Journal, 10/8/17

I’ll begin this post with a few block-buster ideas. With maybe a few comments, but in each case the ideas, I think, stand on their own, don’t need a commentary.

  • Charles Murray, 10/15/14 —I now believe that the United States is evolving into a segregated class society in which the remaining remnants of the original American project—limited government, free people running their own lives, communities solving their own problems—will soon have been lost altogether.

  • Charles Beard, 1913 —Inasmuch as the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such rules as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of government.  [Translation, Howard Zinn, 1980: In short the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.] (Today, “the rich…”—Think Republican Party, and its corporate backers.)

  • Sarah Jones, 12/13/16, on Twitter —If your political philosophy isn’t based on the conviction that every human being deserves healthcare and food and schools it’s worthless.

  • Atul Gawande,  10/2/2017, The New Yorker Magazine.  Few want the health insurance system we have, but many fear losing what we’ve got. We disagree profoundly about where we want to go. Do we want a single, nationwide payer of care (Medicare for all), each state to have its own payer of care (Medicaid for all), a nationwide marketplace where we all choose among a selection of health plans ( for all), or personal accounts that we can use to pay directly for health care (Health Savings Accounts for all)?…What we agree on, broadly, is that the rules should apply to everyone. …But two sets of values are in tension. We want to reward work, ingenuity, self-reliance, and we want to protect the weak and the vulnerable—not least because, over time, we all become the weak and vulnerable, … also whatever program we devise, some people will put in more and some will take out more. Progress ultimately depends on whether we can build and sustain the belief that collective action genuinely results in collective benefit. No policy will be possible otherwise.

  • Albert Einstein, 1916 — Einstein’s equations told him that the movement of matter through space causes tiny vibrations in the spacetime fabric, spreading out like ripples on a pond – but at the speed of light. He thought that the waves would be too tiny to ever be detected. But now after decades of work, three Nobel prizewinners – aided by huge teams of collaborators – have proven  him wrong.
Probing creation with waves

    • Emma Green, 11/14/14

      You Can’t Educate People Into Believing in Evolution

      It’s probably true that this is the century of biology, and that evolution is the foundation of biology,… [But} classroom discussions aren’t the most important factor in shaping people’s views, and many people are either unsure or don’t care about being right. No creationist wakes up in the morning and says, “I have really strong opinions about whether Archaeopteryx is the ancestor of modern birds.” He probably doesn’t care. Religious belief [where does that come from??] is probably the strongest determinant of people’s views on evolution—much more so than education (knowledge), socioeconomic status, age, political views, or region of the country. It seems that most people simply believe what they’re going to believe about the nature of the universe, not what others would have them believe.

      (So are we being told here that the creationist/evolutionist controversy is forever?)

    • Dr. Michael Shermer, 10/4/17  Skeptic Magazine, would say that the controversy is over, and that the evolutionists have won.
      The success of the Scientific Revolution led to the development of the worldview of scientific naturalism, or the belief that the world is governed by natural laws and forces that can be understood, and that all phenomena are part of nature and can be explained by natural causes,… The application of scientific naturalism in the human realm led to the widespread adoption of Enlightenment humanism, the  worldview that places supreme value on science and reason, eschews the supernatural entirely, and relies exclusively on nature and nature’s laws—including human nature and the laws and forces that governance us and our societies—for a complete understanding of the cosmos and everything in it, from particles to people.

    • Ryan Classen, a political scientist at Kent State University, has studied the growing religious gap between the parties. In 2012, the decades-long battle between Republicans andDemocrats seemed to come to a head when the 2012 Democratic Platform entirely excluded the word “God.” Republicans responded by accusing Democrats of waging a “war on religion.” In an interview with The Washington Post, Classen explained his findings. While most explain the phenomenon through the fact that Christian Right organizations mobilized religious activists on behalf of the Republican Party, … Classen believed differently. He explained that Republican evangelicals had not mobilized as much as they had simply become a larger part of society. This group has a large birthrate, and a large percentage of children of evangelicals identify as evangelicals as adults. There has also been an increase in the number of evangelicals voting, something that Classen attributes to the fact that larger percentages of children are growing up with proper educations. Therefore, it is quite possible that the “God Gap” has simply been born out of population trends, not out of political actions.In fact, Classen points out, not all religious people have trended towards the Republican Party. Most religious individuals that are anything except evangelical Protestants have trended towards the Democratic Party. In recent elections, there are Democratic trends in every major religious tradition except for Evangelical Protestants. This isn’t really acknowledged by those that claim the Democrats are waging a war on religion.
      Other studies have shown a rise in the number of “religiously unaffiliated” individuals, including atheists, agnostics, and those who don’t have any religious identity. These individuals are far more likely to join the Democratic Party than the Republican, further fueling the religious gap between the parties.

    •  Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, (born July 17, 1954, Hamburg, West Germany) did not experience the Weimer Republic, 1918 to 1933, nor the rise of Hitler right afterwards.  The Weimar Republic began as a bold political experiment after the horrors of World War I. The men in charge were ambitious reformers, and hoped to create a modern liberal democracy in a nation that had known only militarism and authoritarian monarchy. Together they adopted one of the world’s most democratic and progressive constitutions….
      But it wasn’t to be, the Great Depression of the early 1930s brought the Weimar dream crashing to earth and by late 1933 Weimar democracy had given way to Nazi totalitarianism…. Weimar Germany, much as Germany today, was torn between several old ideas and values (tradition, militarism and authoritarian government) and those of the modern era (republicanism, liberalism and democracy).  Angela Merkel has just won a fourth term in office, but not in the way she wanted. Her Christian Democratic alliance polled at historic lows, and she will have to rely on an untested and difficult coalition,… and will face a much more fractious and angry opposition featuring another right-wing extremist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), …

    • Emmanuel Macron    The German result stands in contrast to the recent elections in France, where Macron received almost two-thirds of the votes in the second round of the presidential contest, and his new centrist party, together with its allies, got just over 60 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. Commentators and policy wonks were quick to point to Macron’s victory as evidence that the populist threat to European democracy in France, unlike that in Germany (and England and in the United States) had been vanquished. Many felt, after the French election, that Paris and Berlin and together could revive the European Union’s traditional Franco-German engine and initiate overdue reforms to put the continent on a firmer economic and political foundation.

  • A great philosopher said, “life’s a bitch and then you die.” What’s the point of it all?

  • Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), one of the twentieth-century’s greatest philosophers, elucidated in the following way the relationship between religion, science, and philosophy: “All definite knowledge … belongs to science, he said; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to religion or theology. And between theology and science there is a no man’s land, exposed to attack from both sides; this no man’s land is philosophy.”

  • And on the same subject, Yuvah Noah Harari,  7/8/17, from his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, …Science assumes humankind does not know the answers to the important questions in life, while religion assumes that they are already known, and the answers to these are absolute.

  •  Roger Cohen: in the  NYTimes of 5/30/17 writes: Chrystal Hesch of Telluride, Colo approached me in distress.  She’s frustrated that she can’t even get to a point of departure for a reasoned discussion with her dad, a strong supporter of President Trump. “What can I do? We can’t even agree on a reality to discuss or a source we both accept,” she asks.

    Tens of millions of Trump opponents cannot communicate with tens of millions of Trump’s supporters. There is no viable vocabulary. There is no shared reality. This is the chasm to which Fox News, Republican debunking of reason and science, herd-reinforcing social media algorithms, liberal arrogance, rightist bigotry, and an economy of growing inequality have ushered us.

  • Who said this? I know I’ve said it again and again, usually to myself. But I found the following passage, an important idea, in my notes with no source given (the first time that Google has failed me).
    Maybe Thomas Friedman??
    The most important factor or person in your education, in your growing up is not your mother, your father, your teachers and your school… it’s you, and what you do, how quickly you learn that it’s your responsibility most of all to learn, and also to grow. For too many this never happens, and far too many continue to wait to be helped.”


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