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Michael Bloomberg Defends Science 387

Posted by Zonk
from the science-apparently-needs-defending dept.
blonde rser writes "This weeks Scientific American Podcast plays excerpts from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's commencement address at John Hopkins University (text and video can be found online). Once he gets past the standard pomp and circumstance he makes a strong, pro-science speech. It is impressive how he very directly demonizes those that would politicize stem cell research, global warming, Terry Schaivo, and evolution." From the speech: "Hopkins' motto is 'Veritas vos liberabit' - 'the truth shall set you free' - not that 'you shall be free to set the truth!'" Stirring stuff.
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Michael Bloomberg Defends Science

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  • This man is right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Swizec (978239) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:50AM (#15465579) Homepage
    I wholeheartedly agree. It is unacceptable that stem cell research is being outlawed pretty much everywhere. Laws shoudl be made about what is allowed to be done with stem cell research, for instance that you cant' clone whole humans, that seems nasty, but things like organs taht match the one that needs them perfectly should be allowed. I for one would like to have my heart replaced by what is practically my own heart once this one becomes too weak and/or sick.

    With stem cell research there is no waiting for organs, no rejection, everything is just perfect. But nooooooo, that would be too wrong to have, hell I can't even think who would be at loss if this were true.
  • Puzzling. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killjoe (766577) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:58AM (#15465598)
    While I applaud Mr. Bloombergs speech to me he represents a rather puzzling person. Why is this guy a repulican. Not just him but also people like arnold schwarzenegger, Andrew Sullivan etc. I mean if you are not against gay marriage, if you don't think pre-emptive war is a good idea, if you are pro life then why are you are republican. Before anybody says anything about fiscal responsibility or smaller government I will ask you to go look up the track record of republican presidents regarding those items.

    I am especially puzzled about Andrew Sullivan. This guy is gay, the republican party tried to pass a platform saying that homosexuality was a disease!. They are trying their best to deny him the right to marry, to serve his govt, live wherever he chooses etc and yet he is still a republican. Can anything be more important to you then having the same rights as everybody else in the country?

    Weird.
  • by ceeam (39911) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:59AM (#15465601)
    Who would be at loss? Just use your imagination! For once - would you agree to move your retirement age if you start replacing your organs with new one? Would you agree that everyone should be able to do that or only people with money? Since we are dreaming do you really want to see talking (and walking) heads of 200 year old people around? I dunno - maybe they'll have something nice to say or teach but I doubt. Reminds me of some Simpsons episodes....

    Anyway - these matters are complex and neither you and me know more than other people. Just notice that even such "harmless" decisions as "1 child per family" program in China have some not-quite-expected consequences where there many, many more boys being born than girls. They are heading to a big social crisis in 15-20 years this way (and they know it). Expect arrival of single horny chinese young men hunting for your daughters wherever you live.
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pintomp3 (882811) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:08AM (#15465619)
    well, he may be liberal on some fronts like gun control and science. but bloomberg is very much about control and telling people what's good for them. from banning smoking indoors to this cell phone ban in schools. he's the decider. that's the hallmark of a good republican. he knows what's best for you and will bully his way. here's a pretty funny take: http://www.newyorkmetro.com/news/intelligencer/170 76/index.html [newyorkmetro.com]
  • Um, What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philgross (23409) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:49AM (#15465696) Homepage
    Dude, Terry Schiavo is not a terribly complex issue, and there was nothing "questionable" about her state. As was clearly documented at the time, her brain was gone [amptoons.com]. Tragic, but true. Those desperately trying to pretend that she had some higher-order function left were denying science, medicine, and facts. The craven politicians trying to get mileage out of the tragedy were disgusting, even by Washington D.C. standards, with actual-doctor Bill Frist the most egregious and hypocritical [washingtonpost.com].
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:50AM (#15465701)
    Just notice that even such "harmless" decisions as "1 child per family" program in China have some not-quite-expected consequences where there many, many more boys being born than girls. They are heading to a big social crisis in 15-20 years this way (and they know it). Expect arrival of single horny chinese young men hunting for your daughters wherever you live.

    Not only horny - but economically disenfranchised. "1 Family 1 Child" means that for every 2 retired people there will only be 1 working person. The US has concerns about their social security pyramid scheme collapsing because american families have something like 1.8 kids. China's got it much worse with around 1.05 kids. I would be leaving the country if I were forced into that kind of scheme too - which only makes it worse for the ones who don't leave.
  • by goldcd (587052) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:55AM (#15465709) Homepage
    "It is unacceptable that stem cell research is being outlawed pretty much everywhere"
    It's mainly just been outlawed in the US, and specifically in projects that take funding from your government (as I understand it).


    It's a quite bizarre situation. If stem cell research had been banned outright, then it would make more sense as at least it could be looked at as an ethical decision. This ban on funding is an entirely political point - the US science system has been hobbled entirely to make a political point.
    Still - when your scientists are phoned and asked which party they vote for, before they get their money (and nobody seems to care)
    *shrugs*
    You reap what you sow.
  • Not that puzzling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goldcd (587052) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:00AM (#15465722) Homepage
    The US is a very conservative country - and there is genuinely very little to separate the Democrats and Republicans ideologically.
    Both parties are broad churches containing members of differing views on pretty much all of the 'issues'
    The only persons of interest are those at the extremes - you can probably tell the differece between a right wing republican and a left wing democrat - but between the two it gets a little fuzzy.
  • by McDutchie (151611) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:22AM (#15465756) Homepage
    Just notice that even such "harmless" decisions as "1 child per family" program in China have some not-quite-expected consequences where there many, many more boys being born than girls.

    I think you mean: many more baby girls being murdered than boys.

  • Re:Um, What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wrf3 (314267) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:42AM (#15465795) Homepage
    Ok, I'll bite. Yes, she was brain dead. Yes, she wasn't going to recover.

    Yet why should she be killed when there were people who were willing to take care of her? This has nothing to do with science, since science cannot answer ethical questions. It had to do with law (who controls another human being since there were no written instructions from her). It had to do with whether we are the kind of people who will dispose of the inconvenient, whether we will choose death over life. It wasn't about Teri, since she couldn't possibly care. It was about us.

    Personally, I think we failed miserably.
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:47AM (#15465808) Homepage
    Possibly because communism is a political concept that has very little to do with totalitarianism which can be allied to any economic philosophy.

    Communism requires totalitarian control of the economy (and a big, powerful government to do it). Once you go down that path, well, we all know where it seems to end up... (historically speaking).

    P.S. If anyone wants to reply with how the big, totalitarian government is only a transitory requirement which can be dismanteled once the communist utopia has been established, well, we all know how historically acurate that theory has proven itself to be...
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by killjoe (766577) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:08AM (#15465863)
    I remember Reagan. He spent the economy into insane debt that took till clinton to come out of. He instituted zero tolerance of drug laws so that having a seed meant you ended up in jail. What's worse I remember how people were having their houses confiscated because their renters smoked dope. Reagan started the war on drugs. I also remember him funding death squads in central america with arms sales to iran. I remember him falling asleep in front of the pope. I remember him confusing real life with movies. I remember nancy whispering his lines to him. I remember Lee Atwater who I believed was an actual demon roaming the earth eating souls as he went along.

    Yes I remember Reagan. Bush reminds me a lot of him. I am sure he would take that as a compliment.
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:13AM (#15465878) Homepage
    Up until the last 250 years or so just about everywhere was a totalitarian dictatorship

    Do you even know what totalitarian means? Please read this [wikipedia.org]. Until the 20th century, most states lacked both the resources and the desire to "regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior." Statist communism, on the other hand, required by definition that "nearly every aspect of public and private behavior" is regulated to ensure an equal outcome for all.
  • Motto (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wizdumb (846957) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:21AM (#15465893)
    "Facts shall set you free" would seem more appropriate when talking about science, but what the hey.
  • Re:Um, What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:27AM (#15465911) Homepage
    Yet why should she be killed when there were people who were willing to take care of her?
    Were they willing to finance her care completely out of their own pockets? If so, I agree with you. Otherwise, resources are finite and precious, and there is no sense wasting the state's resources even more than they are currently being wasted.
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dalutong (260603) <djtansey@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:33AM (#15465931)
    I am big on the-institutional-infrastructure-determines-the-fu ture-of-the-system school of thought. That is why our system of winner-take-all elections will necessarily require that we are a predominantly two party democratic system (talking about America here.) I think that government ownership of all industry, etc, without simple (Paine-like) accountability inevitably leads to corruption and to some form of abuse/oppression.

    But that doesn't mean that all of communisms manifestations are doomed. Socialism, which has been exceptionally popular aruond the world, has been one implementation of communist ideas that has been very successful. But they have only been successful because they have had reasonably accountable governments and institutionalized transparency.

    Also, communism has failed as much for historical reasons as for any others, just as democracy has. Countries are only ready for certain types of government when their populations are ready for those types of government too. Democracy (at least as we think of it) isn't going to work in a feudal state where there is no private class of politically ambitious people. I'd say that communist-like governments are only possible when the same conditions that make democracy possible are there and the people demand it. So the transition is really more totalitarianism->democracy->communism. If you don't have the economic/population/etc circumstances in line, any government change will return to totalitarianism. Look at the world's democracies over history -- most have become dictatorships.

    But that isn't necessarily bad. Look at China. I'd argue that the guo ming dang (which, remember, were "democratic" dictators in Taiwan after their defeat until 1988) would have served the Chinese people VERY poorly. They were the aristocrats with no concern for anyone but themselves. (Note: this isn't as true for Sun YatSen, but it was true for Chaing KaiShek.) Mao made some terrible decisions, but he also made some fabulous ones: he unbound women's feet, he unified the dozens and dozens of dialects to strengthen the concept of China being one country, and he ruled with the interest of keeping the country together as paramount (just as Lincoln did -- he believed there was no point following the letter of constitutional law if that would be like signing a suicide pact.)

    But China isn't an example to follow. It was one place where just the right people were in charge at just the right time, and they weren't there because of the way the institution was set up. But they are opening up, which demonstrates that it is only possible when the population is ready. There are ways to facilitate this readiness, but there is no point trying to advocate democracy when it isn't there.

    Sorry for the poor writing. I am sick with slashdotanitis and went straight from bed to my computer and to typing this comment.

  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vandan (151516) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:35AM (#15465934) Homepage
    Communism has been tried in many different countries all over the world, and it has always resulted in totalitarianism.

    The same could be said for capitalism. And communism hasn't been tried in 'many countries the world over'. There was a failed startup in Russia. It was remarkably successful while it lasted. There is some interesting stuff happening in South America, and it is interesting to note that Emperor Dubya considers Chavez a 'terrorist' and an 'enemy of the free world'.

    The arguement that communism has been tried 'the world over' is growing very tired. Capitalism has been tried the world over, and despite morons like you who consider it a blazing success, it is in fact a pathetic disaster, and a display of all of the worst aspects of humanity ... in particular greed. A large majority of the world considers capitalism and US imperialism as their enemy. The fact that a nation of sickly patriotic Yanks disagree doesn't change the 'facts on the ground'. For most people, those facts are living in obsolute poverty and under an oppressive regime that the US supports because it's in their 'economic interests'.
  • Re:Um, What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@nOspam.gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:38AM (#15465939) Homepage
    It's really a matter of law. Mrs. Schiavo was married, and the laws state, if I'm not misinformed, (IANAL) a husband has the right to decide on life support. Can we just let ANYONE come along and say they'll take care of her?

    Hypothetical situation: I'm married (Crazy enough right there), and my wife is also on life support. I'm in pain just seeing her in such a state, and would rather see her die than suffer in such a way for so long. However, it turns out Bill Gates it's actually my 5th cousin, and he walks in and says he'll pay for the support forever.

    Should he have the right to do that? I don't think so. It's not really an ethical issue, because opinions in this case could vary so much. What it comes down to is should he have the legal right to do that?
  • Yay hypocrites! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:03AM (#15466014)
    I like how he talks about the importance of rigorous scientific investigation, and then comes out in support of gun control against overwhelming amounts of data to the contrary. "Political science" indeed.
  • Bloomberg News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:12AM (#15466049) Homepage Journal
    Bloomberg has been one of the biggest fundraisers for Bush, since he "switched parties" from Democrat to Republican to get Giuliani's endorsement in the 2001 NYC mayor election. And for 5 years his news network has ignored Bush's attacks on science, like the rest of the mass media. Now that everyone is hearing how Bush destroys science to please the retards who want to vote down the "brainy" people to their level of medieval slavery, there's a big backlash. Especially in NYC, where being smart is second only to being rich as the ticket to being rich.

    Bloomberg is talking science in the public speeches for the media, and raising money for BushCo behind the scenes. Just like Arafat used to talk diplomacy in English on TV, and terror in Arabic through the grapevine.
  • by Steeltoe (98226) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:14AM (#15466055) Homepage
    Do you even know what totalitarian means? Please read this. Until the 20th century, most states lacked both the resources and the desire to "regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior." Statist communism, on the other hand, required by definition that "nearly every aspect of public and private behavior" is regulated to ensure an equal outcome for all.

    I beg your pardon, but communism was supposed to be ruled in "communes" / communities, that would set its own agenda and its own decisions about local things. Nowhere is it stated that for communism everything had to be centrally organized by a power-hungry and self-serving elite. Soviets in Russia turned into propaganda-machines and pupeteers for the ruling elite, thus negated its own function.

    Communism has been functioning well in small communities, indeed, for small native village-societies it is really the most natural way to rule. Everything is shared, maximizing efficiency in a situation where not everybody has everything they need. Native Indians had little or no concept of ownership of land, animals, tools and many other things.

    It is inherently connected with a deep sense of community, fellowship and trust. Something which is impossible after a bloody revolution, or just by plotting red areas on a map. Something which is ONLY possible by spiritual means and a common spiritual bond.

    You have been brainwashed / misinformed about communism. No religion or ruleset dictates villaneous and predatory behaviour on its own populace, but the ego of man can justify anything to force his own will upon others, either for self-gratification or for misdirected belief in the "greater good". Usually, the ends never justify the means, it's the other way around: The means makes the end.

    Unfortunately, people nowadays lack the very foundation to understand that a society can be ruled, not based on fear and force, but through trust, love and compassion.
  • It's 2007... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:24AM (#15466299) Journal
    ...and it's news that the mayor of some city has made a pro-science speech? What kind of just-crawling-out-from-the-dark-ages country are we talking about?
  • by samkass (174571) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @09:59AM (#15466448) Homepage Journal
    , you are free to slaughter the innocent little potential babies

    This is exactly the type of language that doesn't help anyone. For the most part, the stem cells come from embryos that are going to be destroyed anyway. So it's really the choice between incinerating them or letting them help humanity. And as for potential babies, that's the same argument that's causing the Catholic church to ban condoms which leads to huge increases in HIV and other STDs. So it all depends on how far you want to go with this "potential baby" thing. (In Jesus' day, a baby wasn't considered "viable" until 30 days *after* birth, and I don't recall reading his sermon on that topic.)

    As for me, I'd probably go further than most. My current opinion is that I don't see a microscopic bundle of cells at that level as anything higher than an animal. I think if you want to protect innocent human life, you should start with the already-born children's quality of life and education before you go down to the little cells.
  • You Win! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FatSean (18753) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @11:00AM (#15466737) Homepage Journal
    I don't have a soul, nobody has a soul. It is all bullshit made up by mystical savages to explain the big scary world.

    If the baby is in the belly, the mother gets to excise it if she wishes.
  • Re:Um, What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wrf3 (314267) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:45PM (#15467320) Homepage
    For the record, the husband spent the money earmarked for her care from a lawsuit. Furthermore, the husband was seeing another woman that he wanted to marry. His motives certainly gave the appearance of being tainted.

    In any case, should we have the legal right to sentence the innocent to death (which is what you're asking)? I say no.

  • Re:Um, What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:30PM (#15467545) Journal
    Yet why should she be killed when there were people who were willing to take care of her?

    Because she expressed that was what she wanted.
    Here's a better question. Why should someone else's money and wishes be reason to usurp your own wishes?

    It wasn't about Teri, since she couldn't possibly care.

    She did care, and expressed her feelings to her husband, who carried them out, refused 10 million dollars, and stood up to the governments of Florida and the U.S. senate in the process.

    Personally, I think we failed miserably.

    That's because you're imposing your own beliefs and wishes on someone else, who did not share them. You believe in life, no matter what, over the rule of law, and the wishes of the individual and spouse. I should also point out that your are in a very, very small minority (perhaps 20% at best).
  • Re:Um, What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@nOspam.gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:54PM (#15467696) Homepage
    I like your use of the word "innocent" to describe her. Appealing to a sense of pity now? The facts are this: Terri Schiavo was dead before the feeding tube was removed. The autopsy later revealed the doctors were right: Her brain was liquified and gone. She couldn't think or feel. For all intents and purposes, she was dead as a doornail.

    In fact, the videos they showed of her with slight movements and reactions were dated, as she ceased to do that during the debate.

    And the question is not "is the husband a moral person?" The question is, who has legal rights to make that decision? The law clearly states the husband does, not the parents. You can argue about whether or not this law is ETHICAL or not, but it was the case then.

    Personally, I feel a little guilt every time this case is brought up, because I'd hate to be a talking point between parties who pretend to care about me. That's the real tragedy here. (That, and the fact that her parents appeared on TV a few months ago claiming there was still a chance to save their daughter, even though they had a doctor there, I believe, who said that there was NOT a chance in Hell. They just can't accept the fact that their daughter died.)
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mertzman (87638) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:43PM (#15469940) Homepage
    What alot of Americans don't understand about the nature of their own political system is the "big tent" structure of the political parties. As our system favors a bipolar division between two parties, a wide range of ideologies end up getting grouped into each of the major parties. They are often linked by a tenuous agreement on certain ideological points (historically, this has often been economic policy), but otherwise the ideological alignments within political parties can be vastly different. Ideologies can also change drastically over time as party's various wings rises and fall in relative strength.

    What probably keeps people like Bloomberg, Schwarzenegger and Sullivan in the party is the traditional orientation towards fiscal conservativism found in the Republican party since the 1950s. Essentially, they are adherents to an ideology that would most closely be aligned with what predominated in the Republican party of Eisenhower's day. That tendency still exists and exerts some influence over the party's politics, but today it's often overshadowed by social conservativism (a.k.a. Christian fundamentalism) and neoconservativism. That doesn't mean that folks like Bloomberg are irrelevant, they just represent a different part of the "big tent" that embraces the full gamut of Republicans.

    It's important to remember that American parties are not consistently "right" or "left," but this varies by time, region, individual personalities, etc. For example, the Progressive Party of the early 20th century, perceived as firmly left-wing by today's standards, was an offshoot of the Republican Party. For many decades, the Democrats were seen as the driving force behind very right-wing policies like segregation in the South. At the same time as the "Dixiecrats" were propping up Jim Crow laws, you had other Democrats backing the quasi-socialist New Deal.

    If you want to get down to the problem of people ending up in seemingly ideologically bizarre party alignments, the issue is not the parties themselves but the electoral system. In a system based off single-member districts, and "first-past-the-post" simple majority elections, you have a predisposition to having two major parties, and perhaps maybe a third spoiler party that can pick off voters on key issues. In the USA, we have the Democrats and Republicans, and only rarely a credible and variable third-party spoiler... comparable systems would be Canada (Liberals and Conservatives, with the New Democrats as the third player) and England (Labour and Conservative, Liberal Democrats as the third).

    In systems using other electoral systems, like the various forms of proportional representation, combined with parliamentary systems that provide for coalition-based government, you tend to have a wider variety of parties since there is a greater statistical probability of more than 2 parties achieving some degree of representation. This allows parties to be more specifically focused, and the inherent conflict of the "big tent" structure is avoided (or at least transposed to coalitions formed after the election).

    You could basically say the parties in the USA are sort of a pre-defined coalition of what in other countries could be separate parties... You cannot directly compare our parties to alot of foreign parties, because the Democrats could split into socialists, greens, liberal centrists, etc.; the Republicans could split into economic conservatives, libertarians, religious conservatives, etc. So is Bloomberg really a "Republican?" Sure. But is he secretly really a "Democrat?" Maybe. It all depends on where he feels comfortable, and where he can be a credible participant. Another factor not to be discounted is simple opportunism--if your party allegiance is flexible, and your ideology can fit into either party, you may decide what party to align with simply by which one gives you a better shot at winning (probably a big decisive factor for Schwarzenegger, running against an entrenched Democrat like Gray Davis).

    Now here's the big thing t
  • Re:Um, What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plunge (27239) on Monday June 05, 2006 @10:16AM (#15472474)
    "And if there is plausible evidence that the spouse is lying?"

    It's nice that YOU think so, but here in America, we have this thing called the court system that rules on issues like this. That way, the people that decide whether someone is lying or not have to go through a process to find that out, hear all the evidence yea or nea, and rule on it. Third-parties who hear some rumor or get only part of the story are not exactly the right people to decide whether something is credible or not.

    And regardless, its a misrepresentation to say that Michael simply decided. He gave up his authority to do so in order for the court to adjudicate the matter. And he was not even the only person to testify about her wishes.

    "Decisions, IMO, should be based on truth. If the truth cannot be decided, then life should be favored over death. Again, IMO."

    But the truth WAS decided in the way we legally rule on truth in his country. In a court. With no errors that any other courts, even her parents could point out.

    Now you might think that the court ruled wrongly. You might also think that Michael Jackson should have been convicted. But that is not how our legal system works. "What some random guy on teh intrawebs thinks" is not how we decide legal matters in this country.

"It's when they say 2 + 2 = 5 that I begin to argue." -- Eric Pepke

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