Saturday, March 14, 2009

The myth of "science without religion or politics"

President Obama's decision to allow Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research received "enthusiastic comments from research proponents: Science, it was said, should be isolated from politics, from ideology, from dogma, from religion." (Today's New York Times)

Without arguing the right or wrong of this specific policy, it is enough to point out just a few historical excesses to blow away the myth that morally unfettered science is desirable:

This U.S.Government funded study is held up as an example of "racism", but that is too narrow a condemnation. It is one of the most egregious examples of science "isolated from politics, from ideology, from dogma, from religion."

So was this scientific endeavor.

The "isolated science" rebuttal to these examples is to say, "Well those were extremists and your examples are things none of us would ever do." To which we might respond with this wisdom:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!" Matthew 23:29-32

Those of us in religion have committed our share of ghastly things. Have the humility to learn from our failures, if you really are "scientific" in your approach. When any discipline goes about its agenda without insights and critiques from others, hypocrisy and evil are the unintended consequences.

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