Government funding of studies you don’t agree with

I’ve not commented on the whole stem cell controversy. Though I follow the literature (and the news), others are much better-versed in the science (and the politics) than I am, so I’ve left it to them to comment on both aspects of the unfolding story. However, I saw this comment over at Framing Science, and thought it was worthy of a post itself:

I’m one of the people who believes strongly in supporting science, ESCR [embryonic stem cell research] in particular, but is opposed to public funding for ESCR. Why? Because that’s what’s required to consistently hold to the traditional liberal principle of freedom of conscience. If we are really to respect the freedom of conscience of those with whom we disagree, we should not be trying to extract support from them in the form of tax revenues to finance research that they believe is immoral. Individual conscience can be trumped, of course, but only on a demonstration that this is necessary to maintain a well-ordered society. I’ll change my position and start to support public funding of ESCR when that demonstration is made. Until then, I’ll try to persuade anti-ESCR people that it is ethically sound science, and support private initiatives to develop the science.

Rick Santorum recently said something similar:

And, uh, because someone has to speak for the people of America who pay their taxes and don’t want to see those tax dollars used for morally objectionable things. And again, no one is stopping them from doing this type of activity. All we are suggesting is that those, like this woman here, should not be forced to pay for it through the federal dollar, with federal dollars.

Is this a valid objection? My thoughts after the jump…
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Emerging disease and zoonoses #20–subclinical infections with avian influenza

I’ve mentioned previously the potential role that mild or asymptomatic infections with influenza may play in transmission and evolution of the virus. Right now, most of our reports of H5N1 have been due to serious infections that caused a patient to seek medical care. These cases are the tip of the iceberg in a normal influenza outbreak, when most of us don’t have physician-diagnosed influenza. Instead, we recognize the signs and symptoms, and stay at home to ride it out. Is this happening in Indonesia, Thailand, and elsewhere? For every person who shows symptoms of H5N1 infection, are there 2 more that have been infected but remained well, or only suffered mild illness? We don’t know yet. However, a new study by some folks here at CEID suggests that even in the US, people in close contact with waterfowl can be infected with avian influenza viruses.
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In which I quit my job and rally against the germ theory of disease

Evolutionary biologists sometimes think we microbiology people have it easy. “No one doubts the germ theory!,” they claim.

Au contraire, mes amis:

Do some research Tara. Then you will be ready to start from scratch again, forget the germ theory nonsense and become a real scientist.

And I bet this insult will sound familiar to many used to dealing with the anti-science brigades:
Continue reading “In which I quit my job and rally against the germ theory of disease”

Programming note

Just a note, since yesterday’s post on Gallagher generated a lot of comments. I have a few posts on tap today (well, really tomorrow, as I’m writing this Thursday evening), but they’re all scheduled and I’m not near a computer (and won’t be until late this afternoon). So should there be some blow-up or comments stuck in the spam filter, my apologies, but I won’t be around to tend to them until the end of the day today.