Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Science Works

P. Z. Myers takes the occasion of President Obama reversing the Stem cell ban to explain how science works to people who are fundamentally opposed to free inquiry.

The stem cells to be used for this research come from the 600,000 embryos every year that are produced in the US for in vitro fertilization attempts, and which are discarded anyway. Although some on the right say that these eggs can be implanted in women and raised as children, only 60 a year or so are "adopted." That means that all those religious persons who say that they believe that human life begins at conception are hypocrites, standing idly by and allowing a virtual holocaust to occur annually, since they are not adopting these frozen embryos and raising them.

They also don't put filters on their toilets to try to save the millions of embryos that prematurely detach from the uterus wall in very early miscarriages, some of which scientists might be able to somehow save if the proper precautions were taken. I mean, if millions of adults were drowned in toilets annually, wouldn't we put in special safety procedures to stop it from happening?

I think the likelihood is that the strange new doctrine of life beginning at conception is mainly intended to keep women barefoot and pregnant, since no obvious heroic
measures are actually being taken by any significant number of believers to save
the embryos. The belief that life begins at conception is recent, irrational, and has frankly highly impractical consequences.

Under the Bush administration, scientific reasoning took a backseat to politics, as administration officials repeatedly manipulated the scientific process and distorted findings. This was seen in reporting on climate change, environmental issues, and even the run-up to the war with Iraq (remember how those aluminum tubes were pushed).

This manipulation was also seen in the stem cell research debate. Bush came to his decision on stem cells in 2001, after consulting with Karl Rove, not talking to his scientists.

Appearing on national television, White House officials repeatedly distorted the facts behind ES research. Even Bush's own scientists publicly broke with him on the issue. Obama's decision marks a long-awaited shift restoring science to public policy. Yesterday, Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum calling on the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to "make sure officials who deal with science and technology policy are selected because of their expertise rather than their politics."

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