Sunday, July 30, 2006

Stem Cells - The Hope and the Hype

It's not often leaflets about scientific research make it into church porches in Ireland but that's exactly what happening in the case of stem cell research. This area is currently one of the most publicly debated aspects of science with plenty of confusion about what benefits it will bring and the ethical issues surrounding it.

Promoting rational and balanced debate about these issues is what good science communication should be doing - and TIME Magazine seems to be doing it with their recent cover story. Also, there's a good summary of their article on CNN's site. Here's an extract:

Stems-cell research has joined global warming and evolution science as fields in which the very facts are put to a vote, a public spectacle in which data wrestle dogma.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research -- starting with President Bush -- argue that you can't destroy life in order to save it; supporters argue that an eight-cell embryo doesn't count as a human life in the first place -- not when compared with the life it could help save.

Opponents say the promise of embryo research has been oversold; supporters retort that adult stem cells are still of limited use, and to fully realize their potential we would need to know more about how they operate -- which we can learn only from studying leftover fertility-clinic embryos that would otherwise be thrown away.

Back and forth it goes, the politics driving the science, the science pushing back.

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