Friday, February 12, 2010

An addendum on "The Fall of Civilizations"

The previous posting is still the "main" one that I'd like to be sure people see... I certainly worked hard enough on it. Still, over the next few days I have a few final addenda to add....

We appear to be at a cusp point, where the Western World chooses between two paths.

One is the trail of stupidity, leading to a cliff.  Almost 100 years ago, in The Decline of the West, Ozwald Spengler transfixed the public with his certain-sounding explanations for why Europo-American society would soon dissolve into pain and despair, decadence and dust.

Pain came... dealt by people who believed as Spengler did. A cult of cynicism despised the Enlightenment. Monsters of both left and right saw as degenerate self-indulgences such shiny modern things as democracy, science, markets and the empowerment of individual minds. Horrors like Hitler and Stalin strove to prove it so.

But they failed and enlightenment optimists prevailed, through courage,  innovation and will. George Marshall showed the way into a better era, filled with challenges but also progress.  Today, most babies that are born actually live good lives. We have been to the Moon. Race and gender and class are less deterministic of your fate, and you are sharing thoughts with me across a worldwide brain that we forged with our own ingenuity and hands.

CollapseCynicism isn't dead.  It never went away, nor is it only a thing of the right. (Though that is its present core.)  Dire eco-warnings, like Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (see my review) and James Cameron's AVATAR may have been meantserve partly as dire warnings, to help us see the dangers, but also deliver doses of poison, by railing that we westerners are all hopeless fools bereft of decent institutions or problem-solving skills. Or even hope.

In fact, the clear-eyed view is neither gloomy nor starry-confident. It was the great historian, Arnold Toynbee, who I believe got it right.  After studying dozens of past cycles, he declared that civilizations thrive when they invest faith and hope in their creative minorities. When they see the future as a destination and willingly adapt new ways to reach it.

Toynbee -- after surveying many tales of rise and fall -- concluded that cultures start to decline when those creative minorities become distrusted, or are starved of capital, or left out in the cold. Or when they are shunned by those in power.

I mention this, because the clear and distinct pattern the we see in the latest phase of the American Civil War... similar to what occcured in  earlier phases... has been an underlying theme of populist hatred for society's brightest and most skilled.

This motif pervades everything we see from the "movement" nowadays.  In distrust of the Civil Service and the US Officer Corps.  In the relentless War on Science.  In boos that surge, at sneering mention of the word "Harvard."  The use of anti-intellectualism to divert attention from a far more worrisome elite -- a rising aristocracy of monopolies and almost-feudal wealth.

Let's be clear. I am not saying that intellectuals are always right.  I know plenty who are foolish. Nor is wealth inherently evil... I aspire to acquire more, through delivery of excellent goods and services, and I know some damn-fine billionaires.  Nor is there anything wrong with salt-of-the-earth fellows like those Redneck Comedy Tour guys, whose self-effacing charm could win over even alien invaders.  (Even if they don't read sci-fi.)

Still, if anybody ever had a clue about what makes civilizations rise and fall, Arnold Toynbee knew what he was talking about.

Moreover, the propaganda campaign against our creative people is so intense, so pure, and so relentlessly across-the-board, that it simply cannot be an accident.  The correlation is just too perfect.

Somebody wants us to fail.

139 comments:

Robert said...

I think your paranoia is flaring up again, Dr. Brin. It would also be valid to state that human jealousy and the psychological tendency of humans to form groups has resulted in intellectuals being grouped as an Other that is then treated with disdain by the less-educated "majority" (which isn't even a majority but is just loud). In short, what we are seeing is a natural aspect of human behavior, and that the reason it is so visible is that the people complaining the loudest are those who find the Intellectual Other to be a great threat to their own way of life.

However, there is no conspiracy against the Intellectual Other. Instead, there is just noise, combined with the news media's intrinsic need to create a story so to sell advertising. (Really, we need to take the news media and relegate them to "nonprofit" status so that they don't create sensationalism to sell papers/create viewers, but instead focuses on factual accounting of events.)

There is no need to ascribe conspiracy to basic human behavior.

(And really, did you expect me NOT to protest your delving deep into the conspiracy mythos once again? Dr. Brin, you are a superb writer and a truly brilliant man, but sometimes you dwell too much on connecting dots when human stupidity and basic human behavior is a far better indicator as to what is going on.)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

Robert, your chide was well-worth pondering. Even if I am right, the tug of such statements as yours helps to keep a fellow grounded...

...even though I still think it blatant that you are the one who is wrong.

The fact is, anti-intellectual populism is too pervasive, and too similar to the way it was used in 1860, to prevent that ire turning toward the real power centers who oppressed poor whites.

The precedents are clear. And it was successful then.

If it ain't deliberate, then it might as well be.

Chris Milroy said...

It is perhaps worth noting that when the non-intellectual elites in a society need the intellectuals (in, for instance, the 1950s in the US) they are not demonized as the Other but are instead celebrated. And yet, intellectuals were just as much a minority--or more--at that point.

Whether collusion or the unfortunate swing of a grand pendulum, something is and was rather different now and in the late 19th century than in the era in between.

Robert said...

It is true that I have a blind eye toward conspiracy. There are two reasons for this. First, I feel that any conspiracy will fail because it is impossible for large-scale conspiracies to exist without being quickly revealed to the public with verifiable proof of the conspiracy. Someone will inevitably squeal, and if they are then hushed (killed), their comments become even more viable.

(This actually could be the ultimate form of revenge for someone who wants to kill themselves and harm their perceived foes at the same time - claim conspiracy, poison yourself with something exotic, and die knowing that your foes will be reviled and believed to be behind the falsified conspiracy due to your death.)

Second, I have fought my own instincts long and hard to overcome my own prejudices and fears. As a result, I look at the belief in conspiracy to be in fact a form of discrimination that is a form of self-deception. After all, it is far easier to hate your foes if they are, in fact, responsible for some uber-plot that will destroy our future and society out of their own selfish needs and desires. Whether this is my own self-rationalization (and allowing for discrimination against those who believe in conspiracies) or something legit, I don't know.

So I may be wrong. It won't be the first time. But it is better to be wrong and allow the guilty to walk than to condemn the innocent to a crime they did not commit. This is one of the tenants of being an American... and one that far too many of us forget. (Proving that our Founding Fathers were quite wise when creating the Constitution and Bill of Rights, because they realized what might occur if we relied on a less concrete form of laws and legislation.)

Rob H.

Ian said...

While the situation you describe is by no means confined to the US, David, it does seem to be a lot worse there than in most other western countries.(See, for example, Pew Centre polls on belief in young-Earth creationism.)

This is probably a source of hope for Americans - the collapse is unlikely to be as complete as those Toynbee studied since the US will continue to be able to import the products of the educated elites of other countries.

See, for example, the Russians, Japanese and Europeans lining up to supply the ISS once the shuttle is retired.

What that suggests is less the Sack of Rome than the slow gradual decline of such more recent empires as the Spanish, the Austrians (heh - typed "Australians" first up, we'll probably never have to worry about having an empire much less losing it) or the Ottomans.

It also brings to mind an essay by Orwell about the British ruling class in the 1930's and their inability to confront the simultaneous challenges of the rise of the totalitarian dictatorships; the Great Depression and colonial resistance to British rule and their consequent "retreat into imbecility".

Tony Fisk said...

I agree with Ian: this anti-enlightenment stance is not as prevalent in other parts of the world as it is in the US (something worth knowing)

I also agree with Robert in that conspiracies have a publicity problem (although I can think of at least one dramatic exception: the complete suborning of the German spy networks in the UK during WWII)

Nevertheless, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you! It's worthwhile contemplating the notion: 'someone wants us to fail', if just for a few minutes
(and probably worthwhile ferreting out how the share ownership of Murdoch's little kingdom adds up)

=====

At the risk of derailing the conversation now: I think, for all its faults (which are fun to justify away), Avatar's getting a bit of a rap with the anti-west stick. It might be worth pointing out that the 'corporate bad guys' and their troops have more in common with Blackwater than the government of, by, and for the people. (a distinction Jake makes as he's disembarking from the shuttle)

swayi: a dance best performed while hooked up to a fluorescent willow tree.

Abilard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abilard said...

I'm largely with Robert on this one, with the caveat that I do not think a formal conspiracy is required for most of the effects that Brin is noticing. The phenomenon Brin is worried about may be arising from people informally acting on what they perceive to be their own group interests. The creative group, as noted a minority, is a quick and easy target whenever people get tribal and want their lunch money. While oligarchs have more money, they are usually too powerful as taking their lunch money involves dealing with the teachers who want to impress oligarch parents and the football team with whom they are allied.

Since media manipulation is core to the phenomenon, lets look at that in a period we have some distance from and yet know something about: the 1940s and 1950s. The uniformity of message from that period amounted to a kind of cultural propaganda. Was it state sponsored, as in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia? Not exactly. There were commissions, inquiries, and a handful of people ruined, but nothing that formal and nothing on that scale. We did not have state controlled media.

And yet our version of propaganda, cultural propaganda, has certainly been more pervasive. How did it arise? Hollywood targeted a moneyed class (middle class America) and reflected back what they wanted to see, to please advertisers and make money. Other groups? No voice. Silence, or worse, justifications of their oppression.

No conspiracy. No Goebbals. Just shortsightedness and tribalism. Same effects.

David Brin said...

Those who accuse of me preaching for elitism are committing an unknowing irony, since I coined the term "age of amateurs" (in The Transparent Society) and have been among the principal voices, both in and out of government, pushing for flattened hierarchies and citizen-level involvement.

See:
http://www.futurist.com/...

and

http://www.sigmaforum.org/...

This is NOT incompatible with my message in this diary, of respect for society's experts and creative ones. Both trends are needed.

What is NOT needed is a populism that diverts the attention of millions who have seen their hopes dashed, toward raging at people who know stuff, in order to get them to ignore neo-feudalist thieves.

====
On the matter of who might be doing this DELIBERATELY? I think one should trace the ownership shares of Fox News and ponder, do these people really want the American Enlightenment to continue to emphasis self-made, first generation wealth building, based on delivery of innovative goods and services? Or are these people who would prefer a return to classic patterns of wealth acquired by inheritance?

====
As for AVATAR, please keep eyes open for my essay on this, in the next month.

Sigourney's "scientist" character is admired for curiosity, but only in proportion to the degree that she (1) goes native and (2) shows respectful humility and (3) opposes every institution authority or need of her own culture. Yes, those institutions, authorities and needs are portrayed as horrific and deserving opposition. So? That is the hand that Cameron deals.

And I feel that he is preaching to us 1980s lessons when we need 2010 messages. Guilt-tripping rebuke has done whatever good it is going to accomplish. Whoever is going to be convinced to worry about western sin is ALREADY persuaded, while everyone else is simply sullen and resentful.

What's needed isn't self-flaggelating guilt trips that say the West can never, ever be good... and more can-do problem-solving messages, that say "Now that you are wary about moral hazard, be bold and FIX the world."

John Kurman said...

Robert, I think you are wrong, but not the way you think I think you are. Your version of conspiracy is not unlike Intelligent Design, in other words, you present an active purposeful intentional cabal (like the Stonecutters from the Simpsons)behind Dr. Brin's distressing observations. It could be, just like evolution, that there is a massively parallel series of selections. A loose aggregation of like minded agents, possibly, in fact, probably, with little or no communication among them, wold look AS IF it were a conspriacy and do just as much, or more damage. Not unlike a swarm intelligence, or a superorganism.

But anyway, here's the diggest deal. Conspiracy or no, enlightenment forces are losing the battle. I chalk it primarily to a very bad PR campaign. The "other side" is really kicking some ass in the PR department. If you wish to "win" that is the area of primary concern.

Because "we" (I'm assuming I, and maybe you, are on the side of Good, an assumption in itself in need of a great deal of introspection) are fighting an uphill battle to win hearts and minds, we need to look at who the spokespeople are.

Sadly, we don't have many that are good. We lost Sagan. And we lost Carlin. The ones who stepped up to the plate have come across as (in the popular mind), smug assholes. Specifically, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchins, just to name the obvious ones. Smarmy nancy boys is what they look like.

What do we need? We need someone who uses one of the most powerful weapons in the scientific armamentarium, to call Bullshit in a funny way (and sorry, Penn and Teller do not seem up to the task). We need a massive overhaul in advertising for starters. More thoughts later if possible.

Tacitus2 said...

At work, so no profundity today...

But I am wondering, would the reaction of the common man be different if one had a degree from Harvard versus the more meritocratic MIT? A degree in Sociology versus molecular biology?

Disdain for elitism is not entirely unjustified, as it is generally true that "old money" can essentially buy their wastrel lesser scions into legacy admissions. (It is unlikely for instance that G.W. Bush got into Yale entirely on his merits.I have my doubts on Al Gore for that matter)

A salutary development in recent politics has been the decline of these hereditary dynasties. They have been one root cause of anti-elitism.

If Jeb Bush runs for pres it will be an uphill hike, and he will have to make it on his own merits. His name is an anchor not a rocket pack.

Carolyn Kennedy's lame bid for a Senate sinecure fell short, Teddy's seat fell in a political upset and now Rep.Kennedy from RI is making an overdue exit.

I think better of a self made man/woman with a lesser degree than of a legacy drone.

On a personal note, one of my kids is the smartest person in our family imho. Chose not to go to college (yet). Got a tech college degree and is quite gainfully employed.

Tacitus2

Stefan Jones said...

I'm generally down on the idea of conspiracies.

But there is one genuine anti-scientific conspiracy. We have their game plan:

The Wedge Strategy

That's a leaked document by The Discovery Institute.

Wikipedia article.

El JoPe Magnifico said...

I think John Kurman (above) is essentially right in saying that this is more along the lines of swarm intelligence. While he then goes on to bash Dawkins, et al, ("smug assholes" is my usual label for them, too) there is the Dawkins-popularized notion of the meme to consider. You know how it works: Its primary goal is its own survival, with the instruments for doing so being human nature and the tools of civilization, but with the survival of those instruments not being part of that goal. On the whole, we live in an age of greater intellectualism than ever before; the flipside is this represents a target-rich environment for an anti-intellectual meme.

Honestly, a conspiracy would be a blessing, because it has structure, something that reason is quite capable of tackling and eventually breaking. But a meme is largely decentralized -- the Achilles heel of many (possibly most) intellectuals, in whom mental focus has a tendency to render them myopic.

Corey said...

I think there can be no question that the effect of a systematic dismantling of enlightenment, and even the value society places on it, is real. That said, I'm not convinced that it's so much all part of some master plan as it is just aligning interests, as others have said.

There are definitely coordinated efforts to subvert certain scientific truths for various reasons, from ideological adherence to a strict interpretation of creation stories, and the almost crusade-like attacks on Evolution, to the monetary interests of the "status-quo crowd" that are involved in everything from the obscuring of evidence on climate change, to the re-writing of economic history to prevent robust market regulation.

The array of tactics used across the various issues is almost overwhelming, from attacking scientific consensus, to using political clout to silence those who would dare question the hagiographies written for history's small-government advocates, to the misrepresentation of classical political value sets.

Aligned with all of these interests are the Sarah Palin types, who want to appeal to the "real America", which obvious isn't going to include the intellectual side of the nation. It becomes very easy to say anything you want about history, politics, science, or anything else, if you can simply brand those who actually know about those topics as egg-headed know-nothings who are "full of facts, but completely lacking in 'common sense'" (an actual argument I heard from one such person not too long ago).


All of these come together because these aligned interests, while different, all benefit from the dumbing-down of society, because that makes society easy to manipulate. Barring the fundamentalist religious movement (which has a different agenda), the greatest achievement of the powerful figures anti-intellectual movement has been a successful effort to drive America to support measures that are against their own interests, be they economic, ecological, or civic.

I don't think there's one all-powerful institution behind all of this, and in that sense, I don't think there's any conspiracy to "make America dumber", at least not for a singular reason, but maybe in the end it doesn't really matter, because the goal is the same regardless of whether the agenda is singular or pluralistic.

Corey said...

I'm not being completely US-centric when I fail to mention the rest of the world, I just think that the problem is much much smaller elsewhere. :)

Woozle said...

To those (starting with RH) who say "if there were a conspiracy, we'd find out about it" -- what do you call the ever-increasing tide of media consolidation? If only a few own our national nervous system, and blatantly use it to push an anti-enlightenment agenda, how is that not a conspiracy?

I agree that it might not be a conscious conspiracy but rather the sum vector of a plurality of conscienceless powerful interests acting individually for the same ends. I don't know who the villains are, and I don't need to hate anyone.

I have my suspects, but revenge or punishment is not the point; the point is to reverse the process. The warning call is still applicable: there are forces, conscious or not, acting to destroy our core values. We can't just sit back and assume that "these things will work themselves out" eventually (which seems to be the dominant denialist position on any crisis -- e.g. global warming). Neither history nor recent events give us any reason to think that our 233-year-old experiment will last forever. Seems to me it's overdue for some serious maintenance.

We must move forward and repair the house while it is still standing, or else start building a new one. Perhaps both; a little redundancy in your critical systems is generally a good idea.

(P.S. Reading The Postman to the kids -- 10 and 12 -- as a bedtime story. We're up to the "Restored United States" bit, and they're convinced everything is going to fall apart and end badly.)

David Brin said...

In the "conspiracy" issue, the one thread motivating me (as always) is contrarianism.

If everyone were ascribing the damage done by the neocon putsch to a conspiracy, I'd be out there, saying "never ascribe to malignity what can easily be attributed to stupidity."

But no, what we see is absolute monomania. People who hate the Bushites far more than I do still refuse to contemplate the possibility that they were smart.

The standard model - that the Right is run by venial, corrupt, powerful men who are great at manipulating power and swaying millions with populist propaganda... are nevertheless all morons. Moreover, the absolute uniformity of the harm they have done to America... that was all an outgrowth of dogmatic rigidity and microcephalic stupidity.

Ignore that - were it stupidity - they should have ACCIDENTALLY done something that actually benefited the United States. What bugs me is the absolute refusal of bright liberals and moderates to even let their minds ponder the possibility that what you see is what you get. Especially when one of the major parties involved has open ideology that calls for the destruction of our civilization.

They have inifinite funds, patience, come from a family of bona fide geniuses, and have the method down pat:
http://www.davidbrin.com/blackmail.htm

===

Tacitus, frankly, I don't care for Harvard either. Our son's applied to MIT.

Woozle... enjoy reading to your kids!

David Brin said...

One of my favorite older essays is online.

Enjoy:
http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/seeking-a-new-fulcrum

Jonty said...

I read and occasionally post to several political blogs, on most of them if you posit that the architects of the destruction of America are in fact intelligent and planned things pretty much the way they have happened you immediately become branded as a "conspiracy theorist". Acquiring the brand of conspiracy theorist is just about the fastest route to having everything you say discounted as "woo" so people strongly avoid such theorizing.

In my mind at least it makes more sense to be a "conspiracy theorist" than it does a "coincidence theorist", beyond a certain point coincidence becomes more difficult to swallow than conspiracy. Isn't there an old line about "Once is happenstance, twice coincidence and three times is enemy action"?

In keeping with my being a conspiracy theorist I offer the following article that points out that certain commentators/analysts on the "liberal media" have undisclosed financial connections to those very things on which they are offering expert commentary/analysis. I apologize for linking to such a blatantly leftist publication but it's hard to find such investigations in the mainstream media.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100301/jones/single

David McCabe said...

But I am wondering, would the reaction of the common man be different if one had a degree from Harvard versus the more meritocratic MIT?

MIT's own application form makes a mockery of their claim of meritocracy. A meritocratic institution should not ask whether any of your family are alumni, what your parents' occupations are, where your parents went to college, or what honor societies you belong to.

What is an example, then, of a truly meritocratic upper-echelon university?

David Brin said...

Caltech doesn't ask about alumni Parents... I wish!

=====

Oh, I am sending in my annual (since 1979) donation (small) to be applied against the national debt. I do this separate from my income taxes. Call it an article of faith with the future. It also poleaxes everybody - right left or libertarian - who tries to holier-than-thou me.

Here's the address. It needn't be much.

Dept. of Treasury
Bureau of the Public Debt
200 Third Street - Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

Kelly McClymer said...

Brin says in a comment:

I agree that it might not be a conscious conspiracy but rather the sum vector of a plurality of conscienceless powerful interests acting individually for the same ends. I don't know who the villains are, and I don't need to hate anyone.

I pontificate in reply:

I need to reread Toynbee. But I agree that it is natural forces at work. If I hadn't flunked physics in part because of my inability to draw a force diagram that matched reality I would consider trying to see where the leverage is in a political force diagram (using political to refer to human power relationships, not politicians per se).

My question is this: of what use is it to the Murdoch-y oligarchs to put the Fox News Dittoheads in charge of the world? Yes, they will reduce the power of the creative minority and thus the competition for goods and power with the oligarchs, but they will also reduce the creative output of the creative minority (thus making the oligarchs less wealthy, comfortable, safe, etc.)

You have convinced me the forces at work are not morons with the argument that they would have otherwise accidentally done something to improve the US. And they are clearly using history to improve their wielding of the massive hammer of religion much more than the creative minority ever could or will.

Looking into the future that a Murdoch-y oligarch might want I see...? Scientists $5 per dozen? Private pet scientists? Innovator-class slaves? These two things, certainly, must recognize as mutually incompatible -- if they are not morons. Or maybe I should say, if there is conscious thought behind the assault on the creative classes.

I almost wish I could believe it was a deliberate conspiracy theory at work. The forces of human nature are only slightly less incomprehensible to me than those of gravity and friction. Like that Harvard trained *female* biologist who shot her colleagues because she was denied tenure. Or the bank robber who knows the cameras are rolling. A quick reality check five months into the future ought to stop such behavior completely. And yet it never does. Hope springs up in the human heart in the most unlikely places, for good and bad.

If you uncover the tipping places where force could be applied by those who actually want to see the future be brighter for us all, not just for a small subset, please blog about it so we creative types can start applying pressure immediately. I still have hope (whether good or bad, I can't judge).

David McCabe said...

Caltech doesn't ask about alumni Parents... I wish!

I just looked over their application, and they do ask for parents' educational background (though it isn't a separate question as with MIT.)

There is still plenty in the Caltech application where insiders are at an advantage over outsiders.

Tacitus2 said...

Notice I did say "more meritocratic" regards MIT.

Perhaps our British friends can comment on the extent to which attending the "right" university enhances one's chances for being put in charge of things. And the extent to which family connections might get a less qualified applicant in.

Is the "old school tie" still a literal thing?

Tacitus2

gearing up for a trip over, so England on my mind just now

Carl M. said...

Read Jack Williamson's "The Humanoids" and you'll understand the resentment of the experts.

David, I think you get it, but the political crowd you run with does not. They are rhodomagnetic wanna-bes.

David Brin said...

Kelly, you seem only to see the INSIDER conspiratorial oligarchs. What about foreign clades who actually want the American Experiment to fail, for nationalist/dogma reasons? You are not stretching enough.

This from Daggatt:
I’ve cited this anecdote before. At the 2008 Future in Review Conference, Harvard professor James McCarthy, former co-chair of the IPCC, was asked how many of the world’s top 1000 climate experts would disagree with the basic scientific consensus that the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations over the last 50 years to levels not seen in 650,000 years is primarily anthropogenic and is the cause of an increase in global temperatures. He replied, “Five.”

He told a story about a colleague being asked the same question at a conference and answering, “Ten.” McCarthy went up to him later and asked how he got to ten. The guy replied that he could only think of five – the same five as McCarthy – but doubled the number to provide a margin of error. That is about as solid a scientific consensus as you are ever likely to get for such a complex set of phenomena. Yet it is almost an article of faith in Republican circles these days that the threat from global warming is at best greatly exaggerated and at worst a “hoax.”

ALSO:

"Dick Cheney invoked a variation of the precautionary principle with his so-called "One-Percent Doctrine:" "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response."

To state it in terms of the Cheney variation of the precautionary principle: If there is a one-percent chance that continuing to pump anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would cause catastrophic climate change, the burden of proof should fall on those who would continue to engage in those activities.

"If it turns out that the scientific consensus is correct – or that it understates the actual extent of the problem – then the costs of measures we might take now to mitigate that harm would be vastly outweighed by the harms avoided.

"But what if we are wrong and the problem is less severe than is currently thought? Well, we will have made our economy more energy efficient (like the huge reduction in our energy/GDP ratio in the decade or so after the oil shock of the early ‘70’s), saving money in the long term. We will be sending less money to the Saudi royal family, the thugs running Iran , Hugo Chavez, and ExxonMobil, among others (maybe even allowing us to reduce somewhat the $700 billion a year we spend on the military). We will be pumping fewer pollutants into our atmosphere. And we will be more competitive in many of the key technologies and industries of the 21st Century. In short, we will have somewhat accelerated the end of the Age of Petroleum (good riddance, I say)."

http://daggatt.blogspot.com/2010/02/irrational-climate.html

Cal-el said...

There seems to be strong resentment of anything intellectual or artistic. There is disdain for those who have sought to improve their knowledge and understanding of the world and disdain for artists and musicians as well. Music and art, which help improve learning, reasoning, and cooperation, have had their presence in the educational system cut severely. Of course, cooperation, which they associate with "Commie Socialism," has become a dirty word to Right-leaning individuals.

From Edutiopia.com:

"Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork."

Cal-el said...

Sorry, that's edutopia.org, not .com.

Hank Roberts said...

I commend this, along the same lines, written a few years ago:

http://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/06/max-weber-and-climate-science-henry.html

And re your final line, 'Somebody wants us to fail." -- Remember Charles Fort: "We are property."

Hank Roberts said...

p.s.

"... The other thing to keep in mind here is that there's a remarkable revolving door between the mainstream media and the staff of the Bush White House.

It's been tough to keep up with all of them, but the list is getting pretty long: Dana Perino (Fox News), Michael Gerson (Washington Post), Mary Matalin (CNN), Sara Taylor (MSNBC), Tony Snow (CNN), Frances Fragos Townsend (CNN), Nicole Wallace (CBS News), Dan Bartlett (CBS News), Jeff Ballabon (CBS News), Tony Fratto (CNBC), Juan Carlos Zarate (CBS News), Karl Rove (Fox News, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal), and now Thiessen.

The revolving door is so intense, NBC News hired one of the former president's daughters, despite her not having any background in journalism at all."
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_02/022396.php

Robert said...

I will say this. There is a strong undercurrent of disbelief about global warming among the Deniers. I know this because my parents are among the Denier crowd. They believe what they see. And what they see is cold snowy winters in New England. They don't care about record heat waves in Australia or about the Winter Olympic Games being the Soggy Spring Olympic Games. It's the immediate effect that concerns them.

What's worse is that they have some scientific knowledge, such as the 11 and 22 year seasonal cycles that are influenced by the solar cycles. Thus they believe any "warming" is in fact a result of those two cycles.

The Deniers will refuse to believe the truth because it's inconvenient and because they haven't directly observed the climate change in question. And they can't see what it matters that the environment might get two degrees warmer.

My parents are not paid by Fox News or the oil companies or anything like that. They believe what they believe because of decades of weathermen getting the weather wrong (and it's funny, but they don't remember when the weathermen are right, which is quite often, but rather when and how they are wrong (such as snowfall amounts) and because they believe Global Warming is fakery, and that their beloved son? Is just that gullible that he believes in it.

This is what you're facing, Dr. Brin. It is not a conspiracy meant to destroy the world. It is not hatred of America which is meant to corrupt what makes us Americans. It is basic human nature, which leads decent and even intelligent (but not college-educated) people to refuse to believe in some truly important things... because it is such a significant change, and they've not seen the results firsthand (or blind themselves when they DO see some of the changes).

Rob H.

Hank Roberts said...

see also:

http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2010/02/why_the_denial_camp_is_winning_1.php?utm_source=editorspicks

Corey said...

Robert, part of what you're describing is really the central argument around the entire anti-intellectual movement.

Anti-intellectuals don't run around telling people that the world will be better off if we all become dumb (because they wouldn't get many converts). Instead, what they do is they rely on the "common sense" argument as the central pillar of their movement, which I think is in the same vein of thinking as that of your parents' thinking on climate change.


The common sense argument is really something that sounds very good and robust on the surface. It doesn't say that we need people to think less (even though that's ultimately the real goal), but instead says that that what we need is less formal education with it's obvious liberal biases, fewer facts and statistics that can be spun to mean anything, and instead just more common sense. If the world just has common sense, suddenly everything will just wonderful. The flaw in this is of course that, as my freshman sociology instructor used to say, that "common sense is often neither common nor sense". Common sense is completely subjective. It's based on nothing but personal feeling, and can differ from person to person. Despite this fact, if you just say the words "it's common sense", suddenly it's as if you've made some sort of incredibly substantial argument, especially if you back it up with some kind of reasoning, regardless of whether it's based in sound logic (because it just has to be based in "common sense").


Going back to how your parents apply this, all the "facts and liberally biased academic institutions" are just seen as a way to confuse people, because clearly common sense dictates that global warming can't happen if there are snowy winters in New England (and boy are there! I just moved out two years ago, after the 120 inches of snow NH got).

You can literally boil almost any anti-intellectual argument down to this basic principle.

Robert said...

This is a weapon we can use. And indeed, I have been. After all, it's common sense that we stop using oil. It helps people who hate us. Only an idiot would want to help people who use our own money to pay people to try to kill us. Voila! The common sense excuse to get us off of oil!

Next, we need to come up with a decent common sense argument against coal. Because the logical reasons (pollution, blowing up mountains ain't a good idea, and so forth) doesn't quite resonate, not when you have people trotting out tired cliches about jobs and all of that.

The ultimate weapon is, naturally, finding a way to use the common sense argument to argue for more education. Something like "it's obvious you want to have a college degree; you make much more money with a degree." Because if we make education the "common sense" approach, we'll have more educated people out there who won't succumb to the siren lure of common sense arguments.

We just have to make sure they don't go into Business. ^^

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

"What is an example, then, of a truly meritocratic upper-echelon university?"

University of Sydney
Australian University of Technology
University of Melbourne
University of Technology Sydney
Queensland University of Technology
University of Queensland.

David Brin said...

Rob said: "
This is what you're facing, Dr. Brin. It is not a conspiracy meant to destroy the world. It is not hatred of America which is meant to corrupt what makes us Americans. It is basic human nature, which leads decent and even intelligent (but not college-educated) people to refuse to believe in some truly important things.."

Rob, you are conflating the patsy ground troops of Culture War with the masterminds.

A quarter of a million poor white southerners who owned no slaves marched off to die to protect the property rights of maybe 50,000 plantation owners.

Do not try to tell me that Sean Hannity is the same phenomenon as the millions who he hypnotizes.

But I agree, we cannot convert folks like your parents with facts and science. This needs COUNTER narratives. And there are some powerful ones.

Like that Fox is owned to a large degree by Saudi and Russian petro barons.

And that the army was "combat ready" under Clinton was destroyed under Bush.

And that you'll bet five $ they can't name a single statistical measure by which America was better, after GOP rule. None of these will change minds. But it will plant seeds.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"What is an example, then, of a truly meritocratic upper-echelon university?"

The University, Glasgow

LarryHart said...


Because "we" (I'm assuming I, and maybe you, are on the side of Good, an assumption in itself in need of a great deal of introspection) are fighting an uphill battle to win hearts and minds, we need to look at who the spokespeople are.

Sadly, we don't have many that are good. We lost Sagan. And we lost Carlin. The ones who stepped up to the plate have come across as (in the popular mind), smug assholes. Specifically, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchins, just to name the obvious ones. Smarmy nancy boys is what they look like.


We may have been dealt a killing blow when we lost Vonnegut.

Woozle said...

(mostly to John Kurman)

I don't find Dawkins, Dennett, or Hitchens to be smug in the slightest.

I suggest two things lead to the popular perception of smugness:

(1) unlike Sagan, Vonnegut, Carlin, etc., they arrived on the media scene after the mainstream media had already begun battling intellectual thought, and thus became targets before they had a mainstream reputation to protect them;

(2) the evil to which they draw our attention has become so much more plainly egregious that a more insistent tone is entirely appropriate -- but easy to attack as smug or self-righteous if you don't bother to check the facts, wherein you will discover that they are actually being very diplomatic, perhaps excessively so.

(Okay, three things...)

(3) Sagan, Vonnegut, and Carlin are dead and hence no longer a threat, so the media see no need to undermine their credibility with accusations of smugness.

Truly, how would you have "our" spokespeople tone things down? What have they said that is so terrible?

John Kurman said...

Someone said "meme" and therein lies part of the problem.

That word (and the concept)has been about as socially contagious as "bright", which, when Dawkins and Dennett advertised it, went over about as well as a taco-fueled flattus in a crowded elevator.

If the bright movement did anything, it was to confirm in the popular imagination that these guys realy deserved to have their faces punched in. And they probably should have, as any casual observer of human nature would have perceived that this antic isn't helping.

The attack on religionists did nothing but solidify the opposition and alienate the moderates. Way to go, guys.

What is needed is a little social and political jujitsu. Since anti-science is really more about anti-authority and, in a weird way, egalitarianism, that is the groudn state to start from.

Poke fun. Insult (in a funny way). Remember ad hominems are such only if you use the insult to trash the argument. But I can make fun of, say, Biggest Loser Limbaugh and his quivering manboob army of disgusting soft-bodies, and then trash his ridiculous arguments.

You are right, Vonnegut is needed. And more Comedy Central shows as well.

(Sorry I could not get my point across in a more intelligent manner, but I'm pressed for time).

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, you are confusing opportunism with conspiracy. Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, Palin... these are opportunists. They have existed throughout time. During times of war they either ran the industries that built weapons or ran the black markets that made a huge profit off of hard-to-acquire produce when most people were forced to cut back.

People like my parents, people with their disbelief and their resistance to change, they have always existed. They are an undercurrent to society itself. It is in fact human nature that some will stay... and others will move on to something else. And it makes sense from a genetic perspective: moving to new hunting grounds, migrating to a new region is fraught with peril. There is a very good chance that the migrators will die. That their genetic heritage will cease to be.

But staying in one region begs a catastrophe that will eliminate the genetics of that species as well. So some move out, carrying that genetic heritage of caution and resistance to change... while the more reckless race ahead and establish new genetic colonies. Once things are established, more of the conservative cautious genetic form move in, and the genetically reckless move on to the next great frontier.

We've run out of frontiers. At least, frontiers that we can easily access. So now the reckless and the cautious are caught in conflict with one another, finding different venues with which to establish change vs. stability. And oil, gas, coal... these are established. They are reliable. They've been around for a long time. Only once they've been proven unreliable (through scarcity) will the cautious move on.

Your great conspiracy is our very genetic heritage which encourages caution in some, and recklessness in others. But we can overcome this genetic heritage, because of one last genetic mutation which has been both boon and curse: intelligence. This allows us to bypass our instinctual behaviors. We're still influenced by them... but if we think about things, we can realize the irrationality of our prejudices, the sources of our fears, and move on.

Though I must admit, I am partly curious as to the tendency toward atheism and agnosticism among those people who most strongly believe in conspiracy. Is this belief perhaps another genetic trait? Faith itself seems likely to be a genetic trait that binds genetic communities together under the the auspices of a "higher power." (It's just my belief that belief itself can engender existence... and that we've willed our divine entities into existence as a result - our faith empowers these entities, and if enough people focus their will and faith in one specific direction, these divinities can touch on our world... which may explain faith healing, hauntings, and the like. Er, sorry about the tangent here...)

As I was saying, might the lack of hard faith in the divine result in the genetic foundation of humanity to look to higher powers manifest into the belief of conspiracies? We believe in conspiracies out of an instinctive need for something to be controlling things on some level. We then choose (through intellect) whether to support/believe... or to struggle against it. And this could thusly be related to our genetic heritage toward change or stability: those who believe in conspiracy but have a stronger "stability" bent would believe in "benign overlords" and not struggle against it, while those who embody "change" would struggle against these mythical uber-society groups that only exist in our imaginations.

The existence of real-life conspiracies is simply a manifestation of belief in the real world. These conspiracies never work as well as the mythical ones because human nature makes keeping secrets anathema, and thus the conspiracies are revealed before they get far.

Rob H., getting metaphysical with genetics and belief structures before coffee in the morning....

David Brin said...

I agree that Dawkins and Hitchens etc are responding, pugnaciously and justifiably, against a concerted War on Science and Reason. Nevertheless, they do almost more harm than good.

"Almost?" Well it's mixed. They have helped make atheism a legitimate player on the landscape, and though I'm not one, I think religion has a lot to answer for and someone ought to shout "J'accuse!' Still, they are simply wrongheaded in not seeing that religion is not so much the problem as sanctimony. A trait they exhibit in ton-loads.

"Dr. Brin, you are confusing opportunism with conspiracy. Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, Palin... these are opportunists."

I can see that perspective, Rob. Certainly, we have learned that you do not need majority approval, to thrive in America. In a fractiured market, you can do very well with 20% dittoheads, as Limbaugh knows. Fox needn't address the American consensus, since it is fine with 25% of the country glued in.

Which is why, though I urge you all to check in regularly at:
http://foxnewsboycott.com/
if you look at the advertisers, they aren't people you were likely to patronize anyway.

Heck, even OJ Simpson is doing fine, parasiting off of the 1% who see hime as hero and not axe murderer.

Still, you miss the point, which is how BLITHELY you and everybody else simply shrug off the possibility that those who have benefited from a situation -- one too perfect to beggar coincidence -- might actually have sought to make the situation happen.

I am not insisting that the conspiracy explanation is true. What bemuses me is the REFLEX to automatically reject it, when the decline of American civilization suits the long-stated dogmatic objectives of many of the foreign owners of Fox. And since destroying the effectiveness of science and the civil service is essential to US born oligarch, if they really want a feudal system.

Caution vs recklessness? I don't see that. The axis is future vs past.

Seriously, what else do you need to explain it? Even the far-lefties, whom I dislike, are future-obsessed... though only in the sense of guilt-trip warnings, like Avatar, never with ambitious hope.

Liberals (in contrast) ambitiously believe we can-do things. Sure, some of their manic suggestions are wrong. But that's what negotiation and experiment and argument USED to be for.

But find for me the conservatives who are not past obsessed. Even the "decent" ones who feel uncomfortable with what the neocons have done with their movement. Even they stay inside the tent. Because tomorrow is scary.

Except Tacitus. Pournelle. maybe Abilard... I could name others.

Ian Gould said...

"But find for me the conservatives who are not past obsessed. Even the "decent" ones who feel uncomfortable with what the neocons have done with their movement. Even they stay inside the tent. Because tomorrow is scary.

Except Tacitus. Pournelle. maybe Abilard... I could name others."

The recent defection of Little Green Footballs to the side of reason came as a welcome surprise.

LarryHart said...


I think there can be no question that the effect of a systematic dismantling of enlightenment, and even the value society places on it, is real. That said, I'm not convinced that it's so much all part of some master plan as it is just aligning interests, as others have said.


But even if that's true, what does it buy us? The problem isn't whether a secret leader is issuing actual orders. The problem is the policy with real consequences is being made on very anti-scientific bases.

Ian Gould said...

To return for a second to an earlier conversation, US utility Southern Corporation is to build two new nuclear reactors for a cost of $14 billion. The first reactor will come on line in 2016, the second in 2017.

These plants have been planned for years so there's no planning or regulatory delay in that time table, that's the actual construction time.

Assuming there are no major delays or cost over-runs that's still 7 years for construction and $7 billion per reactor.

I remain skeptical about claims that construction time and cost can be cut significantly without compromising safety or performance.

Tacitus2 said...

David

You seem to be indicating that Saudis own more of Fox than the 7% that is acknowledged. It could be so, but be sure you are not using Foxoid innuendo instead of actual proof.

Now, if we are all in agreement that shifty foreign, or foreign born billionaires having their hands on parts of our media and political systems is a bad thing, even when perfectly legal....

NewYorkTimes

Now, I must admit I have nothing against this gent, although extracting that much money from a poor and corruption ridden society says something. And I have not to date seen the Times adopt any specifically bizzare slants regards say, immigration or trade issues.

Here's a doozy, and one that directly impacts our political system:

SOS

too opaque? Oh, alright...

George

Perhaps the line between vigilence and paranoia is crossed when you are unable to see only one spectrum of possibilities. They say that in World War Two colorblind men were valued as lookouts because their ability to see only black and white made them better able to "read" camoflage patterns on enemy ships. Hopefully there was somebody up on the crows nest not colorblind, on the off chance that the foe decided to paint their ships an outrageous electric pink!

Tacitus2

hope I got them linktexts all in right. Who thunk that crap up?

Robert said...

I still am curious as to if a study has looked into the religious/spiritual, educational, and political leanings of people who are most apt to believe in conspiracies. Because I have noticed a tendency of some truly brilliant or gifted people to have an almost blind belief in conspiracy and I am curious as to the psychological and perhaps even genetic aspects behind this belief.

This isn't just you, Dr. Brin. I'd noticed this on a forum I once was active on, and how I could quote scientific fact proving that the buildings could be taken down by burning aircraft fuel and the impacts... and had them as blindly refuted as the current batch of Climate Deniers... or your own insistence on conspiracy when opportunism and human nature could more easily explain what is happening.

Of course, to take a twist on this, as a writer I could envision creating a conspiracy where the conspirators utilize human nature to further their goals and to disguise the fact they exist at all. But that would be fiction. ^^

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

You know Tacitus, when you contribute one percent as much to the spread of democracy, human rights and decent living standards as George Soros, you might have a more valid case to spread innuendo, lies and slander about him.

Tell me what is it about a Holocaust survivor who risked his life to flee the Eastern bloc, created one of the world's largest fortunes from nothing and who has donated billions to charity (including funding Solidarity and various other Eastern European dissent groups) that arouses such suspicion in you?

Is it that dares to support the Democratic Party in his adopted homeland?

I don't see many Republicans complaining about Arnold Schwartzenegger - another foreign millionaire who likes to meddle in US politics.

David Brin said...

I am not motiuvated toward conspiracies by personality. I pooh-pooh far more of them than I tout.. I savaged the "loose change" jerks...

No, I am a contrarian. If an idea seems under-represented in the current discussion, I push it forward. It fails to endear me to people, alas. Some feminists though I was a pig because I poked at their cliches... NOT at their cause... which I believe in.

Stefan will tell you what happened when I poked at some liberal shiboleths, in Portland.

No, I am not the issue... you are. The reflex of even Bush-despisers to let him off the hook by reflexively and 100% refusing to even consider the possibility that a perfect pattern of effect might have had a deliberate cause... this is weird. Especially since the core group I mention has motive, means and opportunity.

And such things happened all across history.

Tacitus2 said...

Well, the only innuendo was "shifty", and he has been in trouble for currency manipulation so I think that's not out of line.

What he is doing is legal. He has every right to do it. The Secretary of State project lacks a degree of transparency, like most 527s.

Potentially the difference between a 60 vote supermajority in the Senate vs not was the performance of the MN Sec.State in the Franken/Coleman recount. So activities of this sort are significant. (note, I am not gonna call foul on the outcome, it was close enough that no result would be perfect).

Holocaust survivor? Sorta, I guess he was sent off to the countryside to sit things out, which is bad but hardly Auschwitz.

If I have inadvertantly put forward a lie or slander regards Mr. Soros, please set me straight.

My point was that you need to keep your peripheral vision intact to both sides to avoid being snuck up on. Am I trying to be contentious? Oh, maybe a little.

I could also have pointed out that the Saudi Prince who owns, or is the front man for, the 7% share in NewsCorp also is a 50:50 partner in the Four Seasons hotel franchise.

...with Bill Gates.

egads, how deep does the perfidious conspiracy run!

Still doing my part for the world, with less funding than Soros but not with less commitment.

Tacitus2

Robert said...

Amusingly enough, Dr. Brin, I am also a contrarian. Of sorts. (Unlike a number of my brethren who love to tear apart both creator and creation, I hold both in high esteem and with great respect; indeed, it is rare for my criticism to truly tear into something, and even then I still try to show respect for the creator even if the creation itself has fallen far short of what I hold as worthy of respect.) And I do hold Mr. Bush in considerable disregard, especially as he did the abhorrent thing of making President Clinton look good in comparison (though I admit that Clinton did far more good than harm as President; and I say this while wincing at my words because I hold him in very little respect for his actions).

However, I believe Mr. Bush did a number of horrible things under the onus of trying to spread Democracy. He screwed up big because he was trying to do something he felt was good and noble. And I suspect he keeps this belief even now, despite all the harm that came of his attempts to force democracy down the throats of several nations that just weren't ready for it (lacking the spread of education needed for an effective democracy).

For that matter, if you look at what Mr. Bush tried to do in the U.S., some of his actions seem designed to try and uplift the children of this nation. You could attribute No Child Left Behind as a tragically flawed attempt to ensuring children are educated so that they can make democratic decisions with the proper level of education needed to avoid being easily swayed by pretty words and a pleasant voice.

Unfortunately, he was elected to a second term. If he had not... if the Democratic Party did not betray us with Kerry... then this nation very well might have avoided some of the calamities that happened in 2008.

Then again, we may have seen the Democrats scrambling around with pie on their faces as the decisions made jointly under Clinton and the Republican Congress in 2006 (or was it 2007?) paved the road for financial ruin. And if any other Democrat had been elected in 2004, and if perhaps they had seen the writing on the wall, put out warnings and tried to set up a firewall to prevent as huge a crash (if only by stopping oil speculation which was the final straw that broke the backs of our global economy), then we would not have Barack Obama as President now.

For all that he's not been able to accomplish... he's still a sight better of a speaker than the Shrub was... and his election has helped lessen the intense damage that the Shrub's bumbling (through a combination of blindly believing he was right and that others would see that if they only followed him, bad advice, and some idiocy). Obama might not have fulfilled his promises, yet, but he did change the face of the nation and continues to do so.

If there was a conspiracy, then Obama would not have been elected. There would have been an assassination. Or the economy would have gone further south to completely destroy any trust in Obama. Or something. But the only thing we've seen is a blanket denial by the Republicans... and that is likely to end because I suspect the Republicans are sensing that their blind refusal to cooperate will bite them in the behind. They've seen the growing power of the Tea Party activists and want to stop it before they break away and ultimately destroy the Republican Party. They can only do that through cooperation... and by moderating the designs of Democrats rather than blocking them outright.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Whoa, Ian! T2's just being illustrative.

(He *did* mention Rupert... and omitted Barack;-)

@Robert there was a recent study in NS(?) that discussed a correlation in 'seeing signs' (aka patterns in random data) with a lack of control over environment.

I suppose the 'enlightened' have felt a tad helpless over the last ten years or so...

Still, it's more of a survival trait to see phantom tigers in the grass than not... especially when that 'Jaws' music is going through your head (Psycho's leaving it a bit late!!).

egads, how deep does the perfidious conspiracy run!

Three words: Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.

(Actually, I've a good deal more time for Gates than his successor)

bialm: a faulty batch of soothing Apple gadgets.

rewinn said...

Coming in late, but perhaps I have a datapoint relevant to the top post.

In discussing the meaning of Bible verses (chiefly on a Facebook anti-Evolution Discussion Board) I have had the interesting experience of having Bible scholarship sneered at by proponents of the Bible.

(This is not to pick on Bible-thumpers per se; the experience seemed comparable to, although vaster gentler than the Chinese Cultural Revolution, where those who actually read Marx or some other book were set upon as anti-revolutionary enemies of the people, because, y'know, they read stuff.)

When I cited authors who had actually compared ancient texts to examine variant wordings, this was discounted by people who obviously had done no similar work (nor read any language but English) on the grounds that their conclusions could not be right, and I was showing an arrogant attitude by suggesting the non-readers' conclusions were not supported in the text.

Now, maybe I am arrogant; that's fine. But it's not a response to the issue, except in the sense that it allowed the truth believers to maintain their position of comfort, instead of the discomfort of change.

It just amused me to see the same anti-intellectualism that is directed against climate science also directed against Bible study.

David Brin said...

Spreading democracy? That was a rationalization after the fact. After WMDs excuses collapsed.

The real reason for the twin afgh & iraq wars is simple. Get America to repeat its only big mistake of the 20th Century... letting itself get sucked into land wars of attrition in Asia. Drawing us into afgh was THE core aim of the 9/11 attacks...

Now, mind you I am not saying Bush knew about 9/11. Moreover, we stunned the world with epochal competence in toppling the Taliban. But I do see suspicion in Bush immediately drawing us away from that job, crippling and leaving it unfinished, in order to plunge into a politician-meddled Iraqi engagement that seemed purposely designed to fail.

That it HASN"t failed... and that democracy might even spread... is due to the incredible competence of our skilled castes, not the politicians who sent them.

Robert said...

Bush ran straight into Iraq because he was running under the assumption that a) he wouldn't be able to convince Congress to give him Iraq after he stabilized Afghanistan sufficiently - he needed to work off of existing anger and fear over 9/11, and b) he needed a new war in order to ride the war vote into 2004 (ie, Desert Storm was a success (of sorts) and yet did his dad no good when it came to reelection).

And yes, I do believe another reason for it was spreading democracy. But he couldn't just out-and-out state it because nation-building is no longer in style with the end of the old Cold War.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

There is anecdotal evidence that Bush was aiming for Iraq within hours of 9/11 (NB: that does *not* mean he knew beforehand.) He had certainly decided to invade prior to UN resolutions being passed (See the Downing Street memo)

Maybe he *did* want to spread democracy? If so, showing no respect for peer opinion at any level (aka 'due process') is a rather hypocritical way of going about it.

Ian said...

"Holocaust survivor? Sorta, I guess he was sent off to the countryside to sit things out, which is bad but hardly Auschwitz."

Yes it was a doddle, a holiday really.

Just like surviving the Battle of Budapest.

Ian said...

Let's start with the various first para of the article Tacitus linked to:

"Readers of American Courthouse know that I (and many others) have often written about the role of groups funded by hedge fund billionaire George Soros in trying to abolish democratic judicial elections across America and to adopt “merit selection” systems that put lawyers in charge of choosing judges.'

Got that he's try "abolish democratic judicial elections" and "put lawyers in charge of choosing judges".

Hardly a particularly neutral sentence.

"Soros and other prominent Democrats are also working to influence the conduct (and therefore the outcome) of elections
..."

Gee, politicians trying to influence the outcome of elections.

Shocking!

And how's he working to subvert and overthrow America's democracy: by giving donations to Democratic candidates for Secretary of State positions.

Tacitus, can't you see the blatant anti-semitic underpinnings in this?

A perfectly normal political activity - donating to candidates you support - is twisted into a secret plan to rig elections.

At least they didn't call him "A son of Shylock".

http://www.batr.org/gulag/111303.html

Francis said...

Perhaps our British friends can comment on the extent to which attending the "right" university enhances one's chances for being put in charge of things. And the extent to which family connections might get a less qualified applicant in.

Hard to nail down. But it's certainly harder than the US. The UCAS form (i.e. the same form you fill out for all British universities - nothing special about Oxbridge other than you need to put it in two months before the nromal deadline) has absolutely nothing about parents on it, and fees are flat and capped. So wealth won't get you in to Oxbridge unless you are planning on buying a new wing for a college or department - and even then it's strictly informal (I don't say it doesn't happen...)

On the other hand, despite the removal of financial incentive it isn't all meritocratic. There are two specialised steps Oxbridge uses to narrow down the applicants. The first is the interview and the second is a specialised entrance exam (Cambridge normally uses STEP papers, Oxford writes its own).

The interview is to give the tutors a chance to get to know you - and to see if you will be up to the pressure of Oxbridge tutorials. Not only are British degrees highly focussed (we started specialising at 16 in a narrow-ish range of subjects), the Oxbridge tutorial system involves at least one hour long tutorial per week with a maximum of about three students to one tutor and really having your work picked apart. (I had two tutorials with one other student and the tutor each week all three years of my degree). Not everyone can take that or would benefit from it; but the interview can also be a strong filter to prevent either the unprepared or even those who don't fit the tutor's prejudices getting in. Also tutors can subtly weight the interviews quite easily. (And random questions can throw people who aren't expecting them).

The second weeding system is the exam paper. A very hard test (I'm not sure all subjects do this); it has the effect of discriminating because schools with a track record of sending people to Oxbridge will make sure you are prepared for the exam - bad schools won't. (They make very sure that all the material is part of the overlap between all the supposedly equal exam boards - they just make the test itself ferocious).

Is the "old school tie" still a literal thing?

Depends where. We've got a bunch of inmates of the Bullingdon Club (about the equivalent of the Skull and Bones) running the Tory party. But that's not just an Oxford set, it's a really posh private school followed by Oxford set. And they all have at least some brains to get into Oxford.

As for the rest of the world, it helps. It effectively bumps the value of my degree up a notch or two. And after Oxford tutorials, I can think on my feet for dealing with managers very easily.

Francis - B.A. (Hons) Oxon
(And yes, a Batchelors in Mathematics from Oxford is a BA. As is one in physics)

Tacitus2 said...

Ian

Now I get it. You took exception not to my words as much as to the phrasing of the article I linked to. Fair enough. I needed an illustrative way to indicatem that
Mr. Soros was funding the SOS 527, and a few words about what they do.
The tone of it was unfriendly, but I can't quite make it antisemitic.
I could have linked to a more neutral but similar summary and next time I will.
The MN Senate recount took place more or less in my backyard, so I may have wrongly assumed people knew more about it.
I also assume people have relatively thick skins, or can develop them. Words like "traitor" and "monster" are small change in some rants. I don't go there.
I do think it is good to look into the activities, motivations and funding of politically active groups. If the Tea Party were funded by Roger Ailes it would be legal too, but good to get it out in the open.
Tacitus2

LarryHart said...


Looking into the future that a Murdoch-y oligarch might want I see...? Scientists $5 per dozen? Private pet scientists? Innovator-class slaves? These two things, certainly, must recognize as mutually incompatible -- if they are not morons. Or maybe I should say, if there is conscious thought behind the assault on the creative classes.


My honest-conservative friend believes with all his heart and soul that the corporatists couldn't possibly be pursuing a world of dumbed-down science and industry for precisely that reason--that no one in their right mind would secure their own relative place at the top of the food chain at the expense of lowering their overall standard of living.

I wish I could believe he was right. Unfortunately, he likes to believe the world works the way he thinks it should even when the evidence doesn't bear it out. During the 2008 campaign, he lambasted me personally for daring to suggest conservatives were claiming Obama was a muslim when that undermined their own arguments against his Christian minister, Reverend Wright. He was right that doing so didn't make sense, but I was right that they were doing it anyway.

Likewise, lowering everyone's living standard to medieval levels just so you can personally be on top (relatively) doesn't make sense to you and me, but there is a certain personality type for whom doing so is the only conceivable course of action. To a certan subset of humanity, the important thing is not to have more technology or more comfort or more pleasure or more available food than at any time in human history. The important thing is to have power over other human beings.

Most here on this list are rightly critical of Ayn Rand, but I believe she had one very disturbing image spot on: toward the end of "Atlas Shrugged" when Dagny suddenly realizes that the bad guys don't want to take over industry in order to own the technology, but rather to destroy the technology because they prefered a medieval world with themselves as kings. The same dynamic is referenced in (of all places) "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" when Judge Doom buys the LA public transportation system in order to destroy it, because he'll make millions in concessions located on highway off-ramps.

Tacitus2 said...

Francis

Thanks for your perspective. And I am impressed.

Tacitus2

John Kurman said...

(To woozle)

Hi woozle,

Sorry I did not see your comment earlier. I work pretty much non-stop 7 days a week and have little time to compose a coherent post, let alone read them ... regardless...

"Truly, how would you have "our" spokespeople tone things down? What have they said that is so terrible?"

It is not what they (meaning Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) have said , but rather how they are perceived.

For example, Dawkin's concept of meme is not known to the majority of people, but is known to the dorks, dweebs, geeks, nerds, and spazzes of the world. You and I may not appreciate the label, but this subgroup is the only population to use the term, and for good reason. The wrod :Meme" isn't cool. It's not scientific, not being falsifiable, as far as I know, but that's for another discussion).

Note the following reaction from a blogger at kiwipulse:

Yesterday I was sitting in one of the cafes we have distributed around the campus of the university I work at writing some notes on Richard Dawkins' latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, when an odd person came up to me and claimed: "he's a real dork you know". I enquired: "who do you mean, Richard Dawkins? What's the problem?" but by that time he had scuttled away.

So it seems that Dawkins' influence is significant with all kinds of different people. I have no idea what this particular individual's problem was - presumably he was some sort of religious freak who didn't like criticism of his beliefs - and its unfortunate I couldn't have got some more details. Actually, now that I think about it more, maybe its fortunate I didn't engage this person in debate because I suspect he might not have made much sense (so much for universities being the center for informed intellectual debate!)


The individual who wrote this completely missed the point (and not surprisingly, as the author is no doubt a dork). The passerby meant literally what he said. He thought Dawkins was a dork.

Check out urban dictionary sometime. Dawkins is in there. Believe it or not, Dawkins, formerly a nobody in the popular consciousness, is now a somebody, and he has, due to his behavior, demeanor, and appearance (important note: based NOT upon his works), been classified as a "dork".

(From UD) Dork: Someone who has odd interests, and acts silly at times.

in other words, the problem is not that their message should be toned down. It is that they are not being aimed well. They are missing the target audience. A George Carlin, using punched-up Dawkins material, might have possibly gotten away with the message.

Bottom line, and this is well known, (but perhaps everyone who has not should read the book Unscientific America) scientists, science journalists, and science advocates are, by and large, terrible communicators. They really are in desperate need of a good PR company.

(Well, actually, there is one group that does a pretty good job of communicating - science fiction authors. Not all of them mind you, but quite a few).

Out of time. Bakc to work!

rewinn said...

Since the anti-Soros articles started with an attack on merit selection of judges as "controlled by lawyers", we should note that our current federal Supreme Court is "merit selected" that way: experts in the field propose candidates but the ultimate selection is made by democratically elected politicians. "Controlled by lawyers" is simply name-calling.

It may be unpleasant to consult experts in selecting judges but there really is no better starting point. As to the risk of political bias, lawyers in America cover the entire spectrum of political opinion (or the rather stunted rage that we have in our nation); by far the wealthiest of faction are the corporate lawyers (the legal battles between large corporations are lucrative, perhaps because the stakes are so high), as can be seen by the current makeup of our Supremes.

Now that corporations are free to contribute (presumably in a non-coordinated way) to judicial campaigns as a matter of free speech, the scenario played out in John Grisham's "The Appeal" has moved from "a barely-fictionalized danger" to "vastly understated". Judicial races at the state level, where most matters are decided, are an excellent investment opportunity!
==
It is certainly true that a politically interested Secretary of State could alter an election's outcome by throwing voters off the rolls because they had a name similar to that of a felon in another state. Perhaps the solution would be to take it out of the political realm altogether; let all adult citizens voluntarily register in a nationwide registry. The supposed benefits of denying felons the right to vote don't seem worth the risks of an occasionally corrupt voter registration process.

David Brin said...

I find the Tea Party swam into the GOP puzzling. Yes, the TP represents the ultimate success of Faux populist propaganda... getting hundreds of thousands of poor and middle class folks to expend all their time and energy protesting against taxing the rich, and agitating for destruction of the very civil service that protects them.

On the other hand, the intensity and grassroots nature of that populism makes it inherently dangerous to the right, doesn't it? Populist fevers can surge in new directions.

Francis, the Oxbridge system strikes a yank as SO weird! We save such specialization for graduate school, not for teenagers.

Here, a 17-year old is expected to go to a university in order to become... well... universal. "Breadth Requirements" take up an entire year, forcing arts majors to take science and science majors to take arts courses... (I taught both Astronomy for Poets and Creative Writing for Nerds!) hence the entire extra (fourth) bacalaureate year.

True, most american undergraduates don't take full advantage. But emphasizing a broad undergraduate experience seems preferable.

In fact, I am convinced this European bent toward early specialization is "class defense," as it leaves boffins (Nerds to you yanks) totally un-equipped to even think of trying for positions in policy, leaving policy to classics majors, as God intended.

But I have a question. Did you ever meet at Oxbridge any of the scions of a certain middle-eastern royal clan? My impression from many sources is that they tend to be quite brilliant.

Larry said: "My honest-conservative friend believes with all his heart and soul that the corporatists couldn't possibly be pursuing a world of dumbed-down science and industry for precisely that reason--that no one in their right mind would secure their own relative place at the top of the food chain at the expense of lowering their overall standard of living."

Well then he denies the lesson of 4,000 years of human history, in with markets, commerce, science and every other positive sum tool were relentlessly and almost instinctively repressed by the powers that be. (But then, this isn't surprising. Though "past-oriented", conservatives tend to know almost nil about actual history.)

In fact, emphasizing relative over absolute wealth is THE determining personality factor separating liberal billionaires (e.g. technology and hollywood) from conservative ones (Waltons, oil-igarchs etc.) If one looks back in time one sees the reason. What determined your actual reproductive advantage, in eras past? It wasn't how rich everybody got. It was your relative high status, allowing you to have lots of servants and impregnate some of them.

(Of course there are weird twists. The uber rich on the right aren't noticably overbreeding (yet.) But some on the left are symbolically doing so... the Spielbergs and Madonna and Brangelina adopting everybody in sight!)

"Dagny suddenly realizes that the bad guys don't want to take over industry in order to own the technology, but rather to destroy the technology because they prefered a medieval world with themselves as kings."

Of course the irony is that it was Rand preaching for a system under which feudalism is most likely to return.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

In fact, emphasizing relative over absolute wealth is THE determining personality factor separating liberal billionaires (e.g. technology and hollywood) from conservative ones (Waltons, oil-igarchs etc.) If one looks back in time one sees the reason. What determined your actual reproductive advantage, in eras past? It wasn't how rich everybody got. It was your relative high status, allowing you to have lots of servants and impregnate some of them.

(Of course there are weird twists. The uber rich on the right aren't noticably overbreeding (yet.) But some on the left are symbolically doing so... the Spielbergs and Madonna and Brangelina adopting everybody in sight!)


Such adoptions passing on some of the traditional benefits of wealth to genes who aren't one's own. Almost the opposite effect of the traditional genetic "hoarding" of benefits. It might be interesting to see what (if anything) comes of such experimentation.

David Brin said...

Yes, but genes don't operate through rationality, but through visual and hormonal systems. Brad Pitt gets surrounded by flocks of kids calling him "daddy." Angelina is swarmed by adoring "offspring." The reward systems are triggered.

What surprises me is that some billionaires aren't simply buying up wombs at fix figures a pop.

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect the effect of genes are a bit over-rated in the short term.

Does it matter if you have no offspring but your siblings have several?

The likelihood that *you* happen to possess a brand new mutation that enhances your metabolic efficiency or X-ray vision by 1% is not very high.

Kelsey said...

@John Kurman

Well, since you're looking for someone who can be "pro-science", have you heard of this comedian? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Minchin

I'm not sure if he would be able to reach you're target audience, but I don't think you can call him pretentious. He mentions religion and science a lot in his shows. Here's some of his bits:

Tony The Fish
Storm
The Good Book
I Love Jesus

And yes, some of that stuff is really rude. But I don't think any of it goes further than George Carlin's rants on religion.

David McCabe said...

His heart may be in the right place, but he perpetuates a drastically wrong notion of evolution, thereby helping the creationists out.

Francis said...

Francis, the Oxbridge system strikes a yank as SO weird! We save such specialization for graduate school, not for teenagers.

The British (arguably English - Scottish Highers are different) system, of which Oxbridge is the subset (you don't get tutorials in the same way outside Oxbridge, but you do get the focus). In my day (ten years ago) you only normally studied three subjects in the sixth form/years 12-13 (read high school junior/senior); it's gone up to six in the lower sixth/year 12 (junior) with some forced balance and three in the upper sixth/year 13 (senior).

(Yes, there are several numbering systems used in different parts of Britain. It doesn't matter much unless you (as my school did) switch from old to new).

Here, a 17-year old is expected to go to a university in order to become... well... universal. "Breadth Requirements" take up an entire year, forcing arts majors to take science and science majors to take arts courses...

Which is why I was revising from American college textbooks before I ever went to university. And I don't think anyone has ever claimed I lack breadth of knowledge and understanding. That said, my pet American ostritch didn't do any breadth year and it shows (she's also a young earth creationist).

(I taught both Astronomy for Poets and Creative Writing for Nerds!) hence the entire extra (fourth) bacalaureate year.

Sounds like fun. And if there's one thing about my education I'm bitter about it's the dyslexia being picked up so late - which I used the specialisation to cover (not knowing why).

True, most american undergraduates don't take full advantage. But emphasizing a broad undergraduate experience seems preferable.

Depends what you want. The American undergrad system is utterly notorious internationally for not producing the American post-grads; instead you need to import vast quantities of them.

In fact, I am convinced this European bent toward early specialization is "class defense," as it leaves boffins (Nerds to you yanks) totally un-equipped to even think of trying for positions in policy, leaving policy to classics majors, as God intended.

You're thinking more of the French system where the aristocrats actually study government which means there's a reason their central planning works. To talk about the European model is pointless anyway - there's a world of difference between a British undergraduate degree and a German one which is in almost all ways superior other than that a Brit normally graduates at age 21-22 having spent three (sometimes four) years as an undergrad whereas Germans are more commonly in their late 20s. And most of Europe does the baccalaureate before going to university.

There's a lot of room in the civil service for the numerate - in part because the City grabs a lot of the bright and ambitious ones. But in part because numeracy helps. Also for the record it's PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) that's replaced Classics as the civil service degree from Oxford; which isn't quite so elitist as most schools teach feeder subjects for PPE even where they wouldn't teach greek or latin (never mind both).

But I have a question. Did you ever meet at Oxbridge any of the scions of a certain middle-eastern royal clan? My impression from many sources is that they tend to be quite brilliant.

Not that I'm aware of. The circles I moved in wouldn't have brought parents up; the snobbery was mostly intellectual.

Ian Gould said...

On a different note, the Us military seems convinced of the practicality of algae-derived biofuels.

http://www.physorg.com/news185521814.html

"Scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have already successfully extracted oil from algal ponds, and is now about to begin large-scale refining of the oil. Special assistant for energy with DARPA, Barbara McQuiston, said unrefined oil produced from algae currently costs $2 per gallon, but the cost is projected to reduce to around $1. The refined and processed jet fuel is expected to cost under $3 per gallon.

The refining operation would produce 50 million gallons of oil derived from algae each year and is expected to begin full-scale operations in 2011. Each acre of algal farm pond can produce 1,000 gallons of oil. The projects are run by private companies General Atomics and SAIC."

Abilard said...

Rewinn said:

"In discussing the meaning of Bible verses (chiefly on a Facebook anti-Evolution Discussion Board) I have had the interesting experience of having Bible scholarship sneered at by proponents of the Bible."

This is not a unique experience. :-) You should try being an atheist in Appalachia.

Rewinn continues:

"It just amused me to see the same anti-intellectualism that is directed against climate science also directed against Bible study."

While you may see parallels between denier arguments and creationist arguments, my experience of AGW proponents is overwhelmingly that when I present rational questions or counterpoints the charge of "DENIER!!!" (heretic?) is screamed and a wave of vitriol released. I understand why (the backlash Brin describes on the prior post). Nevertheless, the parallel is there.

Kelsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelsey said...

Wow, apparently we caught one of the Taliban commander a couple days ago Here.
Anyone have some more information on this guy and his connection to Mullah Omar?

John Kurman said...

@Ian

Yes, this is not exactly new news, as it was documented in the book "Department of Mad Scientists" by Michael Belfiore.

Nevertheless, this an other ventures are making me optimistic about the economy. Despite fears a green tech bubble, I actually think we are due for a real boom on two fronts - efficiencies, and real nanotech.

Venture capital outlays have shifted away from solar/biofuel and are being directed towards energy efficiency. This is a HUGE growth sector, one that could easily fuel a 10-year boom.

And, I have shifted around my synthetic biology (real nanotech) VC trendings from 10 year to 5 year realization.

Short-term real growth profits can be found in the "guys selling the shovels in this Gold Rush" the universal DNA sequencers and suchlike. Lotsa money being funneled there, and a huge growth market is pending.

LarryHart said...

First I said:

Such adoptions passing on some of the traditional benefits of wealth to genes who aren't one's own. Almost the opposite effect of the traditional genetic "hoarding" of benefits. It might be interesting to see what (if anything) comes of such experimentation.


To which David Brin said...

Yes, but genes don't operate through rationality, but through visual and hormonal systems. Brad Pitt gets surrounded by flocks of kids calling him "daddy." Angelina is swarmed by adoring "offspring." The reward systems are triggered.


Well, I wasn't arguing with you. My point wasn't whether it made sense for Brad Pitt or Madonna or whomever to adopt poor children from Asia or Africa. I was throwing out a follow-up observation that such adoptions of poor children by uber-rich liberal billionaires ends up encouraging genetic succession in a way much different from (if not opposite to) the traditional methods. In their cases, it will be the (genetic) descendents of the poorest and most disposible humans who have suddenly been given the survival advantages of the wealthiest and most celebrated of humans.

I'm only saying that the results might prove interesting to watch.

Robert said...

And now on to Glaciergate, redux. Remember that IPCC report that was supposed to be so flawed and error-prone? And how Deniers are waving a two sentence bit on glaciers buried in the middle of the report as proof that Global Warming is a hoax? Here's an article that separates the spin from the facts, including the fact that those two sentences were refuted in two other areas of the report and that the incorrect data on how much of the Netherlands is under sea level was provided by the Dutch Government in their government reports. Much like Climategate where a few e-mails have been touted, a couple of errors in a huge report are being used to smear all of climate science and disprove the entirety of it.

Rob H.

apyriony: ironic applications

Hank Roberts said...

> Somebody _wants_ us to fail.

So, Dr. Brin -- is it time to post an update, given all these recent resignations of Democrats from Congress, of your earlier speculation?

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/01/timely-warning-to-all-new-democratic.html

One wonders, one does.

Hank Roberts said...

> it will be the (genetic)
> descendents of the poorest
> and most disposible humans
> who have suddenly been given
> the survival advantages ....

This should be re-read when contemplating inheritance generally.

Seriously. Read this slowly. This is how the United States began:

---------

"... Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

“As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance.

” … by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; … by collecting wisdom from where it can be found.

“… As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”
—————————————–

Tom Paine, The Rights of Man
http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm

----------

There is yet no monument to Tom Paine in Washington DC. His is still a revolutionary voice today, still pointing beyond what we ever attained, saying do better.

Stefan Jones said...

If the Tea Bagger movement gets serious legs, someone is going to have to dredge up the bits from Thomas Paine where he advocates taxing the rich and providing the poor with stipends and smack them in the place with it, over and over.

Rob Perkins said...

Stefan, why not just start doing it now?

David Brin said...

Just got the following by email from space!!!

Dear David,
 
I’m glad you were able to make it to FL – sorry for the 1-day delay, but such is spaceflight!
We now have 2 EVAs behind us, one more to go tomorrow, in which I will open (actually unbolt) the cupola window shades from the outside.  Fingers crossed that all goes as trained.
 
Best wishes to all of you form 200 miles above London .
 
-Nick
 


The American undergrad system is utterly notorious internationally for not producing the American post-grads; instead you need to import vast quantities of them."

This could be a matter of supply or demand. In fact, we supply vast numbers of graduate school slots. As many as the world combined.

John K... know any VCs I should talk to?
Hank R... the blackmail scenario really worries me...

Amen to Thomas Paine. What most folks don't realize is that Adam Smith was also a radical.

rewinn said...

Abilard said...
?... my experience of AGW proponents is overwhelmingly that when I present rational questions or counterpoints the charge of "DENIER!!!" (heretic?) is screamed and a wave of vitriol released. ..."

Uhm, I call b.s.

While there are no doubt jerks in every walk of life, and tempers can run hot in debate, the claim that the overwhelming response of your critics is "vitriol" is difficult to credit. As has been implied elsewhere in this thread, scientists might be a little more effective in their argumentation if they were less even-handed but that's their cross to bear.

There is a temptation to quote something relevant from Harry Truman here.

Tony Fisk said...

Hey David,

I guess we should cross our fingers for Nick: I don't see him doing it easily in a spacesuit (but would be impressed if he could!)

codkzp: The mechanism used to assist gentlemen astronauts in going to the toilet (see also 'Piecework')

Robert said...

And on another science tangent, I'm not sure how many people saw that godawful science fiction movie where they had to use nukes to get the core of the planet moving again (I think it was called "The Core" but I blanked out much of it out of self-defense), but there was one part that had a giant geode that the inner-space craft crashed through. And I must admit, the giant crystals were quite pretty... well, they've found something like that in real life, in an environment almost as lethal, where they're mining silver.

It is absolutely amazing and beautiful what mother nature can cook up (literally!) at times.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

See a “One Minute Critic” summarize KILN PEOPLE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYheV3AQY8w

THE CORE stole a lot from Paul Preuss's novel CORE. And also several notions and scenes from EARTH.

In fact, I consider is "my second move." SURROGATES was my third....

sigh.

John Kurman said...

Sorry David. I'm sure you've got better connections than I do when it comes to VC news. I just google the stuff, like:

http://www.matternetwork.com/2010/2/venture-capital-shifted-energy-efficiency.cfm

But hey, here's my thoughts on Avatar. I've not seen it. Doubt that I will. I figure the movie tech is out there now, and I'll wait for a special effects movie with a better plot and characters. Word has it that Cameron likes to rip people off (Ellison, Pohl), so he probably should have used Ursula K. Leguin's "Word for the World is Forest".

Tony Fisk said...

The 'unobtainium' in Avatar sounded suspiciously like a certain complex mix of perovskites. Especially with 'Eyewah' cropping up.

And then there were those Hallejujah mountains, apparently doing a Compton effect on a grand scale (or was it grazers?)

'Heroic band of humans and aliens make last home-stand against expanding interstellar empire'

I wish Cameron had lifted a bit more plot and character development from Anderson's 'People of The Wind'
(Ah, well! Much to enjoy, and enjoy griping about... later)

tringna: a popular drink in interstellar circles, the effect of which is often described as having your head bashed in with a brick of corbomite wrapped in velvet.

Tacitus2 said...

I assume this web savvy group have all seen the Star Wars Phantom Menace reviews by RedLetterMedia.
They have been linked pretty widely and are scathingly accurate, if a bit vulgar.

He also took a quick swipe at Avatar, and has done some very good review/scathes of the Star Trek movies.

Tacitus2

Sociotard said...

Colorado Springs, has been having major budget problems. With the recession, their tax revenues have fallen drastically. And with certain Colorado laws in place, they can't raise taxes. So, they've come upon a novel solution:
Cut services. All services.

Personally, I think this is a grand experiment*. Let's watch and see what happens in the next two years or so when a city cuts all its services down to the bone (and beyond). My theory is that it will end up costing more money in the long run. They'll save a few dollars by not taking care of the parks, streets, and so on. But after a year or two, it will cost the city (and the state, and possibly the feds) considerably more than they saved. I suspect, after seeing the results of this, people will become slightly less tax-averse. They'll be able to see where their tax dollars are going, and appreciate exactly what they're getting for it.

(I agree with the above, but I'm not the guy who wrote it first; I just copied and pasted from another forum)

LarryHart said...

Illinois has had budget problems all decade (after blowing a 1990s surplus on a slew of major projects). There are no laws preventing the raising of our modest (3%) state income tax, but it's almost politically impossible to do so.

A few years back when Gov Blagojevitch was still riding high, he announced that there was not enough funds to pay for removal of road-kill from state highways, and that rodents and the like would be left where they lay. That lasted less than a week.

Kevin said...

you mention Avatar etal.. I think that Idiocity also holds clues for our future!

The Know-Nothing party has always been with us, because it appeals to a large body of the politic, and teases our basest instincts.

Robert said...

I suspect that anger about government spending might decrease if certain officials listen to what President Obama was pushing for: transparency in government. Specifically, total transparency in government spending. And I mean every level. Give taxpayers the ability to go through every single item in the budget, and have it divided up into departments.

With an army of amateur accountants going over the government spending with a fine-toothed comb and questioning everything, we may see greater accountability and frugality in government spending. We may also see a lessening of anger over how the money is spent because we can yell about specific expenses and catch potential cheating as it occurs.

If Republicans were smart, they'd be pushing for this over less taxes. By becoming the Party of Accountability, and giving the power to double-check government spending, they could easily win back plenty of independents who distrust government motives but realize that these programs may be needed.

Rob H.

Woozle said...

John Kurman:

If I'm understanding you correctly, your objection is not that Dawkins et al. are saying anything wrong, exactly, but more that they are somehow not managing to make a useful impact on the popular mindset.

I have two thoughts on that.

First... In accordance with what I said earlier, I think there are now forces arrayed against the spreading of certain kinds of messages, such that anyone who tries to spread those messages will find themselves tarred with whatever brush seems handy. I would suggest that atheism is just such a message, as it works against the goal of keeping people easy to manipulate.

Second... the people with whom Dawkins et al. were being compared and found wanting -- i.e. Sagan et al., were themselves either little-known by the mainstream or regarded as dorks/geeks. Even among my relatively pro-science peers, I remember making fun of Carl "Billyuns" Sagan's manner of speaking ("pruffOUnd"... "you-manatee"...) when Cosmos was playing on PBS.

You mention Carlin specifically: I hadn't even realized the extent of his career in the mainstream media -- but how much of that actually involved the sort of messaging we're talking about here? How many people actually heard his "God" routine anywhere except YouTube? I would never have heard it myself if it hadn't been posted on various atheism-related blogs.

Unscientific America has been, I think, rightly criticized as offering a completely unworkable solution to a real problem, and unfairly heaping scorn on those who are working hardest to solve it.

Anonymous said...

a quick google finds

"Welcome to the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford."

Sociotard said...

"Rise of 10,000 Tim McVeighs" Alert
sort of.

Joe Stack flew a plane into an IRS building. The odd thing here is that he seems to sound a bit like Dr. Brin at times; he's highly educated and rants about corporate cronyism. I suppose the biggest difference is that he lost all of his optimism.

Suicide Note

another article with pics

Sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin isn't the only one comparing the GOP with the pre-Civil War South.

Abilard said...

@Ilithi

If the South did leave, the states in the old Union would immediately be able to balance their budgets.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yes, and the economies of the states that did leave would immediately crash.

Tacitus2 said...

Seems we get the "atrocity of the week" these days. Neither this Stack fellow nor the university shooter of last week seem to fit any coherent political mold.

just nuts, maybe.

Tacitus2

madtom said...

Dr. Brin -

Conspiracies are like faces - we're hardwired for such sensitivity to them that we see them even where they're not.

But it's not very important if there is a "real" (centrally organized) conspiracy coordinating all these efforts to dumb-down and misdirect America.

There might as well be (and quite likely are) some genuine sub-conspiracies in the collective phenomenon we're perceiving.

So I say go with the flow.

It looks so much like group enemy action, and humans are so well evolved to deal with their social environment on the basis of coalitions, that the conspiracy accusation makes a great tactic for our side!

If it looks like an enemy face, sounds like one and acts like one, most people need very little added corroboration to want to form a defensive coalition.

Which we badly need.


P.S. In contrast to your response, I liked Avatar a great deal, as the best propaganda against unthinkingly going along with the system that I can imagine, delivered where it will do the most good: minds age 8-18. Rational argument is largely pointless in that arena until an emotional foundation is laid (old teacher talking).

Most minds in formative years just need to be seeded with a few good memes, carried in tasty emotional fruit, which will then do the job of growing their own memeplexes as corroborative facts come along.

After all, that's just how the Lone Ranger and Davy Crockett memes helped a generation overlook some unpleasant facts about "settling" the west.

This clearly deserves more discussion than is possible here, and I'll enjoy reading your anti-Avatar essay.

Sociotard said...

the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families.

Link

rewinn said...

"...the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families."

Perhaps we need to update the Golden Rule: officials may spy on the public no more than they will permit themselves to be spied on.

Tony Fisk said...

On a similar vein:

PleaseRobMe website reveals dangers of social networks

(If anyone *should* break in when I'm out, I rest easy in the knowledge that Jesus is watching them!)

LarryHart said...

Sociotard:

Rise of 10,000 Tim McVeighs" Alert
sort of.

Joe Stack flew a plane into an IRS building. The odd thing here is that he seems to sound a bit like Dr. Brin at times; he's highly educated and rants about corporate cronyism. I suppose the biggest difference is that he lost all of his optimism.


Once the story had sufficiently advanced beyond "could be an accident" to "intentional act", the first thing I thought of was Dr Brin's prophetic warning about the 10,000 McVeighs.

The guy "sounds like" Dr Brin only in the sense that the Declaration of Independence "sounds like" the French Revolution.

Is it just me, or is the corporate media downplaying the story. Admittedly, I did not watch the network news last night, so I don't know how it was played then, but I don't see it as the headline on this morning's Chicago Tribune. The headline online is about a local boy who won an Olympic medal. Now, to me, a wonton act of domestic terrorism with images that look eerily like those of 9/11 should be a big deal. The right-wing was all over the recent military-base shooting and the Christmas plane bomber as examples of Obama failing to keep us safe, and if they're curiously toning down the rhetoric today, I have to think it's because they don't want to call attention to just which side of the political aisle is essentially CALLING FOR acts of domestic terrorism.

LarryHart said...

From the article Ilithi posted:

When All Else Fails: Nullification and State Resistance to Federal Tyranny.”

How many of you out there thought we had settled the question of whether states have the right to nullify federal laws during the Lincoln administration? Can I see a show of hands?


Another Republican flip-flop, similar to the swing from "All we ask is an up or down vote" to "Let's filibuster EVERYTHING".

Here we see a GOP call for states to ignore federal law, when it wasn't so long ago that the GOP Attorney General was actively prosecuting people who used medical marijuana LEGALLY (under California law) under the assumption that Federal statutes trump the states.

It's like my brother said ten years ago about Republicans: They're not even pretending any more. All they're doing is pretending to pretend."

Abilard said...

"Is it just me, or is the corporate media downplaying the story."

That is my impression as well. I lose NPR in some mountain valleys around here and so listened to Michael Savage a bit last night on the ride home. Two things. First, he was saying the liberal media would be painting right-wingers as nut jobs over this. Turned on Maddow when I got home: nary a mention while I was watching, though I would have expected her to be all over it.

Second, Savage tried to redirect his listeners from sympathizing with Stack by saying that we all have to stay united against the real enemy, Islamic terrorism. This is even though some of his own rants (or those of people like Glenn Beck) strike the same rebellious themes as Stack.

Occasionally when you light fires, people get burned. Realizing that must be a scary thing.

Tacitus2 said...

Theories as to limited media attention to recent plane crash and campus shooting.

1. insufficient info, waiting for real data. Well, could be, I have seen a bit more responsible media behaviour in recent months. Not like the rush to pin the census worker death on homicidal, toothless, hillbilly tea partier meth cookers.

2. Does Not Compute. The biology prof supposedly had socialist leanings and was an obnoxiously assertive Obamafan. The pilot left a rambling note blaming everybody including George W. Bush. Off narrative means off screen.

I have been pondering this new twist....10,000 Mc-whats?

We seem to be approaching an age of austerity. There are rumblings of entitlements being cut, of retirement ages rising.

Are we seeing a reaction to this? Being denied tenure when you think you "deserve it". Being called to account for financial folly when for so many years it was being done at the highest levels...

Just thoughts. Interesting times we live in, and we had best all be getting used to the ground shifting under us.

Tacitus2

Tim H. said...

Tacitus, I call it the "Compound Failure", and it's been at least thirty years in the making, I'm not sure I'll live long enough to see the other side of it. The bored billionaires who'd be happy on **** mountain, if only they could be King turd are only one facet of the problem. Others will no doubt occur to you. No surprise at all why folks are lashing out, they feel trapped, and release seems to not be on the table.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

No surprise at all why folks are lashing out, they feel trapped, and release seems to not be on the table.


I think we're pretty much in agreement on that point. The devil is in the variations on the theme.

One man's "little guy mad about losing hard-worked retirement to government debt" is another man's "angry white guy mad about losing the societal privileges he took for granted." Underlying it all is the fear of the metaphorical ground shifting under one's feet, but there are as many ways to react to the problem as there are to define what the problem really is.

David Brin said...

Yes, but when does it turn back into the ancient anger at the aristocracy? The people who actually own the system?

Historians say that was a low rumble throughout all cultures except ours. The rising return of huge wealth disparities supposedly restores what our flattened social order had quelled.

OTOH, the example of 1861, with nearly all the poor whites marching off to protect their feudal plantation "lords" is a clear counter example.

LarryHart said...


Yes, but when does it turn back into the ancient anger at the aristocracy? The people who actually own the system?


Maybe it's because of the American dream to someday BE on top, but that anger seems to be somehow easily deflected to other targets. I know my perspective is biased, but it seems to ME that the right has been particularly adept at this deflection so that people who feel their freedoms being constrained lash out at govermnent and ignore the private interests behind the curtain.

My point isn't that this misdirection only comes from the right--just that that's the aspect of it I've noticed. But the misdirection of popular anger itself does seem to be particularly American (though I'm not sure it differs all that much from 1930s Judenhass in Europe).

I have read "Joe The Flyer"'s online rant now, which I had not yet done when I previously posted. So I can see the point of our conservative posters here cautioning not to be too quick to tie him to the Glenn Beck crowd. His specific complaints sound as much like left-wing ranting as they do like right-wing ranting, and he's certainly got his share of bile against some of the same entities I have my own share of bile against. But I still feel that--at the end of the day--it's the right-wing talkers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin who are telling people like this that the appropriate reaction to frustration with government is a mix of hopeless fear and rage, and that the appropriate channel for that rage is spectacular violence. "The game is fixed against you, and there's no way you can win, so not only should you refuse to play, you should take as many of THEM with you as you can!" The identity of the "THEM" being eerily nebulous.

It's hard for me to be objective about this one, because my in-laws live in Austin, and in fact own several downtown commercial buildings there. My first question to my wife yesterday was "That's not one of your family's buildings, is it?" So maybe I'm taking this one more personally than I would a similar attack in (say) Dallas or Seattle or Omaha. With that "caveat emptor" in mind, I still believe that this sort of thing is the genie that the Glenn Becks of the world have (perhaps unwittingly) unleashed. I'm not saying they are actually in favor of domestic terrorism, but it may be dawning on some of them that they've unleashed something they can no longer control. To digress a bit, I actually saw some of that belated understanding toward the end of John McCain's campaign when he actually tried to talk DOWN off the ledge some of his supporters who were worried about the evil terrorist Obama. He had a "My God, what have we wrought?" expression in his eyes that told me that he did finally get it, and in my most generous fantasies, I'd like to believe he actually sabotaged his own election to keep Sarah Palin from becoming the Martin Sheen character in "The Dead Zone".

Sorry to hijack the thread. I didn't realize how personal this was until I started typing.

madtom said...

I too saw active press misdirection. The first headlines that appeared on my Yahoo news page from several majors agreed "Plane flies into building, not terrorism".

Online at The Smoking Gun, it was reported that the webmaster took down Stack's site, with his rant, "at the request of the FBI". What right or reason did they have to make such a request?
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/Welcome.html

Fortunately, today's infosphere can evade such "requests", and not all media will be as one-sidedly compliant in their silence and misdirection as you guys note is the case with the majors.

LarryHart said...


I too saw active press misdirection. The first headlines that appeared on my Yahoo news page from several majors agreed "Plane flies into building, not terrorism".


FOX News is often showing on tv screens where I work (with the sound off), so that was where I first caught sight of the breaking news yesterday. And yes, they were already insisting that this was "NOT TERRORISM". At the time, I wondered why FOX, of all places, was taking that option off the table.

I wake up at 5am for work, and I've got an attention-grabbing kid at home, so I rarely stay awake for the nightly network news. I hear most of my news on morning radio. I have to say that I expected my drive this morning to be wall-to-wall coverage of the Austin airplane attack in a manner similar to 9/11. Now it's true that that would have been overkill, but still, the almost opposite effect--the LACK of coverage of the story as anything other than a blurb--strikes me as frighteningly eerie. The Chicago Tribune HEADLINE is about the Olympics. The CNN.com HEADLINE right now is Tiger Woods. I had to look at foxnews.com (ghaah!) to find any mention of the story on a website's front page, and even there, it's mostly a drawn out semantic argument between a Texas congressman calling the incident "terrorism" and an Austin police chief who isn't doing so.

The obvious meta-message from above is "This isn't something to be paid attention to."

Abilard said...

"The obvious meta-message from above is 'This isn't something to be paid attention to.'"

I imagine elites in both our political parties (the party of Status and the party of Quo) are frightened of the prospect of populism turning violent.

Abilard said...

"Sorry to hijack the thread. I didn't realize how personal this was until I started typing."

Actually (and this should have occurred to me earlier) the downplaying is perfectly in line with Brin's suggested conspiracy, the topic of this thread. If the appearance of conspiracy were simply the effect of a broad-based alignment of interests as I suggested earlier then would we expect more variation from the media on something like this? Perhaps I dismissed the notion of formal conspiracy too quickly.

Robert said...

I must admit to finding this situation a bit odd, especially with how the media handles other moments of violence, such as school shootings. They televise it, they sensationalize it, and then you get a copycat or two a month or two later. And there is research showing that by sensationalizing the shootings, it encourages more. But the media doesn't desist or even show a modicum of restraint.

So what is so different now? Why not run with this? Why not even use it as an attack against Obama and the like, claiming that if it weren't for his broken policies, that this guy wouldn't have flown a plane into a building? I almost wonder if there is a conspiracy... but not the one we're thinking of.

What if there is proof that this individual didn't work alone, and that there were other people who he talked to online who agreed this would be a signal? The government stopped the rest (probably having an inside man) but failed to get this one. But they keep it low-key so that if they missed anyone, this isn't the signal that it was intended to be.

We've had similar recently in Afghanistan, with the capture of a Taliban leader being kept quiet until knowledge spread by word-of-mouth and the secret wasn't worth keeping any longer.

In short, this might be the media working with law enforcement to try and keep a situation from going out of control. If so... then in another few days we'll see restrictions loosen and more and more knowledge released on just what was going on.

Either way... it's a disturbing trend on the theory of independent media.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On another note, this is a disturbing read.

madtom said...

Talk about bad timing, or a tin ear, how did this (below) get said?

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/33178.html
2/19/10 12:06 PM EST

"Less than an hour before Tiger Woods was set to explain himself in a press conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged conservative activists to follow the golfer’s wife and “take a nine iron and smash the windows out of big government.”"

madtom said...

Or as my wife just suggested, there *is* a conspiracy - to promote violence. As an excuse for countermeasures.

LarryHart said...


Actually (and this should have occurred to me earlier) the downplaying is perfectly in line with Brin's suggested conspiracy, the topic of this thread. If the appearance of conspiracy were simply the effect of a broad-based alignment of interests as I suggested earlier then would we expect more variation from the media on something like this? Perhaps I dismissed the notion of formal conspiracy too quickly.


I think it's paranoid to believe that a consipiracy is behind every aspect of life in minute detail. To quote Star Wars again, "I don't believe there's an all-powerful Force controlling everything."

BUT...

I do think there are powerful interests up there who mostly just let things play out the way they would naturally because "the way they would naturally" is usually very very good for them. But every once in awhile, just as something is about to go the wrong way, they issue a command that must be obeyed.

Think of how George W Bush was mostly allowed to bumble along getting his way, occasionally making a fool of himself, but when he tried to nominate Harriet Meiers to the Supreme Court instead of one of the corporatists whom the Real Powers That Be expected as the whole point of supporting Republican presidents...they made him cut it out and get real.

President Obama differs from Candidate Obama in ways that make it look as if he's had a similar talking to.

And today...the corporate media of both the right-wing and "MSM" varieties seem to have been dictated to as well. "Lay off the Austin story."

As our esteemed host might say (and Dr Brin, I hope I wasn't out'a line with that crack about Star Wars), I'm not saying for sure that I believe this theory, but it IS a theory that fits the known evidence, and I'm not sure I've heard a different theory that does so.

LarryHart said...


Or as my wife just suggested, there *is* a conspiracy - to promote violence. As an excuse for countermeasures.


But if that were the case, we'd be seeing more hysteria being whipped up, not less.

No, I'm not saying that the media toning this down is necessarily a bad thing. I'm saying that I think someone up there is definitely worried about the genie that they have let out (or maybe "almost" let out) of the bottle. If "they" are realizing that forces unleashed can't always be controlled and if "they" are realizing this in time to keep the genie in the bottle, then maybe it's a good thing.

Robert said...

The thing is, isn't this what we want? This is a fundamental rebooting of the Republican Party, away from their corruption and greed and back toward the theme of smaller government and reduced spending. If these grassroots efforts work and don't end up fizzling out when they find each of their candidates end up stabbing them in the back and doing what they would do anyway, and used the good graces and hard effort of these grassroots groups to get into power, that is, and that is the big problem. Can they keep their momentum running in the face of cynicism and cronyism and corruption?

Or might they end up pulling away from Republicans entirely in 2012 (after helping hordes of Republicans gain control in 2010 and having those Republicans spit on them for their efforts)?

There is one other thing to think of on this. Just how large is this movement? If it's a minority group in each state, then ultimately they'll be loud but powerless. They may ultimately divide the Republicans by pushing candidates who are not desirable by the independents out there. And considering the economy is stabilizing and slowly getting better, Republicans may find winning seats less easy than they'd want in 2010, and could very well find the Presidency out of their reach in 2012.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

The tea parties are necessary, in order to keep upping the populist polemic and keeping red ire directed toward civil servants, not the aristocracy. But

(1) I don't contend that the top-level conspiracy micro-manages the messages

(2) I would imagine (without any evidence) that the tea partiers make them nervous. Like Mike Huckabee, they are inherently hard to control and prone to fickle turns... e.g. redder ire toward the Supreme Court decision unleashing corporate propaganda.

Let me remind you that I see only the very top cabal being "in on it". Yes, the owners of Fox. Definitely But even Limbaugh and Beck might actually be sincere.

Re the IRS plane-diver... clearly, they do NOT want the redders reading his manifesto-suicide-note. Not that it would powerfully change minds. It was too muddled, confused, pain-drenched, articulate-yet-bizarre... and too lefty in parts.

Rob Perkins said...

The thing that bothers me the most is the man's relative affluence, if he was angry enough about a tax regime which permitted him the rare privilege of owning (or even just operating!) an airplane, and still chose to destroy that plane in an act of suicidal protest.

No sense of perspective, I say.

David Smelser said...

Not "suicidal protest", homicidal protest.

Re-guarding the tea partiers, I think John Robb at Global Guerrillas is spot on:
"The Tea Party movement in the US is an open source political protest. It emerged due to a substantial loss of government legitimacy (primarily from the mishandling of the global financial crisis) and continues to percolate as legitimacy continues to drain away from the government (health care, banking reform, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, deficit, etc.). "

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting... The question then, is, is government's legitimacy 'draining away', or being siphoned out?

David Brin said...

Next posting is in response to some of you....

Jonathan S. said...

To quote Garak, the Cardassian operative-cum-tailor on Deep Space Nine:

"I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."

David Smelser said...

Ilithi Dragon said... "
Interesting... The question then, is, is government's legitimacy 'draining away', or being siphoned out?"

David S:
To be pragmatic, does it matter? Would your advice on what to do about it be any different?
In either case, transparently, reciprocal accountability, and resilient communities seem the answer.

neil craig said...

I see little sign of distrust of experts, scientists & the most gifted by the American people. I see signs of distrust ofv their political leaders, who rarely show signs of being gifted, & of the people the politicians appoint as "experts" & the "scientific consensus". THe barbarians in western society are its leaders who cynically use "science" to hide behind but have neither knowledge nor understanding of it.

I assume Mr Brin you will choose, oncev again, to censor disagreement which shows which side you are on.

LarryHart said...

Neil craig said:

I see little sign of distrust of experts, scientists & the most gifted by the American people.


And then:

I assume Mr Brin you will choose, oncev again, to censor disagreement which shows which side you are on.


Which certainly looks to me like a sign of distrust of experts and scientists.

Hank Roberts said...

http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2010/02/time_to_get_mad_time_to_speak.php

gih said...

"somebody wants us to fail".. That's true, we must be very careful on today's situations.

denparser said...

@Tony Fisk

Yes you are right. I read that article and just forgot what site was that.

discountcigarettesbox said...

This is, to some degree, the situation we're already in (albeit with very small crowds) when several professionals are asked to interpret medical data (such as an MRI scan): Ambiguity. That said, in the end Alph makes a strong case for the exploration of a crowdsourcing effort that would entice the semi-professionals to engage in such a project

Anonymous said...

Many commentators seem to mix Toynbee's Creative Minority with a general concept of creative people. Toynbee's Creative Minority is the elite group of a society that has not yet declined to the state of Dominant Minority. The observation that Harvard is sneered at might be a sign that our Creative Minority is no longer seen as an elite group which provides means for betterment of our lives (e.g. new job opportunities, new areas of commerce, social mobility etc) but rather as a Dominant Minority which tries to protect its privileges.

There hardly is a conspiracy against our intellectuals. They have just exhausted their resources to revitalize the society.