Angry New Mexican back again with a follow-up on my last little rant about New Mexico and embryonic stem cells (ESC). This one’s on ESC researchers and how their intimate relationship with the media is more akin to K Street than the academy.

Let’s be honest about what these “scientists” and their media allies are doing and call it by name: lobbying. For all their talk about the curing 97-year-old grandmothers with terminal cancer that the evil ethicists are keeping from treatment with their hateful restrictions on ESC research, these scientists are acting like lobbyists. They’re doing their darndest to convince Uncle Sam, the voters and (more and more frequently) state governments to pony up the cash to fund their research labs. And to be honest, they’re doing a damn good job at it. Before I get accused of being some unwashed luddite who hates science and would rather live in the dark ages, let it be known that I am actually a scientist. Furthermore, the various professional societies in my field do indeed spend time and money trying to convince the pols in Washington to throw more cash in the direction of our work. And, to be honest, that’s a good thing. If there’s anything the recent stem cell kerfuffle has shown it’s that politicians are incredibly short-sighted when it comes to promoting the nation’s research in science and engineering. They’re more than willing to throw large sums of money at popular but stupid ideas (hint: the word for this is “pork”). A little bit of lobbying by scientists to remind the chair warmers in Washington about the value of their work every now and again is a necessary thing. But the embryonic stem cell lobbyist/scientists are in another class entirely. They’re organizing a vast media campaign, making their opponents out to be pure evil (we obviously hate people with incurable diseases). One wonders when they find any time at all to do actual science with the amount of time they spend doing lobbying! And should their grand “grassroots” (read: sponsored-in-part by the mainstream media) lobbying plan succeed, they’re set to get a ton of dosh for themselves, which leaves us with the problem: that money has to come from somewhere. Either (a) it’ll come from even more deficit spending or (b) it’ll be used as an excuse to curtail scientific funding in other fields.

But ESC research is total vaporware. It’s had practically no useful or even theoretically interesting results to date. In a sane world (ethical problems aside), it’d be the target of a few smallish single-investigator grants to see if the big idea had any merit whatsoever. Or perhaps we’d (to PETA’s dismay) insist on comprehensive animal testing, you know, like we do in reputable areas of science. But alas, in the world of science by public outcry, such sanity is outright impossible. And now we’re either going to make our children pay for it via deficit spending, or we’ll cut the funding for other (you know actually worthy) scientific pursuits.

The proponents of ESC research and their media allies claim their opponents are “politicizing science,” which is incredibly ironic, seeing that those very same “scientists” are the first ones to start the lobbying…

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