In my former post, I liked to an article by Rob Stein of the Washington Post.  While the article was well-written, and very informative, I was troubled by one line in particular.  Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been a prominent feature in the stem cell debates.  He is critical of embryonic stem cell research, but supportive of adult stem cell research.  Here is how Stein prefaced Doerflinger’s response to the news of this breakthrough: “Even the harshest critics of embryonic stem cell research hailed the development as a major, welcome development.”  He then goes on to quote Doerflinger. 

It seems to me that Stein’s emphasis is entirely misplaced given the subject at hand.  Embryonic stem cell research was not the topic at hand, so why bring up Doerflinger’s position on that research?  How is it relevant?  

Furthermore, by prefacing Doerflinger’s quote by saying “even the harshest critics…”, it conveys the idea that Doerflinger would normally be opposed to something like this, but even he thinks it’s great.  The fact of the matter is that Doerflinger is a strong proponent of the very kind of research Stein was writing about.  A more proper and fitting preface would have been, “The strongest proponents of adult stem cell research could not have been more pleased with this breakthrough.  As Richard Doerflinger has said….”  

The fact that his comments were prefaced with a negative tone, related to a different topic, makes me think Stein might have a bias against those who oppose embryonic stem cell research–a bias so strong, that he cannot help but to express it, even in an article that celebrates the success of the very kind of research his ideological opponents have championed.  

Or maybe it was his way of trying to tie this breakthrough into the larger debate over embryonic vs. adult stem cells.  I don’t know, but either way, he seemed to poison the well before letting Doerflinger have his say, and it wasn’t fair.  After all, he never prefaced the comments of embryonic stem cell supporters with, “Even those most critical of the ultimate value of adult stem cell research hailed the breakthrough as a welcome development.”  What else are we to conclude? 

I emailed Mr. Stein these questions.  We’ll see if he responds.