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Tilting at Windmills

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March 9, 2009

BLINDING US WITH SCIENCE.... As expected, President Obama today reversed Bush-era restrictions on stem-cell research, but that's not all he did today. While hosting a White House ceremony to announce the change, the president also explained a new memorandum addressing scientific integrity itself.

"Promoting science isn't just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry," Obama said. "It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

He said his memorandum is meant to restore "scientific integrity to government decision-making." He called it the beginning of a process of ensuring his administration bases its decision on sound science; appoints scientific advisers based on their credentials, not their politics; and is honest about the science behind its decisions.

Alex Koppelman noted that this carried with it an "unsubtle ... repudiation of the Bush administration and its attitude towards science."

Good. The previous administration's efforts to subvert science were unprecedented, ridiculous, and kind of dangerous. Melody Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters yesterday, "The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals."

I am, however, a little unclear on what the memo will change, in terms of policy. Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, said the memo will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public." That sounds great, but the details are still a little unclear.

That said, it's hard to overstate how encouraging it is to see the president tout the general importance of science. His focus was clear in his inaugural address -- "We will restore science to its rightful place" -- but it goes further. Obama seems to take the issue far more seriously than most politicians and recent leaders.

When he introduced a Nobel Prize-winning physicist as his choice for Energy Secretary, Obama said, "His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts." Soon after, he introduced an impressive science team, and soon after that, the president devoted one of his weekly multimedia addresses to the issue: "[T]he truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient -- especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us."

This is obviously heartening when compared to the president's immediate predecessor, but it's also impressive in its own right.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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Comments

Suppose some scientist wants to clone a person just to prove it can be done. That's pure science, no religion or ethics involved, right? Under your view of scientific inquiry as divorced from all considerations of morality, there shouldn't be any problem with this, right?

Well, I guess President Obama doesn't agree with that. He's prepared to stop scientists from cloning human beings because he thinks it's wrong (how judgmental he is!)

My point is only that there is not a bright line between pure scientific research with no moral implications and heavy handed political manipulation of science. You disagree with the moral judgments of the Bush administration ("cloning stem cells is immoral") so you characterize its policies as anti-science. You presumably agree with the moral judgments of the Obama administration ("cloning people is immoral") so you characterize its policies as pro-science.

I think a little more nuance is called for.

Posted by: DBL on March 9, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Why oh why can't he do the same with his economic and finance team?

Posted by: mo on March 9, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Combine this with the dismissal of the Bush 'signing statements' and you've got an administration that respects facts and laws. Imagine that.

Posted by: MattF on March 9, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, suppose for a second that Yassir Arafat were to rise from the grave and proclaim Bibi Netanyahu to be his best friend? Suppose that Charlie Trotter and Jean George Vong-whatever-his-name-is open up new 5-star restaurants in Akron and Kalamazoo? Suppose I could land a date with Angelina Jolie?

Or, here's a better idea: Let's keep our suppositions within the realm of reality, shall we?

Posted by: chocolate Thunder on March 9, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Good god, DBL, go to one of those socialist standbys, the public library, and check out "bioethics for dummies" and then get back to us.

Posted by: Blue Girl on March 9, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I saw President Obama on television this morning condemning human cloning. Maybe MSBC photo-shopped the whole thing, who knows, but it looked pretty realistic to me.

Posted by: DBL on March 9, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, DBL, this has already happened (someone proposes to clone a human), and the rest of the scientific community immediately points out that when attempts are made to clone mammals, the typical success rate is less than 1 in 100; most of the clones are stillborn or hideously deformed. An attempt to clone a human would produce vast numbers of deformed human beings and who knows how much suffering, for no value whatsoever.

Proposals for funding will be subject to peer review as well as limited resources.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 9, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

DBL might want to peruse this before heading to the library:

http://archive.salon.com/comics/boll/2001/08/09/boll/index.html

Posted by: genome on March 9, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Not to beat up on DBL any more than is absolutely necessary, but one of the defining characteristics of the Bush administration was its insistence on substituting moral judgments for facts. That is, it may be a matter of moral dispute whether or not a given policy is the right thing to do, but the underlying facts should not be a matter of dispute.

Posted by: Ethan on March 9, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

i like dbl's nietzschean interp of science under the sway of obama's new world order.

sounding off on the will to power and the total mobilization of all beings toward the arbitrary ends of humanity, as tho that is obama's secret communisticislamicterroristicgayabortion agenda...

pity of it is that the bushco admin. and dickwads like that jonah-boy (of 'liberal fascism' shame) have only a fall-back on stuff like benedict and the inquisition to stop the toll of technology replacing nature (my friends, the issue is bigger than obama).

and the rest of us, indeed, have bio-ethics for idiots...

on the other hand, maybe next year, everybody who wants a angelina jolie can have one from earl scheib's clones @$39.95...

Posted by: neill on March 9, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to remember a distinction here.

It is not the job of government and politics to do whatever scientists say should (or could) be done. The scientific community is one player in the game that gets to make its input and present its facts.

The job of government is to decide what to do, after considering the advice of all stakeholders.

The Bush administration didn't just ignore the advice of science, it silenced it by forcing people to change reports, not soliciting advice, etc. THAT is the real problem.

Hypothetical case in point: Government is thinking about building a new dam. The scientific report says "This will damage the environment in three ways, X, Y & Z." Government may decide to build it anyway if the benefits (power, flood control) outweigh, in its view, the downsides. That's not unethical.

What would be unethical is editing the scientific report to remove reasons X & Y. That's the level of mendacity routinely on view in the Bush administration.

Posted by: Vondo on March 9, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

DBL wrote: "Under your view of scientific inquiry as divorced from all considerations of morality, there shouldn't be any problem with this, right?"

Some of the discussion of these two initiatives by the Obama administration -- the stem cell policy change and the memorandum on scientific integrity -- has unfortunately confused and conflated two quite different issues.

The first issue is scientific integrity. The problem that Obama's memorandum seeks to address is the corruption and censorship of scientific data for political ends. The best example of this, I think, is the Bush administration's suppression and censorship of scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming and its serious negative consequences. This is a case where scientific findings that were "inconvenient" for cronies and financial backers of the Bush administration were distorted and/or suppressed.

The second, completely separate issue, is the use of ethical criteria to guide government funding and regulation of scientific research. This was the case with Bush's ruling on federal funding for stem cell research.

In the first case, the distortion, suppression and censorship of scientific findings for purposes of political or financial gain is absolutely unacceptable. It is nothing but blatant corruption of the worst kind.

In the second case, the use of ethical criteria to guide decisions about government funding and regulation of scientific research is entirely legitimate.

Obviously, different people hold different ethical values, and will have different views about what ethical standards ought to be applied with regard to stem cell research. Personally, I have no ethical concerns about stem cell research at all. On the other hand, I have concerns about the use of sentient non-human animals in biomedical research, which would probably represent a minority view on this blog (though they may have some support within the Obama administration, given Cass Sunstein's published views on animal rights).

But I doubt that anyone here would advocate that questions of federal funding and regulation of scientific research should be "divorced from all considerations of morality". To assert that would be to approve of, for example, painful and lethal experiments on unconsenting human beings if such experiments might yield scientifically useful information.

I applaud Obama's strong statement in support of scientific integrity. And I think his reversal of Bush's policy on stem cell research simply indicates that he is applying a different ethical judgment to that research, not that he -- or anyone -- is saying that no ethical standards at all should govern scientific research.

DBL wrote: "My point is only that there is not a bright line between pure scientific research with no moral implications and heavy handed political manipulation of science."

My point, which I hope I have elucidated, is that those are two completely separate things.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 9, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I was surprised to read that Steve found that the memo was a "little unclear on what it will change, in terms of policy."
Reading it I found it very clear. The scientific community has some very accepted definitions for effective standards and practices that were regularly dismissed or ignored by the Bush Administration. These cover such things as peer review, accepted scientific method for testing, and best practices for sharing data. For the scientific community, the memo is not vague at all.

Posted by: Richard on March 9, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

well, Vondo, let's step back a square and wonder which value-system we wanna represent here:

an ethics of conservation -- say, good ol' small world schumacherism?

or a value-system of marketable, calculable determination -- neo-librul greed and profitability and market expansion (like Fish adheres to, today, in the NYT...)?

...pick a value-system, any value-system at all, says the joker, holding up the deck...

Posted by: neill on March 9, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I am, however, a little unclear on what the memo will change, in terms of policy. -- Benen

I'm finding myself having the same thought with regard to a number of administration statements lately. Granted, we're only a few weeks into this administration and I'm willing to give things time to play out, but something more definitive from the outset would certainly inspire greater confidence.

Posted by: beep52 on March 9, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Science without religion or politics is just another word for...science.

Posted by: qwerty on March 9, 2009 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen: "I am, however, a little unclear on what the memo will change, in terms of policy."

Well for starters, maybe it means that 24 year-old Republican campaign workers lacking undergrad degrees won't be directing public affairs at NASA and constraining the agency's reporting along religiopolitical lines.

SecularAnimist: I have concerns about the use of sentient non-human animals in biomedical research, which would probably represent a minority view on this blog

Minority perhaps, but not singular.

Posted by: trex on March 9, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Neill,

I suppose if you live in a black and white world, "picking a system" would make sense. We don't, so everything is a balancing act.

In my initial response I should have said "That's not _necessarily_ unethical." But every project has its pros and cons, my point is that for the past eight years when scientific findings were seen to be on the "con" side of a government action or inaction, they were suppressed.

SecularAnimist did a much better job of explaining this than I did, although what I was trying to say is the same.

It's not necessarily wrong to consider the science and then decide contrary to scientific recommendations. It is wrong to exclude it from the table from the start.

Posted by: Vondo on March 9, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, to be on Yucca Mountain...

Here is Obama discussing the search for a nuclear waster repository:

"After spending billions of dollars on the Yucca Mountain Project, there are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there. I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, or at a designated facility in the state where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term disposal solution that is based on sound science."

So when will science answer those questions? Here is the Times:

"Mr. Reid does not appear to have the votes to kill the Yucca Mountain depository entirely, because many members of Congress want to stick with the consensus they achieved two decades ago to bury the waste there. If Congress changes the law that designates Yucca Mountain as the prime candidate, said Edward F. Sproat III, who was the Energy Department official in charge of the depository project for the last two and a half years of the Bush administration, everybody knows their state is going to be back in play.

The sites suitability is supposed to be established in hearings by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must decide whether to license the repository. Now, the Obama administration is proposing to provide only enough money that project officials can answer questions from the hearings. Eliot Brenner, a commission spokesman, said the hearings would proceed."

My goodness, if we don't fund the research we'll never know. But don't call that mixing politics and science!

Posted by: Tom Maguire on March 9, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

i would agree with your conclusion, completely, Vondo.

I'm not sure I understand the black and white world vis avis value systems, since we all dwell within some sort of value system... my point being that, like you, now that I am pleased gov't isn't suppressing science, markets still get to kill the environment because we'll have a good scientific explanation of "clean" coal, or "cap n'trade"-- wev.

Posted by: neill on March 9, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but Obama is just too Bush-like, uh..isn't he? ;)

Posted by: Insanity on March 9, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Science is a large part of what

makes us human.

Sure it (science)can be watered down to suit small minds, but modern society didn't just happen by accident.

Science evolves us.

Creationistic drivel, de-evolves (some of) us.

The Bush Era led some to believe that science is

theories, and you can pick and choose your truth.

Not so.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on March 9, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't say Bush's policies were "kind of" dangerous. Just think if Al Gore had become president in 2001. We'd have had a legitimate chance to save untold numbers of species (possibly including our own).

As it is, I have to say that so far, especially distracted by the economic horrors of the day, Obama is being far too timid about this issue.

Years ahead, I think we'll come to realize that climate change is the biggest issue of this century. And we will be forced to admit that thanks to Bush and the Republicans (& to the largely supine elected Democrats) we failed when it mattered most to succeed.

Posted by: zhak on March 9, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: MKS on March 9, 2009 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

MKS wrote: "Adult stem cell research has shown many excellent applications, and one does not have to 'harvest' a human embryo to accomplish them. Embryonic stem cells have, however, shown very little utility."

You are a deliberate liar, or you are ignorantly and slavishly repeating lies that others have told you. Which is it?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 9, 2009 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

MKS, if you can not explain, off the top of your head and without googling, what a telomere is and define the Hayflick Limit, then you are a hapless dupe regurgitating the ideological palaver that you have been spoon-fed.

Posted by: Blue Girl on March 9, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

SA,

That was a very thoughtful post, thank you.

I agree with you in principle. Policy makers should not suppress scientific results no matter how unpalatable from a political/policy point of view. I disagree with you about the extent to which that happened during the prior administration (has there been at any time during the past decade a shortage of information about the global warming hypothesis, the evidence for it, and the projected damage that might ensue?), and I hope that the new administration lives up to its promise not to supress inconvenient science.

I'm also glad we can agree in principle that morality has to guide science policy, even if we don't necessarily agree on all the details.

Posted by: DBL on March 9, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

DBL wrote: "I disagree with you about the extent to which that happened during the prior administration (has there been at any time during the past decade a shortage of information about the global warming hypothesis, the evidence for it, and the projected damage that might ensue?)"

The Bush administration was of course unable to suppress information about anthropogenic global warming from independent sources.

However, the Bush administration's gross, crude, heavy-handed, blatant censorship of information on the reality and dangers of global warming from government scientists and government agencies -- including the rewriting of government reports by former ExxonMobil lobbyists hired by the Bush White House! -- has been thoroughly documented.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 9, 2009 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

More ...Untruths. Global Warming? Bad Science with political propaganda. 2nd Hand Smoke? No science with political propaganda. Eisenhower may have warned against the military/industrial complex but ... What he really warned against was the scientific/political alliance. See his Farewell address. We are being had. Follow the money and the agenda.

Posted by: Keith Wilson on March 9, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Keith Wilson wrote: "Global Warming? Bad Science with political propaganda. 2nd Hand Smoke? No science with political propaganda."

You are dead wrong about the science on both counts.

Want to try for three strikes? Surely you have one more fake, phony, corporate-sponsored, scripted talking point you can post? Pesticides are good for us, maybe?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 9, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Man made global warming errr climate change is a hoax. 650 true scientists in the field have signed onto a document saying its not true.

Posted by: dug fresh on March 9, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Three Japanese climate researchers have just come out and said man made global warming crisis is overblown.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/25/jstor_climate_report_translation/

At what point do those who are claiming the science is settled and inarguable playing politics with science?

Posted by: Mark Buehner on March 9, 2009 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Buehner, JSTOR is an energy industry-funded group, it is not a scientific organization, and its so-called "report" written by a handful of cranks is the same sort of pseudo-scientific rubbish that ExxonMobil pays propaganda mills disguised as "conservative" think tanks to crank out by the bushel in the USA.

At what point do so-called "conservatives" stop being mental slaves to corporate-sponsored propaganda, and start exhibiting some independent thought, and look at actual science by actual scientists?

Well, never, because then they wouldn't be "true conservatives" any more.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 9, 2009 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! 650? Really??? That's a pretty big number! Or it sounds like it anyway, but it isn't really. I have more working scientists than that plying their trade within three miles of my house, and oodles of them are my friends and colleagues. Being serious scientists who are not whores for big oil, they mock that harem of concubines Exxon Mobile has assembled.

Posted by: Blue Girl on March 9, 2009 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

To the Animist(not that that is a religious dogma): Besides your biting rhetoric, name the 3 (or any 3) foundational Global Warming Facts upon which you rest your trust (since you are willing to bet the welfare of hundreds of millions of people): Would they be Hansen's 1988 predictions (Opps,proved way wrong), would they be the Vostok cores? (Oops warming happens 200-800 years before CO^2 rises, not after) Would it be the Michael Mann Hockey Stick? (Oops conveniently eliminated the little ice ages, Minoan and Roman warm periods and the Holocene optimum). So there are some facts that aren't too long ago. Undoubtedly, it was likely Exxon who had the forethought to have painted Washington crossing the ice frozen Delaware just for effect to fool you. Those guys were smart and forethoughtful, even 200 years ago.

Posted by: Keith Wilson on March 9, 2009 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I am, however, a little unclear on what the memo will change, in terms of policy. ... That sounds great, but the details are still a little unclear.

Criticisms of Bush's science policies, even where correct (embryonic stem cell research) blew dissatisfactions way out of proportion. Although Obama's language will sound much more supportive of science, and he'll try to enlarge the budget for research, actual change from Bush's policies will be modest.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 9, 2009 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Blinding us with what science? Whether its Global Warming or stem cell reseach we are getting ideological pseudo religion from "The ONE" not science. And while we should all be very cautious letting Government restrict the flow of scientific research you merely need to turn on your nightly news for a dose of the Octa-Mom saga to see why there has to be a role for government in setting ethical and moral standards regarding the progress of science. I have no doubt that a week before the Octa-Mom gave birth Pres Obama and the scientific and medical communities would have said that the ethics of the profession would never allow this Frakenstein like tragedy. And yet a woman on disablity, with clear mental problems, with 6 children already, was aided to have 8 more children who's care is costing society millions upon millions of dollars. What does Obama have to say about that?

Posted by: valwayne on March 9, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

There's a lot more than 300 scientists who aren't convinced about global warming. Look at http://www.petitionproject.org/ - As of today, there are 31,478 people with degrees in medicine and science, including more than 9,000 with PhD, who have signed a petition saying they are not convinced that the data supports a conclusion that human activity is actively promoting global warming.

Personally, I am not certain. I don't have a degree in either climatology or meteorology. I'm a computer science guy. Global warming does seem like it could be plausible, in some contexts. On the other hand, twenty years ago I remember lots of dire articles speculating that Earth was about to enter another ice age.

Anyway, my basic point is that there are LOTS of well-credentialed people who aren't convinced that this is for real. Their opinions don't get much play. FWIW, I have a close friend who is the head of the computer science program at a respected private university. He recently told me that he is constantly pressured - as is every other member of the faculty there - to add something to the curriculum supporting the "global warming will doom us" mindset. My friend is a mathematician an scientist; he doesn't want to promote the idea unless and until he sees compelling proof. Interestingly enough, even though the university in question is heavily promoting this across the entire curriculum, there is not a single climatologist on the faculty.

So is it real, or just the cause du jour?

Posted by: rorschach on March 9, 2009 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Any historical understanding of science would show that ideology, including both political and religious ideology, have always tainted scientific pursuits and outcomes. Scientists themselves dismissed the idea that dinansaurs once roamed the earth or that the earth revolved around the sun or was anywhere near as old as it has turned out to be. In the 1970s scientists and media were boldly proclaiming both that resources were about to run out due to the population explosion and that global cooling could soon usher in a new ice age.

The point is that what is prudent and absolutely proven science is often debatable. Sometimes not. It's important to remember that scientists are human who, like so many of their species, can have hidden agendas, political views, experiences and desires for power and recognition that can taint their views. Consensus views based on modeling and limited observations over a short period of time, whether in relation to global warming or the amount of matter in the universe, can be overturned quickly.

Posted by: Peter on March 9, 2009 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to remember that Bill Clinton was the first President to ban the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Posted by: Troika37 on March 9, 2009 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Private jets, motor boats, $17,000/month electric bill...if the oracle from Tennessee was a true believer he would set a better example.

Posted by: A. E. Newman on March 9, 2009 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Scientic rectitude vs. polical correctness -
Now, since the muzzling of real science in the realm of officialdom gone, together with Bush and his sinister cohorts, we can finally ask the Hopeanchage president to clarify a scientific matter for long obstructed by the right-wing:

1) Is reverend Wright right when saying that afro-americans learn in a different manner? (i.e. their bran is wired differently than other races).
or,
2) Was Jim Watson (of DNA repute, and PC-animated firing last year), right when saying that... we cannot expect... (I'll stop here...)

We're looking for a straight answer in this matter - the Obama administratrion will sure oblige here.

Posted by: misanthropicus on March 9, 2009 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Global warming is no more a science than marxism is an credible economic theory. In fact, there are both political theories. I like how the global warmists who post on the internet conveniently ignore 12 years of global COOLING (1997-2008) according to satellite data. Instead, they resort to personal attacks. Yea, that's science.

Posted by: MC Hammer on March 9, 2009 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK


An open challenge to those opposed to stem cell research. You ultimately have a choice to accept a cure derived from embryonic stems cells. You can choose not to accept the cure and continue on with your disease. You can even go so far as to denied the cure for your child. What right do you have to deny me a cure? I do not find stem cell research morally wrong, nor do I believe in YOUR god. You have a choice, shouldn’t I?

Posted by: MikeG on March 9, 2009 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

I am curious... I posted a comment here about noontime EST. It was negative on the writer, but respectfully written.

Is it the custom for this site to not post comments that are not flattering?

Just don't want to waste my time in the future...

Posted by: Bill Sanford on March 9, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

WOW,,,the global warming...... eerrrr climate change... errrr CO2....."it is silly to debate the science of climate change - Al Gore- March 2009",,, NIPCC and IPCC non-debate, non-discussion ought to be interesting, albeit, the science is complete the discussion is over per Al Gore and the IPCC. Newton and Einstein are rolling over and laughing hysterically. Gosh did they agree???? Can't remember???? Read the books. I am a cynic not a skeptic, but what's the difference?

Posted by: Svend on March 9, 2009 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hi,

I want to create a big bomb that will create a black hole that will engulf the universe into nothingness. Please don't stop me because that would be engaging in morality.

Honestly, a lot of these science fact-based people could benefit from a remedial course in philosophy and logic.

Posted by: Geoff on March 9, 2009 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Science without religion or politics is just another word for...science."

The process of science is dependent on concepts which only make sense in a theistic framework. Induction being first and foremost among them.

Posted by: Geoff on March 9, 2009 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

re stem cells in particular. If we break it down into little pieces, I think this is how it follows: 1)On a spectrum "is government paid research the most or least productive?". The assumption is it is the most(true in weapons spending, but that is a monopoly anyway), but the data would indicate it is the least. Thus, study the assumption. 2) Has any productive privately funded stem cell research of any sort been banned? No, only federally funded beyond 25 approved stem cell embryos. So, I personnaly wouldn't have any trouble studying them, unless I wasn't smart enough to get funding by my own efforts. 3) Is embroyo killing stem cell research all that is available? Apparently, umbilical cord and adult stem cells are proving more valuable, which is federally funded. So who exactly is doing the bitching and why (accept for their own religious reasons?) But of course that couldn't be the case, now could it.

Posted by: Keith Wilson on March 9, 2009 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

The 53 most common "skeptical" arguments against the scientific consensus for global warming are individually presented and thoroughly refuted, with reference to working scientific authorities, here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php.

The topic has been studied for over 100 years, and a lot of information is available. The majority of the "skeptical" arguments have, literally, been taken from the garbage pile of scientific history: discovered, refuted and dumped decades ago.

Posted by: Neal J. King on March 9, 2009 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

What the heck is wrong with cloning? I don't get all the bashing, it doesn't seem that immoral to me. Besides, if we're worried about having doubles of people, it really shouldn't be a problem as the age differences would be huge between the original human and the clone. Furthermore, they would be two completely different individuals (like identical twins). The only negative thing i could see is using it for organ growing like in all those sci-fi movies, but seriously, not actually a realistic concern.

Posted by: Stanford Student on March 9, 2009 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Go, Mr. President! God is happy today!

Posted by: Debbieqd on March 9, 2009 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Science makes it possible for a woman to grow 8 babies at once. No value judgments needed.

Posted by: skeptic on March 9, 2009 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

@DBL: What a way to distort the facts! Obama hasn't called for anyone to do anything against ethics. Scientists operate with a strict code of ethics. There are independent review boards devoted to certifying humane and ethical treatment in every kind of research. Inconvenient as it is for the right-wing evangelical nut jobs, ethics can and do exist independent of religion.

Science that is muzzled by certain superstitions is just as useless as unethical research, in my mind.

It is ridiculous that, in this day and age, a President actually has to reassure us that scientific decisions will be made absent of ideology.

Posted by: Kim on March 9, 2009 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! The ignorance of the people against stem cell research and science is astounding. Please if you or a loved one is sick and dying do not turn to medicine for the cure. Just pray real hard. I'd like to see the "moral" crowd keep life saving medicine from their child.

Posted by: MikeG on March 9, 2009 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that Mr. Benen is bedazzled by Obama's religious aura. Science is a tool (means), not an END. Like any tool, it can be misused, as in the massive scientific fraud of global warming/climate change.

The inconvenient truth that Mr. Benen ignores is that scientists are human and therefore are just as likely to deceive as anyone else - more so when their livelihoods are at stake.

Based on my observations, I find it unlikely that Obama would truly heed legitimate scientific findings that stand in opposition to his worldview.

Posted by: prosanity on March 9, 2009 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

MKS wrote: "Adult stem cell research has shown many excellent applications, and one does not have to 'harvest' a human embryo to accomplish them. Embryonic stem cells have, however, shown very little utility."

Then SecularAnimist wrote:
"You are a deliberate liar, or you are ignorantly and slavishly repeating lies that others have told you. Which is it?"

Well, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article that supports MKS's opinion. (http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/299/8/925?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Richard+K.+Burt%2C+M.D.%2C+of+the+Northwestern+University+Feinberg+School+of+Medicine+&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT)

So SecularAnimist, I ask you, Are YOU a deliberate liar, or you are ignorantly and slavishly repeating lies that others have told you. Which is it?

PS your understanding of global climate change is at least as pathetic as your understanding of stem cell research.


Posted by:

Posted by: RRD on March 9, 2009 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article that supports MKS's opinion.

No, it hasn't. The study you cited says that progress is being made with adult stems cells, but it does not support the opinion that embryonic stem cells have "shown little utility" as MKS falsely claimed.

In fact, the abstract suggests the contrary: that the only problem with embryonic stem cells has been the political barriers to utilizing them, and that adult stem cells work only "under appropriate conditions in select patients" -- the opposite of what you claim.

Also: asserting that someone's knowledge is pathetic without actually refuting their argument is just blowing hot air and removing any question of your idiocy. SecularAnimist possesses exert knowledge in the area of climate change, which he has provided in detail on this blog for years.

You? Not so much.

Posted by: trex on March 9, 2009 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

The inconvenient truth that Mr. Benen ignores is that scientists are human and therefore are just as likely to deceive as anyone else - more so when their livelihoods are at stake.

The livelihoods of climate scientists are secure whether global climate change is happening or not.

To suggest that tens of thousands of scientists from dozens of different disciplines, hundreds of countries, and uncounted cultures and philosophical backgrounds have all colluded to deceive you is the absolute height of lunacy.

Congratulations.

Posted by: trex on March 9, 2009 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Earlier I wrote "Well, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article that supports MKS's opinion."

trex responded:
�No, it hasn't. The study you cited says that progress is being made with adult stems cells, but it does not support the opinion that embryonic stem cells have "shown little utility" as MKS falsely claimed.�

The JAMA article states �Embryonic stem cells have great promise and versatility but, compared with adult stem cells, are currently difficult to control due to their tendency to form tumors containing all types of tissue, ie, teratomas.�

MKS�s statement that embryonic stem cells have shown little utility is an accurate summation of this statement and others in the document. Unless your intent is to utilize the cells in question to create tumors? (I'd suggest you do more than glance at the abstract in the future.)

Add to this the ethical problems associated with stem cell research and that induced pluripotent stem cell technology breakthroughs are making embryonic cells superfluous and this whole episode can be readily seen as a political charade.

Posted by: RRD on March 10, 2009 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

How would you feel if we made a moral decision not to pursue the atomic bomb? Impressive science, but maybe there is a place for moral judgement in science.

Posted by: steve on March 10, 2009 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

MKS�s statement that embryonic stem cells have shown little utility is an accurate summation of this statement and others in the document.

No, it's not. The document clearly says that they have "promise and versatility." Enlarging on the point, this document is hardly the definitive opinion on the subject.

Add to this the ethical problems associated with stem cell research and that induced pluripotent stem cell technology breakthroughs are making embryonic cells superfluous

When and if these breakthroughs make embryonic stem cells superfluous there will be no reason to pursue further research in that area. Until that time, there is.

Unless your intent is to utilize the cells in question to create tumors? (I'd suggest you do more than glance at the abstract in the future).

The fact that embryonic stem cells are "difficult to control" doesn't make them any different than any number of other life-saving treatments. To try and characterize them as merely tumor-creating agents is absurd, and shows your unseriousness. These cells have huge advantages in that they are clonogenic and have telomerase levels; they can be genetically modified to overcome rejection issues.

Adult stem cells suffer from the fact that they are not known to exist for all cell types, suffer from lower telomerase levels, and are exceedingly difficult to grow. There have been many successes with specialized adult stem cells, and on the other hand there have been spectacular failures that have claimed many lives.

Everyone, including me, would be happier if crucial therapies could be derived from discarded fingernails instead of more controversial areas. That said, we need to pursue all available avenues of research and to avoid the hyperventilating misdirection of commentators on the subject who have an axe to grind.

Posted by: trex on March 10, 2009 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

[There comes a time on some threads when I make the call to turn off comments. This one has reached that point. Trust me when I tell you that you have been spared some comments of a 'quality' rarely seen outside Freeperville. --Mod]

Posted by: Moderator on March 10, 2009 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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