An appeals court ruled yesterday to resume federal funding of embryonic stem cell research after U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary order barring the funding on Aug. 23. That’s the kind of skirmish skeptical scientists envisioned when President Obama appointed the evangelical Dr. Francis Collins head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), making him responsible for defending before Congress the funding of 20,000 scientists and 325,000 outside researchers. At issue were Dr. Collins’ Christian beliefs, which place him in a 7% minority of National Academy of Science members who believe in God, but as a former atheist and director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Collins is not one to be pigeon-holed. While he’s long opposed the creation of embryos for the purpose of research, he feels it morally wasteful not to take advantage of hundreds of thousands of embryos created for in vitro fertilization and ultimately disposed of anyway. Patt talks with the evangelical director about the current state of embryonic stem cell research and reconciling scientists with the religious right.
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