Re Caroline Crocker’s “Has the American Scientific Affiliation Forgotten Their Stated Identity:
Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Consider eugenics:
In 1911, it editorialized about “The Science of Breeding Better Men”:
The proper attitude to be taken toward the perpetuation of poor types is that which has been attributed to [Thomas] Huxley. “We are sorry for you,” he is reported to have said; “we will do our best for you (and in so doing we elevate ourselves, since mercy blesses him that gives and him that takes), but we deny you the right to parentage. You may live, but you must not propagate.”
The only really big institution that did not endorse eugenics was the Roman Catholic Church, and that fact was widely cited as incontrovertible evidence of the Church’s “anti-science” backwardness.
Who was right in the end? Who was right? More.
“… science” has a restricted meaning in the view of many journalists. It means, for example, the truth of human-caused global warming, the necessity of human embryonic stem cell research, and the view that human mind is indistinguishable from the chimpanzee mind. “Anti-science” means, by contrast, doubt about human influence on global warming compared with the Sun’s cycles, confidence that adult stem cells (especially the patient’s own cells) work well, and doubt that chimpanzees really think like people.
Incidentally, it wasn’t especial sanctity that prevented the Catholic Church’s involvement (when most other churches did cave) in eugenics; rather, antiquity. The Church knew that the most reliable, most ancient prejudice in society is that the rabble are too numerous and that they’re the reason everything is going downhill. That prejudice is usually wrong, occasionally right, but in no way a guide to decision-making. And calling it science is no help at all.
Neither, probably, were the prejudices aired at the ASA meeting.
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