Home > Obama, Science > Religious concern trolling

Religious concern trolling

I give you, Amy Sullivan:

It’s not that Obama works himself into a rant when he talks about science. He’s still calm, cool Barack, after all. But for him, it is almost strident. Sometimes it’s his language–today he complained that “We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.” And sometimes it’s just his tone–when I listened to the stem-cell speech, his voice sounded uncharacteristically hard, although in reading the text later I noticed a sensitivity to dissenting beliefs that hadn’t come through in the delivery.

Whatever the reason, it worries me somewhat because science is one of those areas in which Obama’s generally nuanced intellectual approach would be helpful. The anti-science, anti-expert mindset is obviously troubling. But so too is the idea that science is always an unquestioned capital-G good and that anyone who raises questions stands in the way of progress.

The only way you could get that sentiment from Obama’s speech is if you haven’t been paying attention the last eight years. Or if you’re an idiot. Republicans have relentlessly politicized scientific issues: global warming, environmental dangers, obesity research, stem cells, sex education, etc. Sullivan says “most people who worry about the use of embryonic stem cells [are not] engaged in ‘effort[s] to advance predetermined ideological agendas.'” Setting aside why “most people” is the relevant category, the debate in Washington has been politicized by anti-stem cell research advocates looking to advance their agenda. They lie about and distort the efficacy of embryonic stem cell research, rather than simply argue that it’s not moral, which is what they believe. I assume Sullivan knows this, given that she wasn’t born yesterday. Even if you want to say they have a legitimate moral issue, they’ve very much not stuck to that argument (because it’s patently ridiculous and few agree with them).

We’ve had eight years of Republican abuse of science for political gain and corporate favor. We haven’t had eight years of respect for science and nuanced moral arguments about scientific research. To worry about pro-science “stridency” when Obama forthrightly condemns past abuse is absurd in our current situation.

But Sullivan is really worried that respect for science will make it harder to push religion-inspired policy. If we have to rely on empirical evidence, my absurd superstitions won’t be good enough to justify my preferred policies! Let’s just back up a little on being all pro-science. It’s very important that we allow fairy tales to influence our discourse.

Then again, religious concern trolling is what Sullivan is best at, so should we be surprised?

Categories: Obama, Science
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