Abstract, Imaginative Thinking

It is not very astonishing, but it is nonetheless highly unfortunate, that science is under attack, given an incurious, narrow, semi-educated, fundamentalist god-botherer in the White House. Some of the battlegrounds in that attack are discussed in this article in The Guardian, which points out the rhetorical skill with which the anti-science moves are dressed up in ‘scientific’ clothes.

…these aren’t the old wars of science versus religion. The new assaults on the conventional wisdom frame themselves, without exception, as scientific theories, no less deserving of a hearing than any other. Proponents of ID – using a strategy previously unheard of among anti-Darwinists – grant almost all the premises of evolution (the idea that species develop; that the world wasn’t necessarily created in seven days) in order to better attack it.

Intelligent Design, which soberly discusses cells and eyes and complexity in order to argue that there must have been a Designer (without, of course, answering the obvious next question, So who designed the Designer then?). An apparently scientific but evidence-free claim that viruses are small enough to get through condoms, in order to divert funding away from condoms and toward abstinence. Keen admiration for research, the more the better, in fact an indefinite amount is not too much when it comes to global warming, let’s keep doing research for years and years before we take any action. On the other hand when it comes to cloning, then we listen to the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics Leon Kass, who believes and says that we should go with our intuitive disgust-reactions in these matters.

Cloning proponents like Howard Garrison, director of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, say that when they sit down with sceptics they go a long way in convincing them. But the president “listens selectively”, says a source close to one of the national academies, the learned societies which represent the elite scientists in the US. In the White House, an embryo is an embryo and must be protected at all costs.

Well, the president would listen selectively, wouldn’t he. That’s the kind of guy he is. The historian Richard Brookhiser, a conservative, says as much in the Atlantic.

Bush’s worldview is extremely rigid, circumscribed by the good-versus-evil religious convictions to which he has adhered since his recovery from alcoholism seventeen years ago…While this clear-cut belief structure enables him to make split-second decisions and take action with principled confidence, it also means that he is limited by “strictly defined mental horizons.” Abstract, imaginative thinking, Brookhiser emphasizes, is not the President’s strong suit. And though Bush does take care to draw upon the counsel of intelligent, informed advisors, each with a different point of view, those varying viewpoints tend to fall only within a range of perspectives that reflect his pre-existing inclinations.

And that range of pre-existing inclinations probably does not include a lot of that ‘abstract, imaginative thinking’ which is not Bush’s strong suit, but which is science’s. Unfortunate.

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