November 28, 2007

"Will the secular left soon attack the religious right for being pro-science?"

Joseph Bottum writes::
I have long suspected that science, in the context of the editorial page of the New York Times, was simply a stalking-horse for something else. In fact, for two something-elses: a chance to discredit America's religious believers, and an opportunity to put yet another hedge around the legalization of abortion. After all, if our very health depends on the death of embryos, and we live in a culture that routinely destroys early human life in the laboratory, no grounds could exist for objecting to abortion.

With these purposes now severed by the Japanese de-differentiation technique, which way will it break?

The answer is, quite possibly, toward a rejection of science by the mainstream press. Since the 1960s, abortion has skewed American politics in strange and unnatural ways, and the cloning debates are no exception....

[N]ow that abortion is out of the equation: much less hype about all the miracle cures that stem cells will bring us, more suspicion about the cancers and genetic pollution that may result, and just about the same amount of bashing of religious believers—this time for their ignorant support of science.

Much of the debate about stem cell research was really about abortion — on both sides. But I see no reason to think that the "secular left" will turn against science. For one thing, "hype about all the miracle cures" isn't scientific. "Suspicion about the cancers and genetic pollution" is phrased to sound unscientific — a lot of free-floating emotion and paranoia. But it is part of science to keep track of the ill effects of scientific advancements. It seems to me that both sides of the political debates support science up to the point where it offends their moral principles, and both sides imbue whatever they have to say about about science with the emotional fervor they have for their political causes. That's what we've been seeing all along, and I don't see that changing.

ADDED: I think the term "anti-science" most aptly refers to a rejection of science as the way of understanding the world. Various religionists, ideologues, and ignoramuses are anti-science in this sense. But nearly all of us have moral sensibilities that don't come from any scientific method and that we see as explaining the world in some ways that are superior to science and that we will use to limit science, for example, when we forbid experiments on human beings. But there is another use of the term "anti-science" that we are indulging in here that's quite different. It's a hatred of technological advances or a philosophical or religious preference for a simpler or more traditional way of life. We may fully believe that science is the way to understand things, but we've decided we don't want to know or we don't want the innovations that the knowledge would make possible. I think we all are rather selective about changes we like and don't like, so we're all somewhat "anti-science" in this sense.

132 comments:

JohnTaylor88 said...

Too bad there aren't partisans for scientific knowledge out there.

hdhouse said...

Next we will read the WSJ and find that it was Mr. Bush's foresight and logic at root here. He purposefully hindered stem cell research having looked into his crystal ball and therefore predicted that this alternative method would develop "with his hands off guidance".

SteveR said...

One thing is clear, a lack of scientific knowledge is one thing widely held on both sides.

No HDH, I don't think any reasonable person will give Bush credit for that kind of foresight but the recent developments were far from unpredictable.

Sloanasaurus said...

President Bush was right about opposing the destruction of embryos for stem cell research and instead pushing the science in a different direction. He has been vindicated. Maybe the leftist elite can now get their new livers without having to clone and destroy embryos harvested from poor women.

Daryl said...

Hdhouse: Bush took a "hands off" approach to this issue?

I doubt you would have said that a month ago, before there was a credible way to perform this research without destroying embryos.

Althouse: where would you stop science? If not at the point where it becomes unethical, where?

The constraint that we won't create human life in order to kill it in order to conduct scientific research is so simple and basic. And it's not even a hard and fast rule--you just don't get federal funding for it.

christopher said...

Sloanasaurus said...
President Bush...has been vindicated. Maybe the leftist elite can now get their new livers without having to clone and destroy embryos harvested from poor women.


Wow, that is some crazy shit. Jackbooted liberal biologists ripping embroyos from the wombs of helpless proles. Simply amazing.

Any Flat Earthers here, BTW?

christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

"[N]ow that abortion is out of the equation: much less hype about all the miracle cures that stem cells will bring us, more suspicion about the cancers and genetic pollution that may result, and just about the same amount of bashing of religious believers—this time for their ignorant support of science."

One of the ironies of the stem cell debate is the hypocrisy of Left regarding genetic manipulation - for agricultural crops, it's an utter horror, derisively referred to as Frankenfood; whereas for humans it is utterly necessary, with the ever-so-brilliant John Edwards promising that stem-cells would enable the Christopher Reeves of the world to walk again.

Tim said...

"Wow, that is some crazy shit. Jackbooted liberal biologists ripping embroyos (sic) from the wombs of helpless proles. Simply amazing."

Notwithstanding the troll's expected hyperbole, it's clear it doesn't understand the number of embryos necessary for research, let alone production.

Sloanasaurus said...

Wow, that is some crazy shit. Jackbooted liberal biologists ripping embroyos from the wombs of helpless proles.

True, at the right price you would be able to get enough women willing to undergoe a month of hormone injections, followed by surgery to extract the eggs, whereby the women's eggs would be fertilized into living offspring only to be subsequently cloned and destroyed. Maybe some of these women would even give their lives to medical science - expiring in the dusty O.R. of some strip-mall eggs-for-profit operation.

The Left always looks the other way at the realities of embryonic research - they only see the man in the white coat with a new liver rather than the path of tears followed to get there.

Embryonic research and cloning could become the slavery of our generation and the generations that follow. Thanks to people like President Bush, maybe it won't.

christopher said...

Sloanasaurus said...
Embryonic research and cloning could become the slavery of our generation and the generations that follow.
9:46 AM


I fear equally that genetically altered polar bears wearing black turtle neck sweaters will someday be conscripted to work as fry chefs at Hooters.

jimbino said...

It's interesting to read the opinion of a female lawyer on science.

Especially of a lawyer, since very few, including all the sitting Supremes and presidential candidates, have ever studied beyond baby physics.

Especially of a woman, since the only two female scientists in the country are busy narrating specials for Nova and the Discovery Channel.

Lawyers have a good concept of what it means to "think like a lawyer," and it takes three or more years of intense study to gain the skill.

Unfortunately, few have any concept of the preparation needed to be able to "think like a scientist," with the result that that they glibly support, "explaining the world in some ways that are superior to science."

Yes, if you are superstitious or religious or prefer living in fear,ignorance and false hope, science will ruin your day.

Science is not the scientific method or a collection of facts about the universe, any more than law is just the Black Letter Law.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, then, Jimbino, suppose you tell us how you think we arrive at the moral principles we use to limit science? I think we are doing something with our brains and our emotions that is not science. If you think we're doing science, explain exactly why you think that. You're abstracted superiority doesn't strike me as particularly scientific, so I challenge you.

robert_m_sykes said...

The Left is anti-science in at least one respect. It utterly repudiates Darwin's theory of natural selection, which is the foundation of modern biology. No Lefty, which means virtually every single humanities or social science faculty in the world (!) accepts natural selection of humans.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Especially of a woman, since the only two female scientists in the country are busy narrating specials for Nova and the Discovery Channel.

I'll have to tell my favorite physics professor that. She's never been on Nova or the Discovery Channel (that I'm aware of). She does general relativity. I was a physics major, and my understanding of what she does would leave room left over in a thimble.

JohnAnnArbor said...

It would be interesting to see how many of the pro-embryo-blending types also belong to PETA.

Henry said...

There's no real vindication of Bush here because Bush's decision was little more than theater.

What is the opposite of vindication? That word applies to Edwards and his ilk -- those that misrepresented a political decision as scientifically decisive. (That political decision being: What tiny fraction of the money supporting a narrow and highly experimental line of research, should come from the U.S. Government?)

Personally, I think Bush turned the ethical issue into mush (all or none were the correct answers) but I sincerely doubt anything would be different now no matter what Bush had decided.

The Japanese de-differentiation technique would have been pursued for scalability reasons.

Adult stem cell research would have been pursued because it was promising.

Embyonic stem cell research would have been pursued, as it has been, by any number of different actors.

As for Bottum, I think the first of his stalking horses is a winner, though the reasoning behind it has more foundation than he's willing to admit. The religious right is seen as anti-science for many reasons; Bush's stem cell research decision was representative -- and high profile.

Bottum is also right about the anti-scientific bias of the media -- but wrong on cause. The bias is driven, as most media-biases, by the need for conflict and pathos.

If (for example) electrical power fields can be claimed to cause cancer, it's news. If they don't, it isn't, and the million lines of print that supported such conjecture goes uncountered.

christopher said...

So -- everybody here cool with the fact that at least two serious Republican presidential candidates don't believe in evolution?

And are not ashamed to admit it?


BTW -- any Flat Earthers here?

Ann Althouse said...

I mean...

Your abstracted superiority doesn't strike me as particularly scientific, so I challenge you.

... addressed above to Jimbino....

who was displaying an awful lot of sexism... one wonders if he arrived at that scientifically.

John Kindley said...

Reason is reason and logic is logic. Just as you don't need to go through 3 years of law school in order to "think like a lawyer," you don't need a PhD in science to spot logical contradictions and weaknesses in "scientific" claims. For an example of good and bad legal and scientific reasoning by lawyers, scientists, and judges, all in one place, see the briefs and court opinion in Kjolsrud v. MKB Management dba Red River Women's Clinic, a false advertising case dealing with false claims by an abortion clinic re: the scientific evidence linking induced abortion with increased breast cancer risk, available at http://www.court.state.nd.us/court/calendar/20030023.htm

Your ordinary powers of reasoning should allow you to sort out which is which.

paul a'barge said...

JimBimbo:
Science is not the scientific method or a collection of facts about the universe
.

Would a PhD in Geophysics help here, JimBimbo?

In point of fact, the scientific method and collections of facts are pretty much what science is.

But if you're going to preface you argument with childish and elitist and sexist comments, you might want to just admit that you don't know what the f'* you're taking about in the first place.

JohnAnnArbor said...

The bias is driven, as most media-biases, by the need for conflict and pathos.

It is also driven by near-complete ignorance of science on the part of reporters, often even those assigned to science beats. I'm amazed how many errors I catch in articles about subjects I happen to know something about. When contacted, many reporters do the e-mail equivalent of rolling their eyes. No need to get it right when there are people out there to be panicked anew by the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide or other scary chemicals!

Original Mike said...

"It is also driven by near-complete ignorance of science on the part of reporters"

Amen.

John Kindley said...

Re: the URL I provided above to Kjolsrud v. MKB Management, you need ".htm" at the end.

Doyle said...

The WSJ/Opinion Journal is so hilariously bad that it makes people who take it seriously impossible to take seriously. Even if they're not already Ann Althouse.

SteveR said...

JohnAnnArbor: I'm much more afraid of hydrogen hydroxide, the idea of combining two very corrosive chemicals. Almost as bad as sodium and chlorine. Its added to food, so be sure to read the label.

John Kindley said...

Um, sorry about the redundant comment. The "htm" didn't show up in my post in the "staging area" for comments, but I see that it made it into the "official" published version.

christopher said...

So -- nobody here has a problem with the fact that two serious Republican presidential candidates don't believe in evolution?

Interesting....

Gedaliya said...

The WSJ/Opinion Journal is so hilariously bad that it makes people who take it seriously impossible to take seriously. Even if they're not already Ann Althouse

The WSJ editorial page is one of the gems of American journalism and perhaps the most intelligent, well-researched, and cogent voices of opinion in the history of the United States. Anyone who doesn't take it seriously is a either a fool or an ignoramus.

I think it is safe to say that nearly all policy makers and national legislators read the WSJ editorial page every day. Even its most bitter opponents take it seriously.

The fact that you call this colossus of opinion "hilariously bad" is, well, just plain dumb. It exposes you as someone with who is so out of touch with reality that it is amazing that anyone here pays even the slightest attention to what you say on any subject.

Lawgiver said...

BTW -- any Flat Earthers here?

Probably not, but many do believe man is solely responsible for global warming which is just as alarming.

And I have no problem with people who believe in evolution. It doesn't mean they do not believe in science. How many of our scientists do you thing are Christians or diests? That's not very scientific is it?

How do you feel about the possibility science may someday find a gay gene that could be deleted from an embryo? One day you may be able to choose the sex and sexual orientation of your child before it is born. How many parents do you think would choose a gay child? Would you be OK with that?

Paul Brinkley said...

No, christopher, we're just ignoring your attempt at distraction.

Original Mike said...

"...it is amazing that anyone here pays even the slightest attention to what you say on any subject."

Few do.

JSinger said...

It seems to me that both sides of the political debates support science up to the point where it offends their moral principles...

For the silent majority, that's true. For "activists", it seems more like they begin supporting science at the point where it offends their adversaries.

Gedaliya said...

Next we will read the WSJ and find that it was Mr. Bush's foresight and logic at root here.

It was. President Bush held the line on a issue that even liberals can agree has profound moral and ethical implications, and he did so despite being trashed and vilified by his political opponents. His veto of the bill to federally fund the destruction of human embryos for scientific research most assuredly cost him much political capital and support.

I predict that this president will be recognized even in his lifetime as one of the truly great presidents...a man who stood his ground on matters of the most significant historical importance, despite the fact that it cost him so much in popularity. We are seeing now that Bush was right to invade Iraq, and we have just found out that Bush was right to veto that stem-cell research bill. Because of these actions future generations will point to this great president as a man to both emulate and honor...a man of true principle and moral conviction.

JohnAnnArbor said...

For "activists", it seems more like they begin supporting science at the point where it offends their adversaries.

Good point. All the better to stir things up instead of solving problems. If we solved problems, there'd be nothing left to be an "activist" about!

Doyle said...

Because of these actions future generations will point to this great president as a man to both emulate and honor

BWHAHAHAHAHA!!

Adorable.

jimbino said...

Well Ann, my comment was not meant to be the last word on the topic of "What distinguishes Science and Why there is so little of it in the Media, in Schools, in the Law, in the Supreme Court, in our Congress, in our Presidents or Presidential Candidates, in the "liberated" Woman, in Blacks or Hispanics or in Religion."

I just would like to hear less speculation on that topic and more rational thinking. As a scientist, my posture is Skepticism and I realize that every answer leads to new questions.

There are a lot of questions that Superstitious and Religious America just can't deal with. Scientists I know and respect can deal with those questions, from Bertrand Russell to Steven Weinberg. Some important questions are:

Why are our leaders so non-scientific, religions and superstitious?

Why are Women so dismally under-represented in Science and why has none ever won the top prize in Economics?

Why are Amerikans so religious and superstitious, while some 95% of hard scientists, and especially Biologists, do not believe in a personal god or prayer?

Is it true that there are important differences among the races in intelligence and, in particular, aptitude?

Is it true that Women and Minorities just don't have the aptitude to do Science and Technology as well as White Men, as two of our leading scientists recently lost their jobs for hypothesizing?

There is a culture war going on here, with ignorance, religion, superstition, Muslims and lawyers on one side and science on the other. One of the few bright spots is Germany, where the leader is a Female Scientist. That could never happen here, for many reasons.

Attack me for being sexist and elitist. Big deal! Where Science leads I have to follow, just as did Newton and Darwin, Summers, Watson and Murray, Einstein, Feynman and Weinberg, and even Clarence Darrow.

christopher said...

Everything you need to know about the Bush administration and the religious right's position on science can be summed up in four words:

The Terry Schiavo fiasco.

You asshats were totally on the wrong side of everything -- history, decency, reason, honesty -- with that one, and nobody now trusts you in the slightest as a result.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of reactionary demagogues...

JohnAnnArbor said...

Why are Amerikans so religious

It's rare when a single letter is enough to let you know that you can ignore someone.

Original Mike said...

Jimbino thinks he's Einstein.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I'm guessing Einstein knew that America is spelled with a "c" in English.

MadisonMan said...

It alarms me to agree with Christopher, but Terry Schiavo does color my interpretation of one wing of the Republican Party. (That would be the all life is sacred -- unless it's a pregnant mother and then the State must control Wing).

Professor, your phrasing in the add-on: Various religionists, ideologues, and ignoramuses are anti-science cracks me up.

Paddy O. said...

Jimbino still thinks it's the early 20th century.

By the year 2000 religion will be outdated and Science will have solved all the worlds problems!

Now I'm off to make a smoothie in my atomic powered blender...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Scientists and the public have struggled with the ethics of scientific research and the application of new discoveries for thousands of years. Each person has their own ethical line in the sand that they won't cross and the same goes for scientists in their research. Some felt that this " Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" was ethical. Others in Hitler's SS medical corp, thought it ethical to infect prisoners with Malaria or immerse them in freezing water or sew people together to see what would happen. Other's ethical line in the sand is to prohibit any testing of products on animals.

Creating human life and destroying it is one of those lines that many feel is non-negotiable. Creating chimeras out of human and animal genes is another. Island of Dr. Moreau anyone?

When the funding of such scientific endeavors is obtained by public taxation, the people have a right to demand that the scientists not cross the line.

Bush didn't outlaw stem cell research or even outlaw embryonic stem cell research. That is just hyperbole and spin. He refused to fund such research with public money. The researchers were and are perfectly free to find funding or grants from other private and entrepreneurial sources. In fact, why should the Government fund private industry in the first place. If the researchers find a cure for cancer through publicy funded research does anyone seriously think that they will give the formula/procedure/patented drug away for free because it is funded by tax dollars? Of course not. Stem cell research is a profit driven endeavor.

I don't think that we can say that the so called "right" is anti-science. More likely they are sceptical about the ends justifying the means of the science and worry about the applications of some of these "brave new world" discoveries in the hands of people who obviously hold an entirely different set of ethics and moral values.

Sloanasaurus said...

Where Science leads I have to follow, just as did Newton and Darwin, Summers, Watson and Murray, Einstein, Feynman and Weinberg, and even Clarence Darrow.

The problem with this is that we live in a society of humans who are not guided by science. They are guided by greed, fear, love, hate, despair, etc... It's your folly to rely only on science and ignore these aspects, because they won't ignore you.

christopher said...


I don't think that we can say that the so called "right" is anti-science.


That's pretty hilarious when you consider that this administration installed non-scientists to censor real scientists at NASA on climate change.

Your tax dollars at work....

B said...

Gedaylia,

I'm with you on your comments above:

There is no serious person in America who disavows the quality of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, even when they vociferously disagree with it. All of it's vilification comes from a passionate set of partisan bloggers and commenters who have no true influence. Even The Nation and Kos have respect for the quality of the WSJ's opinion and it's thinkers, and they are almost always at odds with it's viewpoints.

2) I do believe that Bush will be looked upon far more highly as both time and the ultimate effects of many of his policies settle down the road. That certainly doesn't mean that I agree with everything he has done (in numerous areas, and surprisingly, I am considerably to the left of the President on several of those).

I can certainly see how someone would disagree with my assessment. But by now, I have lost patience with the partisans who have made up their minds that everything Bush does is wrong and/or is motivated by an evil mentality. It is no longer possible to have a constructive conversation with these people. I never ascribed evil motivations to Bill Clinton even though I didn't ever want him to be President.

At a dinner party three weeks ago arranged through a local University , I was seated next to an intelligent, highly honored Professor of Biology and his wife. When the hostess made a toast to our brave troops (2 of the guests had children serving in Iraq)the Professor leaned toward me and said "and damn their Commander-in Chief", I stared at him without taking a sip. He gave me a quizzical look, sort of like "aren't you in the group?". I told him I didn't share his view. He never turned toward me or spoke to me again, even when I directly tried to join him in conversation.

So, I sent an email to everyone in his department, including staff, as well as the University President and Chancellor, recounting my meeting with Professor Full of Himself, saying what a thoughtless bore he was. I received back 3 emails - from 2 associate Profs and 1 department staffer - all of which agreed with me.

It's the pathology of the hyper-partisan: they truly believe that what they think matters so much that their passionate expression ends up limiting their actual influence and persuasion.

B said...

sorry about the misspell
Gedaliya

Lawgiver said...

Jimbino said,

Why are Amerikans so religious and superstitious, while some 95% of hard scientists, and especially Biologists, do not believe in a personal god or prayer?

Really? 95%? As a good scientist you are probably quoting a study or a reputable poll. Could you link to it please or is that number just your opinion?

christopher said...

Even The Nation and Kos have respect for the quality of the WSJ's opinion and it's thinkers, and they are almost always at odds with it's viewpoints.

On the Bizarro World, perhaps.

Here in the real world, those folks consider the WSJ editorial page a stain on the integrity of an otherwise splendid newspaper -- a fetid sinkhole of lies, paranoia, and crackpottery.

The page's obsession with Vince Foster was just the tip of a delusional and dangerous iceberg and if you think the folks at The Nation have anything but contempt for it you're frankly bonkers.

christopher said...

BTW -- the fricking reporters at the WSJ find the editorial page embarassing.

Jeebus, what are you idiots smoking?

JohnAnnArbor said...

if you think the folks at The Nation have anything but contempt for it you're frankly bonkers.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion. That's part of being in America with a "c."

Palladian said...

"Science" is not an ideology. "Science" is not the flipside of "religion". I wish the ideologues on either side of political debates would get that into their thick heads.

jimbino said...

Lawgiver, check out:

Stephen J Gould

And that’s for non-believing scientists of some status in the USSA. In places like Estonia and Sweden, the general populace comes close to those figures for non-believers (probably not counting children, who are born non-believers and not brainwashed until sometime later).

Doyle said...

I wish the ideologues on either side of political debates would get that into their thick heads.

I wish you would stop pretending this is a bipartisan problem.

JohnAnnArbor said...

"Science" is not an ideology. "Science" is not the flipside of "religion". I wish the ideologues on either side of political debates would get that into their thick heads.

Good point. Science, ideally, speaks to what we can know about the natural world through observation and experiment. Religion is a way of seeing the world; some elements may be scientifically provable, some not, but it's not [science xor religion].

Pogo said...

the fricking reporters at the WSJ find the editorial page embarassing

That's rather unsurprising, given that the reporters (and their stories) even at the WSJ are largely of the left.

christopher said...


That's rather unsurprising, given that the reporters (and their stories) even at the WSJ are largely of the left.


No, it's unsurprising because the WSJ editorial page, when not absolutely making shit up, runs stuff that is flatly contradicted on the facts by the reporting in the paper.

The reporters, you see, are honest. The people at the editorial page make shit up and are serenely untroubled by facts.

Anybody who wasn't a ideologue and a fantasist would find that embarassing....

JohnAnnArbor said...

No, it's unsurprising because the WSJ editorial page, when not absolutely making shit up, runs stuff that is flatly contradicted on the facts by the reporting in the paper.

I'm guessing it would be too much to ask for references on that. Examples where the factual issue is clear, and not just a difference of opinion between you. Just because you perceive yourself as representing all that is good and holy and the WSJ editorial page as representing the black heart of evil isn't enough

Pogo said...

"The reporters, you see, are honest. The people at the editorial page make shit up"

1. Honesty would require their writings to reflect neither left nor right. But they lean left, not as left as the NYT to be sure, but left.

And therefore they cannot be termed "honest". But they are more honest than most.

2. I suppose you have robust evidence for shit being made up to share here?

3. Writing "Anybody who wasn't a ideologue and a fantasist" violates a few rules of logic, sufficient to be a fallacy all its own.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

while some 95% of hard scientists, and especially Biologists, do not believe in a personal god or prayer

So to prove your point you trot out an almost 10 year old survey of a chosen group of "greater" scientists. "Our method surely generated a more elite sample than Leuba's method, which (if the quoted comments by Leuba and Atkins are correct) may explain the extremely low level of belief among our respondents" . An extremely small and a pre-selected sample is not good representative group for establishing scientific research nor does it constitute proof of your allegations. Try again.

If I brought out 10 year old prospectuses and selectively gave you only the highest performance figures to entice you to invest in current markets, you would be able to take me to court for fraud.

christopher said...


2. I suppose you have robust evidence for shit being made up to share here?

Oh, I don't know -- let me think.

How about -- their entire cache of Whitewater stuff, which I believe is archived on the website. That's 100 percent fact free.

Or you could just start with their notorious "Who is Vince Foster?" series.

Let's see -- did they make shit up about Wen Ho Lee as well?

No, wait -- that was the supposedly liberal NY Times...

John Kindley said...

When One Hundred Authors Against Einstein, a collection of essays by 100 physicists attempting to discredit relativity theory, was published in 1930, Einstein reputedly responded to a reporter's query about the book with the remark: 'Were my theory wrong, it would have taken but one person to show it.'

This is why I'm not automatically convinced by claims that a purported "consensus" exists on some scientific question to accept that purported consensus. Some day I hope to have the opportunity to really dig into the debate between the Darwinists on one hand and the critics of evolution / the Intelligent Design movement on the other. But not yet having had that opportunity I reserve judgment. That doesn't seem to stop many liberal partisans (all of whom can't have truly engaged with the scientific debate), whose knee-jerk reaction to any critique or skepticism re: evolutionary theory is to accuse such skeptics of being fundamentalist neanderthals. (Notwithstanding the fact that natural intuition and common sense is arguably on the side of design rather than evolution, and that believing in evolution without actually engaging with the science is therefore itself a leap of faith, a blind trust in the "scientific community.")

On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to personally read and engage with the scientific literature on the link between induced abortion and increased breast cancer risk, and have had the dubious pleasure of personally cross-examining so-called scientific "experts" in this area on the stand and exposing their ignorance, contradictions, and deceptions. When I therefore read on the National Cancer Institute website that a "consensus" of scientists (who risk losing all that taxpayer money for their research if they don't toe the NCI party line) agree that there is no link between induced abortion and increased breast cancer risk (translation: "ladies, don't worry your pretty little heads about this, nothing to see here"), it carries zero weight with me. All it suggests is that if you have a few extra dollars lying around you're inclined to donate to philanthropic causes, you're better off directing it in some other direction than breast cancer research.

Doyle said...

John Kindley -

Is there a peer-reviewed scientific study that finds a link between abortion and breast cancer?

JohnAnnArbor said...

I should have guessed it was too much to ask.

christopher, you are one angry feller.

Pogo said...

Oh, I don't know -- let me think.

I wish you had waited, and thought before posting.
What exactly was "made up"? You are making the argument that the WSJ editorial page 'makes shit up'.

It is up to you to actually prove that assertion, not merely snark about it. Otherwise you are just 'making shit up', in your vernacular.

JohnAnnArbor said...

whose knee-jerk reaction to any critique or skepticism re: evolutionary theory is to accuse such skeptics of being fundamentalist neanderthals.

That's partly true. But let's be fair. Remember that Pennsylvania school district that briefly had intelligent design mentioned in the curriculum?

The ID pushers kept saying "evolution is just a theory, and ID is another one that should be considered scientifically." But when the school board was thrown out of office, the mask fell. At least one school board member railed about God being tossed out (don't have a link, going on memory).

So much for "just another theory..."

SGT Ted said...

I wish you would stop pretending this is a bipartisan problem.

AHAHAHA! I love the assertion of ideological purity here. Anthroprogenic Globaloney Warming is the easy answer to you lefties believing in things not supported by the science.

I won't even get into all the disproven economic garbage that was touted as "science" that the left still believes in, despite overwhelming empirical evidence of it's failure in practice.

SGT Ted said...

""Will the secular left soon attack the religious right for being pro-science?""

The secular left already does this in regards to Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Any scientific contradiction to their stated claims of manmade CO2 driven tempurature increases is met with screeching, howling and turd throwing, like comparing dissenters with Holocaust denial. Because it certainly isn't answered with actual scientific proof, as none exists showing what they assert.

They act like Islamists being told that Mohammed isn't the prophet; threats and bile all day long.

Simon said...

christopher said...
"Everything you need to know about the Bush administration and the religious right's position on science can be summed up in four words: The Terry Schiavo fiasco. ... [They were on] the wrong side of everything -- history, decency, reason, honesty -- with that one, and nobody now trusts [them] in the slightest as a result."

And at least arguably of federalism and (Constitutionally) limited government, too. On the wrong side of them, that is.

Lawgiver said...

Jimbino,

Thanks for the info. I thought the final paragraph was interesting:

As we compiled our findings, the NAS issued a booklet encouraging the teaching of evolution in public schools, an ongoing source of friction between the scientific community and some conservative Christians in the United States. The booklet assures readers, "Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral"[5]. NAS president Bruce Alberts said: "There are many very outstanding members of this academy who are very religious people, people who believe in evolution, many of them biologists." Our survey suggests otherwise.

The National Academy of Science promotes teaching evolution in the classroom. Who knew?

Palladian said...

The left has their "man-made climate change", the right has their "intelligent design".

Intelligent design "theory" is creationism in a cheap tuxedo; human-caused climate change "theory" is a hemp-clad superstitious puritan wrapped in a white lab coat.

As for "Intelligent Design", it is impossible to accept biology without accepting natural selection. If accepting reality presents you with a moral or religious dilemma, don't go into biology.

Simon said...

jimbino said...
"Lawgiver, check out: Stephen J Gould...."

That link is to data that is almost a decade old (published 1998). Try again.

Crimso said...

"Where Science leads I have to follow, just as did Newton and Darwin, Summers, Watson and Murray, Einstein, Feynman and Weinberg, and even Clarence Darrow."

How about JBS Haldane?

Crimso said...

"That's pretty hilarious when you consider that this administration installed non-scientists to censor real scientists at NASA on climate change."

Here's a real scientist who knows enough to know that the garbage being spewed about climate change is just that: garbage. The "real scientists" who want to have major policy decisions based upon untestable hypotheses might have good intentions, but you know where that often leads...

Original Mike said...

I wish you would stop pretending this is a bipartisan problem.

As was noted upthread, genetically engineered food is one topic on which the left chooses their ideology over the actual science. And don't even get me started on food irradiation.

hdhouse said...

Gedaliya said...
"The WSJ editorial page is one of the gems of American journalism and perhaps the most intelligent, well-researched, and cogent voices of opinion in the history of the United States. Anyone who doesn't take it seriously is a either a fool or an ignoramus. "


hohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahahahohohohohohahahahahohohohohohahahahahahahaha

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Well done hd;

Aiming to be the fool or the ignoramus?

Just curious.

Simon said...

Hey, welcome back hdhouse! :)

Bruce Hayden said...

It should have been obvious to us that the left, along with the right, was investing the ESC research with politics. Why the push for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in the first place? I think that by the time that the claim was being made that if we just had federal money going into this, Superman (aka Christopher Reeves) would walk again, that researchers were already seeing the downside to this type of stem cells. Nevertheless, it was still an article of faith that many were dying because President Bush was refusing federal money for more embryonic cell lines.

For a long time, I could understand the views of the pro-life crowd here - why should their tax money be used to fund what they consider to be murder? But why was the other side just as adamant? Esp. in view of the increasing evidence of serious problems with ESC for treatments?

And I think that the answer has to be the flip side of the pro-life opposition to federal funding for more lines of ESC research.

In the end, at least for now, the proponents of more federal funding for ESC research are the ones looking silly. ESC treatments turn out to have significant problems with both rejection and cancer, often not shared with other types of stem cell treatments.

A final note here - part of why this de-differentiation technique is likely to be a lot more useful than embryonic stem cell techniques, etc. is that de-differentiating someone's own cells nicely sidesteps the rejection problem that plagued ESC research, and is also unlikely to be worse from a cancer point of view.

Fen said...

Palldian: "Science" is not an ideology. "Science" is not the flipside of "religion". I wish the ideologues on either side of political debates would get that into their thick heads.

Agreed. I don't see why science and religion should be opposites. I beleive in both. Today's "magic" is tomorrow's Science.

Intelligent design "theory" is creationism in a cheap tuxedo; human-caused climate change "theory" is a hemp-clad superstitious puritan wrapped in a white lab coat.

At least the ID peeps admit its theory. The climate change crowd insist their computer models are a proof.

As for "Intelligent Design", it is impossible to accept biology without accepting natural selection. If accepting reality presents you with a moral or religious dilemma, don't go into biology.

I accept biology & natural selection, while keeping an open-mind re a higher being/force that set it up. No conflict here.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"As for "Intelligent Design", it is impossible to accept biology without accepting natural selection. If accepting reality presents you with a moral or religious dilemma, don't go into biology."

That is a blanket statement that I don't believe to be true... at least for me it isn't. I believe in evolution and the evidence of species change, however this doesn't preclude that their couldn't have been an original "designer" for the first model that established the rules of design for all future models.

If you believe that life can be created from whole cloth by man and that it isn't unique, I suggest that we give it a go. Reverse engineer and duplicate an earthworm. We have the design/blueprints. I'll make it even easier. Reverse engineer a bacterium.

Bruce Hayden said...

As for "Intelligent Design", it is impossible to accept biology without accepting natural selection. If accepting reality presents you with a moral or religious dilemma, don't go into biology.

Let me suggest that you may misunderstand the intelligent design argument.

A lot of evolution can be attributed to natural selection. Thus, for example, a single mutation occurs, and those with the mutation are more successful in leaving offspring, and thus the mutation thrives.

One example of this was how old world monkeys (including, coincidentally humans) gained three-color vision. It turns out that most other mammals have two color vision, and a corresponding two color vision genes. But one of them was accidentally duplicated. Initially, it was a neutral mutation, since it didn't hurt nor harm those having a duplicated gene. But over time, one or both of the duplicated genes was tuned to detect a different frequency of light through replacing base pairs, in a very similar way that underwater mammals have their color vision tuned.

But there are any number of major changes that can be seen as the result of an interaction of multiple mutations. Some of these require up to maybe a dozen mutations, and have been accomplished without leaving much in the way of evidence during that process.

With the three color vision mutation above, it is relatively easy to see both the mutation and the driving force behind its success (likely the ability to distinguish between common green leaves and more nutritious red leaves). But that was one major mutation and some minor tweaking of base pairs.

But what about situations where you have multiple interrelated mutations and little if any record of what happened in between? What drove those changes? It also has to be remembered that as the number of mutations increases, the likelihood for failure goes up exponentially (and that many more mutations are fatal than are beneficial).

I would suggest that this is really where "Intelligent Design" comes into play, as an alternative explanation for when there are big evolutionary jumps with little if any record to show why.

On a personal note, I do believe in evolution, at least in the case of small steps, as was the evolution of three color vision in old world monkeys. But I am keeping my options open when it comes to multiple interrelated changes that cannot yet be explained. I think it more likely that random chance is the driving force, but cannot yet discount an invisible hand pushing the odds in a particular direction.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I suppose we have all heard the old saw about the scientist and God?

The Scientist claims he can create life, and God challenges him to prove it.

The Scientist reaches down for a hand full of earth to start the process, and God says:

No, get your own dirt.

Revenant said...

A lot of evolution can be attributed to natural selection.

In the sense that "all" is "a lot", sure.

Revenant said...

Dust Bunny,

I believe in evolution and the evidence of species change, however this doesn't preclude that their couldn't have been an original "designer" for the first model that established the rules of design for all future models.

You're mistaken as to what, exactly, "Intelligent Design" claims.

Could life have been created by a god? It is possible. It is possible that life was created five minutes ago by aliens from Jupiter, who programmed us to remember a previous existence that never happened. That, too, is "possible". What Intelligent Design claims is not that life *could* have been intelligently designed, but that a "designer" is *required* to explain many details of life as it exists today. That belief is pure, unadulterated bullshit with no basis in science.

Which is why the founder of the "Intelligent Design" movement is a lawyer -- not a scientist. The whole thing was cooked up as an end-run around the court bands on teaching Creationism in science classes.

hdhouse said...

oh brother. i'm obviously back in the nick of time.

dear brethern. there is no science in intelligent design. there is no such thing. wishing it doesn't make it so. it is poppycock. folly. sloth. there is no basis for it except a wish list.

if the ID (a true non seq)booboos spent as much time learning science as they do defending the indefensible the country wouldn't be in the shape its in. what a waste of time.

i am just curious how an ID'er spouts that tripe and isn't humiliated by the laughter.

Palladian said...

"If you believe that life can be created from whole cloth by man and that it isn't unique, I suggest that we give it a go."

Um, I never suggested that life could be "created" from whole cloth. You can't even begin to understand biological evolution until you drop the "created" model. What I was arguing is that biology cannot be understood without accepting the idea of "evolution". But we're talking about biology, not metaphysics. Biology doesn't try to address questions of the spirit. There is no conflict between metaphysics and biological evolution. There may be, however, a conflict between Biblical literalism and the acceptance of biological evolution. But there's a hell of a lot that the Bible doesn't address and, with the exception of parts of the Old Testament, that the writers of the Bible didn't seem to care to address. And unless you care to live by the Bible, chapter and verse (ie Biblical literalism) which would be illegal anyway what with the killings and the polygamy and the cruelty to animals, there's not much of a difference between choosing to believe and follow one Old Testament story and choosing to disbelieve and disobey another. Why do people who play Old Testament literalists believe in the Flood or the Garden but not take their mildewed clothes to the priest or put to death people who gather sticks on the Sabbath?

Anyway, give it time. We'll create biological life from nothing one day.

---

There is no "intelligent design" theory, at least not a coherent one in a peer-reviewed scientific publication. Not that I believe that such publications are the ultimate source for scientific wisdom by any stretch, but if there was a "theory" of ID, you'd think they'd at least try to publish it. As it stands, "Intelligent Design Theory" is equivalent to Anthropogenic Climate Change Theory: a bunch of guesses, beliefs, selective citations of disparate data, emotionalism, and ignorance rolled up into one bleating, lumpy, gristly ball and then tarted up, scientific theory in fancy dress.

Metaphysics is metaphysics, science is science.

Paddy O. said...

Revenant, I first encountered Intelligent design by reading Michael Behe, who is a scientist. Lots of folks disagree with him, but that happens in a lot of science.

The movement came about from a variety of directions, sort of coalescing together after some conversations. Philip Johnson popularized and politicized it, I think, but he's not really the founder any more than Gore founded the Global Warming movement.

The wikipedia article is surprisingly pretty good on this topic. By that I mean it seems to tell the history and the continued development fairly.

JohnAnnArbor said...

The problem with ID is that most people pushing it started from the conclusion (God created it) and work backwards, rather than looking at the evidence and seeing where it leads.

Pogo said...

I never understood the venom directed towards the scientists that believe God may have had a hand in creating the universe.

Not the "it's not science" part, nor the ones who want to stamp out traditional creationsim.

What is disturbing is the part that Hitchens and the rest exhibit, a mean-spirited, angry, and destructive sentiment that burns with evangelical intensity, as if they are the Spanish Inquisition about to dispatch with heretics.

It seems quite irrational to me, when most scientists propose a pretty bland blend of "evolution by design and I know I cannot prove it" which is really rather harmless, but apparently seen as entirely evil by the Right Thinking Atheists.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I agree, Pogo. The "working biologist" can easily think just like you say--that evolution explains most stuff (science part) and that God set it in motion or even tweaks it sometimes (non-science part)--and be perfectly capable of being a rational scientist. They're NOT fire-breathing fundamentalists at all. Yet even they are attacked by the Dawkins-style athiest fundamentalists!

Eli Blake said...

The problem is the accumulation of a lot of areas in which we've put science on the back burner.

By the end of the Cold War (during which time we invested heavily in basic research, science and technology) that we were so far ahead of the world that practically nothing was invented or discovered which either was not invented or discovered by an American, or a foreigner who was trained in an American university or was building upon American knowledge.

But between the accumulation of cutting funds for basic research, debating creationism in the classroom (a debate which was put to rest in the rest of the industrialized and even in most of the developing world more than 50 years ago) and de-emphasizing math and science in the high school curriculum in favor of a mixture of 'feel good' junk and social skills, we are now living on borrowed time, in which other nations have taken the lead in everything from big successes (i.e. the Human Genome Project-- mainly pushed to success by the British government) to small ones (like the French face transplant procedure). More new drugs are now developed outside the US than in it.

Even in space, where the U.S. was once the unquestioned leader, we've done pretty much nothing new in a generation and it is the Chinese who are now starting planning to develop a permanent base on the moon, not the Americans.

Foreign countries are spending a lot of money to build new and better educational institutions at home so their best and brightest no longer have to come here for an education (for example, China opens a new university about the size of ASU-- fifty thousand students-- about every three weeks on average, while we quibble over how to split hairs over who gets into overcrowded American universities and how to balance academic achievement vs. ability to pay in admissions, when the underlying problem is a lack of seats.)

Like we squander so much, we've squandered our lead in science. The only question is how, and how soon, we will pay for it.

hdhouse said...

whatever. the FACT remains that there is no fact in intelligent design. none. zero. nada.

it is foolishness and you should all go home rather than think about it.

Pogo said...

whatever. the FACT remains that there is no fact in intelligent design. none. zero. nada.

Well, it is certainly lacking in your argumnent and sentence structure.

I was hoping for more than merely pointing out how very flawed we humans are, but I guess that's an insuperable obstacle and hence prima facie evidence for the lack of an intelligent creator.

AllenS said...

I have a question. Why did evolution stop? In other words, why aren't some chimps or apes about ready for preschool? They seem to be stuck, and have been for some time, in the same place evolutionarywise.

Original Mike said...

AllenS: I doubt the chimps would agree with you that they're stuck. And I mean that sincerely. They are well adapted to their niche. Becoming "human" would not be an improvement for them nor is it a goal of evolution.

Fen said...

If you believe in evolution, does that not also mean you believe that races within the species have evolved differently?

Revenant said...

Revenant, I first encountered Intelligent design by reading Michael Behe, who is a scientist.

The founder and leader of the Intelligent Design movement is Phillip Johnson, a lawyer. He explicitly started the movement as a way to introduce theism, which is inherently unscientific as it is not subject to proof or disproof, into science.

You're right that Michael Behe was trained as a scientist. But there is nothing of science in "Darwin's Black Box". It is just a repackaging of the God of the Gaps fallacy.

Lots of folks disagree with him, but that happens in a lot of science.

In the sense that "lots" of scientists "disagree" with claims that the Earth is flat. It would be silly to imply that Behe's position has any credibility. Why would it? It explains nothing and has no supporting evidence.

Revenant said...

It seems quite irrational to me, when most scientists propose a pretty bland blend of "evolution by design and I know I cannot prove it"

"Most scientists" believe in evolution by design? Do you have a citation for that claim?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"You're mistaken as to what, exactly, "Intelligent Design" claims"

I was stating what I believe in response to another poster who claimed basically that it was a conflict or moral dilemma between believing in a creator/creation and biology. I don't think it is a conflict. Frankly, I haven't looked into "Intelligent Design Theory" because I don't expect it to change my life, my feelings or anything else.

It's pretty much a non issue with the exception that I contend you can believe both things at the same time. Evolution from single cell/amino acids to the diversity of life on earth today.

Mathematics is the best argument for an intelligent design or a set of rules by which all life is guided. Do I think some old white guy in a robe with a long beard waved his hands and tah dah.... life? No.

Who knows maybe the entire universe and us included are just a passing moment on a microscopic ball of snot sneezed out by a allergic cosmos. (Can you tell I read too much sci fi?) It seems that there is too much regularity for it all to be a random event.

Do I care if you don't believe. Heck no. Why should anyone else care what I believe.

Revenant said...

Allens,

I have a question. Why did evolution stop? In other words, why aren't some chimps or apes about ready for preschool? They seem to be stuck, and have been for some time, in the same place evolutionarywise.

There was a Christian concept known as the Great Chain of Being, where men are advanced over animals, which are advanced over plants, and so on. That was the Western understanding of biology until the theory of evolution came along. Unsurprisingly, the popular understanding of evolution got confused with the previous understanding of reality. This is why many people still think of humans as being "more advanced" than apes, which are "more advanced" than dogs, which are "more advanced" than mice, and so on.

That isn't how it works. Evolution is about adaptation, not direction. There's no end goal. Apes aren't evolving "towards" humans; they're just evolving. We aren't "more advanced" than a chimpanzee -- we're just *smarter* than a chimpanzee. You might as well say that they're "more advanced" because they're stronger than we are, or that a tortoise is "more advanced" because it lives longer.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

'If you believe in evolution, does that not also mean you believe that races within the species have evolved differently?'

As a former Anthropology/Paleontolgy student in college I would say, how could you NOT believe that the races have evolved differently. They have evolved over millions of years to adapt to climate and terrain. We are still adapting and evolving.

Allens thinks that evolution has stopped. It hasn't. Our time frame for observation is too short to notice the changes. Come back in another million years and see how different the world is and if we are still here as humanity, how different we are too. This is also the main reason that I think the Global Warming hysteria is a crock of shit. The world evolves and changes. If it didn't, the place I live in now would be under an ocean instead of on top of a mountain.

Original Mike said...

...the races have evolved differently. They have evolved over millions of years to adapt to climate and terrain.

Actually, it's been a few tens of thousands of years.

Revenant said...

If you believe in evolution, does that not also mean you believe that races within the species have evolved differently?

Er, there's no need for "belief" there, Fen. Congolese and Swedes have noticeable, inheritable physical differences, despite the fact that they share a common ancestor. So obviously they've evolved to be different, whether you believe God did it or natural selection did it.

If you mean "evolved to be mentally different", I would say that the evidence we have suggests that they did, but that it is by no means a requirement of evolutionary theory that they MUST have. We don't know enough about the genetic underpinnings of intelligence to be able to say how likely divergence of mental abilities would be.

Revenant said...

Actually, it's been a few tens of thousands of years.

To the best of our current knowledge, the last common female ancestor lived around 140,000 years ago; the last common male ancestor, 60,000. So yeah, not "millions", but still more than "a few tens of thousands".

In any case, thousands of generations is plenty of time for distinct differences to evolve between subspecies.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

...the races have evolved differently. They have evolved over millions of years to adapt to climate and terrain.

Actually, it's been a few tens of thousands of years.

Actually, I have a longer term view of humanity than you do. From Australopithecus, (3.9m years ago) to Homo Habilis (1.9 m) to Neanderthals (350K yrs) ago to Cro Magnon. We are just the passing phase of the latest incarnation of the genus Homo.

Take the long view. It is more comforting and makes much more sense. This too shall pass..... all of us will fade away gradually giving way to the next species to be the dominant lifeform. Just as the dinosaurs ruled the world for 160 million of years. We are just a spit in the timeline of the world. Really, we do need to get over ourselves.

Original Mike said...

Rev, not to be too picky, but 60,000 counts as a few tens of thousands where I come from. ;-)

This isn't my field, but the point is homo sapien hasn't been around all that long.

Original Mike said...

Dust Bunny, I thought the original question was re: the present day races of man.

Revenant said...

Rev, not to be too picky, but 60,000 counts as a few tens of thousands where I come from. ;-)

But 140,000 doesn't. :)

Fen said...

Er, there's no need for "belief" there, Fen

Yah, I'm just curious why Leftists who believe in evolution get their panties in a wad whenever someone hints that some races are better/worse/different at certain ways. How do they reconcile that?

Fen said...

/edit

that some races are better/worse/different in certain ways

Original Mike said...

But 140,000 doesn't. :)

Sure it does. It's quite a few.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Dust Bunny, I thought the original question was re: the present day races of man

Original Mike: where do you think the original races of "man" came from? Did they spring full formed like Adam and Eve? That WOULD be creationism. A species with no connection to any that came previously. Just because homo became the dominant species and others went extinct, doesn't mean we came into being with no ancestors.

Man...as we know it today, evolved for millions of years from the previous incarnations of humanoids and homo species. Race is merely a subset of the homo species.

We stand on the shoulders of all those that came before us, including the single celled organisms that floated in the primeaveal seas. This still doesn't preclude a master design or set of rules which life on earth follows. Who knows... maybe there is another set of rules in a different galaxy where the norm is a tripodal (three legs) and one eye instead of two.

Revenant said...

Original Mike: where do you think the original races of "man" came from?

DBQ,

You said this:

how could you NOT believe that the races have evolved differently. They have evolved over millions of years to adapt to climate and terrain. We are still adapting and evolving.

"The races" have not evolved over millions of years. They have evolved over 140,000 years. Yes, it took millions of years to evolve to the point where that common ancestor was born -- but at the point where she WAS born, there was ONE race of humans, not multiple ones. "The races", as they exist today, didn't begin evolving until our ancestors migrated out of Africa and dispersed across the globe. Prior to that there was no reason for differentiation, because our ancestors lived in the same environment. As a *species* they changed -- but they didn't differentiate into different sub-species, so far as we know.

Gedaliya said...

"Race" is a social, not a biological construct. In a few hundred years the entire concept of race will disappear from human conciousness.

Revenant said...

"Race" is a social, not a biological construct.

It is a social construct for describing biological differences.

Cedarford said...

Sloanasaurus - The Left always looks the other way at the realities of embryonic research - they only see the man in the white coat with a new liver rather than the path of tears followed to get there.

Unfortunately, there is little reasoning with someone that believed a fertilized egg is a full human in context of what laws should be and in the eyes of Jesus or Allah - but I'll try.

On ultilitarian grounds. That hold that zygotes are less precious than a born baby because up to 60% of fertilized human eggs are discarded naturally before end-stage pregancy is reached. MAny just fail to implant by the luck of the draw on the uterus, others are naturally detected then miscarried as genetically unfit by the mother. If the "Blessed ensouled bastocyst" was so precious in the eyes of Jesus or Allah, one would expect them not to be so sloppy with them. And historically, the most devout societies did not mourn clumps of bloody miscarriages or infant deaths - only sentient humans were mourned and given names and buried with ceremony. They had a utilitarian view.
The second utilitarian argument is that we have determined that parents having difficulty conceiving should have the right to in vitro fertilization, even though that process creates lots of unwanted embryos (even by Right to Life nuts who use in vitro themselves and never adopt more than a dozen or so of the 240,000 "frozen babies" they say should be adopted )
Currently those unwanted zygotes are thrown in the trash. Better that we see if they can be used to save lives. And it could be one day - ALL of the hundreds of thousands of diabetics and Parkinsons patients that die of the disease every year.

The third argument is that it is quite ethical to deliberately create "diseased" embryos then destroy them to make tissue lines that contain the clues of fatal genetic diseases like cancer, cystic fibrosis if the potential for life-saving sentient human beings on a vast scale. The promise of research is to work on eliminating wholely, or parts, of those diseases by using genetic lines that kill millions needlessly.

On utilitarian grounds, a net benefit of saving lives, it is worth it. And do not delude yourself that society does not make a cost benefit analysis in human lives every day in where resources are allocated and where we accept the loss of some human life (building a bridge, mining coal, defeating an enemy, developing a new line of cancer drugs) in order to get something big and important done.

*********************
Iron Mike is right about liberals being as bad as Right to Lifer fanatics in rejecting productive science that conflicts with their ideology:
GM foods.
Irradiation that could wipe out E. Coli and samonella deaths.
CO2-free nuclear power.
Space exploration vs. feeding and clothing the abandoned children of black thugs better.
Missile defense.
Etc, etc.

We have decided that

SGT Ted said...

It is a social construct for describing biological differences.

Indeed. When one can tell whether a skeleton is Caucasian, American Indian, African, this supports separate evolutional paths. The intelligence thing was tested back in the 19th century. They did IQ and other intelligence tests on immigrants, mainly Slovak and Polish Jews, and they trended lower on the intelligence scales. It was posited that this was due to them being of different stock from eastern Europe.

When they tested their offspring who had been raised in America, they tested much higher, leading them to conclude that it was environment rather than race that was the main factor in the difference in intelligence.

Gedaliya said...

It is a social construct for describing biological differences.

It is a social construct for describing how people appear to one another. There are no significant biological differences between "races."

John Kindley said...

"Space exploration vs. feeding and clothing the abandoned children of black thugs better."

Dude, where's your moral compass? Especially to the extent we're talking about money forcefully taken out of our pockets for the above projects, I'd take the latter over the former any day. You're free to donate money in furtherance of your space fantasies all you want.

Cedarford said...

Gedaliya said...
"Race" is a social, not a biological construct. In a few hundred years the entire concept of race will disappear from human conciousness.


Bullcrap.
We know where the races evolved, and when, what residual aboriginal prot-race populations that predate the mongoloid and caucasion races creation still exist. We know by DNA where admixtures have occured.

We now know medical coditions unique to race, special genetic edges to physiology with pockets in a race, and what racial physiology is so different that it requires different medicines.

An anatomist trained in it can identify the skulls of black, whites, and Asian contemporary humans with 100% accuracy. pelvises with 95% +/- 3% accuracy.

Liberals engaged in a desperate struggle to deny race, especially Jewish liberals, after WWII. The "race is an artificial construct school" held that all people are equal in a range of talents and abilities, and dissimilar accomplishments were all the fault of poverty, racism, bigotry, discrimination - that only a massive government and activist lawyers suing like crazy could ever end by intervening enough to get back to the natural condition of "equality" between races (and genders).

Of course, by limiting that at race, that would exclude ethnic balancing where wealth redistribution and quotas would not be undertaken and forced by government or lawyer lawsuits so Filipino-Americans got income parity, university and job admission parity through quotas with Japanese-Americans.

Or Scots-Irish, Poles regaining their "natural equality" with Jews on income, percent of population in the professions if the assumption that differencies in ethnicities abilities, like race, are a "myth".

That strategy - artifical construct to create support for governments to "force equality" and restore the natural order, always required people to either be intimidated and condemned as "racists" & "bigots" unless they refused to believe their lying eyes, or to hold out benefits for those swearing the myth was true. Like tenure at universities...

But the rationales and excuses are patently riduculous at times.

"All races being the same with no differences other than skin color,
the reason there are so few top caucasion or mongoloid sprinters is lack of coaching, good sneakers, and a place where they can run in a straight line. Government needs to fix that by programs and laws that will get our Asian and white citizens to track, basketball, football equality...."

OR

"Almost all are math PhDs are Asians, Indians, and whites with half the whites Jews and WASPS....clearly math proficiency is infected with racism....."

The post-WWII conspiracy to say race is meaningless and just different skin colors has been unravelling rapidly in the last 20 years in the scientific community.

We know where different people came from, when people like them evolved from progenator races or prot-races, what specific genomes they have that confer advantage over other races (Congoloid Negro fast twitch muscle fiber ratio gene, Italian gene from Torino pocket that causes LDH cholesterol to remain kow no matter what diet is).

We know what, statistically, is the portion of intelligence that is inborn genetic vs. nurturing
- and what groups or races have more or less brains. And which groups or races got the two major brain function changing gene mutations 30,000 and 6,000 years ago, respectively, that play major roles in differing intelligence and certain mental and behavioral differences..

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"When one can tell whether a skeleton is Caucasian, American Indian, African, this supports separate evolutionary paths"

Sgt: While it isn't 100% accurate an anthropology student CAN tell with fairly reasonably certainty whether a skull (note not skeleton) is of the Amerindian, Caucasian, Mongoloid, Asian or Negroid derivation. Of course, when there is intermixture as there has been for several thousands of years the derivation is less certain..... BUT for the mean it can be determined some modest certainty.

NOTE. none of these terms are racist!! These are taxonomic terms with no emotional connotations. It is only our current politically correct knee jerk society that insists on coloring scientific terms.

Hey y'all.....Race has nothing to do with skin color. It is all about morphology.

This is the same B.S. distortion of scientific enquiry that affected the study of Kennewick Man and inibited an important study of the migration of prehistoric man.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"When one can tell whether a skeleton is Caucasian, American Indian, African, this supports separate evolutionary paths"

Separate evolutionary paths for our current species of Homo is irrelevant, because we are really all the same species off mammal/antrhopoid/homo. There have been other evolutionary paths of Homo that have been diverted or failed (Neanderthal).

This whole thing is so stupid.

Like a bunch of parrots comparing the hues of green on their feathers. They all parrots. Some are deeper green, some are blue green, some are yellow green. Parrots just the same but we can see the different colors.

The point is that the races of Homo DO have some distinguishing physiological features, just as some parrots have differnent colored feathers and different shaped beaks.

Dogs can be distinguished from each other by visual observations, but yet they are all still the same species. How many species/races of dog are there? One. There is nothing derogatory or diminishing about these observations.

Michael McNeil said...

I certainly don’t agree with jimbino’s sexist remark, but when he said that “Science is not the scientific method or a collection of facts about the universe,” he’s absolutely right, while paul a’barge, the self-declared “PhD in Geophysics,” — when he declared explicitly in response that “In point of fact, the scientific method and collections of facts are pretty much what science is” — is absolutely wrong.  I’d have to say it’s rather sad really, that a geophysicist should so brazenly reveal himself to be that far off-base with regard to the foundations and substance of his own calling — but better late than never, if he and perhaps others are willing to learn.

Why isn’t the simple statement that science is a collection of facts correct?  I’m afraid I have to inform everybody here that most popular conceptions of science (sometimes shared by scientists themselves, as we see unfortunately in the case of paul) face in almost diametrically the wrong direction.  Folks commonly think of facts as being “hard” things — something one can rely on; in science, rather, facts are uncertain, and only in their aggregate can they hope to amount to anything.  What counts in science, instead, are not “facts” but theories, also known as “natural law” — while in the popular mind, scientific theories are typically vaguely understood to be something like empty hypotheses, hardly more than rank opinion.  Given those contradictory understandings of the terms they might hope to use to communicate with each other, it’s hardly surprising that scientists and non-scientists often seem baffled and divided by their supposedly common language on the subject of science.

We’ll turn now to mathematician, humanist, and philosopher of science Jacob Bronowski to explicate, far more beautifully than I possibly could, how science, rather than a mere catalogue of facts, is really about natural law and, beyond that, the achieving of fundamental conceptual unities binding our world together.  (I apologize in advance for the length, but this is important for anyone who hopes to comprehend the essential nature of science in our human and physical world.)  Quoting now Jacob Bronowski, as excerpted from his slim little book The Common Sense of Science (1951):

[First we talk about natural law aka “theory” in science...]

What science observes, what science predicts has all the shortcomings of fact.  The facts supply the signal for the future, but the signal is necessarily uncertain and its interpretation against the background of the irrelevant will be inaccurate.  The prediction which we base on the signal must be a statistical one.  It does not read the future, it forecasts it; and the forecast has meaning only because we couple it with its own estimate of uncertainty.  The future is as it were always a little out of focus, and everything that we foresee in it is seen embodied in a small area of uncertainty.  It is the human situation and the situation of science.  We do not contemplate the facts without error, but because we know what we are doing, we may act upon them without fear.

“Because we know what we are doing”:  this is the crux of science.  We are not merely observing and predicting facts; and that is why any philosophy which builds up science only from facts is mistaken.  We know, that is we find laws, and every human action uses these laws, and at the same time tests them and feels towards new laws.  It is not the form of these laws which matters.  The laws of science, like those which we use in our private behaviour, remain helpful and truthful whether they contain words like “always,” or only “more often than not.”  What matters is the recognition of the law in the facts.  It is the law which we verify:  the pattern, the order, the structure of events.  This is why science is so full of the symbolism of numbers and geometry, which are the most familiar expressions of structural relations.

There is no sense at all in which science can be called a mere description of facts.  It is in no sense, as humanists sometimes pretend, a neutral record of what happens in an endless mechanical encyclopaedia.  This mistaken view goes back to the eighteenth century.  It pictures scientists as utilitarians still crying Let be! and still believing that the world runs best with no other regulating principles than natural gravitation and human self-interest.

But this picture of the world of Mandeville and Bentham and Dickens’s Hard Times was never science.  For science is not the blank record of facts, but the search for order within the facts.  And the truth of science is not truth to fact, which can never be more than approximate, but the truth of the laws which we see within the facts.  And this kind of truth is as difficult and as human as the sense of truth in a painting which is not a photograph, or the feeling of emotional truth in a movement in music.  When we speak of truth, we make a judgment between what matters and what does not, and we feel the unity of its different parts.  We do this as much in science as in the arts or in daily life.

We make a judgment when we prefer one theory to another even in science, since there is always an endless number of theories which can account for all the known facts.  And the principles of this judgment have some deep appeal which is more than merely factual.  William of Ockham first suggested to scientists that they should prefer that theory which uses in its explanation the smallest number of unknown agents.  Science has held to this principle now for six hundred years.  But is there indeed any ground for it other than a kind of aesthetic satisfaction, much like that of sacrificing your queen at chess in order to mate with a knight?

We cannot define truth in science until we move from fact to law.  And within the body of laws in turn, what impresses us as truth is the orderly coherence of the pieces.  They fit together like the characters in a great novel, or like the words in a poem.  Indeed, we should keep that last analogy by us always.  For science is a language, and like a language, it defines its parts by the way they make up a meaning.  Every word in the sentence has some uncertainty of definition, and yet the sentence defines its own meaning and that of its words conclusively.

It is the internal unity and coherence of science which gives it truth, and which makes it a better system of prediction than any less orderly language.

[Next we talk about achieving the unity of nature via science...]

I have singled out truth among the human values for this reason.  It is common to all systems of value, and is fundamental to most of them.  And it is a value.  We cannot take it for granted as something self-evident in science any more than in art or morals or religion.  In all of them truth rests on an act of free human judgment.  In none of them of course can this judgment be exercised without experience:  there is no truth, not even religious truth, which calls for no sanction from fact.

There are other values:  goodness, beauty, right conduct.  They have their echoes even in science; and there is one value, freedom of human ideas, which is the essential condition for the health of science.  But it is not my point to show laboriously that science as much as the arts creates and implies all the human values.  I have wanted to show only in one example that science cannot exist without judgments of value.  This example, the truth, is a critical one; and it will serve to show that science cannot exist as a blank and mechanical activity.

But there is more in science than this.  It share the values of all human action.  But it also adds to these values.  The human values penetrate through all our actions, and they are strikingly alike in civilisations which are thousands of years apart.  The Aztecs and the Minoans, the Chaldees, the Cherokees and the Shakers held in common ideas about human dignity and value which go far deeper than the surface differences of time and place.  The likenesses are as heartening in their arts and their speculations.  Yet, though the values are alike, they are not identical.  The human values change, slowly but not negligibly.  And in this change, science plays a creative part.

For the values rest at bottom on acts of judgment.  And every act of judgment is a division of the field of our experience into what matters and what does not.  I spoke of this at the beginning of this book:  that at the basis of human thought lies the judgment of what is like and what is unlike.  In picking out what we shall call alike, we make the basic judgment, that here is something which is important to us.  We do this when we say that men are like women, or that the earth is like the planets, or that the air is like wine.  Aldous Huxley in his novel Barren Leaves speculates at length about the word “love” in different European languages; but I, coming to England as a boy, was struck more by the existence in English alone of the verb “to like.”

The human values are bound up with what we judge to be like and unlike, and when science shifts that judgment, it makes as profound a shift in these values.  The Greeks built a wonderful civilisation, yet it did not outrage their sense of values to hold men in slavery.  They did not feel the slave and citizen to be alike men.  By the end of the eighteenth century, it was felt in the western world that all white men are alike; but William Wilberforce spent a lifetime in persuading his generation that black slaves and white are alike in human dignity.

Science helped to create that sensibility, by widening the view of what is like and what unlike.  It helped to widen it enough to make cruelty to animals a particularly detested offence in England.  In our own generation, we have seen the human values perverted in Nazi Germany into a monstrous scale of self-approval.  And the perversion was bolstered by a deliberate attempt to go back on what science and humanity had struggled slowly to grasp, the likeness of man.  The hateful values of the Nazi rest at bottom on this false judgment, which science for three hundred years has tried to root out:  that what I do is not like what others do.

This is the constant urge of science as well as of the arts, to broaden the likeness for which we grope under the facts.  When we discover the wider likeness, whether between space and time, or between the bacillus, the virus and the crystal, we enlarge the order in the universe; but more than this, we enlarge its unity.  And it is the unity of nature, living and dead, for which our thought reaches.  This is a far deeper conception than any assumption that nature must be uniform.  We seek to find nature one, a coherent unity.  This gives to scientists their sense of mission, and let us acknowledge it, of aesthetic fulfillment:  that every research carries the sense of drawing together the threads of the world into a patterned web.

Each law of science so holds together a scattered array of facts.  But the laws themselves are not the final unifying agents.  Each law is still only a rule for making predictions, as Aristotle predicted that apples will go on falling to the ground.  The great unifying thoughts are knots where the laws cross one another and are held together:  the thought that all matter is alike, or that earthly space runs beyond the stars, or that there is a physical continuity from one generation to the next.

We come to take these crossing places for granted, and forget how long it took to make these concepts.  Yet it is they that give the unity:  the concept of matter, of space, of evolution and inheritance.  They are the links and the critical joints in the whole structure of our understanding.  And they are not self-evident:  mass, energy, mind, the nervous system, the ecology of host and enzyme:  these were not obvious to Aquinas and ready to be shuffled into laws by the first gifted mathematician.  On the contrary, just as the laws unite the facts, so the concepts of science unite its laws into an orderly world which hangs on those bold knots in the network.

When we follow the growth of a science, we come to understand how that movement has been probing for these unifying concepts.  Look at the movement of biology since the day of Ray and Linnaeus:  the listing of like species, the discovery of cells, of their division and of their sexual fusion, the elaboration of the mechanisms of inheritance and of natural selection; and from all these, the long distillation of the rich and many-sided concept of evolution.

Look at chemistry, from Dalton’s law of the combination of equal weights through the periodic table of the elements and the work of Davy and Faraday on their electric behaviour, to the complex concepts of molecular structure today and of the more and the less saturated shells of electrons in the chemical atom.

Or look at the march of physics to unity:  the slow crystallization in the Scientific Revolution of the universal concepts of matter, mass and weight; the concept of the conservation of mass, the concept of energy in its many forms, in Rumford and Joule and Clerk Maxwell, and of its conservation; the leap by Planck in 1899 to the particulate nature of energy; and then the most brilliant piece of unifying insight, Einstein’s identification of mass and energy in a single concept.

We have seen this lead to the creation of energy from matter; to a picture of space as closed but possibly expanding; and now, in the last year or two, to the speculation that in the process of expansion, gravitational energy is indirectly lost, and may reappear as new-born matter.  Science is a process of creating new concepts which unify our understanding of the world, and the process is today bolder and more far-reaching, more triumphant even than at the great threshold of the Scientific Revolution.

The concepts of value are not different in kind from these.  It is not easy to formulate laws of art; at least, as the Augustans showed so woefully, the laws which are easy to formulate are bad laws.  Yet there is a likeness which runs under all works of art, and the single works are held together by common standards.  And the standards in turn are unified in such larger concepts, such knots which hold the different historical tastes together, as the concepts of beauty and truth and coherence.  So the rules of conduct run together at last in the concepts of truth and goodness and justice and right and duty.

These concepts of value are not the same as the concepts of science.  But like them they express the deep relation between the human mind and the world which it matches.  If this were a book about aesthetics, I should have studied the way in which concepts like taste and fitness and beauty have grown and how they cohere together.  And if this were a book about ethics, I should have studied another range of concepts of value.  In a book about science, I have looked at the growth of its concepts:  the machine and the model, order, cause and chance, prediction and the future, and fundamental concept of law and the particular concepts which range from waves to matter and the cell.

But all these are expressions of the relation of man and his societies to the universal nature.  None is achieved without man’s judgment of that order, what is like and what is unlike, what in it matters and what does not.  Let us not forget this judgment even in the humblest law about ohms and volts and amperes, for it rests at bottom on a choice of something that man feels to bind him to his environment.

The judgment is already in the work.  The work of art contains the artist’s judgment; so that it has been wisely said of it, that it is not we by our standards who judge the work of art, but the work which judges us.  And in the same sense, it is not we who stand perplexed round the discoveries of science who judge it, but science which judges us.  Einstein rounded out three centuries of the questioning of nature when he equated energy and mass in a single line,

E = mc^2.

This is not the same unification of concepts as that for which Keats was searching when he closed the Ode on a Grecian Urn with the lines,

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

But the likeness is more important than the difference.  The likeness is more helpful in making us understand that the concepts of science are like the concepts of value, monuments to our sense of unity in nature.

___

Reference:  J. Bronowski, The Common Sense of Science, 1951, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1963; pp. 129-137.

Revenant said...

It is a social construct for describing how people appear to one another. There are no significant biological differences between "races."

That is not, scientifically speaking, known to be true. Besides, who are you to say that differences in appearance are insignificant?

Fen said...

99% of starting cornerbacks in the NFL are black; 99% of olympic swimmers are not. Biological differences or environment?

jimbino said...

Careful Fen,

Aspiring scientist Michael McNeil brands you a racist for hypothesizing about facts relating to racial differences.

Gedaliya said...

That is not, scientifically speaking, known to be true. Besides, who are you to say that differences in appearance are insignificant?

I said that the biological differences between the races are insignificant. I made no comment on the significance (or lack thereof) regarding the differences in appearance between one "race" and another.

It is interesting that crass racists like Cederford shudder at the idea that race is a social construct and not a biological reality. His entire worldview would collapse without the race shibboleth on which he hangs his hat.

What is a "race" other than a set of facial features, skin color and (in some cases), hair structure? In some cases, people who share such characteristics also share some biological traits (sickle-cell anemia in blacks, Tay-Sachs disease among Jews), but those traits can be explained by the fact that people with like characteristics tend to marry people like themselves, and they do this because of the social disapprobation afforded those who violate taboos regarding what used to be known as miscegenation.

"Racial" differences, I think, have only been noticed for a few hundred years. Did the Romans recognize "race" as a human characteristic? I seriously doubt it. I'm guessing that race was a completely unknown concept to the Romans and their contemporaries in other regions of the world. They differentiated people by their language, their religion and perhaps their geographic location, but not by what we now call "race."

Michael McNeil said...

jimbino said...
Careful Fen,
Aspiring scientist Michael McNeil brands you a racist for hypothesizing about facts relating to racial differences.


Hardly.  I made no comment concerning Fen, while you, jimbino, whom I did criticize (while praising your statement about science — though you, upon being pressed by others, equivocated), did far more than mere hypothesizing about gender (not race), when you said "… the only two female scientists in the country are busy narrating specials for Nova and the Discovery Channel," — which is a) not at all funny (if that's what you were trying to be: it's hard to tell), not to speak of being b) flat, massively wrong, and c) indubitably sexist.

Fen said...

It wouldn't bother me, I've been called a racist so many times that the word has lost all meaning to me. And Micheal appears too intelligent to fall into my obvious trap... ;)

But Micheal, I recall a scientist[?] a few years back who evoked a firestorm by claiming black muscular structure had higher density [bad for swimming] and had evolved for sprinting and jumping [nfl cornerbacks]. Just curious what your take on that was? Was he right?

jimbino said...

Michael McNeill:

OK, I assume you use "racist" in a pejorative sense, so to cut to the chase, please answer this:

Under what circumstances can a scientist assert, regarding first dogs, then humans, that, "My evidence shows that Race A shows a lower aptitude for X than Race B" and not be labeled a "racist"?