Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Update on Nebraska

In my most recent blog I wrote about the possibility that the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska might vote in a policy that would place severe restrictions on the range of embryonic stem cell research that could be conducted within the university. According to a news item published on November 25 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the board did not have sufficient votes to carry the policy forward:

“University of Nebraska Votes Against Changing Policies on Stem Cell Research. The University of Nebraska's Board of Regents voted against changing its existing policy governing research on embryonic stem cells, a move that will allow the university to continue research on stem cell lines in accordance with the new NIH guidelines. A resolution was proposed that would have restricted the campus policy to allow only research on the cell lines that were approved under the 2001 policy issued by former President Bush. The eight-member Board voted 4-4, and since a majority of votes is required to pass a resolution, the proposed change was defeated. AAAS issued a letter to the University's President and Board of Regents emphasizing its support for human embryonic stem cell research conducted with appropriate ethical guidelines.”

The Board's decision is, I suppose, something of a victory, but the closeness of the vote demonstrates how divided the Board was on the matter. I think of it as more of a reprieve than a victory. Those who would like to force their constructions of what is right and wrong on the rest of us will not give up on their efforts, not in Nebraska or elsewhere. The only defense for those who value intellectual freedom, and an open, pluralistic society in which to practice it, is to keep working on communicating their core values as vigorously as possible. If we want free choice within reasonable societally accepted boundaries, there is no real alternative to pushing back against extremism while engaging with others who may have differing viewpoints but seek a satisfying framework for making social policy.

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