President Obama recently abolished restraints on stem-cell research, saying there has been “a false choice between sound science and moral values.”
Many Americans are hailing this as a victory for fairness and rationality that will bring about cures for horrible illnesses and the reduction of much unnecessary human suffering. Others are calling it a defeat for wisdom and morality, worried that it opens the door for scientists to pursue activities based exclusively on technological feasibility and profit potential, with no regard for any issues of right and wrong or good or bad.
I agree with Obama, if I understand him correctly, that there is no real “choice” between “sound science and moral values”. It’s not a choice because neither is sufficient without the other. Both are equally necessary. We can’t stop scientific research based on small-minded religious prejudice, and we can’t permit science to run amok with no accountability to wisdom, ethics, and human decency.
We have to find a balance here, as everywhere, between the freedom to act and the need for protection against dangerous actions.