Saturday, July 22, 2006

People of Science, People of Faith, Ideology and Stem Cells

One thing I have started notice is how science is used to justify peoples arguments. Science is about the search for the undeniable truth. It is above morals it just right. But now it is started to be brought in by people to justify their ideology but when it disagrees with their ideology they ignore it.

The classic example is intelligent design. Intelligent design has 2 main arguments. The first one is that the likelihood that human beings evolved and Earth was created has a probability of about 13 billion to 1 and thus could not happen. Now if you don’t see the obvious problem with that. It is this. If you play a game of cards and hold about 13 cards in your hand the likelihood of you holding those exact 13 cards in the order in your hand is about the same as the probability of evolution yet you do hold those cards in your hands. Saying something is improbable does nothing to prove it is impossible. The other big argument is that something are some complex that they must have a designer. Now the main definition of science is that a theory must be provable simply saying is too complex to be. But to use that as an argument it has to be proved that it is to complex and it has been shown that it is possible for complex systems to develop. To complex is a nice sounds bite put it is just that a sound bite. The argument for intelligent design is not about science it is about perceived morals

But the ignoring of science is not just a past time of conservatives. Liberals do the same thing. The big question about abortion is when does life begin. Liberals will debate the issue not on science but on perceived morals abandoning the science they use to debate the intelligent design debate on. It is about the woman’s right to choose not on whether science says that a embryo or a foetus is a life. They refuse to answer the question of where life begins. To answer the question of where life begins or not you have to provide a specific point that can be said that here life begins before there is not life. Many of the liberals would support abortion up to something like 20 weeks. But that is a truly arbitrary point derived from an unscientific definition of a week as 7 rotations of the earth. If you are going to limit the time in which an abortion can take place. Means you believe at a point that a life is a life. Thus you have to define that point in absolute terms. Whether that is conception, implantation or when certain feature is created. This is what should be the point chosen not something arbitrary based on society not science.

So that brings us to the latest controversy stem cells. So firstly I will talk about my own views of stem cell research. Much of the debate in relation to embryos in Abortion is that at that point life is inevitable presuming nothing bad happens (miscarriage etc) . Yet with stem cells they are coming from unused embryos and thus unless they are going to be put into a womb they are not going to be life no matter what happens. It is potential life not inevitable life. A slim difference possibly but still a difference. The debate of the Iraq war justifies the deaths of innocent lives in Iraq by saying that they are taking innocent life to save innocent life. Saying that killing 1000s to save millions is justified. Yet the people who make this argument are often the people who do not support stem cells saying you cannot take innocent life to save innocent life. So I am supportive of stem cells.

Now Auds makes a very strong argument against stem cells on the grounds that adult stem cells are better and she being a doctor I will take her word on that matter. However the banning of stem cells research funding in America was not based on that fact that one avenue of research is better then another. Would a government ban research into 3 colour white Light Emitting Diodes as blue and yellow phospours ones or at the moment better. Of course not the government know little about science. Bush himself is a business grad. The ban is based on the ethical side of the debate. When scientist are free from government interference they are going to focus investigation on the best avenue and until they investigate all avenues will they know which is better. Would Auds favour a ban on research into GM-crops (as many people who favour stem cell research would) Somehow I doubt it.

Science doesn’t lend itself to morals. Morals can be contradictor science cannot. Science is based on truth, ideology and morals are based on faith.


wulfbeorn said...

Stem cell research wasn't banned. It is still fully legal.

Simon said...

Well I did say "stem cells research funding" in my article.

wulfbeorn said...

And it wasn't banned!

Simon said...

Well yes for non-government funding. But surely as a libertian you can't invision government saying what private groups can and cannot fund. So you would automatically assume that I am talking about government funding. :)

Also there is a serious issue of the fact that very few companies are going to invest in areas of research that do not have a defined market readiness stage in a time line of 3-4 years. Take the billions European governments are investing in fusion technology. No private company would invest that type of money into something that could possibly come to nothing. Yet the potential of the thing 10 years down the line is sufficent to make government funding nesscary.

With something like stem cell research that may or may not work. Companies or going to be reserved about investing into it. When for instance adult stem cells provide a likely market for now.

Only a government can invest into something for a loss. It is one of the few areas I believe the government should be in.( research not exclussivly stem cells)

But as to your point that my post didn't specify government funding fair cop.

Simon said...

By the way I know there is many small firms in stem cell resarch. But that is no reason to ban stem cell research over any other kind of research.

Article about company researach

wulfbeorn said...

Actually private sector stem cell research funding has always been much greater than government funding in the US, as it is has been for most technologies.

As an aside, like I said at DL, it's weird to say that stem cell research is risky or is likely to result in losses, and then propose that the ordinary Joe on the street be forced to pay for it. Now he's getting coerced into paying for something which according to you is not even worth it!

You don't actually believe that stem cell research is going to incur a loss do you?! Neither do most people, and there's nothing to stop them supporting it voluntarily, which they do. But to argue that one of the US government's functions is to take risks with taxpayer's money, precisely for the sake of taking a risk that people wouldn't take voluntarily, well that's incomprehensible to me.

Or you're saying that government sees long-term while private sector can only see short-term? Because I think it's plain to see that politicians care fundamentally about one thing, and that's being re-elected. That's their job. But private companies must continue to produce all the time in order to survive. When you look at the spending binges we've had here, and the disgraceful waste of money involved and all the other cock-ups, and compare it with companies that have been going strong for decades, without seeking any help from the taxpayer, you must concede that the private sector sees far more long-term into the future than any government does.

Basically I don't think this needs to be a political debate.

Simon said...

you must concede that the private sector sees far more long-term into the future than any government does.
No I don't concide that point at all. I might post later on the topic. But look at
what company would match this

planetpotato said...

Governments are good at sponsoring basic research where the outputs are not necessarily commercially viable. That's why government money for stemcell research is a reasonable area for investment.

wulfbeorn said...

Governments are good at sponsoring basic research where the outputs are not necessarily commercially viable.

I know they're good at it. It's called wasting money!

Simon said...

I know they're good at it. It's called wasting money!
Building ramps for disabled people is probably not comerically viable. Doesn't make it a bad thing. See wulfbeorn you are just itching to write a blog post about research funding. I can see it . You will blog again ;)

wulfbeorn said...

But building wheelchair ramps for the disabled is commercially viable - their money is just as good as everyone else's!

wulfbeorn said...

And what about the people who think stem cell research is murder? Their freedom to hold that opinion surely requires the freedom not to have to pay for it. Or am I hopelessly old-fashioned?

wulfbeorn said...

simon... I am finished blogging :)