Saturday, June 20, 2009

Studies Show

That Peter Lawler is right about reasons to be disquieted by President Obama's sudden dissolution of the Bioethics Commission, and his more general stance that we can rely on scientific objectivity and experts to settle the great and contested issues of the day.

Obama's stance is reminiscent of a passage from a speech given by John F. Kennedy in 1962, in which he said:
Most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political viewpoint - Republican or Democratic, liberal, conservative, or moderate. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems … that we now face are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments, which do not lend themselves to the great sort of passionate movements which have stirred the country so often in the past. [They] deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men….


Sentiments such as these are fundamentally a dismissal of democracy, understood not simply as a contrivance of competitive elections, but as the a form of governance devised with the idea that truly human questions are not reducible to technical or expert "solution," but instead require discussion, argument, dialogue, prudence, practical wisdom, and the willingness to revisit. I agree with every sentence in Peter's assessment, and lament the dismantling of what may have been the best thing that GWB did in his eight years in office in forming his Bioethics Commission.

3 comments:

Jason said...

David Brooks, in a NYT column last week, argued that Obama's long term strategy in regards to health care is to hand the issue over to MedPac, a group of technocratic experts. This will put it beyond 'politics' a term which is has become derogatory in our scientific age. "Rising above above politics" and "putting science in its rightful place" are two reoccuring themes for the President.

Anonymous said...

You can learn a lot from these studies. Good to see you in Seattle and I hope you and Adrian enjoyed the game. Peter

Anonymous said...

This is another example of the need for localized government. Of course these issues are too complex for the average man (they are also too complex for the "expert"). Such is the audacity of hubris.