Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My friends at the Journal-Sentinel slip up

When it comes to the debate over intelligent design, opponents of teaching ID as an alternative to an undirected process of random mutation and natural selection argue that science is its own special field with its own special rules. Science permits only materialistic reasoning, we are told, but that's ok because science is limited to explaining materialistic processes. Philosophy and theology are the tools we use to decide what to do about those processes.

But that's not how it works. "Science" is played as a card that trumps all other considerations. You see this at work in this morning's MJS editorial on stem cell research. The editorial board argues that Sen. Ted Kanavas and Wisconsin Right to Life are playing "politics" by opposing the funding of research involving the destruction of human embryos. Folks who believe that such research involves the taking of human life are described as "special interests." They seek "unreasonable anti-science limits" as if science could tell us what is and is not human life and when it is right to take it.

In the past, people who have objected to eugenics and forced sterilization were "anti-science." Nazi scientists defended the unspeakable things that they did as advancing science in the greater (defined as the German) good.

You can argue that destroying human embryos is not taking human life. You can even argue (although I would not) that, if it does involve the taking of life, it is justified because of its potential benefits. But merely invoking "science" answers none of the difficult questions. It may tell us that we can do something, but it has nothing to say about whether we should.

Raising that moral question is not catering to a "special interest" or "playing politics" and it is just sloppy thinking to suggest that it is.

10 comments:

elliot said...

I agree with your point, the mere mention of the word "science" doesn't trump a philosophical or religious-based argument, just like the mere mention of "faith" doesn't trump a scientific argument.

But I'm not sure why you brough ID into the discussion.

Rick Esenberg said...

Probably because I taught the legal issues surrouding it last night; the point being that it is generally dismissed as "philosophy" and not "science." This is supposed to be a matter of just relegating it to its sphere of influence, but in fact its a device for marginalizing it.

Having said that, I express no opinion - for now - on ID.

jp said...

I wish more thinking was put into possible destruction of the human species due expanding world population.

jp said...

Correction

I wish more thinking was put into the possible destruction of the human species due to expanding world population

jp said...

Correction

I wish more thinking was put into the possible destruction of the human species due to expanding world populationpulation

collins said...

ID as natural science--talk about "sloppy thinking."

elliot said...

"This is supposed to be a matter of just relegating it to its sphere of influence, but in fact its a device for marginalizing it."

I can totally understand why you would say that.

But not everyone that thinks ID doesn't qualify as science is motivated by the desire to marginalize it.

For example, I personally think there is no way ID belongs in a science class.

I can't see any way to argue that it does.

But that doesn't mean it's not a valid world view or that it's not a correct explanation.

Science is about mechanics, not meaning.

ANd I think we do religion a disservice when we try to shoehorn it into any crack we can find in current scientific knowledge.

Rick Esenberg said...

We can get into ID another day. I think some of it (the part that critiques the proposition that life can be explained by random mutation and natural selection) is undeniably science. Beyond that it gets into realms that are beyond science.

But my point is that the boundaries of science are routinely collapsed and expanded depending on whose ox is on the spit.

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