Science: Handmaiden to Theology

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Recently, I have taken note on several occasions of the common leftist tactic of using science as part-smokescreen, part-pseudojustification for various proposed forms of government interference in our lives, most notably environmentalist regulations whose stated purpose is to stop "climate change".

A given debate which should be about whether the government ought at all, say, to impose fuel rationing (in the form of "carbon caps" for a whole economy) is entirely swept under the rug of the scientific debate over whether man produces enough carbon dioxide to alter the climate.

And just as the conservatives have adopted big government in recent years, so have they begun adopting this dishonest tactic. Case in point: a recent article in The American Thinker which similarly uses a recent scientific advance in stem-cell research as a means of advancing the so-called "pro-life" position in the abortion debate:

What happens when an unexpected development suddenly makes it no longer necessary for adherents of a certain ideology to engage in conflict? The recent discovery that gives scientists the ability to turn skin cells into cells that share identical properties with Embryonic Stem Cells qualifies as such a development.

Up to this point, many from the left had comfortably seized control of the high moral ground on this issue. With aid from the media, and the assurance by the scientific community of the vestigial healing powers of Embryonic Stem Cells, they piously condemned the supposedly callous ignorance of those who objected to their demand to expedite legislation requiring that federal tax dollars be used to fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research (E.S.C.R.).

For these so-called "progressives", the fact that human embryos needed to be harvested and killed in the process did not pose the least moral quandary. Instead, it was favorably cast as a supremely justifiable means towards an unimpeachably noble end. History will deal with them accordingly. [bold added]
Leave aside, for the sake of argument, both the legitimate scientific question of whether the new technique produces cells that really are identical to embryonic stem cells, and the matter of whether the state should fund scientific research at all.

The propriety of using embryonic stem cells has nothing whatsoever to do with whether there are alternative means of acquiring stem cells with the required properties. It is moral to use embryonic stem cells because embryos are potential -- not actual -- human beings. (To the extent that leftists fail to make this point and rely on an altruistic justification instead, they help the conservatives by playing into their hands, and in more ways than one.)

But when one has science "on his side", one can pretend that such utility was the only real justification -- flimsy as it was -- for using such stem cells, and that one should thus outlaw harvesting embryos. Should a scientist raise an objection that the new cells are not identical to those from embryos, he will be condemned just as roundly as any global warming "denier" is now pilloried by global warming hysterics. And there will be no talk by conservatives such as Miguel Guanipa about whether embryos really are human, or about how damaging to the cause of individual rights it would be for the government to pretend that mere tissue possesses rights.

The left would paralyze us in a debate over the scientifically controversial minutiae of meteorology as they smuggle in government control of the economy as an unquestioned premise. The right would have us fumble around in a specialized area of cell biology as they sneak in a government intrusion justified by their superstitious belief in an immaterial soul. In both cases, laymen, out of their depth, are told to grapple with abstruse points in scientific specialties while steered away from fundamental questions of political philosophy they could much more reasonably be expected to deal with.

I oppose both the drowning of the truth by the left, and the abortion of its pursuit by the right.

-- CAV

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