Monday, April 03, 2017

Trump’s anti-science experiment is unethical and unprecedented in U.S.

One of the problems in conducting risky experiments are the ethical problems highlighted by the infamous USPHS Syphilis Study. It was called the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" and was conducted between 1932 and 1947. When the study of syphilis in poor black sharecroppers began, there was no known cure for syphilis. But “When penicillin became the standard treatment for the disease in 1947 the medicine was withheld as a part of the treatment for both the experimental group and control group”:

“While the panel concluded that the men participated in the study freely, agreeing to the examinations and treatments, there was evidence that scientific research protocol routinely applied to human subjects was either ignored or deeply flawed to ensure the safety and well-being of the men involved. Specifically, the men were never told about or offered the research procedure called informed consent. Researchers had not informed the men of the actual name of the study, i.e. "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," its purpose, and potential consequences of the treatment or non-treatment that they would receive during the study. The men never knew of the debilitating and life threatening consequences of the treatments they were to receive, the impact on their wives, girlfriends, and children they may have conceived once involved in the research. The panel also concluded that there were no choices given to the participants to quit the study when penicillin became available as a treatment and cure for syphilis.” (About the USPHS Syphilis Study, Tuskegee University)

As you can imagine, all hell broke loose when the details were made public. A panel looking into this case determined that the experiment was "ethically unjustified." Yeah, no kidding.
Similarly, although we are existing in a free society where we can attend to the media we wish and vote as we choose, the vast majority of Americans never expected to be forced to engage in an experiment involving dismantling of science-based safety regulations. This experiment could be called, ‘What would be the effect if the world’s most powerful and influential nation abandoned science?’ Like the sharecroppers in the study, it would never have occurred to us that those running the experiment would hold to their ideology even if it meant a craven disregard for our lives.

The science behind gravity, flying jets, public health, ecosystems health, and climate is all the same science. When a country that once based public policies on sound science suddenly reverts to a pre-science stance, it can only be called an experiment. It’s one thing to want the world to reflect your ideology; it’s quite another thing to challenge the very science that provides the foundation of all governmental policies—and life itself. That’s not only dumb, it’s unethical. It’s unethical in the same way that denying known treatment to subjects of an experiment is unethical. (Although, the consequences in our present experiment will be far more extensive.)

The editorial board of the New York Times recently tried to characterize the unrivaled hubris and recklessness now rampant in our government:   

President Trump Risks the Planet That didn’t take long. Only 10 weeks into his presidency, and at great risk to future generations, Donald Trump has ordered the demolition of most of President Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels. The assault began with Mr. Trump’s pledge in Detroit to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, continued with a stingy budget plan that would end funding for climate-related scientific programs and reached an unhappy apex Tuesday with an executive order that, among things, would rescind the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s clean power strategy, a rule that would shut down hundreds of old coal-fired power plants and freeze the construction of new ones. None of this was unexpected from a man who has described climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to destroy American industry and who has surrounded himself with cabinet officers and assistants who know or care little about the issue of global warming and its consequences — and who, in many cases, owe their political success to the largess of the oil, gas and coal companies. (March 28, 2017) New York Times [more on Climate Change in our area]

One can be on the sidelines on almost any issue. From your TV set (or wireless device), you can watch thousands protesting on issues like race, gender, justice, worker rights, and do nothing. One shouldn’t do nothing to stop evil, but one can. That is, one is physically able ignore the plight of others. 

However, with Climate Change, you cannot be on the sidelines. If you and your neighbor live on shoreline properties and the ocean is rising, both of your properties are affected. This will occur whether you like it or not.

You can deny the science behind Climate Change (and gravity for that matter), but you’d be wrong. 

You’d be wrong morally (because you’d be doing nothing at a time when something needs to be done), and you’d be factually wrong because eventually our environment will be unlivable unless steps are made on a level and time frame that will matter to us.

You can sit on the sidelines when scientists are being dismissed by their government. But you cannot sit on the sidelines of science itself. In other words, you cannot exist outside the laws of physics. You cannot start flapping your arms and fly to another planet.

Let’s face it. It’s one thing for folks to hold climate denial as their abhorrent opinion at this point in human history; it’s quite another for our government to be run this way.

We should not allow ourselves to be unwilling victims to this anti-science experiment. Earth Month is now happening in Rochester. ACT!

Time passes.  #ScienceMatters 

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