Praise for the forward march of science. Progressive and liberal leaders championing new scientific techniques that promise to cure disease, eradicate illness and suffering and advance the progress of the human race. Elite institutions of higher education embarking on their own initiatives, training students and supporting researchers in the new science. California's self-described progressive citizenry passing a law granting state funding and support to the cause, with other states preparing to follow suit. The intellectual elite of the country decrying the obstructionist, anti-modern views of the people who oppose or publicly challenge the underlying ethical rationale of the new science.
This might sound like our contemporary debate over embryonic stem cells, but it's actually an apt description of the eugenics movement in the United States in the early 20th century.
Like eugenics, promoters of embryonic stem-cell research talk of its endless promise, declaring it the scientific "path to the future," as two state senators from Massachusetts wrote in a recent opinion piece. Promoters claim that their science will lead to cures for a range of diseases and the alleviation of much human suffering. And they denounce those who question the ethics of their pursuit as backward or blindly religious.
But as we continue to debate the ethics of embryonic stem-cell research, it is worth recalling that movements waged in the name of scientific progress often leave a troubled legacy.