Junk Science: The Last Refuge Of A Losing Argument

Yet another Republican opens his yap about reproductive issues and some stupid falls out. This time it’s Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, who thinks fetuses masturbate. If they feel pleasure, surely they feel pain, his argument goes.

Um, no. And, um, no.

In fairness, when you operate in an information bubble, you’re going to see a lot of this type of pseudo science, and you’re not going to be equipped with any critical thinking skills or factual information to debunk it. So after we’ve all had a good laugh at Rep. Burgess’ expense, let’s look at what’s behind the right-wing’s use of pseudo science in the first place.

First and foremost, it’s the right’s attempt to sidestep Roe v Wade:

The fetal-pain bills do not directly challenge the Supreme Court’s judgment. Instead, they assert a new theory for outlawing abortion. The Nebraska bill states that “by twenty weeks after fertilization there is substantial evidence that an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain.” The legislatures passing these laws say that preventing this pain is a compelling state interest that justifies prohibiting abortion.

Hence, the loophole: Although the Supreme Court has identified preserving fetal life after viability as a compelling interest, the justices have never said it is the only one.

This tells us two things: first of all, that conservatives have given up on their “repeal Roe v Wade” battle cry. And second of all, it tells us conservatives know their anti-choice argument fails on its core merits, which has always been morality.

Conservatives have always maintained that they think abortion is morally wrong. That’s fine if that’s what you think, but clearly they haven’t gotten any traction with this approach or they’d be passing laws saying as much. And no wonder! They have zero credibility on the morality front in the first place. You can’t hear Rep. Marsha Blackburn say the House’s 20-week abortion ban is “for the children” without wondering why she doesn’t give a crap about children who are already born and maybe need some food stamps and education. Seriously, watching Republicans over the past 10 years has been absolutely hilarious. They really don’t care about anyone unless they’re in utero. After that, you’re on your own.

Clearly they’ve failed to make their morality case. So instead Republicans have adopted the value set of the culture at large — science! facts! pointy-headed experts with lots of alphabet soup behind their names! The fact that their “science” is completely bogus is something they hope you don’t hear.

The TV has been full of footage of Tennessee Rep. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn claiming “the science is on our side”. Except it’s not. And Black is registered nurse, fer crying out loud. Her husband is a doctor! They should know better.

(By the way, who supplied all the B-roll of Republican women making anti-choice speeches on the House floor? I find it curious … )

Junk science is becoming a favorite ploy of the right. We’ve seen it with the climate change debate. And in fact, as this piece points out, the pseudo science ploy goes all the way back to Big Tobacco:

Probably the most prominent example of junk science involves what Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway call the “Tobacco Strategy,” which refers to the way that tobacco companies marshaled their own research “experts” (that were both bullied and bought) for judicial trials in the 1970s and 1980s that involved plaintiffs alleging serious health complications as a result of smoking cigarettes. The tobacco companies found that as long as they could present reasonably credible scientists to testify in suits alleging long-term physical harm from cigarettes, they would win lawsuits and avoid paying damages. Tobacco experts routinely testified that cancers, emphysema, heart attacks, and strokes were not prompted by cigarette smoking based on their own studies or cherry-picked data that argued against a causal link between smoking and negative health effects.

In both the case of cigarette smoking and fetal pain, the use of junk science demonstrates how credible, peer-reviewed scholarship is too often disregarded for pseudoscience that touts conservative values at the expense of empirical data. In these examples and in many more, junk science serves to manipulate public perceptions of the scientific process.

Funny how so much of our modern politics — propaganda, astroturfing, junk science, etc. — goes back to Big Tobacco. The thing is, Big Tobacco lost! They lost. We’ve got smoking bans everywhere and the rate of smoking in adults has been dropping for decades. Heck, I remember when you could smoke on airplanes, in movie theaters and even in grocery stores! Now some landlords are banning smoking in their rental units. So for all the junk science and astroturfing, they still lost.

And the anti-choice crowd is going to lose, too. Because truth always comes out. Always. Saying you have the science on your side doesn’t work when you don’t.

And I think it’s kinda cute that the right-wing anti-choice crowd will disparage our modern “permissive” culture every chance they get while at the same time adopting that value system themselves to make their arguments. It’s kinda sad.

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Junk Science: The Last Refuge Of A Losing Argument

  1. Mary Wilson

    SB, I am so furious with dipstick Marsha Blackburn and her ridiculous stand against women’s rights that I hope we can find someone who LIKES females to run against her sorry ass. She has done NOTHING for this State and now she is ‘spokesperson’ for the chauvinists who HATE us. She does not deserve one more damned day in Congress. She has already earned her millions from the neocons, and any other lobby one can think of. And if ANY Democrats voted for this latest War on Women bill, I will work for their defeat as well. Women in Tennessee had best wake up. Your rights as human beings have just disappeared.

  2. GregH

    The only staunchly anti-abortion forces that you can maybe respect for at least being consistent in their morality are those Catholics who oppose abortion AND the death penalty. (This leaves out most “fry ‘em ’til their eyeballs pop out!” evangelicals.) But this respect for some Catholics of course assumes they aren’t the ones screaming “MURDERER!!!” and holding up pictures of bloody, aborted fetuses at a scared teenage girl trying to get into a clinic. I’ve been an escort at a clinic and it can get pretty nasty.

  3. democommie

    We need to start getting some of those NFL guys who are pro-gay rights to hop on the pro-women’s reproductive rights (and the rest of their rights) bandwagon. I’m betting that he nastiness at the clinics would be toned down when the assholes wavin’ teh ded babeez signz saw a couple of 275# or bigger guys on the other side of the rope.

    @ GregH:

    I was raised Cath-O-Lick and have zero respect for the management and most of the underlings in that institution. People that can give support to that RICO-ripe cabal are not engaging in critical thinking.

  4. GregH

    @ democommie: When it comes to a complete & total absence of critical thinking (or really any rational thought), you simply cannot beat being raised pentecostal.

    • Kosh III

      O yeah? Try Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, about as fundamentalist as they come)
      Back in the early 70s they purged their seminaries of anyone who didn’t adhere to a Creationist/Inerrant doctrine; this was after they disbanded the Youth organization for having the audacity to oppose war.

  5. chrome agnomen

    there was a time in the distant past (said the old prospector) when i credited the politicians on the right side of the aisle with a modicum of intelligence. i couldn’t bring myself to think they actually believed a tenth of the crap that came from their pieholes. that time is gone. i am now thoroughly convinced that we have people in the house (especially) and the senate, who are not bright, not even average. as someone who has observed the political scene since the kennedy era, this still comes as somewhat a shock. i know this has been the case for at least the last five administrations, but it remains hard for me to accept that people are willing and eager to be represented by people who are just plain dumb. it’s easy to accept that in the general population, but in powerful positions?

    color me hopelessly naive.

    • GregH

      Redistricting means the Repukes in the House are mostly in very safe seats, but it also means they have pretty much ZERO room for compromise. If they give an inch on *anything*, they’ll have a nasty primary fight with a Tea Party nutjob who is even more extreme. Any progress or good governance is a victim of Republicans’ redistricting success at the state level. That and the absence of earmark horsetrading means there is no hope of compromise on anything. The House is completely dysfunctional. If Boehner even considers a vote on a Democratic propopal, his job is threatened.

  6. Bitter Scribe

    I have a feeling this is something Burgess isn’t going to be able to live down. He’s already drowning in ridicule, to the point where Ann Althouse feels called upon to defend him.

    (Sorry, no link. I refuse to facilitate traffic for that fool’s blog. But if you do wander over there to check it out, note that her blog has a masturbation tag. Uggggggh.)

    • ….note that her blog has a masturbation tag….

      Ha ha ha ha ha …….

    • GregH

      I know from Monty Python and democommie’s Cath-O-Lick catechism that every sperm is sacred. What penance would the Church advise for the little in utero wanker? And if he chokes it, is he still born innocent and sinless, or has he commited a venal sin before birth? Ah, the questions this situation poses!

  7. democommie

    “@ democommie: When it comes to a complete & total absence of critical thinking (or really any rational thought), you simply cannot beat being raised pentecostal.”

    “Oh yeah? Try Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, about as fundamentalist as they come)”

    democommie (channeling Eric Idle):

    “Well when I say “house” it was only a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarpaulin, but it was a house to US.” (http://us.search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=vmn&type=zg-search.startnow.com-1_0-zg-rp-rp&p=%22Four+Yorkshiremen%22+youtube)

  8. Seeing/analyzing

    The masturbating fetus is just another aspect of lie they were trotting around for decades that 9-week-old embryos “flee in panic” from the abortion tools. A newborn can’t flee from anything; how could a much-less-developed embryo? Just like a newborn can’t masturbate because they don’t have the ability to make purposeful movements

  9. Seeing/analyzing

    Sorry; not sure what happened in the last post; it just posted itself. To conclude the thought; a newborn can’t make purposeful movements, so how could a much-less-developed embryo do it? Answer; it can’t.

  10. democommie

    ” a newborn can’t make purposeful movements, so how could a much-less-developed embryo do it?”

    Even if they wanted to, I’m thinkin’ the lack of well formed fingers might be a hindrance

  11. democommie

    Aw, gee whillikers! Ya got me, Jim!

    Yeah, the fetus in this photo looks like he’s gonna be playin’ the piano any day now.

    But there is this:

    “Testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone in the skin of the external genitalia and masculinizes the external genital structures. By 12 weeks most of this male differentiation has occurred, but they are still not completely formed. On ultrasound, if your baby is cooperating, the sex can be identified as early as the 16th to 18th week of your pregnancy. The testicles remain inside the abdomen until late in the third trimester, when they usually descend into the scrotum. Sperm is not produced until puberty.”

    from here (http://baby2see.com/gender/internal_genitals.html)

    That pretty much indicates that baby doesn’t really have a penis to play with at that age.

    • That pretty much indicates that baby doesn’t really have a penis to play with at that age.

      I think Jim said he thought the masturbating fetus thing was BS but since you mentioned it, how is it possible that members of Congress are unable to hit the damn Google and read this stuff for themselves? Guess they’ll believe ANYTHING. And if they’ll believe ANYTHING … what won’t they believe? If it fits their worldview? Very dangerous to have this much ignorance in your Congress, makin’ your laws….

  12. democommie

    Sadly it was UT. Then again, I’ve known some decidedly stupid people who have advanced degrees.

  13. democommie

    Yeah, there is that.