I’m currently listening to whoever the guest host is for Sean Hannity today droning on about the question of Flag Burning and the recent failure of the Senate to pass the motion for an amendment banning flag burning. I was originally going to write a diatribe about people who keep wanting to use the Constitution to restrict people from doing things rather than restricting the Government and preserving the freedoms of the People. It was going to include liberal amounts of commentary regarding the mindset of people who want to use the force of law to enforce their personal viewpoints.
Instead, something else tripped my trigger on this matter. This guest host is going on about how the decision on this should be left to the elected representatives of the People rather than Nine Men in Black Robes. This particular viewpoint makes me want to shake my head and wonder what he’s thinking. The Will of the People is far too fickle a thing to be given control over methods of expression in this country. It flows and ebbs like the tide, but with far less predictability. Allowing the will of the People to restrict the Freedoms of others is asking for a quick move to Fascism in this country where the central authority of the “People” makes a determination about everything you can and cannot do based solely on what the “People” find distasteful.
If we move down that road, why do we even have a Constitution anymore of the sort that currently controls our government? If we’re going to move to the Will of the People on any given day being the defining rule of law, then there is no need for most of our Constitution. After all, we can simply toss things out for a public poll and let things go in that direction.
Yes, I’m dealing a bit in extremes in the above, but the underlying principle stands sound. The Constitution is there to protect the rights of the citizens of this country and to put limits on Governmental authority. The Supreme Court is there to provide an interpretation of the Constitution as it relates to the laws passed in this country. Leaving issues of freedom of expression, speech, and the like solely to the Legislature is a very poor decision to my mind and one that makes me cringe.
Continuing my previous vein I am now going to address the false controversy surrounding Evolution, and its teaching in schools. The ideas behind biological evolution have existed since first postulated by the Greek philosopher Epicurus. The mechanism behind evolution though was not established until the 18th and 19th centuries by the work of Jen-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin. The hypothesis of species transmutation was accepted by most scientists well before Darwinâ€™s Origin of Species. The role of Darwinâ€™s work though, much like Newtonâ€™s Principia Mathimatica, was creating a cogent theory for the mechanism by which evolution occurs. After over one hundred and fifty years of experimentation and research the scientific theory of biological evolution has been clarified and tested to the point of being accepted scientific fact.
There is a movement though to silence the teaching of this one scientific truth in schools, because it goes counter to a literal translation of the creation story of the Bible. This faction puts forth a counter hypothesis that they call Creation Science or Intelligent Design. At issue is that creationist theories are in no way scientifically based, but instead fallacious attempts to spread confusion and uncertainty about evolution sciences and promote a supernatural idea behind the origin of life over the a scientific one. This would be a harmless exercise by zealots if their ideas were not reported in the media as a valid counterargument to evolutionary theory. Because their opinion is given equal weight to scientific facts, they are able to confuse the issue and create a controversy where there truly is none.
Creationists use a number of disinformation tactics to spread their agenda in the media, commonly they throw up a number of red herrings based around incorrectly used established scientific laws. One of these is the incorrect use of the second law of thermodynamics to claim that the self-organizing nature of evolution is impossible without supernatural influence because of entropy. This is incorrect because the second law of thermodynamics describes closed systems only and biological systems by their very nature are open systems. Open systems allow for self-organization and increasing complexity over time.
Another fallacy that is used by the creationist movement is an appeal to ignorance claiming that macro-evolution has never been directly observed. By macro evolution I refer to the change of one species to another species through natural selection. This though is an incorrect assertion as DNA evidence and the fossil record show species evolving from one form to another over millions of years. Part of the claim is there are gaps in the fossil record which creationists believe do not adequately show how one class of animal has evolved into another class (such as reptiles to birds). But there are thousands of already described fossils and ancient species, some of them are what are known as transitional species because they are members of one class of animal which have traits of another class of animal (such as the bird like archeoptryx). And there are millions of undescribed fossils sitting in basements of universities and museums around the world waiting their turn to be classified and placed into the fossil record. Even though hundreds of transitional species exist in the fossil record, with each new discovery creationists move the bar into the new smaller gap demanding it be filled to prove that evolution occurs. In effect the creationists are using Zenoâ€™s dichotomy paradox to supply themselves with an endless number of missing links to deny existing evidence.
If the media did not give this false controversy equal time as if creation science was actual science there would not be as much confusion in the public about evolution. And there would not be as many ambitious politicians trying to replay the Scopes Monkey Trial at their local school board meeting. The fact is these people have an agenda to get their religious beliefs taught in public schools on the tax payerâ€™s dime. Attacks against the education of evolution are nothing but attempts to get Christian evangelismâ€™s foot in the door of the school house. We need to reject the promotion of agenda driven pseudo-science in the media as valid counterarguments to scientific fact. When the media lends credibility to lies and worthless rhetoric it fails in its role as the informer of the voting publicâ€¦ and Democracy fails when the public is not properly
Earlier I talked about false controversies spread by the media and how these false controversies create confusion and cloud the truth among the public. One of those corrosive false controversies is that surrounding Stem Cell Research. Doctors and medical researchers have known about stem cells since the 60s, and have been using them since the 70â€™s to treat nearly a hundred different ailments including leukemia and lymphoma. But to listen to the media one might think that Stem Cell research was some new untested treatment whose proponents were akin to modern day Dr. Frankensteins.
There are a few levels to this false controversy, and I am going to try to hit them one at a time here. The first level is that stem cells can only be gained from aborted fetuses. This is absolutely false, primarily because an aborted fetus makes for an unviable source of tissues for research or medical treatment because of the means by which an abortion is done. This is actually a sensational claim aimed at aligning anti-abortion partisans against this research. Medical researchers are actually interested in blastocysts, which are human embryos of between 50 and 150 cells. The most common source of blastocysts is unclaimed embryos at fertility clinics. Every year fertility clinics destroy thousands of unwanted frozen embryos to make room in their freezers for new couples trying to have a child. A few of them every year are donated to universities for medical research, specifically for embryonic stem cell research. Claims that this is a type of abortion are fallacious since the only other reasonable fate of these unwanted frozen embryos is destruction.
The second level of this false controversy is the claim that other types of stem cells, specifically adult stem cells, are just as useful for the treatments of diseases as embryonic stem cells. This is a patently false statement. Adult stem cells are also known as multipotent or somatic because they are limited to becoming cells of a closely related â€œfamilyâ€ of cells. The most common use of therapeutic stem cells today is the use of adult stem cells from bone marrow in the treatment of leukemia. The donated bone marrow is used to replace the stem cells killed by the cytotoxins used to kill the leukemia. Without the adult stem cells in the donated bone marrow the cancer victim would quickly perish when their body is unable to make any new blood cells. But the stem cells found in bone marrow would be completely useless for creating skin cells, pancreatic cells, or nerve cells, as they only have the instructions to create blood cells.
Embryonic stem cells are known as totipotent because they can grow into more stem cells or any cell in the human body. It is that universality that doctors want to harness and use for future treatments. Which brings me to the final level of this false controversy; there is no proof that stem cells will be able to heal anything, once again blatantly false. Skin grafts and bone marrow transplants are just a couple of ways that we currently employ adult stem cells to heal the sick and wounded. Researchers have repaired spinal cord injuries in mice and cured mice of diabetes with embryonic stem cell treatments, and are working now on proposals for human trials for these treatments.
The question about whether we as a nation should fund and support stem cell research is not a controversial one. It is a question of performing research which will expand an already successful family of treatments into something that might make the curing of diabetes as common as curing an infection with antiboitics. The people carrying water for this false controversy are doing nothing but standing in the way of progress and extending the suffering of millions of people with their petty obstinacy over a single moot point about abortion.