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January 30, 2011

Comments

Marty:

Its one of the ugly sides of social progressivism that anyone who might not agree on every issue somehow gets tarred with the brush that they think single parents, gay couples, etc. aren't "family".
Marty, in the same sentence you're objecting to the notion that "anyone who might not agree on every issue somehow gets tarred with the brush," while doing the same thing yourself.

Would you like some cites on how many dozens and dozens and dozens of times you've made this exact contradiction with this exact complaint on this blog?

Would that help? What would help you notice that you consistently engage in this self-contradiction? Because you really do have a consistent pattern here, and it's not difficult to give you quote after quote after quote of you doing over and over and over. It's also been pointed out to you many times, but you do seem to keep right on with it.

Yes, human beings generalize about The Other. Period, full stop.

It's not a matter of just the people you don't like doing it, especially when you consistently not only do it, but you consistently do it in the same sentence.

Maybe you might wish to rethink this technique? It's just a suggestion, but it would make conversation with you a bit less repetitive.

But this time, let me refer you to Ted Olson. Do a little research and have a nice day. :-)

So you can think of exactly one person off the top of your head, who is not even an elected official, which makes your response a non-response, since I specifically asked about "generic conservatives" who voted to repeal DADT. That just about tells me what I need to know.

For the record, to the extent that we are -- almost as always -- using "conservative" and "liberal" to stand in for "Republican" and "Democrat" there were eight of 42 Republican senators who voted for the DADT repeal. No Democrats voted against, one did not vote.

So if there are "generic conservatives" who "don't care for" that whole dog-whistle "family values" stuff, they are either such a distinct minority within the GOP that they're hardly worth noticing, or they will roll over for current trends in intra-party divisiveness rather than stand on principle, or they truly believe their constituents -- that is, the people who elected them -- will not re-elect them if they do anything in support of gays (or single-parent families, or . . .).

I'll let you decide which of those things is true, although you'll almost certainly not respond, since apparently acknowledging uncomfortable facts is now "bile."

But, just as some on the left like to say they believe in science or are reality-based--implying those on the right do not or are not--preening oneself as being committed to family values is a cheap shot at one's opponents.

Ah, I love the smell of false equivalence in the morning.

By and large, the current GOP leadership -- and, in fact, much of the rank and file -- doesn't believe in science (i.e., are young-earthers and evolution deniers and global warming deniers and "homosexuality is a choice" people) or are, again, willing to pretend they don't in order to please the people who can return them to office.

It's fun to believe "both sides do it." It really, really is. But sometimes one side really, really is worse.

Personally I think the term 'family values' has become so toxic that I would not use it to describe what it originally meant but look for some other words.

Are you talking about some other Sebastian?

No, Sebastian, I am definitely not. You were very clear that in your opinion, Trent Lott's allusion to "all these problems" that were caused by not electing Strom Thurmond in 1948 was not a reference to racial integration, despite the fact that the preservation of segregation was the entire raison d'être of Thurmond's candidacy. No, Trent Lott was referring to something else. He had to be.

Not that you were a fan of Trent Lott, mind you, not that you weren't happy that he'd been drummed out, but still, you had these million angels dancing so beautifully on the head of a pin, and you found a hair on one of them that hadn't been split, and that just wouldn't do, so off to the races we went.

You don't remember that, apparently, which isn't surprising in the least.

And like a schmuck, I took the bait. As the Brits say, more fool me.

Sorry, I for some reason thought you were talking about the original statements which got Lott drummed out. The thread you are quoting compares the Trent Lott eulogy of Strom Thurmond to Octavia Nasr's "Sad to hear of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot".

Both of which are statements about someone on their death which seem to be other than mere boosterism for the (very) objectionable parts of Thurmond's and Fadlallah's positions. Which in context seems to apply to this particular conversation, well, not at all.

Which in context seems to apply to this particular conversation, well, not at all.

Of course not. And you win again.

As always, I'm sorry I bothered.

Surely you aren't suggesting here that Sarah Palin has ever said anything that wasn't simple-minded?

I have repeatedly said that pretty much everything SP says is a tired, pointless cliche` and that she is empty, vapid, shallow and without substance, not to mention syntactically challenged.

SP didn't form the Tea Party. My take is that she co-opted them and her people at the local level are doing the same. The Tea Party, early on, was focused on spending and taxes and pretty much nothing else. SP talks that talk (okay, she mindlessly parrots that talk) but she tacks on her social/religious overlay. It will take a while to see if the tax/spend Tea Party gets swallowed by the social conservatives or whether they separate. Maybe in progressive corners, conservatives all look the same. I can't fix that, but just as there are battles within the left, so there are battles within the right.

Maybe in progressive corners, conservatives all look the same.

Not really.

The Tea Party, early on, was focused on spending and taxes and pretty much nothing else.

McKinney, a sincere question here: is there a high-profile figure within the Tea Party who reflects what you see as the positive aspects? From the outside, it seems that people like Palin, Bachmann, and Christine O'Donnell increasingly represent the Tea Party to the world at large, and as you suggest, that means that hot-button social issues are going to suck up a lot of media oxygen and detract from what you see as the core message.

If you had your druthers, who would you like to see as the public face of the TP? Who exemplifies what it really is (or should be) all about?

McKinney, a sincere question here: is there a high-profile figure within the Tea Party who reflects what you see as the positive aspects?

Not that I am aware of. My sense of the Tea Party, at the outset, was that it was a loosely organized group of people who were primarily concerned with the level of national debt, taxes and the burden on the private sector--concerns that I have as well. The weakness in the TP movement is that it had no leaders, and those few spokespeople who came forward couldn't keep their other agendas to themselves. Lacking a leader, and politics abhorring a vacuum, SP filled the void.


From the outside, it seems that people like Palin, Bachmann, and Christine O'Donnell increasingly represent the Tea Party to the world at large, and as you suggest, that means that hot-button social issues are going to suck up a lot of media oxygen and detract from what you see as the core message.

I think Palin is now the Tea Party leader and Bachmann et al, having paid due homage, get to be second among equals. But, they can't dance to any tune other than SP's. Nor can anyone else. For the time being, she is a king/queen maker.

If you had your druthers, who would you like to see as the public face of the TP? Who exemplifies what it really is (or should be) all about?

Hard to say. My issues and the early Tea Party have overlap, but (1) I am not a 'joiner' and (2) people that loud put me off. So, I really can't say who in that group I'd like to see lead it. Two people I think--heavy emphasis on the word think--reflect my take on things are Christie and Ryan; and I know only what I get bits and pieces of in the media. I don't think there is a viable, authentic conservative on the national scene.

The "should be" part of your question I take to ask: what should modern conservatism stand for, socially, economically and politically? Maybe one of our esteemed Headliners will raise that very question. Should that happen, I predict a lively discussion in which Phil, Catsy and I reach, finally, common ground.

UK, thanks for the question. Wouldn't mind kicking this around over a drink someday.

I don't think there is a viable, authentic conservative on the national scene.

Well, if it's any consolation, and at the risk of entering the No True Scotsman vortex, I would say pretty much the same thing about viable, authentic progressives (Glenn Beck's loopy fever-dreams about Barack Obama notwithstanding). Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders aren't exactly poised to take over the Democratic Party anytime soon.

Just wondering, do you follow UK politics at all? Would the Tories, as currently constituted under Cameron, represent something closer to the kind of conservatism you espouse? From over here, they do, at least, seem blessedly free of the God-Guns-Gays foofaraw.

I'm not a fan of "coming together" for its own sake, which is one of the things that drives me up the wall about Obama. Politics is adversarial by nature, and far too many people in this country treat that incontrovertible fact as some sort of tragedy. But I read Larison pretty regularly, and while I'd find precious little common ground with him on the role of government in domestic matters, I'm always impressed by his take on foreign policy, the military, and empire. Same with the libertarians at High Clearing.

If modern conservatism looked a little more like that, I still wouldn't be a fan...but I think it would make for a much healthier political discourse, which would be a good thing for all of us.

Just wondering, do you follow UK politics at all? Would the Tories, as currently constituted under Cameron, represent something closer to the kind of conservatism you espouse?

Not much but from what I've read, there seems to be a fair amount of common ground.

From over here, they do, at least, seem blessedly free of the God-Guns-Gays foofaraw.

I understand the reference. It is a common take on the left of a large portion of the American right's rank and file. God, guns and gays are actually 3 separate issues that neither side has really taken the time to appreciate. The right needs to get out of the God business other than the traditional, ceremonial stuff. Firearms ownership is perceived by many as a right, a personal right. A right not unlike the right to marry. The God/Gay nexus runs counter to the gun theory. Gun rights supporters should support gay rights, including the right to marry.

Politics is adversarial by nature, and far too many people in this country treat that incontrovertible fact as some sort of tragedy.

Here, we've had nearly three decades of increasingly unproductive partisan rancor, or at least that is a perception many hold. A facet of that perception is that short term point scoring impedes if not prevents long term, useful policy making. I am in this camp. If we had productive, useful clashing, that would be different, but we don't. Unfortunately.

The right needs to get out of the God business other than the traditional, ceremonial stuff.

Fat chance. Believe me, I'd love to see BOTH parties get out of the religion business completely, but as long as any portion of the American voting public is convinced that when/where/how often candidates for office go to church, or whether they even believe in a deity, is a qualifying factor, it's never going to happen.

People want candidates that "share their values," and in America, that requires very public belief in a deity.

Firearms ownership is perceived by many as a right, a personal right. A right not unlike the right to marry. The God/Gay nexus runs counter to the gun theory. Gun rights supporters should support gay rights, including the right to marry.

It would be wonderful indeed to convince people of that, but chances are that if I know that you (the generic "you," not you, McKinneyTX) have a very broad view of the Second Amendment, I already know your views on gay rights and religion, too. (And abortion, and women's rights issues, and a host of other things.) Works the same way in reverse: If I know you oppose gay marriage, I know you probably have a broad view of the Second Amendment. (Yes, this works on the liberal side, too.)

So what are generic conservatives doing to separate the three in the minds of voters?

I don't understand how anyone who is focused on taxes and spending can vote Republican unless they WANT more state level user fees etc that have the effect of shifting the cost of running government services down the income heirarchy and WANT increased deficits.

Another anomally: Santorum thinks there is no right to privacy in the Constitution and that state governments can, if they choose, outlaw birth control. But he claims to be anti-big government. I don't know what his thinking, if you can call it that, is on gun control.


I know there is a lot of nonsense talked all over the political spectrum which is why I base my understanding of political parties' philosophies on the policies the politicians support and the laws they enact, not what they say. With Republicans the discrepancy between what the polticians say and what they do is a Grand Canyon.

AS a side note: an increasing number of state level Tea Partiers are pro-puppy mill. The link bertween the Tea Party the Repubican party and puppy mills is particularly blatant in Missouri.

Where I live the Tea Party is mostly anti-immigrant and racist. I know this because I am acquainted with many local activists. They are very nice people in most ways, people that I like and respect for their work with dog rescue (our Tea party is not into puppy milling, thank god!), and it really makes me sad to hear them saying the stupid Beck and Faux stuff they say: telling anti-Muslim jokes, complaining about Obama supporting Mexico's annnexationn of parts of Arizona, ...I've more or less trained them not to say stuff like that around me, but...

So what are generic conservatives doing to separate the three in the minds of voters?

I make the case whenever and wherever I can, as pointless as that is in Texas given the captivation of the Republican Party by the family values crowd. I supported Bill White for governor. He got creamed.

I don't understand how anyone who is focused on taxes and spending can vote Republican unless they WANT more state level user fees etc that have the effect of shifting the cost of running government services down the income heirarchy and WANT increased deficits.

Well, cause/effect and imputed desire/intent may make this a less than useful response, but my thinking and perhaps a few others is that it is better for the states to determine what level of social services it wants to provide and tax accordingly than pay the money to DC and hope to get some of it back. That is one part of the equation. Another is entitlements. I find the "SS/Medicare/Medicaid is going broke" evidence more compelling than the "it's really only Medicare/Medicaid and if we can just hold down costs . . ." case. My view is that benefits/coverage have to be trimmed. There is only so much we can pull out of the private sector. Finally, there is defense. It's time to come home, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany. Less so Japan and Korea. Until we work out and have a proven track record of compliance with a bilateral conventional and nuclear arms deal with the PRC, we have to keep our powder dry for that contingency.

God, guns and gays are actually 3 separate issues that neither side has really taken the time to appreciate.

I understand the distinction you're drawing here, and it's perfectly valid. (I personally do not read the 2nd Amendment as guaranteeing a personal right to gun ownership, but I also realize that I'm out on the lunatic fringe on that issue by US standards.)

But I still think of GGG as a useful lumping-together of the kinds of emotionally fraught social issues that tend to distract attention from some really pressing stuff. I think you would agree with me that we'd all be better off with more discussion and debate of the boring nitty-gritty of (un)employment, tax policy, the budget, regulation, foreign and military policy, etc., and a little less of (paraphrasing here) "Barack Obama is going to take your gun away and give it to Black Panthers" or "The liberals want to make it illegal to believe in God" or "If two dudes get married, every straight marriage becomes meaningless."

To my mind, GGG is a useful heuristic because in each case you're talking about people getting extremely exercised about imagined threats. When I see the histrionics of many social conservatives it's just mystifying: No one's going to take their guns away. No one's going to tell them they can't go to church. No one's going to make them marry someone of their own gender (or even make them like the idea of other people doing it). But somebody may very well ship their jobs off to India tomorrow, which would have a far more immediate effect on their lives than any of the GGG stuff. Shouldn't that be getting a little attention too?

I think you would agree with me that we'd all be better off with more discussion and debate of the boring nitty-gritty of (un)employment, tax policy, the budget, regulation, foreign and military policy, etc., and a little less of (paraphrasing here) "Barack Obama is going to take your gun away and give it to Black Panthers" or "The liberals want to make it illegal to believe in God" or "If two dudes get married, every straight marriage becomes meaningless."

I agree completely.

To my mind, GGG is a useful heuristic because in each case you're talking about people getting extremely exercised about imagined threats.

I would say the threats are incredibly remote but not imaginary in the literal sense--there is always enough chatter on the left about gun control to give the NRA a red flag to wave and there are always enough church/state separation lawsuits on hugely tangential matters as to supply plenty of grist that mill too. But, as you say, nothing of consequence is going to happen. And, actually, gay marriage is neither remote nor imaginary, it's going to happen eventually. What people don't realize is the impact on anyone but gay people who want to get married will be minimal to nonexistent.

McK:

The "should be" part of your question I take to ask: what should modern conservatism stand for, socially, economically and politically? Maybe one of our esteemed Headliners will raise that very question. Should that happen, I predict a lively discussion in which Phil, Catsy and I reach, finally, common ground.

I don't mind giving that a shot in brief.

Some background: my father worked on Ford's campaign, and he raised me. He proudly displayed a framed photo of himself with Reagan. Growing up, I lived in an apartment with lots of elephant motifs. Conservatism and the Republican Party, at their most idealized, are not alien to me. My father grew more liberal with age, while the rebellious leftism of my teens has mellowed with time, to the point where we're both pretty much on the same page these days--but I grok the idealized form of conservatism that so many conservatives seem to think the Republican Party of today still represents.

So what do I think conservatism and the GOP should stand for?

1. Providing necessary checks and balances to liberal idealism--not with blanket obstructionism or knee-jerk opposition to anything that liberals say is a good idea, but tempering the liberal urge to do everything for everyone by asking the questions that need to be asked: how will we pay for this? Is there a simpler way to do this? Does it need to change? What are the risks in that change and how do they balance with the potential good? Conservatives should, in IT parlance, be a "Change Management" team: a complete pain in the ass if you're someone trying to make the case for change, but a necessary process element that gives change a sanity check.

2. Strengthening families--not by trying to use the government to control people's sex lives or dictate what form those families must take, but by encouraging stable partnerships and supporting policies that help make it easier to keep a family healthy and intact.

3. Responsible firearm ownership--which needs to begin by having a serious reckoning with the way our culture, and gun culture in specific, romanticizes and fetishizes guns and gun violence. We have gotten to a place with gun culture in America that is very sick, dysfunctional, and dangerous. It's not just the ready availability of firearms--it's the way that our culture reveres them as symbols of freedom and masculinity. The NRA should be leading the way on this kind of cultural change--instead, they are a huge part of the problem. Hollywood gets a fair share of blame for this too, but they're in the business of selling entertainment. The NRA is ostensibly in the business of promoting responsible firearms ownership, and needs to start acting like it rather than as just another appendage of the Republican Party.

4. Fiscal responsibility--which is not the same thing as "small government". I'm not going to dig too deeply into this one; it's a post all on its own.

5. Dealing with science and reality as they are. Once upon a time, conservatives used to be the "grown-ups" in the room. The ones who were supposed to provide a reality check to all those pie-in-the-sky hippy ideas. How are they supposed to provide any kind of meaningful check on liberal idealism when the GOP is engaged in a campaign of anti-intellectualism, rejection of science, and a whole-hearted embrace of dishonest, bad faith argumentation?

6. Reducing abortions and teenage pregnancy. Not with punitive criminalization and ignorance, or by undermining availability of contraceptives and family planning, but by embracing the only methods proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies (and thereby abortions): thorough, age-appropriate sex education, wide availability of contraceptives, and low-cost family planning services. Abstinence-only programs and social stigma have demonstrably failed to accomplish this--but rather than reevaluate their policy advocacy in the face of new evidence, most conservatives cling to those policies because the ones that do work are favored by liberals.

That's just a start.

Catsy

1. Agree, for the most part. Sometimes, if we can't pay for a program with honest accounting and realistic projections, "no" is the correct answer. But, generally, I agree.

2. I mostly agree, but I sense an unstated cost factor and perhaps issues with what the policies are that might strengthen families.

3. The word 'responsible' is probably a consensus in theory but is loaded. Hollywood plays its role, so do these games people play with body count being the object. The real issue is the people we want to be responsible, by definition, are not. They are gang members, drug traffickers, lunatics etc. The vast, overwhelming number of firearms owners are outside this class.

4. Another day then.

5. Again, what is meant by this? You want young earthers to renounce? Not going to happen. You want people of faith to accept Big Bang and evolution as an improbable series of great good luck, chaos organizing itself into the world we live in and to accept that all of this happens without an external push of some kind? Why would anyone care what someone believes in this regard? Global warming? I know, the evidence is in, but we're pretty cold down here in Houston, expecting snow for the second time in less than 5 years with no snow that I can recall for the previous 40 years. And, its pretty much been warming since the last ice age.

6. I think the Republicans are closer to the majority view on this one than Democrats when it comes to legalization. As for the other items you mention, my default position is "local option" not national dictate. Abortions are down, these days, but I have no idea why.

I think this is a good topic for its own thread.

And then another thread where the same question is asked of liberalism.

You want people of faith to accept Big Bang and evolution as an improbable series of great good luck, chaos organizing itself into the world we live in and to accept that all of this happens without an external push of some kind? Why would anyone care what someone believes in this regard?

McKinney, I don't think many people have a big problem with the belief that god may have had a hand in the big bang or evolution. What seems to be the issue with regard to these things is the total denial that they have a significant probability of being true, the dismissal of the scientific evidence supporting the theories, and the strength of the theoretical bases, piles of evidence aside. I'd say the same thing about climate change, though I don't think there's as much Hand of God at issue, and I'd say the evidence for climate change isn't quite as strong as it is for evolution (which has been clearly witnessed in action in our lifetimes), but probably on par, speaking extremely generally and without a ton of confidence, with that for the big bang.

The science is what it is, regardless of the potential involvement of a god.

Almost two years in advance of the 2012 election, and we're already worrying about who's running, before they've even declared?

Not. Playing.

Or...it could be fun, worrying about just what chaos Jello Biafra might inflict on the national presidential debates.

Let's lynch the landlord!

I know, the evidence is in, but we're pretty cold down here in Houston, expecting snow for the second time in less than 5 years with no snow that I can recall for the previous 40 years. And, its pretty much been warming since the last ice age.

How was your summer last year? And I like the "pretty much." It's been warming pretty much faster since the industrial revolution, though.

You want young earthers to renounce? Not going to happen. You want people of faith to accept Big Bang and evolution as an improbable series of great good luck, chaos organizing itself into the world we live in and to accept that all of this happens without an external push of some kind? Why would anyone care what someone believes in this regard?

With respect, the issue isn't what you or some random other person believes. The issue is that Creationism is not science. It's not testable or negatable. The problem is that some social conservatives want it taught in science class as an alternate, competing, just-as-likely-to-be-true theory as currently-accepted actual scientific theories.

It's the scientific equivalent of trying to sell a plastic Delorean model as a working time machine.

Briefly, before I run out:

Again, what is meant by this? You want young earthers to renounce? Not going to happen. You want people of faith to accept Big Bang and evolution as an improbable series of great good luck, chaos organizing itself into the world we live in and to accept that all of this happens without an external push of some kind? Why would anyone care what someone believes in this regard?

And this is exactly what I'm talking about.

There are places for faith. I think religion is, on the balance, a pretty toxic and malignant thing, but I recognize the things that drive many humans to seek it out, and that it's not going away anytime soon. More to the point, I recognize that everyone has a right to seek spiritual fulfillment in their own way.

But where faith and religion come into conflict with science and facts, public policy must come down on the side of reality rather than fantasy. Otherwise you put real lives, real people, and the integrity of the entire process at the whims of whatever magical space unicorn one person or another believes in. You cannot make good public policy that starts with a rejection of the legitimacy of science.

Young-earthers are no different than flat-earthers, when it comes down to it: delusional people who believe in things that are demonstrably untrue, such as the ridiculous notion that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. The science that disproves young-earth creationism is no less established or rigorous than the rejection of flat-earthism--it's just harder for the average person to grasp. But just because the science is hard for the average person to grasp doesn't mean that their inability to grasp it has to be respected as a legitimate viewpoint. They have a right to their beliefs. But their beliefs are not a legitimate source of public policy, any more than is a belief in reincarnation or ancestor worship.

I don't expect these people to change their beliefs overnight. That's not the context or the point here.

The context is what conservatism--and by extension, the GOP--should be about. And in this context, the embrace of anti-intellectualism and rejection of science is one of the biggest cancers killing modern conservatism and what's left of its credibility. If conservatives want to be the grown-ups in the room, if they want to have a respected role in the national conversation, they need to push the young-earth nonsense and other similar anti-science movements to the fringes of the party. We're not talking about a debatable philosophical disagreement here--we are talking about the difference between dealing with reality and dealing with fantasy. It's all well and good to say that there are lots of people who think this way and aren't going to change--but they're demonstrably wrong on the facts, and shouldn't be allowed to inflict their fantasies on the rest of the country.

If the GOP is unwilling or unable to push those voices to the fringes and start dealing with reality, then that really says a lot about the future of the party--none of it good.

Global warming? I know, the evidence is in, but we're pretty cold down here in Houston, expecting snow for the second time in less than 5 years with no snow that I can recall for the previous 40 years.

Thank you. Case in point.

You are conflating weather with climate. You're simply wrong on the facts in a very basic way. I don't know whether it's misinformation, lack of education in climate science, or simply an inability to grasp the science. It doesn't really matter: the upshot is that the doubt you just expressed based on how cold the weather's been in Houston is not a reasonable doubt that is grounded in science or any relevant facts.

You have a right to your opinions, and to be ignorantly skeptical of anthropogenic global climate change because you had a cold winter. But your opinions shouldn't form the basis for public policy.

Seriously: there are just endless questions that cannot, and will not, be answered by any young-Earth creationist cant.

At least, not in any scientific way. Satan put that 2000-foot-thick layer of dead crinoid (animal) parts under a mile and a half of other rock isn't a remotely scientific explanation.

If your religion doesn't seem to correspond to reality, something has to change. For me, I just decided that there was something of faith that I didn't understand properly, but what there was to see out in the world cannot be denied. That way lies insanity.

Global warming? I know, the evidence is in, but we're pretty cold down here in Houston

C'mon, McKinney -- you're smarter than that.

You are conflating weather with climate. You're simply wrong on the facts in a very basic way. I don't know whether it's misinformation, lack of education in climate science, or simply an inability to grasp the science. It doesn't really matter: the upshot is that the doubt you just expressed based on how cold the weather's been in Houston is not a reasonable doubt that is grounded in science or any relevant facts.

You have a right to your opinions, and to be ignorantly skeptical of anthropogenic global climate change because you had a cold winter. But your opinions shouldn't form the basis for public policy.

Perhaps equating weather with climate change is a bad idea, but I hear proponents of climate change do it all of the time. And, they point to warming trends here and there as evidence of climate change f/k/a global warming. And, of course, computer projections. I have no problem with the idea the planet is warming. I am a history/archeology fan and sea levels have been rising for ten thousand years. With no real harm to the human species. Just the opposite. I also have no problem with the notion that human beings contribute to global warming. Where I part company with the "science" is when I hear the prescriptions for accommodating what looks like, we are told, a sure thing.

C'mon, McKinney -- you're smarter than that.

I've been swayed by intelligent counterargument, but I think I can say with certainty that the above, which translates roughly to "quit being a dumbass", has never had much traction with me.

Or possibly it translates as "this is stupid even for you". Whatever it's intended to mean, it could be an exemplar for supercilious.

Whatever it's intended to mean

It's intended to mean that MKT knows full well the difference between weather and climate, but chose to throw that little pearl out there anyway, for reasons known only to him. When someone who likes to present himself as an intelligent, reasonable, independent-thinking conservative coughs up a hairball worthy of Sean Hannity, it's disappointing. Hence my reaction.

The fact that his response when called on it was an evidence-free "But the other side does it all the time!" doesn't exactly reflect well on him either.

It's intended to mean that MKT knows full well the difference between weather and climate, but chose to throw that little pearl out there anyway, for reasons known only to him. When someone who likes to present himself as an intelligent, reasonable, independent-thinking conservative coughs up a hairball worthy of Sean Hannity, it's disappointing. Hence my reaction.

There is another explanation: I am not conversant in the jargon of global warming/climate change and I was not consciously aware that the difference between the two is so significant, largely because much what I hear about global warming comes from hearing people point out current examples of warming. So my use of the nomenclature may lack precision. I accept that the world is getting warmer and that human beings play a role. I just don't accept the apocalyptic scenarios and proposals for meeting these problems, if, in fact, that is what they are going to be. The fact of global warming may be established science; what this world will look like in 100 years is a forecast, a prediction.

There is another explanation: I am not conversant in the jargon of global warming/climate change and I was not consciously aware that the difference between the two is so significant, largely because much what I hear about global warming comes from hearing people point out current examples of warming.

OK, then I withdraw the charge. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by people pointing out "current examples of warming" -- if it's something like "Arctic sea ice melted at its fastest rate ever last year," that's current, but it's climatic, and it's a hell of a long way from extrapolating from the weather in one location at one given time.

If there are people out there saying things like "It's been so hot [here, in this one location] this summer, it must be global warming!" -- well, they're guilty of the same error. But I really don't see a lot of people saying that on national TV, whereas "It's snowing in Atlanta -- in your face, Al Gore!" has become a Fox News staple.

With no real harm to the human species.

McKinney, "the human species" is a vastly different thing now than it used to be. Maybe sea levels have been rising for 10,000 years. But for about 9,800 of those years, there just were not very many members of the human species around to be inconvenienced, and the inconvenience of abandoning mud huts to an encroaching shoreline was not catastrophic. Things are different now.

In Mark Twain's riverboat days, the Mississippi tended to wander hither and yon as it meandered toward the Gulf. Quite often, it would cut its banks, shortening itself by tens of miles as it abandoned one of its big, lazy loops. A whole town, built on the former "shoreline" of the loop, would find itself landlocked and impoverished. It would have been small comfort to tell the town's inhabitants that the river had been doing that sort of thing for 10,000 years.

The Mississippi River got along fine without "the human species"; so did the planet Earth. Changes in the river's bed or the planet's climate (or even the shape and location of its continents) never bothered anybody when there was nobody around to be bothered. But we are here now, and changes that used to bother nobody would be a major inconvenience nowadays.

--TP

If there are people out there saying things like "It's been so hot [here, in this one location] this summer, it must be global warming!" -- well, they're ...

... probably Australians, South Africans, or Argentines :)

--TP

I've been swayed by intelligent counterargument, but I think I can say with certainty that the above, which translates roughly to "quit being a dumbass", has never had much traction with me.

Er, at the risk of being contrary, you yourself have made that argument when I have linked to or mentioned Sadly, No! here. Perhaps you've simply outgrown it?

The context is what conservatism--and by extension, the GOP--should be about. And in this context, the embrace of anti-intellectualism and rejection of science is one of the biggest cancers killing modern conservatism and what's left of its credibility. If conservatives want to be the grown-ups in the room, if they want to have a respected role in the national conversation, they need to push the young-earth nonsense and other similar anti-science movements to the fringes of the party.

Indeed, following the "creationism" tag at Bad Astronomy or Pharyngula or any of dozens of other science blogs shows how deeply entwined the current GOP is with young-earth creationism to the extent of constantly trying to get it enshrined in schools despite court after court after court finding it to be an Establishment Clause violation. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the current GOP has as a goal that your children be raised stupid.

(To pre-empt the inevitable, I don't like it any more from the left than I do from the right. The left has more than its share of anti-science woo-woo, the most recent and damaging of which has been the antivaxxers, although that's less a phenomenon of "the left" generally than uninformed paranoia exacerbated by some bad apples. But, as with SO many of these phenomena, the people in policy-making positions who hold these kinds of damaging beliefs tend to be conservatives.)

Of course, those GOP-led school boards only push creationism when they aren't busy trying to torpedo gay and lesbian clubs without accidentally shutting down the Bible study club, too.

"Well, cause/effect and imputed desire/intent may make this a less than useful"

It isn't imputed desire to say that national level Repubicans want to increase the deficit. It's what they do whenever they have a majority and it is what Grover Norquist mewant when he talked about drowning the government in the bathtube. Norquist didn't have an office in Congress and Monday morning meetins with Congresional Republicans for years just to talk to himself.

"any more than is a belief in reincarnation or ancestor worship."

Catsy,

Some great points here but I am struggling with the clear scientific proof against reincarnation. Not to mention that I am not sure that ancestor worship has a lot of negative public policy consequences.

Nor that our current level of understanding of our world or universe is any less likely to be considered a "whim of whatever magical space unicorn one person or another believes in" a thousand years from now.

I am sure that religion and science rarely conflict on any meaningful public policy decision, unless you want to count the never ending discussion of the beginning of life, in which case science isn't any better at guessing than religion.

Teaching two conflicting belief systems, or ten, shouldn't be such a big problem for anyone who thinks they are raising intelligent children.

Some great points here but I am struggling with the clear scientific proof against reincarnation.

This is not how science works. Absent any actual evidence for reincarnation, science is not obliged to offer anything at all.

Nor that our current level of understanding of our world or universe is any less likely to be considered a "whim of whatever magical space unicorn one person or another believes in" a thousand years from now.

That's right, the Large Hadron Collider and animism and Christianity are all just, like, facets of the same thing, maaaaaaaan. (does bong hit)

I am sure that religion and science rarely conflict on any meaningful public policy decision

Really?

Teaching two conflicting belief systems, or ten, shouldn't be such a big problem for anyone who thinks they are raising intelligent children.

Exactly what "conflicting belief systems" aside from biology should be taught in high school biology classes?

"That's right, the Large Hadron Collider and animism and Christianity are all just, like, facets of the same thing, maaaaaaaan. (does bong hit)"

I can imagine someone 500 years from now saying exactly that, but then I liked Star Wars when it first came out.

Yes, well, we don't live 500 years from now, we live today. And today, we deal with what we know about the Universe, which includes several centuries of accumulated knowledge in physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, anthropology and history, and none of which is compatible with young earth creationism.

Still: Exactly what "conflicting belief systems" aside from biology should be taught in high school biology classes?

Because, I mean, your statement about "teaching conflicting belief systems" and, hey, kids are smart! they can handle it! . . . is the kind of statement that you probably believe makes you sound reasonable and sophisticated, but instead is the kind of thing that gives cover to the "Teach the controversy!" crowd.

Teaching two conflicting belief systems, or ten, shouldn't be such a big problem for anyone who thinks they are raising intelligent children.

Does the phlogiston theory count as one of the "conflicting belief systems, or ten"? How about alchemy, or astrology?

The often execrable George Will once wrote something I agree with: education is the process of putting ideas into children's heads, not letting ideas out of them.

It takes TIME to get ideas into children's heads. In the US especially, school time is limited. So teachers do not have the luxury of recapitulating all the false turns and blind alleys that humanity's slow but cumulative acquisition of "ideas" has taken; they have enough to do just getting the bottom line across. They tell little Johnny or Suzie that F=ma because that's the "idea" that PHYSICISTS have settled on as the best working hypothesis. They don't have time to waste explaining Aristotelian physics, and leading a class discussion in which they ask Johnny or Suzie to evaluate Newton's and Aristotle's "conflicting belief systems".

The working hypothesis of BIOLOGISTS -- not biology teachers, but biologists -- is evolution by natural selection. Little Johnny and Suzie can take all the time they want, at home or at church, to learn about other hypotheses. Their biology teachers have their hands full just getting the bottom line ideas of biologists into Johnny and Suzie's heads.

--TP

Phil,

I don't "think" it makes me sound reasonable, sophisticated is another thing altogether. But after raising four kids, with a few grandkids in middle school, they pretty much sift through it and figure out what they make of it.

Why is there a "Teach the Controversy" crowd versus just teaching that millions of people believe these two conflicting things and millions believe they are somehow not in conflict and pretty much everyone decides for themselves?

"They don't have time to waste explaining Aristotelian physics, and leading a class discussion in which they ask Johnny or Suzie to evaluate Newton's and Aristotle's "conflicting belief systems"."

Except that they do in fact do that. You do know they both exist right?

Science is not a belief system. Science is a methodology. Teaching science should not be about teaching the 'facts' that we have deduced from the practice of science. It should be about applying the methodology of science to appropriate objects of study.

It's perfectly okay for a HS science teacher to believe that human biology is the result of divine intervention based on his or her religious teachings. It is not okay to try to dress those beliefs up in the guise of scientific knowledge when the scientific method points to other conclusions. It's also perfectly fine for that teacher to say that he or she puts more personal stock in the revealed knowledge of his or her religion in this matter rather than in the best conclusions based on science. Just don't conflate the two and stick to teaching the thing you are paid to teach. It's not that hard.

If a teacher wants to teach something other than science s/he should probably look for some job other than being a science teacher.

I'm ok with all that nous. Pretty much word for word.

There are places around the edges, maybe even outside science class that it would be fine to note that the big bang theory isn't exactly proven, that what existed before the big bang and what actually caused the big bang and, oh well, as many questions as we think we have answered are unanswered.

People who think we have THE answers from science rely on just as much faith as those who think we have THE answers from religion. Almost everything we KNEW from science 500? - 1000? years ago is no longer true. It is an article of faith that that won't happen again. Or hubris.

Science done right considers the possiblility that it is wrong. Evidence can point in one direction for a time, until new evidence turns that which is thought to be most likely to a new direction. But the best we can figure at any point in time remains the best we can figure until something else comes along. Sometimes the new doesn't destroy the old, but makes clearer the limitations of the old, a la Einstein and Newton. That really has nothing to do with making stuff up without evidence.

Why is it that people who reject science want to dress up their faith-based beliefs as science? If you have faith, you don't really need science to support your beliefs. And you're free to believe what you like. But if it's not science, don't pretend it is. Science is about evidence, not faith. Science allows for doubt. Faith does not.

One thing that always jumps out at me with regard to faith as opposed to science is the arbitrary specificity of faith-based beliefs. That's why I like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what with all those noodley appendages.

Almost everything we KNEW from science 500? - 1000? years ago is no longer true. It is an article of faith that that won't happen again. Or hubris.

Nearly every scientist I know -- and yes, I am friends with actual scientists -- would happily admit that we have not achieved the sum of knowledge and that everything we know about the universe is always provisional and subject to disproof. How many people would say the same about their religious beliefs?

it would be fine to note that the big bang theory isn't exactly proven,

Uhhh . . . so far nearly every testable hypothesis that's been made about it has been confirmed. That's pretty close to "proven" in the world of science.

that what existed before the big bang and what actually caused the big bang and, oh well, as many questions as we think we have answered are unanswered.

Who thinks we have those two questions answered? Again, scientists will say that those questions are not only unanswered, but in all likelihood unanswerable.

Why is there a "Teach the Controversy" crowd

Because there is a well-organized group of mendacious, evil people out there attempting to undermine high school science education, that's why.

versus just teaching that millions of people believe these two conflicting things and millions believe they are somehow not in conflict and pretty much everyone decides for themselves?

So you DO think high schools should teach something other than biology in biology class. Good to know.

Also, the two specific things at issue ARE in conflict, and I suspect you know it but get some satisfaction out of appearing to be a mediator of some sort.


Science is not a belief system. Science is a methodology. Teaching science should not be about teaching the 'facts' that we have deduced from the practice of science. It should be about applying the methodology of science to appropriate objects of study.

^
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This

"

Its one of the ugly sides of social progressivism that anyone who might not agree on every issue somehow gets tarred with the brush that they think single parents, gay couples, etc. aren't "family".

Marty, in the same sentence you're objecting to the notion that "anyone who might not agree on every issue somehow gets tarred with the brush," while doing the same thing yourself."

Gary, your lack of paying attention and just attacking me at random is getting tiresome. The above is a rewordered quote that I, of course knew was too broad because it was a restatement of McK's too broad sentence in the comment right above it, which was the point. Pay attention.

It's also perfectly fine for that teacher to say that he or she puts more personal stock in the revealed knowledge of his or her religion in this matter rather than in the best conclusions based on science. Just don't conflate the two and stick to teaching the thing you are paid to teach. It's not that hard.

As a product of a Catholic education from grades 1 through 12, I heartily agree. A lot about that education was less than ideal, to say the least, but there was never the slightest suggestion that what we were taught about evolution in biology class somehow clashed with or canceled out what we were taught in religion class. It was simply never an issue.

It's not a question of "science vs. faith." It's a question of science vs. fundamentalism.

I also have no problem with the notion that human beings contribute to global warming. Where I part company with the "science" is when I hear the prescriptions for accommodating what looks like, we are told, a sure thing.

I get very frustrated with this argument (which I hear a lot), because it's as if all of the myriad other negative externalities of our dependence on fossil fuels are suddenly forgotten. If AGW isn't a "sure thing," we might as well just blithely go on exactly as we've been doing.

Wouldn't a more conservative approach to the question be to err on the side of caution? And even if AGW turns out not be such a "sure thing," but it spurs us to move away from our dependence on inherently finite fossil fuels and towards cleaner, renewable sources of energy...honestly, what could possibly be the harm in that? No more of those awesome oil spills, smog alerts, and strip-mined mountains?

Again I have to defend phlogiston against being thrown it in with non/pseudoscience.
Phlogiston in my view is the textbook example of how a 'wrong' (not just incomplete) theory can nonetheless be very valuable to the scientific progress. As a working model it led to numerous discoveries that formed the basis for chemistry as we know it today.
Therefore phlogiston has in my opinion a rightful place in science class.
Alchemy on the other hand led to progress in practical things but was, if taken seriously, never a science but something between philosophy and religion. Better tools were a by-product (some religious movements improved furniture etc. but the religion was not primarily about the holy chair).
I think it was Pauli who said that there are three types of theories: right, wrong and not even wrong.

Hartmut and I can form the ObWi Phlogiston club. Suggestion for a motto, welcome. My first idea would be 'We got your burnable essence right here!"

Timely! Marty's right, nothing to see here, no conflict, no sir:

An unsettling Penn State University study published last week indicates that one of of eight biology (biology!) teachers reject evolution. Thirteen percent of 926 participants in the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers said they openly taught creationism or its kissing cousin intelligent design in the classroom.

Equally disturbing is the fact that 60 percent of biology teachers said they don’t teach much about evolution at all out of fear of offending religiously fundamentalist students and their families. From LiveScience:

Only 28 percent of high school biology teachers followed the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences recommendations on teaching evolution, which include citing evidence that evolution occurred and teaching evolution thematically, as a link between various biology topics.

As one Michigan biology teacher infuriatingly told researchers, ”I don’t teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang Theory in my [E]arth [S]cience classes… We do not have time to do something that is at best poor science.”

I get very frustrated with this argument (which I hear a lot), because it's as if all of the myriad other negative externalities of our dependence on fossil fuels are suddenly forgotten. If AGW isn't a "sure thing," we might as well just blithely go on exactly as we've been doing.

Ok, I agree up to a point. Would it be better for a lot of reasons to use cleaner, more renewable fuel? Sure, for a lot of reasons. Do we put industrial policy in the hands of the UN or Congress or whatever to regulate and ration the right to used fossil fuels? No. Does the West forswear fossil fuels while India, the PRC, Russia et al continue as they are? No. Still, I am fine with cleaning up our own act. Were I king for a day, we'd start building nukes like crazy, financed by the feds and with a mortgage, interest repayments etc, i.e. an actual asset on the fed books that pays a return.

On the religion/science thing, I agree fully and then some that the Bible is not a science text and does not offer an alternative, scientific or even factual description of the formation of the universe and our place in it. The Bible has no place in a science class. A Republican candidate who made such a statement likely would not survive the primary.

What science can't explain satisfactorily, i.e in fairly plain language, demonstrating cause/effect, etc. include: what preceded Big Bang, how does an entire universe (or multiple universes) fit inside a small marble, why does that marble blow up, how and why did the ensuing chaos order itself, what are the odds of the universal constants sorting themselves out and informing the direction of the universe down to life on earth, the formation of, first, recombinant DNA and then the formation of that first simple cell that turns out to have the code for every form of life on earth locked in its DNA, the evidence for plant to animal evolution, how did modern human beings evolve from a population so small we can barely find a trace of it when the evolutionary model calls for natural selection among a large population, how did homo sapiens sapiens evolve at such a rapid rate (100,000 years or less, as best I can tell) given the time spans over which our predecessors languished and explain the tool kit change 40,000 years ago (sure, the theory is it was cultural, but that is just a guess and what was the cultural change anyway?).

Plausible assumptions, theories and scenarios have been constructed that are consistent with and offer explanations of these events, but they are still assumptions/scenarios/theories, not fact-based, proven propositions. What I hear often when I raise these questions is along the lines of: look, the big picture is so well established, so widely known to be true that we know in time that the answers to these other questions will be revealed. Simply because we don't know the answers today, doesn't mean we won't eventually discover them.

Maybe I'm talking to the wrong people. Maybe the answers to my questions are right here.

Yes, but Phil, the real unreported scandal is the extent to which the agents of scientific methodology have infiltrated and intimidated churches and Sunday school classes.

Someone loves their family, and that someone doesn't live in Cleveland, but that's all I'm saying, and I dare Sebastian to infer anything more (Sebastian is rarely in the mood for jokes, which is why I've stopped joking. But I still act funny, not ha-ha funny, but some other funny)

I detect no dumbassery in this thread, with the exception of whatever contribution I bring to the table.

I agree with Slart that Dumbassedness is not a legitimate field of scientific inquiry and, in fact, I wish the Obwiariot as represented in this discussion thread would be provided a wider venue so that OBWI smart folks of various persuasions could show the culture how these questions should be discussed.

I wish the reasonable gentleman MCK-T would forgo his law practice and get himself a seat on the Texas State Board of Education. Which, come to think of it (sometimes I can't help joking) might be an upside for all of us of returning to the 91% high bracket of the 1950s.)

We don't have a media show in this country of any importance which might feature MckT and Uncle Kvetch, for example, exploring issues.

Now, if the two of them could cage-fight, maybe they could each find an agent.

Alas, the value of the rich vein of Dumbassedness in this culture is not determined in the peer reviewed journals but rather by the free market, or via political election, which is why none of us here get paid for our commentary.

The professional Dumbasses command the big salaries and increasingly the corner offices in the Statehouses and the House of Representatives.

What is written at OBWI has no value because the market has spoken:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/02/03/prince-of-tides/

The answer to these big questions, as someone cracked on another comment thread, is the Tides Foundation, which rules both wave motion and the Egyptian Revolution.

By some odd math that perhaps Slart can explain to me, the more the denominator is lowered in our market calculus, the higher the tax bracket. And the more the tax brackets are lowered, the larger the supply of Dumbassedness.

Audience share, which OBWI does not possess, says those are facts.

Do we put industrial policy in the hands of the UN or Congress or whatever to regulate and ration the right to used fossil fuels? No.

?!?!

Of course Congress regulates the use of fossil fuels (I don't know what the word "right" is doing in there but I find it really bizarre, so let's just set it to one side for now). Gasoline taxes, fuel efficiency standards, energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances...and on the other side, of course, the fossil fuel industry is highly subsidized in all kinds of ways...

You're not seriously arguing that the fossil fuels industries are or should be completely free of regulation, are you?

Or maybe you're arguing that energy policy should be set like it was back in the previous decade, by Dick Cheney and the CEOs of the oil and coal producers in a closed meeting, and Congress (and the press, the American people) should just butt out?

Plausible assumptions, theories and scenarios have been constructed that are consistent with and offer explanations of these events, but they are still assumptions/scenarios/theories, not fact-based, proven propositions.

Yes. And any science teacher worth their salt is already teaching them as such. I have no idea what you're driving at here.

People who think we will eventually answer every question through science are wrong, and are not thinking scientifically. Every answer leads to more questions. The more we come to know, the more we come to need to know. Each worm in the can is a can of worms.

People who think science is about absolute certainty are also not thinking scientifically. They are confusing an attempt to be as certain as possible with actual certainty. Some things are so well established that they can be said to be as certain as anything can be (gravity), which, without getting too epistemic or ontological, is less than absolutely certain, given the limitations of knowledge itself.

Science is about doubt. That's why it requires evidence, observation, data and logic, rather than faith.

McKinney, in scientific methodology, everything aside from actual, observable facts about the world -- e.g., water freezes at 32F, the speed of light in a vacuum is 186,000 miles/second, the inverse square law, arachnids have 8 legs -- is either a hypothesis or a theory. Hypotheses need to be tested; theories have attained the level of provisional proof, pending additional evidence and investigation.

Evolution is a theory. So is the Big Bang. So is gravity. So is stellar evolution.

We don't have answers to a lot of the things you question above. (We do have answers to a lot of them, too.) But we do have ways of getting to answers, or at least deciding how we'd go about finding them.

To take just one: how does an entire universe (or multiple universes) fit inside a small marble. Gravity alone is sufficient to explain how a neutron star is able to be only 12km in radius, yet weigh twice as much as our own sun. (And yet we don't even understand how gravity works yet!) This suggests that this question is, at least, an answerable one: Gravity, one of the four basic forces (that we know of) can create small objects of unimaginable density. It's a great starting point! And there are almost certainly physicist doing work in the field right now!

Similarly, why does that marble blow up may be an answerable question. We know that matter is energy and energy is matter. (Thanks, e=mc2.) We know that even tiny amounts of matter contain enormous amounts of energy. We know that the interactions of the basic forces under certain conditions of pressure, temperature and volume can result in some surprising reactions. So that provides starting points for answering that question.

Gravity seems like an immensely powerful force -- and it is! -- and yet, despite the fact that it can accelerate you to more than 100mph when you fall off a tall building, the electromagnetic force will stop you instantly when you hit the ground. At the quantum level, these forces interact in really, really weird ways that may ultimately prove to either be unexplainable, or can't be explained in "n fairly plain language." Like I said, we can explain in plain language what gravity does, and describe mathematically how it behaves, but we don't know what it is.

All of which is prelude to saying that lists of questions posed like yours is is often a lead to a "God of the Gaps" argument, which isn't a good way of approaching these questions at all. A question like "how did modern human beings evolve from a population so small we can barely find a trace of it when the evolutionary model calls for natural selection among a large population" . . . to what "small population" are you referring? Modern humans? Our closest ancestors?

(Dawkins has a good chapter on this in his book Why Evolution Is True in which he starts with a modern rabbit, and starts going backwards through generation after generation looking at its parents, and their parents, and so on. You start getting to animals which look a little less like what we think of us "a rabbit" but which were undeniably the succeeding animal's parents, until millions of years ago, you have an animal which looks almost nothing like "a rabbit," but which unquestionably birthed an animal which would parent the next one, and the next one, and the next one, until we get to something that is "a rabbit." We can get beings that are incrementally closer to what we have today without an instant speciation event.)

Or maybe you're arguing that energy policy should be set like it was back in the previous decade, by Dick Cheney and the CEOs of the oil and coal producers in a closed meeting, and Congress (and the press, the American people) should just butt out?

Don't worry, Darrel Issa is working on that for you.

arachnids have 8 legs

Not after I get a hold of 'em.

*twists moustache and sniggers*

We don't have a media show in this country of any importance which might feature MckT and Uncle Kvetch, for example, exploring issues.

Well, there's that Bloggingheads thingy, but unfortunately I've never watched one because the whole idea strikes me -- perhaps wrongly -- as really silly.

Now, if the two of them could cage-fight, maybe they could each find an agent.

I'm a lover, not a fighter. No cage fights. How about some competitive drinking?

Actually, I highly recommend the Dawkins book I referenced above, except it's called The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. (Why Evolution Is True is Jerry Coyne.) It provides a great layman-oriented, high-level view of the evidence for all we know about the evolution of life on Earth. Some of it I had never heard before, but is really amazing, like the Belyaev fox domestication experiments in which silver foxes were bred for obedience and domestication, and against all expectation, they started to both look and act like domesticated dogs, including increased vocalization, rounded ears, curled tails and collie-like markings.

"A Republican candidate who made such a statement likely would not survive the primary."

Quick, someone advise Republican candidates of this new benchmark.

"I'm a lover, not a fighter. No cage fights. How about some competitive drinking?"

Uncle Kvetch, from what I've gleaned here, MckT has the scientific evidence (repeated blood samples) that show his mastery at competitive drinking.

My heart is with you, but I think MckT will kick a8s.

"Science is about doubt."

Well then, science is done in the land of the fave and the home of the certain.

I used the phrase "industrial policy" and by that I meant a regime, which through direct rule making or indirectly by imposing user fees, that rations who can use fossil fuels, when, how much and for what purpose. This is a general description. Cap and trade would fall within this general description, even though it may achieve its ends through means other than those enumerated.

Phil, thanks. That was interesting.

to what "small population" are you referring? Modern humans? Our closest ancestors?

My take on human evolutionary thinking is that modern humans evolved in Africa from a small group of pre-modern humans. A very small group. The predecessor of this group is unclear to me. There is minimal to no fossil or tool evidence of this group. I am fairly sure no one holds that we descend from neanderthal. That leaves erectus (ergaster and heidelbergensis are in the mix but disputed) as our straight line ancestor but a very limited archeological record that ought to parallel, but doesn't, neanderthal's foot print, which is fairly extensive. You can find dates for homo sapiens beginning 100k or even 40k or 50K years ago. What is missing is the fossil record to document HSS' immediate or even 2d or 3d removed direct line ancestors. Because the basic theory of evolution holds that mutation and natural selection, over time, cause a specie to evolve, usually favorably, and it takes a large population to accomplish this result, you would expect a very large archeological record of HSS' predecessors, given our complexity and the many evolutionary sub developments it would take to get from erectus to HSS, yet that record is not there. More the opposite, really.

Re. phlogiston, the Invention of Air is an interesting biographical look at Joseph Priestly.

what preceded Big Bang

This question doesn't really make sense. spacetime itself didn't exist prior to the Big Bang. No spacetime; no time.

The only possible observer, to assess passage of time, would be God. The only way to find out, then, would be to ask God.

There are other possibilities, too: like, if there was another universe that could somehow observe this one, but the time passage recorded would be on their timescale, which may not even map linearly onto the timescale of our early universe.

I don't think the current cosmological theories preclude the existence of God; they just sort of point to that perhaps Genesis doesn't mean exactly what we think it means.

Which is convenient, I agree.

Also: I might have been misreading McK, but it seemed that he was making the classic mistake of mixing discussions of cosmology with those of abiogenesis. The two are in fact quite distinct, and flaws in one don't necessarily condemn the other.

I love this thread.

No seriously. (in case someone thought I wasn't)

This question doesn't really make sense. spacetime itself didn't exist prior to the Big Bang. No spacetime; no time.

I've heard that. The marble existed in nothing and was everything? How do we know that? Is that demonstrable or assumed?

but it seemed that he was making the classic mistake of mixing discussions of cosmology with those of abiogenesis.

In order to make that mistake, I would have to know more about this stuff than I do. Really, what I do is read the popular stuff on Big Bang and evolution and ask questions. If you are saying that cosmology (origin and formation of the universe) is a different question from the formation of life in terms of what happened and why, I agree. But that marble held, inter alia, the stuff of life.

That said: Phil, I just went to Amazon and bought both books. To be continued . . .

Missed this:

How about some competitive drinking?

Game on, amigo!

McKinney, do you have a source for your assertions about the (pre-)human fossil record? (snark-free, serious question)

I used the phrase "industrial policy" and by that I meant a regime, which through direct rule making or indirectly by imposing user fees, that rations who can use fossil fuels, when, how much and for what purpose. This is a general description. Cap and trade would fall within this general description, even though it may achieve its ends through means other than those enumerated.

I see. I'm not entirely clear on what would qualitatively distinguish such a regime from the collection of taxes, subsidies and regulations we have now. It seems to me that cap & trade would represent a difference in degree, but not in kind, from current policy. But I'm not all that up on the intricacies. Besides, based on what I do know, I'd probably prefer a carbon tax to C&T anyway.

Beefeater martini, on the wet side,* up with a twist. Skoal.

*That's assuming good vermouth: Noilly-Prat or nothing.

Is that demonstrable or assumed?

It's somewhere in between. That particular viewpoint has a theoretical basis and some supporting evidence, but has yet to find laboratory verification, or a laboratory suitable for such.

If god created the universe and there was nothing before he did so, where did he come from? If it was all (i.e. life, the universe) too perfect not to have happened without a designer, why wouldn't the same hold for the designer? Who designed the designer? And so on...

Creation ex nihilo is a conundrum, at least for our limited minds.

Agh.

My ideal martini: 4-inch(ish) long twist of lemon with oils expressed on the inside of a glass that's been dunked in liquid nitrogen (or just very, very cold); leave the twist, pour cold-unto-treacliness(?) Tanqueray 10 until the glass is just short of in danger of sloshing some over the side.

While doing this, have a bottle of vermouth in the next room; no closer.

Consume while still cold enough to force tardigrades into hibernation.

You can shake the gin over ice, I suppose. If it's cold enough, though, that's not necessary.

That's how I like it.

Who designed the designer? And so on...

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov.

Or just freeze the damn Tanqueray and sip it from the bottle, oh, was that my out loud voice?

Beefeater martini, on the wet side,* up with a twist. Skoal.

*That's assuming good vermouth: Noilly-Prat or nothing.

Ok, so some ground rules: equal amounts of spirits followed by some kind of nonviolent, minimally physical contest. I am a Vitamin V guy when not hitting the red wine.

"Or just freeze the damn Tanqueray and sip it from the bottle, oh, was that my out loud voice?"

Phil,

Please note that sophisticated is rarely whata I am accused of, or shoot for.

... some kind of nonviolent, minimally physical contest.

Darts?

Or just pour a good vodka over ice, swirl to chill thoroughly, and sip. Best with a blue stilton and crackers, but holds up well with beef grilled rare.

Now this is creationism I can get on board with . . .

Darts?

Perfect, provided there is adequate protection for bystanders from errant throws.

Can anyone suggest a venue?

McKinney, do you have a source for your assertions about the (pre-)human fossil record?

It's hard to prove a negative, i.e. the absence of a record.

Here is one example if you google "human evolution": http://www.archaeologyinfo.com/species.htm.

What I am hoping to find, inter alia, in the books Phil recommended is a quantification of the fossil record going back 500K years or so, specifically: how much of a particular specimen, identified as which specie, was found where and what are the date ranges?

We have ample evidence of neanderthal, and plenty of evidence of modern man along with good evidence of erectus. The rest is sketchy, at least that I've seen reported. Also, another interesting thing is the tool kit stays stable across specie, i.e. the hand ax appears to have been used by erectus and neanderthal virtually unchanged. Again, that is my take on what I've read, not an assertion of fact.

What's all this martini nonsense? I like a good dirty martini every now and then, but can't we all just drink single malt like gentlemen?

Which reminds me, this year I am a participant in the Winking Lizard World Beer Tour, in which I attempt to try 100 different beers over the next 12 months. I've already made some good discoveries, including this delightful concoction.

By the way, in "the Last Question", there is the following:

They had brought a bottle with them, and their only concern at the moment was to relax in the company of each other and the bottle.

(see? I'm fully on topic! :-)

I had a big ol' thing typed up about certainty and doubt and the scientific method, but HSH just rendered most of it moot. Well done, sir.

What I will add is this:

For something like the flatness of the planet, we can rely on our own senses: we can see its curvature when we're high enough in the air, and we've all seen hundreds of photographs of our homeworld from space that date to before it was possible to convincingly fake them. You can explain orbital mechanics and the theory (yes, as HSH eloquently illustrated, it's still only a theory!) of gravity to someone, but ultimately what makes the flat-earthers an eye-rollingly fringe group is that even those who cannot grasp the science can trust their own eyes.

Most areas of science aren't so cut-and dried, and cannot be proven by direct observation in a way that will satisfy a layman skeptic who doesn't trust scientific methodology in the first place. That doesn't mean they are any less scientifically sound, or that we should use a responsible level of uncertainty in the conclusions as an excuse to dismiss the entire body of evidence.

The point of all this is that if we intend to wait until there is 100% certainty about the causes, nature, and scope of climate change, and 100% agreement among scientists about such--in other words, until these things are proven to the satisfaction of layman skeptics with the same level of certainty as the roundness of the earth--we will never take action until it is too late, if even then.

At some point you have to look at the body of evidence and say, "we can't be certain--but we're certain enough when you consider the consequences of inaction."

There is a line of argument popular among some born-again Christians: the notion that even though Man cannot prove whether or not the Bible is right, do you want to reject God and risk eternal damnation if you're wrong? The message in this is that the permanent consequences of going to hell are so dire that it's not worth taking the chance of being wrong.

While the premises underlying this argument are weak, the logic is sound: some outcomes are so dire that it's foolish to risk those outcomes by inaction in the face of uncertainty: at some point the body of evidence needs to be enough to say, "we can't take the chance." This line of thinking underlies countless aspects of our national security. Why should it not inform our actions that affect the future viability of life on this planet?

My younger brother has been in the Peninsula Winking Lizard on a number of occasions. I've been there on only one occasion; they do have a rather nice selection of fermented barley products.

There is a line of argument popular among some born-again Christians: the notion that even though Man cannot prove whether or not the Bible is right, do you want to reject God and risk eternal damnation if you're wrong?

First formulated by a Catholic, but one who was about as close to born-again as Catholics ever get.

Phil, why does it take a full year to try only 100 different kinds of beer?

Ok, so some ground rules: equal amounts of spirits followed by some kind of nonviolent, minimally physical contest.

Hmmm. I stink at darts. I think it should be structured like "the talent portion of our competition," as they used to say at the Miss America pageant (maybe they still do)...that way we can each play to our strengths. I'll take either classical singing, electric bass (give me a couple of weeks to practice and I can play London Calling [the album, not the song] note-for-note), or conjugation of irregular French verbs. Over to you.

My ideal martini: 4-inch(ish) long twist of lemon with oils expressed on the inside of a glass that's been dunked in liquid nitrogen (or just very, very cold); leave the twist, pour cold-unto-treacliness(?) Tanqueray 10 until the glass is just short of in danger of sloshing some over the side.

I love the idea of a liquid-nitrogen-frosted glass. Gotta try that. I've never had Tanqueray 10. After Beefeater I like Bombay Sapphire quite a bit too, but our "everyday" gin is New Amsterdam...almost as good as Beefie but much more affordable.

Totally with you on the importance of coldness; it can't be overstated.

While doing this, have a bottle of vermouth in the next room; no closer.

Nope, sorry, you lost me. I never grokked that whole fetishization of dryness, although it does make for some great one-liners (Churchill's "Turn towards France and whistle the Marseillaise," for instance). Vermouth is intrinsic to the drink for me. But then I'm someone who can enjoy a nice vermouth on the rocks, all by its lonesome. "Say yes," sang the mighty Burt Bacharach all those years ago, and who are we to argue?

I like a good dirty martini every now and then, but can't we all just drink single malt like gentlemen?

Well, of course we can! What the hell is there to do when the gin runs out?

Phil, why does it take a full year to try only 100 different kinds of beer?

Oh, they give you a year, but I won't need it. Frankly with the week I've had I could get about 70% there tonight.

Over to you.

Well, I'm screwed. Can't sing, dance, play an instrument. I am awful at darts as well. Billiards/pool? Gin rummy? More drinking? First one to pee?

Frankly with the week I've had I could get about 70% there tonight.

Understood. I had that week last week. Hope it works out.

First one to pee?

Trust me, I'd kick your butt on that one. Unfortunately.

McK, I think you are expected to pay off the judges.....

Can I propose a drunk Lego build-off?

I'll put one arm behind my back... :)

Can I propose a drunk Lego build-off?

Now we're getting somewhere.

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