To me, it is deeply disturbing when the president puts his faith in scientists, saying things like “promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today [on March 9] do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”
To divorce any kind of ideology from science is to give science a free rein that leads to frightening results. In a review of Pamela Winnick’s book “A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion,” Wesley Smith points out what kind of work scientists are capable of when human life is disregarded. From his review published in the Discovery Institute’s First Things:
Early on, Winnick wrenchingly demonstrates the potential antihuman consequences of pursuing scientism’s view of scientific research. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, scientists conducted human experiments on living fetuses, justified by the philosophical assertion that fetuses are only “potential” human life.
One such experiment, which won the Foundation Prize Award from the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is described by Winnick in sickening detail: “In a 1968 study called the ‘Artificial Placenta,’ a twenty-six-week-old fetus, weighing more than a pound, was obtained from a fourteen-year-old girl, presumably from a therapeutic abortion. Along with fourteen other fetuses, it was immersed in a liquid containing oxygen and kept alive a full five hours.” The study itself explains that the fetus made”irregular gaspmg movements, twice a minute, … but there was not proper respiration.” Once the pumping of oxygenated blood was stopped, however, “the gasping respiratory efforts increased to 8 to 10 times a minute …. The fetus died 21 minutes after leaving the circuit.”
So, for those of you who feel squeamish or think I’m overstating it when I mention Nazi doctors in regard to therapeutic stem cell research, I’d ask you to read that last paragraph again and remember that we’re talking about 1960s America and not 1940s Nazi Germany. Smith notes that the experiments were stopped when an outraged public and Congress — led by Ted Kennedy — demanded they be stopped. But we live in a different age where the drumbeat call for cures has drowned out any thought of human exceptionalism. In other words, it matters not that embryos are human, it only matters what cures can (possibly) be found.
The idea that science is somehow benign and trustworthy left untethered from any kind of ideological guidelines is naive and will lead to situations like the one described above. Smith, in his review of Winnock’s book, says science of is not the target in “A Jealous God” but rather a belief (scientism she calls it) that “promotes a stark materialistic utilitarianism as the way to achieve progress.” Science is not our savior, and we can never forget that.