Cal Thomas

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist made some fundamental mistakes in announcing his support of federal funding for stem cell research.

One was rhetorical. In a July 29 Senate speech, Frist said, ''We should federally fund research only on embryonic stem cells derived from blastocysts leftover from fertility therapy, which will not be implanted or adopted but instead are otherwise destined by the parents with absolute certainty to be discarded and destroyed.'' (italics mine)

According to dictionary.com, a ''parent'' is ''One who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child; a father or mother.'' One cannot be a parent unless that thing a parent has begotten is a child to which the parent is a father or mother.

Another important factor concerning Sen. Frist's position is the company he is keeping. Following his speech, a number of senators praised him. The ones I saw on TV mostly favor abortion, at least in some circumstances, if not on demand. When you see praise from the likes of Sens. Arlen Specter, Pa.-R and Edward Kennedy, Mass.-D (and The New York Times, which editorially praised Frist, but said he didn't go far enough), you can properly conclude this is not just about stem cell research. It is about the value of human life, where it comes from and who gets to decide.

Many backing embryonic stem cell research argue that a fertilized egg cannot be considered even partially human until it is implanted in a woman's uterus. But these same people oppose any restrictions on partial birth abortion, so their argument is morally inconsistent. They would not protect the unborn at any stage of development.

The science on this is even less certain than global warming. Scientists are always eager for more research money and may have allowed their quest for dollars to obscure their better judgment.

As Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke told The Washington Post last year, ''People need a fairy tale. Maybe that's unfair, but they need a story line that's relatively simple to understand.''

McKay was explaining why scientists have allowed society to believe wrongly that stem cells are the magic bullet for curing all sorts of diseases, from Alzheimer's to Parkinson's. Are scientists willing to allow the public to believe a lie and to destroy what few remaining protections exist for human life?

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan praised Senator Frist for his new position, but stem cell research advocates ignore Michael Reagan's opposition, as well as that of his father, Ronald Reagan, who said in 1983, ''My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.''

Sen. Frist reiterated his ''comprehensive set of 10 principles'' that would include a ban on embryo creation for research and a ban on human cloning. But having abandoned the moral high ground in favor of allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Frist has no basis on which to invoke or impose his personal set of 10 principles. His principles are less compelling than, say, the Ten Commandments, which are regularly violated by us all.

If Congress passes a bill allowing federal funding for stem cell research and President Bush's threatened veto is overridden, the world envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his novel ''Brave New World'' will be ever closer.

Consider a portion of the plot summary (Sparknotes.com): ''The novel opens in the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre, where the Director of the Hatchery and one of his assistants ... are giving a tour to a group of boys. The boys learn about the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Processes that allow the Hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos.

''During the gestation period the embryos travel in bottles along a conveyor belt through a factorylike building, and are conditioned to belong to one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon.

The Alpha embryos are destined to become the leaders and thinkers of the World State. Each of the succeeding castes is conditioned to be slightly less physically and intellectually impressive.

The Epsilons, stunted and stupefied by oxygen deprivation and chemical treatments, are destined to perform menial labor.''

Coming soon.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and a host on Fox News Channel. Readers may leave e-mail at www.calthomas.com . His column appears on Tuesday and Thursday.