Friday, March 20, 2009

Hanging Out With My Science Friends

Last night I hung out for a few hours with "my science friends."

At least that's how Claire jokingly referred to my invitation to a strategy meeting of the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research. The NCER is a critically important organization, devoted to exploring the best and most humane solutions to some of society's most pressing medical problems. And the people who are involved with them are top-notch scientific researchers, academicians and medical doctors.

So what was I doing there?

Sure, I'm on the NCER's Advisory Board and have been since the group was founded in 2001. But that just begs the question. Why does such a group find the need for an aging pro-life activist, a fellow whose areas of expertise (if such a term can be used) lie in Bible teaching, slices of American history and, I suppose, classic rock and roll?

Relevant to their invitation, I'm sure, was that I had for some time addressed pro-life "frontier issues" like embryonic stem cell experimentation, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering in articles, conferences and the "Vital Signs" radio program. That concern is still reflected in my public speaking and, of course, it has found its way into frequent posts on this blog.

Probably relevant also was the fact that I am an evangelical. And NCER, rightfully desiring to present itself as more broadly based than just a Catholic movement, was looking for people to represent that fact.

But I think the most important reason a few non-scientists were pulled in as part of the NCER team was that it will take all kinds of folks to counter the huge amount of misinformation, distortions and deliberate manipulations of the media that have so far ruled the day on the issue of stem cell research.

Yes, the intellectual credibility of NCER certainly depends on the expertise and experience of the pro-life scientists that they have assembled. And I can tell you that they are indeed an outstanding group: dedicated, courageous, extremely knowledgeable and highly principled. They're the ones fighting on the front lines which, in this case, means the laboratories, the university classrooms, and the behind-closed-door meetings of academics looking to raise funds.

But then to take these sometimes complex science issues and break them down into practical forms: political advocacy, letters to editors, high school classes, doctor's offices, donations to groups like NCER, public awareness, pulpit messages, prayer meetings, and so on -- Well, that takes additional team members, each with their own spheres of influence. That's where the family physician comes in...and the lawyer...and the political advocate...and the landscaper...and the housewife...and all the way down to cats like myself.

So I gladly serve in what small capacity I can with NCER as an advisor. But I know my primary tasks in the fight against the brutal (and counter-productive) immorality of embryonic stem cell experimentation will be performed right here on this blog and in my other duties as a pastor, a speaker, a financial supporter and a citizen advocate.

And it is in duties like those that NCER can use your help too. Pray for them. Try and give an occasional donation to help them with their increasing workload. Stay informed about the basic facts in the stem cell controversy. (If a liberal arts kind of guy like me can understand them, you can too.)

And then tell others. You can do this by encouraging them to bookmark the NCER website. You can forward Vital Signs blog posts that deal with stem cell issues to your e-mail lists. You can write letters to the editor, and your political representatives, and your local university regents. (More on that specific matter next week.)

Together, even laymen like you and I can make a difference by helping out the front line warriors do their thing. And I can tell you from how impressed and challenged every time I hang out with "my science friends," NCER is made up of just the kind of warriors we need.

Next week I'll describe a few of the things from last night's meeting as well as outline that very important writing project involving the NU Regents that I mentioned. Until then I suggest you take some time this weekend to look around the new NCER site AND to read this excellent Human Events article, "Wasting Tax Dollars on the Wrong Research." Written by David Prentice and Clarke Forsythe, this article is a great primer on the politics and the shamefully wasteful spending involved in embryonic stem cell research.