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  • Rathergate Revisited: Mary Mapes Knew

    Posted on August 30th, 2009 Helian No comments

    This news brings back fond memories of watching Dan Rather dangle in the breeze after the blogosphere handed him his rear end on a platter. I still chuckle when I think of his earnest mien as he told us, “If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story,” days after bloggers like Charles Johnson at LGF had utterly demolished any shred of doubt that his memo was anything but a crude fake. It will come as no surprise to those who were following the story at the time that Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes, was not an innocent victim of his latest bit of flimflam. The pecker tracks were pretty obvious. Now, as Johnson points out, we have the smoking gun.

  • Torture: The Rabbit People Rejoice

    Posted on August 30th, 2009 Helian No comments

    The Rabbit People are euphoric over the “successful” torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Even as they cheer on the torturers, Cheney’s collaborators still can’t look themselves in the mirror. You see they’ve been living in an echo chamber for years telling each other what fine champions of “Liberty,” and “Justice,” they are. They still haven’t sufficiently mastered Orwellian doublethink to truly believe that two plus two equals five, and that one can be a champion of Liberty and a collaborator in torture at the same time. Therefore, when “patriotic public servants” at the CIA slam someone’s head against a wall “20 or 30 times a day,” waterboard him over a hundred times, and deprive him of sleep for 180 hours, for them it is not torture. It is “torture.”

    As Ann Althouse puts it, “I’m not going to weight the issue one way or the other by deciding first whether to say “torture.” Let’s look straight at the issue and not get abstract and linguistic.” Actually, Ms. Althouse, there’s nothing “abstract or linguistic” about it. Allow me to help you out here. I’ve listed some of the common, and remarkably similar, definitions of torture for you below:

    Merriam-Webster dictionary: Something that causes agony or pain the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty. Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.

    Oxford pocket dictionary: The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.

    Does that clear up the “linguistic” difficulties for you? Do you get the connection between “slamming someone’s head against a wall 20 or 30 times a day” and “torture” now?

    According to Ms. Althouse,

    Critics of “harsh interrogation techniques” — they, of course, call it torture — bolster their moral arguments with the pragmatic argument that it doesn’t even work. How unusual it is for the media to disillusion us about that and force the moralists to get by on moral ideals alone!

    I advise anyone who suspects I’m a purveyor of “moral ideals” to see my series of posts on the “Question of Should.” As for the issue of “pragmatism,” those who think I oppose torture because I doubt its effectiveness are also barking up the wrong tree.

    My objection to torture can be summed up in a simple phrase: “What goes around, comes around.” Those who really believe that torture will make us more “secure,” that it will only be applied to “others,” and never to themselves or their children or their fellow citizens, and that those “others” will always certainly be “terrorists” lack the capacity to think beyond the end of their noses.

  • Alternative Energy Myths and the Nuclear Orphan

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 Helian 1 comment

    Another interesting article turned up in Foreign Policy recently entitled “Seven Myths about Alternative Energy,” by legacy media environmental journalist Michael Grunwald. His collection of “myths” provides a revealing look at the psychology of the “green” would be saviors of the planet. Let’s run down his list.

    Myth number one is, “We need to do everything possible to promote alternative energy.” Grunwald prefers a different emphasis: “…though the world should do everything sensible to promote alternative energy, there’s no point trying to do everything possible.” The information content of this bit of wordsmithing as it stands is epsilon (a very small number). From the left to the right of the ideological spectrum, I have never encountered anyone who proposes that we should do everything possible to promote alternative energy, including things that don’t make sense. Reading on, one notes that, in a blurb that is supposed to be about alternative energy, Grunwald studiously avoids any mention of such credible candidates as wind, solar, and geothermal. Rather, he directs his ire at alternatives that aren’t quite ready for prime time: “Hydrogen cars, cold fusion, and other speculative technologies might sound cool, but they could divert valuable resources from ideas that are already achievable and cost-effective.” This statement is logically absurd.

    Consider fusion for example. The amount of resources being “diverted” worldwide to the energy applications of fusion, including both its hot and cold flavors, is utterly insignificant in comparison to the amount we spend on energy production, the total amount we spend on research, or any other number one could reasonably compare it to. I am no fusion true believer. It is a high risk technology, and one that will almost certainly not figure in the world’s energy equation before Grunwald’s target date of 2050. If, on the other hand, we can overcome the daunting technological hurdles Mother Nature has put in our path and find a way to use it, fusion has the potential to meet the world’s energy needs indefinitely while releasing no greenhouse gases and with an insignificant radiological hazard compared to nuclear and coal. There are many interesting research efforts afoot to finesse the technological problems that beset such “traditional” approaches as magnetic and inertial confinement fusion. The amount of research dollars being devoted to these efforts is miniscule. They can all be characterized as high risk, but it is hardly implausible to suggest that, eventually, one of them will succeed. If so, the payoff will be enormous. The problem of greenhouse gas emissions might be solved once and for all, without the severe environmental impact of covering massive areas with wind farms and solar collectors. In a word, if we are truly worried about global warming, it would be utterly reckless and senseless to eliminate the tiny resources we currently devote to energy applications of fusion. As we shall see, Grunwald’s reasons for rejecting such alternatives, not to mention the seeming lack of interest in such immediately available sources such as wind, solar and geothermal have more to do with psychology than logic.

    Moving on to myths 2 and 3, Grunwald turns his ire on biofuels, such as ethanol derived from corn. No surprise there, as he has often hammered the “clean energy” hype emanating from that sector in the past. He notes that such “renewable fuels” have been heavily promoted by governments around the world, including ours, but points out, “…so far in the real world, the cures — mostly ethanol derived from corn in the United States or biodiesel derived from palm oil, soybeans, and rapeseed in Europe — have been significantly worse than the disease.” So far, so good. I have yet to see a convincing argument in favor of biofuels that seriously addresses such problems as the facts that their production results in a net loss in energy, horrific environmental damage, and a reduction in the world’s food supply. The problem with myths 2 and 3 is that they are strawmen. I know of no credible authority outside of industry advocates who is seriously suggesting that biofuels are a plausible solution to global warming.

    Grunwald’s myth 4 is, “Nuclear power is the cure for our addiction to coal.” This seems counterintuitive, since, according to the most reliable studies, the carbon footprint of nuclear plants is a small fraction of that of its fossil fuel alternatives. Among the reasons Grunwald cites for dismissing the nuclear alternative is the fact that it will be too slow coming on line to make a dent in carbon emissions in the near term. That’s quite true, but while one may certainly point to it as an unfortunate fact of life, it is certainly no reason to abandon nuclear altogether. If global warming is really the problem Grunwald claims it is, than surely late is better than never.

    Be that as it may, Grunwald cites cost as the real show stopper for nuclear power. As he puts it,

    Nuke plants are supposed to be expensive to build but cheap to operate. Unfortunately, they’re turning out to be really, really expensive to build; their cost estimates have quadrupled in less than a decade. Energy guru Amory Lovins has calculated that new nukes will cost nearly three times as much as wind — and that was before their construction costs exploded for a variety of reasons, including the global credit crunch, the atrophying of the nuclear labor force, and a supplier squeeze symbolized by a Japanese company’s worldwide monopoly on steel-forging for reactors.

    At this point, the familiar anti-nuclear “green” narrative emerges from the mist, and Grunwald leaves logical argument in the dust. Amory Lovins is certainly someone worth listening to. He is also one of the legacy media’s beloved “mavericks,” and hardly someone whose cost estimates represent the final word on the subject. In fact, if one looks at the credible cost estimates of nuclear versus its alternatives, not just from sources connected with the industry, but, for example, from a study done in 2003 by an interdisciplinary group of MIT professors and updated in 2009, the suggestion that nuclear is “really, really expensive” compared to the alternatives may be dismissed as bunk. Grunwald might have had some credibility if he had taken the trouble to dispute these estimates with arguments more substantial than anecdotes about Japanese steel monopolies. As it is, it is clear that his rejection of nuclear has nothing to do with its intrinsic merits or lack thereof. Rather, it simply doesn’t fit in the “conservation and efficiency” narrative he shares with Lovins. Grunwald uses myths 5 through 7 to outline the narrative.

    It turns out that myth 5, “There is no silver bullet to the energy crisis,” is only a pseudo-myth. As Grunwald himself admits, “Probably not.” Be that as it may, he clearly has a silver bullet in mind; efficiency. In his words,

    But some bullets are a lot better than others; we ought to give them our best shot before we commit to evidently inferior bullets. And one renewable energy resource is the cleanest, cheapest, and most abundant of them all. It doesn’t induce deforestation or require elaborate security. It doesn’t depend on the weather. And it won’t take years to build or bring to market; it’s already universally available. It is called “efficiency.”

    Conservation and energy efficiency are certainly laudable goals, and ones that should be pursued aggressively. However, Grunwald’s problem is that he sees them in typical journalistic black and white. They are the one true path to salvation, as opposed to the “inferior bullets.” This setting up of artificial barriers separating the plausible alternatives to solving our energy problems into a “good” approach standing in opposition to other “bad” approaches is more a reflection of human psychology than logic. For example, the hard fact is that rejection of nuclear power has and will continue to result in the building of more fossil-fired generation capacity. That is precisely what is going on in Germany, whose “Greens” have forced the foolhardy decision to shut down nuclear plants rather than refurbish them and keep them on line, resulting in the building of new coal plants even as we speak, and in defiance of these same “Greens” warm, fuzzy rhetoric about the virtues of alternative energy. Similarly, Grunwald’s blasé attitude towards alternatives such as wind, solar, and geothermal is more likely to encourage complacency than, for example, an aggressive approach to building the power transmission infrastructure we need to accommodate these new technologies. According to Grunwald,

    Al Gore has a reasonably plausible plan for zero-emissions power by 2020; he envisions an ambitious 28 percent decrease in demand through efficiency, plus some ambitious increases in supply from wind, solar, and geothermal energy. But we don’t even have to reduce our fossil fuel use to zero to reach our 2020 targets. We just have to use less.

    Al Gore may be right, but he may also be wrong. Regardless, it would be foolish of us to put all of our eggs in one basket. In particular, it would be very foolish to cut off the already miniscule support we are currently giving to high risk, high payoff technologies such as fusion. It is highly unlikely that global energy demand will go down as the world’s population continues to increase, or that the citizens of emerging economic powers such as India and China will continue to be satisfied with a third world lifestyle. Ignoring technologies that could plausibly solve the problem of global warming because Grunwald thinks they are dumb would be both illogical and, potentially, suicidal. His attitude is typical of the representatives of what H. L. Mencken used to call the “uplift” on the left. Though I suspect most of them don’t realize it themselves, they are far more interested in posing as saviors of mankind than in actually saving mankind. Hence, for example, the hand waving dismissal of nuclear technology. The Grunwalds of the world will continue to dismiss it, not because it is not a plausible piece of an overall solution to the problem of global warming, but because it is unfashionable. If one would strike a truly heroic pose, one cannot afford to be unfashionable.

  • Still not Torture? CIA Instructions for Breaking an Opponents Will

    Posted on August 28th, 2009 Helian No comments

    According to the CIA’s own step-by-step guidelines for “persuasion” of detainees, its interrogation techniques included slamming a prisoner’s head against a wall “20 or 30 times,” sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, deprivation of toilet facilities, shackling in painful positions for long periods of time, locking in a wooden box for up to 18 hours, and waterboarding, not just once in a carefully monitored training situation, but scores of times in succession by “practitioners” who did not have to fear legal accountability for “overdoing” it. It is ludicrous to suggest that such techniques cannot be accurately described as torture. However, we can confidently expect the apologists for torture on the right to continue their denial of the obvious. They will be as cocksure as ever that all the prisoners we have seized and casually tortured had it coming, regardless of any legal protections or proof of their guilt. They will be as adamant as ever that international laws prohibiting torture can be ignored at will if they feel it necessary to protect our “security.” They will continue to shout “Liberty” at the top of their lungs, even as they dismiss the principles our founding fathers fought to vindicate with a wave of the hand. In fact, such people are a greater threat to our security than the enemies they claim to be fighting. In particular, they are a direct threat to our troops in the field, who our enemies will now feel perfectly justified in subjecting to such “enhanced interrogation techniques.” They blindly assume that the condoning of torture will never come back to haunt them, or to haunt their children. I have news for them. What goes around comes around.

  • Neocon Watch: Another Wolfowitz Sighting

    Posted on August 28th, 2009 Helian No comments

    It’s nice to see that Paul Wolfowitz hasn’t been intimidated into silence by his many critics. He just published an article in “Foreign Policy,” entitled, “Think Again: Realism,” that addresses fundamental issues of worldview as they relate to foreign policy.

    I do not agree with Wolfowitz on many things, and thought before and after the event that the decision to invade Iraq was wrong. However, he is a highly intelligent and experienced man, and his opinions are worth noting. Looking at the comments following his article, one finds the usual attempts, so typical of our time, to vilify him rather than simply refute his arguments. The Amity-Enmity Complex prevails. Wolfowitz cannot merely be wrong. Rather, as one who has assaulted the ideological dogmas that define the intellectual territory of an opposing “in-group,” he must be evil. Given the nature of our species, this type of reaction is predictable. It is also self-defeating because it excludes rational dialogue. Given our intellectual limitations, it is not to be expected that any of us will be capable of perfect accuracy in dealing with issues as complex as those associated with foreign policy. In other words, the best of us will make mistakes. If Wolfowitz was wrong about Iraq, it was not because he is evil, but because he is human, and, therefore, not capable of infallibly accurate analysis of highly complex situations. We would still be in the Stone Age if we had never listened to anyone who had occasionally been wrong. We become wise by learning from our mistakes.

    Pundits Stephen M. Walt, David J. Rothkopf, Daniel W. Drezner, and Steve Clemons have written responses to the Wolfowitz article that are also interesting reads. I particularly liked the following from Rothkopf’s reply:

    Reading Wolfowitz’s piece, I kept thanking Providence for giving me a concentration in English in college rather than say, political science. I actually was taught what words mean. (In fact, being an English major taught me that “political science” may be the humdinger of all oxymorons … even if calling “realists” realists and “neoconservatives” neoconservatives comes pretty darn close.) Economists have their “lies, damned lies, and statistics” and clearly, political scientists have their “lies, damned lies, and labels.”
    It’s not just “neocons” and “realists” of course who are mislabeled or falsely advertising themselves. There is nothing “conservative” about the reckless fiscal policies of “conservative” champions like Reagan or Bush, nothing “progressive” about the New Deal nostalgia of many on the left, nothing “pro-life” about abortion opponents who also use a misreading of the Second Amendment to allow them stock up on assault weapons, nothing “liberal” about folks who think the answer to everything is greater government control of people’s lives. Say what you may about the underlying beliefs, the labels are meaningless.

    As Rothkopf points out, labels such as “realism,” “idealism,” “constructivism,” etc., are best understood as a form of intellectual posturing, and have little if any actual information content. We are programmed to take advantage of the mental efficiencies of categorization. However, once the labels assigned to identify the categories become meaningless other than as boundary markers between ideological dogmas, they have outlived their usefulness. Take, for example, Walts use of the label “realism” in the piece that precedes Rothkopf’s:

    I’d try to exclude Iraq from discussion if I were him too, because that tragedy demonstrates the virtues of realism and the follies of Wolfowitz’s own worldview.

    Actually, the outcome in Iraq demonstrates no such thing, nor is it rational to claim that it could. One cannot even speak of a single, unified outcome. For example, as far as the Kurds are concerned, the outcome was hardly a tragedy. They might claim it was a vindication of Wolfowitz’ “idealism,” and not the opposite. Certainly, as far as the Kuwaitis are concerned, the elimination of Saddam Hussein was hardly “tragic.” Even if there were universal agreement that the outcome actually was a tragedy, it would not demonstrate the superiority of one general worldview over another, as Walt suggests. To refute such a claim, Wolfowitz could easily point to a plethora of other outcomes, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, that similarly “prove” the superiority of his worldview. One can certainly claim that some of outcomes of our intervention in Iraq were not those expected by the supporters of that intervention on either the left or the right. One can also plausibly maintain that these outcomes were not in our national interest. However, there is no rational basis for the further claim that these limited outcomes can possibly demonstrate the validity or lack thereof of an entire worldview.

    I personally lean much more in the direction of Walt’s “realism” than Wolfowitz’ “idealism.” In particular, I strongly agree with his comment, “… that military force is a blunt and costly instrument whose ultimate effects are difficult to foresee, and that states should go to war only when vital interests are at stake.” However, there is an odd disconnect between the language Walt uses against Wolfowitz in his article and the “soft-pedaled” policies he claims to support internationally. For example, the architects of the war were not wrong, they were “dead wrong.” Wolfowitz only “bothers” to mention two realists, and he can’t be “bothered” to be better informed on realist doctrine. Wolfowitz was an able practitioner of “threat inflation” and “deception” while in office, and so on. Given the left’s documented attempts to distort what Wolfowitz actually did say, it would seem advisable for Walt and the rest of his detracters to refrain from accusations that he deliberately attempted to deceive unless they have proof thereof that they have not laid on the table to date. Absent such evidence, one is forced to conclude that Wald is himself a liar. His emotionally laden and pejorative language is better understood as an attempt to seize the moral high ground in a shouting match between ideological factions than to achieve a consensus concerning the type of foreign policy best suited to achieving common goals.

  • Release the Hounds! Glenn Beck and the Left’s Latest Witch Hunt

    Posted on August 26th, 2009 Helian No comments

    It is noteworthy that the response of the left to the release of the CIA Inspector General’s report on torture has been remarkably subdued. If the responses of Huffpo, Kos, TPM, and the rest of the usual suspects are any guide, the left is still as facile as ever in turning its virtuous indignation on or off as political expedience would demand. At the moment, their overriding concern is, apparently, health care, so they are reducing the usual moralistic posing on other issues to a minimum to avoid rocking the boat.

    However, when it comes to the matter of Glenn Beck calling the president a “racist” the left’s familiar ostentatious public “outrage” is, once again, on full display. The professionally pious guardians of the nation’s virtue never seem to raise an eyebrow when charges of racism are thrown about recklessly by the likes of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. When Glenn Beck does it, however, it’s a different matter. First of all, you see, Beck has white skin, which disqualifies him from using the term “racism” in the first place. More importantly, Beck is smart, articulate, and an effective advocate of conservative causes. That’s the real reason for this latest display of contrived “indignation” on the left. You see, citizens who disagree with these “progressives” cannot simply have a different opinion about what’s best for the country. They must necessarily be evil. For today’s left, it isn’t a matter of debating opposing points of view. It’s a matter of demonizing and silencing them.

    As noted here and there in the blogosphere, this time their campaign of vilification includes an attempt to muscle corporate sponsors into pulling their advertising from Glenn’s show on FOX. Those craven enough to cave to the bullying and collaborate in the suppression of freedom of speech include Geico, Proctor & Gamble, Sargento, and CVS, among others. Apparently Geico has already lost thousands of customers as a result. One hopes that is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • To Chop or Not to Chop

    Posted on August 26th, 2009 Helian No comments

    Obviously, Andrew Sullivan has clarified his blogs editorial policy regarding foreskins for Hanna Rosin. Actually, two of my friends voluntarily subjected themselves to the operation while we were undergraduates because their girlfriends balked at greeting them with what Christopher Hitchens referred to as the “American handshake” until they did. It was, by all accounts, excruciating. They had to sniff smelling salts or some similar nasty concoction when a pretty nurse walked through the ward to avoid ripping their stitches out. I’ve been grateful to my parents for having it done to me as an infant ever since.

  • Torture: Let the Prosecutions Begin

    Posted on August 26th, 2009 Helian 1 comment

    The recent release of the CIA Inspector General’s report has, once again, moved the issue of torture into the national spotlight. I have commented elsewhere regarding the reasons for my rejection of torture. Apparently, Attorney General Eric Holder is considering the matter of prosecutions. In a recent column in the Washington Post, attorney Jeffrey H. Smith cited six reasons not to proceed with them. I beg to differ with him. Smith’s reasons and my arguments for rejecting them are as follows:

    1. “These techniques were authorized by the president and approved by the Justice Department… That alone will make prosecutions very difficult.”

    If prosecutions are undertaken, their importance and significance will lie in the extent to which they are successful in establishing the rejection of torture, both legally and as an accepted national moral standard. For that reason, in this exceptional case, the question of whether the prosecutions will be difficult or not is insignificant. The question is not whether the Adolf Eichmann defense – “I was only obeying orders” – will stand up in a U.S. Court. The question is whether the United States, as a nation, will reject torture, or embrace it and accept Eichmann’s creed: “Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one’s need to think.”

    2. “Prosecutions would set the dangerous precedent that criminal law can be used to settle policy differences at the expense of career officers.”

    Failure to prosecute will set the far more dangerous precedent that career officers can, literally, get away with murder, not to mention torture, and never have to worry about the possibility they may eventually have to bear legal and moral responsibility for their acts. It would behoove career officers who are really capable of believing that the question of condoning torture or not is really just an insignificant “policy difference” to seek a less challenging occupation.

    3. “After Justice declined to prosecute (under Bush), the CIA took administrative action, including disciplinary action against those officers whose conduct it deemed warranted such responses… If (Justice) declines to prosecute, the matter is sent back to the CIA for appropriate administrative action.”

    Here Smith is attempting to apply the legalese argument that prosecution now would not be in accord with established precedent. In a case of such overriding importance, this is a matter of utter insignificance. Other than that, the Inspector General’s report, not to mention the overwhelming weight of credible evidence of brutality that preceded it, make it abundantly clear that the “established precedent” that it is unwise to put the fox in charge of the henhouse is still as valid as ever.

    4. “Prosecuting CIA officers risks chilling current intelligence operations. This country faces an array of serious threats. A prosecution or extensive investigation will be an unmanageable expense for most CIA officers. More significant, their colleagues will become reluctant to take risks… And such reactions will be magnified if prosecutions focus only on the lower-ranking officers, not those in the chain of command.

    It seems to me rather insulting to suggest that “most CIA officers” are irresponsible government stooges, incapable of appreciating the significance of the matter at issue, and possessed of such delicate sensitivities and fragile morale that they will all become mere time servers and ignore their duty to defend the country if anyone dares to question their actions in a matter of such overriding national and, indeed, international importance. As for the “serious threats” we face, there can be no greater threat to our security than the notion that, in order to “protect” our security, it is entirely acceptable for us to ignore established national and international moral codes and standards of conduct and jettison our national heritage and everything that can give any rational meaning to the term “Liberty.” Those who have read my previous posts may take note here of my rejection of the notion that, because morality is subjective, it must, therefore, be relative and pliable to suit the situation. That is, in fact, the version of morality that our current “conservatives” on the right are promoting, in defiance of their usual breast-beating pronouncements about moral absolutes. Regarding the matter of focusing on the lower-ranking officers, any prosecution that does so will be doomed in advance. The level of focus of any prosecutions should bear a direct relationship to the level of those involved in torture in the chain of command, starting with Bush and Cheney.

    5. “Prosecution could deter cooperation with other nations. It is critical that we have the close cooperation of intelligence services around the world.”

    One can only conclude from this “reason” that Smith is utterly oblivious to what has been going on in the world since 911. Our embrace of torture based on the irrational hope that it will enhance our national security has shattered our moral authority in the world, and provided our many enemies with a weapon against us that they have used to devastating effect. It is beyond me how anyone who lives outside a hermetically sealed box can have failed to notice this. The idea that anyone could really believe that these deep, self-inflicted wounds were somehow justified by the need to maintain amiable relationships with foreign intelligence services boggles the mind.

    6. “President Obama has decisively changed the policies that caused so much damage. He recognizes that it is vital to our security to have an effective intelligence community that is not distracted by looking backward and coping with congressional investigations and grand jury subpoenas.”

    Presidential terms are limited to eight years in the United States. It is, therefore, absurd to suggest that President Obama is capable of “decisively” changing policies by administrative decree. The next President may just as “decisively” change them back again. It is precisely because we must look forward, and not backward, that the prosecution of the foul acts of torture that have stained not only our reputation but our spirit as a nation is necessary and justified. We must decide whether we will continue along the path established by our forefathers in defense of Liberty, or abandon that heritage, embracing torture in pursuit of an illusory national security. May reason prevail.

  • On the Irrational Instincts of Psychologists and Anthropologists

    Posted on August 25th, 2009 Helian No comments

    William Morton Wheeler was, like E. O. Wilson, an expert on social insects. In his book, “Social Life Among the Insects,” published in 1924, he wrote,

    The whole trend of modern thought is toward a greater recognition of the very important and determining role of the irrational and the instinctive, not only in our social but also in our individual lives.

    Oddly enough, the same statement would be as accurate today as it was then. Somehow, in the intervening years, we were derailed by the absurd behaviorist psychology of Skinner, Montagu,, and the equally ridiculous “Not in our Genes” anthropology of Lewontin and Levins. Their work never really made any sense. For the most part, they were political ideologues, and their “science” was whatever was necessary to fit their narratives. For a time, and a long time, at that, politics trumped science in psychology and anthropology. For decades, it looked like Trofim Lysenko was winning.

    Now, thanks to some remarkable advances, notably in neuroscience, but in many other scientific bailiwicks as well, the Montagus and Lewontins find themselves in a niche with such other variants of their species as the creation “scientists” where they have always belonged.

    Since we have now come full circle, perhaps it would be well if the psychologists and anthropologists would leave off chasing the latest scientific trends for a time, and look back over their shoulders. They really owe us an explanation. How is it that people who claim to respect scientific truth were capable of deluding themselves and the rest of us for so long? What are the irrational aspects of our nature as human beings that made it possible for major branches of the sciences to be hijacked by political ideologues over a period of decades? Let them explain themselves. It would go a long way towards restoring their credibility.

  • Genital Mutilation for the Masses

    Posted on August 25th, 2009 Helian No comments

    Uh-oh, looks like one of Sully’s guest bloggers has wandered off the reservation. If memory serves, Sully is hard over pro-foreskin. I guess it’s a matter of taste.