Connecting the dots

by John Quiggin on January 19, 2007

Jonathan Chait connects the dots between dishonest conservative (fn1) claims about income inequality (coming in this case from Alan Reynolds) to similar arguments made about evolution and global warming. As he says, to construct an alternate reality in which income inequality is not increasing, global warming is not happening and the world is near the end of its 6000 years anyway, there’s no need to prove a case – just cast enough doubt on the facts and ideology or faith will do the rest. This is happening across the board. The Republican War on Science is so broad-based that there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable to orthodox Republicans.

Chait does a good job on all this but it’s a pity he doesn’t extend it to his reconsideration of the Iraq disaster. If liberal hawks like Chait had taken the (correct) view that everything coming out of the Bush Administration and its supporting thinktanks was advocacy designed to achieve a predetermined political goal with no regard for the truth, would they have been so keen to support the war?

If they had disregarded the ‘evidence’ on WMDs presented by Bush and Powell for example, and looked at the reports of UN weapons inspectors, would they have still accepted the casus belli on this issue? And if they had assumed that any Iraqi touted by rightwing thinktanks, such as Ahmed Chalabhi, was bound to be worthless as a guide to conditions in Iraq, would they have been so quick to believe that things were likely to turn out well? Finally, if they regarded reality as an important basis for policy, wouldn’t they have realised that any enterprise run by people who prefer lies to truth is unlikely to succeed in a place like the Middle East, where reality tends to obtrude itself rather brutally?

And, while we’re on the topic of Iraq, the Project on Defense Alternatives has just released a plan for US withdrawal that seems at least as likely to produce a reasonable outcome in Iraq as any of the alternatives on offer (not that that’s saying much).

1. Of course, there’s nothing conservative about these guys: they are radicals in policy, not to mention epistemology. A better term might be ‘movement conservatives’ or just ‘Republicans’.

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01.26.07 at 2:44 pm

{ 79 comments }

1

Michael Greinecker 01.20.07 at 8:07 am

The really big puzzle is: What are these folks actually believing? One would assume that it helps to have some grasp of reality in order to make evil things. On the other hand, it “worked” in the Soviet Union without someone seeing clearly.

2

Steve LaBonne 01.20.07 at 8:21 am

If liberal hawks like Chait had taken the (correct) view that everything coming out of the Bush Administration and its supporting thinktanks was advocacy designed to achieve a predetermined political goal with no regard for the truth, would they have been so keen to support the war?

Well, that was exactly my mistake. But unlike the pundits, once I realized how culpably naive I had been I was very ready to admit that I’d been a complete freaking idiot and that I should have been out there with the antiwar demonstrators all along. The continued smugness of people like Chait is beyond infuriating. They should be hanging their heads and vowing silence on “national security” issues for a good long time. Oh, I forgot, they have no way to make an honest living so they can’t shut up…

3

Uncle Kvetch 01.20.07 at 11:29 am

If liberal hawks like Chait had taken the (correct) view that everything coming out of the Bush Administration and its supporting thinktanks was advocacy designed to achieve a predetermined political goal with no regard for the truth, would they have been so keen to support the war?

Why not? IIRC, Thomas Friedman has all but said that the whole WMD thing was a necessary bit of propaganda designed to get the public on board. As someone who supported the war for reasons wholly unconnected with WMD, he had no problem with the Administration essentially concocting a bogus casus belli out of whole cloth, because what mattered to him was that the project of modernizing the Middle East through the wonders of advanced weaponry was “worth the risk.”

As for the notion of him reconsidering or recanting any of that, dream on. His ire is now reserved for the “liberals” who don’t believe Arabs are capable of democracy.

Shorter answer: you’re giving the liberal hawks far too much credit here.

4

John Emerson 01.20.07 at 12:32 pm

Finally, if they regarded reality as an important basis for policy, wouldn’t they have realised that any enterprise run by people who prefer lies to truth is unlikely to succeed….

The dominant Bush people are pure political operatives who focus getting immediate political results. As O’Neill explained, this includes the policymakers; policymaking has been overwhelmed by electoral politics and Congressional games. Furthermore, a lot of these operatives are not even ideologues, but just semi-criminal scam artists running personal operations. They’ve been selected for their willingness to be unethical and their loyalty to the crime family.

The so-called liberal hawks weren’t suckered — they outsmarted themselves. They’re all friendlier to moderate Republicans than they are to labor, to anti-war Democrats, or to left-liberal Democrats. They also are fully committed to the anti-populist model of Democracy according to which deciding on policy and campaigning for office are completely separated — you tell the voters whatever seems likely to persuade them.

The liberal hawks were minor cynics, and they got bamboozled by the major cynics. They were cynical about the voters but serious about policy, but the Republicans were cynical about everything. When the operatives took over, the the Iraq War came to be reduced to photo-ops, soundbites and graft opportunities.

The liberal hawks and the intelligent conservatives are starting to figure out what happened, but screw them. They had their time at bat, and they struck out looking.

5

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.20.07 at 2:43 pm

Confirmation bias is a strong impulse. But as for income inequality vs. absolute wealth questions, there are serious problems with the measures used by those whose main worries include income inequality. The refusal to deal much with technological change is rampant throughout the analysis. There really is a difference between having the freedomand general value a cheap Hyundai offers and not. Cheap cell phones and yes TVs offer a big increase in the quality of life for poor people.

The general response is to say that those aren’t neccessities like health care. But even that analysis is trickier than income inequality advocates (what would the preffered term be?) suggest. For any baseline medical procedure tracked over time, the cost of having it done goes down dramatically (the major counterexample might be organ transplantation but that has all sorts of other problems, especially in the supplying of organs). Drugs go off patent or competitors appear, insurance begins to cover once exotic procedures, there are more practitioners doing them and the procedures become normal which drives the costs down. This is not generally acknowledged, because under the current system (which greatly incentivices medical innovation) there is always a new procedure and a new drug and a new technique. But in the absolute vs. relative wealth/inequality question, so what? Those techniques will also become cheap under the current system.

Putting that question in with the Young Earthers is flatly dishonest.

6

bi 01.20.07 at 3:10 pm

Sebastian Holsclaw:

What the hell are you arguing? The question is whether income inequality is increasing. But you talk about other stuff like whether such and such is a necessity and such and such becomes cheaper, without even touching on the original point, which is whether income inequality is increasing. And you have the temerity to turn around and call people “flatly dishonest”!

I once said that Dan Simon should be remembered as “Dan Simon, the obnoxious troll whose take on issues concerning world safety consists of launching cheap potshots he doesn’t like“. I feel inclined to award Sebastian Holsclaw a similar title.

7

bi 01.20.07 at 3:11 pm

Oops, make that

Dan Simon, the obnoxious troll whose take on issues concerning world safety consists of launching cheap potshots at random people he doesn’t like.

8

otto 01.20.07 at 4:06 pm

otto has been making this point for a while.

Cato on inequality = Competitive Enterprise Institute on global warming = Washington Institute for Near East Policy on US in the Middle East, all part of the same ‘war on science’, all radically at odds with the academic consensus in those issue-areas, not because of superior intellectual firepower, but because they produce truthiness for the best organised right-wing interest groups.

9

Barry 01.20.07 at 8:59 pm

I’d add ‘Cato on Social Security’. They were formed first and foremost to lie about Social Security, IIRC; they’re still going strong.

10

bad Jim 01.21.07 at 3:02 am

That “there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable” is a trifle strong. I’ve heard, once, that some fundamentalists take exception to the Uncertainty Principle, viewing it as the root cause of moral relativism, but as far as I know it hasn’t led them to disdain the fruits of solid-state physics, like computers and cell phones. There’s no sign that they’ve caught on to the subversive nature of the Incompleteness Theorem; if they ever hear of it, they’d likelier adduce it as a fresh proof of God’s existence.

11

brooksfoe 01.21.07 at 9:36 am

There was an argument raging a while back about whether it was legitimate to denounce the new Surge…ish policy simply on the grounds that it came from the Bush Admin, or whether it was necessary to argue for or against a policy “on its merits”. This post points towards why one DOES have to consider the trustworthiness of a policy’s proponent when assessing the worth of the policy, to wit: any evidence presented in support of a policy by a proponent with a long track record of distortion and lying should be thrown out. Argument “on the merits” presupposes some degree of agreement about the basic nature of the universe in which those merits will or will not accrue. When the policy’s proposer constantly lies about that universe of facts, one has to begin with a strong bias against the policy.

It is notable that the case for invading Iraq began with the observation that Saddam had “failed to account for” all of his weapons stockpiles. There was never much evidence showing WMDs; there was mostly evidence that Saddam’s accounting was incomplete. It was the religious belief that, being a bad man, Saddam must be in search of nukes to destroy America, which filled in the rest.

12

Functional 01.21.07 at 1:59 pm

The Republican War on Science is so broad-based that there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable to orthodox Republicans.

I nominate this sentence for the wildest exaggeration that has ever been printed on Crooked Timber (including all comments). “No” discipline? Please. It would be more accurate to refer to “a few conclusions of some researchers in a few disciplines,” but that wouldn’t be quite as thrilling to write.

13

brooksfoe 01.21.07 at 11:07 pm

It would be more accurate to refer to “a few conclusions of some researchers in a few disciplines,” but that wouldn’t be quite as thrilling to write.

It would also be less accurate. The Big Bang and the conviction that the universe is some 15 billion years old are not “conclusions” of “some researchers” in cosmology; they are fundamental tenets of the field. The same goes even more strongly for evolution and biology. The GOP base effectively opposes these entire disciplines. One could run through GOP opposition to overwhelming academic consenses in economics (supply-side), sociology and psychology (effectiveness of abstinence-only education, needle exchanges, etc.), and on and on.

What might in fact be worth doing is substituting “hard-right Republicans” for “Republicans”, if it were shown that a large percentage of Republicans in fact do accept evolution, the Big Bang, and the validity of social science data on reproductive health policy, despite the anti-scientific policies embraced by the party itself. But I’ve seen no evidence for this.

14

Ignorance-power 01.22.07 at 12:41 am

Quiggin seems pretty right. Something came to me as I was reading the GOP war on science:

Why do GOPers and liberal hawks share that bed with French intellos*? Attacking scientific data by imputing ideological motives or, if you prefer, embedding knowledge-power in its socio-historical context.

The “Yeah it’s all gonna be great we’ll smash evil people…oops I think I called that one wrong” screw up from a lot of liberal hawks doesn’t remind anybody else of Foucault’s support for the Iranian revolution? The “no really things are going great over there” doesn’t remind anybody else of Sartre’s relationship to the USSR and China?

* With the very honourable exception of Raymond Aron.

15

Redshift 01.22.07 at 2:15 am

That “there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable” is a trifle strong. I’ve heard, once, that some fundamentalists take exception to the Uncertainty Principle, viewing it as the root cause of moral relativism, but as far as I know it hasn’t led them to disdain the fruits of solid-state physics, like computers and cell phones.

They’re nearly always willing to use the technological products — you don’t see anti-evolution ideologues refusing antibiotics, for example. There’s a total disconnect between the anti-intellectual undermining of science and any concept of where these things come from.

“Let them eat cake” all over again.

16

Doug T 01.22.07 at 9:50 am

“Why do GOPers and liberal hawks share that bed with French intellos*? Attacking scientific data by imputing ideological motives or, if you prefer, embedding knowledge-power in its socio-historical context.”

No surprise. The French were the post-modern theorists, while the GOP is made up of post-modern experimentalists. Instead of writing about it, they go out and act on the idea that reality is nothing more than an ideological construct, that power-relationships are the most important underlying factor in society, and so on.

17

John Quiggin 01.22.07 at 10:14 am

“The French were the post-modern theorists, while the GOP is made up of post-modern experimentalists.”

Exactly right. The crucial insight of the GOP (totally missed by the postmodern left) is that, when many “truths” contend, the one backed by lots of money and power is bound to prevail.

Functional, to quote the followup “The other social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science) are even more suspect than economics. The natural sciences are all implicated in support for evolution against creationism, and for their conclusions about global warming, CFCs and other environmental threats. Even the physicists have mostly been sceptical about Star Wars and its offspring. And of course the humanities are beyond the pale.”

Of course, as you say, the orthodox Republican position is that evolution, global warming, the long-run balanced budget constraint and so on are not the conclusions of science but “a few conclusions of some researchers in a few disciplines”.

18

Functional 01.22.07 at 10:51 am

The Big Bang and the conviction that the universe is some 15 billion years old are not “conclusions” of “some researchers” in cosmology; they are fundamental tenets of the field.

I know of a small number of fundamentalist Christians who don’t accept the age of the earth. I know of a larger number of conservatives who accept the age of the earth, but are still skeptical that random variation could ever create the new information needed to generate life in the first instance, or to generate new species along the way. But there are still plenty of “orthodox Republicans” who believe in evolution. Plenty.

One could run through GOP opposition to overwhelming academic consenses in economics (supply-side), sociology and psychology (effectiveness of abstinence-only education, needle exchanges, etc.),

Again, a few very minor points made by a few researchers in a few disciplines. Not grounds for the sweeping and overwrought claim made by Quiggin. Any more than it would be fair to say that “there is no academic discipline whose conclusions Democrats accept,” pointing to educational research supporting school choice (there are plenty of studies showing an advantage, and none that find a disadvantage), economic research showing the benefit of free trade, sociological research showing the downside of “diversity,” and IQ studies showing that evolution may not have stopped on a dime as soon as homo sapiens showed up.

19

Functional 01.22.07 at 11:17 am

How many Democrats are trumpeting the clear fact of embryology that a new human entity’s life begins at conception? Not many. Hence, Democrats hate “science.”

20

Marc 01.22.07 at 11:31 am

Re #18: this “small group” is pretty large. From
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/US/724_public_view_of_creationism_and_11_19_2004.asp

“To assess public opinion on creationism, Gallup asked:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?
1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,
2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,
3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?

Polled in November 2004, 38% of respondents chose (1), 13% chose (2), 45% chose (3), and 4% offered a different or no opinion. These results are also similar to those from previous Gallup polls, which extend back to 1982.”

Oh, and all of the points in your last paragraph are either 1) disputed (there is a volume of contradictory data on so-called school choice);
2) Misleading (free trade has winners and losers); or 3) complete nonsense (downside of “diversity”, spurious racial intelligence correlations).

You’re a part of the anti-science GOP brigade whether you realize it or not. The comments on
evolution at the beginning of your statement alone
indicate ignorance of natural selection, which is not random, and of the clear evidence for speciation that we have seen.

21

bi 01.22.07 at 11:45 am

Marc: boom.

Functional:

Show me one scientific paper which manages to scientifically hypothesize in a falsifiable way, and prove by empirical observation, that “a new human entity’s life begins at conception”. Wait: there’s no such paper!

The conclusion, of course, is that whatever “science” the GOPers claim to base their conclusions of is simply made up.

= = =

The sad thing, of course, is that extreme Republicans, and Functional himself, hates the very scientific method, which is (surprise!) the basis of all scientific research. Heck, these people hate the very idea of facts — and this observation is one which you don’t need scientific jargon to grasp.

22

Nick L 01.22.07 at 12:15 pm

There’s no sign that they’ve caught on to the subversive nature of the Incompleteness Theorem; if they ever hear of it, they’d likelier adduce it as a fresh proof of God’s existence.

IIRC there was a link on this blog a long time ago pointing to an author who claimed that the incompleteness theorum proved the doctrine of original sin.

23

Functional 01.22.07 at 12:19 pm

People are proving my point! Thanks.

Oh, and all of the points in your last paragraph are either 1) disputed (there is a volume of contradictory data on so-called school choice);

No there’s not. There are a few studies showing that there is little benefit in terms of grades. No study shows a disadvantage, and plenty of studies show small benefits both to academic achievement, racial diversity, and parental satisfaction.

Show me one scientific paper which manages to scientifically hypothesize in a falsifiable way, and prove by empirical observation, that “a new human entity’s life begins at conception”. Wait: there’s no such paper!

Dumbass. Look up any obstetrics textbook. There’s no debate on this point. You can debate all you want about “personhood” or other philosophical topics, but not about the proposition that I stated.

24

John Emerson 01.22.07 at 12:24 pm

Probably a lot of Republicans accept evolution, but the anti-evolutionists are critical to the campaigns, so they run the show. As a result, the National Park Services sells stypid lying books in their bookstores.

The “life of the embryo” question is a red herring. The question is, when should we start giving human rights to the embryo? Right-to-lifers believe that an blastula should be treated as a human being. Maybe it’s alive, and it’s got human DNA, but an blastula is not a human being.

25

John Emerson 01.22.07 at 12:28 pm

Oh, functional, I forgot to call you a dumbfuck. My bad.

26

Functional 01.22.07 at 12:28 pm

Oh, the Gallup poll: Nothing in that talks about “orthodox Republicans.” If you know anything about American politics, you’d realize that a *lot* of those young-earth creationists are Democratic voters — working-class whites, blacks, Hispanics, etc. Conversely, there are a ton of elite Republicans who are just fine with evolution.

27

Functional 01.22.07 at 12:39 pm

Thanks, John.

But: The “life of the embryo” question is a red herring. The question is, when should we start giving human rights to the embryo? Right-to-lifers believe that an blastula should be treated as a human being. Maybe it’s alive, and it’s got human DNA, but an blastula is not a human being.

Right-o. You recognize that there’s a moral question. Still, just by scrolling up in this very thread, you can see a liberal taking the same attitude towards embryology that some conservatives take towards global warming: Insisting that the most obvious facts have never been proven. I take it you use the Internet quite a bit — surely you’re aware that we haven’t here, in this Crooked Timber thread, spotted the only liberal in the world who takes an anti-science view as to the beginning of human life.

28

bi 01.22.07 at 12:40 pm

People are proving my point! Thanks.

Which point? I’m sure you made many points, so which point were you talking about? Oh well, it’s probably just the good old fact-free rhetorical device again.

I think this proves my earlier point that Functional hates facts:

If you know anything about American politics, you’d realize that a lot of those young-earth creationists are Democratic voters…

Because, well, you just “know” about American politics, which basically means you make up any claims that are convenient for you and just assume they’re true.

Dumbass. Look up any obstetrics textbook.

Sorry, the burden of proof is on you. You look up some obstetrics textbooks and tell me.

= = =

It’s not just a War on Science, people. It’s a full-blown War on Facts.

29

Sebastian Holsclaw 01.22.07 at 12:41 pm

“What the hell are you arguing? The question is whether income inequality is increasing.”

No the social question is whether or not we should care. You can’t address the question of whether or not we should care without looking at absolute wealth.

30

bi 01.22.07 at 12:49 pm

Sebastian Holsclaw:

So you’re saying that people are “dishonest” because they happen to discuss a question which is different from your “social question” (and his is a question which movement conservatives are also up in arms over).

31

bi 01.22.07 at 12:49 pm

s/and his/and this/

32

Functional 01.22.07 at 12:59 pm

No, “Bi,” the burden of proof is not on me. When do you think a new human life begins, if not conception? A sperm by itself never turns into an individual human being. Neither does an egg. Thus, a new human life doesn’t begin prior to conception. How about afterwards — perhaps the new human entity begins only when there’s a heartbeat? Hmm, that can’t be right, because there was a living thing there first that found a way to grow a heart. So you tell me.

Also, good luck demonstrating that with 45% of the population believing that God created life w/in the past 10,000 years, none of these people are working class Democrats.

33

gwangung 01.22.07 at 1:01 pm

If you know anything about American politics, you’d realize that a lot of those young-earth creationists are Democratic voters—working-class whites, blacks, Hispanics, etc.

Well, if you knew anything about American politics, you’d know that the leadership comes exclusively from Republican, culturally conservative sectors.

Conversely, there are a ton of elite Republicans who are just fine with evolution.

Who have done nothing to stop the evisceration of biology textbooks. And they are quite fine making proto-creationist positions part of their party plank or campaign talking points. You find this rare (if they ever occur at all) with Democratic candidates.

34

ponte 01.22.07 at 1:27 pm

Hey everybody, I’d like to announce that, since I’ve acquired some RNA from a nasty cold virus, I’ve just become a New Human Entity. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience.

35

ponte 01.22.07 at 1:39 pm

bi wrote: The sad thing, of course, is that extreme Republicans, and Functional himself, hates the very scientific method, which is (surprise!) the basis of all scientific research. Heck, these people hate the very idea of facts—and this observation is one which you don’t need scientific jargon to grasp.

Or as CS Peirce called it, the method of authority:

In judging this method of fixing belief, which may be called the method of authority, we must, in the first place, allow its immeasurable mental and moral superiority to the method of tenacity. Its success is proportionally greater; and in fact it has over and over again worked the most majestic results. The mere structures of stone which it has caused to be put together-in Siam, for example, in Egypt, and in Europe-have many of them a sublimity hardly more than rivaled by the greatest works of nature. And, except the geological epochs, there are no periods of time so vast as those which are measured by some of these organized faiths. If we scrutinize the matter closely, we shall find that there has not been one of their creeds which has remained always the same; yet the change is so slow as to be imperceptible during one person’s life, so that individual belief remains sensibly fixed. For the mass of mankind, then, there is perhaps no better method than this. If it is their highest impulse to be intellectual slaves, then slaves they ought to remain.

But no institution can undertake to regulate opinions upon every subject. Only the most important ones can be attended to, and on the rest men’s minds must be left to the action of natural causes. This imperfection will be no source of weakness so long as men are in such a state of culture that one opinion does not influence another-that is, so long as they cannot put two and two together. But in the most priest-ridden states some individuals will be found who are raised above that condition. These men possess a wider sort of social feeling; they see that men in other countries and in other ages have held to very different doctrines from those which they themselves have been brought up to believe; and they cannot help seeing that it is the mere accident of their having been taught as they have, and of their having been surrounded with the manners and associations they have, that has caused them to believe as they do and not far differently. And their candor cannot resist the reflection that there is no reason to rate their own views at a higher value than those of other nations and other centuries; and this gives rise to doubts in their minds.

36

ponte 01.22.07 at 1:41 pm

Oops, that 2nd paragraph was part of the quote.

37

MQ 01.22.07 at 1:42 pm

“How many Democrats are trumpeting the clear fact of embryology that a new human entity’s life begins at conception? Not many. Hence, Democrats hate “science.” “

No, idiot, you hate science, as you continue to prove with every post you make in this thread. The fact that there is a living entity at conception does not tell you that this entity is human. Science has nothing to say on this, since the definition of what qualifies as “human” is a moral and legal one. This is all obvious enough. But since for you the sole purpose of science is to defeat your political enemies, and science is to be rejected when it does not do this, you seem incapable of seeing it.

38

Functional 01.22.07 at 1:48 pm

No, idiot, you hate science, as you continue to prove with every post you make in this thread. The fact that there is a living entity at conception does not tell you that this entity is human. Science has nothing to say on this, since the definition of what qualifies as “human” is a moral and legal one.

A surprising combination — someone who’s smart enough to recognize that there’s a living entity at conception, smart enough to realize that there’s a separate moral question about personhood, but not smart enough to realize that “bi” here (and many other people like “bi”) are SPECIFICALLY disagreeing that there’s a “living entity” at conception. MQ: I’m not saying that all pro-choicers are anti-science. I’m saying that people like “bi” are anti-science, because they’re not content to make a moral argument about personhood — instead, they have to spout bullshit about the nature of conception. They’re at least as anti-science as anti-evolutionists.

39

Functional 01.22.07 at 1:51 pm

Conversely, there are a ton of elite Republicans who are just fine with evolution. Who have done nothing to stop the evisceration of biology textbooks.

CT certainly seems to draw a lot of serial exaggerators. Evisceration? Where and when? There are a few local school boards that have tried to put small “make up your own mind” labels on biology textbooks, but that isn’t even remotely in the same league as “evisceration,” and it certainly isn’t happening because of elite Republicans.

40

ponte 01.22.07 at 1:53 pm

Functional: define “human entity”

41

Marc 01.22.07 at 1:54 pm

Functional, at this point you’re being completely obtuse. Nothing in what I, or anyone else, wrote requires that all creationists be US Republicans. I was observing that the creationist segment of the public is large, not the tiny fringe that you dismissed in your comments. More to the point, you’d be hard pressed to find Democrats in the US advocating anti-scientific public policy, and you find plenty of examples of GOP leaders doing so. Science (and scientists) have not always been at odds with the republican party – but they are now, make no mistake about it.

Your comments put you pretty clearly in the anti-science camp, which I see that you don’t dispute. And you’re pretty clearly a conservative republican (and, I’d wager, a creationist) from your comments. Your other points are argument by assertion. The subject of vouchers is llustrative of your approach and reliability. See, for example,

http://pewforum.org/issues/files/VoucherPackage.pdf

and in particular the discussion starting on p.27 on the outcomes of studies of school vouchers. There are some cases where voucher students do worse than students in public schools – this is true also for charter schools. To expect otherwise would be surprising, unless one holds a (US republican) attitude that private solutions are always better than public ones. Any gains are modest, and the subject is contentious.

42

aaron 01.22.07 at 1:55 pm

John, thanks for linking that PDA post. It’s priceless.

43

ponte 01.22.07 at 1:57 pm

Functional: define, “new” while you’re at it.

44

ponte 01.22.07 at 2:01 pm

Functional: Dumbass. Look up any obstetrics textbook. There’s no debate on this point.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this, obstetric textbooks do NOT refer to “new human entities”. That is your own ambiguously fraught language.

45

Functional 01.22.07 at 3:15 pm

And you’re pretty clearly a conservative republican (and, I’d wager, a creationist) from your comments.

No, emphatically not a creationist. Still, I’m capable of figuring out the difference between 1) young earth creationism, 2) old earth creationism, 3) people who are just skeptical about the information-generating powers of random mutation (this in turn requires knowing the different between random mutation and natural selection, which is apparently lost on some people around here). In the interest of accuracy, I’m just disputing the stupid suggestion that all “orthodox Republicans” believe that the earth is 10,000 years old. You can repeat it till you’re blue in the face, but it ain’t so.

46

ponte 01.22.07 at 3:21 pm

Functional:
4) Facilitated variation

47

bi 01.22.07 at 3:22 pm

Marc s3z to Functional,

Your other points are argument by assertion.

Right on. This can’t be overemphasized.

And, Functional, this also applies to your latest post.

I’m just disputing the stupid suggestion that all “orthodox Republicans” believe that the earth is 10,000 years old. You can repeat it till you’re blue in the face, but it ain’t so.

Where’s your proof, Functional?

…clear fact of embryology that a new human entity’s life begins at conception

Where’s your proof that it’s a “clear fact”?

Look up any obstetrics textbook. There’s no debate on this point.

Where’s your proof that “obstetrics textbooks” agree with you? Did you actually read any obstetrics textbooks? If so, then why can’t you even cite one concrete example? If not, then where in the first place did you get the idea that the textbooks agree with you?

Where did you get all your “facts” from, Functional?

48

ponte 01.22.07 at 3:30 pm

bi wrote: Where did you get all your “facts” from, Functional?

I’ll take a wild guess and suggest Michael Behe as a candidate.

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bi 01.22.07 at 3:33 pm

(I’m sure Behe didn’t talk about obstetrics textbooks. Or did he?)

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ponte 01.22.07 at 3:40 pm

bi: I was thinking along the lines of “the information-generating powers of random mutation”.

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John Quiggin 01.22.07 at 4:23 pm

To provide some actual evidence here, this survey states
“Nearly six-in-ten conservative Republicans believe that living things have always existed in their present form, while just 11% say that evolution occurred through natural processes.”

If any conservative Republican leader (as opposed to a small minority of conservative Republican voters) has made a statement supporting the standard view of science on this question recently, I haven’t seen it.

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Functional 01.22.07 at 4:33 pm

Bi — got a cite to prove that the Earth is round? Huh? Guess it’s not, then.

Here: “The other way of measuring the dates of the pregnancy is to measure the fetal age. The fetal age of the pregnancy is measured from the time of conception or the estimated time of conception (ETC).”

Again, if you’ve ever read anything whatsoever about pregnancy, this looks very familiar. Very standard. But hmmmm, whyever would someone measure the fetal age from the time of conception? What a mystery that must be for some of the denialists around here.

obstetric textbooks do NOT refer to “new human entities”.

Agreed — I’m just trying to come up with a term that would hopefully allow the more discerning reader to realize that I’m not talking about moral theories of personhood here. Even so, some people actually do deny that there is any new “entity” present after conception.

Is that a tu quoque? Sure. But it also means that if you’re only beating up on the Republicans who are anti-science, you care more about beating up on Republicans than you do about science.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.22.07 at 4:59 pm

“So you’re saying that people are “dishonest” because they happen to discuss a question which is different from your “social question”

No. When people around here criticize their opponents about the inequality question, it is about a question of social or moral judgments. So if Reynolds says for example that one of the reasons that inequality is expanding is because those measuring it are looking at ‘household inequality’ of smaller and smaller households, there may or may not be a fruitful debate about whether or not ‘household’ is the proper focus. If you are going to propose changes in social structure based on ‘inequality’ however defined, it may be fruitful to look at the intersection between wealth creation and inequality. It may be important to focus on technology accessability as a function over time (it may be interesting to note that, yes the rich can get the most cutting edge tech, but cutting edge tech becomes routine poverty-level tech in Western societies at an increasingly fast tempo).

To classify that debate as akin to those who assert that the Earth is 6000 years old (and are thus flatly wrong) is frankly illegtimate. It dishonestly smears those who question the leftist orthodoxy on inequality and it dishonestly portrays the state of the argument as settled.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.22.07 at 5:15 pm

“So you’re saying that people are “dishonest” because they happen to discuss a question which is different from your “social question”

No. When people around here criticize their opponents about the inequality question, it is about a question of social or moral judgments. So if Reynolds says for example that one of the reasons that inequality is expanding is because those measuring it are looking at ‘household inequality’ of smaller and smaller households, there may or may not be a fruitful debate about whether or not ‘household’ is the proper focus. If you are going to propose changes in social structure based on ‘inequality’ however defined, it may be fruitful to look at the intersection between wealth creation and inequality. It may be important to focus on technology accessability as a function over time (it may be interesting to note that, yes the rich can get the most cutting edge tech, but cutting edge tech becomes routine poverty-level tech in Western societies at an increasingly fast tempo).

To classify that debate as akin to those who assert that the Earth is 6000 years old (and are thus flatly wrong) is frankly illegitimate. It dishonestly smears those who question the leftist orthodoxy on inequality and it dishonestly portrays the state of the argument as settled.

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Functional 01.22.07 at 9:25 pm

To provide some actual evidence here, this survey states
“Nearly six-in-ten conservative Republicans believe that living things have always existed in their present form, while just 11% say that evolution occurred through natural processes.”

Quiggin — you should read further into that link. Or quote less carefully. Here’s some more of what that survey found:

Support for teaching creationism along with evolution is quite broad-based, with majority support even among seculars, liberal Democrats and those who accept natural selection theory. At the same time, not all creationists believe that creationism should replace evolution in the schools: 32% of those who subscribe to the creationist view do not think it should be taught instead of evolution. These findings strongly suggest that much of the public believes it is desirable to offer more viewpoints where controversial subjects in the schools are concerned. White evangelicals and black Protestants are the only religious groups expressing majority support for teaching creationism instead of evolution in public schools. Majorities of mainline Protestants, Catholics and seculars oppose this idea. Politically, a majority of conservative Republicans favor replacing evolution with creationism in the classroom, but support for this proposal falls below 40% for all other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans. Regionally, only among Southerners does a plurality (45%) support replacing evolution with creationism in the schools.

But there are also inconsistencies in peoples’ responses that point to confusion regarding the meaning of terms such as “creationism” and even “evolution.” For example, among people who oppose teaching creationism either along with or instead of evolution, 27% personally take the creationist position on human origins. Similarly, 19% of people who think creationism should be taught instead of evolution nevertheless personally believe in evolution through natural selection.

So there are majorities even of liberal Democrats who think creationism should be at least taught alongside evolution. Notice also that even 32% of creationists don’t want it taught in schools. Notice also that a lot of people are just plain confused — the 19% of people who personally believe in evolution but who say that creationism should be taught instead of evolution.

Moral is, it’s very hard to look at all of the data in that survey and come away thinking: “Orthodox Republicans! They’re behind it all.” Unless, that is, you’re just looking for any excuse to beat up Republicans.

Also, notice that I highlighted the bit of text about black Protestants’ belief in creationism. This is just for “bi,” who apparently has never met a black person, and who thought I was just inventing the fact that many black Americans (most of whom vote Democratic) are creationists.

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John Quiggin 01.22.07 at 9:59 pm

Umm, survey data includes contradictions. Wow! This is at least a bit more impressive than your discovery (above) of scientific proof that pregnancy begins at conception.

Of course, erroneous beliefs about evolution are widespread among Americans (and common elsewhere). But they are virtually universal among conservative Republicans and assiduously promoted by conservative Republican politicians. This is part of a pattern which impinges on almost every area of scientific knowledge as stated in the post and illustrated by your own avoidance of the facts.

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Functional 01.22.07 at 10:23 pm

I’m not sure what to say to someone who think that there is any question about whether a human life begins at conception. Human life (that is, of an individual human being) begins at conception. There’s no question about that. Granted, our law doesn’t protect that life, because many people don’t think it worth protecting at that stage. But to say that conception isn’t the beginning of a new human life is fundamentally anti-science. It’s letting pro-choice politics blind oneself to one of the most elementary facts of biology.

And you should call some of your fellow liberals on it, if you don’t want to be a sheer partisan hack.

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Functional 01.22.07 at 10:41 pm

Umm, survey data includes contradictions. Wow!

Right — survey data includes lots of points that contradict your simplistic storyline.

But they are virtually universal among conservative Republicans and assiduously promoted by conservative Republican politicians.

Assiduously?! Who among Republican federal politicians is “assiduously” promoting “erroneous beliefs about evolution”? As I said, there’s the occasional local school board that dare to poke its head above the firing line and utters a trembling little peep on the issue (“make up your own mind”), and if you pin down a national politician, they’ll likely squirm and say that they think localities should be able to do what they want, etc. But “assiduously” promoting? Geez. Cites, please? And not just one or two cites; how about 200, given that you’re claiming some sort of universal law of “orthodox” Republican-hood.

For example, when did Bush or any other congressional Republican introduce the “Mandatory Intelligent Design in All Schools Act”? I must have missed that one. But surely with so many “assiduous” promoters of ID in power for the past six years, they wouldn’t pass up the chance to enact such a law. So enlighten me.

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bi 01.22.07 at 11:00 pm

“The other way of measuring the dates of the pregnancy is to measure the fetal age. The fetal age of the pregnancy is measured from the time of conception or the estimated time of conception (ETC).”

Wow. So this clearly illustrates the scientific consensus that a foetus is… a foetus!

And I thought the whole pro-choice/pro-life circus was about whether foetuses are new humans! Sorry, my bad.

I’m just trying to come up with a term…

In other words, it wasn’t in the obstetrics textbooks. You made it up. Thank you for telling us.

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bi 01.22.07 at 11:11 pm

…it’s very hard to look at all of the data in that survey and come away thinking: “Orthodox Republicans! They’re behind it all.”

Very hard, Functional? Here’s a part you didn’t highlight:

“Politically, a majority of conservative Republicans favor replacing evolution with creationism in the classroom, but support for this proposal falls below 40% for all other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans.”

…a trembling little peep on the issue (“make up your own mind”)…

Trembling little peep? Actually that’s a rhetorical ploy, as I’ve explained before.

= = =

Conclusion: Functional still hates facts.

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bi 01.23.07 at 12:35 am

Sebastian Holsclaw s3z,

So if Reynolds says for example that one of the reasons that inequality is expanding is because those measuring it are looking at ‘household inequality’ of smaller and smaller households,

Well, if Holsclaw hates facts… but I digress.

Let’s take a look at one of the criticisms Reynolds actually made, as described in Chait’s article:

Reynolds lists a series of potential flaws in the Piketty-Saez data. Most of the complaints are simply picayune details. He writes, for instance, that “not everyone files tax return, not all income is taxable (e.g., municipal bonds), and not every taxpayer tells the complete truth about his or her income.”

In other words, Reynolds is contesting the conclusions obtained on income inequality as it is currently defined.

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McDruid 01.23.07 at 3:28 am

Some Democrats may believe in creationism, but Republicans officially (at least in Texas) have it as part of their party platform:
“We support the objective teaching and equal treatment of scientific strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design. We believe theories of life origins and environmental theories should be taught as scientific theory not scientific law; that social studies and other curriculum should not be based on any one theory.”

The largest Republican party in the country also makes scientifically suspect statements about such things as gays, pornography and marriage.

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McDruid 01.23.07 at 3:31 am

I understand that, in the confucianist view, the animal spirit enters the fetus at conception, but the human spirit enters at birth.

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engels 01.23.07 at 12:32 pm

I’m not sure what to say to someone who think that there is any question about whether a human life begins at conception. Human life (that is, of an individual human being) begins at conception. There’s no question about that. … fundamentally anti-science … one of the most elementary facts of biology.

Damn, it looks like I am going to have to re-write my autobiography with a big new chapter right at the start: “My Life Before I Was Born!” Thanks for the science, functional!

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John Quiggin 01.23.07 at 12:49 pm

By the time you’re reduced to demanding 200 supporting links in a comments thread, you’re admitting that you can only win by exhausting your opponents.

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Functional 01.23.07 at 3:34 pm

Quiggin — still waiting for you to call out the anti-science morons on this very thread who think that life doesn’t begin until birth.

FYI: I’m not trying to “exhaust” you. Just asking for a shred of proof that “orthodox Republicans” are “assiduously” promoting Intelligent Design. Name one thing that Bush has done to promote ID. Name one thing that Bill Frist has done to promote ID. Etc. If you can’t come up with even one thing, let alone numerous examples, shouldn’t you stop using words like “assiduously”? It suggests a lack of vocabulary. Or accuracy.

“Politically, a majority of conservative Republicans favor replacing evolution with creationism in the classroom, but support for this proposal falls below 40% for all other political groups, including moderate and liberal Republicans.”

Whoop-de-do, BI. If fewer than 40% of moderate and liberal Republicans want to replace evolution with creationism, guess that means it must NOT be true that all “orthodox Republicans” support creationism. So you’ve proven Quiggin to be sloppy, at best.

Quiggin’s possible excuse will be to claim that “orthodox” precisely means “those Republicans who deny science,” but then his original post becomes a pure tautology: “there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable to those specific Republicans who don’t accept those conclusions.”

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engels 01.23.07 at 3:54 pm

Functional – As far as I can see, for the last zillion comments or so you have essentially been repeating, ad nauseum, your “point” that as there is at least one Republican who is not a creationist, the statement “all Republicans are creationists” must be false. So perhaps you would be so good as to point out where John or anyone else actually said this.

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Functional 01.23.07 at 8:29 pm

As I just said, Quiggin’s own survey showed that among moderate and liberal Republicans (who do exist), upwards of 60% aren’t pushing for creationism in public schools. This is quite a bit different from your dishonest characterization of my point (“there is at least one Republican who is not a creationist”).

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Functional 01.23.07 at 8:37 pm

Anyway, this is veering away from my original point, which still stands: Quiggin is overwrought in claiming that “there is now no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable to orthodox Republicans.” That just isn’t true, as it suggests that all conclusions of all academic disciplines are in doubt by “orthodox” Republicans (whatever that means). Even as to economics, where Quiggin should know better, the most you could say is that there are *some* Republicans who disagree with the conclusion of some economists that supply side economics is bogus. What Quiggin is doing is dishonest in two ways: 1) He treats supply side economics as if it represented the entirety of economics (as if there aren’t about a thousand other things that economists study); 2) He lumps all “orthodox Republicans” into one box.

In other words, Quiggin’s post is just as if one said, “Orthodox Democrats do not accept economics,” when one really meant that 1) *some* Democrats disagree with 2) cost-benefit analysis of regulation.

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bi 01.24.07 at 12:23 am

still waiting for you to call out the anti-science morons on this very thread who think that life doesn’t begin until birth.

Oh, great. What’s this “science” of yours again?

“The other way of measuring the dates of the pregnancy is to measure the fetal age. The fetal age of the pregnancy is measured from the time of conception or the estimated time of conception (ETC).”

What a major breakthrough for anti-abortionism! We still don’t know whether a foetus is a real human, but research on embryology has shown us that a foetus is a foetus!

Oh, and…

got a cite to prove that the Earth is round? Huh? Guess it’s not, then.

You know, the way this whole “burden of proof” works is this: if a person X makes a claim P, the onus is on X to prove P. It’s that simple. It’s not “X makes a claim P, now Y must disprove P“. Or “X thinks that Y believes a claim P, therefore now Y must prove P“.

But of course you wouldn’t have known this, since you didn’t show the least bit of interest in learning the first thing about scientific methodology.

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McDruid 01.24.07 at 4:48 am

functional,

Good at ignoring disconfirming evidence, aren’t you? That is the hallmark of a nonscientific view.

When the largest and most influential state Republican party officially endorses I.D., that is enough to validate the anti-science credentials of Republicans.

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Functional 01.24.07 at 10:16 am

Good at ignoring disconfirming evidence, aren’t you? That is the hallmark of a nonscientific view.

Back at you, and all the rest who ignore that there are tens of millions of “orthodox Republicans” who are just fine with evolution.

BI — you’re just playing games. You have zero interest in science. There is no scientific argument that a new human life begins anywhere other than at conception. The question about abortion is how to treat that life, but it’s indisputable that the life is there. Just one of many, many sources (you can look this up on Amazon):

Human Embryology & Teratology, by Ronan R. O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller. Page 8. Quote: “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a “moment”) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”

There are lots more textbooks along this line that you can find on Amazon. If, that is, you’re interested in anything beyond playing stupid games on the Internet by pretending that anyone who takes the standard scientific view of human development hasn’t met your concocted burden of proof.

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bi 01.24.07 at 12:07 pm

The next paragraph of O’Rahilly and Müller points out that
Debate has occurred over the philosophical conclusion whether the human organism is (1) ab initio, i.e. from fertilization, an actual human person in a philosophical sense, or (2) a potential person becoming actual at a later time. In order to justify the latter assumption, it is claimed that a certain degree of bodily complexity is necessary for the attainment of human personhood (e.g. Maritain, 1967), the presence of a human individual with a human nature.

And things get more interesting immediately after that:
Particular significance is often assigned to the first 2–2½ postfertilizational weeks [footnotes] because monozygotic twinning can still occur during that time; … Monozygotic twins are genetically but not ontologically identical, and so it has been maintained that the non-individuated embryo of 2–2½ weeks has yet to acquire determinate individuality, a stable (ontological) human identity. It is quite possible, however, that twinning may be determined extremely early.

If you want to quote people out of context, can you at least refrain from doing it in such an obviously stupid way?

anyone who takes the standard scientific view of human development hasn’t met your concocted burden of proof.

Hey, look here. And you know, I actually wrote very clearly that it’s not what “view” you take, it’s what you present as being objectively true. In this case, your ‘objectively true’ claim P is not “a foetus is a new human being”, it is “any obstetrics textbook will say that a foetus is a new human being”.

Then again, why should I expect you to care about any of this? You’re clearly refusing to actually learn anything about how science, logic, and fact-finding works — even as you claim to be pro-science.

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Functional 01.24.07 at 1:06 pm

Duh — the textbook goes on to speculate about the “philosophical sense” of when human life begins. I’ve said all along that that is a separate moral question, quite apart from the scientific fact of when the human organism’s life begins. As to the latter question, there’s no debate whatsoever — and yet you’re still here, debating it. Why? Sheer stupidity? Or letting politics drive your view of science?

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bi 01.24.07 at 1:31 pm

Well, Functional, you want to split tiny hairs? Let me point out that the quote talks about a “new human organism”, not a “new human life” or a “new human entity’s life” as you put it. The text even says that “life is a continuous process” and that “fertilization … is not a ‘moment’”.

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bi 01.24.07 at 1:43 pm

And what’s more, Functional, your repeated claims that this “burden of proof” thing is “concocted” by some Politically Biased Wacko is itself proof enough that you’re not the slightest bit interested in learning anything about science or logic themselves.

And I’m not going to debate any more about “science” with someone who refuses to actually know anything about the basic principles of science.

Good day.

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Functional 01.24.07 at 2:30 pm

Bi, you’re moving the goalposts. If my original claim were that “all obstetrics textbooks say X,” then it would be OK to ask for proof.

My original claim (which you misquote egregiously) was this: “clear fact of embryology that a new human entity’s life begins at conception.”

Your response, which I will actually quote (rather than making up a quotation and putting it in quotation marks, as you did): “Show me one scientific paper which manages to scientifically hypothesize in a falsifiable way, and prove by empirical observation, that “a new human entity’s life begins at conception”. Wait: there’s no such paper!”

So you made an affirmative claim here: There’s no such paper. Prove THAT, oh expert embryologist.

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Paul Botts 01.24.07 at 5:23 pm

I’m afraid there is indeed a “war on facts” in our society, and it is bipartisan. Indeed it is one of the impulses that today’s Right and Left most clearly have in common — one more way in which progressives have become the new conservatives. Both the original post and much of the comments here are excellent examples of that sad reality.

Regarding Reynolds and income inequality, I’ve read all of the specific research he critiques as well as his critique, and now several rejoinders to him as well. My reaction from reading Piketty-Saez was to wonder frankly why anyone had taken their claims seriously in the first place — the logic flaws are wide enough to drive a truck through. And to date I’ve still not seen an explanation from them or anyone else for the single largest absurdity which is their acknowledged-without-explanation exclusion of entitlements from the definition of income.

None of that proves that inequality isn’t rising, and I’m not all sure that it isn’t. I am sure from long experience that arguments on factual issues which center on non-factual questions (such as the other side’s motivations or attitudes) are big warning signs of bullshit on the march.

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McDruid 01.24.07 at 5:42 pm

My dear functional, you are confusing the concept of individual Republicans with the official policy of the party. By your logic, you would not be able to find any policy or idea that “Republicans” believe in because you can always find some individual Republicans that disbelieve in any single policy.

But as much as you try to avoid it, the official policy line of the Republican Party of Texas endorses creationism. The national party doesn’t say this as boldfacedly, but most people understand their kowtowing to local control of schools as a coded way of saying this.

Your problem with your phrase “human entity” is that you have not defined it. So Bi’s assumption that you meant both the “human” soul and the “animal” soul (following from Confucious’ definition) is natural. Even your own reference doesn’t use the term entity, rather uses the more specific word “organism.” So all you have to do is to state that you meant the “animal” soul and not the “human” soul.

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