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Rational Inquiry -Volume 7 Number 1

Presidentís (or is it Ex-Presidentís) Thoughts on This and That

By Keith Taylor

Iím gone as president, but my concerns for rational thought linger. Let me include a few examples. Some time back I wrote a piece for Navy Times wherein I stated that this was, in large measure, a religious war. I offered as evidence the fact that folks will take Scripture to justify their actions, especially belligerent actions. I quoted Luke 19:27, Luke 22:36, Matthew 10:34 and Exodus 32.27, making my point that while the selections were lifted out of context, the words were used to inflame.

In a letter to the editor I was taken to task for my comments by a chaplain. His complaint? I took the passages out of context. He made his point with: "Appalled, perhaps that is the best word for my reaction to your article recently printed in the Navy Times."

Rational thought is so difficult when people decide what youíre going to say then complain about it whether you said it or not.

Then on December 9th, Maryanne Means, syndicated columnist for the Hearst newspapers, took Time magazine to task. That publication had let it be known that Osama bin Laden was one being considered for the title man of the year. She felt that such an evil person should not be so honored.

Honored? Adolph Hitler made Timeís cover in 1938, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1979! The magazine has often iterated that it will recognize (not honor!) the person who has the most impact on history in any given year, without regard to popularity, morality or harm to civilized society.

Our history is carried in our journals. History is a mixture of good and bad. Itís a fact that an Osama bin Laden had more influence on our lives this year than any other person. To ignore that fact is to deny history. We can wish and waffle all we want, but unless we are able to come to grips with reality weíll never understand history. Then we will repeat it, sure as hell.

Time wimped out and went for the easy choice, a fellow who went from being a good, capableóbut lame duckómayor to being named as the person who affected the world the most in 2001. Not much rational thinking there.

Jim Underdown, executive director of CFI, West, recently told us rational thinkers we ought to back the pursuit of truth no matter where it leads us. I would offer that advice to the media also.

I think we got a good look at rational v. irrational thought on October 28 when our speaker was SDARI member, Elie Shneour. Neither stem cell research nor the associated question of cloning is rocket science, but we often perceive them to be just as complicated. Certainly both are posers and few of us in the laity could attempt to do research on either. Still Elie made it understandable to most of us. That included the likes of me who has practically no scientific training. Complicated or not, both stem cell research and the associated question of cloning have been big news lately.

Elie (he insists we do not use his title) did more than just explain how it works. He helped us understand why it is so important that the public get a grasp of whatís going on with stem cell research, how it applies to medicine, what the legal obstacles are, and even the frightening idea of creating life itself--if thatís what we do. Elie says life doesnít begin, it continues.

Still some credulous ideas are flying around and the ideas come from people of power. Unless they understand what they are talking about those decisions can be ridiculous. That was proved the day after Elieís talk when Senator Brownback of Kansas held a press conference with religious leaders and anti-abortion groups. The issue was that a small Massachusetts firm called Advanced Cell Technology had split off a few cells from a single cell. Those few cells became a human to those folks! Speaker after speaker told of how we were creating life in order to kill it, how only God should create life.

Later Representative Christopher H. Smith claimed: "[we are] on the verge of having human embryo farms in laboratories all across America."

Certainly Elie isnít alone in asking for a bit of effort to understand whatís going on here. He told us that the bridge from those three or four cells to a baby was enormous. Virtually all our top scientists agree with him. Meanwhile the benefits of stem cell research can be enormous. They can also be futile. In either case neither science nor reason will be served unless we try to find out.

Keith Taylor now holds the position of SDARI Program Director.

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