Monthly Archives: June 2011

Evolution & the UK’s National Health Service

It hasn’t been easy for your Curmudgeon, being virtually the only Republican on the sane side of the evolution-creationism debate. Not only are many popular bloggers clustered way over at the left end of the spectrum, but so are many of our readers. Adding to our difficulties is the fact that almost everyone in the latest crop of GOP presidential candidates is so crazy that we’re seriously thinking of changing our registration to “Independent” when the current wave of primaries ends — if the GOP candidate is a creationist.

Anyway, from time to time we’ve posted about analogies that can be made between an unguided evolutionary process for the biosphere and the free enterprise system. For some of our previous efforts along those lines, starting with the most recent, see Creationism, Politics, and Everything, and then The Curmudgeon’s Theory of Everything, in which we link to a few of our earlier posts on the subject (including this fine oldie-goldie: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama) and where we also said this:

[T]he person who finds creationism appealing — that is, one who is obsessed with the idea that some intelligent agency planned and caused our existence — is the same kind of person who is attracted to the idea of governmental controls over the population. Such controls may be imposed over private relationships, economic activities, education, religion, or whatever. For some it’s all of the above.

The common thread that unites the statist tyrant and the theocratic creationist is that they’re both authoritarians. Such people are the opposite of those who advocate reasoned liberty and all the other benefits derived from the principles of the Enlightenment — including limited government, free enterprise, and freedom of scientific inquiry.

What causes us to mention free enterprise again, knowing that it distresses so many of you? It’s because we found an excuse for doing so during one of our routine news sweeps. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from NHS reform is nothing new, but it’s about time leadership delivered, which appears at a British website called Health Service Journal (HSJ). The site describes itself as “the UK’s leading health service management and policy title.”

We know what you’re thinking: Have you lost your mind, Curmudgeon? Of all the dreary subjects in the world, why are you writing about the British health care system?

Relax, we’re not really doing that. This post is about evolution, and you’ll see that if you stay with us. Besides, British articles are fun. There’s not only the delightfully exotic spelling we always encounter there, we can look at the HSJ’s personnel page and learn that their editor’s first name is Alastair. That’s how we know that we’re not in Kansas, Toto. Not only that, the author of the essay about which we’re writing is Nigel Edwards.

So it is with a cheery wave to Nigel and Alastair — and all our readers in the UK, be they named Cedric, Cyril, Nevile, or Sherlock — that we turn to see what our cousins have written. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

When I was asked by HSJ to reflect on what I have learnt about in my 12 years at the NHS Confederation, I thought I would specifically reflect on the constant process of reform including at least two which were billed as a once in a generation chance to change the NHS.

Has Nigel learned anything in 12 years of bureaucratic activity? Let’s read on:

First, the policy making process is messy and this is true across time and different countries. While many of those involved are very talented and committed there are some persistent and repeating problems.

Nigel has encountered “persistent and repeating problems”? We’re shocked — shocked! Well, not really. Okay, dear reader, now we’re going to jump around to give you the flavor (or flavour) of what Nigel says, skipping over the boring parts that are specific to health care:

[F]ar too much weight has been put on the ability of the centre to design incentives and policies that will elicit a precise response. The potential for adverse unintended consequences and the fact that policy may work differently in different areas are still too often ignored.

[...]

We have seen many cases where policy makers try to solve the problems created by the previous reform that were hobbled by poor design, inaccurate diagnosis or evidence-lite policy ideas. … Unfortunately the words experiment and variation are rather unpopular with policy makers.

[...]

Almost every change mechanism available to policy makers in the UK has been used in the last 20 years … . This leaves a worrying impression of explanations being made up in a hurry after the event.

Here comes the good stuff. We’ll use some color (or colour) for emphasis:

A key lesson is having some clear principles for reform, supporting evidence, a strong narrative about why it is needed and how it will work and that allowing evolution and experiment generally works better than ‘intelligent design’ and the one-off creation of policy.

Aha! Eureka! By Jove, he’s got it!

That’s where Nigel should have stopped his article, because the solution to the UK’s health service problem is rather obvious (at least it is to us). Unfortunately we’re only about halfway through the article. From this point on, Nigel wanders way too much through the bureaucratic tangle in which he’s spent the past twelve years — as if he might find something of merit that might be salvaged. At the end he seems depressed, and he says:

Perhaps we can weather the storm, maybe the pressure for change on our current business models will take more time to be felt, but we need all the time we can get – and it’s probably later than we think.

That’s where we’re going to leave it. In the land of Darwin, the government is playing intelligent designer. They know it’s not working very well, but they can’t understand why.

Hey Nigel: Read your own paragraph again — the one we liked. Then think a wee bit more. You’re a bright fellow. Maybe you’ll figure it out. We’ll even give you a hint — What would Darwin do? Don’t see it yet? Okay, here’s one more hint: Privatize.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

Miss USA Contest: The Creationist Viewpoint

We hope you’ll bear with us as we post, one more time, the video we posted last week in Miss USA Contestants Asked about Evolution.

We tried to avoid it, but it’s essential in order to bring you the reaction of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. Their article is titled Miss USA ‘Believes’ in Evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Pageant organizers asked the contestants, “Should evolution be taught in schools?” Of the 51 woman, 24 answered “yes,” two said “no,” 24 said both evolution and creation or “all perspectives” should be taught, and one chose not to answer.

The winner, Miss California Alyssa Campanella, was one of two contestants who said specifically that they “believe” in evolution.

We already know that. What do the creation scientists at ICR have to add? Let’s read on:

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ms. Campanella’s responses and her winning of the pageant, something interesting to note are the 26 responses that were either not in favor of teaching evolution or in favor of teaching it along with other scientific theories.

Yes, that was interesting to note. What does it mean to ICR? We continue:

Oftentimes the respondents, including Ms. Campanella, spoke of evolution as a belief system. More often than not, the women supported presenting students with as much information as possible so that they could decide for themselves what would be best to “believe.”

ICR is trying to squeeze way too much out of this. Yes, Miss California said she “believed” in evolution. She’s obviously not steeped in the philosophy of science. If she were she would know that “belief” is a term often reserved for un-evidenced and untestable matters that are believed entirely on faith; and she would have given a longer and far more boring answer about how she “accepts” the theory of evolution (or “has confidence” in it) for the same reason she accepts special relativity — because the theory has been observationally confirmed every time it’s tested, and it has never contradicted by any verifiable evidence. But laypersons usually shortcut that by saying they “believe” it. ICR has no idea what Miss California was thinking when she said she “believed” in evolution.

Here’s more from ICR:

Just as many respondents who favored evolution had favored academic freedom, and many contestants acknowledged the faith required to accept evolution.

They “acknowledged the faith required to accept evolution”? How — by using the word “believe”? Is ICR quote-mining the ladies?

Here’s the end of ICR’s brief article:

As Dr. Vernon [molecular biologist Jamie L. Vernon] commented [on the Discover blog here: Miss USA 2011, “A Huge Science Geek”], the new Miss USA does indeed possess “a respectable appreciation and understanding of science,” as demonstrated by her implicit acknowledgment that support for evolution is a matter of belief.

But Dr. Vernon didn’t mention that there was an “implicit acknowledgment that support for evolution is a matter of belief” in Miss California’s answer. That “acknowledgment” is an ICR fantasy.

Our respect for the integrity of creation science is unchanged by this article. But look on the bright side — they gave us a good excuse to post that video again.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

WorldNetDaily: Charles Darwin’s Rotten Fruit

Buffoon Award

One must be desperate to discredit Darwin when it’s done by trashing someone Darwin probably didn’t know, and whose ideas bare little similarity to Darwin’s. But that’s the technique of Jim Fletcher; whose work we recently wrote about here: Evolution is a Leftist Conspiracy.

As before, Fletcher’s latest essay appears in WorldNetDaily (WND) — the flamingly creationist, absolutely execrable, moronic, and incurably crazed journalistic organ that believes in and enthusiastically promotes every conspiracy theory that ever existed. WND was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus that jolly logo displayed above this post.

The title of today’s piece in WND is Inside the dinner that changed America. With no further delay, here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Do you ever wonder why things are the way they are? Young people are leaving church in droves. Social issues have divided the country. An American president minimizes the country’s Christian heritage. Appointed judges stamp decisions with personal bias. Business “leaders” engage in ruthless practices.

Like you, I’ve wondered about all this. Unlike some, I believe the core problem can be traced to the marketing of Darwinian philosophy in the United States. Now, a book has been written that outlines this fascinating, corrosive advancement of naturalism.

Barry Werth’s “Banquet at Delmonico’s” is a landmark book. His research into the colliding worldviews of the 19th century provides an answer for why our society functions as it does.

Good grief! We wrote about that book when it first came out, two and a half years ago. See Banquet at Delmonico’s — Spencer and Social Darwinism. You can check that out to see how far from Darwin’s theory Spencer’s “social Darwinism” really was. As we’ve often observed, adding the prefix “social” to a word is a good way to negate the meaning of the word (e.g., social security, social science, social work, social justice, etc.). We ended our long-ago post like this:

Clearly, this doesn’t have much to do with evolution or creationism, but because Spencer’s ideas are so often used by creationists to criticize Darwin, it’s worth knowing how unrelated their thinking really was.

Now that Fletcher and WND have stumbled upon Spencer, let’s read some more of what they have to tell us:

Spencer, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, exported his philosophy of naturalism across the Atlantic with the help of several fawning American friends, and America is still reaping the whirlwind. Werth’s detailed research into not only the dinner at Delmonico’s, but also the lead-up is riveting and informative.

Yes, Spencer was a “contemporary” of Darwin’s. So was Jack the Ripper. But like the Ripper’s activities, Spencer’s trip to America to promote his babbling about “social Darwinism” occurred after Darwin was dead, and the great scientist had no connection with Spencer or the Ripper. As the Wikipedia article on Herbert Spencer informs us:

… Spencer extended evolution into realms of sociology and ethics, he also made use of Lamarckism.

[...]

Spencer believed that this evolutionary mechanism was also necessary to explain ‘higher’ evolution, especially the social development of humanity. … Spencer believed in two kinds of knowledge: knowledge gained by the individual and knowledge gained by the race. Intuition, or knowledge learned unconsciously, was the inherited experience of the race.

In other words, Spencer was a flake. We continue with Fletcher’s article:

Werth has done a terrific job of showing how the marketing of evolutionary thought had as much to do with its wide acceptance as the work of the scientists. Beecher, along with men like Asa Gray and John Fiske, helped Spencer, Darwin, and Huxley export this philosophy of death (although, to be fair, its adherents saw wonder and grandeur in Darwin’s theory) to the shores of a still-young America. Soon after, spiritism and the occult gripped the nation.

Yes, a “philosophy of death.” One more excerpt — the last sentence in Fletcher’s brilliant essay:

We have been reaping that rotten fruit ever since.

You gotta admit, dear reader, WND is never a disappointment.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

Curmudgeon Solves the U.S. Budget Crisis

When there is no news of The Controversy between evolution and creationism, we have to turn to other topics. But in doing so we stay somewhat on topic by dealing with our larger concern — preserving the values of the Enlightenment, upon which our civilization depends.

Therefore, dear reader, we beg your indulgence as we post yet another Curmudgeonly rant about politics. Go ahead, skip it if you like and wait for something more on topic. We’ll understand. Anyway, here it comes.

We recently discussed the federal budget here: US Budget: 40 Years in the Wilderness, but other than pointing out the trend, we offered no opinions or solutions. This time it’s different.

The Curmudgeon’s solution to our current difficulty is to have two federal budgets instead of only one. We even have a catchy name for it — the Two-Budget proposal. Quite simply, it divides the current enormous budget into two separate components. Both would be presented to Congress, so they’ll have to pass two budgets instead of one.

The first of these would be called the Constitutional Budget. It would include expenditures for those activities that are clearly authorized in the Constitution — both in Article I, Section 8 and in a few power-granting amendments. That would take care of much of what is currently called “general government” expenditures (Congress, the courts, etc.), plus national defense, veterans’ affairs, Patent Office, Post Office, the mint, etc. (Don’t panic, we regard NASA as a defense expenditure.) We haven’t run the numbers, but the Constitutional Budget would deal with, perhaps, 25% of the spending in the current, all-inclusive budget.

The second budget would be for all other expenditures. We’ll avoid the temptation to give it a pejorative name, and instead we’ll just call it the Second Budget. That’s not very imaginative, but we’re trying to be neutral here (well, it’s rather obvious that the Second Budget is for what we consider the unconstitutional part of the government). The Second Budget would include all expenditures for “entitlement” programs of every nature, and also various cabinet posts that aren’t specified in the Constitution (Education, Labor, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, etc.).

We further propose that tax revenue (except for specific-purpose taxes like those designated for social security, etc.) should be first applied to the Constitutional Budget, so it’s likely to be always balanced. In fact, with taxes as high as they currently are, the Constitutional Budget should show a significant surplus, which could justify tax reductions or which could be used to retire some of the national debt. Instead, Congress will be likely to apply the surplus to the Second Budget, which will nevertheless incur a significant deficit, thus increasing the national debt.

The one item of expenditure which gives us pause is interest payments on the national debt. Such payments are clearly a constitutional obligation, and although most debt in the last generation (by our two-budget reckoning) is attributable to the Second Budget, it seems appropriate that interest on the national debt belongs in the Constitutional Budget — where it would be the second-biggest item, exceeded only by defense. That should raise some eyebrows.

What does our Two-Budget proposal accomplish? Nothing concrete, to be sure, but we think it’s a great educational tool. By showing what the government is doing — constitutionally and otherwise — and how it’s being paid for, more people will become aware of what’s going on. Will that solve any problems? Maybe not, and therefore the title of this post is far too ambitious — we haven’t really “solved” the budget crisis, but awareness of the problem is always the first step. That’s the best we can do.

For some of our previous solutions to immense problems, see The Curmudgeon’s Plan To Save The World, and then The Curmudgeon’s Health Care Reform Plan. Yes, everyone ignores us, but that’s okay. We’re used to it.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article