PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
E-mail: press@centerforinquiry.net

Center for Inquiry Applauds Stem Cell Funding Reversal

March 09, 2009

CFI Lends Support To Memorandum Assuring Scientific Integrity

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a secularist think tank and leading advocate of embryonic stem cell research, applauds President Barack Obama’s executive order reversing the eight-year-old ban on federal research funding for stem cell lines created after August 2001.

“The federal government has been a critical source of funds for health care research in many areas, and it is unconscionable that progress in stem cell research has been adversely affected for eight years by objections that reflected little more than religious dogma,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, CFI president and CEO. “We are very pleased that President Obama has decided to support this research that is likely to provide substantial benefit to millions of individuals.”

Lindsay is the author of the 2006 CFI position paper, “Stem Cell Research: An Approach to Bioethics Based on Scientific Naturalism,” produced by the Center for Inquiry’s Washington D.C. Office of Public Policy to clarify the scientific standing on the ethics of stem cell research.

The reversed Bush Administration restriction previously forced scientists receiving federal monies to limit stem cell research to a pre-approved pool of less than two dozen viable lines of nearly decade-old cells. Hundreds of viable lines have been created since 2001, but research on them was sharply limited by reliance on private donations.

Paul Kurtz, CFI founder and chairman, stressed the significance of opening up access to fresh lines of stem cell for broad, federally funded research. “If we are going to make significant progress in developing cures and therapies, researchers have to be able to utilize all avenues of study—and funding for these studies must be available to the wider scientific community,” he said. “Our brightest minds should never have been limited in their access to breakthrough medical technologies, which essentially allowed the research of our global competitors to progress with an eight-year head start. Reversing the funding ban is a move that most in the scientific community welcome as long overdue.”  

Although critics point to advances in the research of “reprogrammed” human somatic cells, which offer hope as an alternative to embryonic stem cells, Lindsay notes that any research gains require study of different types of stem cells, as embryonic stem cells can have properties different than stem cells created from reprogrammed somatic cells. “There is promise in many alternative areas of research, but it’s imprudent to dismiss research on embryonic stem cells simply to appease opponents whose dogmatic insistence that an embryo is the moral equivalent of an adult human has no basis in science.”

The Center for Inquiry also supports wholeheartedly the president’s accompanying memorandum assuring the scientific community freedom from political ideology. In a statement to reporters, Obama science advisor and past National Institutes of Health director Dr. Harold Varmus said the president was acting on campaign promises to return the state of science research to its pre-Bush prominence. Echoing CFI’s 2006 Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism, Varmus said , “Public policy must be guided by sound scientific advice.”

Both Kurtz and Lindsay are available for comment or interview.

The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York, is also home to the Council for Secular Humanism, founded in 1980; the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP), founded in 1976; and the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health. The Center for Inquiry’s research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and medicine and health. The Center’s Web site is http://www.centerforinquiry.net/ .

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