Sunstein Becked

by John Quiggin on September 8, 2009

Following the successful wingnut attack on Van Jones, the Washington Independent reports that Glenn Beck’s next target is Cass Sunstein, with the pretext being his discussion of organ donation in Nudge, his book with Thaler on how small framing effects can have big effects on outcomes (. I see this as a positive development in all sorts of ways.

Update Sunstein’s appointment was approved by the Senate on a near party line vote 57-40. Six Republicans (Bennett, Collins, Hatch, Lugar, Snowe,Voinovich) voted Yes. The No votes included Bernie Sanders who opposed Sunstein for much the same reasons I would and some Blue Dogs notably including Ben Nelson, who followed the Beck line (all of the Dems voted for cloture). Obama’s only real chance of achieving anything is to dump both the filibuster rule and the Blue Dogs. End update

First, if Beck succeed in derailing his appointment as regulatory czar and presumptive future Supreme Court Justice, Sunstein would be no loss, either intellectually or as regards the progressive cause.

But more importantly, Sunstein has been one of the strongest, and, given his closeness to Obama, the most influential advocates of the view that the polarization of US politics is the result of a failure of communication, and that if people on both sides only talked more, they would realise how much they had in common.

Whether or not Beck’s attacks are successful, I’m confident Sunstein is about to find out how wrong he is on this. On the contrary, the more interaction liberals (even those as lukewarm as Sunstein) have with the Republican base the more they will realise that they are dealing with people whose political views are a closed system, impervious to factual evidence or to any form of morality more developed than loyalty to the tribe. And, I bet, Sunstein will look in vain for support from his friends at the American Enterprise Institute.

The whole history of the Obama Administration so far has been one long demonstration that ideas of bipartisanship or postpartisanship are meaningless as long as they involve dealing with the Republican party or its supporters. Maybe Beck’s attack on Sunstein will be enough to drive the lesson home to the centrist establishment.

(Googling, I found very similar sentiments from Jim White at FireDogLake)

{ 150 comments }

1

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.08.09 at 10:16 am

He’s already been Amesed

2

Jasper Milvain 09.08.09 at 10:18 am

Small prediction: if Cass Sunstein is successfully driven out of his appointment, he will write something about what he learned, and it will blame his misfortune on the writers of items like this one.

3

ogmb 09.08.09 at 10:35 am

On the contrary, the more interaction liberals (even those as lukewarm as Sunstein) have with the Republican base the more they will realise that they are dealing with people whose political views are a closed system, impervious to factual evidence or to any form of morality more developed than loyalty to the tribe.

Simply put, if you’re a liberal not looked away in an ivory tower far from the beltway and you still believe the movement Republicans can be persuaded to switch their strategy from DEFECT to COOPERATE by playing COOPERATE ad infinitum, there is little hope that such an event will change your strategy. In Sunstein’s case, Jasper’s prediction is much more believable.

4

Ginger Yellow 09.08.09 at 11:12 am

From the Washington Independent story: “How has Sunstein become so controversial? Basically, conservative Websites have read his iconoclastic, theoretical writing and pumped up the bits that sound really strange.”

An opt-out system is considered “really strange”? I can understand that it’s controversial, but it’s not like he’s the only person to suggest it. Gordon Brown backs it, for heaven’s sake. It’s in operation in many Western countries. And it’s a hell of a lot less strange than the system in the UK, where even if you opt-in, and carry a card to prove it, it doesn’t matter if your family don’t consent as well.

5

Henry 09.08.09 at 11:18 am

I disagree here I think – I don’t think that this provides evidence that really touches on the underlying empirical mechanisms. CS could plausibly argue that what he is experiencing here is the result of bitter partisan polarization that has already taken place. As best as I can see, the evidence sort-of-supports his empirical claim that people become more polarized through contact with others who share their own views (the evidence is of correlation rather than causation – but I think that the correlation is at least partly underpinned by the causal relationship that he and others identify). It could plausibly be that we also have a countervailing mechanism where leftwingers become more partisan b/c they see how horrible the right is, but the evidence for this is (as best as I know) anecdotal rather than systematic. It certainly is true of me – but I do not know whether it can be generalized to the broad population – and I also do not know whether I would have become more entrenched in my views if there had not been others out there who could provide me with support and companionship in them.

Where I think that CS _is_ wrong is on two issues. First – the implicit plague on both your houses suggestion that partisan polarization is equally bad on both sides of the aisle. The right wing partisan crazy is simply a lot worse than the left wing partisan crazy in US politics at the moment. Second – his claim that partisan polarization is necessarily a bad thing and that we should always prefer less of it. Some degree of partisanship is both good and necessary, and polarization and selection on similar views is probably a crucial precondition to successful movement building and collective action.

6

alex 09.08.09 at 11:27 am

“The right wing partisan crazy is simply a lot worse than the left wing partisan crazy”: because you like it less, or because it is more influential? I don’t think you can objectively rule that crypto-Stalinism is worse than crypto-Nazism [or any other form of rightism], it’s just that apologists for the Great Terror aren’t actively engaged in hounding public appointees from their jobs, and haven’t got a headlock on the political sentiments of a solid 20% of the country… Give them a chance, and see what they’d do…

7

nickhayw 09.08.09 at 11:34 am

I’m surprised to find out so many dislike Sunstein. I’ve only read his anti-caste essay and a few things from his work on free speech – so doubtless missing a lot of context here. But what I’ve read gives me the impression of a humdrum, occasionally insightful if slightly befuddled legal academic. Apparently my impression is well past its use-by date.

Anyway I like Sunstein’s chances of surviving the trial-by-Beck, he and Obama seem pretty chummy. Not so sure his survival (or even his roasting) would force Obama to stand up a little more.

8

Kenny Easwaran 09.08.09 at 12:15 pm

alex – Crypto Stalinism and Crypto Nazism are both pretty bad. But neither of those seems especially wide-spread at the moment. The bigger issue is people who somehow think it’s controversial to have the president tell children to stay in school, and who think counseling about the potential for hospice service is pulling the plug on grandma, and who think that a Certificate of Live Birth is no substitute for a birth certificate. While there might be more 9/11-truth-ism on the left of the spectrum than the right, the degree of disconnect from reality on some parts of the right that get millions of viewers a night on TV is pretty scary, and pretty clearly a bigger problem.

9

Kenny Easwaran 09.08.09 at 12:19 pm

Now that I re-read your comment I see that I shouldn’t have been emphasizing the greater influence of the right-wing crazy, but rather just the degree of disconnect from reality. 9/11-truth-ism just doesn’t seem to require the same sort of blinding yourself to the truly obvious that these other things do. And I can’t think of many other sorts of lunacy that are more present on the left than the right. Maybe people can argue about some version of capitalist conspiracy theory, but I guess I haven’t seen the same levels of lunacy about anything connected to that. I don’t know if vaccine/autism theory or AIDS denialism are more prevalent on the left than the right, but I suppose those might be comparable, at least to global warming denialism even if not the birther/deather theories.

10

Tom West 09.08.09 at 12:25 pm

the more interaction liberals (even those as lukewarm as Sunstein) have with the Republican base the more they will realise that they are dealing with people whose political views are a closed system, impervious to factual evidence or to any form of morality more developed than loyalty to the tribe.

Could you clarify? Are you saying that Republicans are evil, stupid, or evil and stupid?

Sorry, but I’m certain I’ve heard similar sentiments from George Bush when referring to elements of Islam. Certainly it’s a lot easier to justify doing what it takes to get things done if you don’t consider opponents fully human.

11

John Quiggin 09.08.09 at 12:40 pm

“I don’t know if vaccine/autism theory or AIDS denialism are more prevalent on the left than the right”

Vaccine/autism stuff is about evenly distributed, but AIDS denialism is mainly rightwing. It got a run in Tom Bethell’s Politically incorrect guide to science published by Regnery IIRC, which is pretty much a standard text on the right.

12

JoB 09.08.09 at 12:41 pm

It’s beyond me how you’d wish any of that on anyone, really.

It also depends on the undefined “Republican base”. If it means only lunatics, sure, don’t go & try to reason with them. But it rather suggests it might include at least some 40% of citizens, & sounds like it might include Colin Powell …

By the way, what’s the trend in people paying for their indoctrination in the US nowadays; are their significant downward price trends; is it a market attracting many new suppliers ???

13

Steve LaBonne 09.08.09 at 12:51 pm

It also depends on the undefined “Republican base”. If it means only lunatics, sure, don’t go & try to reason with them. But it rather suggests it might include at least some 40% of citizens, & sounds like it might include Colin Powell …

It’s generally used for the roughly 25% who show up consistently in polls as supporting or flirting with lunacy like birtherism. The number of people beyond this lunatic quarter who identify as Republicans is shrinking, precisely because they’ve been turned off by the loonies. They may be likely to vote Republican in a Presidential election, but more and more of them call themselves independents.

As to Obama, I think he’s smarter than to believe his own propaganda. He’s just another corporate-owned Democrat (his chief of staff, after all, has as his life’s mission the redirection of corporate cash from Republican to Democratic coffers) who, like the rest of them, is happy when noise from the the right gives him excuses for why he “can’t” do anything progressive.

14

bob mcmanus 09.08.09 at 1:08 pm

Well, I presume Sunstein/Rahm/Obama are about the Republicans like Paulson Bernanke Powell, the military-corporate donors whose craziness would only extend to a mild libertarianism but still identify as Republican.

However, political parties whose elite military-corporate leadership who tolerate, encourage, and nuture a ultra-nationalist religious-fanatical-irrationalist reactionary thuggish worker bureaucrat base for its street-political have been studied enough. Dave & Sara over at Orcinus have put us on high alert recently.

Sunstein and Obama etc just don’t want to accept what they are dealing with. The people they have regular contact with just seem so reasonable and civilized.

15

Ben Alpers 09.08.09 at 1:10 pm

Maybe it’s ’cause I tend to be a glass 90% empty kinda guy, but IMO no good comes from corporate centrist types like Sunstein being called crazy radicals by the wingnuts. Either they force him out, in which case wingnuts win…and the Overton Window moves further to the right (corporate centrism now equaling crazy radicalism) or progressives rally to his cause and he stays….and the Overton Window moves further to the right (Sunstein’s progressive credentials having been burnished).

16

engels 09.08.09 at 1:36 pm

The right wing partisan crazy is simply a lot worse than the left wing partisan crazy in US politics at the moment

From the point of view of US politics at the moment, I would propose the following league of craziness:

1) right wing partisan — completely crazy
2) centrist/bipartisan — somewhat crazy
3) left wing partisan — not crazy

17

Barry 09.08.09 at 1:47 pm

Ben Alpers 09.08.09 at 1:10 pm

“Maybe it’s ‘cause I tend to be a glass 90% empty kinda guy, but IMO no good comes from corporate centrist types like Sunstein being called crazy radicals by the wingnuts. Either they force him out, in which case wingnuts win…and the Overton Window moves further to the right (corporate centrism now equaling crazy radicalism) or progressives rally to his cause and he stays….and the Overton Window moves further to the right (Sunstein’s progressive credentials having been burnished).”

OTOH, if they just hurt him, and he realizes that his U Chic/Harvard/etc. ‘friends’ are no help whatsoever, he might learn something.

18

Chris Bertram 09.08.09 at 1:56 pm

Lest we forget, another reason to dislike Sunstein:

http://crookedtimber.org/2005/03/24/deterrence-and-the-death-penalty/

19

Bloix 09.08.09 at 1:57 pm

Sunstein et al are like characters in a play who don’t understand that the lines of the other actors are scripted.

20

Chris Bertram 09.08.09 at 2:01 pm

BTW, Charlie Brooker on Beck et al is well worth it:

21

Neel Krishnaswami 09.08.09 at 2:19 pm

CS could plausibly argue that what he is experiencing here is the result of bitter partisan polarization that has already taken place. As best as I can see, the evidence sort-of-supports his empirical claim that people become more polarized through contact with others who share their own views (the evidence is of correlation rather than causation – but I think that the correlation is at least partly underpinned by the causal relationship that he and others identify).

Wait, doesn’t he claim the opposite? I seem to recall remember reading a paper by him where he ran an experiment on deliberative democracy, and learned that people radicalized after meeting people who disagreed with them. I can’t seem to find it with casual Google searching, so maybe I’m misremembering….

22

engels 09.08.09 at 2:20 pm

Alex, I am pretty sure that Henry wasn’t making a universal claim about the cosmic badness of rightness versus leftness, but was talking about the present situation in the US, so incantations of the liberal cliché about ‘extremes’ of left and right being equally dangerous would appear to be somewhat beside the point here.

23

Neel Krishnaswami 09.08.09 at 2:24 pm

It turns out I am misremembering — here’s a blog post by CS about the experiment. The part I had forgotten was they pre-sorted groups into politically like-minded people, which is why he could say that the echo chamber effect exists.

24

Chris Dornan 09.08.09 at 2:27 pm

For sure the GOP is in a very sad state at the moment, and so their irrationality quite OTT. But the hatred of W was quite pathological too: why are we so blind when it comes to ourselves? (Don’t tell me that progressives had something ‘real’ to get pathologically angry about… I found W as much of a nightmare as anybody and especially like Obama because he seeks to build bridges. The point is that the rage was pathological in both cases.)

BTW, I am a life-long Guardian reader and for as long as I could avid consumer of the NYT. I don’t believe in God; I am a non-theist.

But I have been digging into this modern passion for irrationality and it is now clear to me that it has its roots in the Enlightenment (in a technical sense) that has infected all modern thought: conservatives fundamentalist Christians and progressive fanatical atheists alike–these are the wingnuts but the malaise is fairly spread around. The big hint is in the very idea of Enlightenment itself, clear cover for a programme of irrationality in ethics facilitated by scientific cleverness.

Much of this is caught up in religion. There is nothing more truly irrational than physicalism–stuck as it is in 19th century physical reality. Unmodified Neo-Darwinism as such is a meta-scientific dogma that has been mixed up with proper science; just add smoke and mirrors, bullying, bluster and an acquiescent public in awe of their high priests and you have the current scientific consensus. Anyone who seriously doubts this just needs to sample the way establishment science engages with the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake: the signal to noise ratio is stunningly low, high on aggressive rhetoric and very low in joined up content.

On a more basic level, the progressive attacks on institutional religion are really bizarre, as David Stove pointed out. He had no time for the ‘fairy stories’ (as he saw them) but their social value is obvious to anyone who thinks about it (seriously). Yet this is not the progressive ‘rational’ narrative.

That such clever people (and progressives clearly attract the smarts) should possess so little self-awareness and be so certain and righteous about their rightness, that they are carrying the torch for the ideas that have got us into this pickle, that they abuse their cleverness to destroy the faith systems of conservatives, leads me to wonder whether they might not be truly at the heart of the compulsive irrationality of our modern discourse.

I find Obama’s instincts fascinating. I am glad he and his team are in charge of steering the progressive legislation through congress and not reactionary progressive wingnuts!

(Sorry, I just couldn’t resist, my eyes catching too much self-satisfaction on my way to the bottom, but I am sure it was only a few comments.)

25

alex 09.08.09 at 2:31 pm

Which is why I asked for clarification. Which we seem to have got, along the lines that at least 25% of the US population is, from the point of view of any sane person, fucked in the head by a huge dildo of racist red-baiting insanity.

None of that, however, alters the objective reality that extreme left-wing politics are just as unpleasant. Nonetheless, neither does it make milksop social-democrats into ‘extreme left-wingers’, if that’s what you’re worried about, except in the empty skulls of the above 25%ers…

26

engels 09.08.09 at 2:33 pm

It strikes me that the internet is very effective in bringing people into contact with the very worst representatives of people with whom they disagree. On most political blogs views significantly opposed to the posters are usually respresented by ‘trolls’ — people who argue in an insincere and inflammatory wa,y primarily motivated by a desire for attention. The upshot of this is that most discussions turn into demolitions of a very weak form of an opposing view by people who are somewhat more informed and serious, which surely has the effect of making people more confident in what they believed before the discussion took place.

27

Chris 09.08.09 at 2:34 pm

As to Obama, I think he’s smarter than to believe his own propaganda. He’s just another corporate-owned Democrat (his chief of staff, after all, has as his life’s mission the redirection of corporate cash from Republican to Democratic coffers) who, like the rest of them, is happy when noise from the the right gives him excuses for why he “can’t” do anything progressive.

I get the exact opposite impression of Obama: he’s well aware of exactly how rotten the system is, and how little any one person can do to change it, and that money is power and the corporations have it, and that a direct assault would be futile; but he is nevertheless determined to wring some good out of it if it kills him.

Literally – the one thing that convinces me most that Obama really wants to do some good is that as the first black president he faces enormously greater risk of assassination than is usual for an already dangerous job. I don’t see him putting himself in that danger just to feed at the corporate trough, which he could have done as a Senator anyway. Being elected to the Senate that young, and in a state with reliable demographics, he could have looked forward to great seniority and power just by waiting for it. So what did he risk his career and his life for?

P.S. He already has done some progressive things — the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act comes to mind. All but one of the presidents in the last 30 years would have vetoed that bill if they hadn’t been able to stop it from reaching their desks in the first place, and I’m not so sure about Clinton.

28

alex 09.08.09 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, above comment responds to 22, evidently. Meanwhile, Chris Dornan, “they abuse their cleverness to destroy the faith systems of conservatives,” – WTF?? Do you have any inkling how assiduously those ‘faith systems’ have been built over the last half-century, how entirely modern, and in some senses post-modern they are, and how astonishingly powerful and pervasive they have become? Destroyed? You wish… As for the rest of your argument, I think you’re calling for a little of what Rorty called ‘irony’, but it does sound alarmingly like ‘let’s roll society back to the time when fear of eternal hellfire was a useful and universal means of social control’. Might want to parse that out a little.

29

engels 09.08.09 at 2:38 pm

extreme left-wing politics are just as unpleasant

Well, depending on how you define ‘extreme’ this could either be tautological, or would seem to require some argument. I would categorise Trotskyists, anarchists, and Communists as ‘extreme left’ but I don’t think they deserve the same moral judgment as Nazis. I know that right-wing people (and some liberals) disagree, and it’s a topic which gets hashed over rather frequently, so I’m not going to argue about it here.

30

Steve LaBonne 09.08.09 at 2:38 pm

If Obama’s sincere why does he employ the likes of Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers- and Cass Sunstein? Rahm in particular is all about making sure nothing actually progressive ever gets done that might dry up the flow of corporate cash to Democrats.

Sorry, I look at actions ,not fancy words or fanciful mindreading.

31

bob mcmanus 09.08.09 at 2:40 pm

If you want to pretend we are doing normal politics here, I suppose the question to ask is whether the Right thinks that Sunstein is the best they could do for the Stevens seat.

a) If they think they can do better than Sunstein, they are removing him from contention.

b) If they believe Sunstein is their best possible outcome for SCOTUS, they are “inoculating” him. “Sunstein? The guy the wingers tried to destroy?”

32

Barbar 09.08.09 at 2:41 pm

I don’t see him putting himself in that danger just to feed at the corporate trough, which he could have done as a Senator anyway. Being elected to the Senate that young, and in a state with reliable demographics, he could have looked forward to great seniority and power just by waiting for it. So what did he risk his career and his life for?

I can’t possibly think of any reason why someone would want to be President. Or the first black President. Nope. Well, other than pure selflessness and a deep desire to do good, of course.

33

engels 09.08.09 at 2:44 pm

(Come to think of it, I would’t use the phrase ‘extreme left’ in fact but I am assuming that is what you meant… Anyway, as stated this is a rather tedious topic which has little to do with the post.)

34

bob mcmanus 09.08.09 at 2:55 pm

If Obama’s sincere why does he employ the likes of Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers- and Cass Sunstein?

I was thinking about this. What do you do when the opposition has gone full f-word?

I suppose a liberal has to give the opposition military-corporate elite everything and anything they ask for. because liberals don’t want to, and really can’t fight. And in any case, once those elites have threatened or joined the wingnuts enough to not care about tactics, a liberal (or leftist fer sure) can’t win anyway. I figured with a 25% of pop wingnut base, maybe as little as a third of the military-industrial establishment becomes enough for totalitarian takeover. And as Arendt says, could be nobody can control it now.

Because bribing the Right elites, as happened in late 20s Germany, means Obama and the Democrats are going to lose their base, lose 2010, then 2012, then barbarism.

I think the answer is what FDR did in a similar period, “Welcome their hatred” and go as far left as possible. Build a loyal “army of workers” with WPA, PWA, etc that will intimidate the brownshirts a little.

35

Ginger Yellow 09.08.09 at 3:29 pm

Anyone who seriously doubts this just needs to sample the way establishment science engages with the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake

Haha. Good one. Behe’s “reasoned critiques” consist of a) “If you define evolution in a way that no evolutionary biologist does, evolution is impossible!” and b) “If you do an experiment designed to be as favourable as possible to the ID hypothesis and in the process demonstrate evolution, evolution is untrue!”

If you want a high signal to noise ratio in that “debate”, I suggest you read Ken Miller or Barbara Forrest.

36

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.08.09 at 3:38 pm

I think the answer is what FDR did in a similar period, “Welcome their hatred” and go as far left as possible. Build a loyal “army of workers” with WPA, PWA, etc that will intimidate the brownshirts a little.

It’s too late, perhaps, for that: back then there were plenty of workers, factory workers; nowadays they are mostly “sales associates” or store clerks. And a lot of those who still do work at a factory are probably employed by the Pentagon, to one degree or another.

37

Mrs Tilton 09.08.09 at 3:58 pm

…the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake…

I should have realised it earlier, but had to get as far as those words before it became obvious that Chris Dornan is having his wee joke.

38

engels 09.08.09 at 4:16 pm

Chris Dornan, when you say:

But I have been digging into this modern passion for irrationality and it is now clear to me that it has its roots in the Enlightenment (in a technical sense) that has infected all modern thought: conservatives fundamentalist Christians and progressive fanatical atheists alike—these are the wingnuts but the malaise is fairly spread around. The big hint is in the very idea of Enlightenment itself, clear cover for a programme of irrationality in ethics facilitated by scientific cleverness.

do you have any references? What did you dig up that led you to this conclusion?

39

Barbar 09.08.09 at 4:19 pm

It’s pretty clear that there was a lot more rationality in ethics back in the 1200s, before the idea of rationality emerged and devoured itself.

40

Sebastian 09.08.09 at 4:30 pm

“but AIDS denialism is mainly rightwing. It got a run in Tom Bethell’s Politically incorrect guide to science published by Regnery IIRC, which is pretty much a standard text on the right.”

I don’t know if the fact that Tom Bethell’s craziness is published by Regnery means that AIDS denialism is mainly rightwing. It may just be that my experiences are from California, where the political bent skews left, but AIDS denialism (even in the gay community, yikes!) seems primarily a left wing phenomenon. This is especially true in black churches, which seem to have an unusually high number of preachers who believe either that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, or that AIDS was designed by the government to try to kill black people. (Both of which show disturbing misunderstandings about the state of the biological sciences). In the gay community in CA there is a disturbingly large number of people who have some sort of New Agey HIV denialism (which almost caused one of my friend’s deaths) and/or people who interpret the fact that transmission is more prevalent under the influence of fairly hard drugs (crystal and crack) as evidence that HIV isn’t what really causes AIDS, that it is drug use.

You may be picking up the black ministers as right-wing, but if so they are right-wing staunch Democrats. The New Age AIDS denialists are definitely left wing. I’m not sure where the weird illicit-drugs-cause-AIDS people fall. They may tend toward right wing, but they have a lot of cross-over.

The autism/vaccine craziness is definitely split. On the right it is found mostly among homeschoolers. On the left it tends to be found as a more extreme subset of the people who obsess over genetically modified food and/or organic stuff.

41

rcriii 09.08.09 at 4:49 pm

Isn’t the beckopaclypse coming up in a few days? How does Glenn have time, what with getting us back to the place we were on 9/12, deal with a minor government appointment?

42

Dave Weeden 09.08.09 at 5:49 pm

On the contrary, the more interaction liberals (even those as lukewarm as Sunstein) have with the Republican base the more they will realise that they are dealing with people whose political views are a closed system, impervious to factual evidence or to any form of morality more developed than loyalty to the tribe.

Well, if anyone here in interested in empirical tests of such statements, you could spare a few minutes to watch this video: Al Franken talks down angry mob. (OK, he doesn’t get anywhere with the guy who doesn’t know what ‘demographic’ means.)

If I understand Chris Dornan correctly by the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake… he doesn’t mean their own writings, he means criticism of them by their enemies. However, he doesn’t point to any examples of these, so I’m in the dark as to why he thinks they show up their writers.

43

Kathleen Lowrey 09.08.09 at 6:02 pm

Henri V – thanks for that Ames link up top. I’d never heard of Mark Ames but I’ll be looking for his work from now on.

44

lemuel piktin 09.08.09 at 6:27 pm

Kathleen-

I suggest you check out Ames’ 2004 piece comparing working-class Bush voters with the Serbs who “voted for Milosevic precisely because he was a vote against hope.” It’s still timely and quite brilliant in its way.

45

Chris 09.08.09 at 6:58 pm

If Obama’s sincere why does he employ the likes of Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers- and Cass Sunstein?

Because you need money to get anything done and he can’t change that by wishing. Pragmatism often involves getting your hands dirty — but pragmatism also believes that if the engine runs better when you’re done, it was worth it.

Obama’s hands may or may not be dirtier than Clinton’s (although IIRC, many of the most objectionable-to-progressives members of the Obama Administration are ex-Clinton Administration employees). But Clinton didn’t fix the damn engine.

Rahm in particular is all about making sure nothing actually progressive ever gets done that might dry up the flow of corporate cash to Democrats.

You mean like the way he killed the stimulus? He’s all about making sure that the corporate cash keeps flowing, regardless of what agenda is actually passing. If health care reform passes Rahm will be hard at work trying to convince corporate interests that Obama was on their side all along, cushioning the blow and saving them from anti-corporate lynch mobs. The fact that it’s his job to sell that story, and even that Obama hired him to sell that story, doesn’t make it true.

46

Steve LaBonne 09.08.09 at 7:06 pm

Because you need money to get anything done and he can’t change that by wishing.

So much for the bullshit about Obama’s supposed ability to blow off the lobbyists by raising lots of money from small contributors. At least you’re honest enough to acknowledge that was a scam.

You mean like the way he killed the stimulus?

He certainly contributed heavily to crippling it, which is going to have dire electoral consequences down the road.

47

someguy 09.08.09 at 7:12 pm

Henry,

Have you read Ames and his many admirers?

48

Martin Bento 09.08.09 at 7:45 pm

Actually, I think Obama could largely blow off the lobbyists because of his small donor machine. He also has a lot of independence because his ascent was so rapid; he didn’t have time to accumulate the career’s worth of owed favors that most politicians who reach that level must. The fact that he is nonetheless tepid or actively bad on the major issues is therefore all the more disappointing.

49

dsquared 09.08.09 at 7:50 pm

I’d never heard of Mark Ames but I’ll be looking for his work from now on.

Health warning: if you’re the same person who was debating sexism in Brazil with Conor Foley, you’re going to find a hell of a lot to dislike in the work of Mark Ames.

50

mickey finn 09.08.09 at 8:03 pm

I don’t understand the frantic efforts to find comparable levels of insanity on both sides of the political spectrum. Any objective observer nust admit, it aint there. What might be, or what could be (under the right circumstances), or any other scenario under construction, will not match the squirelshit nuttiness and proud ignorance I’ve experienced from the right wing in America. Just of the charts.

51

Kathleen Lowrey 09.08.09 at 8:14 pm

dsquared — if I only read unsexist authors, I’d find my reading materials limited indeed. Anyway, Ames’s attitudes toward women look to be repulsive but unabashedly so; what really gets me are lady-haters who insist on being hailed as allies. But thanks for the heads-up.

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Kathleen Lowrey 09.08.09 at 8:24 pm

Lemuel Pitkin — I don’t think that analysis is quite right, but it takes a few good whacks at Thomas Frank’s anyodyne analysis which is always a welcome addition to the discourse. thanks for the ref.

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JoB 09.08.09 at 8:26 pm

The number of people beyond this lunatic quarter who identify as Republicans is shrinking, precisely because they’ve been turned off by the loonies.

If that’s so, no problem: 25% or less will loose elections.

But still: why all the emotions with respect to part of the 75% & specifically when they are not even in the shrinking Republican camp?

Let the loonies do their job then. And what are the statistics as far as loonie numbers?

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Conor 09.08.09 at 9:01 pm

Kathleen ‘what really gets me are lady-haters who insist on being hailed as allies’ Jeez! Do you really want to go back over that?

55

Death dies 09.08.09 at 9:20 pm

If health care reform passes Rahm will be hard at work trying to convince corporate interests that Obama was on their side

Which reform? Nothing’s ironed out yet, as you must know. But regarding what’s in play, “corporate interests” haven’t seen silent. We do have some inkling how they feel. We needn’t worry that Rahm’s post-legislative hand-holding job will be too difficult, reading in LATimes representatives of these aggrieved interests saying “Hallelujah!” for the reform proposals.

Is there going to be some evidence showing up soon that Obama wasn’t “on their side?” They’re going to find it shocking, I think.

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steven 09.08.09 at 9:23 pm

Sunstein has been one of the strongest, and, given his closeness to Obama, the most influential advocates of the view that the polarization of US politics is the result of a failure of communication, and that if people on both sides only talked more, they would realise how much they had in common.

Though I for one am confused as to the extent to which he actually thinks this. For sure, his recent thin book on the topic seems to be claiming this for most of its length, but then there comes a moment at which he appears to realize that his arguments are terminally muddled, so in conclusion he claims that what is best for democracy is lots of wingnut groups shouting at each other. Something like that, anyway.

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Chris Dornan 09.08.09 at 9:29 pm

alex

Do you have any inkling how assiduously those ‘faith systems’ have been built over the last half-century, how entirely modern, and in some senses post-modern they are, and how astonishingly powerful and pervasive they have become? Destroyed? You wish…

Indeed I do–as I said, everybody has been effected, and most certainly institutional religion. I am by no means trying to argue that any one side has a monopoly on rationality. Neither did I say that anyone was succeeding in destroying anyone, but the intent is certainly there and it just poisons the discourse.

engels:

do you have any references? What did you dig up that led you to this conclusion?

I am putting together the arguments on my blog at http://senseorsensibility.com

I have been building up the thesis in the blog which also has a positive thesis based on the writings of Jane Austen which I argue were critiqueing 18th century innovations in ethics and reintroducing classical philosophy in a very modern dress. The article that most directly answers your point is the Post-rational Civiliazation, which explains why I am convinced that our ethics are fundamentally sentimental, having given up on employing rationality in any serious way in ethics.

Mrs Tilton:

“…the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake…”

I should have realised it earlier, but had to get as far as those words before it became obvious that Chris Dornan is having his wee joke.

It is civil and very well done, but this is precisely the kind of reasoning I was referring to.

Barbar:

It’s pretty clear that there was a lot more rationality in ethics back in the 1200s, before the idea of rationality emerged and devoured itself.

This is not true. Scholastic systems will necessarily go through cycles of decay and renewal but we have no reason to believe that anything went seriously wrong before the 18th century where people started to abandon using reason in ethics. It is all caught up in the social and intellectual change, but the result is that we reserve systmatic reasoning for speculative philosophy (i.e., science) but make sure not to use closed rational systems in ethics. I don’t think any of the other high classical civilations in the West or East did this.

Dave Weeden:

If I understand Chris Dornan correctly by the reasoned critiques of the likes of Behe and Sheldrake… he doesn’t mean their own writings, he means criticism of them by their enemies. However, he doesn’t point to any examples of these, so I’m in the dark as to why he thinks they show up their writers.

If I have undesrtood you right, you want examples of irrational attack on Behe and Sheldrake.

See Behe’s Blog and Sheldrake’s website for stacks of examples. If you would really like me to pull out examples then I can, but as it is going to take a bit of time so I thought I would clarify that is what you are looking for before doing so.

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Kathleen Lowrey 09.08.09 at 9:40 pm

I’m going to make a different wager about ol’ Sunstein — unlike someone really on the left, he can use the Beck attacks to shore up his centrist cred. ie, “the left thinks I’m too right, but lookee here, the right thinks I’m too left, ergo I am Le Totes Awesome”.

I’d be surprised if, in his case, any of this ends up hurting him at all.

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engels 09.08.09 at 9:51 pm

Kathleen, it’s funny you should say that as I recently heard an interview with Sunstein (I think. but it may have been co-author Thaler where he said exactly that about the reaction to ‘Nudge’.

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Kathleen Lowrey 09.08.09 at 9:54 pm

who doesn’t like instant vindication?
thanks for sharing the anecdote :)

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John Quiggin 09.08.09 at 10:26 pm

JoB, the 25 per cent gain a disproportionate influence for a variety of reasons. One is that Democrats like Sunstein continue to push notions of bipartisanship that the other side reject when they have a majority and cynically exploit when they don’t.

Sooner or later, the remaining moderate Republican/independent voters will peel away and the whole thing will come crashing down. But that won’t happen automatically, and needs to be pushed along.

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Chris Dornan 09.08.09 at 10:35 pm

Haha. Good one. Behe’s “reasoned critiques” consist of a) “If you define evolution in a way that no evolutionary biologist does, evolution is impossible!” and b) “If you do an experiment designed to be as favourable as possible to the ID hypothesis and in the process demonstrate evolution, evolution is untrue!”

If you want a high signal to noise ratio in that “debate”, I suggest you read Ken Miller or Barbara Forrest.

Thanks: I have come across Miller but I haven’t read Forrest; I would have thought Ruse would be interesting or is he now beyond the pale?

It is so refreshing to hear the points at issue actually being addressed, and very reasonably too! The problem is that this is really more of a philosophical issue than a scientific issue. In my experience scientists–even the very best–make lousy philosophers. It seems to me that Behe ought to be free to frame the analysis so that he can proceed with that analysis, provided what he is doing is basically coherent. Whenever I have heard him explain what he is up to he has made perfect sense. Whenever I have dug into what his critics have been saying they have–to my mind–not made perfect sense at all. His concept of irreducible complexity is not that difficult to grasp, and the repeated wilful efforts to misunderstand it by his critics doesn’t fill me with confidence that they are at all in control of the issues.

I don’t doubt the powers of Behe’s critics to conduct science–the stuff that leads to predictions. Their grasp of the wider issues seem to be very poor, certainly judging by their critiques of Behe. Equally, if they would listen to what Behe is saying, open their positions to the possibility he may be right I, don’t doubt that they would make even better scientists and might find many new fruitful avenues of enquiry. (Equally, if he really is wrong, they would find that out much more quickly too.) I say this simply because I think it is better to operate without dogmatic blinkers.

This is a prime example of my point. To listen to the scientific establishment, it is the IDers who are operating with dogmatic blinkers, but it is actually the reverse. The general situation is that X% of biological systems have been generated though natural selection. Behe is saying that X is less than 100 and the orthodox situation is that X is 100. That everything arose out from natural selection is an utterly fantastical claim: the hypothesis may be productive, and you could argue so productive that it shouldn’t be abandoned so lightly. This is indeed a rational argument.

But if Behe has found an angle on the problem that shows that not everything can have arisen from NS then that is tremendously exciting. That someone should have found a way of thinking about this that might help us move forward should be welcomed by those who truly interested in increasing their understanding of the natural world.

Of course, it might all be a mirage, and the tyres do need to be thoroughly kicked.

But this is not my sense of the way the dialogue is going at all. I get the strong sense that any enquiries into this area are very unwelcome and to be repulsed by all means.

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Ken Houghton 09.08.09 at 10:48 pm

We are all being polite in assuming that it is Mr. Quiggin’s being nearly halfway around the world and on the bottom instead of the top that has led him, somehow, to conflate the words “Cass Sunstein” and “liberal.”

This is an error generally only made by people trying to sell something or those who declare themselves “Sensible Centrists,” and long for the days when Bill Clinton was cutting the safety net and eviscerating habeas corpus.

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Phil 09.08.09 at 10:54 pm

That everything arose out from natural selection is an utterly fantastical claim

Biologically speaking, the fantastical claim is that any part of that ‘everything’ arose out of anything but natural selection (operating on descent with modification). Abandon the watchmaker and Paley’s watch must be the outcome of understandable processes in the natural world, even if we haven’t observed them all; deny that, and you surely have to bring the watchmaker back in.

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nick s 09.08.09 at 11:32 pm

Ames and Taibbi worked together in Moscow. They come out of a completely different journalistic and political climate to their peers.

Ames’s piece on McArdle’s daddy is, to some extent, unfair, and yet it’s deliciously so. It’s clearly something he had in the draft file to use if (or when) his comments on the moneyed elites and their pissboys driving the teabaggers and “death panel” brigades piqued Megan Antoinette. But as dsquared suggests, he’s got an opinion to outrage people of most political temperaments not named Mark Ames.

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John Quiggin 09.09.09 at 12:00 am

@Ken H. I must admit that, perhaps due to my antipodal location, I can’t grasp all the fine nuances of the term “liberal”. Still, as I retype the phrase “lukewarm liberal”, I must say that my mental image is that of Cass Sunstein.

In my mind, the phrase “sensible centrist” goes with the kind of thinking mentioned by Kathleen @55 (if you are being attacked from both the left and the right you must be in the correct position) and that thinking seems to me to be characteristic of an intellectually sloppy version of liberalism.

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ckc (not kc) 09.09.09 at 3:06 am

The general situation is that X% of biological systems have been generated though natural selection. Behe is saying that X is less than 100 and the orthodox situation is that X is 100.

Given the “orthodox” understanding of natural selection (change in “gene” frequencies as a result of variation in fitness), the orthodox situation is certainly not that X=100. Behe’s problem is that he’s contributed nothing to any understanding of how biological systems have been generated.

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bad Jim 09.09.09 at 5:46 am

Behe is a crackpot. The definition of science he offered at the Dover trial would, by his own admission, include astrology. He continues to repeat arguments which have been soundly refuted, which is hardly the behavior of an honest man (although it’s possible that he has not studied or understood the refutations; at the trial he dismissed countervailing work with a wave of the hand).

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dsquared 09.09.09 at 6:45 am

The definition of science he offered at the Dover trial would, by his own admission, include astrology

in fairness, he has this in common with the late Professor Sir Karl Popper.

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JoB 09.09.09 at 7:38 am

John-61, I’m not American so I don’t know the situation and I have no issue to acknowledge it’s something you’re in the right about substantively. But it still remains beyond me why anyone is wanting that type of treatment on anyone else, let alone someone with wrong tactics.

I don’t mean this personally (I can understand somebody like that getting on your nerves to get the better of your sober judgment for a moment) but seems a bit of hysteria, really. Exactly the type of thing a Beck is feeding on to further his substantively idiotic ideas.

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John Quiggin 09.09.09 at 9:22 am

JoB, I assume that Beck and the other wingnuts will be going after somebody at all times. Given this assumption, Beck’s choice of Sunstein seems preferable to other possible targets, at least if the result is to induce Obama to fight back, rather than caving in as with Jones.

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JoB 09.09.09 at 9:29 am

John, I beg to differ. Whether or not somebody will be doing that all the time or not, it’s a bitch and should never be preferred on anyone. Also – as much as I agree Obama should go on a front foot on this one; the thing is far from clear cut enough to even go close to the end justifying the means. But I understand where the frustration is coming from; he’d be well advised to risk some filibustering – it’ll be the best boomerang ever.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 10:00 am

JoB: exactly!

Alex:

As for the rest of your argument, I think you’re calling for a little of what Rorty called ‘irony’, but it does sound alarmingly like ‘let’s roll society back to the time when fear of eternal hellfire was a useful and universal means of social control’. Might want to parse that out a little.

I forgot to address this the first time round. The suggests a verycrude understanding of religion. Three points. (i) I can’t unpack this here, but I have found meditation on hell realms very useful for all kinds of things, including meditation on compassion. (ii) Look around you and it is clear that people (and animals) end up in very hellish situations–it is a feature of reality. (iii) Almost every pre-Enlightenment system has the feature, connecting unethical action to dire consequences, including hell realms. This is as true of the classical eastern traditions as the western ones; it is a critical element of Republic and was Plato’s master argument for ethics. Modern ‘Enlightened’, progressive thinking is the outlier. And any way hell teachings are but one minor aspect of Christianity.

Phil

Biologically speaking, the fantastical claim is that any part of that ‘everything’ arose out of anything but natural selection (operating on descent with modification).

This perfectly states the orthodox position, and explains the main features of the Behe controversy perfectly. That such an extraordinary negative assumption–one that has been very productive for sure–can be asserted with such certainty almost beats anything the most flexible fundamentalists could come up with. It is faith-based reasoning redux.

bad Jim

Behe is a crackpot. The definition of science he offered at the Dover trial would, by his own admission, include astrology. He continues to repeat arguments which have been soundly refuted, which is hardly the behavior of an honest man (although it’s possible that he has not studied or understood the refutations; at the trial he dismissed countervailing work with a wave of the hand).

You are underpinning my case, calling him a crack pot and citing the Dover Trial. Since when was a law court a good place to settle science or philosophy. You are trivialising the field of the philosophy of science.

ckc (not kc)

Given the “orthodox” understanding of natural selection (change in “gene” frequencies as a result of variation in fitness), the orthodox situation is certainly not that X=100. Behe’s problem is that he’s contributed nothing to any understanding of how biological systems have been generated.

That is a substantial point–one that we surely can’t settle here. But I think if you stand back and look at the orthodox narrative in biology it is clear that natural selection is supposed to give rise to all the diversity we see in living systems. Behe is questioning the narrative that cell could have emerged through natural selection. The answers we see time and tim again is that only a crackpot could believe that anything other than natural selection could give rise to the cell or anything else in biology (see bad jim).

as I said, if Behe were to really show that NS couldn’t have given rise to the cell then that (negative result) would be a huge advance the current thinking in biology, for at the moment the consensus is otherwise and he would have succeeded in correcting a misunderstanding.

Anyone seriously interested in knowledge would be delighted with his sharp contrarian critique (and he is far from stupid or ill-informed). If it failed, it could only sharpen up everyone’s thinking in this fascinating area.

The pattern of the discussion is quite different.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 10:25 am

I agree with JoB again.

More specifically, loading all of this onto the crazies just doesn’t make any sense. The hold up has very little to do with Obama and the crazies and everything to do with undemocratic senate procedures and the centrist democrats.

So why this big emphasis on demonising the GOP base–asserting they are not interested in reason and therefore need to be ignored or crushed; things have got bad when we are hoping the more pathological conservative elements will attack ‘liberals’ looking for an accommodation.

Maureen Dowd has a interesting column critiquing Obama’s hands-off approach today.

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Zamfir 09.09.09 at 10:27 am

Anyone seriously interested in knowledge would be delighted with his sharp contrarian critique (and he is far from stupid or ill-informed). If it failed, it could only sharpen up everyone’s thinking in this fascinating area.
But keep in mind that Behe became well-known in the early nineties, not last year or so, and that the experts in the field didn’t found his critique very sharp either. After a few years of polite rebuttals, Behe kept making the same points again and again and again, and the polite people stopped caring.

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Ginger Yellow 09.09.09 at 10:59 am

What Zamfir said. Behe’s critique has failed. Yet he keeps on repeating it, backing off from his strongest claims, perhaps, but sticking with the central premise, even when his own research has proved it wrong. Behe admitted under oath that his own paper with Snoke showed that an ostensibly irreducibly complex system could evolve, even given unrealistically constrained parameters. Given that the whole point of Behe’s argument is that IC systems cannot evolve through natural selection, what’s left exactly?

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Steve LaBonne 09.09.09 at 11:03 am

But I think if you stand back and look at the orthodox narrative in biology it is clear that natural selection is supposed to give rise to all the diversity we see in living systems.

No. Genetic drift also has an important role.

As I said, if Behe were to really show that NS couldn’t have given rise to the cell then that (negative result) would be a huge advance the current thinking in biology

All the examples of structures Behe claimed could not have arisen via NS have been falsified, in literature that Behe claimed in the Dover trial not to exist, only to have a pile of journals plopped on the witness stand by the lawyer questioning him. A trial is not the place to do science, but it IS a perfectly fitting place to show that Behe is a liar.

Behe is NOT a reputable scientist, period. If you pay any attention to him you are being misled by a charlatan. I don’t care whether you like being told this, it remains true.

Why people like you who know absolutely noting about evolutionary biology feel entitled to mouth off about it, I’ll never understand. But hey, it’s a free Internet so feel free to keep making a fool of yourself.

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Phil 09.09.09 at 11:29 am

Chris – the choice is not between “theory A explains everything, so it’s right” and “theory A doesn’t explain everything so it must be wrong“. The choice (in this specific case) is between

- evolution means natural selection operating on descent with modification, just as Darwin said
– evolution means NS and other mechanisms which aren’t incompatible with it, which we’ve learnt to understand since Darwin
– evolution doesn’t mean NS, it means Something Else

The catch is that anyone adopting position 3 has to specify what they think is in the black box. It’s elementary intellectual hygiene – if you haven’t got an alternative model that fits the data better, the chances are that the data fits the model you’re criticising better than you realise. In Behe’s case, his argument needs skyhooks to make sense – if NS didn’t make bdelloid rotifers*, well, what (or who) did? The efforts to distinguish ID from creationism strike me as either dishonest or deeply confused.

*Spoiler: it did.

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Phil 09.09.09 at 11:31 am

I’ll try that again, if you don’t mind.

The choice (in this specific case) is between
– evolution means natural selection operating on descent with modification, just as Darwin said
– evolution means NS and other mechanisms which aren’t incompatible with it, which we’ve learnt to understand since Darwin
– evolution doesn’t mean NS, it means Something Else

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Chris 09.09.09 at 1:48 pm

But if Behe has found an angle on the problem that shows that not everything can have arisen from NS then that is tremendously exciting.

If.

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Barry 09.09.09 at 1:50 pm

JoB 09.09.09 at 7:38 am

“John-61, I’m not American so I don’t know the situation and I have no issue to acknowledge it’s something you’re in the right about substantively. But it still remains beyond me why anyone is wanting that type of treatment on anyone else, let alone someone with wrong tactics.”

When Van Jones was kicked to the curb chose to spend more time with his family, there were some, um, ‘Respectable People’, who preened themselves that this shows that the Democrats are better than the Republicans. Oddly enough, (a) this sort of people don’t have a problem with Summers, Geithner, et all, who have a long, long list of far, far more serious offenses, and (b) this sort of people tend not to like those dirty leftists, who have this nasty habbit of being right. IMHO, they feel that leftists getting whacked is a good thing, and good riddance to them. This sort of people also don’t seem to understand that perhaps a strategy of letting the right define the debate is not a winning strategy. Frankly, I suspect that some don’t mind losing; they’d like the right to regain some power, lest Evil Leftists actually accomplish some meaningful reforms. And, of course, these Respectable People won’t suffer jack sh*t if the Obama administration goes down as a one-term interlude between powerful GOP administrations.

Given those beliefs, (a) whacking Sunstein is a better target for the right, since we have an undending supply of sell-out ‘centrists’ to lose, (b) maybe this will teach those Respectable People that the right is the enemy, even opposing Respectable Centrists.

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Francis D 09.09.09 at 1:50 pm

Chris, your key problem appears to be that you are a Rationalist and dealing with Empiricists. You appear to think that you should start with the model of reality. Most of us think that models should be discarded if the reality disagrees.

In the case of Behe, the response always comes down to one of two things. “Yes, but we have never seen a time when it has worked that way.” or “Even if your ideas (which are not robust enough to dignify with the term ‘theory’) were right, this would be the outcome” (as in the case of Irreducible Complexity.

But if Behe has found an angle on the problem that shows that not everything can have arisen from NS then that is tremendously exciting.

He hasn’t. So far his ideas have all been shown to either (a) not match up to reality, (b) not show what he claims them to, or (c) some combination of the two. And it isn’t hard for someone scientifically educated to see why in many cases.

So tell me, why should critics of Behe open their mind to the idea that smooth sounding mendacity and incoherence should be taken seriously after it has been exposed? There is a reason Behe’s position in the Dover Trial was found to amount to “Breathtaking inanity”.

And tell me, if you can’t see through Behe and indeed support him, why should we take anything you have to say on the nature of science or reality seriously?

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PHB 09.09.09 at 1:53 pm

I think that the netroots fails to understand that the Obama administration’s embrace of bipartisanship is cynical rather than misguided.

Mathew Yglesias has a picture on his blog of the states won in the Bush/Dukakis Presidential race. In 1988 the GOP was the dominant political force, they swept the board. Clinton only won in 1992 because Ross Perot deliberately (and cynically) split the GOP vote. Clinton’s triangulation was a policy of necessity, there was a Democratic majority in Congress for the first two years of his term but never a progressive majority.

The rise of the ideological right has precisely coincided with the collapse of the GOP’s political fortunes. They took the WH in 2000 only because Nader split the Democratic vote. They have gone from owning the center ground to having lost it completely.

I don’t think you will find anyone in the White House who does not understand that the modern GOP are obstructionists for the sake of obstruction. They are as dishonest as they are untrustworthy. Like GWB they don’t even pretend to try to understand the policy issues, they merely play for short term political advantage.

But the center ground of the US population is made up of people who do not understand this basic fact. And they want to see a good faith effort at bipartisanship, even if it is clear that the GOP has no intention of responding in kind.

Only the most stupid Republicans believe in the death panels and other tin foil hat theories being peddled by the GOP and Fox News. And they were never going to vote for Democrats anyway.

Obama’s current poll ratings amongst progressives are frankly irrelevant at this point. The only thing that matters to the progressives is whether he gets health care through or not.

Obama is currently doing pretty well in the center, given the circumstances. They have gone down somewhat due to the FUD attacks, but in the end the center is going to judge by outcomes. Think forward 12 months, is it likely that the GOP will be able to show any centrist voters that the health care bill was improved through their participation? I don’t think so.

And finally, the place where I think we are going to see the most criticism of the ‘Death Panel’ tactics is in the GOP itself. At least, if there is any capacity left in the GOP for non-magical thinking. I don’t see the GOP being able to point to any legislative achievements in the bill that emerges, and unlike the Democrats during the Bush years, they will not be able to point to the refusal of the other side to negotiate in good faith.

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bianca steele 09.09.09 at 1:59 pm

alex: I don’t think you can objectively rule that crypto-Stalinism is worse than crypto-Nazism

By Godwin’s Law this thread should have ended dozens of comments ago. The OP was about the Republican base whom no one has characterized as “crypto-Nazi.”

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Barry 09.09.09 at 2:00 pm

PHB: “I don’t think you will find anyone in the White House who does not understand that the modern GOP are obstructionists for the sake of obstruction. They are as dishonest as they are untrustworthy. Like GWB they don’t even pretend to try to understand the policy issues, they merely play for short term political advantage.”

I really, really hope so.

“And finally, the place where I think we are going to see the most criticism of the ‘Death Panel’ tactics is in the GOP itself. “

No, unless and until the GOP loses the mid-term and Obama is re-elected. Until then, this FUD campaign is a credible blocking and attrition campaign.

“At least, if there is any capacity left in the GOP for non-magical thinking. “

It’s not necessarily that; it’s whether or not it’s useful. The leadership doesn’t have to believe the sh*t that the proles lap up.

“I don’t see the GOP being able to point to any legislative achievements in the bill that emerges, and unlike the Democrats during the Bush years, they will not be able to point to the refusal of the other side to negotiate in good faith.”

The trick is that their obvious tactics are:

(a) Make sure no bill passes, and boast about it (‘Obama was gonna gas yo mama, but we stopped him’).

(b) Castrate any plan which is passed, so that it pumps money into the insurance companies’ pockets, and doesn’t help people. Then call it a ‘liberal Big Guvmint boondoggle’.

(c) “they will not be able to point to the refusal of the other side to negotiate in good faith” Oh, yes they can, because ‘good faith’ can be redefined as preemptive surrender, and they can make up lack of good faith from the same materials they made up death panels.

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bianca steele 09.09.09 at 2:11 pm

Barry: I really, really hope so.

I agree, because if they are playing solely for short-term advantage, they are sure to lose.

So, if I’m understanding the OP correctly, people who have more contact with (certain kinds of) Republicans realize it’s impossible to work with them and become more polarized left. Polarization is a bad thing. Therefore, it must follow that non-Republicans ought not to be allowed any contact with that kind of Republican. This, to repeat, has nothing to do with ensuring the Republicans don’t lose any of their electoral or congressional power. On the contrary, it should ensure the progressive/liberal policies can be enacted, as developed in the famously left-leaning social science departments and law schools of our universities. That right?

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Substance McGravitas 09.09.09 at 2:12 pm

They took the WH in 2000 only because Nader split the Democratic vote.

That “only” is a little strong, given that Gore won the popular vote in the election overall and in Florida.

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Barry 09.09.09 at 2:16 pm

Barry: I really, really hope so.

bianca steele 09.09.09 at 2:11 pm
“I agree, because if they are playing solely for short-term advantage, they are sure to lose.”

Unless, of course, they have some other advantage, like the support of the economic elites.

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Substance McGravitas 09.09.09 at 2:18 pm

Also apologies if I derail the creation/evolution thread.

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bianca steele 09.09.09 at 2:32 pm

Barry: Unless, of course, they have some other advantage, like the support of the economic elites.

There are some tried and true methods, like throwing infantry under the enemy’s guns for as long as possible. The ability to disarm the opposition by lying about what you’re up to might also help (and as you suggest, the proles don’t have to believe what the leadership believes either).

I guess these all count as “support of the elites” though, so maybe I’m missing the point. I don’t understand all the theory and maybe I should educate myself before I dismiss a theory that might be widely acknowledged as “productive.”

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Barry 09.09.09 at 2:36 pm

Bianca, WTF?

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Salient 09.09.09 at 2:42 pm

The general situation is that X% of biological systems have been generated though natural selection. Behe is saying that X is less than 100 and the orthodox situation is that X is 100.

Also, the general situation is that X% of things falling to earth have been acted on by a force we call gravitation. Lono is saying that X is less than 100 and the orthodox situation is that X is 100.

This probably isn’t a fair response in toto, and is meant to be playful. I’d be open to some justification for Behe’s point, but I wanted to clarify the basic point that X < 100 is not somehow automatically any more reasonable than X = 100 just because there exist lots more numbers less than 100.

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JoB 09.09.09 at 2:43 pm

Barry-81, as I said, I can understand the frustration but I don’t buy the end justifies this means, and your ‘habit of being right’ frankly annoys me. The problem here is people being in a habit of feeling in the habit of being right. The Beck-strategy is bullying people into oblivion – there is no way that can be a positive thing (certainly not for people with a pristine view of morality).

94

JoB 09.09.09 at 2:46 pm

salient, LOL.

95

Barry 09.09.09 at 3:58 pm

JoB, given a choice, most leftists wouldn’t mind Beck fading away to a bad memory (and the subject of some psych-soc-history dissertations). However, if he’s going to be around, and going to pick on people, it’s better that he pick on people when the result is probably better for us liberals and leftists than worse.

“…your ‘habit of being right’ frankly annoys me. “

When this happens, you should reconsider your opinions. For example, I’m very disappointed and worried with the way that Obama is handling healthcare reform. If he can actually get a good bill through Congress, I’ll rachet my disappointment and worry down a few notched.

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Dave Weeden 09.09.09 at 4:03 pm

PHB @82:

The rise of the ideological right has precisely coincided with the collapse of the GOP’s political fortunes.

Forgive me, but I don’t think I understand you here. Firstly, what do you mean by the ideological right – and for that matter by rise? Your statement seems to me to have been pre-gainsaid, so to speak, by Nixonland. Both Cheney and Rumsfeld are right-wing ideologues (yes?) and both worked for President Ford. Reagan, in my book anyway, was ideological and right-wing. Shorter me: nothing in the ideology of Bush or the wingnuts is particularly new. Glenn Beck’s audience is merely the ‘moral majority’ going by a new name. This is rump which refuses to evolve or move. Incredibly, it’s not even dying out.

The only thing that matters to the progressives is whether he gets health care through or not.

Oh come on, it’s not the only thing. There’s the economy, there’s who the US at war with and how it’s doing. What kind of legacy Obama leaves should also be important to progressives. Of the 40 years since LBJ, only 12 of those have seen a Democrat in the White House. If you have any concern for posterity, you have to hope that a progressive party wins most of the elections for the 10 terms after Obama,

97

weserei 09.09.09 at 4:14 pm

@PHB: I think the balance of the evidence is that Clinton would have won a two-way race in 1992, and that he would have won by only a slightly smaller margin. While Perot is certainly some kind of conservative, not all of his supporters were. From Wikipedia:

“While many disaffected conservatives may have voted for Ross Perot to protest Bush’s tax increase, further examination of the Perot vote in the Election Night exit polls not only showed that Perot siphoned votes equally among Clinton, Bush, and those staying home if Perot had not been a candidate, but of the voters who cited Bush’s broken “No New Taxes” pledge as “very important,” two thirds voted for Bill Clinton.[24] A mathematical look at the voting numbers reveals that Bush would have had to win 12.2% of Perot’s 18.8% of the vote, 65% of Perot’s support base, to earn a majority of the vote, and would have needed to win nearly every state Clinton won by less than five percentage points.[25] Perot appealed to disaffected voters all across the political spectrum who had grown weary of the two-party system. NAFTA played a role in Perot’s support, and Perot voters were relatively moderate on hot button social issues.[26][27]”

More fundamentally, I’m curious as to why you think there is such a thing as a “center ground” in American public opinion. My sense is that, below the elite level, most people can’t even produce definitions (that the political elite would recognize) of terms like “liberal,” “conservative,” and “moderate,” let alone use the canonical definitions of these terms to map out in detail their positions on public policy issues, and the use these to determine what they think various politicians do. I don’t eevn now that the political elite really does that.

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Dave Weeden 09.09.09 at 4:19 pm

Chris Dornan @ 73:

Since when was a law court a good place to settle science or philosophy

This seems to get to the nub of your method, if I may say so. First, a law court is a good place to determine if someone is telling the truth. As has been shown elsewhere in this thread, Behe was not notably honest in his testimony to the court. Second, you seem to prefer to argue through the use of rhetorical questions and snark. You don’t, however, tell us where a better place would be. So let me make a suggestion. Is Behe accepted by his peers as a scientist? Are his papers cited? Answers: not particularly and not often. Would this do?

99

bianca steele 09.09.09 at 6:05 pm

Barry@90: It seems that I have no idea where you’re coming from or what point you’re trying to make, so maybe you ought to describe your point of view in more detail. If you did that, maybe, we would see that our positions turn out to be a lot closer than you thought. I’d also really be interested in seeing more details of the argument that the GOP are obstructionists, that they don’t actually understand the policy issues, etc., and especially what the Democrats/left can do to counter this problem (other than raising mere consciousness that “the elites” prefer Republicans–and since some of that preference presupposes a belief that Republicans are as a rule more competent, there is a large question here that is not being addressed).

Or maybe I just was incoherent and borderline offensive.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 6:08 pm

Steve LaBonne

But I think if you stand back and look at the orthodox narrative in biology it is clear that natural selection is supposed to give rise to all the diversity we see in living systems.

No. Genetic drift also has an important role.

Of course genetic draft and all kinds of other mechanisms come into play. The point as we all know, is to explain where the complicated mechanisms came from, and the standard answer–according to the orthodox narrative is NS.

Steve LaBonne

Behe is NOT a reputable scientist, period. If you pay any attention to him you are being misled by a charlatan. I don’t care whether you like being told this, it remains true.

Why people like you who know absolutely noting about evolutionary biology feel entitled to mouth off about it, I’ll never understand. But hey, it’s a free Internet so feel free to keep making a fool of yourself.

In the first place I will form my own judgements, especially when folks seem to have difficulty explaining themselves clearly, and when they become intellectual bullies. Those that care about their area and want people to understand it better ought to welcome the chance to clear up confusion. But I see a very different pattern, one that seems to seek confusion.

All I can do is read what someone is saying and what their critics are saying. For sure there will be areas where I just don’t have the knowledge to draw any conclusions. But there will areas where it is certainly possible to draw conclusions, and if in those areas, the areas that are open to analysis, one side consistently exhibits confusion and signs of ideological fixation and the other side tends to shows clarity and coherence then one has to start wondering. When the matters under discussion are intimately connected to the metaphysical presumptions of of the party that isn’t making sense then I have to really wonder.

phil:

The choice (in this specific case) is between
– evolution means natural selection operating on descent with modification, just as Darwin said
– evolution means NS and other mechanisms which aren’t incompatible with it, which we’ve learnt to understand since Darwin
– evolution doesn’t mean NS, it means Something Else

Thanks Phil: you are as clear as a bell. Unfortunately, and this was alluded to futher up in the comment thread, it looks as if establishment science (if I can call it that) is insisting on a formulation that protects their metaphysical predilections . Everyone agrees that natural selection needs to be combined with other mechanisms to do the job (e.g., genetic drift, as Steve LaBonne said). However, Behe is making the point–a highly contentious point–that there are mechanisms in the cell for which it is entirely implausible that they could have emerged though a combination of natural selection and any mechanisms we can see. But under the orthodox understanding of science, as you have outlined it, you are saying that Behe has to come up with a mechanism that explains how those structures emerged naturally from simpler structures, that such a negative result is inadmissible in biology without presenting an alternative naturalistic mechanism.

If I have understood you right then I completely agree; this seems to be the heart of the disagreement. I think once you see this as the heart of the problem it isn’t so difficult to see why there is ample room for disagreement on the substantial issue of whether NS plus all the other things we know about (and likely future variants), is incapable of generating a cell from relatively simple chemicals (and time, lots of time).

To be able to make any sense of Behe’s arguments you have to let go of the NS+the-rest-is-enough hypothesis (or fact, depending on your POV), so all of Behe’s arguments are going to get quickly smashed up in the minds of his critics because to make sense of them you need to be able to countenance his hypothesis (i.e., for the sake of argument, suspend the standard hypothesis about the adequacy of NS).

Salient

Also, the general situation is that X% of things falling to earth have been acted on by a force we call gravitation. Lono is saying that X is less than 100 and the orthodox situation is that X is 100.

The situations aren’t dissimilar in a crucial way. Science has every reason to believe that gravitation models things falling to earth very well. For sure this is a provisional conclusion and may be modified in the future. Anyone suggesting a modification needs to present a good alternative or explain just why the current theory is inadequate.

We have no similar reasons for believing the hypothesis that NS+the-rest is adequate to explain the evolution of all living things. It has been very fertile and it shouldn’t be discarded lightly. However, when someone presents candidate counter-examples, this should be a matter of great interest. Setting aside Behe for the moment, I am absolutely gobsmacked that this isn’t a thriving field of research. If folks truly saw this as belonging in the field of knowledge then they would be vigorously trying to break it–there would be journals and symposia devoted to trying to shoot it down.

I know this from experience in computer programming–when it comes to testing you have to turn your mindset around (which is why it is generally better to get someone else to do it) and try and destroy the thing you have been creating.

In science, when you really want to find out whether a given hypothesis is true you expend great effort trying to shoot it down. In the case of NS, I don’t see this. Instead I see a compulsive efforts to reaffirm it, and woe betide anyone who tries to do otherwise.

Salient: I think you should carry on your playful ways. I think they can be very productive.

Substance McGravitas: (88) Point well taken, though I think it is nearer the topic than you think.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 6:21 pm

I made a mistake in the above comment (99).

Why people like you who know absolutely noting about evolutionary biology feel entitled to mouth off about it, I’ll never understand. But hey, it’s a free Internet so feel free to keep making a fool of yourself.

This paragraph was a quote from Steve LaBonne above, not something I was saying as they layout was suggesting.

I am sorry for the confusion.

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Steve LaBonne 09.09.09 at 6:28 pm

However, Behe is making the point—a highly contentious point—that there are mechanisms in the cell for which it is entirely implausible that they could have emerged though a combination of natural selection and any mechanisms we can see.

And all his examples are complete crap. Furthermore, he has dishonestly refused to acknowledge the extensive research that SHOWS they’re complete crap. What’s YOUR excuse?

We have no similar reasons for believing the hypothesis that NS+the-rest is adequate to explain the evolution of all living things.

How the hell would you know?

I know this from experience in computer programming

Google “Salem hypothesis”.

I am sorry for the confusion.

You ought to be sorry for ALL of your confusion. But trolls never are.

OK, people, sorry to contribute to the threadjack. Back to topic, hopefully.

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bianca steele 09.09.09 at 6:41 pm

Chris Dornan: Behe is making the point—a highly contentious point

I have read IIRC that Behe cites others (orthodox scientists) when he makes this argument, claiming that they really prove his point for him. If so, then everybody agrees with him, and why would his point be contentious?

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Chris 09.09.09 at 6:51 pm

However, Behe is making the point—a highly contentious point—that there are mechanisms in the cell for which it is entirely implausible that they could have emerged though a combination of natural selection and any mechanisms we can see.

To say that he is “making” this point seems an overly charitable description, given his total failure to produce evidence supporting the point he is claiming.

Plausibility is weak tea at the best of times, for a reason that goes right back to Bacon: “The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding.” Implausibility is not impossibility and sometimes we’re just plain wrong about what sounds right. Many of science’s most famous discoveries are spectacularly implausible. India crashing into Asia, a giant fusion reactor floating in space 93 million miles from Earth, cannonballs and feathers falling at the same speed when there is no air to slow them down, etc.

Plausibility judgments are also highly subjective, and the spontaneous existence of an intelligent designer — an entity much, much more complex than a cell — is (to many people, including me) many times more implausible than cells arising out of simpler entities by some process as yet unknown.

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bianca steele 09.09.09 at 6:52 pm

Google “Salem hypothesis”

Hm. I don’t have an engineering degree (BA in computer science). Maybe that explains why I don’t think evolution is false. But I can honestly say that I have never met anybody with an engineering degree of any sort who ever gave any sign of anything like disbelieving evolution by natural selection.

106

Hands Off My Organs 09.09.09 at 6:57 pm

The United States is a whole lot closer to presumed consent than most people know. Most people think you’re assumed not to be an organ donor unless you sign up to be one. That used to be true, but it’s not true any more.

Under the 2006 Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, an organ procurement organization (OPO) can assume you are an organ donor while they search for evidence of your true intentions. They can hook you up to artificial life support machines to keep your organs fresh, even if your advance healthcare directive says you don’t want artificial life support. They can ask your family for permission to harvest your organs. They can ask a government bureaucrat for permission if they can’t find your family. They can do all this even if the “organ donor” box on your driver’s license is blank.

The 2006 UAGA has been enacted in 39 states and the District of Columbia, including eight of the ten largest states by population (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, and North Carolina). Over 80% of the U.S. population lives in states that have enacted this law.

The 2006 UAGA stacks the deck against people who don’t want to be organ donors. Unless your decision not to donate is documented in exactly the right way, OPOs can ignore your decision and ask your family or a government official to overturn it.

State organ donor registries, which OPOs must search under the 2006 UAGA, are also biased against non-donors. None of them, not a single one, will record your decision not to donate. They literally won’t take “no” for an answer.

DoNotTransplant.com operates the only online donor registry that allows you to say “no” to organ donation in a way that will stand up under the 2006 UAGA. OPOs are required under the law to check this registry. If they find your name in the registry, they’re legally forbidden from harvesting your organs.

107

Steve LaBonne 09.09.09 at 7:17 pm

I had my tongue in my cheek when referring to Salem- but for the record CS does qualify under his hypothesis. ;)

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Barry 09.09.09 at 7:44 pm

bianca steele:

“I have read IIRC that Behe cites others (orthodox scientists) when he makes this argument, claiming that they really prove his point for him. If so, then everybody agrees with him, and why would his point be contentious?”

Um, could you please rewrite that – it’s unclear just what you’re saying. For example, I could cite others as agreeing with what I say. That doesn’t mean that (a) my cites are true, or that (b) their agreement with certain specific statements means anything beyond that.

109

John Quiggin 09.09.09 at 7:56 pm

@Bianca

“So, if I’m understanding the OP correctly, people who have more contact with (certain kinds of) Republicans realize it’s impossible to work with them and become more polarized left. Polarization is a bad thing. Therefore, it must follow that non-Republicans ought not to be allowed any contact with that kind of Republican.”

You are certainly not understanding the OP correctly, and even if you were the inference would be a silly one. The post never suggested that polarisation was undesirable, and took it as an established fact which Sunstein and others are failing to recognise.

Given the cultural preference for bipartisanship in the US, it’s no doubt regrettable to many that Republicans (if you want a qualification “all but a handful of” would be more appropriate) are impossible to work with. But the appropriate response is not to seek to maintain the pretense by avoiding contact with the worst of them, and pretending (as your comments appear to) that the Becks and Limbaugh’s don’t set the tone for the rest. It is simply, not to attempt working with them until they become, or are replaced by people who are, more reasonable.

110

Kathleen Lowrey 09.09.09 at 8:29 pm

John — I agree with your strategy recommendation as regards Democrats-in-public-office. But *somebody* is turning up to the Tea Parties, and townhalls, and demanding the President not be allowed to speak to children, and they aren’t *all* astroturfed. We regular citizens can’t just ignore our fellow regular citizens in hopes they’ll be “replaced” (although this sentiment is behind some cheery left observations that the loonies skew geriatric). We could pay less attention to them and carry on with progressive reforms, figuring they’ll settle down if they are ignored (using the tricks of the trade of parents of small children and animal trainers). But some of them look desperately, wildly unhappy — maybe it’s just the softy leftist in me, but just abandoning them feels like walking away from a hurt dog because it growls when you approach. Something is really wrong, they need some kind of help.

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John Quiggin 09.09.09 at 8:54 pm

@Kathleen, not being an American, I tend to focus on office holders, but I agree there’s a big problem, one that Obama got into trouble for when he said people were ‘bitter’ (what an understatement!). I don’t have any immediate ideas on how to deal with this.

We in Australia had an upsurge of this kind of thing a decade or so ago, partly grassroots and partly orchestrated from the top (Google Pauline Hanson or Tampa). After a while it faded away and was generally recognised as shameful, or just forgotten about. It seems more deep-seated in the US, but maybe that’s just an artifact of size, which implies that you have about 20 times as much of everything, including craziness, as we do.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 8:57 pm

Steve LaBonne: For the record, I never claimed I was a scientist.

Dave Weeden: I honestly think law courts are good fora for settling law cases, but terrible places for settling points of science or philosophy. I am sorry if I caused offence; I see now that I should have been more careful in making that point.

bianca: This discussion isn’t an up or down issue of whether to believe in natural selection, but about whether NS can account for all living systems and the strength of the evidence to support the hypothesis.

As we are too far off the thread and the tone has turned ugly, I will stop.

From my end, it was an interesting and productive. Thanks. If anyone would like to take anything up I have posted an article, Natural Selection, Faith and Reason, on my blog and the comments are open.

113

Phil 09.09.09 at 9:05 pm

Behe is making the point—a highly contentious point—that there are mechanisms in the cell for which it is entirely implausible that they could have emerged though a combination of natural selection and any mechanisms we can see.

I ask again, what does Behe propose we put in their place? Apparently he’s a scientist, not a Fortean beachcomber collecting intriguing anomalies. There are only three ways out of that highly contentious point:

1: the theory’s right, the observation’s wrong (it wasn’t that implausible after all)
2: the theory’s right, the inference is wrong (implausible things can happen)
3: the theory’s wrong and needs to be amended in this specific way: greater role for X, less dependency on Y, don’t overlook the contribution of Z.

If Behe was doing #3 evolutionary biologists would be arguing with him like crazy – people would be making careers out of either defending or challenging him. As it is, evolutionary biologists are, at best, politely ignoring him – because what he writes appears to lead nowhere in particular apart from “don’t overlook the contribution of YHVH”.

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Uncle Kvetch 09.09.09 at 9:06 pm

We in Australia had an upsurge of this kind of thing a decade or so ago

These things do seem to come in waves. My money is on a major resurgence of the “angry white male” meme from the 1994 midterms next year. (And Newt Gingrich is still around to lead the charge, bless him.) Let’s just hope it doesn’t extend all the way to “angry white men blowing up buildings full of people” this time around.

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Kathleen Lowrey 09.09.09 at 9:08 pm

It’s heartening to think of Glenn Beck harmlessly packed off to Dancing with the Stars asap (what Wikipedia says Pauline Hanson is up to in recent years).

116

bianca steele 09.09.09 at 9:31 pm

Barry:
No, you’re going to have to read it again.

John Quiggin:
Sorry, I didn’t mean to misrepresent you. I did mean the argument to be seen as obviously sarcastic though. I was trying to address the question why Democrats/the left seem to be rolling over and playing dead, which is not really on-topic to your post.

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Chris Dornan 09.09.09 at 10:27 pm

Phil, I don’t know whether our comments emerged together. I have replied here.

118

John Quiggin 09.09.09 at 11:55 pm

Sorry, Bianca, my irony alerts go haywire after 100 comments

119

Barry 09.10.09 at 1:07 pm

bianca steele 09.09.09 at 9:31 pm

“Barry:
No, you’re going to have to read it again.”

I did, and my original objections still apply. Behe can *claim* a whole bunch of sh*t, and has indeed done so, even after having the sh*t shown to be sh*t.

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Barry 09.10.09 at 1:09 pm

Uncle Kvetch 09.09.09 at 9:06 pm

“These things do seem to come in waves. My money is on a major resurgence of the “angry white male” meme from the 1994 midterms next year. (And Newt Gingrich is still around to lead the charge, bless him.) Let’s just hope it doesn’t extend all the way to “angry white men blowing up buildings full of people” this time around.”

The ‘angry white male’ meme is upon us again – who is showing up at town halls, and shooting people? And (a) it did work against Clinton, so it’d be quite reasonable for the right’s leadership to do it again; (b) the liars who did it got away with their lies, so they’ll feel free.

And I do expect more right-wing domestic terrorism in the next couple of years; if the Gulf War could produce McVeigh, what could three years in Iraq produce?

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Steve LaBonne 09.10.09 at 1:37 pm

Behe can claim a whole bunch of sh*t, and has indeed done so, even after having the sh*t shown to be sh*t.

Hey, it’s a living. (Which pays a lot better than his modest Lehigh professor’s salary.) Wingnut welfare, “scientific” branch.

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bianca steele 09.10.09 at 2:00 pm

Barry, your argument is with Chris Dornan, not with me.

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JoB 09.10.09 at 2:06 pm

The absence of any reaction to ‘The Speech’ here is, well, strange.

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Barry 09.10.09 at 2:09 pm

Bianca, at this point it’s clear that your lying.
Your original post on this topic was:

[bianca steele 09.09.09 at 6:41 pm

Chris Dornan: Behe is making the point—a highly contentious point

I have read IIRC that Behe cites others (orthodox scientists) when he makes this argument, claiming that they really prove his point for him. If so, then everybody agrees with him, and why would his point be contentious?]

You were the one who posted the text starting at ‘I have read IIRC…'; it wasn’t Chris.

It’s clear that you’re a creationist, so stop lying about it. Frankly we’re used to creationists, so your lies and BS aren’t going to convince too many non-creationists.

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Salient 09.10.09 at 2:09 pm

We have no similar reasons for believing the hypothesis that NS+the-rest is adequate to explain the evolution of all living things.

Sigh. To be clear, gravity is not “things fall when we drop them.”

It’s amusing to me that you’re willing to accept that all objects in the known universe exert attractive force each other, instantaneously and at all times regardless of distance, unlike every other force known to humankind, with a magnitude of force proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance separating their centers of mass. That is not exactly an obvious proposition. (And of course, it’s a naive thing to accept; reality actually behaves rather more strangely.)

It’s not clear at all how you perceive the evidence for this universe-wide gravitational force as different from the evidence for natural selection. I truly do trust in your ability to construct an ad-hoc difference, as can be done for any two concrete examples. No, thanks. So what response would I like? What I would need from you, to convince me, would be a construction of what constitutes sufficiently convincing evidence in your opinion, constructed in the general case.

Personally, I think you’re taking gravity for granted because religious fundamentalists don’t want to dispute gravity (anymore — I hear Galileo got in a row about it, back in the day). If we lived in a universe with slightly different 21st-century fundamentalists, you’d be telling me that at best only X% of planets orbit the sun, and you would be lecturing me about how counter-intuitive the Alleged “Law” of Gravity is.

Perhaps you’d be trying to convince me that gravity is only a local property that we can’t expect to hold over long distances. Who knows. I guess my point is not to convince you that you should accept natural selection, but instead to convince you that there’s really not a whole heck of a lot more there supporting the rest of science, so maybe you should categorically reject the whole lot of it.

Perhaps X% of planets orbit their respective sun due to gravitation, and perhaps Y% of stars orbit in their respective galaxies due to interstellar gravitation, but there’s no reason to believe X = Y = 100, is there?

126

Salient 09.10.09 at 2:14 pm

Barry, you broke my head. If you can’t see that Bianca is being sarcastic (or whatever the word is for asking a rhetorical if-then question with a false hypothesis), I don’t know if this will help either, but:

Take the approximate contrapositive. Because Behe’s point obviously is contentious, Behe was probably incorrect when he said these orthodox scientists prove his point for him.

127

bianca steele 09.10.09 at 2:16 pm

John: Yeah, failures of sarcasm and irony over the Interwebs are one reason I chose “Bianca” as a pseudonym. I backslid briefly, sorry.

128

JoB 09.10.09 at 2:33 pm

salient, you mended my head for which I thank you a lot, but from experience I feel the need to warn you that words with ‘*’-s in them will be coming your way soon. So: fix your head quickly, before all of that flows right into it!

129

Ginger Yellow 09.10.09 at 3:03 pm

It’s amusing to me that you’re willing to accept that all objects in the known universe exert attractive force each other, instantaneously and at all times regardless of distance, unlike every other force known to humankind,

Actually, the modern relativistic theory of gravity doesn’t hold that the force acts instantaneously, but rather propagates at the speed of light.

130

Steve LaBonne 09.10.09 at 3:08 pm

The absence of any reaction to ‘The Speech’ here is, well, strange.

Want mine? In a word, meh. Mealy-mouthed equivocation on public option, check. Hippie-punching re. single-payer (“there are those on the left…”), check. As expected. Yawn.

Try again in 20 years, I guess. (If the insurance companies haven’t killed off much of the population before then.)

131

JoB 09.10.09 at 3:16 pm

Well, no, I didn’t particularly want it but I’ll take what I can get ;-)

Then again, not much there to take I guess, it was never going to be good enough, was it?

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Salient 09.10.09 at 4:11 pm

Actually, the modern relativistic theory of gravity doesn’t hold that the force acts instantaneously, but rather propagates at the speed of light.

And even that’s not quite right. But shucks, did you miss where I said: (And of course, it’s a naive thing to accept; reality actually behaves rather more strangely.) I did not want to break out the partial differential equations on a CT thread about Glen Beck. :-)

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Barry 09.10.09 at 6:23 pm

OK I apologize.

However, Bianca, note that Chris has put out enough pages to make a Discovery Institute dissertation, all serious. When trying to satirize actual whackjobs, normal satire fits in with their normal behavior.

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Ginger Yellow 09.10.09 at 6:25 pm

Salient: I’d quite like to hear Glenn Beck’s theory of gravity. It’s probably a conspiracy by ACORN to drag us all down to their level.

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bianca steele 09.10.09 at 6:39 pm

Barry:
Yup. That makes it tough. I did have him figured out when he got to the bit about how we should all know the nature of what he was discussing given that it was called . . . the Enlightenment. Have you ever heard anybody say that before? Seriously. Have you ever heard anybody say that before? I didn’t think so.

Salient@125:
Sarcastically asking a rhetorical question with a false hypothesis sounds really bad, and guessing an appropriate close-enough contrapositive probably helps, but if this is the sort of thing undergraduates learn in college as a matter of course these days, I’m obviously hopelessly out of date and probably actually getting close to unemployable. :)

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Barry 09.10.09 at 6:48 pm

BTW, Bianca, I have a pretty firm rule about never clarifying my apologies (it turns apologies into non-apologies); the reason I did that was that you did have me fooled, and people like Chris are as common as rocks. I’m surprised that more creationists haven’t turned up yet.

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Barry 09.10.09 at 7:12 pm

Sorry, not ‘clarifying’, ‘excusing myself in’.

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bianca steele 09.10.09 at 8:15 pm

Barry: I’m surprised that more creationists haven’t turned up yet.

Why? Do you think they are very numerous and are simply hiding because they aren’t treated deferentially enough, or because they’re constantly reminded that their actions demonstrate they’ve forgotten theirs is not the predominant view?

Maybe they think Chris Dornan presented a good case and they don’t see a reason to answer him. We’ve only seen a very small number of attacks on what he posted (very strong attacks, to be sure), which is not evidence of what the others think. I suppose it’s even possible there might be creationists who find him embarrassing.

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John Quiggin 09.10.09 at 8:25 pm

@JoB Regarding Obama’s speech, I’ve been asleep and am just looking at the reports, which don’t give me a very clear sense of its effects. The Republican heckling is (like the fatwa against Sunstein) good evidence that bipartisanship is a dead horse that shouldn’t be flogged any further. I see that while Wilson was made to apologise, the real GOP leader, Limbaugh, endorsed his actions.

The only way I can see to assess the speech is whether it increases the chance of passing a decent bill, that is, one which will attract no Republican support (excluding maybe Snowe/Collins) and doesn’t undermine the long-term viability of reform through unnecessary concessions to Max Baucus and similar. I don’t have a feel for this yet. Any other thoughts?

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Salient 09.10.09 at 10:19 pm

Any other thoughts?

Listened on radio while doing laundry. Obama’s inflection was great, toward the end especially. He managed to plead without sounding like he was pleading. Lots of booing, I thought, at weird times.

I was nonplussed, unmoved, given less reason to be optimistic. Empty rhetoric about “getting things done” doesn’t impress me. Does it impress anyone? Doesn’t everyone react the same way to that rhetoric: by rolling their eyes and recalling every excuse-making braggadocio they’ve ever known?

I guess we’re going to get an individual mandate to buy insurance that is maybe slightly less crappy, and plenty of people will be expected to pay 13% of their income to get that insurance. I somehow doubt Parallel Universe President McCain’s plan could be get much worse, except possibly by eliminating Medicare.

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Ceri B. 09.10.09 at 10:23 pm

John, it looks to me like fundamental capitulation to the insurance industry. We’ll get compulsory payments, unreliable assistance, ineffectual oversight, and a guarantee that any more significant change must be postponed multiple years and conditioned on highly gameable thresholds. We seem on track to get to the next presidential election with an overall reduction in the real quality of health care available to most Americans.

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Ceri B. 09.10.09 at 10:41 pm

I am, in fact, discouraged enough by the whole thing to be actively disengaging from pretty much every place I talk about most American politics, and pressing on with my program to budget for a donation to activists I approve of each month. Funding good work helps me feel less helpless.

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JoB 09.11.09 at 12:21 pm

John,

Thanks for bouncing the question back – would be more convenient to have a thread about it as it is rather an important moment in rather an important debate.

I’m not in a position to do laundry whilst listening to Obama speeching on the radio, so I’m not a most qualified commenter. That being said, living in a place where even the most extreme leftist versions of the plan would lead to national striking, his speech was generally well received here – and I guess it is because generally we feel he’s risking a lot to finally import a bit of our common sense in the Land of Opportunity.

As you say, we’ll see what comes out in the end but I think salient is wrong. Wrong in general on rhetoric but specifically wrong here. Obama, I think, did a good job in waiting for his moment & in that moment the least he achieved is to clear the air from the nonsense of the past months. He needed to wait because he needed it to get out in order to confront it. He needed to confront the nonsense in order to have a sensible discussion.

There’s room for that discussion now. After waiting for 30 years or so, these 3 months won’t be the worst that could happen. I’m sure that the insurance companies at least are ticked off – seen as they’ll have to scrap all of that glossy-glitsy now outdated marketing stuff.

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Salient 09.11.09 at 12:51 pm

As you say, we’ll see what comes out in the end but I think salient is wrong. Wrong in general on rhetoric but specifically wrong here.

Would be glad to be wrong, too, especially when it comes to my suspicion that any public option we’ll get will be weak and unsatisfactory.

And it shouldn’t surprise me that people are genuinely moved by the “we will fight the battalion and win the charge and save the day from the evening sun and we will be on the last frontier and we will win it” style rhetoric, but all it does for me is make me wonder how the Medium Lobster would have spun it.

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JoB 09.11.09 at 12:59 pm

Salient, but that’s the advantage of not being able to listen to the radio: people cut out the move your emotion bits for you. And I have to say that the bits where he took on the nonsense were a show of what rhetoric really is: making a complex point clearly such that the truth of it is once & for all established. He did a good job at that – did he need to do it for 45 minutes? Dunno really – but it at least wore out one of the cronies to show their real crappy voice.

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Chris 09.11.09 at 2:35 pm

@141: You seem to be assuming that government will do wrong everything that it could possibly do wrong, and evaluating the proposal through that lens. Reagan would be so pleased, but ISTM that (a) this assumption is not particularly fact-based since government does in fact do many things reasonably competently, and (b) if you really thoroughly believe that government can’t deliver on anything, then why support government involvement in health care at all, or for that matter, civil society? Grab your gun and find a cave to live in (surely you’re not going to rely on *government* building codes and building inspectors who say your house isn’t going to collapse tomorrow?)

What if affordability credits are as reliable as Social Security checks, and insurance regulation is as well enforced as food safety regulation? (That is to say, imperfectly, but you don’t have to send every food product you buy to a lab before eating it.)

The failures of the Bush Administration are not merely a reflection of the Platonic essence of government, no matter how badly the Bush Administration would like you to believe that. Government can do better than that, and in fact, usually does.

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Salient 09.11.09 at 2:46 pm

Chris, Chris, Chris…

We are looking at specifically what Obama proposed and saying, “Ugh. This is the best sausage he has to offer?” We are disappointed with a specific proposal. Instead of telling us why we ought not be disappointed with that proposal, you are lecturing us on what government is capable of doing.

That category of response is called concern trolling, in polite circles.

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JoB 09.11.09 at 3:29 pm

I thought Chris kinda caught the essence of 141. I thought the criticism of Obama was he didn’t really stand behind a specific proposal, so surprising people are taking issue with a proposal he isn’t courageous enough to stand behind.

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Anonymous Coward 09.12.09 at 2:56 am

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Ford: Er, well… I mean yes, yes, don’t we all, deep down… you know..?
Vogon Captain: No, well, you’re completely wrong. I just write poetry to throw my mean, callous, heartless exterior into sharp relief. I’m going to throw you off the ship anyway! Guard! Take the prisoners to number three airlock and throw them out….

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JoB 09.14.09 at 9:42 am

On the update: or, like per the update, convince a couple more Republicans that don’t want to be associated with the rural born-again swearers, leave the Blue Dogs to support what’ll be a short-lived filibuster (after which it’ll be easier to unfilibuster the process)

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