Saturday, August 20, 2005

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The Great Healer Strikes Again

What is the point of this?

Yes, I know Bill Frist -- excuse me, Dr. Bill Frist, also known as The Great Healer -- is thinking about running for President. I know that in addition to his unusual albeit dubiously relevant credential of heart transplant expertise he is anxious to add the approbation of those evangelical activists who believe that Christian evangelism is aided by teaching in public schools a theory of the origin of life that does not mention Christ or anything about faith in daily life. And I know that traditional Republican reluctance to impose ideas from Washington on local school districts is, like opposition to runaway spending and support for simplifying the tax code, somewhat out of fashion these days.

But history ought to teach us that voters at the national level do often give politicians credit for showing some personal dignity. The Senate Majority Leader is under no obligation to say anything about an issue he is not prepared to legislate about other than he thinks local school districts should be left alone to deal with it as they see fit. Groveling to interest groups, which losing Democratic Presidential candidates have raised to an art form over the last 20 years, isn't a good tactic for Republicans either. It can bring them applause, but at the end of the day it makes them look like wimps.

After his performance in the Schiavo affair, The Great Healer is beginning to look like a recidivist groveler who should not be allowed any nearer the Oval Office than the public tour.

posted by Joseph Britt on 08.20.05 at 11:45 AM


Hi Zathras, enjoying your guest-blogging enormously. I second the motion--the sooner Frist moves back to Tennessee the better. What a disappointment he has become.

posted by: Kelli on 08.20.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

ID is the modern equivalent of locking-up Galileo. It's an effort to halt science, to say that the outstanding problems with and questions about an area of scientific inquiry -- in this case evolution -- cannot be resolved by science, but only by religion. Essentially, to teach ID in schools is to teach students that evolutionary biology has run its course. Even if this is true, it's not a good lesson to teach. Scientists should continue to try to answer questions using science. To throw up your hands and say a particular problem is too difficult, so we'll just attribute the solution to God, doesn't serve anyone's interests (including God's, I would think).

Frist has essentially come out as an anti-intellectual. His stem-cell position was justified on the grounds that the research may provide cures for disease and injury, not on purely scientific grounds. And Frist's Schiavo comments clearly had nothing to do with science.

It's one thing for cowboy Bush to be anti-intellectual. He's never claimed to be anything but, and he wears his simplicity well. It's another thing for a doctor to be anti-intellectual. Frist simply comes across as a bumbling politician.

posted by: Andrew Steele on 08.20.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

The preceding comment about Frist is largely on the mark. The comment about Bush is not. Bush is a man with significant native intelligence. On subjects that really engage him, like winning elections, he does very well acting in an instinctive fashion. In these domains, he exhibits the real mark of a capable person, which is choosing capable subordinates. What he has not done nor ever been encouraged to do, is to develop his critical faculties. Nor is he, like Harry Truman for example, a particularly curious person. This features account, in part, for his poor choice of public policies, especially with regard to issues touching science. Presidents certainly cannot be expected to be intellectuals but being anti-intellectual in a complicated world where policy decisions depend on looking at complex scientific and technical issues, is a major defect.
PS: Its a common misconception that physicians are intellectuals.

posted by: Roger Albin on 08.20.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

That President Bush has "native intelligence" and acts in an "instinctive fashion" are not, I believe, inconsistent with the point I made. The claim that Bush hasn't developed his "critical faculties" reinforces my point. And the idea that "choosing capable subordinates" is the "real mark of a capable person" is just strange.

Also, I'm not saying that physicians are necessarily intellectual by virtue of their profession. (Nor would I argue that one needs to be engaged in intellectual activity as a profession for one to be an "intellectual.") I am saying, though, that Frist is acting in an anti-intellectual fashion when he proposes that Intelligent Design should be presented as the scientific equivalent of evolution.

posted by: Andrew Steele on 08.20.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

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