Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
The other night, I saw my libertarian neighbors’ vehicle broken down on the side of the road about 7 blocks from my house. I thought of stopping and helping, but then I remembered I didn’t have to help them if I didn’t want to because voluntarism, and I figured the free market or liberty would help at some point in time.
David Bentley Hart (The Trouble With Ayn Rand)
What kind of society, exactly, do modern Republicans want? I’ve been listening to Republican candidates in an effort to discern an overall philosophy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal picture of America.
They say they want a smaller government but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more muscular homeland security. Almost all want to widen the government’s powers of search and surveillance inside the United States – eradicating possible terrorists, expunging undocumented immigrants, “securing” the nation’s borders. They want stiffer criminal sentences, including broader application of the death penalty. Many also want government to intrude on the most intimate aspects of private life.
They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal, and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.
They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.
It was an era when the nation was mesmerized by the doctrine of free enterprise, but few Americans actually enjoyed much freedom. Robber barons like the financier Jay Gould, the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, controlled much of American industry; the gap between rich and poor had turned into a chasm; urban slums festered; women couldn’t vote and black Americans were subject to Jim Crow; and the lackeys of rich literally deposited sacks of money on desks of pliant legislators.
Most tellingly, it was a time when the ideas of William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, dominated American social thought. Sumner brought Charles Darwin to America and twisted him into a theory to fit the times.
Few Americans living today have read any of Sumner’s writings but they had an electrifying effect on America during the last three decades of the 19th century.
To Sumner and his followers, life was a competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive – and through this struggle societies became stronger over time. A correlate of this principle was that government should do little or nothing to help those in need because that would interfere with natural selection.
Listen to today’s Republican debates and you hear a continuous regurgitation of Sumner. “Civilization has a simple choice,” Sumner wrote in the 1880s. It’s either “liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest,” or “not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”
Newt Gingrich not only echoes Sumner’s thoughts but mimics Sumner’s reputed arrogance. Gingrich says we must reward “entrepreneurs” (by which he means anyone who has made a pile of money) and warns us not to “coddle” people in need. He opposes extending unemployment insurance because, he says, ”I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.”
Sumner, likewise, warned against handouts to people he termed “negligent, shiftless, inefficient, silly, and imprudent.”
Mitt Romney doesn’t want the government to do much of anything about unemployment. And he’s dead set against raising taxes on millionaires, relying on the standard Republican rationale millionaires create jobs.
Here’s Sumner, more than a century ago: “Millionaires are the product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done… It is because they are thus selected that wealth aggregates under their hands – both their own and that intrusted to them … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society.” Although they live in luxury, “the bargain is a good one for society.”
Other Republican hopefuls also fit Sumner’s mold. Ron Paul, who favors repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan, was asked at a Republican debate in September what medical response he’d recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma. Paul’s response: “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” The Republican crowd cheered.
In other words, if the young man died for lack of health insurance, he was responsible. Survival of the fittest.
Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was “merely a survival of the fittest.” It was, he insisted “the working out of a law of nature and of God.”
Social Darwinism also undermined all efforts at the time to build a nation of broadly-based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn’t do much of anything.
Not until the twentieth century did America reject Social Darwinism. We created the large middle class that became the core of our economy and democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward through no fault of their own. We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods – public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health – that made us all better off.
In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on his or her own in a competitive contest for survival.
But make no mistake: If one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls becomes president, and if regressive Republicans take over the House or Senate, or both, Social Darwinism is back.
Sam Harris, “How to Lose Readers Without Even Trying” (via cocknbull)
“[Y]ou have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.
“Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.
“I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.”
- Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY], complete dick and embarrassment to himself, the Senate, and the state of Kentucky. Fear of being enslaved? Ideological lunatic. (via liberalsarecool)
No, he’s not just a ideological lunatic. He’s a fucking moron if he actually believes what he said here, and if he doesn’t believe it then he’s a disingenuous douchebag. There is no way to employ actual logical thinking and arrive at the conclusion he puts forth here. No way at all.
People who support this must be really really amazed by magic tricks. Slight of hand works on small minds, Mr. Paul. I guess you’re counting on your constituents to be small-minded.(via goodreasonnews)
Such a dick. Why did you become a physician in the first place, Rand Paul? I’m sure he’s got amazing bedside manner. “It appears you’ve got cancer mrs. Smith. Will that be cash, check, or credit?”
This is quite a piece of objectivist hyperbole. If he can only make 3x as much as his avg. patient and not 5 or 6x, he’s a god damn SLAVE. And that makes you, the patient, morally corrupt for even seeking his help. Rand Paul has a raging hard-on for Ayn Rand.
Wyoming Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, encouraging the Wyoming State House to vote down $38 million of federal unemployment benefits in the name of compassion. Kroeker claimed he has had people turn down jobs at his Casper business because they would rather draw unemployment. Uh, huh…
Posted on his Facebook page later:
This flashback from February reflects the current theme in the GOP - it’s them lazy unemployed, and damned unions takin’ all yer money and jobs. Probably illegals, too. Never mind tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate subsidies. The Bush tax cuts had eight years to generate job creation. Nada.
As an aside, anyone else realizing how liberal Richard Nixon really was, even compared to Obama?
Um. Is it that hard for these politicians to accept that the state of the economy is not the people’s fault, it’s the fault of banks and the government and companies and a whole shitload of other stuff not really having to do with the public? Therefore they really shouldn’t be punished for this crap?
In regards to that last bit about Nixon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_are_all_Keynesians_now Also, wage-price freeze.
uh I am on unemployment right now. A measly $1480 a month. For some perspective, my rent is $880. If I was offered a job, I highly doubt my reason for turning it down (if I did indeed turn it down, highly unlikely) would be so I could continue the movie star lifestyle I’m living on this unemployment.(via drinkthe-koolaid)
The Republican party’s famous last words: “I fail to see…”
“[Fuck your fellow man, look out for numero uno]”
— Ayn Rand (paraphrased) Mmmm, that’s some good Christian conservatism!
Ayn Rand is atheist…
Was an atheist. She’s dead now. I was referring to the irony of her philosophy being embraced by the Christian teabaggers. Not to her being a Christian conservative. Just to clarify.