Even some of his medical colleagues questioned whether he might have gone too far. In retrospect, one can easily imagine Jenner's brilliant idea sinking under the combined weight of moral antipathy and scientific disdain.
Instead, the doctor persevered and triumphed. Not by hyping the potential of his ideas, as some stem cell supporters occasionally have done, but by doggedly gathering more evidence based on more inoculations. Fueled by his success, the practice spread, and smallpox rates plummeted. In time, the life-saving merits of inoculation eventually overwhelmed all doubt; the evidence, Jenner wrote, became 'too manifest to admit of controversy.'
I hope we're headed in a similarly pragmatic direction with regard to stem cell research. We still have not ventured much beyond the promising preliminaries; there is no multitude of saved lives to serve as a moral counterweight to the use of embryos, even unwanted ones. Link.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
In the news: A Pox on Stem Cell Research
Interesting take on embryonic stem cell research in the NYT. The author compares the present moral impasse on stem cell funding to the moral objections raised in response to Edward Jenner's R&D on a smallpox vaccine at the tail end of the 18th century. Snip: