(Washington, D.C., March 09, 2009) The American Humanist Association (AHA) today hailed President Obama’s reversal of a federal funding ban on embryonic stem cell research as a triumph of science over dogma.
“This is a victory for scientific integrity and rational public policy, two values threatened when government is unduly influenced by conservative religion,” said AHA President David Niose. “When our laws are shaped by scriptural interpretations and religious opinions that have no basis in science or fact, we all suffer.”
Pointing out that the ban was originally advocated and supported by the religious right, Niose added: “This issue is excellent evidence of why religion isn’t always a reliable source of morality. Embryonic stem cell research harms nobody and has the potential to lead to revolutionary scientific advances that will benefit all of humanity. What kind of morality would deny hope to millions of real people who are suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions?”
Obama’s policy shift will allow scientists to apply for government grants that would fund research with new stem cell lines as well as remove the burden of maintaining separate facilities and equipment for federally funded research and privately funded stem cell research.
The Appignani Bioethics Center, a policy think tank of the American Humanist Association that provides research and analysis of bioethical challenges facing the nation and the world, welcomed the change. “Religion trumped sound science policy for far too long under President Bush,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA. “As a result research suffered and thus America suffered. Many in the biomedical field are eager to see their work prosper with the return of respect for science in the White House.” Jonathan Moreno, who was a member of Obama’s transition team and now heads up the review of the President’s Council on Bioethics, is a longtime humanist who has been on the Appignani Bioethics Center’s advisory board since 2005.
Since its founding in 1941, the American Humanist Association has led opposition to the efforts of politically active religious conservatives to impose arbitrary religious standards on government policy. The issues have included reproductive rights, church-state separation, and the advancement of scientific research. Regarding embryonic stem cell research, the Association has been involved for many years, launching a number of efforts to keep the public informed and passing official resolutions in 2005 and 2008 critical of Bush administration policies. The American Humanist Association joins others in the scientific and secular communities in predicting that lifting the ban will significantly aid medical research that could one day lead to treatments or cures for ailments such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and diabetes.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.