Wednesday, January 04, 2006


A Disturbing Trend

One disturbing trend in the present administration is its innate distrust of having an external authority check its work. As a scientist of sorts, a key aspect of my life is the process of "peer review": having my work checked makes sure I am on the right path. All other things being equal, it should be assumed that the administration will do a better job fighting terrorism, or whatever, if their work is being checked than they would if no-one could make sure they were doing the right thing. In as much as so many people feel comfortable with the admin's arguments that it is better for national security that their work is not checked, it reflects more than just an undermining of the concept of "checks and balances" -- it reflects a fundamental break with a culture of science. This seems to me an ill omen. If we now reject the scientific method's emphasis on having others check your work, will technological innovations soon be stiffled? Are we, as Margaret Mead feared, heading into a new Dark Ages?

Not to sound like a doomsayer, but I think science if, if not dying, at least entering a period of relative dormancy in the United States. The Bush administration has been openly dismissive of science that disagrees with its policy positions. Just look at the staunch refusal of Bush to accept a human causal relationship with global warming. Or the fundamental lack of understanding about fertility and conception espoused by the "Pro-Life" lobby.

In some ways, it seem indicative of Bush's professed faith. For conservative Christians, conflict between faith and science is really no conflict at all. Science is simply discarded. Bush's ideology is that of belief over all else. What need is there for facts or statistics? The need for such implies a critical process, a deductive method. For Bush and his supporters, belief is all-encompassing, so facts and statistics are pointless. Thus, science gets shunted aside and eventually viewed with hostility.

I can feel the Enlightenment wearing off of the country every day the Republicans are in control.
Forget about the Enlightenment wearing off -- anyway, remember that Jonathan Edward(s?) was just as much a product of the Enlightenment (he had Enlightenment era "statistical" arguments as to why and how he should convince the majority of people they were among the elect) as Tom Paine -- what we are seeing is the Age of Reason wearing off!
Speaking of The Age of Reason in decline, I assume you saw Radical Cleric Robertson's latest call of a God hit? What's your take on Israel from the Christian perspective? I've always interpreted the "Holy Land" to be more of a metaphysical ideal than an actual country on the Mediterranean.
I didn't see it, but I heard about it.

FWIW and natch, Robertson is way off the mark on what Joel is talking about. Dividing the land refers to internal divisions, or maybe even abuse of private property (the latter, when water rights come into play, certainly would cause the calamities Joel describes) ... not giving up land for peace.

I am very divided on Israel. It is, from the Jewish perspective, both an ideal and a real place. But the State of Israel as it exists now is hardly the Jewish State as it ought to exist. Jews of all religious stripes (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform) used to oppose Zionism for this very reason, but lately, for some odd reason, Zionism has become not only kosher, but rather dogmatic among many Jews.

It's getting to be too close to Shabbos, though, and my brain is too much on Shabbos rest time to think too hard right now ;)
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