Sunday, March 15, 2009


One of my favorite books is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and in this wonderful column from The Catholic Thing, his characteristic strategy is remembered through the actions of our new president.

An excerpt.

“In 1942, C. S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters, advice from a senior “tempter” to a novice about how to confuse us poor mortals, which may be summed up in a single sentence: “Your job is to fuddle them, not to encourage them to think.”

“In 1959, Screwtape appears again, in an essay titled, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in which the senior tempter reflects on the state of the world and on what can be done to make it even worse. Those who listened to President Obama’s Oval Office address on March 9 lifting President Bush’s restrictions on stem cell research may be pardoned for thinking the old tempter has returned.

“Under Bush, restrictions were placed on federal funding of research using stem cells derived from human embryos after August 10, 2001, the date on which he imposed the ban. But that was all – it was a ban on federal funding of research using those lines. It was not a ban on that research as such, which could still be conducted in any state (e.g., California) which did not ban it, and which could be conducted with state government or private funds. Nor was it a ban on research using pre-August 10 lines (though many of us felt it should have been), or on scientific research using other sources, such as adult stem cells, which pose no ethical concerns.

“Far from inhibiting research, as Obama suggested, these restrictions, in the judgment of many observers, spurred scientists to seek ethical alternatives, resulting, a year and a half ago, in spectacular success when different teams of researchers, working independently, found ways to re-engineer adult cells to the embryonic state (these are called “induced pluripotent stem cells”). In other words, scientists can get embryonic stem cells now without destroying embryos. Thus, you would think, there was no need, from any perspective, to force taxpayers to subsidize a practice many find morally repugnant.”