imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

GOP Alliance may Split over Stem-Cells

by James Pinkerton Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2003 at 9:29 AM

For most of the 20th Century, leading conservatives and libertarians united against atheist-collectivists. To this day, a WWII-era alliance between US capitalists and moralists continues long after the defeat of the "Reds." And then came stem-cell research...

Science and the GOP

James Pinkerton,, 07-22-2003

Are you a "Bright"?

If you're reading TCS, it wouldn't be a surprise if you are. "Bright" as a noun, not an adjective, was introduced to Americans in a July 12 op-ed in The New York Times. In this usage, "Bright" means agnostic, or atheist. As op-ed author Daniel Dennett explains, the idea behind Bright is to give non-belief an "image buffing" so that the millions of Americans -- Dennett claims that Brights are, in fact, a "silent majority" -- can gain a stronger place in politics.

And boy, the forces of secularism -- the folks who would like to revive the Enlightenment idea of progress, especially in medicine; the people who would separate church and state and, this time, really keep it separate -- could use a boost right about now. However, it's not so clear so that Bright is the right word to use.

The Bright idea comes from Martin J. Willett, professed atheist and proprietor of In his telling, there's no implied superiority in claiming Bright:

"It is a word without a natural opposite. You are either bright or you are not. It is not for us to call the religious dim or dull or straight: they are not straight, not normal, just not bright. You could say that the opposite of bright is religious, but it isn't really a useful thought. Being bright isn't something that needs an opposite, just like Thursday doesn't need an opposite."

Well, OK, but I'm not sure I buy it. His argument that a positive word such as Bright casts no implied darkness on others strikes me as disingenuous; his presumption mirrors the disingenuousness of Christians who display bumper stickers proclaiming, "Christians aren't better. They're just forgiven."

Dennett, by the way, is an important figure in the continuing battles over evolution and the implications of evolutionary science; his many books, including, notably, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, are filled with positive endorsements for libertarian notions of freedom and the libertarian-related notion of free scientific inquiry. Indeed, Dennett's latest book is vividly entitled, Freedom Evolves. And so many TechCentralStationeers might cheer when he writes in his Times piece, "We can be a powerful force in American political life."

Not surprisingly, Dennett's op-ed generated considerable backlash; in Wednesday's Times, no fewer than seven letters appeared, most of them critical. The most pointed letter took Brights/atheists to task for whitewashing the past political impact of Brights: "For most of the 20th century, officially atheistic regimes ruled a large part of the world," wrote John J. Pitney Jr. of Claremont, Ca. "I don't think that the prisoners of the gulag saw much that was bright."

Pitney, a well-known political scientist, raises an interesting issue that's more than an historical question; it's central to the future march of science.

But first, a bit of history. For most of the last century, leading conservatives and libertarians were persuaded that they faced a binary choice: on one side was a government based, in part, on religion; on the other side was a government based on collectivist thinking. And so, to pre-empt the Reds, mostly secular conservatives and libertarians sought out alliances with religious leaders, eager to create a common front against socialism and communism.

These new groupings were a worldwide phenomenon. In post-war Europe, for example, the anti-communist coalition was oftentimes an alliance of big business, the various Christian Democratic -- and sometimes also Social Democratic -- parties, plus whatever celebrities, opinion leaders, and publishers could be cobbled together in the days when most intellectuals were solidly on the left. In Japan after 1945, the alliance was built around the mercantilist Liberal Democratic Party. To be sure, sometimes these alliances were more unholy than holy, as in Franco's Spain or any number of incompetent and/or kleptocratic Third World regimes.

To be fair, for much of the 20th century, communism loomed as a significant threat; the stakes were high back then. From the 30s through the 50s, many non-communists believed that communism was nevertheless a better economic system; they opposed communism as a freedom-squelching tyranny, but had no reason not to believe those fake numbers coming out of the Soviet Union. It seemed that Stalinism was Keynesianism on steroids. And so the counter-strategy was to keep the restless proletariat firmly anchored in faith and tradition; if a little God-talk would help keep the workers and peasants on board, fine. Raise up the Cross -- and sometimes also, the Islamic Crescent -- to smite the Hammer & Sickle.

In the US, this coming together of free-market ideology and old-time religion was called "fusionism." George Nash's The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, published in 1976, ably describes the conjoining of such conservatives as William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk alongside, more or less, Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard. Their preferred political vehicle was the Republican Party, although there was still a huge hawkish wing in the Democratic Party.

Thus did mostly secular economists and anti-communists make common cause with priests, ministers, and rabbis. There were tensions, to be sure; religious-minded populists who grew up on the Social Gospel -- listening to William Jennings Bryan and then Franklin D. Roosevelt denounce "the rule of capital" -- found themselves in the same league with capitalist rulers. And at the same time, the secularists had to accept that their new teammates had agenda items, too; so as part of the intra-alliance wheeling and dealing, conservative religious values penetrated the once-secular public square. The words "under God" were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance by an act of Congress in 1954; in the following year, "In God We Trust" became mandatory on all coins. Finally, in 1956, Congress completed its religious mission by making "In God We Trust" the national motto.

And it worked. Communism was the God that Failed.

In America, the alliance between capitalists and moralists, hammered out in the late 40s, continues down to this day. But instead of being a bipartisan phenomenon, as it was in the days when, say, Strom Thurmond was a Democrat, today it is almost entirely a Republican matter.

Ironically, even as communism was waning, the conservative fusion in the GOP was getting stronger, for reasons that had little to do with foreign policy.

The hinge was 1973. That was the year of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. The Republican Party, hungry for votes after Watergate, made an alliance with the energized anti-abortion "Religious Right." The deal was that conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants, mostly from South, would abandon their ancestral Democratic Party. So a huge trading of places took place: cultural conservatives flooded into the GOP, while many old line Republicans, many of them culturally laissez-faire -- including, no doubt, quite a few quiet Brights -- fled out of the GOP. When the shifting was done, the Republicans had become the right-to-life Party and, more broadly, the "traditional family values" party.

For their part, the Democrats continued in the lifestylish direction they were heading in anyway, toward being the pro-choice party of toleration and secularism. As Bill Clinton said to a multicultural audience at the 1992 convention, "If the Republicans don't want you in their party, come and join ours."

The Democrats won that election, but as political analyst Michael Barone has observed, in the "battle between the churched and the non-churched," the church party has the overall edge. In fact, since the Religious Right cemented its alliance with the GOP in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was nominated, the Republicans have won four of the last six presidential elections; moreover, they have controlled the Senate for most of the last 23 years, and the House for much of that period. Or to put it another way, the party that represents more non-Brights has bested the party that represents more Brights.

So what's not to like? The issue is that the issues have changed. Today, there's no reason to fear a return to the threat of gulags; atheism may still be around, but atheistic communism is on the ash heap of history. In fact, the greatest overseas threat that Americans face might well be Islamic fundamentalism. In other words the same Muslims who were sometimes on our side -- including Osama Bin Laden, Afghan "freedom fighter" in the 80s -- are now, some of them, our worst enemies. All of which goes to show that the freedom-loving forces of progress and science may be in temporary alliance with backward-looking forces, but it's unlikely that such an alliance could or should be permanent.

Yet in America, 14 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the anti-communist alliance of capitalists and moralists still exists. There's nothing wrong with that per se. However, as with any dynamic process, feedback occurs in unexpected ways. And so the Religious Right's large presence within the conservative coalition has shifted the Republican Party's position on the issue that is arguably the mega-issue of the 21st century: biotech. And on that issue, the essentially reactionary nature of the Religious Right becomes a hindrance, not a help. That is, the same traditionalism that inspired conservative Catholics and Protestants to oppose communistic experimentation now inspires them to oppose scientific experimentation. To be sure, humane balance is needed between Mary Baker Eddy and Dr. Frankenstein. But right now, the Religious Right isn't interested in balancing medical progress and bioethics; instead, conservatives aim to stymie medical progress in the name of Biblical ethics. Thus the paradox: the Religious Rightists who bulked up the anti-communist movement, who helped the Republican Party achieve majority status, have now become the major obstacle to saving and improving lives. And that's not only bad for America, that's bad politics for the GOP.

And the key issue in biotech today is stem-cell research. Even a cursory glance at headlines -- "Muscular Dystrophy Might Be Treatable: Stem-cell research yields hopeful signs" (Newsday, July 15); "Stem cells enable paralysed rats to walk" (New Scientist, July 3) -- shows how vital stem-cell research is to the hopes of millions, even billions. So it is no surprise that the New England Journal of Medicine has fired an editorial salvo; the editors all pledge to "do our part" to promote stem cell research.

Yet for the most part, conservative Christians oppose this research; they have been seeking to ban it for years now. By contrast, Brights, given their greater scientific orientation, are much more inclined to support such research. Meanwhile, born-again President Bush is an ally of the anti-stem-cellers; he has done what he can to restrict such research by administrative fiat, and he supports even more restrictive legislation. So it would seem like a sure thing that stem-cell research would get squashed. But it hasn't happened. Interestingly, one leading supporter of stem cell research is Sen. Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania. One wonders if he might not be a closet Bright. And one wonders if a Republican Party with more Specter types at the helm wouldn't attract the support of a lot of other scientific progressives, including, maybe, some quiet Brights defecting from the Democrats.

But even now, many of the leading intellectuals in the conservative and libertarian movement have not really come to grips with the stem cell issue. To be sure, there have been other issues on people's minds for the past two years, but the stem cell issue will only get bigger, as the potential medical gains get bigger -- and thus the opportunity cost of forgoing those gains. Which is to say, it's time for the old coalition to rethink its partners, and its platform.

The Fusion Right won the Cold War because of the alliance between The Wealth of Nations and the Bible. Fine. But now, in laboratories and clinics, a new chilly struggle is coming, between pro- and anti-stem cellers.

This time, the Brightish forces associated with the pro-science side can't even be remotely linked to gulags, because there are no gulags -- and barely any socialists. But even so, the anti-science non-Brights can still summon up much of the old anti-communist coalition, in the form of the Republican Party.

It's time for that alliance to change, for the simple reason that the issues have changed. It may be too much to ask the Grand Old Party to embrace the Brights, but at least it ought to be bright enough to stop blocking medical progress. If the GOP fails to change, then the Democrats get the stem cell issue to themselves -- and all the scientific cachet, and business cash -- that comes with being on the winning side of scientific history. Following Dennett and Willett's terminology, an anti-science GOP will have a dull future indeed.

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 4 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Reversing Bad Truths David Ewing Duncan Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2003 at 10:01 AM
"Brights???" Jody Paulson Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2003 at 4:57 PM
actionized seb underlyzzzzz Thursday, Jul. 24, 2003 at 3:45 PM

Local News

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM


lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Paraphysique de martyrologie J17 8:00AM

[NEW HOT] World Soccer King Hack Coins and Gems J17 4:32AM

Asian Countries:Cambodia, Vietnam, N. Korea do not permit unlawful immigration J16 8:06PM

Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator J16 11:24AM

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Cleanup J13 4:14PM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

Trapps de la domination, trapps de l'aliénation J11 1:31AM

Please Work For The Defeat Of Brett Kavanaugh And Why J09 8:54PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

Transinhumanisme ( transe inhumanisme ) J09 12:44PM

Google, World's Biggest Censor, Was Founded By The CIA J09 10:25AM

For a World Free of Nuclear Risks J09 8:29AM

Corrupt CDC Ignores Meat Fish Recalls J09 4:55AM

The (Temporary) End of Globalization J09 3:03AM

Aternatives to Abortions such as Plan B the pill, condoms and IUD J08 4:03PM

U.S Congressional Legal Minds Know Better Than Allowing Texas To Murder Hank Skinner J08 3:37PM

ACLU in many US states defends in court KKK and American Nazis Sometimes for Money J07 11:28PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy