Friday, January 07, 2005

Up-Chuck

For quite some time now, I have been holding back on responding to Mr. Gregory’s personal attacks on me. My parents taught me to ignore bigots, but there comes a point where that is just not productive. From his first letter through his most recent, Mr. Gregory has criticized me personally without once addressing the facts I cite, yet he accuses me of attacking the messenger. He has displayed his ignorance for all to see by making wildly inaccurate descriptions of me as independently wealthy, anti-semitic, and a religious fundamentalist. Anyone who has taken a moment to speak with me learns quite quickly that I probably do not rise even to lower middle-class, do not attend church nor subscribe to a particular religion, though I lean more towards Judaism, and that my mother was Jewish. But, you see, Mr. Gregory is an activist and to an activist, facts and the truth are less important than the positions one stands for.

When I criticize a political opinion or position I make my position clear. Mr. Gregory hides his. He supports big government, as well he should, for he is an employee of the government and derives his income at the expense of his fellow citizens, but we’d never know that from his diatribes. Mr. Gregory’s activism is also something he doesn’t mention when he up-chucks his misinformation. If he did, only other activists would pay him any heed. What compounds Mr. Gregory’s deceit is that he works in the social welfare area of our big government, which is arguably the most wasteful and over-populated area of it, so when I criticize big and wasteful government and it’s social engineering, I threaten his livelihood.. He responds with ad hominem, factless, opinion-laden attacks that are the essence of “the politics of personal destruction” as exemplified by Hillary Clinton. Mr. Gregory, I’ve been watching Hillary Clinton for over a decade now and you, sir, are no Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Gregory’s most recent up-chucking is arguably his worst, so let’s take a closer look at it. In his opening, after his obligatory swipe at me, he talks about John Frith, Giordano Bruno, the Lutherans, Calvinists, and Catholics of the early 17th century. His frame of reference is “what happens when religions acquire ‘freedom’.” What Mr. Gregory intentionally obfuscates in his attempt to excuse his own religious bigotry is that previous to the birth of the United States there was no such thing as religious freedom. There was tolerance in a few realms and a few reigns, but by and large one had to subscribe to whatever the prevailing state religion was or face the exigencies of it’s wrath. What Mr. Gregory does here is typical of the activist mentality: present factual information coupled with an intentionally erroneous conclusion. For the last forty years or so, this country, which was founded on religious freedom, has become increasingly unfriendly towards Christianity and it is people like Mr. Gregory who lead the charge. I am not surprised by his antipathy towards me, I expose his anti-religious zealotry. He is much like the Inquisitors who tried to destroy anyone who dared disagree with their version of orthodoxy. What should surprise me is his willingness to up-chuck his ignorance in a public forum, but it doesn’t when I recognize his source material.

Whereas I seek out legitimate scientists when I take a scientific position, Mr. Gregory allies himself with the Union of Concerned Scientists. There are reams of material about this group on the internet should you be interested to see who they really are. Firstly, they describe themselves as “Citizens and Scientists for Environmental Solutions” and are a Washington, DC based lobbying and activist group. They are tied in with the Tides Foundation, the Ruckus Society, Greenpeace, and other psuedo-science environment fanatics. Michael J. Vandeman (Ph.D.) said of the UCS: “a name like ‘Union of Concerned Scientists’ is a very powerful aid, but will end up being a liability, if you don't live up to it, and practice good science. This implies maintaining a critical approach to information that you gather from others, many of whom have much to gain from their particular view and little to gain from the truth.” Spinsanity.org, a non-partisan fact-checking watchdog, recently took UCS to task for “offering less-than-convincing evidence” in the report on Bush’s alleged ‘misuse of science’. Jim Peron, Executive Director of the Institute for Liberal Values has this to say: “the [UCS] was mainly a Left-wing collection of opponents to American opposition to the Soviet Union.” He goes on to point out that their anti-nuclear activisim was led by a pediatrician, not a nuclear scientist.

The UCS, with several other environmental activist groups, engaged in an international scam about the health risks related to apples treated with Alar. Their information was intentionally incorrect but the public perception was damaged so badly that Alar was removed from use at dramatic costs to the apple industry and to the companies involved with the research and development of Alar. While consumers, laborers, growers, and industry paid the price, the activists went home smiling. Though they were discredited, they behaved as if they had been vindicated and thus the next time they popped up, they had credibility. Recently, the UCS produced a report that stated “while pickup trucks account for just 20 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, six of the 10 biggest gas guzzlers at the pump are pickups.” Take a moment to re-read that line. There is no logical relationship between the two statements, but it sounds important. What truly is important is that this report, which goes on to take pickups and SUVs to task over fuel efficiency and pollution, was released at the same time Garry Trudeau was satirizing SUV owners in “Doonesbury”, a New York Times reporter’s book on the threat of SUVs hit the shelves, and (most importantly) the House and Senate conference committee on fuel economy regulations was holding hearings. The bulk of the report was rife with opinion, unrelated factoids, and shoddy research - in a word: psuedo-science.

Let’s come back to the recent up-chucking. Mr. Gregory would like you to believe that the Bush Administration is “screening political appointees to scientific posts on the basis of their conformity to beliefs approved by right-wing religious fundamentalists” and offers as proof another report from the UCS. The UCS had this to say: “the quantity and breadth of these charges warrant further examination, especially given the stature of many of the individuals lodging them.” That’s the way they operate: it’s “the nature of the charges” and never the validity of the evidence or research. In each case, the scientist who was rejected gives a personal account of their interview and draws subjective conclusions about their rejection. Nowhere does the report seek the cause from the interviewers. All of them admitted to being unsupportive of President Bush and holding controversial positions on hot issues like stem cell research. I don’t know about you, but I would certainly load my science advisory panels with people who opposed me and held strong unscientific opinions on unresolved scientific issues. Mr. Gregory chucks out “Dr. Laura Blackburn” but the report talks about Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a minor issue, but, like the rest of Mr. Gregory and the UCS, it’s shoddy factual documentation. “Blackburn”, he tells us, “believes the dismissal was due to her disapproval of the Bush administration’s restrictive position on stem cell research.” Being a scientist, we can of course take her word for it. That she might hold an unscientific position on an important issue based on the merest shred of potential scientific evidence shouldn’t bring into question her credibility as a scientist.

John H. Marburger III, President Bush’s science adviser, wrote a 17-page rebuttal to the UCS report outlining point-by-point it’s “errors, distortions, and misunderstandings” but I think this comment from Marburger best sums up the Bush Administration position on disagreement within the administration: “I can say from personal experience that the accusation [of a political litmus test] is preposterous. After all, President Bush sought me out to be his science adviser...and I am a lifelong Democrat.”

What Mr. Gregory, and the UCS, fails to account for is ethics. The morality of science is an important issue. Because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. By the same token, I don’t think that it’s wrong to expect the people in an organization’s employ to pull together and support the organization. The Bush Administration is not full of “Yes-men,” but, like every administration before it, must present a united face when speaking publicly. Comparing Bush to Hitler is at odds with reality, but then so is Mr. Gregory. Perhaps he believes that the scientific experiments of Dr. Mengele were valid, despite the ethical issues involved in experimenting on live humans. Mr. Gregory is free to be an atheist or whatever spiritual persuasion he cares to be. He is free to espouse whatever unsubstantiated psuedo-science he likes. It is a pity his intolerance won’t let him respect the rights of others to enjoy those same freedoms.

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