to broad agreement in the scientific community that the research should be supported by Federal funds." And while Obama promised that his policy would be bound by ethical guidelines, he left it to the scientists of the National Institutes of Health to define the rules. The issue, he suggested, is a matter of science, not politics.
But science policy is not just a matter of science. Like all policy, it calls for a balancing of priorities and concerns, and it requires a judgment of needs and values that in a democracy we trust to our elected officials. In science policy, science informs, but politics governs, and rightly so.
Jonah Goldberg in the Corner:
I think Saletan and Yuval don't go far enough, however, in expla(in)ing that Obama's "ideology-free" position on stem cells, is itself an ideological position. I'm no fan of the philosopher Carl Schmitt, but he was right that even the decision to decide what things are "immune" from politics is a political decision. If a right-wing president declared that he would give the military a completely free hand to set its own ethical and procedural constraints, most of us on the left and right would see that as a crazily "ideological" position....
Readers of my book (and the Corner) know that I think the cult of pragmatism is really a Trojan Horse for the preferred ideological positions of people who don't want to have ideological arguments. It often requires an undemocratic form of argumentation in which differing points of view are dismissed as illegitimate.