Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

The People Who Shape Our World – Scientists and Thinkers

It can be very difficult for a layman to judge the merits of a specialist. So I’m going to comment on only three people in the category of “Scientists & Thinkers” in Time’s list of The People Who Shape Our World.

First up is Douglas Melton.  Melton is the co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Every day, Doug is on the front lines of the war not only against disease but also against the obstacles placed in the path of the science. And he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to advance this campaign. When President Bush cut federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research in 2001, Doug used private donations to create more than 100 stem-cell lines and distributed them without charge to researchers across the country. He has the skill and creativity to carry out the experiments that need to be done, and the vision and compassion to know that true humanity lies in relieving human suffering, not in acquiescing to politics or ideology.

That’s from the piece written by actor (and non-hero) Michael J. Fox.  He doesn’t want to talk about morality, so he talks about ideology.  Let’s look more closely at this paragraph.

“…obstacles placed in the path of science.”

The refusal of the federal government to fund research that entails the destruction of human embryos is not an obstacle.  If the government truly wanted to obstruct this science, it would ban it.  The taxpayers are not obligated to fund anything they find morally repugnant, Mr. Fox.  Even if Nancy Reagan agrees with you.

“He has the skill and creativity to carry out the experiments that need to be done, and the vision and compassion to know that true humanity lies in relieving human suffering, not in acquiescing to politics or ideology.”

When you replace the word “ideology” with “morality” there, as you must if you’re being honest, this is a horrific statement.  This is what happens when you define compassion as aiding one class of human beings at the expense of another.  That case, together with the experiments performed by war criminals in WWII, proves that scientists should not be assumed to have a correct moral sense.

Even if Melton’s experiments are completely moral and justified, to date they have been complete failures.  Stem cells from developing embryos have not been shown to have any benefits in the treatment of any disease.  If you think I’m wrong, that’s because you’ve only been reading the headlines of those news stories.  Read below the fold, and in every case where “Stem cells have been shown…” you’ll find that the research involved either adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells.  You could look it up.

Now we turn to the eminent scientist, Al Gore.  But he’s not a scientist.  So he must be a thinker.  Well, not so fast.  The Washington Post, who if memory serves endorsed him for president in 2000, ran this article about his academic–ahem–achievements.  (Reg. req., I think.)  From the article:

In his sophomore year at Harvard, Gore’s grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush’s transcript from Yale.

He received one D, one C-minus, two C’s, two C-pluses and one B-minus, an effort that placed him in the lower fifth of the class for the second year in a row.

For all of Gore’s later fascination with science and technology, he often struggled academically in those subjects. The political champion of the natural world received that sophomore D in Natural Sciences 6 (Man’s Place in Nature) and then got a C-plus in Natural Sciences 118 his senior year. The self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet avoided all courses in mathematics and logic throughout college, despite his outstanding score on the math portion of the SAT. As was the case with many of his classmates, his high school math grades had dropped from A’s to C’s as he advanced from trigonometry to calculus in his senior year.

When John C. Davis, a retired teacher and assistant headmaster at St. Albans, was recently shown his illustrious former pupil’s college board achievement test scores, he inspected them closely with a magnifier and shook his head, chuckling quietly at the science results.

“Four eighty-eight! Terrible” Davis declared upon inspecting the future vice president’s 488 score (out of a possible 800) in physics.

“Hmmmm. Chemistry. Five-nineteen. He didn’t do too well in chemistry.”

Prior to attending Harvard, Gore dropped out of law school and flunked out of divinity school.

Okay, enough of the negative.  I’d like to introduce you to my new all-time favorite scientist:

Lisa Randall

Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist at Harvard University.  If she had been the professor who taught me astrophysics there, I think I might not have passed the course.

Yowza!

Oh, and she’s also very bright.  Something about other dimensions and gravity, I think.

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