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

    by Omkar (618823) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:10AM (#15465623) Homepage Journal
    If he's the same sort of Republican I am, he's a Reagan conservative/classical liberal who's disgusted by what the Republican party has become. Remember Goldwater and Reagan? The Republicans were once associated with sunbelt conservatism, not the southern-fried kind.

    So why haven't I jumped ship? In a way, I have, but to cynicism, not the Democrats. I once asked Richard Epstein where classical liberals and Reagan conservatives could turn to defend our rights. His response, though obvious, sums things up nicely: "There's nowhere to go. The Republicans pay lip service, and the Democrats have sold you out."

  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lxs (131946) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:16AM (#15465634)
    Denial is a powerful force. In the 1940s and '50s communism was a fashionable political stance in Europe and Stalin was hailed as a hero. When under Chrustjev accounts of the crimes commited during the Stalin era were published, it took many intelligent people years or even decades to accept that their political stance supported a murderous totalitarian regime.

    It will take traditional conservatives at least as long to realize that they are supporting a criminal regime.
  • Machievalli (Score:3, Interesting)

    by midnighttoadstool (703941) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:20AM (#15465641)
    If politics is purely a question of the study of and the wielding of power then Bloomberg may be right and we should all be reading Machievalli's "The Prince" instead of debating the human, moral and ethical dimensions of scientific possibilities.

    Its peculiar that Bloomburg should be calling for these matters (stem cell etc) not to be politicised since he, as a politician, has got to be aware that everything has a political dimension somewhere along the line, even if indirectly, which is why politics is so very important and not to be trivialised or dismissed.

    Politics at its height is concerned with these profound questions; not just lowely administrative questions of how the rubbish/garbage is to be collected, and the roads maintained.

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

    by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:23AM (#15465646) Homepage
    Possibly because communism is a political concept that has very little to do with totalitarianism which can be allied to any economic philosophy.
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blonde rser (253047) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:29AM (#15465657) Homepage
    I think the thing that you are missing is the Republican theory of economics. No, I'm not referring to fiscal conservatism or even tax cuts for the public. I'm referring to the fact that one of the major distinctions between democrats and republicans is their support for large corporations. Democrats (as a terrible over generalization) tend to see corporations as these large entities with lots of money and no mouths to feed, that are oppressing those that are working for them. Where as Republicans (similar terrible generalization) tend to see large corporations as the number one employer of Americans, and representing a huge amount of American wealth. Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg seem to fall into being this sort of republican.

    As for Sullivan, I think comments like those made in your second paragraph is precisely what pushed him towards Republicans. I tend to think he's the sort of guy who rails against people who say "well you're gay so you have to be liberal (or at least anti-republican)." I like to think of myself as a pretty cool headed guy but I think I would get pretty ticked if someone suggested how I was born absolutely determined what side of a debate I was always on. In a sense you are absolutely correct when you say "Can anything be more important to you then having the same rights as everybody else in the country?" Isn't he just declaring his right to determine his own political perspective and not having it dictated to him by his sexuality?
  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:43AM (#15465685)
    but bloomberg is very much about control and telling people what's good for them


    Interesting that you associate this with Republicans. From a Western European standpoint I very much associate this with social-democrat/socialist parties/rule. And my impressions lately is that the similarities between them and current "big government" Republicans are growing and sometimes seems bigger than the differences on specific issues.

    If it matters I define myself as liberal, both politically and moral, and since this means different things to different people this definition [wikipedia.org] was the closest I could find quickly on Wikipedia). I include it because I have this impression that quite a lot of people leans in this direction, but very few political parties for some reason..)

  • Re:Puzzling. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lxs (131946) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:46AM (#15465689)
    your comment shows that some people, like you , are still in denial and think that the problem lies with the people implementing the system and not with the system.

    Communism has been tried in many different countries all over the world, and it has always resulted in totalitarianism. Things didn't go wrong because Stalin was a particularly evil man, but because it is the natural conclusion of the system. If you or I try to implement the system, we too will be capable of atrocities in the name of the common good.

    But me saying that will not sway your opinion, which more or less is the point I was making in the first place.
  • by blonde rser (253047) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:51AM (#15465818) Homepage
    The funny thing is that stem cell research isn't tightly controlled. In fact I'm not sure there are any real limiting restrictions at the moment. There is certainly a ban on federal funding of most stem cell research (a ban to which Bloomberg is referring). However, if some old rich white guy wants to drop a few billion on stem cell research in the hopes of extending his own life, he is completely allowed to do that. And I don't think their is much of a political movement trying to deter him from doing so either.
  • Re:This man is right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:20AM (#15465889) 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.
    There was nothing unexpected about that. Any moron could have figured out what was going to happen, and I'm sure the people who designed and implemented the policy were fully aware of it. The imbalance is not as large as you probably believe though (especially as the one child policy is enforced selectively (mostly in the cities) and not everyone is willing to murder their children).

    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.
    If only there was something a government like China's could do with a surplus of young men... like send them off to die in some war to expand the borders of the Empire...
  • Re:It's good and all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:37AM (#15465936) Homepage
    The fact that many contemporary liberals have an affinity for incessantly regurgitating slogans and "jokes" (like the one above, by John Stewart, I believe) is one fact which definitely does not have a strong liberal bias. Since your assertion claims that all facts "have a strong liberal bias" (which I define as presenting liberals and positions held by liberals in a positive light), we encounter a contradiction; therefore, your assertion is incorrect. Quod erat demonstrandum.
  • Re:This man is right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dalutong (260603) <djtansey@NOspam.gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:48AM (#15465966)
    I see there are already people criticising you. I will not be another one. I will just speak in philosophical terms.

    In history human beings have been provided their social and moral guidelines from elsewhere. This included from their government, religious institution, or simply from the environment in which they lived. (After all, an agrarian society can only have so many types of social systems.) As technology has empowered us over the past few decades, we have had the opportunity to shun many of the external, meaning those which had to be adopted, sources of social and moral guidelines. But we haven't taken it upon ourselves to replace the guidelines developed over the ages by philosopher kings and religious leaders with a similarly developed set of our own creation.

    This is dangerous when we start to have technologies like stem cell research. Making laws restricting what we can do with stem cells only goes so far. If we don't mature enough as humanity, every wild and repugnant use for stem cells will be found. It's the culture of self-interest and convenience. With as many lazy people as there are today, you don't think that there is going to be a very large market for constant replacement parts (meaning not just when we've had an accident or disease or something, but just because we're too lazy to stop eating french fries)?

    This isn't just for stem cells, it's for almost all technologies. In the past, governments were able to control technology. It is becoming less and less true. Instructions on how to build a lot of dangerous things are online, and will always be online (or available universally in some other way.) The only way for us to have any sort of ethical future is for us to start promoting education and this kind of self-determined philosophizing.

    An example I like to use is Star Trek (at least TNG.) The ferengi loved the holodeck because they could enjoy endless sexual escapades. That's where we're headed -- to giving up everything that makes us human and just doing the simplistic, animalistic, convenient thing all the time. And the only way I can see to not going down that path is something like the Star Trek way -- where humanity recognizes where that will lead us and each person chooses to instead not go the way of the ferengi.
  • I don't know.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CheechWizz (886957) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:51AM (#15465978)
    Maybe it's just me but I find it very scary that somebody holds a 'pro-science' speech and gets commended for it, the fact science has to be defended in this day and age is bad enough already, that there are so few people with cloud doing it that we can find the time to cheer about individual cases of it happening is even scarier.

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

    by jmv (93421) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:34AM (#15466341) Homepage
    Communism has been tried in many different countries all over the world, and it has always resulted in totalitarianism.

    The sad truth is that there are far more totalitarian regimes than democracies in the world, regardless of the system. The other truth is that revolutions/coups (be they communist or otherwise) also tend to lead to totalitarian regimes. Just see what happens when a democratically-elected communist regime gets overthrown by capitalistic interests [wikipedia.org].
  • by TofuDog (735357) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:40AM (#15466365)
    You've hit the nail on the head. What you have aptly described is exactly what the Bush administration is promoting, that is, the removal of federal funding for basic scientific research. There will continue to be private interests (e.g., pharmaceutical cos. or your hypothetical benefactor) involved in applied research aimed at producing a lucrative product. The crux of the difference between federal/private funding is the support of the (expensive) basic science required for advancing knowledge (and in turn, the free-market offshoots it produces). This is illustrated by recent cuts to the National Science Foundation (NSF), but with some additional funding provided to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Net result is less funding for basic research on say, evolution, which has application to AIDS and Influenza (bird flu, etc.), while more funds may be available to look at specific treatments for diseases.

    This is a consistent pattern the Bush administration has followed of favoring liquidation over building long-term capitol. The pattern is mirrored by promotion of tax cuts at the expense of national debt, oil/mineral development on public lands vs. long-term interests of wildlife/resource conservation, promoting Detroit's inefficient (but profitable) SUVs over supporting CAFE increases and KYOTO adoption. All politicians face pressure to look at the short term, but the current administration's embrace of this approach is unprecedented -and destructive.

  • by gorbachev (512743) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:44AM (#15466382) Homepage
    Republicans used to be about small Government. Bloomberg is doing it. Washington Republicans are doing the exact opposite.

    He's fiercely pro-business, so much so that he's essentially running the NYC administration and government as a business. The Washington Republicans are running the country as a huge piggy-bank of favors to The Party supporters.

    Bloomberg has done wonders in improving the NYC services. The 311 service is just amazing in how well and inexpensively it does what it does. The Washington Republicans were in charge of the Katrina mess.

    When Bloomberg cuts services, as unpopular as that is, he cuts the ones that don't perform. The Washington Republicans cut the services their faith based agenda doesn't accept no matter how efficient they are.

    I'd rather have more Bloombergs as Republicans (or Democrats for that matter).
  • by AhtirTano (638534) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:26PM (#15466875)
    Native Indians had little or no concept of ownership of land, animals, tools and many other things.

    And look at how much they advanced science, technology, medicine, philosophy, and so on.

    Their knowledge of biology and ecology was much more advanced than the Euro-Americans they were in contact with. They had wonderful philosophies. The best discussion of Truth I've ever heard was from a native elder discussing his tribe's traditional views. I've also heard very interesting and insightful comments about the impermanance of everything from such elders. (A Doaist or Buddhist philosopher would have been right at home.) We don't know the full extent of their potential philosophical and religious contributions to the world, because they were brutally suppressed. (Ten years in jail for performing the equivalent of a baptism, groups slaughtered for dancing, etc.)

    Furthermore, since they had no concept of ownership of land, I guess they didn't feel all that bad when Europeans started settling land. After all, you can't lose something you don't own to begin with.

    They did not feel so bad about Europeans settling on the land. If Europeans had just settled and lived off the land, there would have been much less of a problem (but not "no problem"). But that's not what Europeans did. They slaughtered animals for trade, not just eatting, which desimated the food source for the natives. They built roads through the grazing lands that shattered the local ecological balance, leading to dwindling sizes of buffalo and deer herds. They threw their trash out the side of the wagon, poluting the ground and water. They dug up sacred mountains and poured mercury into rivers in order to find gold.

    Oh, and let's not forget the minor point that they rounded the natives up at gunpoint, moved them from the lands they had been living on for generations so that white people could use that land, put them on much smaller tracts of land that were less desirable for white people, and told them to be good or they would be killed. And if somebody found a reason for white people to use the new lands, they kicked the natives off again and put them on even smaller and less desirable tracts of land.

    Interesting that even though they had no concept of ownership (according to you), they still had conflicts.

    A child at school is playing with one of the class basketballs. Another kid comes over, beats him up, and starts using the ball for kick ball. There's going to be a lot of anger, bitterness, and very likely a physical fight, even though neither child owned the ball. That's closer to the native view of what happened.

    And they did have a concept of ownership. They just didn't have personal ownership of community resources, like the land. They thought of trying to own the land like we think of trying to own the air we breathe. We can conceive of it, but it's a stupid idea.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:34PM (#15466922)
    I think Reagan was a very good president. I'm not excited about the deficit, also he started a few too many wars for me (as Republicans seem to do).

    But he did some things right, he made the business climate work in this country. If you weren't around in the 70s for 14% interest rates, perhaps you read what he did and misinterpret it. The government was taking too much money from businesses and disincenting people to build businesses, expand the economy and build this country.

    He also understood that once elected, you represent the entire country, not just the people who elected you. This is very unlike George W. Bush. When California had problems with his buddy Kenny Lay extorting money from the citizens and turning the lights out, he did nothing except invite his Texas buddies over to figure out how to make it possible to extort better. Cheney said it wasn't a federal government problem, and that "it's classic economics, price caps will neither increase supply nor reduce demand". And yet, months later when price caps were finally put in place, they solved the problem immediately by ending the profiteering immediately. Prices went down, supply returned to 100%. Bush didn't care about what happened to people in California, actually seeming to prefer to extract revenge on them for not voting for him.

    And the McCain. I used to be a huge McCain fan. But have you seen him recently? Did you see him on Meet the Press? After Karl Rove push-polled a rumor that McCain fathered a bi-racial baby out of wedlock in 2000, and McCain he could never get past that, that Rove was a bad person. Now he's kissing Rove's ass. He said (correctly) Jerry Falwell was an agent of hate. And now he speaks at Liberty University?

    I liked McCain. He stood for something. He stood for inclusion, he stood for conservatism that didn't mean the government telling everyone what to do and not bolstering Southern Christianity as the national religion.

    Now he's useless to me. If he'll flip on those things, what will he stand up for?
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:15PM (#15467151) Homepage
    I'm issuing a restraining order. Science should stay 500 yards from religion at all times.

    We keep trying, but Religion keeps showing up on our front porch at 3:00am, drunk with power and demanding to come in to "talk" about the "controversy".

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

    by plunge (27239) on Monday June 05, 2006 @09:24AM (#15471711)
    The rich pay most of the taxes because they earn most of the income. As long as the government has to run on money, ANY system of taxation is going to take more from those who have money than those who don't have any to take.

    By the way: your writing-style is so confusing and all over the place that I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about or what position you are taking. I'm just commenting on the one tiny bit of your post I could actually make sense of.

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