Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There must be more to political choice than two flavors of Kool-Aid

The Religious Right is Dead, writes Damian Thompson in the London Daily Telegraph.

Sadly, it's true.  And yet if so, good riddance, and may that vampire stay buried.

Adherence, or at least pandering, to Creationism, and zero tolerance for abortion, have been an achilles heel of conservatism in the US. 

I believe it's quite possible to value, and even be moved by, the moral and philosophical framework provided by Christianity without literally believing the science-fictional embellishments by which it is accompanied.  I treasure my church-going friends, and value the irreplaceable role that a well- and benevolently-run church can play in a community.

It is possible to vote Republican in spite of that party's abovementioned pandering, but if well-meaning, intelligent people hear abhorrent, ignorant statements about women or science from the likes of Akin or Mourdock (whatever their other virtues), I think it is quite understandable that they might, in comparison, consider the Democrats the party of Carl Sagan and vote accordingly.

Needless to say, Sagan was no admirer of regimes that were hostile to free expression and open questioning, and so some who abhor those features of the current US regime may consider themselves in a quandary of choosing between relatively well-meaning flat-earthers, and relatively well-informed Soviet-style tyrants.

It should not be necessary for one's choice to be limited only to which of two flavors of Kool-Aid to drink.

What the US needs is more Deism or its equivalent, a creed expressed by a number of the US founding fathers.  People who believed in the value of a Judeo-Christian moral framework but who did not believe in divine intervention, believed in liberty, and were not afraid to open their God-given eyes, ears and brains to a rational and factual understanding of the physical world, and of political and economic principles.

Sadly, Deists these days are a bit thin on the ground in the US, and those who prefer drinks other than Kool-Aid seem destined to be parched for some time to come.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A letter to Michael Smerconish

I am a former longtime listener to Michael Smerconish's program on WPHT 1210 in Philadelphia, and as such, have remained on his mailing list even though (for reasons that will soon become apparent), I no longer listen to his program.

One of his recent emails described his "disgust" at the polarization of US politics, and, perversely in my view, placed much of the blame on political commentators (would you place the blame for a blatant fumble or foul on the ref who called it?)

In response, I sent the letter below.



Have you considered the idea that the answer may not be for the two "extremes" to meet in the middle, but that one of those extremes may be very extreme indeed while the other one represents what was at one time [and still is, by many] considered quite middle of the road?

If one mathematician asserts that 2+2=4, and another asserts that 2+2=98, is it "extreme" for the first mathematician to stick to his original assertion?  Is it "moderate" or "reasonable" for an observer to try to convince both parties (and everyone else) that 2+2=47, since that would be "meeting in the middle" ?

What happens a year or two later, when the second mathematician asserts that 2+2=200?  Well, even the position that 2+2=47 would then be considered "extreme", correct?

Rather than apologizing for those in your field who are challenging the real extremists, and suggesting they exercise self-censorship (or that they should be censored), how about using your own position to expose more of the real extremism, rather than just telling everyone they should play nice together?  Would you tell your child to "play nice" with a bully who continually beat him up, as though he, as the victim, were 50% at fault?

Back in the days when you were writing books like "Muzzled", and actually digging up the dirt on people who needed a spotlight shown on them, I was an avid listener to your program.  Unfortunately, in recent years, from what I have seen and heard, you have become a spokesman for "play nice, no matter what", without regard who to is actually behaving dishonestly or abusively.

That is one manifestation of the idea that "they're each as bad as the other", a notion that is harmful to civil discourse and civic institutions, since it gives no credit to the good while never calling out the bad.  It is a philosophy that gives the advantage to the worst actors, every time.

Shame on you for promoting it.


Michael Vitsek