Philosophy Science Science, worldview issues/foundations and society

Is Killing Scientists to Stop Their Research a Threat to Science?

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I know – the answer seems obvious. But let’s put this in context.

Iranian scientists are being killed, apparently in connection to their research on nuclear power. I’ll add that their deaths can’t reasonably be chalked up to collateral damage – say, someone blowing up a facility and a scientist ends up caught in the blast there. No, these are apparently incidents of scientists specifically being targeted and killed owing to what they’re researching and the practical, or at least possible, outcomes of said research.

Now, the particular politics of the Iran situation isn’t what interests me here – what I’m interested in is that some people (indeed, some people motivated largely by secular concerns) think it’s not only permissible to stop a scientist from conducting research, but it can be imperative to the point that killing him is justified. The interesting thing is, if someone is sympathetic to the idea, they seem to be sympathetic to the following claim: scientific knowledge and research needs to be tightly controlled, with some research off-limits for some, possibly all, people. Put another way, sometimes brutally squashing scientific research – being anti-science – is necessary.

There are a lot of interesting questions and considerations that could come up from this line of questioning, but there’s one particular issue I think this draws attention to.

The definition of an anti-scientific belief I’m using amounts to this: any belief that condones or encourages the opposition, active limiting and/or undermining of scientific research, or acquiring scientific knowledge. Refusing to fund this or that project wouldn’t be a case of anti-science under this definition. Blowing up a scientist to keep him from researching something would be. Likewise, anti-science is issue specific – if you love and support funding cancer research but you’re all in favor of jailing scientists for attempting to find ways to create newer, more deadly chemical weapons, you’re still taking an anti-science position among your spread of positions.

I noted above that, if someone thinks it’s permissible or even necessary to kill a scientist in order to keep them or anyone else from acquiring scientific knowledge or engaging in scientific research, that said someone is endorsing an anti-science position. Water it down – maybe you don’t kill the scientist, but you do ensure he can’t continue his research – and you’re still left with an anti-science position. Water it down further – maybe it’s not the knowledge you’re concerned with, but the research methods he uses (say, vivisection of human children, the genetically or socially undesirable, etc). Congratulations – you’re still anti-science with regards to that question.

Now, I can imagine a few responses to this. One would be to claim that my definition of anti-science is incorrect, and anti-science really means (some other definition) which doesn’t brand the examples I listed as anti-science. This would put someone in the position of saying the following: “Just because you blow some scientist’s brains out to keep him from engaging in scientific research doesn’t mean you were anti-science!” By all means, let’s see someone make that case. It will be fun to dissect.

Another would be to claim that not all anti-science positions are equal. And I’d agree: I think there’s a difference between someone who opposes infant vivisection versus someone who opposes animal experimentation versus someone who opposes North Korean scientists researching new, deadly strains of biological weapons. Maybe one anti-science position is wrong and another is right. My reply would simply be that just because a position is right doesn’t mean it’s anti-science. Back to the first example: killing a scientist to stop or suppress his research is anti-science. That a person thinks it was the right thing to do no more changes the anti-science aspect of it than it changes the killing aspect of it.

A third response could be a whole lot of frantic bluster, misrepresentation, subject-changing, and signing off with an empty slogan. My reply here would be, “Hi, Nick.”

Anyway, these possible responses aren’t exhaustive or meant to be. But I think the ultimate take-away lesson is going to be pretty modest: ‘anti-science’, reasonably construed, covers a broad spread of positions. Most people, even most so-called defenders of science, embrace anti-science positions. Why, they may even think physicists should be killed because of the research they knowledge they’re generating for who, or that some biologists or psychologists should be jailed depending on how they’re engaging in their research, or otherwise. I also suspect that some people are going to try and have it both ways – where that guy over there who finds certain research immoral or unethical is anti-science for opposing such research, but their opposition to some research due to it being immoral or unethical is a completely different beast.

59 Replies to “Is Killing Scientists to Stop Their Research a Threat to Science?

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    It’s more practical. They’re assassinations, of course. And not because the perpetrator doesn’t like science or progress, but only because these scientists were thought to be designing nuclear weapons.

    A related question was once raised about whether the drummer boys in the Civil War, whose ages averaged 12 or 13, were valid military targets. I think the consensus was in the affirmative due to their important role in communications, and not because someone didn’t like musical expression.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    It’s more practical. They’re assassinations, of course. And not because the perpetrator doesn’t like science or progress, but only because these scientists were thought to be designing nuclear weapons.

    Right. A situation where scientists are being scientists – researching, performing experiments, using the scientific method to test and refine a hypothesis to produce some knowledge. Except some people don’t want those scientists or the people employing them to engage in that research, so they’re in favor of assassinating them. Sure, they’re not “against science” in the broad sense of hating all science – but they don’t need to be.

    And yes, they certainly are against progress – specifically, the scientific and technological progress of the people and nation they’re targeting. That’s the whole point.

    If an anti-science goal, position or act is defined to mean opposing science in the broad sense, then another problem pops up: apparently, no one is anti-science. Not protestors who trash animal research labs. Not people who bar whatever kinds of science due to their moral qualms about it. Not people who oppose teaching evolution.

    It doesn’t add up, and we end up in the situation I describe in the OP: killing scientists to suppress their research and discoveries somehow is not anti-science. Just because the knowledge is dangerous, or would be dangerous in certain hands, doesn’t mean it’s no longer scientific knowledge. Likewise, suppressing scientific knowledge and the people trying to acquire it is still clearly anti-science.

    Or you can commit to something like the claim I mentioned: just because you’re killing a scientist to stop him and others from acquiring certain knowledge doesn’t meant you’re against any scientific research.

  3. 3
    champignon says:

    A third response could be a whole lot of frantic bluster, misrepresentation, subject-changing, and signing off with an empty slogan. My reply here would be, “Hi, Nick.”

    He’s really gotten under your skin, hasn’t he?

  4. 4
    nullasalus says:

    Not at all, Champ – I’ve been talking with Nick for years. It’s why I’m able to summarize his responses with such uncanny accuracy. 😉

  5. 5
    markf says:

    I would define anti-science differently. In the second world war we did out damnest to prevent Germany developing a nuclear weapon. I don’t think we assassinated any German scientists working on it, but I am sure we would have if we could. Meanwhile we worked like crazy with our scientists to develop our own. This was not anti-science. This is winning the war.

    There have always been debates about whether there are some areas of scientific research we should not engage in for ethical reasons (e.g. GM) – sometimes the opposition is lead by distinguished scientists. This is not anti-science either.

    Anti-science is

    a) Not recognising scientific methods and arguments as valid e.g. continuing to take homeopathy seriously

    b) Believing scientific institutions in general to be in some way corrupt or something e.g. Denyse

    c) Believing that we give science and scientists too much respect when making decisions e.g. anyone who worries about scientism

  6. 6
    nullasalus says:

    Meanwhile we worked like crazy with our scientists to develop our own. This was not anti-science. This is winning the war.

    Actually, it really seems like both. Unless you want to argue that intentionally busting up labs, killing scientists, and discouraging particular scientific research is somehow not “anti-science”.

    a) Not recognising scientific methods and arguments as valid e.g. continuing to take homeopathy seriously

    Except people who are all agog over homeopathy often believe that both scientific methods and arguments favor homeopathy. And if failing to be aware of or properly understand scientific arguments makes one anti-science, then markf, odds are you yourself are anti-science.

    b) Believing scientific institutions in general to be in some way corrupt or something e.g. Denyse

    Wow, alright. So, if you believe there is bias in scientific institutions, you’re anti-science. So Dan Shechtman and those sympathetic to him were anti-science for a while.

    c) Believing that we give science and scientists too much respect when making decisions e.g. anyone who worries about scientism

    Alright, so “scientism” is “giving science and scientists respect”, and if you think we do that too much – say, if complain that scientists are attempting to apply science to non-scientific questions – you’re anti-science.

    However, if you kill a scientist with the express hope of halting his research – or if you bar certain research from being performed – that’s not an anti-science act.

    Thanks for clearing that up, mark!

  7. 7
    Chas D says:

    I don’t know what these people actually were, but the ‘science’ of bomb-building has been pretty well worked out. So have the general engineering principles of delivery. So these people were engaged in the practical issue of creating a viable bomb for their country. I’m not aware that they were researching new technologies. Not that this matters overly-much, but the argument that terminating researchers is “anti-science” holds no more water than the argument that terminating bomb-builders is “anti-engineering”.

    Citizens of another country feel threatened, so they choose that extreme measure. They have also created and released viruses into their enrichment control systems – is that “anti-computing”?

    some people (indeed, some people motivated largely by secular concerns)

    This leaps out at me. To declare them as motivated by “secular concerns” is a swipe at air – would it be OK if they were motivated by religious ones? Or would religious motivation stay their hand, as it does for, say fundamentalist terrorists, or anti-abortion extremists? Oh, hang on, it doesn’t.

  8. 8
    nullasalus says:

    I don’t know what these people actually were, but the ‘science’ of bomb-building has been pretty well worked out.

    Just because one person or one large group has certain knowledge doesn’t mean that suddenly everyone has it – sometimes research has to be carried out independently, sometimes tests of designs need to be carried out. Though I’m glad to see someone drawing a distinction between science and engineering for a change.

    but the argument that terminating researchers is “anti-science” holds no more water than the argument that terminating bomb-builders is “anti-engineering”.

    Alright. So to repeat the surprisingly common claim: just because you kill a bunch of scientists to stop their research doesn’t mean your act is an anti-science one. Likewise, passing laws to keep certain research from being done also isn’t an anti-science act.

    The fact that someone “feels threatened” doesn’t mean their ensuing acts are anti-science ones. Many people who oppose genetic modifications of food “feel threatened”. If they pass laws to stop the research, if they bust up the labs to wreck the research, then yes, I think that’s clearly anti-science. Unless someone thinks being “anti-science” requires something like ‘having a hatred for the scientific method’. In which case, sure, killing scientists to stop their research isn’t anti-science. In fact, it seems no one is or has been engaged in any anti-science acts of any kind.

    This leaps out at me. To declare them as motivated by “secular concerns” is a swipe at air – would it be OK if they were motivated by religious ones? Or would religious motivation stay their hand, as it does for, say fundamentalist terrorists, or anti-abortion extremists? Oh, hang on, it doesn’t.

    Considering I nowhere said, nor even implied, that it would be “OK” if the motivations were religious, nor did I suggest anywhere that religious people are somehow as a group immune to such things. You may want to reflect on whether it “leaps out at you” due to some psychological flaw on your part.

  9. 9
    markf says:

    Nullasus

    You seem in a rather aggressive mood this morning – I hope you slept OK.

    Unless you want to argue that intentionally busting up labs, killing scientists, and discouraging particular scientific research is somehow not “anti-science”.

    It depends on how you want to define anti-science.  If you include busting up labs, killing scientists, and discouraging particular scientific research in order to avoid a catastrophe as anti-science then fine.  And if the potential catastrophe is large enough then I have no problem with that particular kind of anti-science.

    Except people who are all agog over homeopathy often believe that both scientific methods and arguments favor homeopathy.

    Homeopathy is probably too controversial example.  Let’s take astrology.  I don’t think there have been any scientific studies to justify astrology.

    And if failing to be aware of or properly understand scientific arguments makes one anti-science, then markf, odds are you yourself are anti-science.

    I didn’t say anything about not being aware of or properly understanding scientific arguments.  I have no doubt that all us from Newton to a four year old are guilty of this.  I am talking about rejecting the empirical observation in favour of anecdote, superstition, or cultural assumptions.

    Wow, alright. So, if you believe there is bias in scientific institutions, you’re anti-science.

    I didn’t say biased – I said corrupt. As Kuhn pointed out most scientific institutions have a paradigm – their idea of what is correct in their field.  This paradigm may be wrong and it may be hard work to overthrow it.  But this is different from being corrupt which would, for example, involve members of the institution knowing  they were wrong and continuing to pretend they were right.  No doubt some scientific institutions at some times have been corrupt and in these cases being anti-science is justified.

    Alright, so “scientism” is “giving science and scientists respect”, and if you think we do that too much – say, if complain that scientists are attempting to apply science to non-scientific questions – you’re anti-science.

    I think it is broader than that.  Nothing wrong with debating whether a particular question is open to science. In this respect I define anti-science as a feeling that the whole scientific approach is in some way undermining some basic values.  It has a long history going back at least to Wordsworth:

    Our meddling intellect
    Misshapes the beauteous forms of things: —

    We murder to dissect.

    So anti-science can mean many things – and is sometimes a justified position.  I don’t normally associate the assassination of scientists as in the Iran case with anti-science but if you want to include it then in this case I think it may be justified depending on the consequences of not doing it (In any case the justification turns on whether assassination of innocent people to avoid catastrophe is justified – the fact they are scientists is not relevant).  This case has little to do with disapproving of science as a general activity or belittling  the scientific method as a method of knowing about things.

  10. 10
    nullasalus says:

    You seem in a rather aggressive mood this morning – I hope you slept OK.

    Golly gee, was I… curt? Heavens to Betsy.

    If you include busting up labs, killing scientists, and discouraging particular scientific research in order to avoid a catastrophe as anti-science then fine. And if the potential catastrophe is large enough then I have no problem with that particular kind of anti-science.

    There we go. You support some anti-science acts and policies – not so hard to say, eh? Most people do, according to varying standards and thresholds.

    Homeopathy is probably too controversial example. Let’s take astrology. I don’t think there have been any scientific studies to justify astrology.

    Sure there have. Let’s say the studies all suck – but not everyone is necessarily going to know or understand that. And maybe they think any studies ‘debunking’ astrology are flawed – again, perhaps wrongly. Where’s the anti-science coming in in those situations?

    Either way, you say again…

    So anti-science can mean many things – and is sometimes a justified position.

    And there we go. Some, certainly not all, anti-science can be justified. Something being “anti-science” does not in and of itself make it worthy of condemnation.

  11. 11
    markf says:

    And there we go. Some, certainly not all, anti-science can be justified. Something being “anti-science” does not in and of itself make it worthy of condemnation.

    Absolutely – depends on the particular definition of anti-science. 

    Also, under some definitions being anti-science may be worthy of condemnation but then the debate moves on to whether a particular case is actually an example of that definition of anti-science.  Take the astrology example.  If someone defends astrology on the grounds that they have scientific evidence then the issue is not whether it is bad to be anti-science when discussing evidence but whether astrology is a case of anti-science i.e. how good is the evidence.  On the other hand if they defend it on the grounds that all that science stuff is soulless and stultifying and we should listen to our intuitions then we are debating the value of the scientific approach and I would condemn them as being anti-science.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    Sad to say, there is a war on, and the scientists (pure and applied) and engineers in question, are as much on the front lines as infantry; decades ago, Israel did much the same with ex Nazi rocket researchers in Egypt.

    Looks to me like quite likely nuke or nuke threshold high intensity fighting within 6 – 10 months [note threats to Hormuz, “exercises” etc], unless something drastic changes. BTW, one of my profs used to help run a research reactor in Iran in the 70’s, so the issue is, weaponising. As is generally concluded.

    What is going on now is the modern equivalent of border clashes.

    Was it El Al just had their web site crashed by somebody’s hackers? And Stuxnet — with hecho en Israel all but written on the opening page — blew up a lot of centrifuges in Iran?

    In short, we are seeing garbled, spin-wracked, gappy early reports of the initial skirmishes.

    If this goes all the way US$110/bbl oil will look cheap.

    KF

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    If the scientific research is a threat to people then people have a right and duty to take a stand to stop it.

    Science does not care about “right” and “wrong”, people do (or should).

    So it doesn’t take an anti-science stance, just the knowledge of right and wrong.

  14. 14
    Chas D says:

    Considering I nowhere said, nor even implied, that it would be “OK” if the motivations were religious, nor did I suggest anywhere that religious people are somehow as a group immune to such things. You may want to reflect on whether it “leaps out at you” due to some psychological flaw on your part.

    It leaps out at me because you felt the need to parenthetically draw attention to the secular nature of their concerns. Whatever your motivations for doing that, and whatever my psychological flaws, I am merely reporting that it prompted in me an inference that you perceive, and wish to convey, something noteworthy in ‘secularity’, which draws a distinction from something ‘non-secular’ – ie, religion. Something you felt worthy of note for a largely ‘non-secular’ audience. Otherwise, why mention it?

  15. 15
    Dunsinane says:

    I think characterising science as some kind of object that can be threatened or opposed is really unhelpful. When the word is used like this, I think it’s worth substituting the word “science” for what is presumably meant. For example, the title of this thread, “Is Killing Scientists to Stop Their Research a Threat to Science?” Here, I imagine the thing that is threatened is the research of the scientists being killed. So we would have “Is Killing Scientists to Stop Their Research a Threat to their research?” What can’t be meant is something like “all of man’s accumulated knowledge”.

    So what does “anti-science” mean? Anti-knowledge? Anti-investigation? Anti-understanding? Everyone will be guilty of one of those at some time.

    If someone decides that Iran can not be trusted with nuclear bombs, it’s because they are anti-investigating-ways-to-kill-other-people-up. Not because they are anti-science, if you say they are also anti-science then I think the term is useless.

  16. 16
    Grunty says:

    If you bomb and destroy a hydroelectric dam (as the Brits did in the WWII Dambusters raid) does that mean you are anti-renewable energy? Probably not as the Brits also used hydroelectric power.

    This general question of anti-science in these terms seems rather pointless.

  17. 17
    Grunty says:

    On that basis, would you have terminated the Manhattan Project?

  18. 18
    nullasalus says:

    Something you felt worthy of note for a largely ‘non-secular’ audience.

    Largely? These comments sections have around 15-20 theistic regulars, and 3-4 non-theistic regulars. To balance it out, 2-3 of the non-theistic camp here.

    And yes, I know it prompted an inference in you. And I noted how wacky it was. It’s a little like a caricature of a feminist playing I Spy in the car, and her answer to everything is ‘a big scary penis!’ It says more about her than what she’s seeing.

  19. 19
    nullasalus says:

    kf,

    I made sure not to judge, in either direction, the killing of the scientists. That’s not my point. My point was simply that killing scientists to halt their research is about as obviously anti-science of an act as you can hope to have. I also pointed out that, under this view, sometimes an anti-science act is entirely justified in my view.

  20. 20
    nullasalus says:

    I think characterising science as some kind of object that can be threatened or opposed is really unhelpful.

    I can get behind this. I think it’s completely ridiculous to anthropomorphize science, and man, that is done constantly. “Science has bestowed upon us…” “Science tells us that…”

    If someone decides that Iran can not be trusted with nuclear bombs, it’s because they are anti-investigating-ways-to-kill-other-people-up.

    It’s not as if researching how to make flowers seem 100% prettier is science, but researching how to wipe pretty flowers out with a new and effective kind of poison is not. Scientists engaging in work and research relevant to certain knowledge are being targeted and killed, specifically to halt and cripple their knowledge and research. “Anti-science” is thrown around as a description of all manner of things and people. I find it pretty odd that – at least for the people who think “anti-science” is a good term to use – there’s marked resistance to regarding the killing of scientists to stop their research, or halting/forbidding various kinds of scientific research, as anti-science.

  21. 21
    Bruce David says:

    Whoever is killing those Iranian scientists are presumably anti-Iran-possessing-a-nuclear-weapon. And presumably they target scientists because that is where they think they can be most effective in achieving that goal. You can define their actions to be anti-science if you wish, but that misses the point. What the perpetrators are against is Iran possessing a nuclear weapon, not science. Attacking “science” is merely the means to that end. If Iran were attempting to buy such a weapon, say from North Korea, and these same people killed the middlemen in the transaction, would they be anti-commerce?

  22. 22
    Petrushka says:

    Actually, the scientists are employed as weapons engineers, not researchers.

    I’m not a big fan of warfare, but if we are going to have wars, better that the targets be people employed in or in support of the military than large civilian populations.

    In this case, the object is to prevent the creation of weapons against large civilian populations.

  23. 23
    nullasalus says:

    You can define their actions to be anti-science if you wish, but that misses the point. What the perpetrators are against is Iran possessing a nuclear weapon, not science. Attacking “science” is merely the means to that end.

    And I keep using this pretty easy example: they are killing scientists to keep them from engaging in scientific work and research, with the goal of denying them particular scientific knowledge. The spread of that knowledge is being aimed at here and in other situations. Yes, I think that’s clearly anti-science, if anything can be so called.

    Now, if someone wants to define anti-science another way, they’re welcome to it. But I think it’s going to illustrate some absurdity on their part if they, say… define “doubting evolution” as anti-science, but turn around and say that a group of animal rights activists trashing a lab, or outright barring whatever kinds of scientific research, is not anti-science.

    If Iran were attempting to buy such a weapon, say from North Korea, and these same people killed the middlemen in the transaction, would they be anti-commerce?

    Note that I mentioned even in the OP that someone can love and support certain scientific research – call it being ‘pro-science’ in one situation, if you like – while being anti-science in another. I’m not at all mounting the claim that if you want research X stopped in particular situation then you’re against all science everywhere. Likewise, thinking that a given commerce interaction should be barred – yeah, it seems right to call one’s stance in that particular situation anti-commerce given the right conditions. It doesn’t stop being commerce just because you’re selling something horrible, or to a horrible person.

  24. 24
    Chas D says:

    Largely? These comments sections have around 15-20 theistic regulars, and 3-4 non-theistic regulars. To balance it out, 2-3 of the non-theistic camp here.

    If comments are an accurate reflection of readership, then yes, 15-20 significantly exceeds 3-4.

    And yes, I know it prompted an inference in you. And I noted how wacky it was.

    But you didn’t explain why you made the point. Why mention it, if not to convey something?

    A reader of your prose has got the wrong end of the stick about something you wrote – the significance of “secular concerns” in a piece about science/anti-science and warfare. Rather than psychoanalysing the reader and their shortcomings, you could take the opportunity to clarify.

  25. 25
    Timbo says:

    I’m just wondering why a feminist would find a penis scary.

  26. 26
    nullasalus says:

    A reader of your prose has got the wrong end of the stick about something you wrote

    No, a knee-jerk critic who’s clearly desperate to find something made some pretty damn wild and amusing speculation based on noting that a given act of science-snuffing was prompted by secular concerns. Pretty innocuous stuff. Now said critic is feeling a bit silly for having made that move, and rather than owe up to their mistake, is griping.

    The problem’s on your end, Chas, not mine. If you wanted to be taken seriously, your criticisms should have been a bit more careful, and a bit less insane.

    Timbo,

    Caricature of a feminist.

  27. 27
    champignon says:

    I think that comment tells us more about nullasalus than it does about the hypothetical feminist.

  28. 28
    nullasalus says:

    Yes, champ. It tells me that I overestimated the reading comprehension of critics here when I spoke of a caricature of a feminist reacting that way.

    I’d say you should look up what a ‘caricature’ is – but since reading comprehension’s clearly your weak point… 😉

  29. 29
    Timbo says:

    Still don’t get it. I would think a caricature of a feminist would be someone who boldly helped herself to whatever she wanted whenever she wanted it. Yours is more of a caricature of a prudish non-feminist if you ask me.

    I must say I am missing the point of this post in any case. What are you trying to say with it?

    And regarding Champignon’s point, what are the “secular concerns” in question? What is a “secular concern”? Is it a concern that would only be felt by a non-religious person?

  30. 30
    nullasalus says:

    Still don’t get it.

    Then the problem seems to be on your end. If you aren’t aware about the common caricatures of feminists and phallic symbols, what can I say.

    I must say I am missing the point of this post in any case. What are you trying to say with it?

    It was meant to illustrate just how bizarre Chas’ interpretation was. Keep in mind he didn’t simply ask “Why do you mention these were secular motives?” – he went to read into it how he thought I was implying that religious motives would have been okay, or that religious people would never do such a thing. Pretty crazy stuff from him. This isn’t a koan, you know.

    And regarding Champignon’s point,

    I appreciate you want to come to the defense of your friends, since Champ can’t grok a single sentence and Chas apparently is prone to fits of delusion. But you may want to notice that Champ didn’t say anything re: ‘secular’. That was Chas.

    You guys really, seriously need to relax a little before you respond. Take a few days away from the keyboard. Clear your heads.

  31. 31
    Timbo says:

    Nope, not aware of that caricature. I just tried googling feminist caricature and nothing like that came up also. Bra-burning, yes, but no penises.

    And no, I wasn’t rushing to anyone’s defence. I am just trying to establish what a secular concern is. It seems to me that religious and secular people share most concerns, so I was wondering what the difference was in this case.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    Nope, it’s not simple straightforward routine engineering. This is applied science in a military-industrial context, that scientists, engineers and mathematicians as well as computing professionals, all have a hand in; perhaps not cutting edge globally, but sufficiently so for these states and regions. Back to the 40’s the actual nuke stuff was not the killer, it was the fluid dynamics [of the implosion] required to go critical fast enough to get a worthwhile chain reaction, esp for the Ploot gadget; which in turn pointed to tricky electronics to get the ignition points [I think 20 – 40 is “typical”] to fire in synchronicity on the arc of a sphere, using RDX and electronic triggers; I think coax cable delay lines would be trimmed to get that from a common initiation ckt, on general principles; probably with triple redundancy to make sure it goes. The U-gadget, was basically a U slug shot into a U-cup, using a 105 mm howitzer barrel and a cordite charge. It was not even pre-tested, Hiroshima was the first shot. I suspect some sort of proximity fuze would have been used to get an aerial burst at a controlled height. (This stuff is generic easily figured out info, the real deal is in the details. And, in sourcing materials and components; which is where the international controls come in.)

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    The intellectual virtues approach to epistemology distinguishes legitimate inquisitiveness and investigations from vicious curiosity and invention of ways to do evil. this is again an issue that points to the science, worldviews and ethics in society cluster of themes. BTW, I think it was Hahn (discoverer) who tried to kill himself on learning what use fission had been put to in 1945.

  34. 34
    Starbuck says:

    If it was just the spread of knowledge it would be fine. But if that spread endangers life, then use caution.

  35. 35
    Chas D says:

    Keep in mind he didn’t simply ask “Why do you mention these were secular motives?” – he went to read into it how he thought I was implying that religious motives would have been okay, or that religious people would never do such a thing.

    You’re right; my approach could easily have been different. It was, at base, a question about the relevance of the word “secular” in the context of the piece, and I could have just asked it without the rhetorical fluff. I indulged a little flight of fancy, through the medium of the rhetorical question, about possible interpretations. I didn’t really think that’s what you meant, that religious motivation would have been OK!

    But at least I have given you the opportunity to take a swipe at my psyche, feminists, the comprehension skills of sundry individuals, and indulge a knee-jerk reaction over knee-jerk reactions.

    So it’s all good!

    Timbo: I must say I am missing the point of this post in any case. What are you trying to say with it?

    nullasalus:It was meant to illustrate just how bizarre Chas’ interpretation was. Keep in mind …

    I think he means the piece in general.

    I appreciate you want to come to the defense of your friends, since Champ can’t grok a single sentence and Chas apparently is prone to fits of delusion. But you may want to notice that Champ didn’t say anything re: ‘secular’. That was Chas.

    Initially, it was you. This bizarre sub-thread spun out from that. I take the blame for the way it commenced, but honestly, this wasn’t a trap. But you still seem to have blundered straight into one.

    You […] really, seriously need to relax a little before you respond.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    Starbuck:

    Very good point.

    This is the issue of the moral hazards of science that the Darwinists — as we have seen in recent days — are ever so loathe to face.

    We need to, and in this case, nukes in the Middle East could cost millions their lives and set the world into an economic tailspin we would not believe.

    The possibilities are chilling, and this is one time when we had better learn from the 1930’s.

    KF

  37. 37
    Peter Griffin says:

    kairosfocus,
    Then it seems to me that you have a problem. The parts of the world you are worried about have some of the most religious populations in the world.

    Yet you are worried about millions of lives being lost.

    Why? If the people in charge of the nukes were atheists whose morality would allow them to kill a million people without blinking then perhaps I’d understand your concern.

    So it seems to me that people do bad things regardless of their religious beliefs. Which undercuts all of your talking points about atheism.

    Or is it perhaps that they believe in the *wrong* religion, according to you, and that explains their actions? They essentially have the morality of atheists because their belief is grounded incorrectly?

    Is that it?

    If not, perhaps you could explain your concern as it seems to me that the transcendent morality that they have access to due to being religious will stop any such nuclear conflict.

  38. 38
    Peter Griffin says:

    Then I think you have a problem.

    First, the man who led the Apollo project, the world famed von Braun, was not only a design thinker and Christian, but a creationist. (Cf. the notes in reply to Lewontin’s similar well-poisoning attempt, here.)

    Von Braun was a true Nazi, through and through. He claimed that he never witnessed any deaths or beatings in the slave labour force used to build the V-2.

    He joined organizations within the Nazi machine that were totally voluntary.

    No doubt you’ll claim that his arrest cancels all that out yet he was arrested in part because he thought the war was “not going well”. He was happy to trigger beatings:

    Without even listening to my explanations, [von Braun] ordered the Meister to have me given 25 strokes…Then, judging that the strokes weren’t sufficiently hard, he ordered I be flogged more vigorously…von Braun made me translate that I deserved much more, that in fact I deserved to be hanged…I would say his cruelty, of which I was personally a victim, are, I would say, an eloquent testimony to his Nazi fanaticism.[39]

    Yet you hold this disgusting person up as a Christian Creationist and damm Darwin for it’s claimed (by you) Nazi connections.

    If anybody has the Nazi connection it’s you KF for whitewashing history with regard to Von Braun.

    The only reason he was not shot after the war was because the USA wanted his talents. His morality was irrelevant.

    He was a SS Sturmbannführer for pity’s sake! He was a committed career Nazi out of choice!

    And you hold him up as a hero, yet it’s Darwin that leads to Nazism?

    How twisted.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    PG:

    Pardon.

    Why do you try to lump all “religions” together?

    Or, even all people of any one cultural religious tradition?

    Do you not see that you are indulging in broad-brush stereotyping and prejudice, of the worst kind?

    Let’s get this straight: the vast majority of Iranians would want to be rid of the regime they have had, which rode the backs of a popular uprising and seized power then imposed a totalitarian system under the name of a specific religious tradition, Khomeni’s twists on Shia Islam. But, they are under a dictatorship, that does not shun to let snipers loose on peaceful street protesters, in case you conveniently don’t remember headlines from just a few years ago: i distinctly remember the days of the parallel to that in China at Tienanmen square. I can object to the mullahs and their henchmen without implying anything about the people under their dictatorship, just as I can object to what the Chinese communists did when they crushed protesters under tank treads, while deeply admiring the Chinese people. Just like, I can deeply admire the people of Germany, Poland, Russia and France, or even my native Jamaica, without losing the right to point out wrongs that need to be set right.

    All of this is elementary.

    Just so, you will notice how careful I always am to distinguish Muslims and IslamISM, a supremacist Jihad, settlement and Dawah ideology that admittedly has significant roots in the Muslim founding era. But I full well know that many Muslims do not go along with the Muslim Brotherhood, or Boko Haram, or Al Qaeda of the advocates of .

    You should also know what I have had to say about the sins of Christendom, and those who would like to exploit the historic sins of the faith, to dismiss it. In that regard, you should know that I am one of the persons who exposed a particular destructive sect in the Caribbean region. You should also note that I have just had occasion to refute the smear that Hitler was a Christian acting out of the teachings and examples of that faith, as is slanderously promoted with malice aforethought by some new atheists.

    In the haste to stereotype, demonise and dismiss, somehow it has yet to get through that I have repeatedly pointed out — for years, it is almost a stock phrase for me — that the key problem we face is that we are finite, fallible, morally fallen and too often ill-willed. that means that we all have to face some pretty unhappy things about our selves, and get to work on the moral struggle to walk towards the true, the good and the right, however stumblingly.

    In that struggle, ideological systems that hijack science and impose on them materialistic worldviews that imply that there is no good and no right above might and manipulation make ‘right,’ are not a help. Let me make it clear from Hawthorne in reply to the new atheists, again:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    I trust this is clear enough.

    What we are looking at here is amoral nihilism, that lends itself to undermining of morality and justice in the community, especially for those who are voiceless, or can be robbed of a voice.

    Remember, in the end, a fundamental right is a moral expectation that we be respected in light of our inherent dignity as human beings, made under moral government. See where that leads, here on.

    Good day

    GEM of TKI

  40. 40
    Timbo says:

    One of the more pointless posts I have ever seen here. And that’s saying something.

  41. 41
    Robert Byers says:

    As a Evangelical Christian Canadian I deplore and accuse of murder anyone killing Iranian scientists to stop nuclear iduastry there.
    first its their right to be nuclear and even have nukes.
    They are a free nation.
    I understand they deny wanting nukes but just the power of the energy.

    To murder these people will rightly provoke all good men .
    Its truly wicked and weird for America, if so and somebody ask eh, to kill innocent people for obscure reasons unrelated to America.
    Yes there is a passion for israel and Israel’s insistance Iran is going to blow Israel up yet traditional morality and intelligence should be dictating America and not the same problems as led to Vietnam.

    The solution is to make the middle east nuke free, including Israel, and verify and all would be well.
    These obscure third world countries don’t need nukes.
    What is it with people in power wanting to murder other people about nothing.

    Truly we live more in the dark ages today then for a long time.

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    PG

    Please update your reports by about 20 years. And, even c 1940s the story you have chosen to put up is quite one sided.

    As is all too typical.

    I suspect you are unwilling to learn the point here about Hitler — even though this is directly evident from a Nazi party poster, and you plainly hope to throw enough mud to get it to stick in the endlessly recycled talking points in the hate sites.

    (Onlookers, the bio on von Braun here, will give what the sort of smear job just above will not. Of course, it is in the reference to the man I gave in the IOSE page.)

    Let me clip a bit:

    Von Braun studied mechanical engineering at the University of Berlin. Throughout his college career, he required no prodding; once, he showed his professor a letter he had received from Albert Einstein in answer to his questions, and while a student, he received a grant to experiment on liquid fueled rockets. In 1932, he graduated with a PhD in physics. Always fascinated with flight of any kind, he learned to fly gliders, and in 1933, received his pilot’s license for motorized aircraft.

    While the rise of Hitler was occurring during the 1930s, it must be stressed that von Braun was focused on rockets, not politics. One must remember that rocketry was “weird science” in those days, with no commercial or strategic appeal. Von Braun knew that his small amateur team, severely short on money and materials, could never advance his dream of space travel without the help of a large organization. He made a sober, consequential decision to approach the army.

    In the winter of 1931-32, Von Braun gained the interest of the German army, which had a small rocket development program under Walter Dornberger. Their collaboration at the army’s Peenemünde Rocket Center is legendary; it launched Wernher von Braun into the forefront of the world’s foremost rocketry program . . . .

    Stuhlinger explains the army connection: “The situation of the young rocketeers was similar to that of the aviation pioneers when the airplane could only be developed because of military support” (Ordway, p. 24). Rocketry demanded facilities that the former amateur team lacked. Until rather late in the war, von Braun’s rocket team was largely ignored by the growing Nazi regime, which did not see rockets has having weapons potential and considered rocket research heretical.

    For most of the 1930s, therefore, rocket R&D was removed from the thought of war; it was von Braun fulfilling his childhood dream. The team moved to Peenemünde in 1935, and as late as 3 October 1942, after a successful launch of their baby the A-4 (53 miles elevation, 118 miles downrange), von Braun was still idealistic: “Do you realize what we accomplished today? Today the spaceship has been born!” and Dornberger chimed in innocently, “This 3 October 1943 [sic] is the first day of a new era of travel, the era of space travel!”

    Up till now, growing Nazi intrusions had been a nuisance and irritant to the decidedly non-political team, but the successful launch suddenly switched Hitler’s attention to it. He organized a committee of overseers; von Braun and Dornberger eluded some of the intrusions with claims that the work demanded absolute secrecy, but by the end of 1943, after the British had inflicted severe damage at the test center, Hitler ordered the production underground.

    This become the notorious Mittelwerk production center, in which A-4 rockets (renamed V-2s by the Nazis for “vengeance weapon #2”) were built by slave labor in a last-ditch effort to safe Germany from defeat. In February 1944, Himmler, who had visited the Peenemünde center the previous summer, tried to lure von Braun’s support; when it was rebuffed, the Gestapo arrested him in the middle of the night.

    Von Braun was kept in jail two weeks without any explanation as to why he had been arrested. Finally, he was hauled into before a mock trial, where the accusation was, “he did not intend the A-4 to be a weapon of war, that he had only space travel in mind … and that he regretted its military use” (Ordway, 32).

    He was also accused of spying and trying to escape. In the nick of time, Dornberger entered the courtroom with a document. When the official read it, von Braun was released. What happened? Dornberger had been working since the arrest to effect his release, and after many unsuccessful attempts, persuaded the head of the Gestapo that von Braun’s was “absolutely essential” to the success of the A-4 program.

    Also, Albert Speer had persuaded Hitler, who grudgingly agreed, that the “secret weapon” Germany had been boasting about publicly could not proceed without its premiere rocket scientist. For six months, until the assassination attempt on Hitler (when the von Braun affair was forgotten), von Braun was in a very precarious position.

    He had two choices: refuse to cooperate and be shot, or steer the circumstances he was placed in for good, with what influence he had. Who could fault his decision? He had no authority, and no power other than advice, which he used to mitigate the evils around him.

    For instance, when he was made aware of the “hellish” circumstances under which prisoners were forced to build rockets in underground tunnels at Mittelwerk, he realized quickly that humane arguments with the morally-bankrupt SS leaders were futile. He persuaded them with shrewd pragmatic arguments that the project could not be completed on time unless the workers were fed and given rest. Similar shrewdness is found with Hushai’s counsel to Absalom in the Bible (II Samuel 16).

    Because of this, some of the suffering was alleviated. Yet von Braun had no authority over the project that the Nazis had wrested from his team’s hands; he was only asked his opinion on very specific problems, and was escorted under guard at all times. On September 8, 1944, V-2s were launched against Paris and London. Von Braun later described hearing the news as the darkest day of his life. To his chagrin, the rockets worked perfectly; they just hit the wrong planet.

    From time to time, revisionists criticize von Braun for not defying the Nazi regime, which would surely have meant his death. Rumors surface that he was a secret Nazi collaborator, or a member of the Nazi party, etc. Those tempted to believe this should read the detailed account of the period in the book by Frederick Ordway (American long-time co-worker) and Ernst Stuhlinger (part of the Peenemünde team), Wernher von Braun, Crusader for Space (Krieger Publishing, Florida, 1996).

    These men both knew von Braun personally over many years and participated in the events. Von Braun was no Nazi. Since 1940, Himmler had tried to woo him with gifts and a rank in the SS, which von Braun confided with friends made him deeply upset. But with their advice, he avoided making an issue to prevent Himmler from flying into a rage. When sweet talk did not work, force was applied, and von Braun’s options were none: do as you are told, or die.

    For the crusader for the peaceful exploration of space from his youth to his death, the years 1943-1944 turned his dream into a nightmare. His plowshares were stolen and turned into swords. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Finding himself powerless to stop Hitler and the war, what little influence he had, he used, and as soon as the war was over, he quickly and willingly surrendered to the American liberators.

    Consider these points in response to critics:

    1. Von Braun was arrested and jailed by the Gestapo.

    2. He was charged with resisting the military use of his rockets, and trying to escape.

    3. Himmler’s awarding von Braun an honorary rank in the SS no more made him a Nazi than awarding Martin Luther King an honorary membership in the KKK would make him a white supremacist.

    4. The evil uses of his rockets occupied only a few months at the end of the war.

    5. During his release from jail, when the military used von Braun for his advice, he was escorted under military guard at all times and under strict orders what he could say or do.

    6. He used his influence to argue for more time (delaying tactics) and better conditions for the prisoners.

    7. When he tried to argue for better treatment of the prisoners, he was threatened that it was none of his business, and that he had better shut up or he would be wearing the same prison stripes.

    8. His lifelong dream was the peaceful exploration of space. He was devastated when he heard the news that his rockets had been used against Allied cities.

    9. After the war, he sought out the Americans, and willingly surrendered not only himself but his whole team. He knew this meant abandoning his fatherland (and who, in spite of evil leaders, does not have some heart for his own country?). He became a patriotic, energetic American citizen.

    10. As soon as he reached America, he was eager to help the American space program.

    11. He repeatedly gave a full accounting of all his activities during the war, when interrogated by the government and by suspicious critics.

    12. His record since the war speaks for itself. A leopard does not change its spots. If von Braun were anything less than a man of integrity, bad signs would have surfaced in the subsequent 32 years in America.

    13. The British Interplanetary Society awarded him an honorary membership right after the war. Surely if anyone had doubts about his motives and allegiances, it would be those who were victimized by V-2 rockets raining down on their city.

    It is only fair for war victims, especially the Jews, to investigate the motives and actions of anyone connected to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. We hope this brief review helps to dispense with rumors that von Braun was ever personally at fault.

    He was a victim as well. Read the book by Ordway and Stuhlinger, probably the most authoritative biography by those close to von Braun, for further information. It contains many details and quotations by contemporaries, and gives a spellbinding account of events that are still within the memory of some alive today . . . .

    The German scientists were brought to America under top-secret Operation Paperclip. When Americans became aware of their presence, there was understandable alarm, and it took some convincing by the military and the government that they were now willing allies in strategic work. Von Braun was raring to go forward with his research.

    This attitude was shared by the entire team, and von Braun was restless at the seemingly interminable delays and interrogations. Slow progress was made, as freedom was granted by degrees, until full citizenship; the days of Truman and Eisenhower, the post-war boom, the threat of communism, none of these deterred von Braun from his dream. By the fifties, the Air Force, Navy and Army had their own rocket development programs, often with strong rivalries between them, but von Braun gained national stature as America’s leading rocket scientist.

    He became an icon of space to millions of children at their black and white TV sets on March 9, 1955, with the first of several Walt Disney shows about manned space travel – at the time, still the subject of science fiction. But not for long. Von Braun’s strategic importance to the nation gained a huge and unexpected boost on October 4, 1957, when historic bleeps were heard beaming down from space, heralding both hopes and fears. The Russians’ Sputnik 1 was in orbit.

    Reactions were swift and disorderly.

    Von Braun was not surprised; he had foreseen this two years earlier, and had warned that the Russians might beat us into space. His reaction was a politely but sternly worded I-told-you-so, but more than that, an optimistic appeal about the promise of space flight. But his German team, which was ready with its Redstone (Jupiter-C) rocket at Huntsville, Alabama (where his team resided from 1950 to 1970), was snubbed by the top brass in favor of the Vanguard.

    In the rush to catch up just two months after Sputnik 1, and a month after Sputnik 2 carrying the first animal (the dog Laika), the Vanguard launch button was pushed. To the shocked eyes of already embarrassed Americans, it exploded in a cataclysm of fire and smoke. The Army Redstone project was given the next shot. On January 31, carrying a small scientific payload named Explorer 1 developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Von Braun’s Jupiter-C launched the satellite flawlessly into orbit . . . .

    Though nominally Lutheran from his childhood, Wernher von Braun appears to have gotten serious about his faith only later in life. Ordway says, “Throughout his younger years, von Braun did not show signs of religious devotion, or even an interest in things related to the church or to biblical teachings.

    In fact, he was known to his friends as a ‘merry heathen’” (p. 270). In the days of Apollo, however, through the 1960s and 70s, “a new element began to surface in his conversations, and also in his speeches and his writings: a growing interest in religious thought.”

    He was not overt or invasive about it, but it showed, and his scientific colleagues and the press appear somewhat baffled by it, treating it like some kind of personal quirk, something they did not expect from a leading rocket scientist pushing the limits of human achievement.

    After the Apollo 11 success, for instance, a reporter asked him what he was thinking when he gave the final ‘yes’ for launch. The reporter must have been surprised at his unabashed answer, “I quietly said the Lord’s prayer.” Ordway comments that he could have been thinking of a dozen matters at that hectic moment, but his thought was, Thy will be done.

    Having known von Braun so well, Ordway elaborates the prayer for him:

    It would have been true to his nature if he had added, “You gave me this love for exploration and adventure and spaceflight, and also this gift to transform the dreams into reality. I have lived and worked as one little part of Your boundless creation. If we succeed with this journey to the Moon, it will be to Your glory. If we don’t, it is Your will.

    As far as I am concerned, I have used all the talents You have put into me, and I have done my very best.” Whether these thoughts actually came to his mind at that moment, nobody will ever know. (Ordway, pp. 269-270.)

    Von Braun was not pushy about religion, but neither was he embarrassed or annoyed by people asking if he believed in God: “Yes, absolutely!” would be his cheerful answer, “And then, he would begin to talk in his characteristic von Braun style, with perfect grammar and syntax, letting his carefully chosen words flow like a sparkling mountain stream, while he described his religious convictions with an almost disarming simplicity“ (Ordway, p. 270).

    Especially around 1975 when illness was advancing, “His desire to see the world of science and technology in full harmony with the world of religion, particularly as it is manifested in Christian faith, grew even stronger,” Ordway says (p. 272). Whether a direct quote or a paraphrase is not clear, but Ordway has von Braun saying,

    “Finite man cannot begin to comprehend an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and infinite God … I find it best to accept God through faith, as an intelligent will, perfect in goodness and wisdom, revealing Himself through His creation … ” It was surprising to some of von Braun’s associates that in spiritual matters, he would reach so deeply into the realm of the irrational.

    Here Ordway seems to misunderstand his good friend. Faith is not irrational; it is the rational step beyond the limits of evidence. Von Braun understood that science can never answer ultimate questions of origins and destiny, not even of purpose for why things are the way they are.

    Of course von Braun’s “entire work for space was solidly based on the exact laws of natural sciences” (p. 273), Ordway knows, but there are limits to science. When von Braun might say, “It is best not to think, but just to believe,” his belief was not irrational belief in something or anything; it had an object: the revelation of God in the Bible. As a devoted Christian believer, von Braun had confidence in the word of God.

    Once a person has the settled conviction that the Bible is God’s revelation, yes— it is best just to believe it, especially since its message is not applicable to scientific inquiry. A message like For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) is not an outworking of natural laws and mathematics. It is a communication from infinite intelligence (and love) to finite intelligence. Responding to that communication is surely the most rational thing a scientist can do.

    Von Braun often stressed that “science and religion are not antagonists. On the contrary, they are sisters” (Hill, intro.). He had no problem with “knowing” and “believing” living side by side; in fact, he thought it most irrational to deny the obvious: “It is as difficult for me to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science” (American Weekly, Jan. 10, 1960).

    Science can observe rationality and order and design, but the details of the Who behind “the grandeur of the cosmos” requires revelation. That von Braun believed in the revelation of Scripture, including Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, will be apparent from an essay we will quote in its entirety from an Introduction he wrote for a book on creation.

    In regards to creation vs. evolution, von Braun opposed the one-sided teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public schools. In 1972, he wrote a letter to the California School Board, which was considering a controversial bill on the teaching of evolution. He used his influence as a scientist and well-known public figure to argue that students need to hear the case for creation:

    To be forced to believe only one conclusion—that everything in the universe happened by chance-would violate the very objectivity of science itself. Certainly there are those who argue that the universe evolved out of a random process, but what random process could produce the brain of a man or the system of the human eye?

    Some people say that science has been unable to prove the existence of a Designer… They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But, must we really light a candle to see the sun?

    See the difference, a difference that was two clicks away all along?

    The sort of irresponsibility on display just above tells us volumes on the motives and attitudes of too many New Atheist objectors.

    Good day

    GEM of TKI

  43. 43
    Peter Griffin says:

    KF,

    See the difference, a difference that was two clicks away all along?

    Yes I do! It’s amazing how the addition of some additional information can change an understanding.

    However my point is really that if Darwin is to be demonized eternally because of something that happened much much later, something which he would have opposed and his name blackened every time then surely somebody who was actually a Nazi (he could have hid his brilliance…) cannot be so easily reformed? And the actual Nazi connections whitewashed?

    The next time you mention Darwin and Hitler in the same breath I simply suggest you think again.

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    RB

    I understand your feelings.

    I suggest that under the NPT, which Iran signed to gain access to nuke tech, Iran does NOT have a right to build weapons.

    Israel is a non-signatory and it seems the French weapon turn of 60s was a French-Israeli weapon.

    The ME troubles will not be solved by de nuking it, and I daresay, the problems there leave me with a very pessimistic view.

    We are seeing a shadow war in progress, and it is clear what nukes in Iran’s hands will mean. The Iranian state simply does not have the sort of controls that Israel, the UK, France or even Russia or China have.

    The proper parallel is North Korea.

    Sad to say

    KF

  45. 45
    Peter Griffin says:

    KF,

    I trust this is clear enough.

    Actually, no.

    In that struggle, ideological systems that hijack science and impose on them materialistic worldviews that imply that there is no good and no right above might and manipulation make ‘right,’ are not a help.

    Sorry, what? Could you give me an example of such? Or is that actually what you think has happened because of a book Darwin wrote generations ago?

    Presumably then before Darwin there were no such systems in play!

    I trust this is clear enough.

    Actually no. I don’t really know where to begin to be honest. It’s the finest gish I’ve seen for a long time, I’ll give you that!

    What we are looking at here is amoral nihilism, that lends itself to undermining of morality and justice in the community, especially for those who are voiceless, or can be robbed of a voice.

    So people are getting mugged because of Darwin?

    Tell me, amoral nihilism, what is that? What can I expect to see when I walk into a room and amoral nihilism is in full effect? Do the people involved actually know it’s because of Darwin or what?

    Remember, in the end, a fundamental right is a moral expectation that we be respected in light of our inherent dignity as human beings, made under moral government.

    Eh? But as far as I can tell you’ve just called me an amoral nihilist indulging in broad-brush stereotyping and prejudice of the worst kind who is attempting to stereotype, demonise and dismiss you because I am a finite, fallible, morally fallen, ill-willed person who is attempting to hijack science and impose on it and people in general materialistic worldviews that imply that there is no good and no right above might and manipulation, and who furthermore is undermining morality and justice in the community!

    To be honest, I don’t think a second date would be appropriate under the circumstances.

  46. 46

    If true, that’s an interesting account of von Braun, thanks kf. But I note that it is completely unreferenced and unattributed.

    Do you have a more authoritative citation?

    This seems more nuanced, and seems to be referenced, although it is only an extract.

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    Timbo:

    RE: One of the more pointless posts I have ever seen here.

    This perception actually inadvertently illustrates the reason why this post is one of the most important to have ever appeared at UD. So, pardon my taking you up on it, no personal intent is involved.

    The post is a posing, through a case study, of the key theme: Science, worldviews, ethics and society.

    That is, it is asking: what are the legitimate limits of scientific research, and what are the legitimate means to counter those who sufficiently transgress those limits?

    Secondarily, it is posing the issue of the scientist — as a rule, while studying, the sort of bright, otherworldly and idealistic people who make top flight scientists are normally apolitical, even anti-political (disdaining “that dirty business,” I well remember my dad’s rebuke to me on that subject! [even now,the closest I can bring myself is policy . . . ]) — who finds himself caught up in the infamous military-industrial complex of a state or movement. Especially, where that state or movement is irresponsible, lacks proper controls on misbehaviour or evil intent at the top, or is outright genocidal or democidal.

    Almost as bad is the challenge faced by the science educator, who needs to inculcate others into the field, and who properly needs to think about science in society issues.

    Here is John Ziman, chairman of the Council for Science and Society from 1976 to 1990, in a 1998 AAAS magazine interview:

    Fifty years ago when I came into science, we rarely talked about ethical issues. I don’t mean that there were no such issues, or that scientists were not, individually or in unofficial groups, speaking and acting about them. But ethics as such did not figure regularly in public discourse about science, in or beyond the scientific world . . . . Fifty years ago the world of science was divided into two types of institutions.* In universities and in many publicly funded research organizations people practiced “academic science”; in industrial and governmental research and development laboratories they practiced “industrial science.” These were two distinct cultures, closely linked in many ways, but dealing with ethical issues quite differently.

    Academic science was intensely individualistic. People held personal appointments earned by published contributions to knowledge. Universities and research institutes had little direct influence on their research. Academic employees decided for themselves what they would investigate and how they would go about it . . . .

    Academic scientists belonged to a worldwide institutional web. The production of reliable public knowledge was so loosely organized that it almost seemed like the anarchist’s dream: an active, orderly republic of free-born citizens with no central government. It functioned through a number of well-established practices such as peer review, respect for priority of discovery, comprehensive citation of the literature, meritocratic preferment on the basis of research performance, and so on. Although these practices were never formally codified or systematically enforced, they geared smoothly together. In 1942 Robert Merton argued that this was because they satisfied a set of “norms” that together constitute an “ethos” for science. Merton’s analysis was highly idealized, and is rejected by most present-day sociologists . . . . Paradoxically, however, this “ethos” has practically no conventional “ethical” dimension. At most, it defines a basic structure for a perfectly democratic, universal “speech community.” While this is an essential prerequisite for ethical debate, such debate is banished from academic science itself by Merton’s norm of “disinterestedness.” In pursuit of complete “objectivity”—admittedly a major virtue—the norm rules that all research results should be conducted, presented, and discussed quite impersonally, as if produced by androids or angels.

    But ethical issues always involve human “interests.” Ethics is not just an abstract intellectual discipline. It is about the conflicts that arise in trying to meet real human needs and values. The official ethos of academic science systematically shuts out all such considerations.

    Actually, this norm is not activated against one major human interest—the quest for knowledge . . . In fact, this interest is often given priority over other, less exalted, concerns, such as the welfare of experimental animals, and even over wider human interests such as the long-term consequences of publishing research that might be used for evil.

    The important point is that this “no ethics” principle is not just an obsolete module that can be uninstalled with a keystroke. It is an integral part of a complex cultural form . . .

    And of course, immediately, we see the themes I have sounded above emerging: the potential for abuse of the fruits of research to do evil [notice, the implicit intuitive appeal], the gap between legitimate inquiry and vicious curiosity towards inventing ways of doing evil, the idealistic naivete of ever so many in science and science education, living in a world where as science has gained institutional and cultural power, ethical responsibility has become ever more vital, but too often not properly and coherently addressed.

    The pivotal issues that have triggered the rise of a more focussed approach to ethics of science in society, of course is World War II and the horrific events that unfolded in that context, closely followed by the 40 years Cold War (in reality, slow-burn WW III).

    (And by the way, the sort of immoral equivalency, smear and drag down nonsense that appears in this thread from advocates of a view that cannot even find a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, often presented in the name of “science,” is also inadvertently revealing. More on the case of von Braun will follow, in indirect reply. PG has now crossed the threshold of civility and will be shunned.)

    Pardon a few steps of thought:

    1 –> the first thing is that we must understand that ethics, more or less the study where philosophy as it studies morality, the world of thought, the world of praxis, and the world of consequences intersect, is vital. And, central to that vital importance, is the need to ground ethics objectively, on pain of reduction to might and manipulation make ‘right’ which is destructive nihilism in disguise. (I have addressed this at first level in a worldviews context here on. For those that are serious, beyond playing at nasty talking point games that reveal a fundamental irresponsibility.)

    2 –> Let us state a principle of duties of care: the greater the power, the greater the potential or actual danger, and the greater the degree of responsibility to take due care in regards to predictable consequences. (This includes, where we can predict that we see a probability distribution, i.e. we face risk; and where we cannot even charactersie a distribution, i.e. we see uncertainty.)

    3 –> Next, let me use the adaptation and contextualisation under the Kantian Categorical Imperative [in turn linked tothe golden rule], of Bruntland’s Sustainability principle that I have used since my days working with a centre for environment and development; where “environment” was understood in terms of the bio-physical, the socio-cultural & economic and the technological-scientific. Rephrasing Bruntland (a Socialist, BTW) et al of WCED, 1987, as can be found in my JTS/CGST annual invited public ethics lecture, on ethics and development, 2002. Let me use the statement in my online primer, the SD concept note:

    we should seek to: Meet current human needs ever more adequately (and more fairly), without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, in the context of environmental factors, trends and constraints.

    4 –> Contextualising on the CI/GR from the text for the lecture:

    1. The “first formulation” of the CI reads: “I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law.”[6] That is, if one always acts towards other persons in such a way that it would be appropriate for one’s example and underlying moral principle to be acted on universally,[7] then one’s actions would be morally sound. (That is, the CI is a way of saying that we must consistently respect the value, rights and dignity of persons; thus it counterbalances our natural tendency to make self-serving exceptions to moral principles.)

    2. The Bruntland Commission’s definition of SD applies the CI to sustainable development concerns by considering the interests of all stakeholders, including those that are as yet unborn. So, it requires that we think through whether, if a particular principle/pattern of behaviour were to become sufficiently widespread, its effect would be to help meet the needs of this current generation (especially bearing in mind equity[8] and liberty concerns) without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, given relevant environmental factors, constraints and trends.

    5 –> I then immediately noted:

    the two principles reveal why many Caribbean development initiatives over the past generation have proved to be unsustainable: they have been ethically unsound.

    For, development-oriented decisions and actions taken at individual, institutional, community and national levels have far too often been carried through without clear and consistent ethical reflection, leading to policies and actions that are insufficiently constrained by recognition of their likely impacts and consequences on other persons (especially the poor, the powerless and the voiceless) and on the environment. So, as the consequences of self-serving, shortsighted choices have played out on the ground, and as the poor examples set by top-level decision-makers have spread out across the wider society, chaos has too often followed . . .

    6 –> This issue, of course, extends far beyond the Caribbean; it is also directly relevant to the ethical concerns linked to science and related disciplines and professions.

    7 –> These principles pivot crucially on the concept that we have rights, properly binding moral expectations of one another, in light of our fundamental dignity and value as persons. But in turn, this is not just an idealistic declaration, it must be objectively grounded, especially in the teeth of a selectively hyperskeptical world that is exploited by amoral nihilists to advance questionable agendas.

    8 –> As the already linked discusses, the only time-tested, credibly adequate ground for that is a well warranted worldview that has in it a foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT. There is but one viable candidate for such, the inherently good and wise, just Creator God and Lord who has made us equally in his image, so that we all have an intrinsic worth that must not be trammelled on, on pain of blaspheming Him who has made us in his image. (In particular, a worldview that traces to chance circumstances and blind necessity acting on matter and energy across time, has in it nothing that even approaches the required IS. thus, it is reduced to radical subjectivism, relativism, and might and manipulation make ‘right’ nihilistic amorality. This is why, in exchanges, advocates of such seek to drag others down to that level. Shame on them!)

    9 –> So, it is no surprise to see that, when he set out to ground principles of liberty and justice in the state and community, Locke in his 2nd essay on civil govt, cited “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker,” in Ch 2, Sect 5:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80]

    10 –> It bears noting just how often those who advocate evolutionary materialistic views and related ideas, will consistently duck away from such. The reason is simple, they have no foundation, and too often will then seek to undermine or discredit a reasonable foundation, because of their commitment to their views.

    11 –> Before going on, let me state again a key principle for personal and institutional or community praxis: we are all finite, fallible, patently morally fallen and too often ill-willed. this means we have the dilemma of bounded and partly mistaken rationality, and often don’t even measure up to the standards we set for others. Hence the issue of all needing to be busy about he planks in our own eyes, and to form a community that works to spur one another on towards the sort of love Hooker so eloquently summarised, and to good deeds.

    12 –> Precisely, the sort of community that does not fit the nihilist-amoral, radical relativist, selectively hyperskeptical, cynical agenda and ethos that now so plainly pervades our civilisation and marks an era in mortal danger of cultural suicide.

    13 –> Through that lens, we can see the case of Iranian rocket and nuclear scientists and technologists, under the Islamo-fascist [this term IIRC, is from the moderate Muslims of Algeria], apocalyptic Shiite Mullah controlled totalitarian state, and that of the Western-Hebraic, robustly democratic state and centre of refuge from genocide that it has sworn to wipe off the sands of time/map; depending on the translation you take.

    14 –> There is now no question that he Iranians are seeking to weaponise ballistic missiles and possibly cruise missiles with nuke warheads, with declared intent of genocide. Given Khan’s bazaar, they probably are looking for fusion-boosted fission weapons. This, in defiance of solemn commitments under the NPT.

    (It must be understood despite the systematic failure of duties of care by our media, education institutions and the punditocracy — that through the Hudabyeh principle and example of Mohammed, the IslamISTS see treaties with those in perceived rebellion against Allah, his Law and his Warriors, as inherently temporary truces, only justifiable because the Islamic power of dar ul Islam — the house of submission under Allah etc — is too weak for the moment to subjugate dar ul harb, the house of war. In short,t he only way to carry out such treaties and give them effective sustainable force is to maintain a credible deterrent against IslamISTS (here and in the cluster of Islamic nations); which will be repeatedly tested. Which is precisely what the situation of 9/11 and aftermath is about.)

    15 –> The Iranian powers are probably also looking to create suicide demolition nukes, similar to the old Spetsnaz suitcase or haversack nukes intended to destroy NATO bases. (Let us recall, post Cold War, the Russians informed Belgium — site of NATO headquarters — of three pre-positioned fusion bombs that should be removed. In short, a smuggled, pre-positioned nukes is not just a theoretical possibility. Welcome to reality, the nightmare world in which we now live.)

    16 –> Now, most bright young people who study physics and related areas, are idealistic, often with visions of a space colonisation future in heart and mind. (If the Bussard polywell fusion technology under investigation pans out, that future can develop across this century. And I see no reason in principle why something pretty much like that should not work; an electrostatic potential well substituting for the gravitational one in the stars is inherently reasonable. Solar system colonisation can credibly begin over the next 25 years, and reach critical mass over this century. In short, the vision is credibly achievable, and as a side-benefit, would transform our world energy situation for the good.)

    17 –> So, bright young people study science and tech, and may have heard that the nation is under threat, but probably pay little or no mind to it, and are probably repelled by the nastiness of the local politics. Indeed, that is exactly what happened to von Braun in Germany, with his vision of rockets exploring the universe.

    18 –> Such bright visionary people naturally attract like-minded people, and soon a research group is on the ground. But now, how do we fund serious research and development with no immediate or medium term commercial prospects? ANS: We have to go to government and/or the military-industrial context, for that which is not commercially viable may have a potential that will attract funding towards weaponisation. And, there is always the point that if we don’t do it, someone else will, and to our detriment.

    19 –> If you look at Bussard’s work, it was funded and embargoed by the US Navy for about 20 years.

    20 –> In a responsible state, that is not a big problem. But what happens when you have an irresponsible state, or the decay of a formerly responsible state?

    21 –> That is what happened with Germany, and von Braun et al were caught in the back-wash. Notice, the White Rose movement showed just how swiftly any idealistic protest could end in death. Such are the dangers of any community that willfully or by default hands its power centres over to the cynical, the amoral, the nihilistic and the blasphemously political messianistic. As, patently, has been happening in ever so many states in our own time.

    22 –> Let us note in passing — in reply to the sort of cynical smearing resorted to above — that von Braun found himself under arrest and threat of life, for not being weapons-minded enough, and for being suspected of sympathy for the victims of abuse he found himself working with. he and his school then found themselves in effect prisoners of the SS, and threatened with being slaughtered at the end of the war. That is the backdrop of his surrender of his team to the Americans, and the transfer of the programme from the German Army to the US Army and thence NASA.

    23 –> Thereafter, the Moon based on a cluster engine derived linearly from that of the A4.

    (And it was for the crime of pointing out this fact: the rocket scientist who sent the men to the Moon was a Christian and even a Creationist; in reply to a Darwinist cynically characterised “fundamentalists” by a woman who disbelieved the trip to the moon as she could not pick up Dallas on her TV, that I have been subjected to the smears above by PG et al. They need to learn that von Braun became a Christian believer across the 1960’s, and obviously underwent crises and life transformations across the 1940’s and 50’s. if you are willfully bind to such, then that simply tells me that such are precisely the sort who have never had their hearts lurch that I discuss here on, cf esp point d.)

    24 –> A similar discussion could be made about the refugee scientists who were at the heart of the Manhattan Project, which created the first nuclear bomb. the essential point is that, even in a democracy, there are going to be concerns and challenges. But Einstein et al were right to approach the US Government and call for a programme to investigate a bomb. I suspect that it should have first been demonstrated to the Japanese, but note that even after two bombs were used to horrific effect, the surrender was just barely carried through — there was actually in effect an attempted coup to carry on the war.

    25 –> So, now to the current situation. Iran may be 6 – 12 months from a viable bomb based on native technology; it seems credible they have up to several ex soviet nukes that by now they must have figured out how to hot wire. (I had heard of this 15 years ago, but did not take it seriously; to my shock, this came up again in recent weeks, with enough details that I am now taking it seriously.)

    26 –> In that context, we have a shadow war. Since credible alternatives have been on the ground for decades — remember one of my profs helped run a nuke research reactor in Iran, in the 70s — and there have been offers to help develop safe power plant technologies, with guarantees against weaponisation — it is clear that we are dealing with a rogue programme in an irresponsible, out of control state, with genocidal intent. And, this year looks to be pivotal.

    27 –> What we are seeing and hearing are low scale military clashes in a new style of war. And the conflict most likely will flash up into a nuke threshold or nuke war, maybe within a year. Stuxnet bought only so much time. I don’t like my conclusions, but that is reality. (I should note,there are hints Israel is moving key things out of Dimona, which is in rocket range of Gaza, which is now next to an Egypt in the hands of the IslamIST Muslim Brotherhood.)

    28 –> In that context, research scientists involved in such programmes are soldiers, whether or not they realise it; they are developing weapons in weapons development plants. In a war for survival, which this clearly is, they will be targetted, first to buy time to postpone the day when things will have to go hot, then, as part of the facilities in the bullseye for bombers or cruise missiles. And, if the sites are dug in deeply enough, the only credible technology is nuke bunker busters. probably delivered by cruise missiles, under the cover of aircraft and commando raids. (The recent car-bombing attack is probably a commando raid, likely based on commandos inserted by submarine.)

    29 –> This picture, frankly, frightens me; but, that is the reality.

    30 –> Where does this leave us? Scared, I believe . . .

    31 –> I think the best we can do in a blog like this, is to identify a code of ethics for scientists. Maybe, this one is a point of departure, i.e. a slight adaptation of Lasagna’s modernised Hippocratic oath:

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick [individuals, communities, my nation and our common world], all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine [relevant profession] as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug [etc].

    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not”, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients [clients and sponsors], for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. [reword]

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

    I think something like that should be developed for scientists, engineers and others in similar professions, bearing in mind the point that there is a legitimate concern that a hawk loves nothing so much as a nice fat juicy, peaceable dove — for breakfast.

    GEM of TKI

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Onlookers, sadly, PG and others know full well that I have repeatedly spoken of the common human dilemma of being finite, fallible, fallen and too often ill-willed, and that I have pointed out how the evolutionary materialist worldview, ever since Plato in The Laws, Bk X 360 BC, has stood exposed as having in it no IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT.

    The worldview is thus amoral, and adherents — who have the same implanted but suppressible ethical intuitions as the rest of us — face a struggle due to the gap between what they intuitively know and what their worldview tells them with all the credibility of the holy lab coat, is so.

    I have also pointed out how, historically, the wedding of evolutionary materialism to Darwinist science has had a significant part in the development of some troubling or horrific trends across the century just past, with the Communist and Nazi states as capital exemplars. Issues like Eugenics, social darwinism [which from Descent of Man chs 5 – 7 also includes Darwin], scientific racism, etc, and the devaluation of the individual human being, the undermining of the intuition that we have free and responsible wills and minds, etc etc carry this pattern far beyond these totalitarian regimes, however. (Cf Weikart’s lecture here [and take time to look carefully at the Eugenics tree diagram here in context: the self-direction of human evolution” . . . think about what that means in the hands of the elites who will be doing the direction], and see if the objectors are willing to step up to the plate and address the facts, documents, images, names, ideas and movements that are discussed therein cogently.)

    I am for instance deeply troubled by estimates of the global toll in abortion clinics over the past 25 years. It is not just 50 millions in the US, it is hundreds of millions across the world, maybe past a thousand millions altogether, I hope the estimate I saw for that is wrong.

    So, when PG and those of like ilk play the “you have accused me of being amoral” card, he is/they are playing at red herring led to strawmen soaked in ad hominem rhetorical games, the better to use sly verbal matches to ignite conflagrations that polarise, cloud, choke and poison the atmosphere we need clear for serious thinking on sobering issues.

    To see through the fog, start from this: what is the IS that is there int he evolutionary materialist view that can ground OUGHT objectively?

    The silence or the distractions or the ungrounded assertions you will see in reply, tell us all that there is none, as Plato knew 2350 years ago.

    That is how institutions and communities dominated by such thinking end up being manipulated by those whose view is that it is might and manipulation that make ‘might,’ only regulated by calculations of interest, balance of power and ‘can I get away with this — yet.’

    I am sick and tired of such Saul Alinsky tactics, and think we need to cut through the fog, and understand the vital importance of grounding ethics objectively.

    Any worldview that cannot do so, has no reason to demand our respect or sympathy. We may respect and sympathise with adherents, but we must understand that they are trapped in a system that is inherently destructive and ethically unsound on the Categorical Imperative.

    Should any such resort to the trifecta tactics outlined above of distraction, distortion and denigration to polarise and cloud issues, then we must understand that this is little more than a piece of manipulation in action. Perhaps, at second hand, where those who carry forward talking points may not fully realise the agenda they are enabling.

    We should reject it, demanding of such: on what objective foundation — what IS — do you demand that we OUGHT to do X, Y, Z . . .

    If we can find no IS that has sufficient moral force that it grounds OUGHTs that comport with what conscience tells us, we know we are dealing with an amoral system that tends to undermine community order and long term viability. It is morally unsound.

    And, so, let me again draw attention to the points Hawthorne made,/a>, that the evolutionary materialists are ever so desperate for us to ignore, brush aside, angrily dismiss or forget:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    If you are not hearing a cogent, on the merits answer to this challenge, you know already that you are dealing with that which is credibly unsound and inimical to the long term viability of our civilisation.

    Let us not be distracted and bamboozled by Alinsky’s cynical smear tactics on this (and, for the crime of letting this cat out of the bag, I have been smeared, too).

    It is vital that we get this straight.

    For, our civilisation faces mortal danger, coming to us as amoral evolutionary materialism dressed up in the holy lab coat that from childhood we have been taught to respect.

    Good day.

    GEM of TKI

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    OOPS: messed up a hyperlink, the remark on Alinsky’s tactics is here.

  50. 50
    Joe says:

    No, Manhattan isn’t such a bad place. 😛

    If I remember correctly using the atomic bomb saved lives, perhaps millions of lives.

    So what was your point?

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    Read the onward references.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers, I have lost patience with this man. he refuses to hear that there is far more to the story of von Braun than fits in his neat little strawman, and then proceeds to get back on smear. Sorry, fail.

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    In addition, think hard about what it is to be caught up in a time and tide beyond your ability to anticipate, and what it is like to find yourself caught up in the gears of a brutal totalitarian machine that would kill you in a heartbeat. Then, understand what it is like to be a researcher with a vision who set out to gain support of the most respected institution in the country — the army — and won it, then succeeded at first level, then found himself enmeshed in the clutches of the SS. I get the strong impression that much of the above simply does not understand what it is like to be caught up in an evil day like that. I guess living through an ideologically driven civil war makes a difference in outlook, though I freely admit it has poisoned my view of politicians, all but a very few of them. In addition, I get e distinct impression that much of the above simply does not understand moral-spiritual transformation. I guess having friends who are former murderers transformed by grace helps.

  54. 54
    Robert Byers says:

    Its not origins stuff here.
    yet if iran signed a agreement then is she admiting to breaking this?
    The agreement would include the right not have ones people killed.
    So its either iran admits to nuke building or its just a accusation and action upon that.

    Iran signed on and israel didn’t and so who is better?

    I see no reason iran is less trust worthy then Israel with nukes.
    they are all obscure third world countries to this Canadian.
    I don’t see moral or intellectual differences very much.

    A no nuke zone for the middle east would end the nuke problem which seems to be the big problem.
    First things first.

    The whole suspicion and accusations against Iran are based on no more then Iran’s criticisms of Israel or claims of aiding opponents of Israel.

    Before murdering or killing begins the case must be proved.
    If Iran is making nukes then why is it wrong ?
    If because of agreements well what are agreements.?
    The big agreement is not to kill ones scientists!

    As in origin issues there can be better answers and corrections to bring about the better world.
    This , perhaps, state killing stuff is just making us the bad guys and a worse weird world.
    Its not that important about unlikely motivation.
    We can do smarter and better.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers, this man has failed to even take time to see that I am making a distinction between a system of thought and those caught up in it who may well not realise what it is and does. Evolutionary materialism has in it no IS that can objectively ground OUGHT. those caught up in such systems of thought, are still human beings, under the moral government of God. They may sometimes suppress what hey know or should know, and all of us are finite, fallible, patently fallen (and so morally struggling), and too often ill-willed. He seems to want to put words in my mouth that do not belong there, in the hopes that this can “justify” saying snide things against me. This, in the face of my already having taken pains to correct such. That tells me all I need to know at this point. So, let me just caution that Plato ever so long ago warned against the characteristic tendency of evolutionary materialistic amorality: it undermines a sense of duty to the right and the truth and the fair. Enough has been recorded to show that what we have seen above is a smear attempt, which has failed; at least for those interested in the truth. KF

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    I add, there are references enough in the actual text. this is not an academic article in MLA style, but takes cadre to refer to key (and credible) sources and persons in-text. Which would have been apparent on reading.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers

    I should note, finally, that all of the poisoned distractor attempts above are in the following context of a correction to a rhetorical tactic used by Lewontin in his NYRB article:

    F/N: The key part of this quote comes after some fairly unfortunate remarks where Mr Lewontin gives the “typical” example — yes, we can spot a subtext — of an ill-informed woman who dismissed the Moon landings on the grounds that she could not pick up Dallas on her TV, much less the Moon. This is little more than a subtle appeal to the ill-tempered sneer at those who dissent from the evolutionary materialist “consensus,” that they are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. For telling counter-instance, Wernher von Braun, the designer of the rocket that took NASA to the Moon, was an evangelical Christian and a Creationist. [[Cf also here, here, here, here, here.] . . .

    You can of course find the links at the referenced page, including the five new ones on von Braun.

    KF

  58. 58
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Onlookers, kindly note that the “this” that I trusted was clear enough is Hawthorne’s expose of the inherent amorality of the worldview of evolutionary materialism, on fairly standard and clear analysis:

    Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the ‘is’ being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

    Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

    Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

    For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

    Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

    Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

    There IS an is that can objectively ground ought: the inherently good Creator God, under whose moral government we live, a government whose core premises are written in our consciences; though of course one can suppress that witness. Such suppression will as a rule come out in a key inconsistency between the standards one expects of others, and how one treats others, as Paul famously pointed out.

    I need not repeat the discussion by Hooker.

    So, it is plain that the real problem is that the analysis cuts across where evolutionary materialism advocates would like to go, not that it is incomprehensible etc.

    If they disagree then let them answer it, providing an IS that grounds OUGHT, objectively, on their worldview’s premises. (The slipping, sliding, ducking, dodging and poisoned distractions we keep seeing tend to tell us that the point is well made, but inconvenient. So, now is the time for such to put up or stand exposed as having no good foundation for moral knowledge.)

    And, remember, all of this is very directly relevant to the issue of ethics, science and society that is the main focus of discussion.

    KF

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers, kindly note the main reference used in the article: “the book by Frederick Ordway (American long-time co-worker) and Ernst Stuhlinger (part of the Peenemünde team), Wernher von Braun, Crusader for Space (Krieger Publishing, Florida, 1996),” noting its context. KF

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