Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Douglas Hayworth <>
Date: Tue Mar 10 2009 - 12:09:10 EDT

On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 9:47 AM, John Burgeson (ASA member) <> wrote:

> Doug posted, in part: "public policy should be based on scientific
> facts not ideology.
> I 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."
> I don't see it as "awful," but a simple factual statement. If one
> takes it to mean "based ONLY on scientific facts," then, of course,
> I'd agree that it is "awful." I'd probably use a stronger term.But it
> does not say that.
> Relative to the stem cell issue, it really boils down to the question
> "does a frozen embryo have personhood -- a soul?" For those asserting
> "yes," the issue is clear; stem cell research is immoral. For those
> who assert otherwise, stem cell research in morally OK.
> Having read a lot on this, I tend toward the latter position, but I do
> NOT claim certainty. I don't know that any of us can claim certainty
> on the issue.
> It is a classic case that whichever side of the issue you choose, you
> run the risk of doing harm (or not avoiding harm).
> jb

The original statement was inherently either/or. You say that it would need
to say "based ONLY on scientific facts" to count as an either/or statement.
I say that it would need to say, "not ONLY on ideology" to be considered
something other than either/or. It may be valid to decide that the potential
benefits to humankind of stem cell research outweighs the ambiguity about
the personhood of early-stage embryos, but that is a moral/ideological
decision. And that is a decision that has no more claim to being based on
sound science than the opposing view.

We're not talking here about science nay-sayers (e.g., those who don't
believe the science about global warming or evolution, etc.). There's no
controversy about the science in the case of stem cell reserarch. Any policy
decision is based solely on moral/ideological grounds (i.e., what is the
best course of action for society?).

I also don't put too much blame on Obama personally. I know he doesn't write
every word he speaks, etc. I think he's very smart and understands the
nuances of most things. That's why I was surprised to hear this from him. If
I were president and my speech-writer gave me this, I'd question it
and change the wording slightly.


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Received on Tue Mar 10 12:09:39 2009

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