You don't have to be anti-abortion to agree with the following statement: A human embryo has greater moral standing than a human skin cell. While I -- and many others -- would disagree with the notion that early embryos should enjoy all the same rights and protections as fully developed human beings, it's hard to argue that they should lack any protections at all. It follows that before research can be ethically conducted involving human embryos, certain conditions should be met. These would include donor consent, limits on how long a research embryo can be allowed to develop before stem cells are extracted from it, and so forth.
Recently, a federal judge in Utah came down with a disturbing ruling, essentially undercutting the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) February 2004 attempt, following the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, to ban herbal supplements containing ephedra, which is also known as ma huang and is used for weight loss. According to the FDA, the substance increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death. But under the peculiar and misguided law that the agency must follow in dealing with dietary supplements, such evidence may not suffice to justify regulatory action to protect the public.
First, suppose that a prominent U.S. senator had joined a lawsuit over a Clinton administration report on climate change, charging that the document was produced unlawfully and was scientifically flawed, and that its release must therefore be blocked. We're not talking about freely spoken criticism here, mind you. We're talking about going to court and asking that the powers of the state be brought to bear in ensuring that a government report be effectively squelched.
Last year, when a profound schism erupted between the American scientific community and the Bush administration, a key point of contention concerned the alteration of sexual health information on several government Web sites. A National Cancer Institute fact sheet temporarily suggested the possibility of a link between abortion and breast cancer (scientists say with near unanimity that there isn't one). A statement explaining why educating teens about how to use condoms does not increase sexual activity was deleted from a Centers for Disease Control fact sheet. And so forth.
Normally, when two of the president's key advisers publicly contradict each other -- see Colin Powell versus Donald Rumsfeld during George W. Bush's first term -- it's a big story. But when the issue is the literally world-altering problem of global climate change, apparently it's nothing more than occasion for a yawn from the news media.