Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why we say that scientists should stick to their science-ing

The examples of scientists (read: those whose professions often involve them in the process of doing research, forwarding hypotheses, testing those hypotheses, and forwarding what should be tentative conclusions) stepping outside their fields of expertise to comment on matters about which they should know they're really sort of ignorant are numerous. (So are the examples of scientists who have zero idea of the philosophical basis on which science rests, by the way.)
Dawkins' latest few books are prime examples, but here I'd like to call attention to a woman who is working at the cutting edge of a field with the potential to save lives and reduce the suffering of millions.

Who?  Why, ERV of course!

Usually one can count on her throwing out one post with some ignorant leftist blather every so often, but when she put out two in two days, I just figured I'd call attention to it, as well as offer the suggestion to her that she stick to her study of gag, pol, and env and not abortion, ethics, or economics.

(Tom Coburn) says hes 'PRO-LIFE' yet he held up funds for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa because some of the organizations that would receive this funding offer family planning services which include abortion services.
Killing 'babies' while they are unfeeling, unthinking barely multicellular organisms: BAD!
Killing very real, very thinking, very feeling babies via long, painful deaths via AIDS: PRO-LIFE!!

It should be no secret that "pro-life" has a pretty specific connotation in the modern American political landscape - it means one opposes abortion. What is abortion? It is intentional destruction of a human fetus before birth. 
Yet are the two situations analogous? In abortion, someone takes what is in the vast majority of cases a fine, healthy baby and kills him/her, with intent. One does not accidentally insert forceps into a woman's vagina and accidentally crush a baby's cranium. Nor is it a case of leaving the baby alone; left alone, the baby will (again, in the vast majority of cases) grow to term, be born, and live his/her life. 
ERV's tendentious verbiage makes it sounds as if Coburn is walking around injecting African children with AIDS-infected syringes, and indeed pressing the plunger so as to guarantee infection, whereas in fact Coburn is angry that these organizations who lost out on the funding actually do far worse.

Did Coburn do the wrong thing, or was he forced to take the lesser of 2 evils, given (if the information here is correct) what he had to work with? These organizations that would receive this funding also offer abortion services. So which do these organizations care about more - AIDS treatment and prevention, or abortion? If the answer is AIDS, then let them dispense with their abortion services that they may receive these funds. The fact that they won't do so displays all that anyone needs to know about their priorities.  They'd rather risk losing good money to help AIDS sufferers than stop murdering babies in the womb. Hardly Coburn's fault just b/c he sees a problem with baby murder. Coburn is being consistent - let the money go to someone who cares about people regardless of their age. If no such organization exists, I'm sure one presently will, who sees an opportunity to snap up those funds.

Finally, notice ERV's assumption that unborn children are unfeeling and unthinking. How precisely does she know that? Answer: she doesn't know that; she has guessed it. She is the equivalent of the hunter in the forest who, upon seeing bushes rustle 200 meters away, aims and fires without waiting to see whether if the cause of the movement was a deer or a fellow hunter.

So, now that we've seen that the possibilities that ERV could nightlight as an ethicist are limited, what about her doing economics on the side?
Ah well, its just plants, right? No big deal, 'the ends justify the means'.
The link implies that the Greenpeace fanatics' destruction of the genetically-modified wheat has some causal connection to starving African/Haitian/whatever children.
Yet what causes famines in Africa? Is it the destruction of a particular wheat crop in Australia?
Or is it more along the lines of what David Chilton describes in his discussion of the iconic Ethiopian famine of the 80s?

The most blatant recent example, certainly, is the famine in Ethiopia, which first received widespread attention in the fall of 1984. While some have attempted to blame capitalism and the West for this terrible mass starvation, the fact is that Ethiopia is virtually a textbook case of what unbridled socialism can accomplish. The famine has been caused by the collectivist Mengistu regime, which, in the name of socialist “equality,” confiscates most of what its citizens produce - and then devotes billions (46% of the nation’s GNP) to military spending in order to secure its bloody hold on the country. Socialism is, in effect, the politicization of every area of life, a condition which cannot be accomplished without numerous acts of violence and terror by the government against its people. Ethiopia is no exception: in fact, the severity of the famine has been deliberately increased by the state and used as a weapon to force the people into submission, It is, to a large degree, a planned famine — a calculated, intentional matter of government policy. Provident farmers who attempted to store food from good harvests for future seasons of drought have been charged with 'capitalist accumulation' and executed for treason against socialist ideals. There is probably no nation on earth whose government is so slavishly devoted to the Soviet Union and its collectivist agricultural policies. Mengistu’s socialist tyranny has triggered patriotic insurrections against his regime in at least twelve of Ethiopia’s fourteen provinces. (David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, Preface pages xii-xiii)

And what Archbishop Abba Mathias described in his Appendix to the same?

The communist regime’s imposition of an alien, atheistic, Marxist-Leninist ideology and its attendant policy of forced collectivization in agriculture has so alienated the Ethiopian peoples that there has been a raging civil war in the country for the last ten years. The regime’s mismanagement of the country’s resources and affairs, coupled with drought has brought the country to a position of total collapse. (Cited by David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, page 373)

The problem with hunger is not found in the mass of food production; it is in the uneven distribution of that food caused mostly by war and bad politics and economics. I think the Greenpeacers are fools, but ERV is a fool, too, to act as if there is any connection here. Perhaps she does not suspect that economics are a bit complex, but it wouldn't be the first time (nor the second) that her "I'm a scientist" hubris has led her to pontificate where she has no knowledge.

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