May 30, 2024


Two prominent supporters of embryonic stem research have hit upon the same argument for demolishing US President George Bush’s refusal to fund it. Writing on his website, evolution activist and Oxford don Richard Dawkins says that Mr Bush is illogical and hypocritical because he is willing to allow Iraqi and Lebanese civilians to die as collateral damage. “It is an inconsistency that you could find only in a mind massively infected with the disease of religion,” he asserts.

And Michael Kinsley, former editor of Slate and the New Republic, now a columnist, says that it is impossible “to reconcile Bush’s absolutism over allegedly human life when it is a clump of unknowing, unfeeling cells with his sophisticated, if not cavalier, attitude towards the loss of innocent human life when it is children and adults in Iraq”.

Of the two, Dawkins is more hostile to the notion of protecting embryos. It is a fundamentally un-evolutionary concept, he complains. “It is partly [due to] a mystical reverence for humanness, as though all cells of Homo sapiens are suffused with a divine essence, some sort of sacred juice called Homsap, which no other species possesses.” But Kinsley has a firmer grasp of the Bush psyche, which, he says, attempts to combine the high-mindedness of Gandhi’s respect for insect life with the utilitarian pragmatism of Harry Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima. At least Truman achieved democracy and peace, he says, while Bush’s strategy has disintegrated into a bloody civil war. “You can’t be Gandhi and Truman at the same time,” he concludes.