Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McGovern or Carter?

Is Senator Obama more like George McGovern (1972) or Jimmy Carter (1976)? Andrew Busch at No Left Turns thinks it's Carter:

Like Carter, Obama is a substantively vacuous charmer with minimal big-time experience. Carter had four years in the Georgia governor's mansion; if he is elected, Obama will have had four years in the U.S. Senate.

Like Carter, Obama has based his campaign on a general promise of change and a general posture of piety.

Like Carter, Obama is devoted to "healing" the nation after a harsh period of divisiveness.

Like Carter, Obama has suffered gaffes, but has maintained a reservoir of support that refuses to desert him. Like Obama waxing eloquent about the benighted folks in small-town Pennsylvania, Carter uttered his comment about maintaining the "ethnic purity" of neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania primary. Carter won Pennsylvania; Obama lost but retained his national lead in delegates and polls.

And, like Carter, despite his flaws, he is still the odds-on favorite to win the presidency in November. Republicans have not gone into a presidential election facing such stiff headwinds since-well, 1976. On Election Day of that year, Carter squeaked by Gerald Ford after possessing a large set of objective advantages. Obama, should he go on to win the Democratic nomination, will go into the election with at least as large a set of objective advantages.

Busch sees other similarities which you can read at the link.


Hume on Miracles

My Philosophy of Religion class has been reading and critiquing David Hume's argument against miracles this past week. Those students and others may be interested in perusing this post at Uncommon Descent on that very subject. Some of the comments that follow are also worthwhile.


Is Wright Wrong

There's been much written in the last day or two about Rev. Jeremiah Wright's recent speeches and his sundry and persistent offenses against reason and common sense, but with it all I haven't seen any comment on something he said at the NAACP speech Sunday night. The Reverend cited research in that speech which shows that whites tend to be left-brained, logical, and analytical while blacks are right-brained, intuitive, and feeling-oriented. The races differ, the preacher intoned, in both their learning styles and their dispositions toward particular modes of thought.

I expected that this disquisition on racial difference would set off a firestorm of protest, especially among African-Americans, because in his attempt to defend the different ways black children learn he tacitly acknowledged that blacks simply can't measure up to whites in the kind of thinking required for careers in engineering, math, physics, etc. The implicit corollary of this is that if there are different types of learning then there may be good reason to resurrect the old and discredited idea of "separate but equal" schools. If blacks and whites have different aptitudes then what works well for whites won't succeed with blacks and vice versa so why not educate them differently? In a single speech Rev. Wright catapulted the racial conversation all the way back to 1953, before Brown v. Board of Education, and inadvertently laid the premise for a return to racial segregation, at least in education.

If Jeremiah Wright is correct then we can never hope to see robust numbers of blacks in fields that require left-brained thinking, and if those fields are to be ceded to whites and Asians as their exclusive domain then how will blacks avoid being tagged with the stigma of intellectual inferiority? If a white speaker had made the point Wright made there would be howls of protest at the inherent racism of the claim, but Wright's NAACP audience appeared to receive the news of black inferiority with enthusiasm.

For the sake of African-Americans let's hope that those at the NAACP meeting didn't realize what they were applauding, and let's hope, too, that Rev. Wright is as wrong about this as he is about so much else.