Politics Kills Science

Date: 05/28/2002

“Now pending before the Senate and up for a vote in the course of the next several weeks is a procedure called nuclear transplantation. It’s commonly referred to as therapeutic cloning, and that’s a misnomer. It isn’t cloning at all.” – Senator Specter at hearing on Parkinson’s disease held by the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education, May 22, 2002

“The method used to initiate the reproductive cloning procedure is called nuclear transplantation” – National Academy of Sciences, Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning (2002).

How to reconcile these two statements? The National Academy of Sciences says “nuclear transplantation” is the first and essential step in all human cloning, including “reproductive cloning.” Senator Specter says it isn’t cloning at all. How can the essential step in cloning not be cloning at all?

Answer: Apparently Senator Specter has read the opinion polls showing that most Americans oppose all human cloning. A Gallup poll in May 2002, for example, showed that 61% of Americans oppose ‘cloning of human embryos for use in medical research.” Yet Senator Specter’s bill would allow exactly this practice — so he and his allies want to forbid anyone to use the scientifically accurate term for what they are doing.

Good politics? Perhaps. But very bad science.