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December 28, 2006

John Edwards on stem cells

Edwards This is a post about the John Edwards townhall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa which happened tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time  which I watched via a webcast from his website: www.JohnEdwards.com.

This I found out from Robert Scoble who is covering Edwards' announcement of his presidential bid. I was particularly interested in finding out what his views were on embryonic stem cell research.

Edwards responds to the question about the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research by saying (this is a pretty faithful transcription):

"I think it's critical. I think that the limitations that have been put on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research are driven by ideology and not by science and not taking the kind of steps that need to be taken to create at least the possibility of making real progress on the diseases that we can have a real impact things like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and spinal cord injury all of which scientists believe we have at least a great potential of doing good work. I think it's a mistake for America to place limitations on the research which can be done.

"None of us are for cloning, and none of us are for violation of ethical standards. But, those things can be complied with, and still do the research that needs to be done. And, if we don't do something about the circumstance we are in now, if you go to our research universities around the country, they will tell you that this work is going somewhere else. It's going to other countries... the circumstance were in today is for America to remain a powerful force, economically and technologically. We have got to be on the cutting edge of everything. It's what makes us strong. And that includes science and technology, and medical research. I mean these are the places where we've had relatively stagnant funding for the NIH, relatively stagnant or decreased funding for the medical research at our universities. That's a mistake. Because actually if we want to remain strong over the long term, we need to be increasing not decreasing funding in areas that make us the most creative and innovative country on the planet. Which we still are today, but if we want to stay there, but we are going to have to keep pushing the envelope, and then includes in this area."

I expected him to continue his pledge to support funding for this type of research. I wanted to see how well he could articulate his understanding of the subject. His faux pas from '04, when he said something to the effect that people like Christopher Reeve would be able to arise from their wheelchairs if the gov't had supported embryonic stem cell research. Bill Frist was quick to counter the scientific basis for this claim which cause false hope, calling the statement "crass" and "shameful."

Tonight I wanted to see if Edwards had a more nuanced view. He spoke very generally, but did not make any exuberant claims about the prospect of stem cells therapies. He did add that it was important for the gov't to support other medical research in the context of global competition.

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