Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 09:17:17 EDT


I think Obama is trying to say that in the past science had been
constrained by policy/ideology, but that we need to free it of such

You are correct, of course, that Obama is not merely lifting a ban, he
is acting to provide federal funds. The choice of this positive act
requires a value to distinguish one act from another. Of course, the
choice to "lift a ban" likewise entails a value judgment. Everyone, of
course, knows that this is a value judgment. That's why they voted for
him: to act on values they agree with. In effect, what Obama is saying
is that in the past the science had been constrained by the wrong
ideology, now we will encourage it with the right one. Despite the
literal meaning of his words, this is what everyone hears. He uses the
word "ideology" in order to belittle the previous value, and the word
"fact" to point to the right value. Everyone agrees science is suppose
to be about "facts." This is like saying books are about words. Of
course, that doesn't tell you which book to write or to read. As if
someone had been said to ban the use of words in books. When really
what had been banned (actually in this case not banned but not funded)
was the writing of sexually explicit novels (I was trying to think of
something for which there would be both agreement and disagreement).

So if this analogy is correct, it is simply yet another example of
political speech. So it is appropriate to point out the fallacy in the
analogy, for otherwise people will actually forget that what is actually
said is not actually true, but something else is being said which can be
made to make sense.

Enough said,

bill powers

On Tue, 10 Mar 2009, Douglas Hayworth wrote:

> Note: this is NOT a politics question.
> President Obama said yesterday that public policy should be based on
> scientific facts not ideology.
> think this is an awful statement. It's a false dichotomy. Scientific
> "facts" don't make public policy; they form a necessary informational base,
> but every action based on that knowledge also
> requires a moral/ethical/ideological decision. Scientific facts say we can
> build nuclear weapons, but our choice to reduce their proliferation
> ideological/moral. Scientific facts have shown that it is possible to clone
> animals, but we all agree that ideology/morality must weigh in on public
> policy decisions relating to cloning. No one disagrees about the science of
> the "emergency contraception pill" or stem cell research; the pill works and
> stem cell research holds lots of promise. But those scientific facts in and
> of themselves are not a sound basis for policy!
> Does this misrepresentation of science (which I think is not particuler to
> Obama - so don't make this into a political debate) bother anyone else?
> Doug

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Received on Tue Mar 10 09:17:36 2009

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