Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup - Science vs. Faith

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." --- Charles Darwin, from the introduction to The Descent of Man.

Max Blumenthal, in a New York Times editorial that came out at the same time as his recent book, Republican Gomorrah, noted that President Eisenhower wrote:

[D]ictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.

I. The far right, nationwide and in Alaska, are pushing for ballot initiatives that seek to declare single-cell embryos people, with all the same legal rights that you and I have:

The ballot measure [initiative sponsor Christopher Kurka] sponsored seeks to put in law that "all human beings, from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including the single-cell embryo ... shall be recognized as legal persons in the state of Alaska."

What this guy wants may be one thing, but if this idiotic initiative becomes law, anytime somebody suspects a woman's miscarriage was intentional, that woman faces a government investigation, perhaps indictment, trial, incarceration and execution (remember - these same whackjobs want to re-institute capital punishment in Alaska). In other words, a huge growth in the power of government in peoples' lives:

Attorney General Dan Sullivan did suggest the petition include a disclaimer: that it "would not amend or repeal existing state law regulating abortion, but could impact some areas of the law, including criminal law, to extend rights and protections prior to birth." Campbell added that wording and certified the measure so sponsors can go to get the signatures needed to get on the ballot.

Kurka has a different view than the attorney general. He said if his initiative passes and Alaska recognizes the unborn as "persons," they would be entitled to the same legal protection from crime as anyone else. So abortion would be considered murder, or at least manslaughter, he said. Kurka said he'd likely go to legislators if the initiative passes and ask them to change penal codes to reflect it.

The ACLU is going to try to stop this bizarre initiative in its tracks. These bible-based initiatives often use aspects of science to advance what is basically an anti-science agenda. This is just one of the most recent and egregious examples.

Gryph at The Immoral Minority covered this Saturday morning:

Here we go again. This 22 year old kid, Christopher Kurka (A Mike Huckabee supporter in the last election), is introducing an initiative that will inflame the passions of the church going sheeple who receive their information about reproduction from the pulpit instead of the science book. And they will of course turn out en masse to defend the rights of a potentially Christian microorganism.

The idea of a single cell being considered a human being would be laughable if it were not so potentially destructive to the rights of women. Look EVERY SINGLE CELL IN YOUR BODY is a potential human being.

Tetraploid blastocysts are produced by jamming mouse zygotes together so that they join to create cells that have twice the DNA of normal cells. The pre-implantation embryos composed of tetraploid cells and iPSCs can develop to term after being transferred into the womb of a surrogate mother. In other words, mouse skin cells can be transformed into mouse embryos. There is no reason to believe that this would not also work for human skin cells.

This development has prompted a biologist and a bioethicist to take on the argument that the "natural potentiality" of human embryos to develop themselves means that they must be accorded the full moral respect we give to adult human beings.

In other words, with a little manipulation it is possible that a skin cell, scraped off of your forearm, could potentially be an exact duplicate of you. A loving thinking human being, unrecognizable, in a room full of people, as being different in any way.

So would skin cells be afforded the same protection under this initiative? I highly doubt it as these people are not much for scientific quandaries. They can only entertain emotionally charged, intellectually starved arguments that inflame the passions of those who choose to belief over the opportunity to think.

Many have observed nationwide what the people behind this movement will make inevitable - should these initiatives lead to new laws - every woman's body becoming the property of the state. And they won't be happy until that "state" is a Christian one - their version of "Christian."

II. This week's Moore Up North (airing today at 4:00 p.m. Alaska time on KYES Channel 5 Anchorage) with Shannyn Moore will feature a panel discussing science and education. The panel is composed of Ethan Berkowitz, who studied science at Harvard and Cambridge Universities; Steve Heimel, who has done some of Alaska's most outstanding science reporting for decades; and University of Alaska science professor, Rick Steiner, who failed to politicize his science in the approved direction - toward rampant mineral development.PA covered the taping of Moore's show earlier in the week, and The Mudflats covered it yesterday.

III. Yesterday, PA reprinted an article written last winter by Jim Lovgren, called The Best Available Science - or Politics? Each week, the progressive Alaskan blogosphere runs at least a couple of excellent articles questioning the paradigms of over-fishing, resource depletion, climate change and the role of science in education and our daily Alaska lives:

Tholepin: Trawler Greed Destroys Halibut Stocks, Robs Other Gear Types Permanently

The Ester Republic
: cheesy question

No Trawl Zone
: NOAA Releases Draft (Unbelievable) Pollock Stock Assessment

Alaskan Librarian: Film Review: A Crude Awakening The Oil Crash

The Mudflats: Coal and Cook Inlet

additionally, The Alaska Report carried Stephen Taufen's excellent article, Alaska Fishery CDQ Group Suffers as Tightly-Closed Fraternity

image - Moore Up North science panelists by AKM


Lee said...

Why aren't you on That's where everything is happening! Use it as a news media not a social site.

jamie said...

I just left this comment over at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's thread re: the personhood initiative (pasted in below) that pretty much parallels the points in your post.

A point of fact to clarify; “declare a fetus a legal person” is misleading, and reflects the generally poor understanding of basic biology and medical terminology the American Taliban tends to fail at (the same problem coincidentally seen in Creationism efforts). The term embryo is used during the first 8 weeks following conception, which is when the overwhelming majority of abortions occur, along with 25% of miscarriages. This is the first Associated Press article that includes the language of the full initiative and clearly states its intent: “from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including the single-cell embryo.”

Now pay close attention to the anonymous commenter here who said “Liberals should be encouraged to abort their babies. The fewer parasites the better” – this is representative of the mindset that values an embryo over the life of a human being. It’s how pro-lifers justify murdering other people, from clinic doctors all the way up to the hypocrites cheerleading wars that kill thousands of innocents. It’s much easier to terrorize and persecute a woman, and just as convenient to not have any moral qualms about gunning anybody down who disagrees with them: calling them “parasites” is the chilling first step in ultimately denying someone “personhood.”

This is an issue about basic woman’s rights, and the same men with all the faux outrage over government intrusion into citizen’s lives don’t waste a second passing laws to control women.

Palin/Bachmann 2012