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In the annals of wrongheaded things done with the best intentions, the California stem cell program has always been in a category of its own.

The $6-billion program was enacted by voters in 2004 as Proposition 71 after a campaign of exceptional intellectual dishonesty, featuring vignettes of sufferers from diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other heartbreaking diseases for which it seemed to promise imminent cures through research into embryonic stem cells.

As conceived by a Northern California real estate man named Robert Klein, who remains the program's chairman and guiding spirit, the idea was that California would fill the vacuum created by the Bush administration's ideology-inspired ban on federal funding for much of this research. (President Obama rescinded the ban this month.) The state, according to the hype, would reap billions in profits from the therapies it funded.

No one would dispute that finding cures for Alzheimer's, cancer or diabetes is a worthy, even urgent, goal. To its credit, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has placed the state at the center of the world of embryonic stem cell research by...