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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Cross-breeding bad ideas for fun(ding) and profit
Some scientists have apparently cross-bred two terrible strains of thought, and come up with an even worse one: the idea that scientific research is protected by the first amendment.
In 1977, four eminent legal scholars -- Thomas Emerson, Jerome Barron, Walter Berns and Harold P. Green -- were asked to testify before the House Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. At the time, there was alarm in the country over recombinant DNA, or gene splicing. Some people feared clones, designer babies, a plague of superbacteria. The committee wanted to know if the federal government should, or could, restrict the science.

''Certainly the overwhelming tenor of the testimony was in favor of protecting it,'' Barron, who now teaches at George Washington University, recalls. ''I did say scientific research comes within the umbrella of the First Amendment, and I still feel that way.''

Berns, a conservative political scientist who is now at the American Enterprise Institute, was forced to agree. He didn't like this conclusion, because he feared the consequences of tinkering with nature, but even after consulting with Kass before his testimony, he told Congress that ''the First Amendment protected this kind of research.'' Today, he believes it protects cloning experiments as well.
This freakish crossbreed looks the most like its mother, the loose constructionism that translates "freedom of speech" into "freedom of expression." Its father, though is just as dangerous: the belief that science is a "higher" pursuit than the rest of life, divorced from our mortal hither and thither, our ideas of right and wrong, and certainly beyond the realm of law. I like science as much as the next guy, but it is not somehow seperate from or better than the rest of human experience.

Fortunately, this little chinese needle-snake may well be eaten by a ravenous gorilla that thrives on snake meat: as the Campaign Finance Reform ruling showed, even if scientific research is somehow covered by the First Amendment, its funding certainly isn't. So now we just wait until wintertime rolls around and hope the gorillas simply freeze to death.

(Via Ramesh Ponnuru)
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