Monday, March 13, 2017

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, Dr. Samual Cartwright, and the Perversion of Science

168 days until the first class.

First . . . I posted "Morality from the Ground Up" on the Desirism site in Facebook over the weekend. For anybody who wants to know the basics of desirism, this is the document for you.

Second . . . I spent the weekend starting my next paper, "Bigotry and the Immorality of Sentimentalism". 2500 words so far.

I am getting to a new point in my work where I am wanting to read and take notes, and this is difficult to do while I exercise. In order to maintain some semblance of physical fitness, I do my philosophy studying while working out on an elliptical exercise machine. Have you ever tried taking entering information into an iPad while elipticalizing at 140 steps per minutes? It isn't easy.

I thought about using a microphone, but I worry about others in the gym looking at me funny.

I am also continuing my studies on the Civil War . . . and noticed an interesting parallel.

When the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt denied that CO2 was the cause of global warming, he reminded me a lot of Dr. Samual A. Cartwright.

Dr. Cartwright lived before the civil war, and one of his main contributions to the field of medicine was his presentation of the illness drapetomania. Draptomania is an illness that afflicted black slaves. See, the natural state of a black person was to be in a state of servitude (slavery) to white. However, some blacks had a mental affliction that caused them to want to run away. This was entirely contrary to the nature of blacks and not in their best interests. Cartwright argued that the disease could be prevented by keeping the slave warm, dry, and properly fed, and allowing them to have families. However, once a slave became afflicted with Draptomania, then the only way to cure the disease was to whip the slave was to whip him until he was restored to a proper sense of servitude.

Cartwright's story represents the perversion of science to serve an economic interest. In the years before the civil war, those who profited from slavery subverted the science of medicine to argue that the proper role of the black was to be in a state of servitude. This allowed plantation owners to feel good about the fact that they were, in fact, treating whole populations (about 4 million people) as little more than animals. Indeed, the types of prescriptions that Cartwright argued for were little different from those that one may defend to keep sheep and pigs healthy.

In the case of Scott Pruitt and those like him, we have the perversion of science to allow them to carry on with actions to argue for the legal permissibility of actions that will inflict significant harms on future generations - and even present generations - by poisoning them, destroying their property, and putting them at risk of injury and death. To do this they advance absurd claims, but they use their money and threats of economic hardship to get these views adopted. And, as with Dr. Cartwright, there are always a few scientists who are seduced into adopting the premises that would cause them to see diseases like "draptomania" and the denial of climate change as making sense.

One of the claims that I have often heard from those who defend this perversion of science by those who profit from harmful activity is the claim that, "We are not that evil. How dare you even suggest that we might do such a thing?"

Yet, the history of slavery tells us that human beings - otherwise quite moral and benevolent - can be seduced by perversions of science that protect their profits. It allowed them to enslave millions of blacks 170 years ago, and allows them to poison and otherwise kill and maim humans today and destroy their property - putting whole cities and whole nations at risk of destruction for the sake of a few dollars.

One of the best forms of evidence that one can provide that something is possible is to show that it has actually happened - and the perversion of science in defense of harms as severe as chattel slavery actually happened.

We can also draw parallels to the perversion of science that the tobacco industry paid for - embracing a perversion of science that made them psychologically comfortable with actions that killed and sickened hundreds of millions (billions) of people for the sake of a few dollars.

Indeed, while we may be tempted to identify wars as the greatest cause of human misery, in the last 200 years it has been substantially the perversion of science to protect activities that harm countless individuals profitably as doing far more harm than any war.

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