Daily Archives: April 5, 2009

The function of "name calling"

With all the discussion of “name calling” of late, I offer a defense of one of the functions of “name” calling in discourse. Obviously, directly insulting one’s interlocutor, or target, merely for the sake of insult, is unnecessary and often immoral. However, a major part of politics is the use of what Captain Picard, in the scene I quoted a few days ago, calls “comfortable euphemisms.”
“Slavery” becomes “property.”
“Abortion” becomes “choice.”
“Discarded embryos”.
“reproductive health.”

Euphemisms are used all the times by politicians of all stripes to, as they put it on The X-Files, “deceive, obfuscate and lie.”

One of the words used in debates over medical ethics that, not while exactly a euphemism, has the same function, is “scientist.” Barack Obama has made it clear that he thinks that the “integrity” of science (whatever that means–I thought integrity meant sticking to one’s principles, no matter what) depends upon freedom from moral considerations.

While it is true that those who engage in embryonic stem cell research are “scientists”, the term “scientist” connotes a certain respectability, like, “philosopher” or “scholar.” Normally, I prefer the term “researcher.”

As a philosopher, I seek out exactitude in meaning. I try to seek out a certain definition for terms, and then use that definitoin consistently myself, even if others use it inconsistently.

As a writer and a writing instructor, I try to teach my students the importance of word choice: connotation and denotation.

So, normally, I would prefer the term “researcher” in regard to ESCR and any other subject of *research*. While “scientist” could technically be a thesaurus synonym for “researcher,” the term “scientist” carries a connotation of respect and authority.

Indeed, in our society, “scientist” is coming to trump “philosopher” or “theologian” as a term of respect and authority. Look at Professional Atheists like Richard Dawkins: they can make declarations on matters of metaphysics and theology merely by declaring themselves “scientists.”

When Americans hear “scientist”, it says something to them.

Thus, writing my previous post, I could not bring myself to use the term “scientist,” as the article I was commenting on had done, because scientist did not carry the connotation I wanted, especially as I was criticizing the article for being too inaccurate.

Now, I could have chosen “researcher,” but was admittedly too emotional to come up with the term. Also, I wanted specifically to wanted to counteract the euphemistic use of “scientist,” so I opted for a more pejorative term which analogized the moral equivalency of their actions rather than directly describing them.


Accuracy is important

According to this article, “fetal” stem cells can be used to treat deafness.

First, one must acknowlege the usual reaction of the deaf community to such articles, which is a sentiment I tend to agree with: “who says deafness needs to be cured?”
I mean, would we talk of “curing” illiteracy or “curing” being monolingual? Will they come up with a treatment to “cure” the majority of Anglo-Americans of our lack of knowledge of foreign languages?

Deafness is a disability, a lack of an ability, yes. But deafness, like many lifelong disabilities, is also a diversity, and it would be far better if we learned to work with diversities instead of constantly trying to “cure” them so everyone fit the same mold. It’s not an absolute principle, either way. Just a consideration.

Now, as to the claims of the article: “fetal” stem cells. There is a difference between “embryonic” and “adult” stem cells.

Technically, the stem cells in a “fetus” are “adult” stem cells. The term “adult” stem cells means that the stem cells, themselves are mature. They have differentiated to create specific organ tissues. A “fetus” has differentiated organs (just not all organs in a fully developed form).

So the stem cells that these cannibals extract from aborted babies are the *same* stem cells they could just as easily get from living donors.

*Unless* they’re really talking about *placental* stem cells, which are *not* differentiated yet, and are still the same stem cells that come from embryos. This is why umbilical cord/placental donation is such an important thing (we debated the question with each pregnancy, and I now wish we’d known more then).

But the article says “fetal,” and the average reader will automatically equate “fetal” with “embryonic” and say, “See! This proves that embryonic stem cell research works!” In point of fact, it doesn’t. It shows that we don’t need embryonic stem cells because we can get these stem cells that help hearing from a) placental tissue that is discarded after pregnancy or b) from live donors.

FBI says Obama’s questionable citizenship is the biggest threat to national security

An FBI report on civil stability and national security says that the question of Obama’s birth certificate–if he never produces it or it proves he isn’t a US citizen–poses the threat of a true constitutional crisis (duh!), including the very difficult question of whether the last 2 months are even constitutionally valid.

Plus, the Army is training and increasing the size of its Brigade targeted at putting down uprisings within the country: for fear that economic collapse or lack of confidence in our government (such as finding out that our “President” is constitutionally ineligible) will lead to an uprising.

"Red Envelope" Campaign given "cease and desist" order

The “Red Envelope” Project was a movement to send red envelopes to President Obama to represent babies killed by abortion. They estimate 1,688,081 envelopes sent: so, roughly 1.7 million. But they were recently given a “cease and desist” order, apparently because someone has a trademark on the term “red envelope.”

Fr. Longenecker on apocalyptic predictions, biblical, Catholic and secular.

From "Lutherans and Procreation": "Marriage Minus Procreation = Homosexual Marriage"