Monday, May 23, 2005

Science, So Called

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (King James Version)

20 “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
21Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.”

I read an op-ed piece by Michael Kinsley this morning that just made my blood boil. It started with this little piece of invective:

“Mr. Bush, don't I matter more than tiny clumps of cells?”

“Imagine what it's like to open the newspaper (as I did Friday morning) and read that scientists in South Korea have made a huge breakthrough toward curing a disease that is slowly wrecking your life. But your own government is trying to prevent that cure.”

Then, in a fury, he outlined three issues that the president, his ethicists, and the majority of Americans have with the work just completed in South Korea. With each issue he advocated a position in response that, if adopted, would be a “Katie open the door – real wide” approach to science and technology. I’ll cite the issues and Kinsley’s response in full so that you can get some grasp of what he’s objecting to and what he’s advocating.

In point one he argued against the viability of embryonic stem cells:

“There are three issues: First, do the embryos used for stem cell research and therapy have rights? They are clumps of a few dozen cells, biologically more primitive than a mosquito. They have no consciousness, are not aware that they exist, and never have been. Nature itself creates and destroys millions of these every year. No one objects. No one mourns. In most cases no one even knows. If my life is worth no more than the survival of one of these clumps, then it is terribly unfair that I can plead my case on the Op-Ed page and they can't. But I have no trouble feeling that the government should value my life more than the lives of these clumps. God may disagree. But the government reports to me and to other adult Americans, not to God.”

Next, he posited that any arguments against his recommended approach are shallow and meaningless because they are “abstract and poetic, concerned (only) with the nature of humanity and “stuff”:

“Second, is human cloning such a horrific concept that it crosses a line into the territory of Frankenstein and “Brave New World”? Well, they said the same thing 27 years ago about in vitro fertilization, and that is now uncontroversial. It has brought joy to millions. And it is politically unassailable, even though the in vitro process produces and destroys far more “surplus” embryos than will ever be needed for stem cell therapy. The arguments against therapeutic cloning (cloning for medical purposes) tend to be abstract and poetic, concerned with the nature of humanity and stuff. But on the subject of stem cells, I am not in the mood for poetry.”

Then, in grand fashion, he pleaded passionately that the arguments against human cloning on the basis of “the slippery slope” are driven by “professional ethicists” looking only for “problems,” not solutions:

“Third, there's the slippery slope. If we're willing to destroy microscopic embryos for their stem cells, why will we stop before harvesting body parts from advanced fetuses, or breeding babies for their organs? Once we allow human cloning for embryos, how can we be sure no one will bring a cloned embryo to term and produce an actual cloned human being?” ”The answer is that we can't. But slippery-slope arguments could have stopped every technological advance since the wheel. Scientists look for solutions. Although there are no guarantees, when you put more scientists onto a problem, you increase your chance of solving it. By contrast, professional ethicists tend to look for problems. When you put more ethicists onto a problem, you can end up with more problems. Cad that I am, for example, it never occurred to me to worry that cloning embryos for stem cells “exploits women as egg donors not for their benefit.”

This all came for me at a time when I was pondering what that scientist, whose name still escapes me, had to say on Friday about the American public’s opposition to what many in the science “industry” want to do. We’re just uninformed, she told NPR.

I don’t think the scientist I heard on NPR is atypical. Nor do I think that Michael Kinsley’s views are out of step with the elites in the media. The two groups, ideologically, were made for each other. There’s very little difference between them other than the rhetoric used to either persuade or dismiss anyone who objects to their expert opinions. That use of language does stand out, though. One group, typified by the scientists, drapes its views in polite, cold, scientific language. The other, typified by Kinsley, employs a full frontal linguistic assault on its dissenters. Hence, those who object, particularly those who object on religious or moral grounds, are told that what we’re dealing with is nothing more than “clumps” and that the grisly work needs to proceed because “the American government reports to me and other adult Americans, not to God” or that this is not a time to be ‘abstract and poetic.”

The only real difference I see is tactical. Philosophically, much of mainstream science and the media elite are in lockstep.

Now, who would deny some of the great benefits science has brought us? We’d be foolish do so. So, to that end, I’m really a great admirer of science. But, I have to be honest and say that while science doesn’t bother me, the arrogant attitude far too many in the scientific community holds does.

And, I hold pretty much the same view of journalism and the media.

I don’t feel that I can trust them. Why? I just don’t believe there’s much of a moral foundation to them. In short, their gods are their bellies and their insatiable appetites for investigation and power, particularly power.

Here in Kansas some have dissented, willing to challenge one of the great apostles of science, Charles Darwin. These dissenters are viewed by much of he scientific community and the media pretty much right in line with Kinsley and the view many scientists hold about cloning. They, like Darwin, want to remove the major impediment to their ability to drive us all full throttle into the abyss. They are driven as much by their need to destroy religion and morality as they are to peer into their microscopes. Darwin’s words themselves are instructive in this regard:

“The same high mental faculties which first led man to believe in unseen spiritual agencies, then in fetishism, polytheism, and ultimately in monotheism, would invariably lead him, as long as his reasoning powers remained poorly developed, to various strange superstitions and customs.”

It sure seems to me that what they’re wanting to create is a new religion, one with them enthroned, expecting the rest of us to stand in awe or to bow down and worship them at the altar of cold, rational thought.

Well, I won’t. My trust level isn’t really high with these guys. They rank right up there with drug dealers and crooked politicians as far as I’m concerned. Songwriter Bob Dylan put it all much better than I ever could:

“Don't wanna betray nobody, don't wanna be betrayed,Don't wanna play with nobody, don't wanna be waylaid.Don't wanna miss nobody, don't wanna be missed,Don't put my faith in nobody, not even a scientist.”

To that end I’ll continue to be misguided, placing my faith in the God of heaven and earth or Darwin's "unseen spiritual agencies" rather than those who profess themselves wise and show themselves to be fools.


Jim Baxter said...

It is interesting, and strongly verifying, that many of the problems in the humanistic community are the universal lack of criteria equipping them with the ability to anticipate consequences. Minus...

Anything is okay as long as it treats of immediacy. Never mind tomorrow. Today is all that matters.

That is an IQ Test that most 10- year-olds could pass. Not humanistic 'scientists.' You name it: they'll go for it. Pandora had a box...


Jeff said...

Ezekiel 25:17

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!

Allan said...

Phil! Phil! Phil! Have you not yet learned to never, never, never read Michael Kinsley before or after eating?

Fortunately, I cancelled my LATimes subscription before they made him editor of the editorial page. Phew! Dodged a bullet there.