Hermes is proving to be a fickle ally.
For a generation, American politics has largely been frozen in place when it comes to so-called "reproductive issues." Abortion has been the keystone holding up a number of related positions, from euthanasia to embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR), with self-described pro-lifers and pro-choicers locked in a permanent cold war.
But the light of science is melting the permafrost beneath them, making abortion seem like a 20th-century argument about feminism whereas the argument in the 21st century will be about humanity itself -- and whether science is the source of human values.
Tellingly, in the past, both sides in the abortion wars have claimed science as their ally in the fight over when life begins. Embryonic-stem-cell research, however, has changed the focus of that argument because, for reasons good and bad, ESCR advocates want to stop talking about those who are pro-life and start calling their opponents "anti-science," as if being anti-science -- whatever that means -- is an immoral stance.
Pro-embryonic-stem-cell-research activists have given science something of a messianic role in human affairs, casting it as a deliverer from our moral plight. For example, in a pique of asininity, Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), declared this month, "It is scandalous that eight years have passed since we have known about stem cell research and the potential to conquer all known maladies, and federal funds have not been available for the research."
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