Category Archives: Politics

A Creationist Heads the EPA

Here’s a bit of disturbing news reported in The Scientist. We’ve seen this before, but it always showed up in political blogs. This is the first time it’s been reported in a science publication. Their article is titled EPA’s Scott Pruitt Doesn’t Buy Evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, said that evolution, at least as it concerns the origins of humans, is a philosophical and not scientific matter, according to audio from a 2005 radio show unearthed by Politico [link omitted]. “There aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution,” Pruitt said.

Groan — he sounds like the typical letter-writer in our Creationist Wisdom series. Here’s Wikipedia’s write-up on the guy. They say:

Edward Scott Pruitt (born May 9, 1968) is an American lawyer and Republican politician from the state of Oklahoma who is currently the fourteenth Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nominated for the position by President Donald Trump, Pruitt was confirmed by the United States Senate to lead the EPA on February 17, 2017.


Pruitt is Southern Baptist. According to the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General, the Pruitts are members of the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, where Pruitt serves as deacon. Pruitt was also a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Okay, back to The Scientist. They tell us:

It’s not clear how Pruitt’s disregard for a basic tenet of modern biology affects his work at the agency. But Republican lawmakers tell Politico that Pruitt’s faith — he is an evangelical Christian — should indeed guide his decisions. “He’s a believer. He is a Jesus guy. He believes in the principles,” Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) tells Politico. “I think it does [have an impact], and I think it has to. Anyone who denies that that has an impact isn’t being totally honest.”

One more excerpt:

According to Politico, the EPA’s press office took offense at a reporter asking if there could be a conflict between Pruitt’s anti-science beliefs and his job in running an agency that should be making evidence-based decisions. “If you’re insinuating that a Christian should not serve in capacity as EPA administrator,” the spokesperson said, “that is offensive and a question that does not warrant any further attention.”

So there you are. It looks like we’ve got a hard-core creationist as head of the EPA. We doubt that his belief that he ain’t no kin to no monkey will have any specific effect on anything that agency does, but the overall quality of his thinking is certainly in doubt. Make of it what you will.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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The Curmudgeon’s Proposed Gun Law

There’s no creationism news out there at the moment, so we’ll go off topic and discuss gun control. One hears all kinds of proposals being advocated to deal with gun violence — some rather outrageous by our standards. Your Curmudgeon is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but we’re willing to see some changes made.

We’ve previously mentioned that the number of legal gun owners in the US is about 30% of the population. That’s at least 100 million people who legally own guns in the US. There are maybe 12,000 gun killings each year. Some are multiple victims of the same killer, so there are no more than 10,000 actual killers who use guns — and some of those aren’t legal gun owners. All murder is bad, of course; but we need to think about those numbers.

If as many as 1% of gun owners were killers, there would be a million of them. If the killers were a tenth of a percent, there would be 100,000 of them. But it’s only 10,000, which is one one-hundredth of a percent of all gun owners. Think about that.

Statistically, gun ownership seems to be an excellent predictor of lawful behavior — and, we must add, a look at history shows that prohibition of private gun ownership is an excellent predictor of tyranny. So the problem isn’t gun ownership, per se. Rather, the problem is that a tiny fraction of gun owners are crazy. So what’s to be done?

To begin with, we propose that no one should be allowed to own a gun unless he can meet certain requirements for enlisting in the US military. If the military doesn’t accept people who can’t meet those requirements, then why should they be allowed to own guns? Specifically, we think a gun owner must:

1. Be a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder who is fluent in English.

2. Have a high school diploma (or equivalent).

3. Have no criminal record (including juvenile offenses) and not be the subject of a restraining order. The military services have a provision for obtaining a waiver of those restrictions in some cases, but that’s not easy to do.

And we’d go even further. If someone has escaped conviction because of an insanity plea, we wouldn’t let him have a gun. Hey — it’s fair. He did the deed and admits that he’s crazy. No guns for him.

There should be a nationwide database where all of that information would be stored. Every county or municipality that grants gun licenses should have to consult that database and they should only allow gun ownership to those who aren’t in it — and who also meet our other requirements. Additionally, we’re not opposed to raising the minimum age to 21, which some are currently suggesting.

What about people with mental health problems? Obviously, anyone who has been adjudicated incompetent should be disqualified from being a gun owner — and that information should also be in the national database. Otherwise, mental health is a difficult issue to deal with. For example, some think “Darwinists” are mentally ill, while others have the opposite opinion. We may not need to incorporate additional mental health requirements in our gun laws. In general, anyone with a serious mental problem would probably be disqualified by one or more of the requirements we’ve already listed.

So there you are. Our proposal won’t solve all problems. Nothing will. However, we think it’s a realistic reform that could actually become law. We welcome your suggestions.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Steven Pinker’s Book on the Enlightenment

This is one of those rare occasions when we totally agree with something and want to bring it to your attention. We found this in the U.S. edition of London’s Guardian. Their headline is ‘Reason is non-negotiable’: Steven Pinker on the Enlightenment.

It appears to be from a book by Steven Pinker, described by Wikipedia as: “a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

What is enlightenment? In a 1784 essay with that question as its title, Immanuel Kant answered that it consists of “humankind’s emergence from its self-incurred immaturity”, its “lazy and cowardly” submission to the “dogmas and formulas” of religious or political authority. Enlightenment’s motto, he proclaimed, is: “Dare to understand!” and its foundational demand is freedom of thought and speech.

This is good, but it’s long, so we have to skip a lot. Pinker says:

Provoked by challenges to conventional wisdom from science and exploration, mindful of the bloodshed of recent wars of religion, and abetted by the easy movement of ideas and people, the thinkers of the Enlightenment sought a new understanding of the human condition. The era was a cornucopia of ideas, some of them contradictory, but four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism and progress.

Sounds like the theme of your Curmudgeon’s blog. We’ll quote what he says about reason and science, leaving you to read the rest for yourself. He tells us:

If there’s anything the Enlightenment thinkers had in common, it was an insistence that we energetically apply the standard of reason to understanding our world, and not fall back on generators of delusion like faith, dogma, revelation, authority, charisma, mysticism, divination, visions, gut feelings or the hermeneutic parsing of sacred texts.

Great, huh? He continues:

That leads to the second ideal, science, the refining of reason to understand the world. That includes an understanding of ourselves. The Scientific Revolution was revolutionary in a way that is hard to appreciate today, now that its discoveries have become second nature to most of us.

He also talks about free enterprise:

The Enlightenment also saw the first rational analysis of prosperity. Its starting point was not how wealth is distributed but the prior question of how wealth comes to exist in the first place. Specialisation works only in a market that allows the specialists to exchange their goods and services and [Adam] Smith explained that economic activity was a form of mutually beneficial cooperation (a positive-sum game, in today’s lingo): each gets back something that is more valuable to him than what he gives up. Through voluntary exchange, people benefit others by benefiting themselves; as he wrote: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.” Smith was not saying that people are ruthlessly selfish, or that they ought to be; he was one of history’s keenest commentators on human sympathy. He only said that in a market, whatever tendency people have to care for their families and themselves can work to the good of all.

That’s enough. Now go ahead and read it all for yourself. Oh, here’s Pinker’s book at Amazon: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. There are no reviews yet, but Amazon does give us this: “My new favorite book of all time.” –Bill Gates.

You gotta admit, dear reader, this is a welcome change from posting about ol’ Hambo and the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Alabama Senate Race Free Fire Zone

As many of you know, today there’s a special election in Alabama today for a US Senate seat. The candidates are Republican Roy Moore, a hard-core creationist endorsed by Trump, and Democrat Doug Jones.

Here’s Wikipedia’s write-up on Roy Moore. They say:

Moore attended West Point and served as a military police company commander in the Vietnam War. After graduating from the University of Alabama Law School, he joined the Etowah County district attorney’s office, and later became a circuit judge. Moore was elected to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2001, but was removed from his position in November 2003 by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for refusing a federal court’s order to remove a marble monument of the Ten Commandments he had installed in the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Moore was again elected Chief Justice in 2013, but was suspended in May 2016, for directing probate judges to continue to enforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriage despite the fact that this had been deemed unconstitutional. . Following an unsuccessful appeal, Moore resigned in April 2017, and announced that he would run for the United States Senate seat that was vacated by Jeff Sessions upon Sessions’s confirmation as Attorney General of the United States.

They also say:

Moore rejects the theory of evolution, saying “There is no such thing as evolution. That we came from a snake? No, I don’t believe that.” … In a 1997 speech, Roy Moore claimed that teaching evolution in schools led to an increase in drive-by shootings, arguing that “they’re acting like animals because we’ve taught them they come from animals.

That’s bad enough, but then there are the Roy Moore sexual misconduct allegations, which are too grotesque to describe here.

This is Wikipedia’s write-up on Moore’s Democrat opponent, Doug Jones. They describe his career and his views — which are, shall we say, a bit less spectacular than Moore’s.

Because today’s the election, we have a few websites that say they’ll give up-to-date election results as they are available. If one fails, another should work. They are:

• CBS News: Live results: Alabama Senate race and exit polls

• New York Times: Live Alabama Election Results: Roy Moore and Doug Jones Compete for Senate Seat

• Washington Post: Moore vs. Jones: Alabama Senate race live results

The polls close at 8:00, Eastern time. That’s less than fifteen minutes away.

If that isn’t enough excitement, we’re declaring another Intellectual Free-Fire Zone. You know the rules. 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 © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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