A rant of sorts

Let me first get something off my chest about the common misperception of the relationship between science and faith. It astounds me when knowledgeable people talk as if science can be amoral, areligious, etc. This week Obama gave a speech in which he made public policy changes regarding stem cell research. All in all, the speech is good. He tries to convince his hearer that his choice to move forward with more stem cell research is worthwhile because of the possibilities of curing a number of disease states–even if one must be “delicate” about the major questions that stem cell work raises.

But one line gets me riled up. He stated that his administration, “would make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” All science is based in ideology. This doesn’t mean that science is loosy-goosy but that one cannot possibly make a decision about which endeavors to undertake and which ones to avoid WITHOUT an ideology. I would much prefer him to say what he meant: “Based on the ideology of utilitarianism (the greatest good for the most), I deem that we should continue and advance the stem cell research programs.” While I would disagree with him on his decision, I would respect him all the more.



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5 responses to “A rant of sorts

  1. I have been working on a post on this VERY SAME thing. Well said!

  2. Peter Konz

    I agree with your rant of sorts. Many of our decisions are made with our faith and moral beliefs in the background. It’s best to acknowledge that and own it.

  3. Lightbearer

    Obama was trying to make a distinction between ideology that is change-resistant, like Creationism or Scientism, and science in general, that, although has preconceived ideas, welcomes change and skepticism by definition.

  4. Lightbearer, most ideologies are change resistant–whether an ism as you suggest or the nature of scientific inquiry. Read a classic like Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and you’ll see that scientific paradigms are extremely change resistant on a larger scale. He uses many illustrations from the world of physics to show that nearly all of scientific inquiry is a filling in the gaps or a “mopping up” routine rather than paradigm busting. My all-time-favorite example is the guy who studies the existence of H Pylorii in the human stomach. He was trashed because everyone “knew” that such bugs couldn’t live in stomach acid. They had to blow up the paradigm for his work to be recognized.

    My point is that all science is buttressed with ideology (and this doesn’t take away from its scientific value) so lets not dismiss one ideology as bad and deny the existence of the other. Both are ideologies and worthy of debate. Reject the one because you believe the other.

  5. I should have said, ” ….routine rather than paradigm creating.” While creating one paradigm usually entails busting another, it doesn’t always have to destroy the previous paradigm. That is part of the debate by Kuhn. Is psychology a science, he wonders, since the paradigm of CBT or family systems doesn’t seem to do away with Frued or Rodgers.

    A conversation for another day 🙂

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