Suckers for Science in the Suburbs

There’s an article in the Weekly Standard asserting that Californians are Suckers for ‘Science’, spending a million zillion dollars on speculative stem cell research while spurning measures that would totally, definitely, for-real save lives:

THE PASSAGE OF PROPOSITION 71 in California (the Stem Cell Research and Cures Act) was an acute case of electoral folly. As Californians plunged headlong into a $6 billion quagmire of debt in a quixotic quest for “miracle cures” from human cloning and embryonic stem cells, they simultaneously rejected Prop. 67, an initiative that would have added a modest tax to phone bills to keep the state’s endangered emergency rooms and trauma centers from shutting down.
The bitter irony here is that while Californians refuse to fund treatment centers that could make the difference between people living and dying today, they are pursuing treatments and cures that, if they come at all, are likely a decade or more away. What could explain such folly? Blame the awesome power of big money, big celebrities, and big hype.

It goes on to detail how the promise of stem cell research has been hopelessly overhyped (it has) and imply that Prop 71 passed because Californians were hopelessly dazzled by the promise of a vat of spare organs in every closet.

Erm, sorry, what? Prop 71 was about saying “fuck you” to the Bush administration’s theocratic anti-science policies, and getting California a slice of that tasty biotech pie. It was about asserting our right to act alone as the world’s sixth-largest economy. Yeah, it was also about overhyped science, but to look at that hype in the dry context of political soundbiting and scientific illiteracy is to miss something very, very important.

Imagine you live in a nice suburb, and you drive a very large, very safe SUV. You own some power tools, and maybe a gun, but you’re always very careful with them. So what are you most afraid of? Massive hemorrhage, or Alzheimer’s?


  1. Harrison wrote:

    Amen to that “Fuck You.” Makes me glad to live in California, even if we do have to spend one day a week running away from a crazy man trying to “pump us up.”

  2. denisdekat wrote:

    I thought this would pass, as a protest to Bush and the neo-cons. Scary to think that maybe you can put up emotional issues in just the right election and get something passed. Oh well, at least it is not a tax break, it makes folks work
    BTW, check out if you want to laugh at Schwarzenazi, funny stuff in there…

  3. yami wrote:

    Californians will pass almost anything if you make it look like free ice cream.

  4. Kevin wrote:

    What flavor ice cream? Actually, I voted against it because there’s no need for the government to jump start an industry that is already attracting so much investment and research. I am happy that they voted against the anti-science position, though.
    Health food store owners and shoppers and a handful of organic farmers (they listed supporters) tried to ban all genetically engineered organisms in our county, not just ones for food. Fortunately, it didn’t pass.
    They’re going to have to get new stem cell lines to work on, since the approved ones are all contaminated with mouse cells.

  5. yami wrote:

    ZYGOTE-flavored ice cream! I mean chocolate.
    I voted against it too – I do think it’s good to spend government money on basic research like this, but the accountability and flexibility of prop 71 just weren’t up to snuff IMO. But I’m kinda happy it passed anyway. Meanwhile, we still can’t get genetically engineered glow in the dark fish as pets in California. Science that! Blah! Ptui!

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