Saturday, March 07, 2009

To do something "because we can"...

A critique (and I think a fair one) of science in this modern age is its view that something be done because "we can" never-mind whether or not "we ought". And similarly, society hasn't come to grips (in my opinion) with the difference between technology and science.

Here is the link to a NYTimes article regarding Mr. Obama's forthcoming announcement on Monday the 9th, to take away restrictions placed upon embryonic stem cell research.

The article claims Obama wishes "to separate science and politics". I'm not sure what that means. Later, the same article claims that the president's decision focuses on the intersection between "science and personal moral beliefs". So, which is it? Politics and science or personal moral beliefs and science?

Politics isn't a four-letter word. Poltics, by its very nature, involves moral beliefs.

The article quotes scientists and lawmakers who are critical of the Bush administration's curtailment of scientific research over the past eight years. In juxtaposition, the Obama administration hopes to fulfill "his [Obama's] campaign promise to draw a demarcation line between politics and science". What does that mean? It's a garble of gobbidy-goop speach-making. Who wants untethered, science from political guidance? And who would want political guidance without sound science? And is it really "science" or is it "technology"?

It's because of national policy that experiments regarding plutonium are restricted in favor of unsuspecting citizenry (think pre and post World War II in Nevada) and it's because of national policy/politics/personal moral beliefs that laws have been established that protect children, the elderly, and the mentally disabled from experiments and gives them particular medical rights.

It is too black -n- white to say that Bush dumb-downed scientific research and tied the hands of scientists while Obama is the saviour unbinding their chains. IF scientific progress is merely "doing something because we can" then fine, Obama is the savior unbounding us. BUT, if we are a people with a sense of the good, with a broader view that some technologies come at too great a cost, that some things, while doable, shouldn't be done because there exists a competing or a higher good, then Obama is hardly a savior for scientists but is as dumb as any other brute who says "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead, damn the embryos, damn the moral cautionaries, damn the future slipperly slope of bioethical quagmires and full speed ahead on scientific research, experiments, procedures that might very well provide tremendous medical relief to the suffering but at a terribly high cost."

I think of members of my own family who could possibly benefit from stem cell treatment, their pain relieved. But oh, the cost.

In any event, the gall of Obama to think he is liberating science once and for all from policies and politics etc., Debates are fine, but call it what it is - his personal moral beliefs are now in play as opposed to Bush's personal moral beliefs. One set of politics over another set of politics. The Liberator, the Sophisticated Friend of Science, The Scientific Purist, the Savior? Paaalease.

1 comment:

Fr. Stephen, C.S.C. said...

Given the 'Messiah' tone of the Obama campaign, we really shouldn't expect anything other than that from the Obama presidency.

Unfortunately for Obama, his position isn't only bad morals - it's even bad science: Embryonic stem cells have not proven to be beneficial, whereas adult stem cells have. So all that's left is to be good politics - and I suppose that it is.

You're right to say politics isn't necessarily a dirty word. It's just too bad that, as CMR has put it, this is "politics with a body count."