October 29, 2006
Marty McFly and Poli-SciBy Denis Keohane
That's Poli—Sci as in 'politicized science'.
Possible best intentions and sincerity notwithstanding, Michael J. Fox is being used in a crass corruption of science, shrouded in a fleeting compassion by politicians solely for political profit.
There's a popular and popularized perception of purity surrounding science and its search for 'truth'. Science is supposed to simply rely on observable fact, and is not swayed by venal and ulterior motives. The political left in particular uses this mythical notion of purity for political ends. When coupled, as in the ESCR (embryonic stem cell research) debate, with an aura of caring and compassion, Democrats and the left assume they have taken the unassailable moral high ground.
'Follow the money' is a good rule of thumb for uncovering corruption whether in politics or science.
The pool of 'qualified' researchers and facilities, however 'qualified' is defined in whatever instance, is always finite. Market forces apply, and the funding needs of researchers and facilities assure that they will migrate to where the funding exists. Likewise, what is committed to research on A is not available for research on B, C or D. If funding for a particular area of research is manipulated by less than noble and even ulterior motives, scientific endeavor will be as prone as any to follow that money.
Research on adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells has already provided beneficial medical treatments, something ESCR has yet to do. However, ESCR is a cause celebre, and as such, even states like California and New Jersey are throwing large sums of tax revenue in that direction. Is that because that research holds great promise of bearing fruit, or because it serves a political purpose to do so, even if such targeted funding decreases resources that might otherwise be engaged in more fruitful pursuits?
It would be na�ve to expect a situation where medical research funding would always go in the optimized proportions whereby its results would provide the greatest good. Years ago it was noted that while the number of men who died from prostate cancer was comparable to the number of women who died of breast cancer, funding for breast cancer research was multiples of that for prostate cancer research. There was nothing sinister in that. The women's movement most certainly led to a focus on what were perceived as women's issues, including and appropriately breast cancer.
That this resulted in unequal funding regarding an issue of life and death for women as opposed to one for men is neither wrong nor unwarranted. Men didn't complain, the lot of them after all having a mother, and a likely mix of sisters, wives and daughters. But at base, it was not wrong because the focus on and response to breast cancer was driven by genuine caring, not for political ends. Societies, like families and individuals, set priorities for a variety of reasons that are not ignoble simply because they are not equitable.
However, if imbalances or misdirection occur due to a politically driven desire to exploit for political gain, it is reprehensible.
It is not a secret that the ESCR brouhaha is really about abortion, something easily confirmed by a check of the 'Who's Who' of the protagonists on both sides. For decades the pro—abortion side has struggled for some kind of morally compelling and compassionate support for the taking of pre—born human life. Once they had fired off 'rape, incest and life of the mother' their quiver was empty, and even NARAL admitted years ago that those causes account for under 2% of abortions.
The destruction of embryonic life in ESCR however, can be presented as a kind of compassion—driven and Star Trekian scientifically noble sacrifice of the needs of the one (if it is actually a one at all!) for the needs of the many. It sets up a mental picture of those Talibanesque—fundamentalist Republicans wanting to defend the supposedly sacred life of some unrecognizable glob of cells for superstitious reason, whereas the loving folks who want simple scientific truth to prevail merely want us all to have, once again, our beloved Marty McFly winging by on his skateboard.
If that seems a bit overly judgmental, simply recall John Edwards in 2004 speaking of ESCR in terms as that a Kerry—Edwards victory would mean that we would do the things that would make folks such as the then just departed paralytic Chris Reeve walk again.
If down the road, it becomes inescapably clear that ESCR has been an overall bust, in that it provides no significant benefit or no benefit not also attained by adult and umbilical blood stem cell usage, will it matter to the political drivers behind the pro—ESCR crusade that resources that might have benefited thousands or millions were squandered?
It will matter not one whit. It is about politics and political power, and not about truth or love of one's fellow man.
Too harsh? Some illustrations:
When the Reagan economic boom became impossible to ignore (but not for lack of media trying), its dark underside was revealed in exposing the plight of countless but supposedly vast numbers of homeless persons, many freezing to death, and Reagan and his folks cared not! This critique continued through Bush Sr.'s kindler—gentler Republican administration.
However, anyone who based his world view on the MSM could reasonably have concluded that something like a quasi—'needs based'—Rapture occurred about noon on January 20, 1993, when Bill Clinton took the oath of office and every homeless man, woman and child in the country seemed to disappear.
Reagan was also charged with not caring about AIDs victims because they were gay. The only reason a 'cure' for AIDs had not been found during the Reagan years was that Reaganites did not have the will to find it and therefore did not expend the resources that would surely have found it, in spite of billions spent on AIDs research under Reagan. Bush Sr. increased that spending, but that his administration didn't find a cure proved again Republicans didn't really care.
Then shortly into the Clinton administration, it was accepted that a cure just might not be in the cards at all, something many scientists and researchers had been saying for years. Treatment became the focus, not cure, and AIDs, no longer a political cudgel, went on the back burner as a domestic political issue.
There was little to nothing in the way of soul searching that went on in the nineties by those who had fed the political charge for a decade about their enemies not having the will to find that inevitable 'cure', and how that might have filled thousands with a false hope or encouraged, even subliminally, dangerous behavior by many who were led to believe, perhaps until the moment they died, that the cure was coming, was just around the corner, would be theirs with little more than a change to the political landscape.
There was the Clinton Health Care initiative. There were, so we were told over and over for months by Democrats and their echo chamber MSM, thirty to forty million Americans without health care. The image projected was of the desperate mother cradling the convulsing infant with the fever of one hundred and four being bum—rushed out of the ER by the hospital orderlies into the cold uncaring street because we didn't have HillaryCare! Then the initiative failed in Congress and with the public at large. There was no move to a Plan B, because there are millions in crisis and we must help some at least. When it became clear that the power ploy had failed, those supposed forty or so million Americans in imminent and desperate danger of untreated disease and death simply became immaterial and of no political use.
Again and again the real or merely presumed sufferers and victims were and are treated in the same manner as the Kleenex was for the tears their stories brought about: used and discarded.
As this is about corruption of science and not just faux caring, there is the global warming scheme. Funding is made available for studies of the effects of global warming, not for whether it is happening or not. Funding is made available for study of how mankind is causing that warming, not for whether or not man is having a noticeable or significant effect on that warming. Funding is made available for study of the negative impact on the environment of that man—caused global warming, not for whether such warming will be negative here but offset by a positive there, as flora and fauna adjust and adapt, as they have through the ages. As such, and getting what is paid for, a large body of scientific research seems to support the fact of man's greenhouse gas emissions as the primary cause of the very real and inarguably catastrophic global warming trend.
What if it was actually determined that while a global warming trend is real, man's greenhouse gas emission contribution to that effect is negligible, and it is overwhelmingly a natural phenomenon related to solar phenomena or some other uncontrollable factor? What would the politicos like Al Gore do?
Having painted, as Gore did in An Inconvenient Truth, the impending warming of the globe as a real and present imminent threat to human life itself, surely that would not cause 'the cause' to be abandoned! But that is exactly what would happen, and why even the hint of such denials of human action as the primary cause leads some on the enviro—left to hysterically speak of Nuremberg type trials for global warming deniers.
First, the political leaders of the left actually know better than to try to convince people, and then be responsible for demonstrating, that the same types of folks, politicians and bureaucrats, who have given the world socialist paradises and DMV offices, ended poverty by declaring a war on it that cost trillions and made generations to be educated by the simple device of reducing the meaning of "educated" to something like barely literate, are capable of controlling the climate of the world to something like eternal stability. Second, it is about power and influence, and global warming—responsive regulatory control over peoples, industries and whole economies is just that. Take that away, and the global warming hype will be given the old SNL Emily Litella 'Nevermind!'. Could that be done when we have been told that the catastrophe on the horizon threatens human life itself? Ask the millions without health care.
Put another way, was it merely by chance that when the old Soviet Union and the dreams of central planning statists everywhere collapsed in the late eighties, so much of the far left of Europe and the US simply migrated in lockstep right into the green/environmental movement, with nary a pause? Did the lost love of central planning foster a newfound love of endangered amphibians? Even Gorbachev soon found himself at home in such environs.
Science is a wondrous and beneficial field of endeavor that has been of inestimable benefit to man. Yet science has also been invoked as the basis for much of Leninist and Hitlerian social policy, including eugenics, with scientists on board for that and more, like the infamous Tuskeegee Syphilis Study.
Pilate asked 'Quid est veritas?' What is truth? Science doesn't have the answer.
Science can present us with fact, not truth. It can inform us how to do things, but not whether we should or should not do them. Facts are facts. The New York City telephone directory contains millions of 'facts', but lay them all end to end and they will not arrive at a single truth. Truth is more, and of a higher order, than that.
How can it be that science, seen by so many for so long as the incorruptible search for the objectively true, can be corrupted for political purposes? Perhaps another type of study, one that acknowledges that scientists are human and science is conducted by humans, and that man seems to have this universally demonstrated nature that is prone to falling away from the good and true, may have answers for that.
We all of us want to see, truly, beloved Marty McFly back on his skateboard. Yet, to symbolically hold out such an image based on a corruption of what is scientifically sound while claiming a caring and compassion that is false, convenient and fleeting, is to be in service not to what is true, but to untruth. This supposed moral high ground is, in truth, an amoral swamp.
Denis Keohane is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.