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Science as Club to Snuff Debate, Choice, and Conscience

The latest illustration of a growing and worrisome trend in scientism in our society comes in this story about the morning after pill being made available without a prescription to “17 year olds.” Here are some quotes:

Seventeen-year-olds will be able to buy the “morning-after” emergency contraceptive without a doctor’s prescription, a decision that conservatives denounced as a blow to parental supervision of teens but that women’s groups said represents sound science.

“It’s a good indication that the agency will move expeditiously to ensure its policy on Plan B is based solely on science,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit.

The battle over access to Plan B has dragged on for the better part of a decade, through the terms of three FDA commissioners. Among many in the medical community, it came to symbolize the decline of science at the agency because top FDA managers refused to go along with the recommendations of scientific staff and outside advisers that the drug be made available with no age restrictions.

One of the questions that comes to my mind when I read this is how ‘no age restrictions’ means in practice ‘available to 17 year olds.’    Someone needs to check on this.  It smells strongly like doublespeak to me.  I have the feeling that by ‘no age restrictions’ they really mean ‘no age restrictions.’  I wonder if perhaps the headline said “FDA OK’s Morning After Pills for 13 Year Olds” the reaction would be quite different.   I don’t see how that is precluded by the information provided in this article.  But I digress.

This story is a perfect illustration of scientism and its dangers to our society.  The idea that something is intrinsically morally correct by virtue of being ‘scientific’ is a non sequitur, certainly, but nonetheless coming to be quite common.  Science gave us the atom bomb, too, but it is self-evident that the decision to use it should be political.  But can the decision to use it ever be scientific?  (The movie IRobot comes to mind, here).

Is there any way to get from an observation of reality or increase in technology to “And you ought…” ?

Of course not.  In short, just because the morning after pill is effective and it is only ‘unlikely’ to have the result that conservatives fear, it doesn’t follow that it should be used at all, or that it should be made available to people who are not yet legal adults.   Cars are effective, too, but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t be in the loop as to whether or not their underage children should be allowed to drive them.

The idea that something ‘scientific’ is intrinsically morally correct is an absurdity.  This story shows how effective the argument is.  You can basically cow anyone these days by claiming that your view is scientific while their view is ‘politics.’   The net effect of this approach will be an ever smaller group of people deciding what is ‘morally correct’ in society as scientism increases its toehold and more and more specialism excludes ever widening groups of people from being able to have ‘an informed opinion.’  After all, YOU didn’t create the Plan B pill and YOU aren’t familiar with the science related to it- so your view is just politics.

The list of things that you didn’t create and aren’t familiar with is huge and with the continued discoveries of science and advances in technology that list is only going to expand.   Pretty soon there won’t be any thing that you can speak about because there will be some specialist somewhere who knows more about it than you.  And by anything, I mean any thing.

Obama’s funding of embryonic stem cells is another example of this kind of scientism and ‘exclusion of politics’ from decision making.  This blog by Bob Beckel imploring people to keep ‘God out of politics’ is from the same cloth- he was complaining about Miss California’s personal belief that same sex marriage wasn’t right.

Be on your guard, friends.  A Brave New World is nearly upon us.

More thoughts on scientism.

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