Sunday, February 06, 2011

Nobel for Wikileaks? Transparency and Society Stories... etc

First off... drop in at YouTube for my latest offering... reading aloud a popular passage from my novel Earth. “First came a supernova, dazzling the universe in brief, spendthrift glory, before ebbing into twisty, multi-spectral clouds of new-forged atoms. Swirling eddies spiraled until one of them ignited – a newborn star. The virgin sun wore whirling skirts of dust and electricity. Gas and rocks and bits of this and that fell iinto those pleats, gathering in dim lumps…planets…One tiny worldlet circled at a middle distance…”

A Nobel Prize for Wikileaks?

"WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may soon have a new accolade to add to his resume -- "Nobel Prize winner." Reuters reports that a Norwegian parliamentarian has nominated WikiLeaks for what is arguably the world's most prestigious prize. "By disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes, WikiLeaks is a natural contender for the Nobel Peace Prize," said spokesman Snorre Valen."

Hm, well, for starters, it is Wikileaks and the principles of transparency that are actually nominated, not Assange. Heck, since the ideas were heavily promulgated by me in EARTH (1989) and in The Transparent Society (1997) ain't I just as responsible? ;-) Seriously, as you'll learn when I start posting my major analysis of the WikiLeaks Affair, I find Assange individually arrogant. His particular priorities and statements range from cogent to borderline crazy...

...but you cannot always choose your heroes or self-appointed paladins of transparency. Indeed, Assange has "done good" with his leaks in ways that no one would ever have imagined, certainly not him! Most surprisingly, his leaks have had the overall effect of vastly enhancing the credibility and reputation of the United States Government around the world, at a time when it was badly needed - a result that was almost-certainly diametrically opposite to his intent.

In any event, a Nobel for this KIND of activity would be a very important statement of support for the general movement toward world transparency. If the symbol for this movement must be Julian Assange, then so be it.

(Stay tuned, I will soon offer a suggestion that combines an old sci fi idea from Earth with WikiLeaks transparency and events in Egypt, offering a way to both benefit the people of that country and start the whole world down a road that is radically better and more hopeful than ever.)


The Physics of Terror : Mathematicians and physics look for patterns in terrorist campaigns and frequency that might allow prediction of future threats. Terror events follow a power law, similar to earthquakes: more frequent attacks result in fewer deaths, while infrequent, large events kill the most people.

Debunking Theories of a Terrorist Power Grab. A power-system expert at Penn State recently refuted theories that our power infrastructure is highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.


Are your apps spying on you? Your smartphone contains a wealth of personal data about you: your current location, contacts, phone numbers, age, gender, buying habits.  A survey by the WSJ found that 56 out of 101 popular smartphone apps regularly transmitted such personal info without the user’s knowledge or consent, often to tracking companies. As "Mr. Transparency" do I shrug this off? Not! Privacy must change. Not vanish!

Here are some privacy icons that tell you how sites use your personal data -- designed by Aza Rashkin for Mozilla.

Five Cyberthreats to watch for in 2011.

In Wired Magazine: 2010: The year the internet went to war.

President Obama is calling for an online privacy bill of rights -- to protect consumers and shield personal data from tracking. At this point, it would be voluntary, with sanctions from the FTC. Under discussion: a 'do-not-track' option, similar to the do-not-call list to block telemarketers.

Computers that See You and Keep Watch over You describes how facial recognition software is being used in prisons, hospitals, law enforcement, and the workplace. It is also used to sample audience reactions, as well in the front against terrorism.

Ten Ways a digital Big Brother can be good for you, by John D. Sutter, CNN. "These days, Big Brother doesn't need to do much snooping. We just tell him what we're up to." Yet, there are ways that this omniscience has improved our lives: health monitors, disaster response, traffic maps, smart city grids, environmental sensors, monitoring earthquakes...


Facing a crisis in drug abuse, Portugal decriminalized possession of all illicit drugs in 2000, focusing on treating instead of punishing drug addicts. The results: an increase in the number of people who tried drugs -- but drug abuse declined, especially among youth. More drug addicts are in treatment. Police now focus on high-level drug traffickers; there’s been an increase in drugs seized. Read the experiment.

This issue shows that different regions have different blind manias. Europeans seem far more ready than Americans to accept calm, modernist, rationalist revisions of old ways. Revising stupid-awful drug prohibition is one of these. If Portugal gains a good track record with this, and other Eurostates follow, the statistics might get so overwhelming that California can follow. (Europeans have their own manias - e.g. that the universe owes them half a lifespan of pure leisure, and that honorable work - potentially one of the greatest parts of human existence - is an inherently evil thing.)

Do artificial beings deserve human rights? by Mike Treder, director of IEET To what degree will we anthropomorphize orbits and artificial intelligence?

Do you distinguish pronunciations for pin vs. pen, cot vs. caught, father vs. bother? How about Bach’s, box & balks? Even after the homogenizing influences of radio, TV, the internet, and the increased mobility of the last few decades, regional distinctions persist across America. This site has a fascinating wealth of information on American dialects, with maps and audio samples of regional speech patterns.

To aid the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, an adviser to the Postal Regulatory Commission has proposed adding sensor arrays to postal trucks, to turn the fleet into a widespread data collecting operation -- collecting real-time data on weather, pollutants, gaps in internet coverage, poor road conditions, as well as detecting chemical or biological threats.

Tidying my pile of miscellaneous items to share:

I gave an interview to "The Eerie Times" - a sci fi fan site - mostly about my career as a science fiction author.

Renowned author Robert Sawyer offers an interesting essay about how scientists and Sci Fi witers take both similar and very different approaches to dealing with a future that contains plenty of opportunities and dangers.

Telomerase-based rejuvenation? Or a great way to ignite a storm of tumors?

Did I show you this one yet? More than half of the predictions are right on!

Recently leaked: the original draft of the script for _The Empire Strikes Back_ by Leigh Brackett ... Quite different from what finally made it to the screen. It seems the credit for this being by far the best SW film falls unto Kasden, not Brackett, after all. In any event, this shows one of my pet peeves. There must be (literally) more than 10,000 scripts kept locked up by various producers and studios, some of them no-doubt trash... but others which may be genuine gems of writing. Why can we not at least read them as literature?

When you cut past all the excuses and rationalizations, it really boils down to “embarrassment insurance”... Suppose one in a hundred revealed but never filmed scripts gain a following and praise from critics, perhaps even letters urging that the screenplay be released for somebody to film. How does the studio benefit? Well, sure, in one percent of THOSE cases, they might get spurred into actually resurrecting a once-dead jewel and benefit enormously! But meanwhile, the ghosts of many past mistakes would be let loose, and even a glorious resurrection would result in recriminations. “What idiot squelched this in the first place!”

No, it is beyond unjustifiable - and a travesty-betrayal of the purpose of "intellectual property" - for them to be locked away forever. But what do you expect, given that Hollywood had become so cowardly that the rare non-sequel is trumpeted automatically as “brave,” what would you expect?

Gates, on the seductive lure of idiotic cynicism (a disease that infests both the left and the right). As John Stuart Mill said in 1828, in a quote from the book that I especially enjoyed: "I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage."

The most concise scientific paper ever.

Have a look at my friend Lou Aronica’s new crossover fantasy novel BLUE.

I was badgered recently to offer up my forecast for December 21, 2012! All right, here goes! On THAT VERY DAY the sun will appear to undergo REVERSAL in its path across the sky! Not the east-west rising-setting, but in its north-south travels! On that particular day - as foretold by ancient astronomers and many of today's top scientists (though they aren't talking about it!), the sun will (to the astonishment of many!) stop appearing to move ever farther south, each day at noon.

From that day forward, and for a period that I predict will last six whole months, each noon will see the sun passing through a point farther north than on the previous day! Arcing ever-higher in the sky of the northern hemisphere, this change of course will bring with it massive waves of weather change all across that hemisphere, causing ice and snow fields to melt and water to come flooding down mountains and valleys to the sea! Moreover, sometimes unbidden or unwanted by man, green growths will start infesting almost every outdoor surface! Insects will appear, individually and even in swarms, accompanied by flocks of noisy birds! In some locales, there will be frogs, or beasts, intermittent periods of darkness, and even outbreaks of vermin! Politicians and cable news folk will proclaim reasons to panic!

And thus winter will finish turning into spring... and spring into.... SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Whereupon, on June 21, 2013... just in the nick of time... I predict the Earth will be saved when (to the surprise of many) the Sun's ever-rising noontime passage will reverse. And yes I am daring to be specific and exact in my prophecy! And from that day forth - for a time I am willing to calculate for you - its lifegiving force will seem to ebb away toward the very bottom of the world.

=== More stuff...

Cool! the Bureau of labor statistics lets you calculate in a shot what an amount was worth at any point in the period since 1913.

Tyler Cowan’s new book: The Great Stagnation seems to cover some of the same territory (much more deeply!) as my graphic novel about industrial decline:TINKERERS

See a thought provoking parallel between Egypt in 2011 and tragic Turkey in 1911.

Variant movie listings in TV Guide: It's a Wonderful Life: "An accused criminal's descent into madness is interrupted by a visitor from a distant star, who brings about an episode of mass hysteria after a visit to a hellish parallel universe."


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David Brin said...

Oh, then there's this...

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has introduced a bill that would chop a half trillion dollars out of the federal budget. And although Paul was trained as an ophthalmologist, his axe doesn’t show any mercy to science.

For example, Paul would slash funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 28 percent and for the National Institutes of Health by 37 percent. The National Science Foundation would lose 62 percent of its budget because Paul argues that private industry and the states, not the federal government, should be paying for research.

Ian said...

A couple of thoughts:

1. I'm afraid I missed the Geovum discussion at the end of the last thread. I will add one thought. In a total collapse literacy could be lost in a single generation.

Language would likely evolve rapidly but pre-collapse speech might remain comprehensible for several generations.

Mechanical voice recordings - with visual aids or with trigger mechanisms such as opening a door might be a worthwhile investment.

2. It would be interesting to see an award such as the Nobel where the final choice was made by an open online vote.

Have a group such as the Swedish Academy of Sciences select, say, 3-5 nominees in the various fields and then allow the public to choose.

In the case of the Peace Prize this would probably increase further the prestige of the award and the moral authority it impaets to the winner.

In the physical science awards it might be a useful tool for engaging the public with science as people might be motivated
to read at least popular summaries of the nominees' work and the potential impact.

Ian said...

The Turkey 1911/Egypt 2011 link doesn't work for me.

But I assume it should direct to this article:

Tony Fisk said...

Heck, since the ideas were heavily promulgated by me in EARTH (1989) and in The Transparent Society (1997) ain't I just as responsible?

Who's going to tell Sen. Liebermann?

(Or Pa..? Sorry, no. That would not be a joke!)

Patricia Mathews said...

From the paleofuture predictions, "Other conveniences ease kitchenwork. The housewife simply determines in advance her menus for the week, then slips prepackaged meals into the freezer and lets the automatic food utility do the rest. At preset times, each meal slides into the microwave oven and is cooked or thawed. The meal then is served on disposable plastic plates. These plates, as well as knives, forks and spoons of the same material, are so inexpensive they can be discarded after use."

I've had a few too many of those meals. In fact, I've made a few too many of those meals.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the trick is to confine the plastic to being in the plate, rather than on it.

soc said...


Have a group such as the Swedish Academy of Sciences select, say, 3-5 nominees in the various fields and then allow the public to choose.

In the case of the Peace Prize this would probably increase further the prestige of the award and the moral authority it impaets to the winner.

Wouldn't that mean that only those candidates that make the biggest splash internationally will win, while lesser known champions of human rights will be overlooked? Some candidates might even launch a massive and expensive international campaigne to get noticed. :)

Although having a shortlist of 3-5 would help, since anyone who is interested can easily look all of them up before voting, I still think it would be vulnerable to the PR game the way public voting often is.

Also, I often wonder about the criteria used by the folks in Copenhagen. A number of their choices seem to be driven, in part, by politics. Many felt that Presidents Carter and Obama were selected as a deliberate slight at Bush.

soc said...

There is an important difference between the Ottoman Empire and Egypt today. The Young Turk Revolution was led by military officers whose primary concern was military matters. They were frustrated with their empire being unable to cope with Europe's military might.

The CUP's desire to Westernize(which was synonymous with 'Modernize) was based more on pragmatic grounds than an actual love of Western ideas. That's not to say that there weren't those who genuinely did admire the West, but with Islamic power dramatically receding and Europe the new top dog, it was more a matter of necessity to adapt.

In short: it was time to change teams. A famous, but at the time junior, member of the CUP actively disassociated Turkey from it's Islamic past as much as he could and replaced religious identity with nationalism. If the emphasis was on being Turkish rather than being Muslim, it would be a lot easier to reimagine Turkey as a European nation rather than an Islamic one. Mustapha Kamal Ataturk's dream is still struggling to be realized, as the country he founded remains in limbo between East and West.

All I'm saying is, the CUP was more a military coup driven by a new found Turkish nationalism which had arisen in response to Arab nationalism and various other nationalisms in the empire's European possessions which they subsequently lost. I'm not convinced that the dynamics in Egypt are the same.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>Europeans have their own manias - e.g. that the universe owes them half a lifespan of pure leisure

Recent estimates claim that in hunter-gatherer societies, people enjoyed something more than 50% leisure time, so perhaps the Europeans are simply unconsciously trying to return to the lifestyle that we evolved for!

David Brin said...

Tell your Congressperson to vote NO to the PATRIOT Act before tomorrow's vote! The PATRIOT reauthorization bill being fast-tracked to the House floor contains NO reforms, and will be voted upon with NO debate and NO opportunity for amendments to add oversight and accountability. Help stop this sneak attack on your civil liberties.

Last year, many important PATRIOT reform measures were proposed, and a bill filled with powerful new checks and balances was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee. But, as it ran up against the deadline, Congress decided there was not enough time to fully consider those reforms. So, last year, Congress extended the "sunsetting" sections of the law until the end of this February, with a promise to fully consider the issues before the next deadline.

But now, in a legislative sneak attack, the new Republican leadership in the House is trying to duck Congress' promise to consider PATRIOT reform, and is instead pushing your Representative to rubber-stamp another PATRIOT renewal.

David Brin said...

Actually, the Young Turk movement had two phases. After the humiliations of WWI, they turned to the one general who did well - Kemal Ataturk, who humbled Churchill at Gallipoli - and HIS phase of the movement really did push major reforms.

Rushmc... I so totally do NOT believe the estimates about caveman leisure. Sure, when things were rolling along fin and both the hunters and gatherers were doing well, they could then kick back a bit, gossiping... while constantly at work chewing hides, pulling and braiding ropes and nets, chipping flint, pleasant and light work... though relentless and endless...

...only several times a year came desperate panic. Accidents, raids by other tribes, sudden absence of food. Um, they had low populations, you think that was because of birth control?

JuhnDonn said...

So... Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Nobel awards? I guess, if you restricted voting to 6-16 year olds...

I've tried those pronunciation tests. I keep coming up Standard Mid-West. 'Course, I am from Muncie, Indiana.

D'oh! Just gave the NSA more info. Oh, wait, I've worked, in one fashion or another, for the gov't my entire adult life. And I've had concealed carry licenses as well. Talk about living in a glass box.

I'm not sure I really get the kitchen automation drive. I mean, we still cook breakfast and dinner with basic pots and pans over gas fire (and lunch is leftovers that yeah, are heated in microwave at work but that's only because they won't install a full kitchen like I keep asking them to) and it doesn't take up too much time. We're up at 5:30 am (have to be at work, 25 miles away, at 7:30 am), do a handoff on breakfast making around showers (I start kettle/bacon/potatoes, wife finishes them up) get kid up and ready and walk three dogs every morning and we're out the door by 6:45 AM.

Dinner is usually my deal during the work week (we work 9 hour days with 1 hour commute) and rarely takes more than 45 minutes to prepare. During that time, daughter is getting homework done and we then have 1/2 hour of tv with food (our dining room table is covered with ceramic projects) and then it's reading time.

I guess, if you're really in to tv, making real food can cut in to that and if you're really not in to the cooking process, it can seem like a chore but man, making my own meals from fresh food is so nice! Only sucky thing is I really like what I cook and portion control is really difficult. *le sigh*

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Regarding the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act renewal, doesn't it make more sense to call my SENATOR and demand that the Senate shoot this thing down? My guess is that it's a done deal in the House.

The new GOP House is the opposite of what you used to discuss about the REAL legislative process happening within the then-Majority Democratic Party. How that the GOP has a huge new majority in the House, it seems they've decided to steamroll through all sorts of ideological bills that don't have a chance of passing the Senate (let alone President Obama's veto pen), but that's ALL they're going to do for two years. Nothing of substance at all.

Only tangentially related, but:

If the link doesn't work, it's Bill Maher's "New Rules" from episode 200.

That's why the NFL literally shares the wealth. TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put it all in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways. Because they don't want anyone to fall too far behind. That's why the team that wins the Super Bowl, in the next draft, picks last. Of what the Republicans would call, "punishing success."

Baseball, on the other hand, is exactly like the Republicans. And I don't just mean it's incredibly boring. I mean, their economic theory is "every man for himself." The small-market Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl more than anybody. But, the Pittsburgh Pirates? Levi Johnston has sperm that will not grow up and live long enough to see the Pirates in a World Series.

Their payroll is $40 million. The Yankees' is $206 million. The Pirates have about as much chance of getting to the playoffs as a poor, black teenager from Newark has of becoming the CEO of Haliburton. That's why people stop going to see Pirate games in May. Because if you're not in the game, you become indifferent to the fate of the game, and maybe even get bitter. That's what's happening to the middle class in America. It's also how Marie Antoinette lost her head.

ZarPaulus said...

The way the world works governments need to do bad things in order to prevent the governments that do even worse things from taking over. In an ideal world government transparency would work, but WE DO NOT LIVE IN AN IDEAL WORLD!!

Tony Fisk said...

... but then, is that because transparency is not universal at present?

Jhartek said...


That Bill Maher quote is incredible, thank you!!

Michael C. Rush said...

>>The way the world works...

What you mean to say is the way PEOPLE work, and we have a lot of say in that. You are confusing what tends to happen with what is inevitable.

Tony Fisk said...

OT but great innovative fun:

What did the Doughnuts ever do for us?

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr Brin,

You need to check your links: used for the Turkey and Egypt comparison is broken

Ian said...

A few days ago on the previous thread I posted a video of Copts in Tahrir Square protecting Muslims as they prayed.

Well here's Muslims cheering as Copts celebrate Mass in Tahrir Square.

David Brin said...

Larry, another commenter found it:

David Brin said...

bad doughnuts link

Tony Fisk said...

The Doughnut is waiting, here.

Doug S. said...

Interestingly, I've read that modern-day hunter-gatherers, such as the Bushmen, "work" the equivalent of 20 hours a week - and that's in spite of living in resource-poor areas. (This could be completely inaccurate, though.)

Lorraine said...

If the spyware is acting without the knowledge of the users [sic] then what you have is mirror shades, not transparency. If they had spyware that allowed me to spy on myself, I'd delight in it.

Similarly, Big Brother is good for you, if you are Big Brother.

Lorraine said...

If the postal panopticon is a way to drum up badly needed business, then obviously the data are to be proprietary. The transparency revolution, if there is to be one, will be nonproprietary. With the passage of time I am becoming more and more convinced that information emphatically does not want to be free-as-in-beer, so I am forced to believe that the actually-possible accountability matrix is an asymmetric one. The data mining capabilities of individuals (including individuals working in concert) will never catch up with those of business/government. Looking at the captcha for the present comment leads me to wonder what the 'mathylit' (no kidding) has to say about the subject.

David Brin said...

Good pts Lorraine. Doug, many things are a matter of perspective. FOr example, anthropologiests sitting by Bushmen fires and following them around observed apparently the most placid and peaceful people, as in THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY. Until one of them asked... “do you know somebody who was murdered? Or who is a murderer?”

Then it all came out. Stunning degress or horrific bloodletting! Disguised by the very low total numbers of people is a PER CAPITA level of violence worse than downtown Detroit on Saturday night.

The two topics are related. When people die down to the easy carrying capacity of thje land, then of course, the lands provides.

rewinn said...

The "Postal Panopticon" leads me to query: is there something similar going on with civil aviation? While airlines might not need the money as badly, surely collecting regularly flown routes must be able to amass large amounts of useful atmospheric data.

"...governments need to do bad things in order to prevent the governments that do even worse things from taking over..."

Not really. In fact, it's hard to think of an actual effectual example in the last century.

China's not going to invade the USA when it can simply buy us.

History tells us that governments need to do bad things to keep their population under control. The excuse of repelling invasion basically went away with the invention of the United Nations, imperfect as it may be. Since 1945 no Great Power has been in serious danger of being "taken over" militarily by another (...small nations are entirely another question, but aren't in a position to do enough "bad things" to protect themselves against the Great Powers, except possibly to acquire nukes).

gmknobl said...

Dr. Brin,

WRT drugs, since Nixon enforced criminalization of drug use the culture of stick not carrot has ruled in America. Of course, this was a political strategy to gain votes and it worked. It still works as part of a plan to attract conservative voters. I view it as part of a deliberate strategy to separate Americans and encourage a culture war.

It boggles my mind when every study I've seen on the issue shows that drug abuse treatment programs work better than harsh punishment. Furthermore, it stand to reason that if you decriminalize some drug, marijuana for example, would lower the price on the street for that drug and likely cut the profit for the gangs that traffic in this. That would hurt the current Mexican cartels more effectively than the demonstrably ineffective "war on drugs."

Julian Assange is arrogant indeed but the charges against him are assuredly trumped up. I also view the tactics taken against him and wikileaks as deplorable and against the standards that America has set for itself. It is a shame that Obama, for all he says otherwise, is taking these steps against freedom, no matter what the excuse.

Of course, not prosecuting Bush administration officials is equally deplorable given that peace cannot occur if we don't strive for justice.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On a depressing note, 25% of highschool biology teachers teach creationism.

rewinn said...

@Ilithi -

The situation seems even worse - according to the article, 60% or more of science teachers are passive on the issue. I would imagine that fear for their jobs may be a factor. I would urge pro-science people, of ANY ideological persuasion get onto state and local school boards. The Know-Nothings have already figured that part out.


I wouldn't mind Creationism in a course teaching the scientific method. Let kids compare the theory of flat-earthism to roundish-earthism, phlogiston to current theories of heat, creationism to evolution.

Of course, a scientific analysis of creationism would surely result in pained cries of being anti-Christian by those who confuse Biblical idolotry with Jesus - which is a whole 'nother discussion.

Is there, somewhere, a nicely canned one-hour lesson on the scientific method that compares-and-contrasts flateartherism/phlogiston/creationism to the rest?

Ilithi Dragon said...

The user potholer54 on YouTube has some great videos on the subject. Corey is more familiar with his youtube postings, all of which are brilliant, and could probably point you at two or three vids by him just off the top of his head.

Corey said...


An honest, two-sided comparison would be difficult, mostly because anyone positing any creationist idea has to rely on gross misunderstandings, scientific misconduct, and facts that are either incorrectly misrepresented, or just plain made up.

It can't be a two-sided presentation because there aren't two sides to this "debate". There's just the creationists saying wrong things, and then the factual corrections.

That said, there ARE some good summaries made up explaining the problems with most of the core creationist claims.


Additionally still:

Those are important because the flood is absolutely central to any creationist paradigm, as it's required to explain away a lot of evidence (but still doesn't fit anyways).

Basically, the problem is that science teachers, namely the "neutral" ones, are probably a little timid about what has to be said here.

But basically, it boils down to, and children have to be told this: "Look, people are entitled to thei personal beliefs, their religions, and what not, but this class is about SCIENCE and FACT. There is no creation science versus evolution science. There is just the facts of the evidence, and the fact that creationism CANNOT be reconciled with them, and EVERY SINGLE creationist claim is either factually wrong, or a logical fallacy. On the other hand, evolution fits like a glove in more ways and to more forms of evidence than could ever realistically be credited to sheer coincidence"

This is basically how it's been put, in college, by multiple professors I've had. It was a sort of way of saying "letting you guys hang onto creationism to avoid arguments was cute and nice in high school, but this is REAL biology now, and we have to use real facts and take the science seriously". They always made it clear that the notion of God wasn't ruled out, or even addressed by biology, but Young-Earth Creationism was disproved, a long time ago, plain and simple.

Honestly, that would take a lot of support for teachers at lower grades to do, both in terms of having them to fully understand the evidence for evolution and the factual problems with creationism, and in terms of moral support, knowing that they'll be backed when they tell children what could be, for some, an uncomfortable truth.

Corey said...

Also, I'm a biology student with fairly extensive education in the subject of evolution, so as far as this forum are concerned, I'm happy to answer any questions anyone ever has on the topic.

David Brin said...

I admire and support you all...

...but everybody gets the cart and horse turned around.

They do not denigrate science in order to support creationism and attach global climate change.

They support creationism and attach global climate change in order to attack and undermine and discredit science.

So long as scientists are universally acknowledged as the smartest and best-informed people, then they will be heeded when they question mumbo jumbo like Supply Side Economics. Trashing their rep is essential in order to make sure the oligarchs are the only elite left standing.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>So long as scientists are universally acknowledged as the smartest and best-informed people...

Ha! Maybe that still applies in parts of your world (you being fortunate enough to enjoy much congress with scientists and tech people). Out here, alas, that ship has long since sailed. Those smarty-pants elitists just want to build Frankenstein's monster and destroy us all. Plus, they're all godless heathens who consequently have no morality. And their so-called "science" is demonstrated wrong every day (and in their own journals!), so why listen to them in the first place?

Michael C. Rush said...

But to address your point, you may be right with respect to the top-down strategizers, but the vast majority of those who spew the anti-science screed, barely understanding it, are certainly NOT motivated as you suggest. This is the beauty of a propaganda outlet like Fox News: those influenced by it have very different motives than those who program them in service of their own, higher agendas. Most of the lower level activity is merely knee-jerk reactionary kickback against what they do not understand (which someone tells them, in language they are comfortable with, is bad).

David Brin said...

Rushmc is right of course. The great thing about the Koch/Murdoch/Talil agenda is that they can launch Fox-driven movements for their own reasons, but the rationalized surface reasons become self-propelled!

What I can't understand is why no one... not even in your face Bill Maher... will issue WAGERS and CHALLENGES for the supposedly more MORAL redders to show one area in which the results of their program wind up being more moral actual behavior.

Tony Fisk said...

My source for this photograph suggested you would never see it published in a french journal. Sounds like that would apply to Fox as well. My caption (from U2's 'One'):
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

heddremp: tarantella-like dance involving a hangman's noose.

Rob said...

There's a bit more diversity in creationist camps than y'all are implying. As a small-c creationist, that is, someone who thinks God created heaven and earth, I feel no threat from theories related to natural selection and speciation. ("Theory" as scientists define it, not as a term of dismissal.)

The effect on my faith in God is unchanged by the contents of the Dinosaur National Monument, and I feel no impulse to believe in an ancient global deluge, or any of the other things the evidence doesn't show, in order to keep using the teachings of this or that ancient religious leader as an aid to getting along peacefully with others in the here and now.

In short, "young Earth" creationism is a pile of hooey to me. It offends me because it turns God into a relative simpleton and requires epicyclical reasoning. A combination of "God exists" and "Evolution is true" merely makes things far more interesting.

David Brin said...

Rob, it goes beyond that. I believe the core reason for the cult of Biblical literalsm that entails creationism is to be found at the other end...

... in a desperate need to support the core article of faith-based hate-ism. The Book of Revelations.

The BoR is the absolute centerpiece of the ego-rage that declares that all the scientists and all the civil servants and academics and teachers and lawyers aren't simply universally unwise (the surface Fox message) but fundamentally damned creatures, hated by God and destined to endless torment.

It is a hate-festival, a hate-extravaganza! But it falls apart if (1) the Bible isn't literal or (2) God changes his mind.

This is the core reason for Creationism, in order to prop up the vileness at the other end.

Of course it is trivial to demolish #2, by simply citing the Book of Jonah. It is that easy. As easy as showing the statistics proving that the entire Red Agenda results in vastly less moral overall behavior than the Blue Agenda.

But no one on the liberal side can be persuaded to say these things.

Acacia H. said...

The reason that Young Earth Creationism gets all the news is because it sells newspapers and because it is a useful method of attacking the validity of science itself. By claiming God is responsible for everything and created the universe and Earth and everything in seven days, YEC are claiming science itself is fundamentally flawed and incorrect. It is, literally, another front in Culture War.

That said, I know of YECs in real-life who are otherwise intelligent and skeptical individuals but who refuse to accept such notions as the Bible being Wrong. Sadly, the YEC in question is also a firm believer in Armageddon/The End Times, and feels it will happen sooner rather than later. Though how much of that is genuine belief, and how much is "yanking Tangent's leg to see how riled up I can get him" remains to be seen (yes, the inner cynic sometimes turns on OTHER people as well. Heh.)

Rob H.

cuthilly: what happens when Cthulhu is raised by the Beverly Hillbillies

Tony Fisk said...

Aha! A succinct tie-in between BoR, creationists, and indignation.

Rob H, your assesment of your YEC* friend demonstrates that logic is a tool. Anyone can use it to reach conclusions based on their original assumptions.

You can use it (playfully) to demonstrate that 1 = 2.

Where science departs from faith is in the willingness to question those assumptions. Which is where the above proof comes to grief. 1 != 2 because an underlying assumption (division by non-zero) is broken.

(That Cthulhu was raised by hilbillies is one of those Secrets Man was not Meant to Know. It is known!)

*Can we coin a new acronym for BoR: Young Earth Creationist Holocaust!?

David Brin said...

Robert, I cannot be so easy going about this.

The YEC redders want to impose on us a president who believes in Bor literality and imminence... someone who PRAYS for it to be imminent! And thus for:

-- 99% of her fellow citizens to die in horrid agony

-- for them to be plunged into eternal torment

-- for nuclear weapons to fly and fire to rain from the sky

-- for an explicit end to all democracy and to the United States of America.

They weasel out by claiming to be "saddened" by this outcome. They even claim to pray for God to expand his circle of mercy...

...while declaring an absolute belief that he will not do so.
That he cannot do so.
That it is impossible for Him to change his mind and relent.
That the entire scenario will and must play out in excruciating detail...

...and they pray for it to happen soon. And any and all denial that they relish that imminence and their own favored role is utter lying hypocrisy of the most damnable kind. A surface mask, barely concealing a hand-rubbing glee over their soon-to-come triumph over the 99% of humanity whom they hate, with hate-filled hearts that gush and spume and overflow... with hate.

This is true, in stark, black and white terms of utter purity. For, those who wish some other outcome can find more than enough reasons, in CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURE, to hope and know that God is bigger, saner, more generous and loving than the narrowminded, cruel, CRAZY PERSON they worship.

The God of 14 billion years, of fifty quadrillion stars, of trillions of separate living worlds, of vast possibilities and a future that goes on and on, with human children rising up to be apprentice creators... that God chuckles at the cramped, idiotic image that the YEC-BoR morons cling to. He is saddened by their sick obsession with hate-revenge fantasies.

He wants us to be smart. To rise up. To move forward, every generation better than its parents. Till, at last, we become interesting enough to talk-to.

Tony Fisk said...

That the entire scenario will and must play out in excruciating detail...

Put that way, it sounds a bit like Ragnarok

Rob said...

The BoR has a... complex structure. But I'll go even further out there by saying, simply, that you can tell the real Christians from the false ones by whether or not they actually want that stuff to happen to their enemies.

There are ways to construe that book that don't include wishing doom and destruction upon people inconvenient to you.

David Brin said...

Exactly. As allegory. Or as a tantrum-dream that God sent JofPatmos during the reign of Nero. Or as... well... hard come up with many other excuses.

But none of the excuses include taking the BoR literally and praying for it to come true... WHILE unctuously pretending to wish (with LOVE!) that it wouldn't.

Y'know, the gnostics - once a huge branch of early christianity - believed that the of of Wrath was a lower deity - somewhat crazy - and Jesus was an attempt by the higher God of Love to get past the noisy vengeful one and reach us.

Corey said...

David Brin:
"I admire and support you all...

...but everybody gets the cart and horse turned around.

They do not denigrate science in order to support creationism and attach global climate change.

They support creationism and attach global climate change in order to attack and undermine and discredit science.

So long as scientists are universally acknowledged as the smartest and best-informed people, then they will be heeded when they question mumbo jumbo like Supply Side Economics. Trashing their rep is essential in order to make sure the oligarchs are the only elite left standing."

Having dealt with a lot of creationsists, I can say that this is only true in some cases.

The Creationist camp is a much bigger and more inclusive group than the Murdoc et al anti-science group. The latter, I think, act as you say, specifically with the goal of attacking science, education, and expertise in general.

That said, many have a different motive altogether. They really are true believers, and zealots who's first and foremost concern is to prove that their particular brand of canon religion is totally and unequivocally correct, and that anyone who disagrees is evil.

These people are less like the Halo Covenant (anti-science/expertise), and instead, are far more like the Borg. They don't care if you're a scientist, expert, whatever. However, you must be assimilated, and resistance is futile [because the almighty is on their side].

Take this particular bit of kicking and screaming by Rod Parsley, for instance ( Yes, hes an extremist. He's as extreme as fundamentalist Christians get, but I don't believe he's part of some clandestyne plot to fight the evolution vs creationist battle *merely* as a tool to undermine science and expertise.

I think he really does believe this stuff, and he really does believe that evolution is evil, and that those who don't come to accept his particular brand of Christianity are the enemy, not because they're smart, but because they're heretics.

There are many people who are truly in it to protect their religion from inconvenient facts. It's no more or less than that.

Corey said...

"There's a bit more diversity in creationist camps than y'all are implying. As a small-c creationist, that is, someone who thinks God created heaven and earth, I feel no threat from theories related to natural selection and speciation. ("Theory" as scientists define it, not as a term of dismissal.)"

But you see, Rob, to me you aren't a creationist. I define a creationist, not as someone who believes that the universe was guided or ultimately brought into being, in some form, by a higher power, but rather as someone who believes that today's universe was plopped down, just like it is, with all the life on Earth also being plopped down, just like it is, an in instant literal act of hand-creating everthing.

If you don't believe that, then you're not really a creationist. Biologist Kenneth Miller believes something that's probably similar to what you believe, but he is NO creationist. Religous =! creationist.

David Brin said...

Look, it is important to me that it be clear. My intolerance is toward those (I deem to be) horrifically intolerant. It happens that I believe certain books and doctrines to be inherently mad. But that is not my reason for feeling wrath toward certain believers.

Rather, the fact that they consider my children to be inherently damned and deserving of eternal torment kind of starts us off on the wrong foot.

The implicit insult to God... portraying him as a raging lunatic... does not help.

Their war against the Enlightenment puts me in a testy mood.

But the fact that they are eagerly seeking to hand control over my nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons to "candidates" who seriously and earnestly want to use them, in order to fulfill a deliciously insane hate-fantasy... well, that gets my dander up.

Rob said...

I wonder.

I think He ignited the universe. "Let there be Light". Maybe a scientific culture would say something like, "Let there be an electromagnetic field, and energy therein," or something. And so forth. The story David Brin tells in the opening to Earth isn't told in an order all that different from Genesis 1.

The fact that I believe that makes me a creationist. Small-c. Maybe you could call me a "deep-time" creationist. Maybe in that sense I'm like Kenneth Miller. Never heard of him before today, though. Thanks for the name-drop, I'm looking into it now.

Tim H. said...

Seems to me the more lurid interpretations of BOR are heretically opposite from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (BTW, one can practice the golden rule without being christian.).

"barman", woulda' been great, if he could fly in a straight line.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

The YEC redders want to impose on us a president who believes in Bor literality and imminence... someone who PRAYS for it to be imminent! And thus for:

-- 99% of her fellow citizens to die in horrid agony

-- for them to be plunged into eternal torment

-- for nuclear weapons to fly and fire to rain from the sky

Back in 2008 when Sarah Barracuda first came to prominence, she reminded me of the future flash-forward of the Martin Sheen character in "The Dead Zone". In case the scene I'm talking about isn't obvious, he was on his way to becoming president and launching a nuclear first-strike. As the "flash-forward" ended, he's telling the vice-president (who tried to negotiate a diplomatic solution) that "It's too late. The bombs are flying. Halelulah!"

As I say, when Ms Palin burst upon the scene, she reminded me of this character. Nothing in the intervening 2+ years has altered that association.

I actually think John McCain foresaw a bit of this before the end of the campaign and made a point of trying to walk back the destructive verbiage. In my more charitable moments, I imagine he even helped sabatoge his own campaign to spare the country his unfortunate vice-presidential choice.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

Y'know, the gnostics - once a huge branch of early christianity - believed that the of of Wrath was a lower deity - somewhat crazy - and Jesus was an attempt by the higher God of Love to get past the noisy vengeful one and reach us.

There's a relatively-obscure Canadian comic book writer/artist named Dave Sim. His forte is being an iconoclast, taking a well-know, well-accepted view of the world and presenting it from the perspective of someone who had never thought about it before.

He's faded into obscurity lately because he's managed to offend or anger much of his fan base. Otherwise, he'd be more well known for having written three-HUNDRED issues of a monthly (except for the first two years or so) comic book called "Cerebus".

Anyway, the son of atheists, he read the Bible for the first time about ten years ago, and more or less on his own came up with a theory similar to what you just stated above--that the biblical "YHWH" is not in fact another name for God, but rather a name for God's Adversary (Satan?) who has deluded himself into BELIEVING himself to be God. Dave considers the Bible and the Koran to be a sort of long-winded conversation BETWEEN God and YHWH, with actual people being "living metaphors" that God whips up to demonstrate His points.

Tacitus2 said...

I rarely wade into these religio-political threads.

As to the nature of God and of His/Her creation, you are entitled to your own opinion. As to who turns out to be right, I have often suggested that in good time Management will inform you.

The other day I had a nice guy turn up expecting the usual semi placebo course of antibiotics for a probably viral infection. He left with a diagnosis of acute leukemia, and of a particulary virulent sort. My oncology colleagues will do their best, but its likely my patient will have The Answers before the year is out.
I hope for all of you that the time frame is a bit longer, but in a cosmic sense we are all but mayflies.

Now, while I will not tell you what to believe I think you should be more cautious holding forth on what others believe. Some very unkind things are being said about Ms Palin here and elsewhere.

In the interests of objectivity as I see it (and how else could one!) I imagine she might be a bloodthirsty religious nut. Hey, could be.

But lets be fair, if you can.

There is a baseline level of stupid things politicians say. They get tired or distracted, or their teleprompter hiccups and they talk about 53 states and countries where people speak Austrian.

Then there is the coded Kabuki talk that you have to adopt when speaking to say, the NRA or the NEA or the AARP.

Beyond that there can be the malicious input of the partisan press, on either side. Quotes cut from the middle of a longer discussion, "gotcha" questions etc.

Whether you think Ms Palin would be a reasonable candidate for Pres or not (I am unimpressed) I think it is fair to say that she has been the focus of an unrelenting negative media campaign, under which equivalent gaffesters (paging VP Biden) would wither.*

Back to Eternal matters. I have had some very interesting conversations with agnostics and atheists when the end approaches. Many, but not all, revert to the sort of deism/small c creationism that is likely our default mode. As the mind recoils from an eternity of non existence we believe (at least I do) that the glory of the Universe is more than brownian movement writ large.

Oh, and the teachers who are not giving creation/evolution a fair treatment? Mostly lazy and PC fearful. As someone who has on a volunteer basis worked for a decade in the middle school enrichment program world I can tell ya, doing things in a thoughtful and thought provoking way is hard work and will make you few pals.

*please, don't give me a link a thon of Palinisms. I just don't find her that important.

LarryHart said...


I can't speak for anyone else here, but my personal antipathy toward Ms Palin is about her public persona--what she represents and what she purposely encourages in her supporters. Ditto Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

I can't claim to speak for any of their private religious beliefs, nor do I much care. Their purported beliefs are dangerous. I'm reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's stated theme of his early novel "Mother Night": "You are what you pretend to be, so be careful what you be."

LarryHart said...

That was supposed to read:

"You are what you pretend to be, so be careful what you pretend to be."

Words to live by--especially on the internet. Or in politics.

Corey said...

"I wonder.

I think He ignited the universe. "Let there be Light". Maybe a scientific culture would say something like, "Let there be an electromagnetic field, and energy therein," or something. And so forth. The story David Brin tells in the opening to Earth isn't told in an order all that different from Genesis 1.

The fact that I believe that makes me a creationist. Small-c. Maybe you could call me a "deep-time" creationist. Maybe in that sense I'm like Kenneth Miller. Never heard of him before today, though. Thanks for the name-drop, I'm looking into it now."

Rob, he's been active in the evolution/creation argument, as a Christian biologist, for a long time and he has both significant academic credentials in the field of evolution and years worth of thought on the topic to share.

First and foremost, I suggest you read his book, Finding Darwin's God.

He has others, but that's really the book that not only puts many of the nails in the coffin for creationism (largely focusing on the rebirth of the argument from Design, ie "irreducible complexity"), but is also a not insubstantial philosophical work on how evolution fits Christianity, and what we can infer about God's purpose for the world because of it.

Miller takes an approach I've never seen before or since: He not only explains why a lot of scientific evidence is only explainable by evolution, but he explain how, in light of a lot evidence, CHRISTIANITY ITSELF is only explainable under an evolutionary framework, because putting God, and that evidence, into a creationist framework leads to absurd conclusions about God that evolution easily explains (while still keeping The Almighty intact).

Corey said...

"Now, while I will not tell you what to believe I think you should be more cautious holding forth on what others believe. Some very unkind things are being said about Ms Palin here and elsewhere.

In the interests of objectivity as I see it (and how else could one!) I imagine she might be a bloodthirsty religious nut. Hey, could be.

But lets be fair, if you can."

She openly despises and dismisses facts and reasoning, she spews VERY divisive and hateful rhetoric, she's professionally disrespectful of other politicians, and in general, she represents, and champions, a movement and way of thinking that is intolerant of science, of formal education and academia, of professionalism.

She's the sort of person who would happily get up and say "America doesn't need those liberally biased academics and their liberally biased education; all we need is good old fashioned family values, God, and common sense!"

To her I would quote a former sociology professor of mine who once quipped that "'common sense' is usually neither common, nor sense".

Is she a bad person? Probably not. Is she a bad mother? Probably not.

Is she a bad politician who represents everything that's wrong with the direction of American? Absolutely, and as LarryHart said, "you are who you pretend to be", so regardless of who she is personally, this is what she has CHOSEN to represent.

If anything, what isn't fair is that the consequences for her will probably be the source of vastly less suffering than her consequences for the nation.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>Is she a bad person? Probably not. Is she a bad mother? Probably not.

And you base this conclusion on what, exactly? Your desire to think well of others? The known facts, some of which you list yourself, strongly suggest otherwise. Liberal-types need to stop bending over backwards to see others as they want them to be rather than as they are (see: Jon Stewart, apologist and false-equivalentialist). Lessening the charges against the conservatives is just one short step away from "the Democrats are just as bad."

Tacitus2 said...


Thanks for helping make my point, although I usually manage on my own. Your very language shows your inherent, well, bias.

You use terms like spew, indicating that her words are to you the equivalent of emesis. You lay on the CAPS, always a sign of emotion over logic. You invent "quotes" for her to speak.

I happen to agree that being governor of a rather singular part of our great nation is not an obvious qualification for being leader of all of it. (off topic, I wonder if anyone has ever drawn parallels to Huey Long, gov. of that other singular state, LA?)

So while neither of us are likely to vote for her, I think I am being a bit more fair.

Is the collective perplexed state of the current progressive movement a byproduct of this lack of mental flexibilty?


LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 said (and not about Sarah Palin):

Back to Eternal matters. I have had some very interesting conversations with agnostics and atheists when the end approaches. Many, but not all, revert to the sort of deism/small c creationism that is likely our default mode. As the mind recoils from an eternity of non existence we believe (at least I do) that the glory of the Universe is more than brownian movement writ large.

First of all, I've always held that "There are no atheists in foxholes" says more about the nature of foxholes than about the nature of atheism.

A drowning man will literally grasp at straws in a vain attempt to stay afloat. Is this evidence for the extraordinary lifting power of straws?

But that's as may be. I take your point to be that as one approaches the end of life, one is inclined to give more credence to the notion that "it" is all about something much bigger. Even if this is to be taken as credible evidence that the religious worldview is the proper context of evaluating the world, that's a far cry from it being evidence that a particular religious faith--Christianity, for example--is the correct one.

Going off on a tangent, but you seem to have professional experience conversing with such people: I've often wondered if the (subjective) threshold of "old age" occurs when one stops living as if they've got an infinite future ahead of them and starts really letting the fact of one's own imminent demise affect one's plans. Me--I'm 50 years old, and while I haven't quite gone that far, I can see it from where I am. My father is wasting away in a nursing home, and I've gone from the "Death is something that happens to other people" attitude to one of really thinking that whatever I want to do or experience here on earth, I'd better do in the next 20 years.

While this has caused me to give more credence to thoughts of what, if anything, "comes next", it has not caused me to worship a judgemental God in hopes of salvation. I just don't think I'm wired that way.

After calling myself "atheist" in my teens and "agnostic" in my twenties and thirties, I've settled on "skeptic" to describe what I am religiously. I'm willing to accept that there are levels so far above us as to be unknowable to us. I don't accept that any particular religious sect has knowledge OF those unknowables.

Corey said...


So let me get this straight, for a moment.

I'm being emotional if I capitalize two words for emphasis, out of 188? Would I be less "biased" had I taken the time to apply bold or italics tags instead? That seems like a rather grasp-at-straws basis to characterize someone.

So what about my use of language? Well here's a question for you: at what point does rhetoric, political or otherwise, become sufficiently hateful and divisive and nonconstructive that we're allowed to use the word "spew"?

Apparently, for you, statements like "don't retreat, reload", or having one's PAC paint crosshairs on politicians who pass legislation one likes doesn't count for you. The fact that it does for me doesn't mean I have an inherent anti Sarah Palin bias.

In fact, I find the very argument to be nonsensical. How could I be inherently biased against a person? Doesn't that imply that before knowing anything about them, including their name, that I pass irreversible judgment on them?

Wouldn't that mean that I'm judging them before actually being aware of their very existence? ;)

I gave Sarah Palin her shot, just like I give every politician their shot. Would it surprise you that in two of the past three national elections I voted for certain Republicans?

It seems to me that what you're doing is trying to bypass any argument of why Sarah Palin is bad influence on this nation by automatically characterizing anyone who holds such a view as "biased", and that's just poisoning the well, Tacitus, hardly something that's befitting of someone like you.

Corey said...

I would add that I also took the time in my most to specifically note that I was in no way making negative personal judgments of Sarah Palin.

That's not something that I was required to do, yet I went out of my way to do it. I even took criticism for it, but nevertheless, I stand by those comments, distancing my view of her politics from judgments of her personal character.

That's hardly indicative of personal bias against Sarah Palin.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>distancing my view of her politics from judgments of her personal character

And again I am afraid I must criticize you for it. Where do you think politics comes from if not from character?? Is it conceivable that Hitler was really a decent bloke who just voted the wrong way? Are you really buying into the "nice guy to have a beer with" argument? I'm not suggesting that everyone who disagrees with you politically is a horrible, rotten person, but it seems absurd to me to pretend that the impact someone wants to have on the world via their politics, and their very values, don't reflect upon them personally.

David Brin said...

Rob, your small-c version is the same one that was adopted by the Catholic Church and by most mainstream protestants and Jews. That God spoke Maxwell's Equations, there was light, he added Quantum Chromodynamics and there was matter.
It allows many scientists to remain spiritual people, while putting the forward-quest toward co-creation first.

There is also room for "He answers prayers not with physical action but with strengthening of the spirit." That is certainly supported by some evidence.

Look, I can understand why some of my New Atheism friends militantly chafe at this deistic waffle - after all, it is just the latest stage in the back-pedaling that science has imposed on religion since Galileo. Every generation of theologians has drawn lines in the sand and declared: "Okay you brainy scientists have figured out that part, but you'll never come HERE! This part is God's private realm."

Have you noticed? We've been making "life" in labs for a decade (in some interpretations). And none of the religious angst or hand-wringing that was expected has happened at all, The back-pedaling is now so smooth it's hardly noticed.

And yet, I keep feeling tempted to come up with lawyerly excuses for the Big Guy. That "Name the beasts" riff you've all heard me state, showing that our role as co-creators mattered from the beginning, for example.

Or "the Big Sermon"... which you can hear any time you step outside and demand a sign! (You won't get one; that's the sermon. It is His way of saying "Figure it out for yourselves!")

Me, I am spiritual, you can see it in my writing... while respectfully agnostic to an extent that leaves me quite capable of prayer. I contain multitudes and the old-fashioned guys are welcome within me, without need for simplistic uniformity or oppression.

My loyalty is to my Great-Nth Grandchildren. Period. They are my principal deities. If "God" awaits them, when they are ready to look Him eye-to-eye as Star Trek type apprentice co-creators, then fine. (Want a sacred moment: when Kirk's ex-wife looks around the Genesis Cave and says "Can I cook? Or can't I?" That, to me, was sacred.)

When that day comes, well, I xpect He's got some 'splainin' to do. Some serious 'splainin'. And if I am still around in some mental fashion, I will be poking my finger in His chest, demanding answers to all the Big moral Questions. And if He's worthy of respect, he won't mind me... or those Great Nth grandkids... badgering Him. It is the best part of what and who we are.

David Brin said...

Oh, an addendum:

Tacitus, you are a wise-guy (in the best sense) and it is good to have you here. Certainly there are scenarios udner which the soul might persist, even in a physics-driven universe. The most prominent being "we're living in a simulation, and the archives contain us all."

Also see Tipler's THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY. Along with Karl Marx, I consider Tipler the greatest of all sci fi writers. What a what-if story!

Sorry, though, I have to offer one more salvo.

The problem with BoR junkies is they can actually nurse a trance state in which they blubber about "love" for the sinners who will be damned on Judgement Day and "wishing they could be saved." They proclaim that I will be dragged off to hell with their arms clutching my ankles, holding on with all their might till I (and my kids) are ripped away by force!

THAT is how they reconcile "love" with the splatter-holocaust they pray for.It's all inevitable, unavoidable, you see. It's not THEIR choice or doing that 99% will tumble into an eternal torture chamber.

(Though individuals, here and there, can move from the 99% damned to the 1% saved. I wonder; when a sinner does that, does one of the saved tumble down, to make room for him in First Class? Is wondering about that one reason why I am damned?)

No, there is not a shred of moral grace attached to being complicit to such an event. Those who relish the coming of armageddon, while hypocritically covering their glee with a frosting of sugary "love and sadness" for 99% of humanity, are wallowing in evil.

Jeff B. said...

Good Christians have struggled with the BoR for at least 1800 years. Most mainline churches have come to terms with it, seeing it as metaphor or as an apocalyptic vision that spoke more to the culture at the time than the literal direction of history.

A good number of early Church fathers believed in the concept of "universal salvation," that eventually everyone would be brought to God through his unconditional love. Apparently some time in the 4th or 5th Century when the church was becoming synonymous with the Empire this majority view was forcibly supplanted with the vision of eternal hellfire and damnation that has terrified far too many Catholic (and Presbyterian) children over the subsequent years.

Dr. Brin, your "Big Sermon" concept is one I've not seen before, and will require some deep thought. But the concept, as simple as it seems, has some amazing implications...

Jeff B. said...

On the subject of science vs. creationism: I would agree with Corey in that the vast majority of creationist/BoR fundamentalists I've encountered believe in creationism because of faith. They're taught a simplistic, cartoonish version of Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam) that has everything laid out in black-and-white, with nice clean borders and answers to everything. And the most important precept- if you question anything, then you obviously don't believe.

So this vast sea of people not taught to think logically, holding on to their carefully taught religious ideas, is very, very susceptible to populists like Beck who tap into their angst and fear. But I think that this belief is the underlying state that makes anti-science so attractive.

I might say that it very well could be partially the fault of the mainline, moderate Protestant and Catholic faiths in our country- for not tolerating honest questioning and discussion, for not having the courage to say, "we don't know," for not encouraging rational exploration, for succumbing to the temptation of rallying behind the God of the Gaps every time another bulwark is washed away by the stormy logic of science.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>I might say that it very well could be partially the fault of the mainline, moderate Protestant and Catholic faiths in our country

I'd say they earn a much larger share of the blame for fundamentalism by not confronting it as strongly and openly as secularists do--or as strongly as they do secularists, for that matter. Fundamentalism is as big a threat to "moderate" religion as it is to secularism. But I suppose it's hard to mount a rational argument from an irrational position.

LarryHart said...

It's been said that "It is hard to convince a man of something when his salary depends upon his NOT believing it."

How much more is that the case when it's not one's salary, but one's eternal salvation (or damnation) depending on what one believes?

Michael C. Rush said...

>>How much more is that the case when it's not one's salary, but one's eternal salvation (or damnation) depending on what one believes?

I'll put moral integrity up against "salvation/damnation" any day. If I believe nonsense, I am a failure. Pascal's Wager is for weaklings and cowards.

LarryHart said...

rushmc, you seem to have a chip on your shoulder today.

Nonetheless, I'm not disagreeing with your principled stance on moral integrity vs. threats of punishment. I'd like to think I share that integrity. My point was simply "This is what the ideal of a rational discourse is up against."

I trust it doesn't violate either of our moral integrity to admit that the opposing forces are formidable indeed.

Tacitus2 said...

Corey, you ask a fair question.

I tend to give a fair amount of latitude as to appropriate speech. It is not fair to discuss the problems of the disadvantaged without mentioning race where it is relevant. Since politics is the extention of, and usually replacement for, more destructive forms of conflict it is not surprising that our political speech is littered with older terms of a militant nature.

So perhaps an example would help. I feel it would be reprehensible for protesters outside a political gathering to call for a black public offical to be lynched or sent back to the fields. And I think any organization associated with these people should roundly condemn them, a chorus of reproof that would be joined by media outlets across the political spectrum.

Is it not so?


Michael C. Rush said...

No chips here, LarryHart--not without salsa! I didn't think you ascribed to the idea you were citing; I merely wished to point out that it is a fundamentally unsound and illogical one, because expressing it without doing so gives it a certain strength of currency.

Corey said...

rushmc, it's really quite simple.

I don't know Sarah Palin. Outside of her political statements, I don't know her favorite food, her weekly religious itinerary, her favorite TV show, or even her middle name.

I know far, far less, still, about the particulars of her personal morals.

Maybe she's an evil, maniacal, horrible person who's goal is to harm America and humanity as badly as she possibly can during her time here on Earth, with nothing else mattering to her.

On the other hand, maybe she's simply an ignorant person who takes extreme positions because she genuinely believes that she's right, no matter what, and that America is only going in the right direction with her, and those like her, at the helm, something she'll see to at any and all costs.

Either way, she displays a propensity to do and say things that, especially when taken with the deeds and words of those like her, do extraordinary harm to this nation, planet and human society. Either way, she has extraordinarily bad judgment, but it's the judgment I question, not the motives. I'm not qualified to judge Sarah Palin's motives.

Now, that isn't to say that I never judge the motives of those involved in public affairs; I do. For instance, I personally think that Fred Singer is a greedy, selfish, self-centered SOB who doesn't care if his "science" is honest, or whether it hurts people, mostly because he gets paid very, very well to not care. I'm able to judge his motives, to an extent, because his expertise rules out the possibility of innocent ignorance.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is not an expert in anything. Maybe she is malevolent, or maybe she's just ignorant. Either way, I'll reserve judging her as the former until evidence arises to make that judgment. In the meantime, I simply know that she's a mother of five who's dedicated her time and energy to public office. Horrendous judgment or not, what little I do know of the specifics of her life simply indicate that she's likely a typical human being, like anyone else, and not especially malevolent towards anyone.

Michael C. Rush said...

Morality is not the same thing as motivation. Palin's favorite tv show may be interesting trivia (to some), but it has little bearing on the critical assessment and condemnation of what she says and what she does. And these are the only things that matter. I don't care if someone is destructive because of some internal belief system, because they are foolish and careless, or because some little voice tells them to. What matters is that they must be identified and opposed. Ignorance, embraced, is malicious.

Corey said...


I would generally agree with your sentiments. In fact, there's no particular point on which I disagree.

That said, there are many forms of over-the-line sentiments. For Palin, I happen to think her violent rhetoric towards health care proponents counts. She made statements that were basically veiled ways of saying "when speaking to those evil socialist health care advocates, do the talking with your guns". As I said, her PAC even drew crosshairs over anyone who voted for the Democratic health care reform.

That includes Gabrielle Giffords. She had a big crosshair painted on her, literally, by a very prominent member of the right wing, and it only took one nut job to taker it seriously. I certainly hope that she's happy with herself.

Again, I'm not saying she's evil as a person; I don't know if she is. What I do know, is that that's one of many examples of extraordinarily bad judgment by her (as was her response to these very criticisms by calling said criticisms "blood libel", apparently no understanding what that means).

Another thing that really irked me with her was her "Real America" (TM) comment, implying that anyone who isn't a far-right conservative living in the ultra-rural parts of our nation isn't really part of this nation.

This kind of stuff is, to me, spewing harmful rhetoric.

It's not just statements, either. If all she did was make some extremely questionable statements, well I still wouldn't support her, but I also wouldn't be as scared of her as I am.

That said, she has shown a gross disregard for the well being of her state's wildlife, and the environment in general. She showed complete apathy for the Deepwater Horizon incident, responding by saying we should still "drill'n'burn". The economic positions she shared with McCain were downright frightening (to the point that the word "deficit" didn't even appear on the McCain campaign website).

She's also extremely ignorant. It's not just flubbing up statements, like she did when she referenced the nonexistent "department of law". Yes, I'll grant that all politicians make mistakes, dumb ones. It comes with stress and fatigue. There's a difference, however, between that and not being able to name a single newspaper one reads, or a single Supreme Court case one disagrees with (other than Roe V Wade, which anyone can name).

She may not be evil, but at the very least, she's very harmful to this nation.

Corey said...

"Morality is not the same thing as motivation."

No one said they are, but the former tends to dictate constraints on the latter.

For the rest, you completely missed my point. I don't know Sarah Palin. The fact that I don't even know her favorite TV show is meant to illustrate that point. If I'm not privy to something like that, then I sure as hell don't know, top to bottom, the specifics of her personal morals and motivations.

If you want to judge Sarah Palin is being the most evil individual human being who has ever lived, you can go right ahead.
I'll just stick with criticizing her judgment, because it's what I can factually comment on.

I'm sorry, but I'm done discussing what is, in essence, you telling everyone who doesn't share your personal opinion that they're factually wrong.

It's a silly topic with no basis in anything that I have the necessary information to comment on.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>If you want to judge Sarah Palin is being the most evil individual human being who has ever lived, you can go right ahead.

You're right, you're not worth debating with when you merely stoop to false claims and unsupportable opinion. Moving on...

David Brin said...

I know of no specific Palin statements urging the imminent BoR Day of Judgement. But the minister of her church, whom she praises, has explicitly said such things and I would lay $100 on 5:1 that she has, openly, as well.

What is missing is some prominent person saying, openly, "Hey, them is my KIDS you want to see writhing in agony."

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, btw, the example I gave of protesters using racially tinged talk of violence?

Tea Partiers? No. Common Cause organized a protest at the recent CPAC meeting. Some of the less civil activists wish ill on that Uncle Tom Clarance Thomas. And his wife too. lynching, cutting off toes, etc.

CC did mildly rebuke them. The NY Times discussed the protests without mentioning the inconvenient nasty episode.

Civility, Grey Lady? Nah.


Michael C. Rush said...

See? I told you that if you opened that door someone would strut through it claiming equivalency...

David Brin said...

To show my evenhandedness, know this. I feel Clarence Thomas is a horror and catastrophe, but he is all that the right could mould him to be out of such moronic clay and it is hardly his fault.

The true villain in his story is Anita Hill. How I loathe that woman! Every word she said at those hearings was probably true. And it amounted to a hill of beans, hurled by an ungrateful, treacherous wretch who was as much a "victim" of Thomas as a shark is a victim of a tuna.

If Thomas is psychopathically devoted to betraying his country in favor of oligarchic interests, he was propelled in that direction by a horrible lefty-witch.

She is almost as much to blame for CT's tragedy as the Heritage Foundation monsters who "groomed" such a blatantly under-qualified person to be their puppet.

He is a victim of this set-piece. Almost as much as he thinks he is. But we are the ones suffering.

Corey said...

right, rushmc, even though my only "opinion" is that you have no basis, whatsoever, for judgments on this topic, given the total lack of information, which isn't actually an opinion, but rather a statement of the obvious (I never actually offered any solid opinion either way), you're absolutely and unequivocally right (hint: not)

Anyways, back to discussions of things we can actually comment on with real facts...

Corey said...

David Brin said:
"I know of no specific Palin statements urging the imminent BoR Day of Judgement. But the minister of her church, whom she praises, has explicitly said such things and I would lay $100 on 5:1 that she has, openly, as well.

What is missing is some prominent person saying, openly, 'Hey, them is my KIDS you want to see writhing in agony.'"

That works with reasonable, relatively educated people, but there's an impasse with the sorts we're discussing here that creates a problem.

With a reasonable person, you can put it that way as a way of sort of saying "really, does this sound like the kind of God you worship?". Rational people are open to considerations that they might be holding contradictory beliefs, and they're open to many of the logical arguments that tend to invalidate most of the sillier things fundamentalists believe.

Again, Kenneth Miller does this extensively in his book, Finding Darwin's God, using logical examination of varying aspects of the universe to try to infer things about God's intentions for existence.

Fundamentalists aren't like that though. Their logic is like this [in the Christian brand of it]: "God inspired the Bible, and the Bible is literal, and infallible due to that inspiration, so it's correct, no matter what, and 'this' is what it says, and no further discussion is necessary or wanted".

You see, you can't make appeals saying "but that's an immoral belief you have!" because to them, it's just the will of The Almighty. To them, you're basically arguing with the immutable will of God.

They see it, in a sense, as shooting the messenger. You can't tell THEM that it's unfair that the 99% of the world who are nonbelievers go to hell. They think that God determined that, and that arguing with them does no good, because it wasn't there decision.

So, with that in mind, they reach the conclusion that the only thing to do is the pray for the sinful, and fatalistically accept that most will not be saved.

It's irrational, and frankly, it's downright stupid and unenlightened. It's even very arrogant. It isn't intended to be malicious though, not on their part (at least speaking of those fundamentalists I know and have conversed with). They don't hate you; in a sense, they just think God hates you.

What I'm getting at, in my usual, long-winded way, is that we're not going to rid ourselves of these kinds of people by telling fundamentalists to "be nice" with their fundamentalism. We will ONLY ever be rid of this kind of thinking by slowly and systematically getting rid of fundamentalism altogether.

You won't convince the hardcore followers, but in a sense, they are as beyond saving rationally as they think we are, spiritually. The only thing to do is to continue making it clear that they're extremists, and distancing mainstream society from them as much as possible. Starving them of otherwise rational people to suck in until they've been relegated of the absolute fringes of society, and reduced to complete irrelevance.

They're hopeless, because they aren't open to argument, but that doesn't mean you can't stop them from attracting further converts.

Corey said...

rushmc said:
"See? I told you that if you opened that door someone would strut through it claiming equivalency..."

Yeah, on that topic, I don't think you and I will disagree.

There is no equivalency; the far right has a history of well-funded, constant mass attacks by prominent people on anyone who doesn't follow their dogma.

After enough of their prominent members do it over and over and over and over and over, representing the entire modern GOP in the process, the right responds to being called out on it by trotting out a couple of anecdotal examples and saying "See?! Both parties do it!".

I no steadfast leftist by any means, but there is no contest between the "extremism" of today's American left, and the EXTREMISM of today's American right.

Tony Fisk said...

All I really have to say of BoRing YECH fundamentalists is "Rapture take 'em"

Michael C. Rush said...

>>He is a victim of this set-piece.

That's quite a claim. I think I shall continue to believe that we are the authors of our own choices and actions, however.

Tony Fisk said...

As per Palin, I shouldn't really comment on other folks' politicians but, oh dear, where do they find 'em?

histhipe: the promotion of serpents.

David Brin said...

Sorry Corey, I don’t agree with your assessment at all. People are complex and can believe several things at once. And for most americans, “live and let live” is an article of faith as deeply rooted as any religious dogma. Most fundamentalists you’ll meet are very salt of the Earth types who will show you codiality and never, ever treat you as if they think you are damned.

They DO think you are damned, but that is with a separate part of the mind that they reserve for when they need a next self-righteous indignation high. For the most part, they do not let these segregated thought areas meet, so they can pretend there’s no conflict.

My aim is to make it explicit. “When you cling to a belief that all the UnSaved will have blood gush from their eyes and be gnawed by 12 horned beasts and spend eternity in torment-- THAT’S ME AND MY KIDS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.”

I’ll bet not 1% of them have ever had that pushed in their faces. If it were, many would experience a crisis of faith. I am sure of that because I believe in the basic goodness of most people. And because I believe in the strong power of memes other than religion... like the changed sense of fairness that has arisen since the fight against racism took hold. Witness how desperately Beck tries to “adopt” ML King!

without any doubt, the redder movement depends on magical incantations and misdirection to distract attention from cognitive clashes like this one. That is why they must undermine science and it is why I relentlessly point at ways to DIRECTLY rub noses in such clashes. One of the most powerful would be for liberals to adopt the First Liberal, Adam Smith. FAR more apropos than Beck and King!

Corey said...

, I'm reminded very much of something Steven Weinberg said; he said "Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things—that takes religion."

Like you, I also believe that people are inherently good, but you have to understand exactly how the logic here works. These people, whether they're good, bad, or otherwise, just override it completely with anything the Bible says, and I've seen it.

I just had a discussion with the relatives of one of members of this board, and we DID rub the exact thing you're saying in his face when he gave the usually fundie, with respect to one of his own relatives! He listened to what we have to say, weighed the arguments, and then, at the end of it, said "I know it seems unreasonable, and I'm sorry, but the Bible is right and that's all there is to it".

This is something I have encountered time and time and time and time again. It's like a form of total institution, and it ingrains, above all else, that nothing, no amount of logic or reason or appeal overrides the Bible.

In another instance, it was on a topic of science. I was arguing with someone who, while not a degreed scientist, had a very acute understanding of logic, and multiple fields of science, and mathematics. This a guy who got into an argument over the size of Star Trek birds of prey (
these ones ), and if that wasn't nerdy enough, proceeded to settle it by modeling out the linked scene in CAD software in order to derive the size and distance of the rear ships based on the angles at which they were aiming to point at their targets.

Naturally then, I thought that this was the sort of person who I'd easily be able to run through the evidence of evolution with, and have him walk away convinced. I typed no less than 6,000 words, explaining every question and objection he had, explaining why the things we discussed only fit into an evolutionary framework, discussing the layers upon layers of independent corroborating data on every point, and even discussing why religion itself was more threatened by strict creationism than by evolution.

He read, nodded, and then finally came around and said [to paraphrase] "I hear what you're saying, and it's perfectly logical, and the argument seems absolutely incontrovertible, but the Bible is divinely inspired, and must be correct, so somewhere there must be a fault assumption on the part of science, no matter how big the body of evidence gets".

It's not that these people want you to go to hell, but they are literally taught, TRAINED, not to consider your argument, the same way you train a soldier to tune out enemy propaganda, because they are soldiers, soldiers of God who's sworn duty is to protect anyone they can from the evil influences of Satan and his rule over the human world. I have been told this before, by the most extreme of my Christian brethren.

Corey said...

It is indoctrinated into these people, overwhelmingly powerfully, from a very young age. How young, and how powerfully? When I was five, FIVE, I was sent to a vacation bible school for the summer, and we were taught a song, a song about dinosaur bones, and god.

I didn't know what most of it actually meant at the time, and I only attended that school for a few weeks, but 18 years later, I can still recite it for you, word for word: "Dig, dig, dig, dig, I'm digging into God's world [word?], finding all facts and truths to see that almighty God created me. Dinosaur bones and artifacts are proof of one conclusion: I didn't evolve, I happen to be a part of God's creation".

These people don't think they're lying, or unfairly brainwashing children, they think they're saving them, and they think so because when they were children, they were indoctrinated in the same way, and it continues, endlessly, in a viscous cycle. The more the pressures of the outside world contradict them and the better the objections get, they more forcefully they implement that indoctrination, because they were taught that it's the only way they and their families can be saved from Satan and his control over the secular world.

I'm a pretty incurable optimist, and I love humanity. Please never think otherwise. It's just that I HAVE TRIED to reach these people, but witnessing failure after failure of all appeals of reason on my part, and having been through even a small part of their indoctrination process... I just don't hold out much hope for them.

If you think that you can reach them, then I would implore you to try, because these people are numerous, and some of them are people that I care about, but I personally stopped expecting any appeal to reason to change their minds a long, long time ago.

Corey said...

Hmm, that first post didn't come out right, in a few ways; sorry, my fault for being so long-winded that I screw up blogger ^_^;

Tacitus2 said...


regards your suggestion of equivalency.

I am sure there is a significant difference between saying a black conservative should be lynched and saying a black progressive should be.

No doubt as a conservative I am- defacto-cognitively impaired. I will wait for you to explain this difference to me.

Honestly, if your belief system is so shallowly rooted that it can't handle a gentle ruffling from someone who actually respects the principles of Progressive thought, well, I can't help you there.

I don't prod people here out of some ideological imperative. I do it to try and help you understand the 40% of your fellow citizens who self describe themselves as conservative.

Its a lonely job at times.


rewinn said...

Dr. Brin - unless you were making a joke, your personal attack on Attorney Hill, who AFAIK has never done you any harm, is quite unworthy of you.

I don't recall her claiming to be a "victim" of Thomas; she appears to have given truthful testamony about events that some would was were relevant to the character of a man being considered for lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful offices in the nation. If you are arguing that she should have kept silent out of "gratitude", you are simply arguing in favor of corruption, which would be sad.

I do think the hearing at which she spoke would have done better to stay focussed on Thomas' lack of qualifications rather than his lack of "judicial demeanor". Hill unfortunately allowed Thomas' supporters to focus on attacking her rather than evaluating him, with the results we all know.

rewinn said...

@Tacitus - since you ask, the distinction is this:

In every crowd, there are a few people at the far end of any normal distribution who cross any reasonable line. They do not represent the crowd and it is not reasonable to pretend that they do. You might as well argue (as has been done on Fox) that the anonymous people who respond to blogs represent the author of those blogs. The anonymous person who occasionally comes on here and attack Dr. Brin for something-or-other (I don't bother reading anymore) would by such logic represent the opinions of Dr. Brin.

In contrast, the leading figures of the crowd do represent the crowd; Dr. Brin is actually responsible for what he writes, and half-Governor Palin is actually responsible for what she says.

Of course, if you want to argue that Palin's significance is the equivalent of a non-entity shouting nonsense at the edge of a large group, I shan't disagree.

rewinn said...

As for young-earth creationists, in my nonscientific study I find an important distinction between the naifs who believe what they are told, and those who have put in a lot of time studying the evidence. The latter are essentially con men; I simply see no evidence that they actually believe what they preach EXCEPT for their claims that they do; they certainly don't ACT as if they believe.

If you truly believe the Bible is literally true, you would not continually propound arguments that you know to be based on assertions easily proven false, yet I have yet to encounter a YEC'r who doesn't peddle some such argument. It is possible to believe sincerely in a young universe and frankly to admit that the evidence is hard to explain; but answeringenesis and their ilk don't take that path; to the contrary, they continually play word games, use logical fallacies and make factual assertions even after their falseness has been carefully explained. That they sincerely believe in YE is just not as plausible an explanation as the theory that they are con men.

As it is written: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles. Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. ” (Matthew 7:15-17).

David Brin said...

Corey quoted: "I know it seems unreasonable, and I'm sorry, but the Bible is right and that's all there is to it".

Yeah, well, there comes a point where you gotta ask, even if it’s literally true, do you really want to choose to be on the side of someone who would do that kind of shit?

"I hear what you're saying, and it's perfectly logical, and the argument seems absolutely incontrovertible, but the Bible is divinely inspired, and must be correct, so somewhere there must be a fault assumption on the part of science, no matter how big the body of evidence gets".

Your next step is the Council of Nicea... the filthy politics that went into picking which scriptures to include.

If in response he claims the chain was perfect and flawless since St Paul, then why isn’t he Catholic?

What about the horns on Moses’s head... he was thought to have them because “lamps” was mistranslated as “horns for a thousand years! Perfection?

And the unfairness of birth. People tend to enter the faiths of their fathers, because that text becomes “gospel.” Isn’t that arrangement, well, unfair? SHould folks be damned because - by the human nature God created - we tend to respect and revere the things our parents tell us to?

The big Sermon. All He (God) has to do, to save billions of souls, is Show Us A Clear Sign. Make a dragon circle the globe spewing fire that says JOHN 17:12. Do a Monty Python, cloud-splitting scene and TELL US! Just once and that’d do it... and no need for the far more expensive sets and extras and special effects in the BoR.

Rewinn... Hill is utterly despicable. Had she been interested in feminism, she would have put Thomas in his place THEN... at the time he was doing the oaffish, stupid, awkward and absurdly harmless things she complained about 20 years LATER - when it was a good time to grab herself some public hero cred by betraying a man who - overall - had been very good to her.

SURE CT’s character flaws are relevant. But that wasn’t her agenda. Way back then, she could have slapped him down and TRAINED him to be better. No one on Earth was better qualified and more invulnerable to retribution than an articulate, attractive black woman lawyer on the EEOC. But she was riding a career horse named Clarence Thomas, so she kept silent in order to ride him a while longer... and thus left other women to have to deal with his nerdy oaffishness. Then she chose to betray him, showing the character of a lamprey.

Worst of all, she made a martyr of him. Especially in his OWN eyes, so that now we have a Supreme Court Justice who is a total lackey to all things oligarchy, who would sign off on camps for liberals, if he ever got the chance. The blame for that is 95% Heritage Foundation. But I have ire to spare for ... her.

Corey said...


Far be it from me to question any statement that suggests Sarah Palin's rightful significance, but the simple fact is that she IS a major part of the Republican Party.

Whether or not she deserved it, she was made a spokesperson of that party when they elected her to be the running mate of a candidate for the highest elected office in federal government. That move is a statement by the GOP, and endorsement, that says that they fully accept Sarah Palin representing their party.

Of course, it's not just her either. It's Bill O'Reilly, and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, and James Inhofe, and John Boehner, and the Heritage Foundation, and that list goes on and on and on and on and on, but then of course you know that :D


The difference is that big, major groups, who have been endorsed by many members of the GOP as representative of their views, by virtue of nomination and/or election (for politicians), or viewership (for media personality), or membership (for organizations), and it is these major representatives that do things, time and time and time again, that the major representatives of the Democratic party do not do, let alone over and over and over.

It's not just a case of one insignificant guy saying one single admittedly wrong and inflammatory thing like on the left; it's how rich I would be if I got fifty cents for every time a GOPer questioned evolution, or said we should put creationism in the classroom, or claimed they knew more about atmospheric physics than the world's entire community of climate scientists, or made voodoo economics claims, or spouted violence rhetoric (whether verbal, or painting crosshairs on people until one of them gets shot), or questioned separation of church and state, or launched a massive attack of some sort on the environment, or used the phrase "drill'n'burn" like it was an energy policy, or... well that list goes on and on too.

I know why conservatives believe what they believe, because in principle I largely believe those things too. I disagree with the left, in principle, on a great many things. That said, between the parties who represent these movements, there is no equivalency between the relatively moderate and timid Democrats and the absurdly dogmatic and extreme Republicans.

My family used to be with the GOP for a very short time, until they bolted to the right and left is behind, so much so that they don't even believe in many of the things their own party put forward in the past. When I think of what today's GOP is trying to do to Richard Nixon's creation, the EPA, I find it shocking to think that even a "crook" like him at least had more brains and integrity than his party has now.

Corey said...

@Dr Brin

Again, I've tried.

I've suggested problems with certainty in biblical translations, showing absurdity in the degree of certainty they show when the Bible can't even get basic concepts right (like the difference between a "beast" and an "animal", words that are incorrectly used interchangeably), or showing flat out contradictions between variants of the Bible, I've shown time and time again the internal inconsistencies, the intrinsic problems and contradictions with their logic and contradictory factual evidence... I've done it all.

They just come back with the same reply: The Bible is perfect, and divinely inspired, no matter how much the evidence to the contrary, and no matter how correct our objections *seem*, those of us who don't agree absolutely must have some fault in our logic, somewhere, no matter how solid it looks.

Again, these people are downright trained not to hear or consider your arguments, just like soldier hardened against enemy propaganda.

I'm just at a loss with these people, so more often than not, I find more productivity in trying to save their potential converts, by showing how ridiculous fundamentalism is before it's too late and they get sucked in.

I'm at a loss on the already-converted.

Corey said...

Of course, perhaps it's as a friend of mine has said.

Perhaps even the lost can be redeemed. It's just that it requires reason on their part, something that can't be imparted by others, but has to be realized by these people, themselves.

Perhaps it's even possible to plant that seed of doubt with solid arguments, and reasoning. Still, I, for one, have had no success there. Their honed defenses against reason and contrarianism always seem vastly more bulletproof than any kind of argument that I'm ever smart enough to come up with.

Perhaps someone less conventional than I can be innovative enough to figure out a way past all that indoctrination, I just know that I haven't heard the appeal to reason that accomplishes that yet, and rare as it is for me to be a cynic (really, it takes a lot), I'm not holding my breath waiting for it either.

Acacia H. said...

On a scientific bent for a minute, Dr. Brin, I was wondering if you were familiar with research into the naked mole rat. I had reason to be reading New Scientist for my job (writing dozens and dozens of abstracts for back issues) and came across an article on these odd critters - a rodent that lives for 20+ years, lives in a nearly-hive-like family structure (with a "queen" that gives birth, a couple males that mate with her, and the rest being "worker" caste), remain active until well into their sunset years, and have pretty much no incidence of cancer (to the point that if you inject cancerous cells into their body, the cells never grow to critical mass).

It seems to me that this wee little critter has found an alternative route to the Methuselah Path, and there's research being done to find out just how they did it... and what we can adapt from them to extend our own lives.


Also, I'm curious on your thoughts about discoveries by astronomer John Webb concerning different values of alpha (the fine-structure constant) depending on where in the universe you are. (To sum up the article, according to observations of distant galaxies, alpha slowly changes the further "south" you move in the galaxy.)

The two articles were found in the
10/23/2010 issue of "New Scientist."

Rob H.

Alex Warren said...

Congrats Wikileaks for getting Nobel Prize.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>I do it to try and help you understand the 40% of your fellow citizens who self describe themselves as conservative.

Thanks, but your solicitude is not required. Having interacted with this sort all my life, I understand them very well: they are cognitively deficient and emotionally immature, and thus, content to nest in lies.

It's not that I don't understand them, it's that I REJECT them and their so-called values.

rewinn said...

Everyone has their failings, so I am content to observe that Dr. Brin's retroactive career advice to Attorney Hill is as unrealistic as it is irrelevant; were every person who stuck with an ugly boss to be removed from public life, there would be an aweful lot of openings available for the rest of us. We seem to agree, the Thomas/Hill sideshow was a strategic success for the Aristocracy and a disaster for America (especially in its contribution to the "Citizens United" catastrophe).

Of far greater interest to me is your observation that (to let me paraphrase) the aristocracy opposes science not out of really caring one way or the other, but for the collateral damage to institutions getting in the way of their rule. By this analysis, while it can be useful to face the anti-sciencers head on with facts and logic, we can't expect to finish them off so long as the conflict leads them to support the political candidates of the Aristocracy.

The solution ... as Hari Seldon says ... is evident.

David Brin said...

To my mind, what’s significant about the parties is not where they lie along a so-called left-right axiz, but matters of deeply imbeded personality.

I’ve spoken before about the manic-depressive split... how republicans simply do nothing when they control congress. They yatter about budgets, abortion etc, but hold few hearings and actually pass no changes except tax bills favoring the rich. Dems, on the other hand, scurry as if the sky is falling. They are even the ones who do all the (honest) DE-regulating.

Talk of Palin introduces another near-perfect pattern. Democratic presidential candidates always pick a running mate qualified to serve as president in an emergency, even if - as in the case of Mondale - it’s a guy who will be useless as the heir candidate in 4 or 8 years.

Republicans almost always appoint a monstrously unqualified horror story to run alongside them. Even Ike, whom I liked, picked Nixon (whom he detested) to placate the trog-reactionaries. Bush Sr chose a pretty-boy. McCain chose a pin-up gal. Bush Jr.... brrrrrrr! The one exception?

Ronald Reagan. He selected a man who - (for all his faults and in fact I despise Bush Sr) - was on paper terrifically qualified in experience, contacts and skills


Robert, the naked mole rat is marvelous in showing the power of “attractor states”... conditions in nature that offer evolutionary advantage sufficient to draw in a species and then keep it there. The hive-colony attractor was though inaccessible to mammals, till the NMR was discovered. A fantastic insight into nature!

Since individual NMRs do not need to die in order to get out of the way of their kids, they keep on working for the good of the hive. Hence evolution allowed them to push all the long-life buttons. As humanity has pushed every last one of the easily accessible long life systems. Though we pushed them for a different reason than the NMR. Because grandparents aren’t in their kids way, but rather value helpers.

Feudalism appears to be humanity’s chief attractor state, in which a harem-keeping king or lord uses a priestly caste to convince virile young males to die defending his harem for him to use into old age - possibly one driver of our long life spans!

David Brin said...

Rushmc said: “I understand them very well: they are cognitively deficient and emotionally immature, and thus, content to nest in lies.”

Um, I am hardly one to preach, given my venom toward the murdockian conspirators... nevertheless, I ask that you tone it down a notch. There are many sub-branches of conservatism.

* libertarians like Carl M, who genuinely and rightfully aim their inbred Suspicion of Authority (SOA) toward a left that WAS the world’s worst threat to freedom and enlightenment, during the Cold War. Danger can aris from that direction again and I do not mind at all being reminded of that.

Indeed, all else being equal, I prefer private solutions to problems over government imposed ones! If we had a nation currently engaged in negotiation and problem solving, I would ring that bell again and again, so that the private sector (with true competition) was always tried first. Though I am a heretic, I proudly call myself “libertarian”... even if most “libertarians” today are quite mad.

* Likewise, Tacitus and others are free to self-define, holding up their own ideal of conservatism that harkens to Barry Goldwater, when gentlemen argued like colleagues and when a certain amount of healthy, reluctant skepticism toward manic democratic problem-solving seemed a good contribution to the mix. The fact that his movement has been hijacked by traitors, morons and monsters does NOT discredit the other kind of conservatism, in principle, any more than Stalin discredited labor union organizers!
And so, rushmc, let me ask that we look upon this medically. Caonservatism is sick, deeply ill. But if the fever broke, would you banish it from the conversation? That’s not right.

Rewinn said: “By this analysis, while it can be useful to face the anti-sciencers head on with facts and logic, we can't expect to finish them off so long as the conflict leads them to support the political candidates of the Aristocracy.”

em, well. Let’s just try to break the fever. Heck Murdoch is 80. Maybe his heirs will love the enlightenment.

Acacia H. said...

Made a mistake in talking about the fine-structure constant. It's on a universal scale, not a galactic one. My bad.

Here's a couple paragraphs from Wikipedia about what I'm talking about:

More recently, improved technology has made it possible to probe the value of α at much larger distances and to a much greater accuracy. In 1999, a team led by John K. Webb of the University of New South Wales claimed the first detection of a variation in α. Using the Keck telescopes and a data set of 128 quasars at redshifts 0.5 < z < 3, Webb et al. found that their spectra were consistent with a slight increase in α over the last 10–12 billion years....


In September 2010 researchers from Australia said they had identified a dipole-like structure in the fine structure constant across the observable universe, using data on quasars obtained by the Very Large Telescope, combined with the previous data obtained by Webb at the Keck telescopes. The fine structure constant appears to have been larger by one part in 100,000 in the direction of the southern hemisphere constellation Ara, 10 billion years ago. Similarly, the constant appeared to have been smaller by a similar fraction in the northern direction, billions of years ago.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>Caonservatism is sick, deeply ill. But if the fever broke, would you banish it from the conversation? That’s not right.

I think it was quite clear from the context who we were talking about, represented by Palin and the Tea Partiers, not Goldwater (who gave the commencement at my college graduation, in his quite-rational dotage). Show me a rational (I'd almost settle for sane, at this point) conservative, and I'll happily converse with him. (And I say this as one who was once registered Republican and has never been registered as a Democrat.) However, having grown up in Louisiana and now living in Arizona, I see firsthand the worst of the American degradation and see no reason to hold back on describing it as it is (in terms they themselves would mostly embrace, however much that might horrify the rest of us). Without clarity, there can be no cure.

David Brin said...

I agree that there is no "cure" so long as red america is traumatized every June, watching the best and brightest of every high school graduating class grin, accept diplomas and hugs, and then race to blue cities as facts as they can shake the hick dust off their shoes.

That mortal blow to pride has deep hurting roots. It is the fundamental thing that the murdockians exploit, as an excuse to hate smartypants... and isn't there a level where you can't blame them?


Yipe guys! See this:

Are we seeing a repeat of 1989. God willing. If this article isn’t misleading... and I know some very smart people who think the islamists are lurking to make another Iran. But boy, if the appearance is real...

Michael C. Rush said...

>>your small-c version is the same one that was adopted by the Catholic Church and by most mainstream protestants and Jews. That God spoke Maxwell's Equations, there was light, he added Quantum Chromodynamics and there was matter.

Which is an hilariously incoherent position, really. From Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice, which I just happen to be reading today:

"Why do our postrationalist theologians...expect us to prostrate ourselves before a deity who, by the Darwinian insight [they] claim to endorse, stands exposed as a kind of cosmic dilettante, idly tinkering plants and animals into existence only to have them go extinct from the very environmental conditions he provided for them?...Why was...God unable to produce the contemporary biosphere through any process other than the systematic creation and equally systematic obliteration of countless species?...Why...would this same divine serial killer have begun his career spending thirteen billion years fashioning quadrillions of needless galaxies before finally starting on his pet project: singling out a minor planet in an obscure precinct of the Milky Way and seeding it with vain bipedal vertebrates condemned to wait indefinitely for the deity in question to disclose himself?"

Michael C. Rush said...

>>accept diplomas and hugs, and then race to blue cities as facts as they can shake the hick dust off their shoes.

But there are good reasons for that. It is a rational, understandable choice. Pride hath never produced good strategy, and we shouldn't kowtow to it. I don't think you're arguing that we should, but some do. Yes, we should understand the inferiority complex that drives much of the reactionarism on the right--the "if you can't compete, tear them down" rationale--but we must never accommodate it. As soon as we let them redefine the road beneath our feet as water, we'll sink as surely as Congressional Democrats.

Michael C. Rush said...

Do I sound as though I too much embrace the us-vs-them paradigm? Well, let me tell you, when the other side loudly, insistently, and consistently tells you they are against you, it is the height of foolishness (not to mention patronization) to insist that they are not. An enemy who self-declares is an enemy one should acknowledge.

Tacitus2 said...


I did not mean to be patronizing.
Living as you do in the southern tier of the US you are seeing a different flavor of conservatives.

Things are a little different in Wisconsin. You would like it here apart from the weather.

I have encountered a grand total of two individuals who give any credence whatsoever to the whole Birther nonsense, to give an example. And both were over 80, with some legit cognitive impairment on that basis.

So of course, what you describe sounds to me like strawmanship. If it reflects reality in your locale accept my apologies, my condolences and my reassurance that Red America is not, in toto, nuts.

Or at least that is how I see it.


Lorraine said...

Then again, maybe an enemy who self-declares is trying to get a rise out of you.

David Brin said...

Rushmc I enjoy Morrow’s atheist provocations. He is thought provoking and way fun. But he is also tendentious and profoundly unfair. He creates strawman arguments and strawman opponents.

It is quite possible to come up with a deist-creator-of-evolution who is not a lunatic. See:

Is this an adequate excuse, letting Him off the hook? Well, were I an attorney for the defense, I think a case could be made. But there is still plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.

As for red America’s fury at the Blue America that poays the taxes, sends net flows to RA and gets sputum in return, well, it’s more complicated than trivial. I happen to LIKE the charming “Red Neck Comedy Tour” guys... they are charming as all get out, even when you realize their self-deprecating humor carries an undercurrent of “we may be dopes but we’re more REAL than you smartypants types!”

I’ll fight like hell their populist (led by the nose by Fox) uprising against brains and the future. But that doesn’t mean I have to give in to hate! I can examine the roots of their complex and sympathize with how the June graduation trauma must feel. Indeed, without that sympathy... wallowing in hate... I become emotionally no better than they are.

I won’t go that far.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>my reassurance that Red America is not, in toto, nuts

Well, I spend my summers in upstate NY and talk to people all over the country, so I'm not exactly isolated in a rare pocket of madness. I lived in Vegas for fifteen years and know first-hand exactly where Sharron Angle came from, for example.

What I find interesting is that you don't see the implications of the fact that you feel the need to argue that not all Red Staters are insane. Is this really the best that we can do, politically, to insist that, despite all appearances, only FORTY percent (or fill in the blank with whatever number you can accept--but stick to the evidence and don't cheat) of our citizens are crazy, not FIFTY!

Acacia H. said...

I did think of a method of striking back against the anti-intellectualism that has become a part of the Right. Strike at their patriotism. Talk about our Founding Fathers, each of which were well educated, who include Benjamin Franklin who was an inventor and scientist. Paint anti-intellectualism as being UnAmerican.

Mention that it was physicists and scientists who invented the Atomic Bomb, which helped America achieve ascendancy and become a World Power. Talk about the Apollo Project, in which scientists and engineers (who went to college, mind you) worked together and designed a spacecraft that beat the Russians to the Moon... and brought our boys back home safely. And how good old fashion American ingenuity by those same scientists brought home the crew of Apollo 13 when THEIR spacecraft broke while headed toward the Moon.

Talk about how our tanks and jets and aircraft carriers and weapons of war were all designed by college graduates, engineers, and the like. That science is an integral part of what makes this nation great and that to attack science is to attack the very foundation of what makes us great.

In short, to attack science is to commit an act of treason. Paint it in those words and when they try to hem and haw about it, DENY them. Refuse to budge ground one bit. Keep stating the same thing over and over again: to attack science is to attack America and to commit treason.

The repetition is key. It's their primary weapon against us. They repeat the same lies often enough and people believe them. So now let's drown them out and repeat the same TRUTHS over and over again until they give up and admit we are correct.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


Do I sound as though I too much embrace the us-vs-them paradigm?

More like the us-vs-us paradigm. That's what I meant yesterday by "chip on your shoulder". You seem awfully willing--even anxious--to tear a new hole in those who AGREE with you but don't agree quite enough.

Well, let me tell you, when the other side loudly, insistently, and consistently tells you they are against you, it is the height of foolishness (not to mention patronization) to insist that they are not. An enemy who self-declares is an enemy one should acknowledge.

Well, THAT I can understand. It's the argument I used to have with my formerly-sane conservative buddy (Obama's election drove him over the edge). He used to argue vociferously that I and my ilk were too complacent about "negotiating with our murderers", by which he meant Muslim terrorists. But he couldn't see at all that I feel the same way about right-wingers suggesting Second Amendment remedies against my kind.

By the way, I think Sarah Palin unwitingly stepped over this very line in the 2008 election with all her talk about "real America" as something different from the urban population centers. It's almost a reflexive remark on that side of the aisle, but this time around, I think a lot of city dwellers actually took offense at it--enough offense to express it at the polls.

Michael C. Rush said...

@David Brin: I agree that hate, too, is not a strategy, either for political success, persuasion of others, or sanity of the self. But you (as so many) are setting up a false dichotomy, because I in no wise need to hate my opponents to recognize a) their failings, b) their danger to what I hold important, and c) the need to oppose them. I don't need to hate them; neither do I need to pretend that they are better than they are in order to pat myself on the back for my humanity and turn-the-other-cheek good will. The best approach in my opinion is to try to parse the complexities of the world to the best of my ability and then to chart a course I can follow in good conscience (subject to ongoing modification as new information comes in, of course).

Of course, this is not the course favored by those in power or those seeking to replace them in power, so it accomplishes very little. But I can sleep at night.

Michael C. Rush said...

@Robert: I can already see the responses to that.

Franklin was an irreligious epicure.
The atomic bomb was a mixed bag at best.
The space program has been a wrongheaded boondoggle.
etc., etc.

Patriotism, today, boils down to two precepts:

1. Americans are better than everyone else.
2. We must be left free and unimpeded in our efforts to make money.

Trying to appeal to anything beyond that is, I think, futile.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>You seem awfully willing--even anxious--to tear a new hole in those who AGREE with you but don't agree quite enough.

Yes, I got that that was what was sticking in your craw. But that wasn't (and isn't) my intent at all (and I dispute that "questioning an assumption" or "making a clarification" = "tearing a new hole." I don't think in terms of sides (my previous posts notwithstanding) for the most part, but in terms of good (strong, rational) arguments and weak arguments, and I often see people weakening a strong argument by presenting a weaker version of it, which opponents can easily disarm and then pretend as if they had defeated the stronger version.

Also, I believe that errors of fact and errors of interpretation should be noted so that they can be corrected--or at least not propagated. And believe it or not, I much prefer to be on the receiving end of such corrections than the giving end. We must all stay vigilant to sloppy thinking, or it will become as pervasive on "our side" as it has on the other. This is why I read Contrary Brin in the first place, for clear thinking which helps me question my assumptions and perfect my arguments.

Egad, I'm going to shut up now. This isn't my blog, and I'm starting to feel too present in this thread. Thanks, Mr. Brin, for your forbearance.

Paul said...

Re: Palin

I get annoyed at the equating of Palin's verbal stumbles with her (lack of) intelligence. (Some of which, eg "I can see Russia from my house", she didn't even say.) In my opinion, it is the Left's obsession with this LOLcats-like superficiality that really opens the door to the Right's false claims of equivalency. (They did the same thing with Bush, for the same result.)

Take Palin's infamous "our North Korean allies" quote. She misspoke. BFD.

But read that quote as if she hadn't misspoke.

"Well, [south] Korea, this is stemming from a greater problem, when we're all sitting around asking, 'Oh no, what are we going to do,' and we're not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that [south] Korea is going to do.
So this speaks to a bigger picture that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously, we've got to stand with our [south] Korean allies."

Get it? It's completely vapid. That's what's wrong with it, not the North/South confusion. She physically could not contribute anything useful to the discussion. And this was an interview with Beck, not a "liberal" "lamestream" tricky gotcha question.

It's the same with the "Call for civility" after the Az. shooting. The media, and hence most of the voting public, can't tell the difference between calling someone "incompetent" or "unqualified" and calling them a "Nazi" or "traitor". They can't tell the difference between Colbert's brilliant evisceration of Palin a couple of weeks ago, and Beck's endless conspiracy theory crap.

Tony Fisk said...

Egypt. Shit.

A classical case of negative sum thinking.

Paul said...

Re: Small c-creationists.

I think in our society, the word for someone who believes in a supernatural creator is "religious".

The word "Creationsist", OTOH, was created (haha) specifically to describe an evangelical fundamentalist who believes in the literal interpretation of Genesis. It since expanded to include the equivalent fundamentalists of other faiths.

But amongst Christians, only young earth creationists can properly be called "Creationist". That what the word is for! There's no such animal as "small-c creationist".

So if you call yourself a "small-c creationist", I believe you have been taken in by a scam, similar to the one used against moderate Muslims. Where extremists trick you into counting yourself amongst their number, and defending them, even while they condemn and attack you.

(Same thing happened with "Intelligent Design". Those involved in the creation of the ID movement were all YEC fundamentalists. Yet non-YEC Christians got fooled into defending ID.)

Paul said...

Did you notice...
"I have never bent to foreign diktats."
"Do not listen to satellite television stations, only listen to your own conscience."
"I cannot find any embarrassment in listening to the youth of my homeland and responding to them. I cannot and will not accept to be dictated orders from the outside, no matter what the source is."

...seems this is the new spin (or the delusion) of the regime. The protests were organised/sponsored by outsiders.

(Crisse: A superplural of crises.)

Tony Fisk said...

I didn't notice (didn't hear the actual broadcast). A lot of tweets bought it to my attention.

As one noted, denial is a river in Egypt.

Sources: twitter #Egypt or #Jan25

Or links this

Tony Fisk said...

Another spin tactic appears to be that Wael Ghonim is the revolutionary leader, so can be attacked/misrepresented. It doesn't appear to be working.

pretedis: an boring act of make-believe

Anonymous said...


Please, stick around. You seem like an interesting fellow.

David, the bit about red state HS grads is poignant and has the ring of truth to it

But I think not the whole truth.
It's always hard when our children grow up and move away. But they are supposed to do this. To be a well rounded person you ideally should grow up in a supportive, coherent community, and I think small towns are ideal that way. But then you should go off and see the world. Be it the big (and blue) city or the wider world.
Sure its harder to accept if your community is fading. Its got to be agony for small town North Dakotans to see their futures drive off. But damn it, there are solid blue communities dying a different kind of death. How about inner city families that bury their sons, or see them standing on street corners going nowhere at all. They can only dream of their young thriving elsewhere.

Like you I've been there, done this, and it is hard to see them go. I rest a bit easier knowing I have done what I could for them.

The best of the best have their necessary fun and come back, even smarter, to Red America. And raise their families here.*

*technically I would be in purple America at present.

Acacia H. said...

rushmc, you fail to see the point of my argument: use the weapon of the enemy against him. Refuse to back down. State the same thing over and over to the Right until the Right backs down. Don't let them get the last word in. If they try, restate the same exact thing: to attack Science is to attack the Heart of what it is to be American and is an act of Treason. You attack science, you attack innovation and hard work and effort. You attack what it means to be American.

When they try to claim that they are only attacking some element of it, don't accept the argument. Restate the same exact line. To attack Science is to attack the Heart of what it is to be American and is an act of Treason.


Thoughts on Egypt: Ever wonder if Mubarak deliberately stated that, after the military said they would step in, as part of a ploy to get Suliman (or whatever his name is) accepted by the people? Think of it: Mubarak continues to be defiant, even after even more intense and larger protests. In response, S_____ and the military step in. We hear in the next day or two the military stating "we stepped in and have removed Mubarak from office with S______'s assistance, and he has taken emergency power of the country. Mubarak is no longer in power."

It might actually work to get S_____ accepted by enough people, with him seen (with the military) as a hero who stood up for the people and democracy and reform.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I think it would be a mistake for the military to 'step in'. Whose revolution would it be then?

Better would be for the army to prevent the thugs from stepping in (as they have been), and allow the people (holding hands!) walk to the pres. palace and remove Mubarek.

So sez I, from me armchair.

Paul said...

Omar Suleiman is former secret police. Although he apparently has international acceptance, I doubt there's anything that could make him acceptable to the protesters.

Tony Fisk said...

..As someone pointed out, the former chief torturer told people not to listen to foreign naughtiness, to be good citizens, to go back to their individual homes.

And wait.

*Knock! knock!*

(Who's there?)

A lot of people holding hands, presenting you with an eviction notice, Sir.

Paul said...


Wikileaked cables suggest US believes Saudi Arabia is overstating their oil reserves by 40%.

(Turing word: grophten. How could I ever do that justice?)

Paul said...

Third attempt...

More random: Bio-Artist creates "Blood Wars", where the white blood cells from two people are pitted against each other, in a fight for supremacy, a fight to the death. Two samples go in, but only one comes out.

Paul said...

Non-turing word: phlebotomist.

David Brin said...

Good insights Tacitus. And if ALL the HS grads were leaving, then that would be it. Simply poignant.

But only half leave. The ones who did well in science class. The teachers' pets. The smartest or most talented or most beautiful.

Those who stay MUST come up with a face saving mythology. So they joke and nurture a lovely self-deprecating humor that is utterly charming. Till you realize...

rewinn said...

Meanwhile, in the Civil War front, the first hearing of this Congress' House Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee lead off with the secessionist Thomas DiLorenzo who, among other things, called for repeal of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act - apparently unaware that it lapsed years ago...

...more evidence, were any needed, that, as Bill Mahrer is said to have said, the Democrats have moved to the right and the Republicans have moved to the insane asylum.

Rob said...

Which is an hilariously incoherent position, really. From Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice, which I just happen to be reading today: [...]

Morrow can conceive of a God that big and not introduce the idea that we humans are not the only thing He can think of to do? Or that he'd make a bazillion stars and planets and plant important life on one of them? That's less than unpersuasive.

@Paul, "small-c creationist" is descriptive, not advocative. It describes how I reconcile the Biblical account with observation through scientific method. It is not intended to evoke "Intelligent Design" or even "God of the Gaps". There need be no gaps.

Feel free to capitalize that "C" when you want to rant, but if you suppose I'm not thinking clearly on the matter, you risk giving offense.

Paul said...

" "small-c creationist" is descriptive, not advocative. "

I'll back up a step... The word "creationism" was invented to describe a word-for-word literal interpretation of Genesis. That was the word's purpose. (I believe it dates from the late 19th century "Fundamentals" movement, which is also where we get "Fundamentalism".)

The word "creationist" therefore, has only one valid meaning. Those who believe in, or practice, "creationism". Does that make sense?

You've interpreted "creationist" as descending from "creator", and since you believe in a creator...

I can understand that. And as a pedantic bastard, I do sympathise. You hear someone attacking "Creationists", and you feel like they are attacking your beliefs. But the word shouldn't be interpreted that way. As Admiral Ackbar would say, "It's a trap!"

Specifically, in my opinion, a nasty psychological trap set for you (and people like you) by fundamentalists. They're allowed to generalise the word when they want people like you to tacitly or explicitly support their causes, while excluding your beliefs the moment they get a "win".

Meanwhile, most atheists/agnostics generally have much less hostility towards someone like you than YEC fundamentalists do. So the people who hate you get more support from you than the people who normally protect your rights.

I hope that better explains what I was trying to get at. (If not, I'll bow out. My intention isn't to offend you.)

Acacia H. said...

President Mubarak just resigned.

From USA Today's report: Update at 11:05 a.m. ET: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigne.d Vice President Omar Suleiman said in a brief televised statement. His statement in full: "Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of presidency and told the army to run the affairs of the country."


Hmm. Guess I can manage the prescience thing once in a while. ;)

Rob H.

soc said...

Said on TV that the Swiss are freezing Mubarak's money. I guess someone there reads this blog :)

Acacia H. said...

Small thought: there are comparisons with the Middle East protests with the way the people of Eastern Europe rose up against oppressive regimes in 1989 and the early 1990s. If we assume some validity in that comparison, then Iran would be the Middle East's analogue to China.

Just food for thought.

Rob said...

@Paul, I have no doubt you never intended offense, and I haven't taken any.

But I'm afraid that after a dictionary check I may have to concede your point. No dictionary I can find supports my definition, and most of my thinking comes from first principles and not from studying the theological work on the subject. Wikipedia adds nuance to the subject but my own thinking doesn't actually lead exactly to any of the places listed there.

Paul said...

A gracious response.

There's no shame in interpreted the word the way they expected you to.

No one ever calls their wacky extremist movement, "The Wacky Extremist Movement", it's always "The Aristocrats". And there's always decent people who fall for it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

A joke that's been circulating by SMS:

After "Victory Friday" in Tunisia and "Liberation Friday" in Egypt, Gaddafi has decided to abolish all Fridays.

David Brin said...

“And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” 1Kings 7:23 Thus pi = 3 (a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter). An engineer would not base plans upon the bible, anymore than a science teacher should base lessons...

Some say the measurements are only approximations, not to be taken literally….Other scholars quibble over whether the diameter is for the inner or outer edge.

LarryHart said...

...and then there's the state of Indiana, who passed a law in the 1890s mandating that pi = 3.

Of course, a law doesn't say "pi = 3". It had to be worded in legalese:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana: It has been found that a circular area is to the square on a line equal to the quadrant of the circumference, as the area of an equilateral rectangle is to the square on one side.

Even though the intent is to mandate pi = 3, I've heard that the actual wording above makes it 4 instead. But the legal rambling gets funnier:

The diameter employed as the linear unit according to the present rule in computing the circle's area is entirely wrong, as it represents the circle's area one and one-fifth times the area of a square whose perimeter is equal to the circumference of the circle. This is because one fifth of the diameter fails to be represented four times in the circle's circumference. For example: if we multiply the perimeter of a square by one-fourth of any line one-fifth greater than one side, we can in like manner make the square's area to appear one-fifth greater than the fact, as is done by taking the diameter for the linear unit instead of the quadrant of the circle's circumference.

There's more, but you get the gist. To see the thing in its entirety, do a search on Indiana House Bill No. 246, 1897, known as the Indiana pi bill.

LarryHart said...

Well, I just learned something new. That Indiana pi bill never did pass the Senate, so I was wrong to refer to it as a "law".

The Indianapolis Journal had Senator Hubbell saying that "the Senate might as well try to legislate water to run up hill as to establish mathematical truth by law."

Tony Fisk said...

There is also the proof that heaven is hotter than hell.
It's in the Bible so it must be true.

(Is the corollary that sinners merely burn while the enraptured get vaporised?)

Paul said...

They did it wrong. "the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days." The latter they interpreted as 7*7=49 (plus 1 for the moon = 50). But the "as the light of seven days" is just given as an example of "sevenfold". So the total is 8 times. Which, says Herr Boltzmann, gives Heaven a surface temperature of 231C, lower than Hell's 445C.

But it gets worse, while Hell's temperature is explicit in the molten sulphur, only Heaven's light is given. We aren't told how good the Blessed Air-Conditioning is, or if Heaven radiates away heat faster than Earth.

Hey, did I mention I'm a pedantic bastard.

I may be an atheist, but even I know you can't out-logic magic.

I remember a discussion on a religious chat-board years (years) ago. One would-be logician asked "Is there a paradox so paradoxical that even God cannot solve it." And the reply was, of course, "Yes. Moreover he can solve said paradox."

There was much nailing and washing of teeth, but the point remains: God is an undefined, supernatural property, He/It/They don't have to be logical. He/It/They can be and not-be at the same time.

(Comio: A single unit particle of funny. About 19/15ths of this definition.)

Paul said...

Oh wait, sulphur melts at 113C, so Hell could still be cooler. Not enough data.

(Blisti: What Mummy say me got fwom touch mol'en sulpha.)

Jonathan S. said...

You know, people keep trying to draw comparisons between Egypt today, Iran in 1979, medieval Europe, and FSM alone knows what else; but it seems to me that the most direct comparison would probably be with modern Tunisia, since it was their peaceful expulsion of their dictator that started this.

So, does anyone know what's going on in Tunisia? None of the major news outlets in this area seem to be paying any attention...

hydorke: morning greeting from the jock who can't spell, but can complete a 47-yard pass and therefore is not failing any of his classes.

Paul said...

Last story I've got has interim pres. Foued Mebaza being granted powers "to rule by decree." And the old ruling RCD party is still trying to disrupt things, and has been banned. People are still dying.

Meanwhile, Algeria has new protests, but the regime there has taken an immediate hardline. Outnumbering protesters 10-to-1 with police.

Anonymous said...

The link titled "the most concise scientific paper ever":

does not work correctly. An image file is served but appears to contain the wrong content.

David Brin said...

volutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar claimed the size of the average human’s social network is 148 – as predicted by the size of the average human neocortex (based on a correlation between the size of a primate brain & the size of the species’ social group). Dunbar also said that in order to maintain a cohesive group, 42% of the group’s time would be devoted to social grooming. Does nit-picking count?'s_number

There was a large degree of error in his result, ranging from 100 to 230. Even so, I’m going to have to unfriend a lot of ‘friends.’

Ian said...

The standard calculation of the temperature of Hell is based on the presence of brimstone - liquid Sulphur.

This is generally taken to imply a temperature of less than 444.6 degrees Celsius.

However this only applies at one Bar.

If ,say, the atmospheric pressure in Hell were several hundred Bars, a much higher ambient temperature would be consistent withe the presence of brimstone.

Ian said...

"In the interests of objectivity as I see it (and how else could one!) I imagine she might be a bloodthirsty religious nut. Hey, could be."

Her church repeatedly hosted an African pastor who openly boasts of his role in "witch hunts".

Your suggestion is less hyperbolic than it may have been intended.

"Vice presidential pick Sarah Palin is known for her strident views on religion and the power of prayer.

But her credibility is once again being questioned after an African pastor she credits with helping her political career was revealed to have waged a witch-hunt against a woman who was said to cause car crashes with her "demonic spells."

In June, Palin told how a visiting pastor from Kenya had foretold she was destined for greater things.

She told other members of the Assembly of God church in her home town of Wasilla, Alaska, that Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her head and prayed over her when they met in 2005."

Read more:

Ian said...

I have serious reservations about Dunbar's number.

In other primates, the group size is based on physical co-location: don't Groom A in B's presence unless you can also groom A because A is socially superior to B.

But the ability of humans to move between multiple, different social groups, while introducing a bunch of other complexities makes it possible, for example to attend am AC/DC concert as one of the Acca Dacca faithful and then criticize their performance mercilessly on your Facebook page.

Jonathan S. said...

The standard calculation of the temperature of Hell is based on the presence of brimstone - liquid Sulphur.

This is generally taken to imply a temperature of less than 444.6 degrees Celsius.

However this only applies at one Bar.

If ,say, the atmospheric pressure in Hell were several hundred Bars, a much higher ambient temperature would be consistent withe the presence of brimstone.

Of course, there is still an upper limit - if the pressure gets too high, all Hell could break loose...

undechol: all the drunkenness of alcohol, but no calories!

Lorraine said...

According to the good folkx at "Embark to Heaven," Hell is the interior of the earth and has a temperature of at least 12,000°F. They say if you drill down deep enough you can year the wailing and gnasing of teeth.

David Brin said...

Clearly you might adapt Dunbar's number by scoring HALF a point to those you know and like and who MIGHT become more important. A quarter point to acquaintances of mild importance...etc. 1/20th point to nodding acquaintances and favorite waiters and to important people who at least know your name. If you did that, then modern society might fit Dunbar's pattern.

Anonymous said...


Equivalence being out of fashion one could of course never assume that a Democratic candidate might espouse impalatable religious opinions he/she had heard in church.

That would not be fair.

Seriously, Palin is not going to be the GOP nominee, and should be free to believe whatever she wishes.


Michael C. Rush said...

>>and should be free to believe whatever she wishes.

And should be held accountable for and judged by those beliefs, like anyone else.

Michael C. Rush said...

You don't think Palin will be the nominee...who are you backing, then? Huckabee?

This Huckabee?

Tony Fisk said...

""Who told thee that thou wast naked?"


Verily, I have sinned in not understanding the proof presented to me.

In that spirit, I re-checked Gen 2 (King James) for the source of the 'beast riff':

18And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him."

19And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet for him.

21And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.

So, if I read this aright (if that is ever possible), Adam gets presented with all the beasts, and gives them names under God's supervision. The purpose of this exercise is to find a 'helper meet for him'. None is found, so Eve is made...!

Tony Fisk said...

... All of which started as an acknowledgment that I'd not followed the temperature argument properly.

Tacitus2 said...


I am not "backing" anyone right now, just studying them.

The GOP nominee will be a midwest governor with fiscal conservative and social libertarian leanings.

There are several to choose from.

Huntsman is also interesting, but that is not enough to put him in contention.


Paul said...

(and by extension, David...)

Is this the missing "most concise scientific paper ever"?

From io9:
A reviewer, known simply as Reviewer A, wrote a glowing endorsement of Dr. Upper's work:

"I have studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style. I suggest it be published without revision. Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen-yet it contains sufficient detail to allow other investigators to replicate Dr. Upper's failure. In comparison with the other manuscripts I get from you containing all that complicated detail, this one was a pleasure to examine. Surely we can find a place for this paper in the Journal-perhaps on the edge of a blank page."

David Brin said...

rushmc... sure Huckabee is scary... especially because he is vastly more reasonable, personable, likable and human than Palin and 98% of other GOP leaders. That makes him scary because he seems a fundie "we could work with."

On the other hand, rushmc, that article you referred us to was written by a monster. A liar and a horrific bastard. His version of "history" is flagrant bullshit. So don't give anything he says much thought.

Tacitus, I pray you are right about Palin's chances. Still, even with her out of the picture... show me one GOP leader who will stand up to the Murdochian party line and speak up for a politics of negotiation? The answer is seen in the perfect GOP party discipline. It is the most lockstep party machine the US has ever had. By an order of magnitude.

That makes it hard for me to be optimistic any of them stand out.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>On the other hand, rushmc, that article you referred us to was written by a monster. A liar and a horrific bastard.

Luis Granados? Never heard of him before. I re-read his essay and didn't see anything blatantly monstrous. In fact, it mostly seemed quite sensible, like this:

"Jews ought to be free to live wherever they feel like living, including any particular housing lot that happens to lie between the Nile and the Euphrates. Where we differ is that I think non-Chosen People Arabs should have exactly the same right."

Glancing through his blog doesn't reveal him eating any dead babies, either. (Well, it DOES say that he is an attorney, which is 2.5 strikes against him.) Is there something I'm missing?

David Brin said...

rushmc, ignorance can excuse not noticing monsters so I will explain. He softpedals the relentless, ruthless and bloodyminded determination of aram leaders to wipe Israel from the map, and to use it as a boogyman to excuse oppressing their own people.

The "sneak attack" of 1967 was after Nasser has built his entire army along the border in a full-forward invasion deployment, with reliable intelligence that it would launch in 6 hours. Not mentioning that, but instead portraying 1967 as a deliberate Israeli land grab, is a foul and monstrous and downright satanic-level lie.

Not mentioning the desperate appeals of Ben Gurion in 1948 for any peace or anyone to negotiate with. A damned lie. Not mentioning the odds Seven-to-One or the Grand Mufti's radio calls for every arab in the Israel UN mandate to get out of the killing zone, so that arab forces could "slay anything that moves until we reach the sea." That's fucking lying.

You can always find idiots on all sides who say idiotic things. Sure, some ultra zionists disavowed Ben Gurion's position and dreamed of expansion. But expansion never would have happened if the arabs did not attack with genocide in mind. Period.

I have plenty of problems with Netanyaho, who I think a fool for letting this opportunity slip by. After being crushed and oppressed by Arab govts for generations, the Palestinians are now a people who most resemble... israelis. Well-educated, industrious, individualistic. They want to do business and Netanyahu is an idiot, standing in the way.

But whose fault has it been for decades? 1/3 of the israeli public has been radicalized into fanaticism. Their current irredentism is real and dangerous. But this situation was not their invention.

And the guy is a lying monster. Proof that such exist on the left.

Tim H. said...

Tacitus, I wouldn't expect significant social libertarian leaning from a successful GOP politician, the fundies seem unwilling to "Let go and let God", and want the sinners punished in this world.
"santific", How I look when I don't keep the beard trimmed.

Acacia H. said...

I do have a sneaking suspicion we'll see an Israeli about-face in the near future and an agreement with the Palestinians according to what they were offering in the leaked documents. The reason? Right now the non-Hamas wing of Palestinian government is vulnerable. The leaks have resulted in people looking at Abbas as a weakling who didn't even get what he was hoping for, while it has become evident wide-scale peaceful protests can work.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if tens of thousands of Palestinians start to gather, peacefully, and request the Israeli military leave and that the illegal Israeli Settlers leave. Add into this full media coverage. If Israel reacts in force they become the worse villains around. Almost every nation would condemn the action (with the U.S. waffling). Indeed, we could even see widescale protests in the U.S. in sympathy for the Palestinian protesters, whether or not they get slaughtered by Israeli Settlers and soldiers.

If Israel gives what little Abbas was requesting before protests begin, then suddenly Abbas is given a leg up. He is in a position of victory. And as no protests started, not only does Israel come out looking better, but the Palestinian Authority remains the power in control of the West Bank, instead of protest movements that may end up turning on Israel.

Right now it's in the best interests of Israel to be charitable. Because they cannot ignore protests... and if they try to violently repress them, they risk alienating everyone and being left with no allies when various Arab nations attack - especially if the U.S. is blackmailed through another oil embargo, put in place to punish us for backing the obviously-insane Israeli government that needs to be taken down before it turns on its own citizens as it did on the Palestinians. (Or in other words, they gussy it up to be a "noble war" with Israel being obviously mad and a threat to others.)

And of course there is one last thing to consider: if Turkey attacks Israel as part of an Arab coalition (as part of an end-game that started with an Israeli massacre of Palestinian protesters), and Israel launches nukes against Turkey... is NATO not obligated to defend its NATO ally?

This is all speculation of course - and obviously if Israel gives a little now, when it is in a position to look good by doing so, then it doesn't have to worry about this, or about protests.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"... if Turkey attacks Israel as part of an Arab coalition..."

NATO is a defensive alliance; thus if a member state launches a war of agression, the other member states are not obliged to do anything if their target fights back, although of course they could CHOOSE to do anything.

A minor point: Turks are not Arabs, although the nation of Turkey has an Arab minority. We Americans frequently use "Arab" to refer to peoples such as Iranians Pakistanis, which is incorrect.

This quibble aside, one could imagine extremists taking contol of Turkey and then trying to create some sort of multinational coalition of the willing launch a war of agreesion; certainly there is some precedent in the region. But if so, it is very unlikely IMO that NATO would play along.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>1/3 of the israeli public has been radicalized into fanaticism.

And they control the government, which I think it entirely fair to term "monstrous" at this point. The difference between this monstrous government (increasingly manipulated by religious fundamentalists, as is the Israeli military, unlike in the past) and others in the region is that they get more of my tax dollars. This doesn't sit well with me or with anyone I know of my generation, to say the least.

Looking at Israel's strongest supporters in the U.S. today doesn't endear them to me either. If they don't change their approach soon, I would expect to see a MAJOR change in the level of support from the average American over the next couple of years, which--who knows?--may even eventually trickle up to our non-responsive government.

David Brin said...

Rober, I hope your scenario comes to pass.

rushmc, you are wrong. The fundies do not control Israel. But after FIVE attempts to anihilate them, the middle of the road Israelis are willing to ally themselves with the fundies politically and the fundies know their power will diminish if peace evern happens.

Remember to look at the money. The fundies care less about "conquering to the Euphrates" than they do about continuing huge state support for religious schools. If peace breaks out, the somewhat secular majority will get fed up and remove the subsidies.

In any event, your leaving out the role of the REAL fanatics... those who think they can topple western civilization and create a new Grand Caliphate... and who have trillions to put their plan into play... and who controlled every branch of the US govt for a decade sending it into a death spiral...

...seems rather naive.

Ian said...

"Imagine for a moment what would happen if tens of thousands of Palestinians start to gather, peacefully, and request the Israeli military leave and that the illegal Israeli Settlers leave. Add into this full media coverage."

Frist Israel would arrest the reporters and accuse them of Anti-Israeli propaganda and then the protesters would be attacked, firstly with non-lethal weapons then with escalating levels of force up to and including the deployment of cluster bombs.

Conservative politicians across the anglophone world would applaud this blow against Islamic extremism and terrorism.

Liberal politicians would make mealy-mouthed references to a "regrettable occurrence" which would inevitably end with a defense of Israel's "right to defend itself.:

LarryHart said...

Lorraine said:

According to the good folkx at "Embark to Heaven," Hell is the interior of the earth and has a temperature of at least 12,000°F. They say if you drill down deep enough you can year the wailing and gnasing of teeth.

The aforementioned Canadian comics writer/artist, Dave Sim, has a theory that takes this further. The center of the earth is only the first stop on the WAY to hell, which is the interior of the SUN.

That whole "go to the light" death image is actually a trap! According to Dave, the correct choice is to AVOID going into the light.

The theory is that we human beings are too intent on merging and joining into groups, and that this (to him) unfortunate tendency produces a sort of gravitational attraction of souls, which causes them to get all bound up together into a roiling mass from which there is no escape, at least not for a very, very long time.

The fortunate one or two percent who escape Hell have learned not to entangle themselves with others, and are able to become living "neutrinos", with little enough gravity to escape the pull.

As far as I know, he's not kidding about this either.

Ian said...

A quick note about Dave Sim which both his detractors and supporters prefer to ignore.

In the early "Swords of Cerebus" reprint volumes Dave Sim describes how he had a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide and was diagnosed as a paranoid schitzophrenic.

That was 30-odd years ago and he has declined medical treatment for that entire time.

Dave sim is mentally ill.

He is extremely intelligent snd an enormously talented writer and artist.

Based on our one brief meeting, he can also be extremely charming.

None of which alters the fact that he is mentally ill.

Hypnos said...

"But after FIVE attempts to anihilate them, the middle of the road Israelis are willing to ally themselves with the fundies politically and the fundies know their power will diminish if peace evern happens."

Five attempts to drive the Israelis to the sea? I can count two, plus a debatable third.

Those would be 1948 and 1973.

In 1956, 1967 and 1982 Israel was the aggressor, 1967 being the debatable one.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Wasn't '67 a pre-emptive strike in response to the massive of an entire army on their borders plus declarations of the intent to exterminate the entire Israeli population? Or am I getting them mixed up?

Michael C. Rush said...

>>In any event, your leaving out the role of the REAL fanatics... those who think they can topple western civilization and create a new Grand Caliphate...

I don't overlook the religion-and-power-fueled machinations of the Arabs in the region (Muslims and otherwise) at all. I simply don't agree that they are to blame for Israel's crimes and devolution into a theocracy. Grand Caliphate or intolerant Israeli theocracy working with U.S. fundamentalist Christian extremists to bring on Armageddon, makes no difference to me. I'm strongly opposed to both. Also, although I of course support Israel's right to exist at this point (as well as Palestine's), I am opposed to all of the naive and destructive nationbuilding-by-fiat done over the past 150 years, which has proved an unequivocal disaster. I'm not a big fan of nations in general, but inventing them by drawing lines on a map is unjust and doesn't work, and we've seen time and again the ethnic, religious, and cultural conflicts it has engendered.

Call me naive if you must, but at least I've derived my views by observing the play of history in the real world, not by self-serving dreams rooted in optimism and wishful thinking (not referring to you here, but to many others, past and present).

In any case, I can see that this is a sore subject with you, so I won't push this particular button any more.

soc said...

I've always seen AIPAC as more or less as influential as the Saudis in Washington. Isn't that why J-Street was formed? As a counterbalance to an organization which they felt didn't represent mainstream American Jews?

Also, didn't the Saudi's offer a proposal a few years ago which offered full recognition of Israel by the Arab League? The Israelis had a few problems with it, if I recall correctly, but it could still be a basis for negotiation with the Arab League.

Finally, if the Israeli leadership really is fed up and wants to be done with this occupation business, what explains the aggressive expanding of settlements over the decades? It's one thing to militarily hold a territory, but quite another thing to change the ethnic makeup of the place by transferring your civilian population into the place.

rewinn said...

Rumor has it that Israeli nuclear weapons are fueled by putting two historians into a small room to debate the origin and history of its state.

While the ensuing reaction can result in a certain amount of light, mostly it produces uncontrollable amounts of heat and pressure.

This is not to say that the issue should not be discussed; to the contrary, its importance is evident. But I would suggest founding discussions on the proposition that all have grievances that must be accepted before a solution is possible.

David Brin said...

Hypnos, Calling Israel the aggressor in 1967 shows staggering myopia. What would YOU do, were three huge armies poised, locked and loaded on your border with pre-invasion fueling and radio traffic building on a 6 hour count-down? And “drive them into the sea broadcasts screaming around the clock?

rushmc, you are more than welcome here. I am deeply worried that the radicalization of Israel may have passed a point of no return. But are any of us qualified to judge what WE would be like after generations of slathering and openlly declared attampts to complete the Holocaust? Anyway, I had a right to point out that the blogger you referred to was a deliberately evil liar.

Note, all: Israel’s far-right “friends” are looked on very warily in Israel itself. Let’s not forget, those “friends want the Dome of the ROck razed and the Temple rebuilt... something most Jews desperately want NOT to happen! The Huckabees want the Temple because it would then lead to the Book of Revelations playing out... eek! At which point all Jews who did not convert would suffer horrible agony.

These are... friends? Their supprt is accepted with great warriness.

Soc, to call any Saudi offer sincer is to ignore the way they forced the Palestinians into ghettos for 50 years, refusing to allow them to emigrate and start new lives, so they could be pawns. Please look at the settlement maps. I disagree with the Israeli rightists. Some of the

David Brin said...

I disagree with the Israeli rightists. Some of the
behavior has been awful. But actually look at the map size of the “land grabs.” Some perspective.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>But are any of us qualified to judge what WE would be like after generations of slathering and openlly declared attampts to complete the Holocaust? Anyway, I had a right to point out that the blogger you referred to was a deliberately evil liar.

I certainly welcome all information/clarification on any and all sources cited by me or by anyone else.

And while I understand something of the psychological factors at play in the Middle East, ultimately I will judge all players by their actions. I wasn't around to oppose the Nazis; the best I can do is to oppose any country (or individual, for that matter) in my era who similarly acts in an illegal or immoral manner. I'm not sure I can imagine what I would be like with the past that you posit, but I do know that I would expect myself to behave well or be held accountable for my failure to do so.

I would imagine that most of us here probably understand that complex problems don't lend themselves to simplistic solutions. Unfortunately, this is far from the case out in the world at large.

Hypnos said...

"Hypnos, Calling Israel the aggressor in 1967 shows staggering myopia. What would YOU do, were three huge armies poised, locked and loaded on your border with pre-invasion fueling and radio traffic building on a 6 hour count-down? And “drive them into the sea broadcasts screaming around the clock?"

It is not as clear cut as you make it out to be. The aggressor in the last war had been Israel. High ranking officials in the Israeli government - and American intelligence - were pretty convinced Egypt would not attack.

Israel made the decision to attack because it knew it could achieve a crushing victory. It acquired the Palestinian territory that remains the point of contention today.

1967 is debatable. I am willing to concede that Israel might have been in the right. Nonetheless, it still was the aggressor. And it wasn't a simple matter of preventing an inevitable invasion.

This still leaves two wars out of five as outright aggressions on the part of Israel.

As for the occupation of the West Bank, Israel directly controls movement across the whole of the West Bank. Palestinians settlements are broken up and divided by Israeli military checkpoints. Israeli settlers are given preferential access to water sources - with settlements of a few thousand people enjoying the same quantity of water as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians do.

I used to think the blame for the conflict was to be shared equally among parties. I don't anymore since 2006. Israel is an aggressor state. It is illegally occupying the Palestinian state. Israeli settlers should be driven off Palestinian land just like Serbian troops were driven out of Kosovo.

David Brin said...

As Nomad would say, "your references are unccordinated!" ;-)

Some, like the incidence by incident aggravating unfairness of Israeil land and water use authorities, are on target. They anger me and are also deeply stupid. Likewise, only now are the checkpoints being removed and full travel opened up.

Still, "agressor state" is utter bullshit. The offer of peace treaties has been on the table since formation and every time an Arab state said yes, the result was Israeli withdrawal and peace and no resumption of hostilities from the Israeli side. That is plain fact. Indisputable. It is simply what happened.

Israel is an "unwelcome occupier" and at times harsh and unfair... till you compare it to any other harsh and unfair occupier in the history of humanity. Then you realize that double standards are at work.

Ask you average west banker if he'd rather live in Algeria or Yemen or Libya or Syria. Oops, he never had the option because of deliberate arab policy to never, ever help their brethren so they could be seen suffering. (How's that for morality. They could have been offered the homes of half a million arab state jews who were kicked out, after 1948 and never compensated.)

Still. Citizens of vibrant Ramallah would rather undergo root canal than live in Damascus or Tunis.

As for the 67 war, you keep softpedaling. There is no way to get around it. Do you know how far the entire egyptian army had to travel, across the Sinai desert, to line up along Israel's border. Would you look at a map please? They could have maintained that position for ONE week before starving. Only another DAY using fuel at the rate that they were. The attack was ordered and underway and only militarily ignorant folks are out there calling it "abiguous" or debatable.

And yes, it was absolutely and completely and inarguably a case of "preventing an inevitable invasion." No, amend that. An inevitable genocide.

David Brin said...

See this:


Here's what shoulda happened.

The property of every slave holder in So Carolina should have been seized for a consortium of ALL the south's freed slaves. Let them come en masse, reducing friction in other states.

Then kick Charleston OUT of the Union. Let it be like Macao.

What the #$#! is it there. Something in the water?

David Brin said...

Oh, one last thing.

A week earlier Nasser declared a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat and fired upon ships heading toward it.

Excuse me. But the blockade was in itself an open act or war, by international law. The artillery barrages - effective and aimed to kill-not warn) were the commencement of armed hostilities. Look it up.

Thing is... look at your long list of rationalizations. Now look at the short list of things you know about what was done by the other side. Do you know the names of the Grand Mufti? Of Black September?

Do you know what happened to the Hasemite royal families, who tried to negotiate not only peace but a confederation with Ben Gurion?

See, there's an implicit racism here that's really stunning. People who see only Israeli sins are actually deeply nastily racist against arabs! Because the implicit assumption is that they cannot be asked to be accountable for their behavior, because they are incapable. Whereas Israeli faults were knowingly chosen from among a set of equally viable alternatives.

rewinn said...

Like I said: a little light, but mostly heat and pressure.


Whether there is moral equivalence or legality to the actions of any of the parties is almost completely beside the point of a practical solution. A case can be made that a typical resident of Israel and Palestine has reason to be suffering from PTSD or a host of similar ailments. (Indeed Israeli research into wounded warrior re-integration has been helpful for American troops; I can look up references if you like).

One can spend an entire internet's worth of words listing the crimes of the governments and peoples involved and that will accomplish what?

Why not, instead, come to a plain acknowledgement that it is manifestly unjust and irrational to expect Palestinians to suffer for the crimes of Germans or, if you prefer, to move to Syrians because Syria ejected Jews? And it is equally irrational to expect the state of Israel to go, "Oh, sorry, my bad" and close up shop?

Even the question of "equivalence" must be set aside if there is to be conversation. The blacks of South Africa won, after all.

Michael C. Rush said...

>>See, there's an implicit racism here that's really stunning.

Oh, please. Some of us couldn't care less about Israeli or Arab culture, religion, history, where their grandparents x 10 lived, or the shade of their flesh. You may be aiming for clever, but you're landing on insulting (and trivializing).

rewinn makes an important point. Viewing any of the parties involved as angels or demons removes all possibility of debate (or solution).

David Brin said...

No, I am accusing the anti-Israeil sentiment of arising out of a double standard that implicitly assumes that Arab states cannot be judged culpable, because no better could have been expected of people like that. That IS the underlying meme, guys. Otherwise, the list of crimes, in your mind, wi=ould be as detailed on their side of the ledger as on the other.

But you did not know (or care) that Nasser had declared a blockade (an actor war ) or fired on Israeli ships or (I left this out (ejected the UN observers and refortified Sharm El Sheik in direct abrogation of the 1956 cease fire, thus re-activating that conflict, nor the blatant inability of his army, having crossed the Sinai with limited supplies, to do anything OTHER than attack?

The expulsion of MORE jews from arab lands than palestinians lost theirs... or the fact that they simply could have been given to arab refugees... as many of them ASKED, having seen the same swap done just the year before, in Pakistan/India... that might be on the ledger. But it is not, because one simply expects that sort of thing from "those people."

Rewinn is entirely right in his overall point. The Israelis are being stupid not to recognize that the Palestinians have BECOME "a People" even if they weren't before. In fact, the west bankers have become the most advanced, educated and Israeli-like people in the Middle East.

By dicking around Abbas, instead of embracing him, Netanyahu et al are helping ensure that Tel Aviv may vanish in a radioactive cloud, in 20 years. It is insanity...

...but it is insanity born of (as Rewinn says) PTSD. Wherein they are actually listening to American right wing assholes who are preaching irredentist-bliblical bullshit... instead of realizing these yanks are maniacs who want Israel to conquer SO THAT blood can soon thereafter gush from the eye sockets of every jew who thereupon doesn't convert! Some friends!

Read HEART OF THE COMET where I show how bad such an alliance could get, betraying everything Ben Gurion stood for.

Did you ever watch LAWRENCE OF ARABIA? Prince Feisel (played by Obiwan Kenobi) was a real person. A great man. Leader of the Hashemites who, if they hadn't been betrayed, had a plan that could have made it all work. Now the traumas have played out. They didn't start out the Israelis' fault. But it PTSD victims inevitably turn mean.

I am with you guys, when it comes to wanting Netanyahu out and the settlements abandoned... or bought for a price that would make every Palestinian delerious.

But historical justifications for absurd double standards do not wash.

Tim H. said...

Hypnos said "Israel made the decision to attack because it knew it could achieve a crushing victory. It acquired the Palestinian territory that remains the point of contention today." As I recall, the west bank was part of Jordan. One might ask why Jordan hasn't taken the palestinians back, they were Jordanian citizens. Do you have any reason to think the palestinians would have been given autonomy by the Jordanian government?

David Brin said...

The west bank was supposed to be a new state in 1948. The first invaders of that state were the Jordanians, who crushed the nascent Palestinian Council and simply annexed the territory. Another fact forgotten and ignored.

Catfish N. Cod said...

"I agree that there is no "cure" so long as red america is traumatized every June, watching the best and brightest of every high school graduating class grin, accept diplomas and hugs, and then race to blue cities as facts as they can shake the hick dust off their shoes."

It does help... some... when those blue cities are still in the same state. It helps a good bit more when they can SEE those blue cities visibly making life in their own hamlet better. Four examples that come to mind are Austin (Texas), Huntsville (Alabama), Atlanta (Georgia) and the Research Triangle (North Carolina). Unfortunately the effect is too dilute in Texas due to its great size.

Please keep up the Holy Lands discussion... I'm learning more about this in a few minutes than in years, simply by hearing what each side does NOT want to talk about. But even beforehand, I knew this. The Palestinians are treated at _least_ as s***illy by other Arabs as by Israelis... and at least the Israelis aren't hypocrites about it.

I am VERY interested to see what actual Arab democracies in Egypt do vis-a-vis Palestinian work. It's been a known fact for decades that Palestinians are not allowed to do more than the most menial tasks in other Arab lands. Ostensibly, this is because their REAL task is to go be cannon fodder against da Joos. Behind that is the argument that the Palestinians would 'steal jobs'... but wouldn't the dictators who have run the Arab states *like* the idea of driving down labor costs?

I have an alternate theory.

They're afraid the Palestinians... more urbanized, in some cases better educated, certainly less tradition- and clan- and territory-bound... might do those jobs BETTER.

David Brin said...

Actually, the Egyptian educated classes are said to be large... Mubarak may be spared hell, because he pushed education... as did the Shah, BTW.

Hence Egypt MIGHT be very sympatico with a new Palestine. Israel has GOT to see this as an opportunity. If they leap on it, then they can plausibly say "See? It was the old arab regimes at fault! As soon as this revolution came, we negotiated!"

Alas, I do not see Netanyahu doing this. Rabin would have. He was a terrible loss.

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