Friday, July 21, 2006

Bastard of the Day

Somehow I have skipped over Rush Limbaugh for this award, even though he's just as worthy of permanent bastardhood as Bill O'Reilly. But after reading his ridiculous explanation of how stem cell research works, I decided it's time. Besides, I should have given President Bush the award two days ago for vetoing the federal embryonic stem cell research bill (sorry, I was too busy chastizing incompetent grocery store baggers). Anyway, here's how Rush explained embryonic stem cell research to his rabid, knuckle-dragging listeners on Wednesday:
I'm telling you, and I have from the get-go, who is behind this—is the—the militant pro-abortion crowd, because you need abortions to get these.
While I have to give Rush credit for saying "pro-abortion" instead of "pro-choice" (I detest both terms, "pro-choice" and "pro-life"), he's simply talking out his butt, as Al Franken would say. Anyone who knows anything about stem cell research knows that scientists aren't using aborted fetuses. In case you, like Rush, have been living under a rock, simply check out the Web site of one of the few government organizations that the administration hasn't completely corrupted yet, the National Institutes of Health:
Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from embryos. Specifically, embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro—in an in vitro fertilization clinic—and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. The embryos... are typically four or five days old..."
The thing I admire about Rush as a showman is that he can be so completely full of crap, and yet he manages to take it to another level. In this case, he expanded his rant to encompass the entire scientific community:
This—the—I think we need to re-examine this whole term "scientist." You know, there are certain things in our culture that are never questioned. They have instant credibility. If a scientist says anything, [gasp] it's gotta be true... It is why global warming has become a scientific thing, because nobody can question science. Why, scientists, smarter than everybody else. And science is science. Science is not politics—well, it's absolutely BS. Science is all about politics, and science has been so wrong about so many things. They're not infallible...
After a quote like that, I'm not even sure where to begin. Since I'm feeling charitable, I'll start by granting him his last point. Scientists are not infallible. On the other hand, I don't recall any scientist making such a claim. I mean, isn't that the very nature of scientific inquiry, to form a hypothesis, test it, and come up with something else if it's wrong? (That's not quite the same as Bush inquiry, which determines an objective and changes the facts to support it.)

What really gets me is the sentence before that: "Science is all about politics." That's a Republican talking point if I ever heard one. Bush and company have framed science as politics because it hardly ever supports their positions (hence, it must be concocted by Democrats or other "evil-doers"). And only a Republican would use global warming as an example of scientists being wrong (for more on this, read my pseudo-review of The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney). This goes hand in hand with another GOP talking point, the portrayal of intelligent people as being against all that's good for the rest of America. I'm surprised Rush didn't describe scientists as "Volvo-driving, latte-drinking, East Coast intellectuals." I also love how Rush says "global warming has become a scientific thing" (emphasis added). What the heck was it before?

I don't have blind faith in scientists, but I trust them a lot more than I trust politicians. Or Rush Limbaugh, a most deserving bastard.

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