Monday, May 25, 2015

Critiques of Pure Arrogance Intellectual or Political?

by Gary Berg-Cross

Disciplined insincerity & confident ignorance are already evident in this spectacle we call the primary season.  Well it’s still the money primary I guess, but there is a steady effort to test market ideas for the later campaigns. It’s already evidenced an unhealthy dose of arrogance to go along with the insincerity & ignorance (not to mention those flashes & dashes of egoism, conceit, intolerance, sub-surface anger, quarter truths, & light, gossipy slanders.  

I’m thinking of, for example, of Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s sharp-tongued & perhaps dimmer-witted comments.  These started at the winter meeting of the free market Club for Growth winter economic conference in February.  It was a good time to be Palm Beach, but perhaps too comfy an environment for well-reasoned arguments. I’m already tired of people who want-to-be-in-charge of things saying “I’m not a scientist” followed by an awkward opinion that back hands real scientific understanding out of the conversation. In Jeb’s case it was his opinion about climate change, an important topic for Florida and the rest of the world.  Ok, so you are not a scientist or an economist but why not get informed?  There are advisors.

Perhaps we can be disappointed but not surprised with the opinion, since he is very much a politician fitting George Bernard Shaw comment in Major Barbara :

“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points
 clearly to a political career.” 

But it gets worse, because Jeb was just starting on the not-being-humble path. More recently in New Hanpshire he upped the attack as one sees from the headlines:

It is one thing to be “not a scientist” (Re climate change.) and another to attack scientists for their inconvenient evidence, if not a good approximation of reality.  Why are they not to be believed?  Well their explanations are too complicated – he used the more manipulative work “convoluted” in comments reported by CNN.  Then we have the pithy punch:

“For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you,” ... “It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it, even.”

Well I think that was a swing at President Obama as much as at Science. He’s speaking up.  But it is easy to believe that the arrogance (perhaps anti-intellectual arrogance in this case) really dwells in those politically conservative people.  Sure, one can perceive strength as arrogance in fact-based people, who are right but the not believed. They have a lot to go on. Evidence-based belief comes from the various climate scientists who actively publish research, 97 percent agree that humans cause climate change. Further the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
leveraging research  from ~ 800 climate experts across the globe,  concludes that  it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities are the main cause of atmospheric and ocean warming since the 1950s. Scientists speak in probabilities, how’s that for arrogance?  Well pulling math on you seems arrogant to some, I guess.

I think that the more dangerous arrogance is this.  It is the acted upon and emotion-centered belief of people who are wrong on the evidence (see above), don’t like testing evidence (what is the trend for the next decade?) and for one reason or another can't face this reality and projected reality.  This type of arrogance is manifested in Jeb's attack on the evidence based community and is especially true of political leaders who need to comfort the flock.

Unfortunately, this is just an early, primary season example of the attack on intellect, facts and critical thinking. We are likely to have more as part of 2015-16 silly season. I know that I will still be upset when I see  how many hands get raised this year when the candidates are asked about their belief/non-belief in evolution. Sort of a reverse American Exceptionalism demonstration.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leo Koch - a well known Humanist

Edd Doerr (Silver Spring, MD) had a  letter  published in The Nation for June 1, 2015. Leo Koch was  a well known Humanist back then.

In “The New Thought Police,” [May 4, Joan] Scott mentions the case of Leo Koch, a biology professor at the University of Illinois who lost his job for suggesting in the student newspaper that there should be “greater freedom in the conduct of sexual relations.” I knew Koch back in 1963. His letters published in the student newspaper did not result in a ruckus as long as they were simply signed “Leo Koch.” The ruckus  started only when the editors violated Koch’s trust by identifying him as a faculty member.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Historical credit vs. Ready Made Explanations

by Gary Berg-Cross

 penned a WaPo article called The violent narrative of religious rivalry (aka Love Thy Neighbor)

Gerson, "the guy who is credited with penning the "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" lie line that helped enable the Iraq war", wanders around the topic of the narrative of the West vs. Islam and ideological containment. He uses a very broad brush with a bit of historical interpretation for the reason that our favored "Westernized" religions are better than the more recent creation  - Islam:

When monotheism is tied to dualism — the belief that history is a cosmic conflict between the children of light and the children of darkness — it becomes “the most dangerous doctrine ever invented,” allowing people to “commit evil with a clean conscience.”
Both Judaism and Christianity have made progress over the centuries in weeding out dualism — reinterpreting their violent scriptural texts and finding resources of “respect for the other.” For Christianity, this transition wasn’t easy, involving the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War. But this bloody, chaotic process eventually produced a flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience."
There are any number of arguments in here that one may dispute, but a central one is, "what caused this flowering in the 17th century that we are so proud of?"
An insightful view on this, I think, was penned in a letter response in the Post by Elliot Wilner of Bethesda, who wrote:
"In his May 12 op-ed column, “Love thy neighbor,” Michael Gerson provided an intelligent argument for preserving the American tenet of religious tolerance. Curiously, however, he credited the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War with having eventually created the “flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience.” Those ideas should be credited mainly to a succession of secular humanists, opponents of organized religion, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill. “Love thy neighbor” was preached and practiced as much, if not more, by these secular humanists as by religious sectarians."
Right on as an additional step to understanding what it takes to move a culture.  The follies of war and the ideologies that birth them and give them sustenance provides teachable moments when we may move ahead, if we listen to the best among us.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Twenty-first century solutions for age-old problems

Edd Doerr (
 Wash Post. May 13. Page 1. “Toyota’s bet on hydrogen: The future or an eco-dream?” Here’s the response I posted on line. Comments?   ---

Toyota, Hyundai and Honda are to be commended for introducing hydrogen powered cars. But if hydrogen can power cars, it can also power trains and ships and electric power generation. With coal, oil and natural gas all contributing to climate change and resource depletion, hydrogen could go far in replacing those dirty fuels. Environmentalist Lester Brown's new book, The Great Transition, makes the case for shifting from fossil fuels to solar, wind and geothermal energy, but notes that solar and wind are variable. OK, well, hydrogen power could solve that problem. Of course it takes energy to break water down to hydrogen and oxygen, but that could be done using solar, wind and geothermal, thus evening out energy availability.

What about all the people working in the coal and oil industries? Retrain them to work with solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen energy production.

Twenty-first century solutions for age-old problems. And this is not rocket science.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Numbing Ideas to Destroy Public Education

A review by Edd Doerr

A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, by Paul T. Hill and Ashley E. Jochim. University of Chicago Press, 2015, 152 pp, $22.50.

This strange book, paradoxically, is at once mind-numbingly simplistic and almost infinitely complex. While purporting to “reform” American K-12 education inside-and-out, top-to-bottom, it actually makes anarchy look well organized by comparison. Fortunately, this vehicle is so Cloud-Nine Twilight-Zone weird that its proposal is unlikely to get off the ground, except maybe in places like Louisiana. One clue to its far-out-ness is its paying respect to such as Chester Finn, Bruno Manno, Milton Friedman, Joel  Klein, and Chubb and Moe while ignoring educators like Diane Ravitch, David Berliner, Mercedes Schneider, and the Lubienskis.

While the book does  not overtly plug vouchers, charters, online teaching for children, and similar bad ideas, Hill is a long time avid promoter of such devices for undermining public education and the teaching profession, while blithely oblivious to state constitutions and well established laws and institutions. He has even gone so far as to propose coalitions of religious groups to start tax-supported schools. Nowhere in this awful opus do the authors demonstrate the slightest concern that their bizarre scheme would do other than fragment our school population and society along religious, ideological, class, ethnic, linguistic, ability level, and other lines; create logistical, financial and traffic nightmares; and siphon public funds to rapacious private pockets while reducing teachers to the level of transient hamburger flippers.

The University of Chicago Press would do well to disown this clunker and avoid further embarrassment.

(Edd Doerr, a former history and Spanish teacher, is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Godless environments & sweeping tax-credit school voucher bill

Edd Doerr, president, Americans for Religious Liberty, Silver Spring, Md.

Texas Republicans are trying to push a sweeping tax-credit school voucher bill through the legislature. As part of the plot the lieutenant governor’s hand-picked advisory board issued a letter calling every public school “a Godless environment.” The May 1  Ft Worth Star-Telegram ran a long comment by a group of ministers (Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Christian, Presbyterian) slamming the letter, defending the public schools, and defending church-state separation  and religious liberty. Below is my letter that was published in the Star-Telegram on May 7. – Edd

The pastors who signed the commentary opposing the diversion of public funds to private schools through vouchers or tax credits are in the very best tradition of religious leadership in America.
They see, as did Founders Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, that religious liberty for all requires that government refrain from forcing all citizens to support religious institutions, either directly or indirectly.
This church-state separation principle is enshrined in the Texas Constitution in Article I, Section 7 and Article VII, Section 5.
Religious freedom and our heritage of free public schools should not be tossed away by politicians in Austin or Washington.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Krauthammer's "Wolf Howl"

by Edd Doerr (

Far right whacko columnist Charles Krauthammer devoted his May 1 Wash Post column, “God, man and Henry VIII”, to a vicious attack on the Masterpiece/PBS series “Wolf Hall”, based on Hilary Mantel’s award winning novels about Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. Below are the comments I posted on line in the Post. By the way, an excellent review of the “Wolf Hall” series is Emily Nessbaum’s column “Queens Boulevard” in the May 4 New Yorker, -- Edd

Krauthammer, as usual, gets it all wrong. Yes, 16th century politics in England (and the rest of Europe) was a bloody mess. But were it not for Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell breaking up the powerful monolithic church there would be no United States as we know if today, a prosperous pluralistic democratic republic with religious freedom and separation of church and state. Instead, we would probably have from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia a vast banana republic or something resembling Franco's Spain.

As usual, Krauthammer is shilling for the conservative zillionaires and theocrats who would take our country back the the Middle Ages.

Several comments [posted here] refer appropriately to Krauthammer's admiration for Pinochet and Milton Friedman, which backs what I wrote above. Sadly, today's Republicans are following Friedman's adviceand are pushing to undermine our public schools by diverting public funds to selective private schools that fragment our school population along religious, ideological, class, ethnic and other lines. -- Edd Doerr

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Edd Doerr

A new study from the U of Michigan finds that Catholic women in the US “support mandated health coverage of contraception” under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). 

The poll results for women in the study are: Protestant, 66%; Catholic, 63%; Non-Christian, 59%; Nonreligious, 59%; Baptist, 48%; Other Christian. 45%. 

Only 23% said “that religious hospitals and colleges should not be required to cover contraceptives.” 
A Public Religion Research Institute study shows that “similar percentages agreed that contraception is critical for a woman’s financial security,” with religiously unaffiliated at 76%.

(Source: National Catholic Reporter, April 24/May7.)