Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #14

A total lack of relevant news means we’re on our own today. For your entertainment, the above is a recent three-minute video of Richard Dawkins discussing creationism. He doesn’t bother with atheism, so it’s fine for all audiences.

We continue to watch creationism bills that are still pending in states like Alabama (session ends mid-May), and Missouri (session ends on 05 May), and Oklahoma (session ends 25 May), but there’s nothing new to report.

The two pieces of litigation we’re following, the David Coppedge trial and the John Oller case, have managed to keep out of the news, but while we’re waiting for the judge’s decision in Coppedge, you can view the results of our Coppedge poll here. The John Freshwater case is still on appeal. You can read the latest at Panda’s Thumb here: Freshwater: Appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #14

  1. What’s not to like? Dr. Dawkins again hits the nail upon its head.

    In a similar vein, Scientific American reports on a study that shows that rational thinking leads to a decrease in religiosity. In other words coherent thinking leads to more coherent beliefs. Amazing what one can learning using one’s noggin!

  2. Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Why are those who accept science pegged as “liberals”? (Various sources, such as Ken Ham and the Discovery Institute.) Science is the ultimate in conservatism. Science starts with evidence and draws a conclusion. Then it sticks with that conclusion until better evidence comes along that says it needs to change. This is different from the creationists who have a “conclusion” and stick with it no matter what. That’s not conservatism; that’s dogmatism. It’s the epitome of “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own lying eyes.”
    I’ve not fully fleshed out this thought. Just something that blipped in.

  3. gary, just from what I’ve read, “liberal” is a conservative boogey-man just like “socialism”.

    Arguably, socialism is the better form of government and limited varieties work quite well in Europe. It is NOT communism, which is another animal (get it “animal.. farm”… nevermind).

    Anyway, “liberal”, “darwinist”, “socialist”… it’s just a scare word for the ultra conservative crowd. They are terms that are non-threatening and yet full of meaning (that generally doesn’t mean what they think it means).

  4. Some definitions of liberal:
    1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.

    2.( often initial capital letter ) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.

    3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.

    4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.

    5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers

    I think definition #1 is most appropriate to science. However, I would say that scientists tend to be liberal when relating to ideas but conservative when relating to evidence.

    I posted all of the definitions because I think 4 and 5 apply to Curmie and several commenters here!

    And Curmie, thanks for the Dawkins video. Right now in NC we are getting down to the wire on a marriage amendment and I’m doing all I can to get that thing defeated. Just spent too much time listening to my sister’s preacher tell parishoners they need to vote for it. (I was listening online becuase there’s a push by churches today for the amendment.)

  5. @gary: “Why are those who accept science pegged as “liberals”?”

    Strictly Orwellian. Ham, Limbaugh, et al. use “liberal” as a perjorative — to them, it’s a strong cuss word. The word has totally lost its original meaning.

    For that reason, those who consider themselves politically liberal now use the term “progressive”.

    Ironic, isn’t it? In Jefferson’s time, those who held to the enlightenment values of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise were considered liberal, and very progressive.

    So, in that sense, Ham is right. Those who accept science are truly liberal. But still, he’s using the word strictly as a perjorative.

  6. Lynn was posting her comments as I was writing mine above. She said it much better.

  7. Lynn said:

    However, I would say that scientists tend to be liberal when relating to ideas but conservative when relating to evidence.

    Well stated. I’ll agree with that. I also agree that it’s a completely different usage than the way your standard fundies use it. As OgreMkV and RSG point out, it’s nothing more than a seven-letter replacement for some other four-letter words. A simple perjorative to stir up the masses.
    Thanks all!

  8. I’m going to blame Ann Coulter for hijacking the word “liberal” to apply to anyone she doesn’t like. Or anything. Using a broad brush, that would be all the Ann Coulters, including Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the current crop of conservative pundits and nincompoops.

    Simply put, “liberal” is Them as opposed to “conservative” meaning Us.

    Ironically, it has nothing to do with actual values and principles both of which are devoid in most conservatives (see, I can do it, too!). Ask yourself, “Self, what are Ann Coulter’s values especially her traditional family values?” How about Limbaugh? Want your sons to grow up like Rush? Or Hannity or O’Reilly?

    Nope, nothing to do with values otherwise a shining example of a family upholding traditional family values would be the Obama’s. Oh, the irony burns!

    By erecting this strawman demon, The Liberal, any politico can foist the Us versus Them argument into willing ears and mix metaphors like unicorns playing poker. Doesn’t matter that sense it makes not. Liberals want to destroy America! Liberals make gasoline prices go up! Liberals cause potholes! Liberals want to move into your neighborhood and ruin it!

    The beauty of the argument is that you never have to actually define “liberal” or name an actual liberal. You just have to point and shout and you’ll have a Flash Mob or a Tea Party in no time at all.

  9. Lynn Wilhelm says: “Some definitions of liberal”

    I think of Obama and those who support his legislative proposals as being “liberal” in today’s usage of that term. It has nothing to do with science, and I doubt that those people know any science. It’s true that a lot of people in academia — including scientists — support the same policies, but again, those policies have nothing to do with science.

    I regard science as politically neutral, but for it to flourish, a society needs two things: (1) enough prosperity to support it; and (2) enough freedom to allow it to function.

  10. What I enjoy about this site is that it promotes a rational, science based view of the world by a conservative. I might not be as conservative as SC, but I really appreciate that someone conservative can speak out for science.

    Conservatives weren’t always anti-science; that attitude came along as baggage with the hi-jacking of the conservative party by the religious/social values right wing. Science is not inherently either conservative or liberal. It’s just that it threatens the religious fundamentalists which seem to have gravitated to the conservative party, and their distrust of science has become a characteristic of the part as a whole.

    I used to think that a conservative mindset was a skeptical one. A conservative would demand the facts, and make a dispassionate decision. The old adage was that a young person who was not liberal had no heart, while an old person who was not conservative had no brains. For example, in government, a conservative would demand evidence that a new program would produce the desired results, and would weigh the cost against those results, and make a decision keeping in mind the conservative preference for smaller central government and financial restraint. Government worked because there was a balance of liberal dreamers and conservative pragmatists. Conservatives wanted to save resources, liberals wanted to spend them, and the best policy was generally some pragmatic middle course.

    Now it seems like conservatives, at least the more right-wing types, turn to talk radio hosts, megachurch pastors, and ideologues like Grover Norquist for guidance. The GOP is almost unrecognizable to me, and I say this as someone who was a registered Republican for over 30 years (I am now an Independent, and vote a split ticket of republicans and democrats, choosing on individual merit rather than party affiliation).

    Anyway, Kudu’s for trying to return enlightenment values to conservative thinkers!

  11. Ed says: “Anyway, Kudu’s for trying to return enlightenment values to conservative thinkers!”

    I’m not having much success, but I’m keeping the torch lit.

  12. Doc, the correct spelling turns out to be “kudos”. One of my neurons must have misfired. I have several faulty ones…

  13. Hey, Doc, maybe Curmy could use a herd of kudus. They fit right in with the theme of “Of Penguins and Polar Bears”. We could ask Ken Ham why there are no kudus in Kentucky, Kalamazoo, Kansas, or Kankakee. Or Keokuk, for that matter.

  14. docbill1351

    I like that kudu that you do! Oh, wait, that didn’t come out right …

    Here you go from the Museum of Evolution in Paris an exhibit of kudu-ish animals, all different species. It was difficult to get a shot of the entire display but there must have been 20-30 different animals.

    Kudos to the kudus!

  15. docbill1351 says: “there must have been 20-30 different animals.”

    And they were all on the Ark.

  16. Love Richard!!!!

  17. Stan Baskem

    Keep that torch lit, Curmudgeon. In the next fifteen years, the parties will reshape themselves around a stricter rationalist/fabulist dichotomy. Strange bed fellows, commence strange bed-fellowing!

  18. Oklahoma Update: The Senate floor amendment to HB 2341 would have placed the entirety of HB 1551 (the usual academic freedom act) into the basic bill. HB 2341 was not heard by the Senate by the deadline and is therefore ‘dead’ – at least for now. However, we are not declaring ‘victory’ until the Legislature adjourns sine die next month. There is always a slight chance the bill could come up as another amendment in a conference committee on another bill. We already announced that the creationist bills were ‘dead’ and here came a stupid floor amendment. Some Senators do not like it when, after their own Education Committee kills a bill, a member tries to undo the committee work with an amendment. That, along with the leasdership’s desire to stop a bill is over-ridden, can help stop some shenanigans.

    There is a lot more going on in the OK legislature that has created a toxic environment, especially between repug tea partiers and older slightly more reasonable Republicans. The ‘personhood act’ (life begins with a fertilized ovum) is now the center of a huge fight, where the House leadership is trying to stop the bill against parliamentry moves by the tea party types. The latter would like to remove the Speaker from office, but do not yet have the votes, etc., etc. It is sometimes entertaining to watch the crazies in action!

  19. vhutchison says: “we are not declaring ‘victory’ until the Legislature adjourns sine die next month.”

    So it’s not over until it’s over.

  20. “Liberal” in the political context used to mean free market, limited government, etc. – sort of what libertarian means now, minus the “sex drugs and rock n’ roll” of modern social values. 19th century liberalism is similar to modern 20th century American conservatism, except 19th century liberalism tended to be anti-clerical (a no-no now in conservative US politics) and anti-monarchist/anti-aristocratic (a non-issue in US politics). Outside the USA, “liberal” in the political context still means pro-free market, pro-capitalism.

    Contra what some people are implying, the modern use of the word “liberal” did not start under Coulter or Limbaugh. It goes back to the early 20th century when various left-wing progressives didn’t want to call themselves progressives, or socialists, or communists (yes there were, back then, plenty of left-wing Americans who identified themselves with such labels, without any double-talk), so they “stole” the word liberal and changed its meaning to what we have now. No 19th century liberal believed in using the government to make things “more equal” or “more fair”; you can have limited government or you can have a welfare state, but you can’t have both at the same time.

    Also, one branch of liberalism did go off in the direction of Social Darwinism (not to be confused with anything Darwin actually believed), and left-wing progressives softened Social Darwinism, via the welfare state, but still accepted some of the ideas of Social Darwinism, such that Eugenics was a popular policy amongst many liberals and progressives well into the middle of the 20th century. This part of Creationist Scare Tactics isn’t totally off base, but is misleading; point being of course is that Social Darwinism is a political belief system, it has nothing to do with Evolution as a scientific theory and Darwin himself was most certainly not a Social Darwinist.

    If you go back to before WWII, in the early 20th century and late 19th century, you’ll find plenty of conservatives who were pro-science and very skeptical of religion (H.L. Mencken is just one example off the top of my head). The post-WWII demonization of the right-wing and the GOP’s increasing reliance on the anti-intellectual know-nothings of the Religious Right (i.e. the GOP’s “Southern Strategy”) has driven out a lot of the types of people who used to identify as conservatives from a skeptical, rational, non-religious point of view.

    Summary: politics won’t make sense if you insist on applying contemporary labels to political movements in very different historical eras and contexts. Words change their meanings. Our current definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” are not likely to remain static.

  21. retiredsciguy

    To meh and all other regular commenters on The Curmudgeon’s blog — thank you for making this such an interesting and informative place to spend some reading time!

  22. NeonNoodle

    Re: the NatGeo clip: Dawkins could be abrasive at times, and it’s interesting that he seems to be toning it down lately. I don’t blame anyone for losing his or her patience when dealing with creationists, who traditionally are thick as whale omelets. But either Dawkins is mellowing with age, or he just resigned himself to the old adage about honey and vinegar. Either way, he’s always interesting.