Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Stephen Hayward at No Left Turns notes that when President Obama visited Ghana he told the Ghanian Parliament that:

"No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top."

Hayward then reminds us that the U.S. corporate income tax is at 35 percent, the highest in the industrialized world, and likely to go up.

So what does the President think raising American taxes is going to do to investment in this country, and what was he telling the Ghanians? That they're not taxing business enough?


Skeletons in the Closet

Progressivism has a long history, steeped in notions of racial superiority, of favoring eugenics and other totalitarian solutions to certain demographic problems. One of the founding purposes of Planned Parenthood, after all, was to make birth control and abortion widely available so as to limit the proliferation of undesirable elements, both racial and intellectual, in our society.

It's this yearning for racial refinement that is one of the links between the American progressives of the 1920s and the German Nazis of the 1930s and 40s. It's also a trait both groups share because of their common Darwinian heritage rooted in notions of survival of the fittest and evolutionary progress.

For the most part modern progressives keep mum about these proclivities, like closeted gays intent upon concealing from others their sexual predispositions, but every now and then the totalitarian inclination toward eugenics bubbles up like an inadvertent burp. We caught of bit of this in an earlier post about President Obama's new science czar and his extraordinary views, and we hear another embarrassing hiccup today from none other than a Supreme Court justice.

Jonah Goldberg provides us the details:

Here's what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in Sunday's New York Times Magazine: "Frankly I had thought that at the time [Roe vs. Wade] was decided," Ginsburg told her interviewer, Emily Bazelon, "there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of."

The comment, which bizarrely elicited no follow-up from Bazelon or any further coverage from the New York Times -- or any other major news outlet -- was in the context of Medicaid funding for abortion. Ginsburg was surprised when the Supreme Court in 1980 barred taxpayer support for abortions for poor women. After all, if poverty partly described the population you had "too many" of, you would want to subsidize it in order to expedite the reduction of unwanted populations.

Now, as Goldberg points out, Ginsburg might simply be stating the rationale of others for pushing for legalized abortion in the early seventies and not endorsing that rationale herself, though had she been, say, Antonin Scalia or Sarah Palin, you can bet there would've been some very aggressive follow-up questioning to ascertain exactly what she meant.

But Ginsburg's personal views are not so much the point as is the fact that she reveals an attitude on the "progressive" left that would be greeted with howls of outrage did it exist on the right. Contemporary progressives, or at least some of them, are still very much in favor of culling out the undesirables and purifying the race(s), but they know it's impolitic to flout their vision before the public eye, so it's kept in a closet from which it occasionally peeks and affords us a glimpse.

Read the rest of Goldberg's essay to better see what I mean. Better yet, for your summer beach reading, pack up Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism and/or Richard Weikert's From Darwin to Hitler. They're excellent.


Does Philosophy Make Better Scientists?

A piece at Discover caught my eye recently. It asks whether a more thorough background in philosophy would make scientists better at their vocation:

[A]side from whether modern physicists (and maybe scientists in other fields, I don't know) pay less attention to philosophy these days, and aside from why that might be the case, there is still the question: does it matter? ....

Probably not. Philosophical presuppositions certainly play an important role in how scientists work, and it's possible that a slightly more sophisticated set of presuppositions could give the working physicist a helping hand here and there. But based on thinking about the actual history, I don't see how such sophistication could really have moved things forward....I tend to think that knowing something about philosophy - or for that matter literature or music or history - will make someone a more interesting person, but not necessarily a better physicist.

The essay was primarily directed at the practice of physics, about which I cannot speak, but I do think that biology, or at least theorizing about biology, has indeed suffered for want of philosophical training among its practitioners, especially those who participate in the controversy surrounding the matter of the origin and diversification of life. Philosophy teaches one to recognize inconsistencies and hidden assumptions, both of which are pretty common among biologists who engage in these debates. It also teaches one to recognize fallacies of reasoning, like circular arguments, and it helps us to understand the difference between a metaphysical hypothesis and an empirical one, a distinction which often eludes Darwinian critics of intelligent design. Moreover, a little philosophical background might help more polemicists appreciate the difference between historical science, theoretical science, philosophy of science, and laboratory science, four different disciplines which often get confused in these discussions.

If biologists were more conversant with the philosophical issues related to their discipline there might be much less rancor and discord in the controversies over how best to interpret the biological evidence we have at hand, and there might be considerably more clarity brought to the question whether that evidence is best explained by materialism or by intelligent agency.


Why They Hate Her

Stuart Schwartz argues that the reason the elites, both liberal and conservative, can't stand Sarah Palin and are obsessed with destroying all vestiges of her political influence is that she takes her religious faith seriously. I imagine that that's largely true. I wrote a couple of years ago that it was his commitment to Christianity that lay at the root of much of the elite hostility to George Bush. It also accounts for a lot of the antipathy that Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are likely to encounter if they throw their hats in the ring for 2012.

The secular elites, especially those on the left but some on the right, as well, are deathly afraid of any politician who takes the Bible as an authority on how one should live. To actually think that one could talk to God, that God might guide one in making important decisions, that God cares about how we order our lives, that evil is a real moral category, that there are moral constraints on how we express our sexuality, that God actually played a significant role in the creation - is abhorrent to our intellectual and social betters whose religion, if they have one, is a tepid, lukewarm deism.

Sarah Palin, like George Bush, believes in a muscular Christianity. It guides her life and is a lightning rod for the contempt, derision and hatred of people who believe themselves too sophisticated for such superstitious nonsense. Having been to Ivy League universities they scoff at the plebians who presume to think there is really any such thing as Truth, particularly religious truth. They embody the cynicism of historian Edward Gibbon who wrote of the ancient Romans that all religions for the masses were equally true, for the intellectuals equally false, and for the politicians equally useful.

Schwartz does a pretty good job of lampooning the haughty superciliousness of the pseudo-sophisticates of the political and chattering classes. Check it out.