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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

I'd Be Careful If I Were You

Naomi Oreskes has a well-written op/ed piece in the Washington Post this morning. In it, if I may summarize for her, she tells people like me to shut up and get on the bandwagon. She says global warming is a fact and that we are all going to die. So stop the debate. More or less.

Actually, some of what she writes, I agree with. There is a consensus of opinion that the globe has been heating up in recent decades. Had she left it at that, I would have gone on to my Wheaties by now. But she had to add this:
There is a scientific consensus on the fact that Earth's climate is heating up and human activities are part of the reason [my emphasis]. (link)

On that last clause, there is no consensus. She may have more bodies on her side, but there is no consensus.

What bothers me about her diatribe is that she has decided that we are wasting time debating the subject. We should be fixing the problem ... somehow. And the part that got me worked up is this:
So why does it seem as if there is major scientific disagreement? Because a few noisy skeptics -- most of whom are not even scientists -- have generated a lot of chatter in the mass media.
That would be people like me, I suppose. But you won't hear me joining in this debate. I will, however, pass on the opinions of those who devote their lives and careers and reputations to such matters and who have differing interpretations of the data, meager as those data are.

Where Ms. Oreskes' argument starts going off the rails is in her very next sentence. She cites a very prominent scientist who disagrees with the whole notion of global warming.
At the National Press Club recently, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen dismissed the consensus as "religious belief."
So we have, in fact, a disagreement among scientists.

But here is what prompted me to comment on the Oreskes article. She is not a scientist. If you read the blurb at the tail end of her article, where a brief bio is provided by the Washington Post, we learn this:
The writer is an associate professor of history and director of the Program in Science Studies at the University of California.
The woman is a professor of history! She has no more claim on the pursuit of the global warming truth than I do. She's not a scientist. She studies scientists, for God's sake! She disparages those who have an opposing view on the subject but who don't have proper credentials even though she doesn't have any credentials herself. My response to her is to take her own advice and shut up!

Good grief.

This Is Not Good News

A word to the wise: If you're going to visit or to see the sights in Washington D.C., get a room across the river in northern Virginia (Springfield, Arlington, Alexandria are right there), leave your car in the parking lot, and take the Metro into the city. Traffic is so bad (the worst in the nation; I speak from a vast amount of experience), that otherwise the only sight you'll see is the exhaust pipe of the vehicle in front of you while you are waiting in a seemingly never ending line of traffic.

That having been said, this is not good:
After a quarter-century, Metro is succeeding beyond expectations in ridership, has become an integral part of the region, and yet is literally falling apart. (link)
Unlike failed attempts at mass transit in places like Detroit, DC's Metro is a great way to get around and is utilized by tens of thousands of passengers each day, especially by those who commute to work in the city. If there is one thing government should be in the business of providing, it is a decent means of transportation. The Metro has proven its viability. Support it.

A Place So Foul

Bob Barr and I are of like mind when it comes to the Netherlands. We both believe the people there are reverting to their historical origins. Did you ever wonder where the country got its name? It was, several centuries ago, a backward, godless, disease infested swampland that civilization chose not to penetrate. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth (the first) the Netherlands was an area that thieves and deviants fled to - or were banished to - because they couldn't function in normal society.

It must be in their genes.

Today, the Netherlands is best known for its willingness - no, desire - to kill its elderly and infirm. Doctors and politicians there are attempting to formulate excuses for slaughtering those who should be afforded protection because they are unable to defend themselves. They're also unable to support themselves, you see; that's why authorities there want them dead. The victims are not economically viable.

Here is how Bob Barr describes the situation:

The Netherlands, once the Land of Tulips and Windmills, is now known worldwide not for flowers and irrigation ingenuity, but for death and abortion. Were he attempting to escape allied justice today, Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Nazi "Angel of Death," would not have make his way to the jungles of Brazil; the Netherlands would probably welcome
him with open arms. It's the new "Dutch Treat."

Several years ago, the Netherlands placed itself with pride at the cutting edge of modern decadence by enacting the world's most liberal assisted-suicide laws. The country' powerful medical community now has taken a quantum leap toward a society that values death over life, in proposed new legal guidelines that would turn that country's assisted-suicide law into a mandate for medical homicide.

Currently, Dutch law permits doctors to administer a lethal dose of muscle relaxants and sedatives to terminally ill patients, at their request. The Groningen Protocol, as it is known, would permit doctors to euthanize patients who, according to the opinion of these "doctors" and other medical "experts," lack "free will." This category of unfortunate individuals would include newborn babies, persons in irreversible comas and persons with severe mental retardation.

Worse, the Groningen hospital, after which the protocol is named, has already begun to administer the procedure, even without formal legal sanction. To date, Dutch prosecutors have refused to step in. Hey, if we can get rid of society's "deadwood," why let niceties of law or morality get in the way?

Regardless of how one feels about euthanasia of the willing, I would hope most people agree ending someone's life without consent puts us at the top of a deeply disturbing, indeed frightening, slippery slope.

When the person to be euthanized gives his or her consent, the line of contention rests between the innate value of human life (and the chance that consent will not be informed) and what control an individual should have over his or her ultimate fate. That, in my estimation, is a legitimately contested debate.

Groningen's guidelines, however, involve the actual medical homicide of individuals who can't protest or defend themselves. I have no doubt that if the Groningen Protocol becomes official, parents who don't want to contend with raising a disabled child will have their baby or young child euthanized, even if the baby has a fighting chance at a meaningful life.

Likewise, family members who fear the burden of coping with a disabled or comatose loved one will seek his or her involuntary euthanasia out of their own self-interest.

Medical ethics has to be one of the most maddeningly complex fields of endeavor on the planet. The mental agility needed to contend with some of these issues is considerable. There is, however, one basic starting point for any ethical inquiry in medicine; one which, though not actually in the Hippocratic Oath, encapsulates its message. It is: "above all, do no harm." In other words, life of any quality is sacred in itself, and throughout the morass of ethical issues that arise in the practice of medicine and healing, the alpha and omega of everything should be the preserving of life.

The idea of involuntary euthanasia stands foursquare against that presumption in favor of human life. In fact, the Groningen philosophy is one in which the patient's life becomes disposable when the quality of that life drops below a certain threshold, and when its maintenance becomes inconvenient to the patient's kin or the state. The premium placed in traditional medical ethics on preserving life as an end in itself has been lost entirely in the thicket of a misguided communalism.

In America, this almost cavalier attitude toward life as a thing of independent value poses unique problems, as the right to life here stands on the same shelf as the right to liberty. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." This basic conviction -- that our right to speak and think freely, for instance, comes from the same font as the right to live, and that both are equally inviolate -- does not end at the hospital doors. Moreover, it ought to apply as much to patients whose mental faculties are insufficient to formulate consent as it is to the rest of us. We -- at least the majority of Americans -- do not value life on a sliding scale. All are equal.

Indeed, the idea of involuntary euthanasia evokes the very same disregard for the rights of the individual that pervaded the worst historical excesses of the American legal system against the physically and mentally disabled. For example, in 1927, the Supreme Court found constitutional the forced sterilization of a woman whose mother and daughter were both retarded. Under law, the Supreme Court reasoned, society had a valid interest in making this woman barren because she would pollute it with defective children (though the opinion puts it more artfully). One has to admit that, even the most liberal of today's Supreme Court justices are better than the crowd that
rendered that opinion. (link)

In my weaker moments, I wish upon the Dutch that which they seem to so eagerly wish upon others. But then it strikes me that it will be in my weaker moments, particularly when I get old, that I will be placed on their list of those who are no longer viable and therefore should be "removed." The Netherlands has become a swampland once again.

God help us all.