Thanks, for this. I agree pretty much completely. Science for the People was originally called Scientists for Social and Political Action. We were a group of physicists aghast at the ways our science was tied into war-making. We questioned the idea  that "research means progress, and progress is good," and this must still be questioned. (By the way, for a thoughtful, partial anti-reductionism, see Michael Pollan's recent NY  Times piece on the difference between food and nutrients.) 

For me, the questioning helped lead me out of physics altogether. One way I tended was towards the ideas of Marx. But he has now been dead for almost 125 years, and he wasn't always right even in his lifetime. One thing that disturbed me about much Marxism (and still does)  was the way in which it became like a religion, complete with sacred texts —open to varying interpretations, certainly — but not to be considered as only a step on the way to better and more currently relevant understanding. 

That viewpoint has much to do with what I view as scientism, namely using isolated tidbits of evidence, some indeed laboratory-based, as if they prove some opinion that goes far beyond what they can possibly even indicate. Thus, abortion opponents like to use photomicrographs of embryos to "prove" that they are human beings. Bush and company used photos of strange trucks to "prove" that Saddam was engaged in biological warfare. Jonathan uses highly questionable research from  out-of-the-way "peer-reviewed" journals to 'prove" whatever he likes.  (One thing I learned as a young physicist was there is always some peer-reviewed journal somewhere that will publish anything that remotely resembles a scientific result.) 

There are many serious issues about the contemporary role of science and the direction of society. It would be nice to have a forum in which they could be seriously discussed, if enough people care.  



On Feb 15, 2007, at 3:29 AM, Michael Balter wrote:

This post from Jonathan Campbell is an example, to me anyway, of the absolute contempt that some so-called leftists have not just for science--which could, just perhaps, be justified by the abuses of science--but for any standards of evidence whatsoever when it comes to argumentation and debate. In other words, first comes the politics, and then the "facts" to back them up. Is this any different from the way the Bush administration justified the war in Iraq? Not in my view.

Let's just take one of Jonathan's statements:

"Why is it that there is no interest in ADULT stem cells, which really can be
obtained easily (from the patient's intestines) and used easily and
relatively cheaply to re-grow organs?"

Every single clause in this sentence is factually incorrect. If it is so easy to grow organs from adult stem cells, perhaps Jonathan would like to tell us where this is actually being done.

As for the pharmaceutical industry, it has a lot to answer for. But do we base our policies on taking the exact opposite position from everything it does? How about the attempts to find an AIDS vaccine. Obviously pernicious, and must mean that a pure leftist should be for continuing the epidemic, right?

In sum, this is the kind of infantile, ignorant, knee-jerk, no-nothing leftism that has landed the American left in the toilet for the past 30 years where it will stay until those who want to impress us with how hard they work and how tirelessly they engage in the struggle actually get their brains in gear and start acting and thinking in the real world.

Sorry for the rant, but we had a dream once and too many leftists have turned it into a fantasy with this kind of crap.



On 2/15/07, Jonathan Campbell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The person with chuzpah around here is the Marxist Expert from the Columbian
White Tower.

Mitchel at least is at least DOING something good for the world (actually
many things) and I think his critique of Marxist philosophy with regard to
capitalist progress is right on the money.

Louis, here is something to chew on philosophically (I understand you have
almost a PhD in this): why are so many extremely wealthy capitalists and
capitalist foundations connected to the pharmaceutical industry interested
in a technology (embryonic stem cells) that is supposed to really solve
diseases, when the primary business model of the pharmaceutical industry is
long term illness maintenance, having nothing to do with cures or effective
curative treatment? Why are prominent leftists lining up as a cheering squad
along with the capitalists for this new technology?

Why is it that there is no interest in ADULT stem cells, which really can be
obtained easily (from the patient's intestines) and used easily and
relatively cheaply to re-grow organs?

Why is the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry so intent on regulating
natural supplements (via Codex) when "modern medicine" is the leading cause
of death in the US (>650,000 per year) and the leading cause of injury
(millions per year), while the number of people who have died as a result of
natural supplements is less than a hundred per year, almost exclusively the
result of not following the label and/or sheer stupidity.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <[log in to unmask]>
To: < [log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: Mitchel's Marxism & the Environment talk now on-line

> >Stan Goff has kindly posted the talk I gave on January 26, 2007, at
> >Bertell Ollman's Marxism Seminar, at
>>You can read the entire talk there -- including the parts that I had to
>>excise due to time constraints (concerning stem cell research and the
>>left) and also post your own comments.
> Amazing. Not a single reference to John Bellamy Foster, Paul Burkett,
> James O'Connor or Mike Davis.
> What chutzpah.
> --
> www.marxmail.org


Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
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