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Shermer’s false equivalencies

Nicely done! Rebecca Watson rebuts a recent article by Michael Shermer that tried to claim there was a liberal war on science. It was a very silly article; it’s not that I would ever claim that the liberal side is flawless — antivaxxers and proponents of quackery are found on both sides of the aisle , we had Tom Harkin throwing money down the drain of ‘alternative medicine’, and there are New Age notions of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ that defy reason — but the pathology isn’t usually a matter of policy on the left, where it is on the right.

And Shermer does such a poor job of supporting his claim! He repeatedly does a sneaky switch of throwing out statistics about the ignorance of the rank and file on science on both sides, and then pretending that these views reflect what the leadership is doing. In the US, we have a general problem of widespread ignorance of science; every party, every subgroup is going to be afflicted with a large number of clueless people. The real question is whether the ignorant people are effective in shaping policy. In the case of the Republicans, they are: the religious right and the Tea Party have had a profound influence on their representatives. Look at the House Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy, for instance; it’s chaired by Republican John Shimkus, a born-again evangelical Christian who fervently believes that global climate change is a hoax. Can you name a comparably deluded Democrat who is undermining serious scientific concerns?

We liberals do not have a Broun, or an Inhofe, or an Akin, or a Jindal in our ranks. Republicans do, and even take them seriously as potential presidents.

Or look at the last roster of Republican presidential candidates. Fortunately, the least anti-science of the bunch, Mitt Romney, got the nomination…but look look at the rest of those bozos, evolution deniers and anti-environmentalists everywhere. Democrats tend to be almost as pro-corporate as Republicans, but you simply don’t see those fringe anti-science beliefs making as much headway among them. Furthermore, Democrats tend to favor pro-education policy more than Republicans — they at least do not express a desire to destroy public education.

Among the worst of the presidential candidates, though, was Ron Paul, who was one of those who does not accept evolution and also desires the elimination of the Department of Education.

Maybe Mr Shermer’s next article should be about the Libertarian war on science and reason? Now there’s a mob of delusional idiots who deserve a serious dressing down.

Comments

  1. nohellbelowus says

    I’m Rand Paul! I’m a Libertarian! I’m independent! I’m a maker! I don’t need anybody else! What do y’all say… ARE YOU WITH ME???

    *crickets… crickets*

  2. says

    On energy issues, for example, the authors contend that progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities.

    he forgot “anti-solar because of desert tortoises”; because of course the only options are either 100% for it, no matter what, when, where, and how, or 100% against it. Bah.

    Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.

    might that be because Monsanto’s practices are fucked up and potentially very harmful? I mean, it’s not like this company hasn’t had a history of being fucking evil or anything.

    … scientists like E. O. Wilson and organizations like the National Center for Science Education are reaching out to moderates in both parties to rein in the extremists on evolution and climate change.

    that phrasing is… interesting. what “extremists on evolution and climate change” are there on the liberal side?

  3. says

    I went and read the whole thing just to see if Rebecca was being less than generous. Hardly, Shermer’s little screed is just him leading with his chin, raving about invisible liberal enemies and practically begging for the Full Frontal Driftglass with his mealy mouthed paean to mythical “moderates” who will save us all. Moderates best represented by Shermer of course. Shame on scientific American for giving him a soapbox.

  4. Suido says

    Furthermore, Democrats tend to favor pro-education policy more than Republicans

    How dare you mis-characterise the Republican/Libertarian (delete as appropriate) position like that. They are very pro-education, as long as it’s not funded by the government and has no quality controls other than adherence to the Bible/free market economics (delete as appropriate). What more education does anyone need?

  5. says

    In addition, consider “cognitive creationists”—whom I define as those who accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain.

    oh yeah. those are totes the only two options. believe in EP or be a creationist.

    barf.

    On a different note though, I’m loving the comments at skepchick:

    LawnBoy / January 23, 2013, 4:15 pm Log in to Reply
    Just to be sure, this disagreement with an article by Michael Shermer constitutes a “purge”, right?

    bcmystery / January 23, 2013, 4:35 pm Log in to Reply
    Why are you witch hunting the Shermster? Or is it Sherminator? … Shermaghetti?

    Rebecca Watson / January 23, 2013, 5:14 pm Log in to Reply
    The previous witch hunt was composed of, like, three sentences from Ophelia Benson, so this is probably more equivalent to a Death Star-type situation.

    oolon / January 23, 2013, 5:34 pm Log in to Reply
    Three sentences resulted in a Nazi-witch-hunt-inquisition… What level of hyperbole is left for a full blog post criticising him! Although you didn’t mention any of the trigger words, sexism/misogyny etc, so I’m sure it will be ok.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Maybe Mr Shermer’s next article should be about the Libertarian war on science and reason? Now there’s a mob of delusional idiots who deserve a serious dressing down.

    Amen PZ. Preach it.

  7. Suido says

    @Jadehawk #2

    what “extremists on evolution and climate change” are there on the liberal side?

    Well, that would be anyone who pointed to the IPCC reports ‘worst case scenarios’, which were obviously outlandish and scaremongering.

    The fact that we’re tracking worse than the worst case scenarios? Well, facts have an extremist liberal bias, donchaknow?

  8. jthompson says

    We don’t have a Joe Barton either. I never tire of reminding Republicans that they not only elected a continental drift denier, they reelected a continental drift denier after he bragged about being one.

  9. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    you know given those of the skeptic leadership suckling on the Cato teat maybe we need an article on the skeptic war against science

  10. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    and by moderate Shermer does mean conservative

  11. John Morales says

    [meta]

    I like the little addendum at the end of Shermer’s Scientific American piece:

    This article was originally published with the title The Left’s War on Science.

    Still, it’s kinda authoritative-impressive that he is published there, no?

    (Must be scientific! ;) )

  12. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    A quibble: the least anti-science Republican candidate was Jon Huntsman. He actually accepts the scientific consensus on evolution and global warming. Of course, he didn’t have a chance.

  13. eleutheria says

    He also cites some Gallup poll which claims that 41% of Democrats are young-earth creationist…. That sounds incredibly high– 41% believe in a 10,000 year old earth against all science?

    I think this is some artifact again of the poll taker and how the question was couched. Not to mention how the factoid was extracted from the poll itself. One would like to see the actual question, number of respondents, how the poll group was selected, etc. Who sponsored it?

  14. Fred Salvador - Colonialist says

    Well, that would be anyone who pointed to the IPCC reports ‘worst case scenarios’, which were obviously outlandish and scaremongering.

    The fact that we’re tracking worse than the worst case scenarios? Well, facts have an extremist liberal bias, donchaknow?

    This, more or less. It’s telling that proponents of action on climate change can be called ‘fanatics’ for reading out a scientific paper in a deadpan voice, yet unqualified denialists like Bob Monckton can fly from continent to continent saying things that are not only wrong, but actively massaged to be as wrong and tendentious as possible, yet people still listen to them. When the human race dies out, it’s not going to be because of asteroids or Ebolafluenza or fatal flaws in the genetic code; it’s going to be confirmation bias that kills us all.

  15. jdrs0819 says

    Shermer writes for CATO and is a known libertarian. It’s no surprise that he’s got a lot of sexist quirks and needs to talk bad about liberals while ignoring his own company.

  16. David Marjanović says

    Scientific American?

    What in the fuck?

    a Death Star-type situation

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    41% believe in a 10,000 year old earth against all science?

    No, why? Maybe 10 to 20 % of the total do. The rest of the 41 % believe in a 6,015-and-a-quarter-year-old Earth.

  17. Scr... Archivist says

    I find it interesting that Shermer slides from using the term “liberal” to the term “far-left”, as if they were equivalent. He must know that they are different.

    What does Shermer mean by “far-left? Is he referring to communists, or anarchists? Does he include social democrats? Or is he instead referring to people in countercultures like the New Age or primitivism, that aren’t as overtly political?

    And yet none of these groups have much influence in today’s conservative Democratic Party.

  18. leftwingfox says

    I always get so burnt out on nuclear discussions. As much as we talk about the wonders of thorium and the safety of subcritical reactors, they’re still all theoretical, with current roadmaps suggesting adoption by no earlier than 2030. That’s not exactly a “solve global warming” timescale.

    For what it’s worth, I’m all for 4th gen nuclear plants taking over from coal and natural gas. Hell, I’m all for pumping money into those initiatives to see if we can speed up the timelines a bit (Of course, that means taking money away from the military or rich fuckers. I guess that makes me a maoist nazi.)

    But compared to… say… ensuring cheap solar panels for homes in the south that need AC? Building wind-farms? Stricter efficiency standards on new construction, cars and electronics? Nuclear is not THE solution. It is simply part of _A_ solution.

    Which makes me, according to the comments from last time I posted this exact comment, a green nazi pinko sympathizer out to goose-step america into compost gulags.

  19. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    As I said at Skepchick, I love that the loony liberal moonbat anti-GMO guy Shermer dug up is Bill Maher. Bill “the libertarian” Maher.

  20. Fred Salvador - Colonialist says

    What does Shermer mean by “far-left? Is he referring to communists, or anarchists? Does he include social democrats? Or is he instead referring to people in countercultures like the New Age or primitivism, that aren’t as overtly political?

    This is the US we’re talking about, so ‘far-left’ could mean anything from ‘Josef Stalin’ to ‘that bloke who vaguely supports the notion of corporation tax in principle’. You people have some very odd ideas about politics.

  21. gmacs says

    Fortunately, the least anti-science of the bunch, Mitt Romney, got the nomination…

    Actually, the least anti-science candidate was the other Mormon. You know, the guy who actually said he didn’t want the GOP to become the anti-science party. How did he do again…?

  22. amylacc says

    Yes! This is what I was trying to explain to someone yesterday on Twitter. I need more than 140 characters apparently. I have always thought of the anti-science left as being “fringier” than the anti-science right, in that they don’t seem to have the reins of power quite the way anti-science Republicans do. A few things here and there, but certainly it’s not well-entrenched among the leadership.

    Shermer was just all over the map on this one. It was a false equivalency and he didn’t even define what he meant by “far-left” or liberal, as others have mentioned. It is not a case of “both sides do it” at all. To have a “war on science”, you actually have to do things, like, say, mandate that scientists only measure sea level rise a certain way, or prohibit the CDC from studying the effects of gun violence. Or mandate that only certain stem-cell lines can be used. Etc.

  23. says

    Fortunately, the least anti-science of the bunch, Mitt Romney, got the nomination

    If only. That would have been Jon Huntsman. Romney backtracked on AGW. Huntsman had the “guts” (yes, that is what it is called if you are a GOPer) to affirm his acceptance of AGW and evolution.

  24. neutrinosarecool says

    Ha, Shermer is the one who doesn’t understand science. We can break down a few of his stated examples with little difficulty:

    1) The actual problem with nuclear energy is something called heat exchange – i.e., the reason that Chernobyl and Fukushima popped their lids and contaminated their locales. Engineers understand this – nuclear reactors being little more than glorified steam turbine technology – water boilers – driven by nuclear fission systems that will, without constant monitoring and control, produce WAY too much energy for any plausible heat exchange system to handle. Critical excursion phenomenon drove Chernobyl, loss of power to cooling pumps drove Fukushima. Plus, any terrorist group could easily blow one of those suckers up, it could have happened on 9/11, and any other group of psychotic tweakers (see Algeria, etc.) could do the same. Terawatt-scale solar installations, by contrast, are not capable of contaminating a 100-mile diameter zone with persistent radionuclides for decades, nor do they suck up vast amounts of cooling water. Here, it is Shermer who is ignorant and unscientific. Sure, technophiles love the sound of ‘unlocking the secrets of the atom to power future human endeavors’ – but face reality. Uranium ore itself is hardly a robust energy supply, given the limited regions of the planet where it can be economically mined. Oh, please, you’re not going to spew BS about reprocessing ‘spent’ fuel rods or thorium drivel, are you? Extracting uranium from seawater or coal fly ash? Ye gods…

    2) GMOs are hyped to death by BOTH those who support them and those who don’t. Look at the Midwest drought – did Monsanto’s GMO corn (engineered to be RoundUp-Resistant) do any better with no rain than any other kind? Nope. Feeding the world, my ass. Destroying natural ecosystems, my ass. Just an effort by a seed company to corner the seed market using patents, little more than that. Bet they drive around sprinkling GMO pollen out of car windows in order to pursue patent infringement lawsuits against farmers who don’t want to buy their RoundUp – RoundUp-resistant seed scheme.

    Plants have a hard time growing without water, period. No GMO tricks will solve this problem, it’s a basic physiological limitation, one that glassy-eyed technophiles who’ve never tried to grow plants have a hard time comprehending (i.e. Shermer and friends). Similarly, those who fear GMOs will destroy natural ecosystems have never encountered grim little weeds, either, methinks – they’re already building in RoundUp-resistance, thanks to being saturated with the glyphosate poison all the time. Oh, it won’t be a nice ecosystem, it’ll be one with teeth in it, aimed at your throat – but it will be an ecosystem.

    It’s called evolution, Shermer. You can also see it with antibiotic resistance in human diseases (crotch-rotting drug-resistant gonorrhea, say) due to the idiotic use of antibiotics in industrial confined animal feedlot operations (the residue of which goes onto organic farms to feed the vegans, oh yes it does – blood meal, bone meal, feather dust, fishing bycatch, etc. – you can use that to horrify your vegan friends, if you so desire) And guess what, Shermer? Darwin was wrong about most of evolution, as seen through the modern scientific perspective. This doesn’t mean the high priest of atheism (as per Shermer’s take) didn’t make major advances in his day, but so did Newton – and he was wrong about most everything too. That’s science for you – the holy books have to be re-written every decade or so, but ossified old podium-thumpers like Shermer have a hard time with new ideas, don’t they?

    Shermer is an idiot who isn’t up do date on modern scientific discoveries – an ignorant educated person, the worst kind, since they have no room in their head for new information, and just regurgitate fragments of science from 100 years ago with arrogant certainty. No doubt he’ll be talking about the White Man’s Burden, next. Where are those phrenological calipers, what? Anyone who denies their veracity is an anti-science liberal, oh my yes.

  25. RFW says

    @ #9: jthompson wrote:

    … Republicans … not only elected a continental drift denier, they reelected a continental drift denier after he bragged about being one.

    I nearly fell over when I read that. I don’t know who the hell Joe Barton is (and, frankly, don’t want to know), but denying one of the most fruitful pieces of science to emerge in recent times?

    Is it possible that those who say “I don’t believe the theory of <whatever>” really mean “I donl’t understand the theory of <whatever>”??

    Suddenly those who don’t believe in evolution are more understandable: rather than rub their brain cells together in thought and make a genuine attempt to understand evolution, they’re lazy and take the lazy man’s way out: disbelief.

  26. says

    There definitely is a libertarian war on science; certainly among the leadership, and certainly in regards to climate science. The total anti-state approach of many libertarians has led many of them to simply deny every single position the U.S. Federal government takes. You don’t believe me? Just take a look at Lew Rockwell dot com! Take an especially good look at the Karen De Coster character (who lives in the good state of Orac, Brayton, and me!).

  27. says

    Also, Rand Paul and Bill Maher aren’t libertarians. ‘Libertarian-leaning’ and ‘libertarian’ mean very different things. Libertarians support the legalization of cocaine and the abolition of Medicare and Social Security. They also strongly oppose war.

  28. says

    One more problem with his analogy: if you go to your local head shop or organic food store or other stereotypical hippie hang-out, you’ll find plenty of people with unsupported views about the dangers of nuclear power and gmos. What you won”t find much of is people arguing that physicists and botanists are in a worldwide conspiracy and we need to stop teaching fusion and genetics in school. The anti-science strains aren’t at all comparable.

  29. jose says

    Just a thought that crossed my mind… drop Rebecca Watson a message asking her who designs Skepchick.org and hire them.

  30. AtheistPowerlifter says

    Lots of talk about Libertarianism…color me ignorant, but can someone point me to a good reference/site that can define what ‘libertarianism’ actually is?

    There seems to be no definitive definition…

    AP

  31. Rodney Nelson says

    AtheistPowerlifter #31

    Despite what Enopoletus Harding may say, there’s no simple definition of libertarian. Mike Huben, in his Non-Libertarian FAQ, says:

    It’s hard to clearly define libertarianism. “It’s a dessert topping!” “No, it’s a floor wax!” “Wait–it’s both!” It’s a mixture of social philosophy, economic philosophy, a political party, and more. It would be unjust for me to try to characterize libertarianism too exactly: libertarians should be allowed to represent their own positions. At least two FAQs have been created by libertarians to introduce their positions. But the two major flavors are anarcho-capitalists (who want to eliminate political governments) and minarchists (who want to minimize government.) There are many more subtle flavorings, such as Austrian and Chicago economic schools, gold-bug, space cadets, Old-Right, paleo-libertarians, classical liberals, hard money, the Libertarian Party, influences from Ayn Rand, and others. An interesting survey is in chapter 36 of Marshall’s “Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism”, “The New Right and Anarcho-capitalism.”

    This diversity of libertarian viewpoints can make it quite difficult to have a coherent discussion with them, because an argument that is valid for or against one type of libertarianism may not apply to other types. This is a cause of much argument in alt.politics.libertarian: non-libertarians may feel that they have rebutted some libertarian point, but some other flavor libertarian may feel that his “one true libertarianism” doesn’t have that flaw. These sorts of arguments can go on forever because both sides think they are winning. Thus, if you want to try to reduce the crosstalk, you’re going to have to specify what flavor of libertarianism or which particular point of libertarianism you are arguing against.

  32. ckitching says

    Wow, that list of “myths” about libertarians is sure stacked with strawpersons. They take something someone has actually said about libertarians and their ‘creed’ (“libertarians act as if they owe their success or failure to no one but themselves”) and exaggerate it so that’s it’s utterly ridiculous (“each individual is an isolated, hermetically sealed atom”), then calmly dissect the ridiculous misstatement.

  33. says

    that phrasing is… interesting. what “extremists on evolution and climate change” are there on the liberal side?

    I can guess his (laughable) response about AGW. I would love to hear a clear statement about who specifically Shermer – who IIRC has been involved with the Templeton Foundation – considers a pro-evolution extremist.

  34. Akira MacKenzie says

    After my teenage-early college love affair with conservatism (and with it, theism), I became enthralled with libertarianism, especially as it was described by anarcho-capitalist/gun-nut science fiction author L. Neil Smith. (If you want to get an idea of how libertarians think the world ought to work, track down one of his books. Any one of them will do, they’re all more or less the same story, regurgitated with different names.) I really thought that the mixture of unrestrained markets and personal freedoms was “consistent” compared to the views of the diametrically opposed stances of the Left and the Right that I found hypocritical. I mean, if you really and truly believed in freedom, you’d oppose both taxation and censorship; you’d support abortion rights AND gun ownership; you want to legalize pot and prostitution. Anything less was tyrannical and curtailed the liberties of individuals.

    Now, over a decade later, as I watched the world rot culturally, environmentally, and economically at the hands of idiots who preached the litany of “limited government” and “personal freedom,” I can confidently say, without reservation, “FUCK FREEDOM!” It’s time we had a little more statism… No, fuck that… a lot more statism to clean up the chaos unrestrained capitalism and individual liberty has wrought.

    We don’t need “liberty.” That’s what got us into this mess. We need order.

  35. erikthebassist says

    This doesn’t mean the high priest of atheism (as per Shermer’s take) didn’t make major advances in his day, but so did Newton – and he was wrong about most everything too. That’s science for you – the holy books have to be re-written every decade

    Ummm, no, this tired old trope is trotted out by science denialists all the time to try and convince themselves that science isn’t a valid method for probing nature and figure it out.

    Newton was most certainly not wrong about almost anything. His laws of motion are still very accurate when describing locally. True, they break down at relativistic scales, but that doesn’t make him wrong, just incomplete. Same with Darwin, he wasn’t wrong per se, he just didn’t have the complete picture, we still don’t, but we’ve filled in a lot of the gaps since then.

    Science doesn’t get overturned every decade, we simply add to our knowledge base. Sure, some ideas are amended, but very rarely do we throw out the whole book and start over. In fact, I can’t think of case where we have.

  36. erikthebassist says

    We don’t need “liberty.” That’s what got us into this mess. We need order.

    We can’t have both?

  37. erikthebassist says

    opps in 38 I meant to type “Newton was most certainly not wrong about almost everything

    He was definitely wrong about alchemy. ;-)

  38. erikthebassist says

    and I apparently shouldn’t post when I’m in a hurry to get out the door to pick someone up at the airport.

  39. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    The real question is whether the ignorant people are effective in shaping policy. In the case of the Republicans, they are: the religious right and the Tea Party have had a profound influence on their representatives.

    Audio: Theda Skocpol – The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
    (Sociology lecture, 1:03:09)

    @32:33: If they help to elect a legislator to the state legislature or congress – and they did help to elect quite a few in 2010 – they keep a close eye on him or her. They know the numbers of the bills, which committees they’re going through, when, who to contact to express their views. They create a fire under the feet of Republican officeholders. And even if they liked them when they were first elected, they don’t trust them after that. They’re pressuring them never to compromise with Democrats, and they’re pressuring them for certain kinds of policy goals…

  40. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Lots of talk about Libertarianism…color me ignorant, but can someone point me to a good reference/site that can define what ‘libertarianism’ actually is?

    At its simplest, ‘libertarianism’ is a strong preference for freedom. This encompasses two major groups: the “civil libertarians” like Ed Brayton who are willing to accept limitations imposed by a government on what actions may be taken provided there is an actually good reason for the limitations (“least restrictive means of achieving a compelling societal or state objective” is a common phrasing) – and, importantly, they don’t just announce this but actually acquiesce when it can be demonstrated. Basically, they want their government kept honest and efficient. Unfortunately, many of them are slow in recognizing that the term “Libertarianism,” used without qualifiers and especially with capitalists, has been thoroughly and irrevocably claimed by the second group

    The other strain can be summarized as “narcisso-capitalism.” The define freedom solely as “never being told no by an agent of society as a whole.” Abuses of power by private citizens are fine – if a boss sexually harasses a female employee, she should quit her job and try to get another one; if a company sweetens their product with lead acetate to save money, the surviving consumers can always shop somewhere else. Some of them will suffer enough government to fantasize that industrial pollution could be handled by private citizens taking polluters to court over the degradation of their property; others imagine that they can hold off the hordes of poor and/or brown people just like Rambo.

    People who have money obviously deserve it, unless they got it using certain dishonest or abusive tactics (generally those employed by poor thieves – switchblades are bad, impenetrably worded contracts are fine), they are willing to lie to themselves so egregiously they claim that an impoverished child in an inner city school and a rich little shit who can sleep through all his classes and still have daddy threaten to withhold alumni donations unless he passes have an “equal opportunity for success,” and they believe that anyone who doesn’t make it obviously isn’t trying hard enough and deserves to starve because they must have somewhere, somehow, “made bad decisions.” So do their kids, even the ones too young to make ANY decisions. Except that private charity can solve all those problems, or would if society weren’t being held back by government welfare. And if there’s no private charity available or with the resources to help, people can rely on friends and family. And if they don’t have friends or family, at least with the resources to help, they should rely on private charity. And they’ll go in circles with this for hours. They have very, very arbitrary, almost superstitious ideas about what does and does not constitute “initiating force” or “violating another’s rights.” They’re generally very, very fond of their guns, which they imagine they need for anything from defending themselves against the brown people waiting around every corner with a switchblade, to defending themselves in the coming Race War, to holding off UN black helicopters (noticing a pattern?) Misogyny is a common accompaniment. Not every narcisso-capitalist has all these traits, of course, but the apple rarely rots far from the tree.

    Basically, weld the Just World Fallacy to a three year old screaming “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

  41. ChasCPeterson says

    We don’t need “liberty.” That’s what got us into this mess. We need order.

    Fascist.

  42. John Morales says

    Azkyroth,

    The other strain can be summarized as “narcisso-capitalism.” The define freedom solely as “never being told no by an agent of society as a whole.” Abuses of power by private citizens are fine – if a boss sexually harasses a female employee, she should quit her job and try to get another one; if a company sweetens their product with lead acetate to save money, the surviving consumers can always shop somewhere else.

    Pithy, and dead accurate.

  43. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @erikthebassist:

    He was definitely wrong about alchemy. ;-)

    Video: William Newman – Why did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy? (48:21)
    Audio: Same lecture, plus Q&A at 52:15.
    He does some chemistry on stage, so the vid’s preferable.

  44. says

    To add to what erikthebassit is saying there’s a nice piece by asimov called the relativity of wrong about how an answer or explanation that isn’t entirely correct can still be very useful. That we shouldn’t necessarily think of everything in terms of binary right or wrong but in more of a spectrum of how right or under what circumstances they are right/useful. It’s a good little read if anyone’s interested. http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

  45. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Question I can’t seem to look up: do the various laws enabling naturopaths to prescribe real meds and otherwise giving them doctor-like privileges come from the right, the left, or both?

  46. says

    Uranium ore itself is hardly a robust energy supply, given the limited regions of the planet where it can be economically mined. Oh, please, you’re not going to spew BS about reprocessing ‘spent’ fuel rods or thorium drivel, are you? Extracting uranium from seawater or coal fly ash? Ye gods…

    Not to mention, the more ridiculous measures you have to take to extract uranium, the more the quality of the ore declines. As the quality declines, the more ore you need to obtain to produce the same amount of energy. Uranium ore at >0.02% requires more energy to mine and enrich than it eventually puts out during the fission process, and then you fall right off the energy cliff.

    According to J.W. Storm Van Leeuwen if we don’t find new sources of pure uranium soon (which is increasingly unlikely), we’ll fall off the cliff between 2050 and 2080.

    (I just did a paper on this a few months ago.)

  47. WhiteHatLurker says

    Just another note of support for Huntsman as the most scientifically aware Republican candidate.

    How soon y’all forget down south in Morris.

  48. duphrane says

    I know a thing or two about the economics of energy, and it seems reasonable if liberals are against expanding all forms of energy production in favor of reducing the overall energy usage through efficiency. Hence Shermer’s point that we are contradicting ourselves is moot.

    I want to expand nuclear energy, if we expand anything, because I think it is better than the alternatives. But, as Shermer criticizes, I will place the caveat that we should figure out how to dispose of the waste. That is not a difficult solution scientifically (just stick it underground somewhere remote), but it is politically tricky (no one wants it). I would recommend that we open up bids for the low-bidding local government to become the national waste storage site, but I am afraid that this is equivalent to just mandating that we stick it all in the Silver Dome (sorry Detroit).

  49. ckitching says

    Just another note of support for Huntsman as the most scientifically aware Republican candidate.

    Everyone knew Jon Huntsman never stood a chance. His fate was completely sealed when he decided it would be a good idea to speak in Chinese in a Republican debate.

  50. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @ckitching:

    His fate was completely sealed when he decided it would be a good idea to speak in Chinese in a Republican debate.

    Wow. I missed the chatter surrounding that.
     
    Article: Slate – Jon Huntsman claims he’s fluent in Chinese. Is he?

  51. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    As neutrinosarecool and evilisgood have mentioned one of the problems of expanding nuclear is that uranium stocks are reducing (at least high quality enough stocks that it is worth the energy expended to get the fuel) already. Expanding nuclear will only deplete the available stocks quicker.
    Not to mention that due to costs of building, maintaining (especially with high enough safety standards), waste disposal and the big one that frequently gets forgotten – decommissioning, most nuclear power stations are not economically viable in terms of cradle to grave analyses. That’s not even including insurance which is so big a cost that it usually gets covered by the local government over a certain part because the nuclear plants are effectively uninsurable.

    Over a 20 year period you will get more energy out of a kg of silicon in a solar cell than you will out of a kg of uranium in a nuclear power station. And with less public risk. Harvesting energy flows rather than using stored energy is more sustainable long term (at least until the sun expands and wipes out the Earth, but that’s a bit more long term than I’m going to worry about).

  52. Suido says

    We don’t need “liberty.” That’s what got us into this mess. We need order.

    Spoken like a true infinite city sprawl strategist – it’s not Civ 5 if you’re not settling moar cities, building moar factories, and pumping out moar Great Engineers! Productivity will set you free!*

    *Free to live in the best** civilization in the world!

    **Best at factories and winning!

  53. ubique says

    We don’t need “liberty.” That’s what got us into this mess. We need order.”

    Jesus christ on a cracker, yes! Maybe it’s the facist Canadian in me, but it’s amazing what a positive difference a little more order can make in the lives of any population. I just finished reading Pierre Berton’s book on the Klondike gold rush, and the difference in deaths, crime and misery between the ‘liberty’ of the American side, and the ‘order’ of the Canadian side is enormous. Sometimes people will make bad decisions, and while fundamental libertarianism demands that we let people suffer from those decisions, humanitarianism demands that we either act to help them through bad times, or prevent them from making the poor decision in the future. You could call it Fascism, but that’s treading close to Godwin territory. Try explaining without emotion-laden epithets exactly what is wrong with the idea.

  54. nytzschy says

    Is Michael’s head lodged firmly up his butt, or is he still pushing inwards? Not that he’s completely and utterly wrongheaded—but still, Shermer, get real.

    Akira MacKenzie above mentioned L. Neil Smith’s books as examples of Libertarian thought. His first book, “The Probability Broach,” is actually available online in graphic novel form for free:

    http://www.bigheadpress.com/tpbtgn?page=0

    (Trigger Warning: it gets gory just a couple of pages in. Avoid it if you are bothered by such; you aren’t missing much, anyway)

    I read this version a long time ago, but as I remember it is kinda sorta schlocky fun when it gets into the real goofy sci-fi part, at least when it’s not painfully facile and pretentious (which is often).

    The absolute funniest thing about the book, however, is this fact taken straight from its wikipedia page:

    The Probability Broach won the 1982 Prometheus Award, an award L. Neill Smith himself created, given by the Libertarian Futurist Society.

    Richly deserved, I’m sure.

  55. yubal says

    Among the worst of the presidential candidates, though, was Ron Paul, who was one of those who does not accept evolution and also desires the elimination of the Department of Education.

    It was so frustrating that the only candidate who had a clear stance against military spending and interventionism was completely unfit to run the oval office (or anything else).

    Maybe Eugene McCarthy knows how to “stabilize” an Obama-Paul hybrid we could use as president for a while?

  56. neuralobserver says

    …the least anti-science of the bunch, Mitt Romney…

    Myers, wrong again. The least anti-science of the full original group of candidates that threw their hats into the ring was Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the race early, mainly due to lack of funding support, likely due in no small part to his reasonable grounding in reality (the only one accepting evolutionary theory early in the debates.)

  57. strange gods before me ॐ says

    At its simplest, ‘libertarianism’ is a strong preference for freedom. This encompasses two major groups: the “civil libertarians” like Ed Brayton who are willing to accept limitations imposed by a government on what actions may be taken provided there is an actually good reason for the limitations (“least restrictive means of achieving a compelling societal or state objective” is a common phrasing) – and, importantly, they don’t just announce this but actually acquiesce when it can be demonstrated. Basically, they want their government kept honest and efficient.

    No, that’s not what civil libertarianism is. And you’ve just described liberalism there, not civil libertarianism per se (“least restrictive means of achieving a compelling societal or state objective” summarizes the legal doctrine of levels of scrutiny, and as a guideline is pretty much uncontroversial among liberals and conservatives alike).

    Civil libertarianism is a false friend of libertarianism; the word ‘libertarian’ in ‘civil libertarian’ is a homonym or polyseme to ‘libertarian’-as-political-group, not derived from it. We get ‘civil libertarian’ directly from the English term ‘civil liberties’ — a civil libertarian is someone particularly interested in protecting civil liberties. On the other hand, ‘libertarian’ per se comes to us from the French ‘libertaire’, that is, anarchism. Hence your ‘narcisso-capitalism’ play on ‘anarcho-capitalism’; these folks are the right-wing descendants of 1800s anarchists.

    Simply, civil libertarians are not a subset of libertarians. If they were, then I would be a libertarian because I’m an ACLU donor. The CPUSA would be a libertarian organization because of their platform, Bill of Rights socialism (there is such a thing as libertarian communism, the left-wing descendants of those 1800s anarchists, but Leninists aren’t it). PZ would be a libertarian too, along with pretty much everyone else here.

    Ed is a left-libertarian because he says he is. And that’s what makes him a libertarian. He’s also a civil libertarian, but that isn’t the same thing.

    Agreed with the rest of your comment, including how self-described civil libertarians ought not to bother so describing.

  58. strange gods before me ॐ says

    WordPress doesn’t like double colons now?

    civil libertarian is to libertarian as starfish is to fish

  59. Muz says

    The short version of the definition, I think, is: In the US, Randists are generally Libertarians, but Libertarians are only mostly Randists.
    (or should that be, ‘the confusing version’?)

  60. says

    “the least anti-science of the bunch, Mitt Romney, got the nomination”

    As others have pointed out, Huntsman was the sanest one of the bunch. Which is why the GOP eliminated him so quickly.

  61. =8)-DX says

    Best comment from the skepchick thread:

    Ginger / January 23, 2013, 10:53 pm Log in to Reply
    I lost most of my respect for Shermer when he cut in the middle of a very long line at the cheese and cracker table at TAM 8.

  62. birgerjohansson says

    Nit-picking about the use of “far-left”. Grandpa Simpson at Fox News never say just “left” about those he disagrees with, it is only ever “far left”. It seems like Shermer is into the same manner of scaring his readers.
    I second Fred Salvador @ 21.
    — — — — — — — —
    Regarding “order”: If North America was Europe, Canada would be Scandinavia. The canucks make things work without imposing the Third Reich.

  63. birgerjohansson says

    ubique,
    Berton has written several books about the gold rush in Klondyke. Which one are you referring to?

  64. says

    I view the Randists as similar to, but separate from, the libertarians. Ayn Rand never liked the word. The Randists are typically quicker to support a war (I think they still support war with Iran). The Randists also strongly oppose anarchism.

  65. says

    And of course, you have to wonder what the point is of this whole exercise of pointing out the liberals are almost “just as bad” as conservatives. It’s pretty much on big tu quoque argument, but to what end is he making that argument? To defend conservatives? Oppose liberals? Or what?

  66. transkeptic says

    “and then pretending that these views reflect what the leadership is doing.”

    I read Shermer’s article, and I don’t see where he does this. Looks like PZ is just trolling another atheist to get attention, like with Sam Harris and Dawkins.

  67. Matt Penfold says

    I read Shermer’s article, and I don’t see where he does this. Looks like PZ is just trolling another atheist to get attention, like with Sam Harris and Dawkins.

    Well it would require you understand what the Republican War on Science is about. You see. Shermer compares a liberal war on science to the Republican one, and given the Republican war on science has leaders within the Republican movement active in promoting anti-science measures, it follows that for the liberal war must has a similar feature (or Shermer would have made it clear that is a key difference, and he didn’t). Yet there is not same attack of science from leaders on the left of American politics, thus the comparison fails.

    And thus your comments makes no sense.

  68. transkeptic says

    Maybe it was an oversight on Shermer’s part. Like it or not, you have to read between the lines to get where PZ is. That Shermer is just being jumped on instead of being asked for a clarification of his position is what makes this look like attention-seeking behavior.

  69. echidna says

    neural observer said:

    Myers, wrong again. The least anti-science of the full original group of candidates that threw their hats into the ring was Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the race early, mainly due to lack of funding support, likely due in no small part to his reasonable grounding in reality (the only one accepting evolutionary theory early in the debates.)

    You can give PZ a bit more credit than that. I remember him commenting on this at the time. Huntsman was the only Republican candidate for president to speak out for the scientific views on evolution and global warming. He also doesn’t stand a prayer of getting the nomination. His position is a confirmation that the Christian majority hates science. And mormons.

    Huntsman was never going to win the nomination because of his “extreme” views on evolution.

  70. Matt Penfold says

    Maybe it was an oversight on Shermer’s part. Like it or not, you have to read between the lines to get where PZ is.

    Yes you do. So what ?

    That you cannot read between the lines suggest that you either do not understand the situation Shermer is attempting to describe, or your comprehension skills are poor.

  71. Matt Penfold says

    The use of “skeptic” in a nym should give you pause for thought.

    Yeah it should. I cannot remember the last time someone using “sceptic” in their name was not guilty of false-advertising.

  72. transkeptic says

    Well when you ‘read between the lines’ you’re making assumptions about what the author thinks and believes, so it’s something that is best done when there’s a lot of material to cross-check with. A 4 or 5 paragraph article isn’t a great source for this type of thing. Maybe Shermer wrote the article while he was intoxicated. Maybe he was rushing through it to meet a deadline. There are plenty of possibilities that could explain why Shermer hasn’t explicitly mentioned something. All that I’m saying is that there are plenty of ways short articles can and are misunderstood, and that it’s probably better to withhold judgment until we’re sure he actually believes what we think he does.

  73. Matt Penfold says

    Well when you ‘read between the lines’ you’re making assumptions about what the author thinks and believes, so it’s something that is best done when there’s a lot of material to cross-check with. A 4 or 5 paragraph article isn’t a great source for this type of thing.

    Shermer has written a lot more than that one article, so why say such a stupid thing ?

    Maybe Shermer wrote the article while he was intoxicated.

    Maybe was he. So what ?

    Maybe Shermer wrote the article while he was intoxicated. Maybe he was rushing through it to meet a deadline.

    Maybe was he. So what ?

    There are plenty of possibilities that could explain why Shermer hasn’t explicitly mentioned something. All that I’m saying is that there are plenty of ways short articles can and are misunderstood, and that it’s probably better to withhold judgment until we’re sure he actually believes what we think he does.

    So you think such articles should go uncriticised ?

    You clearly are not aware who Shermer is, if you think all we have to go on is this one article. And if you do know who is, why are spouting this bullshit ?

  74. says

    All that I’m saying is that there are plenty of ways short articles can and are misunderstood

    Granted.

    and that it’s probably better to withhold judgment until we’re sure he actually believes what we think he does.

    Wouldn’t raising these objections / looking for clarification be the surest method of determining what he means?

  75. transkeptic says

    Well if you can link me to the other articles Shermer has written on the matter, or articles which are directly relevant to your interpretation of his article, I’ll consider taking your position more seriously. And dude, calm down. You think I’m stupid and that what I’m saying makes no sense – I get it.

  76. Matt Penfold says

    Well if you can link me to the other articles Shermer has written on the matter, or articles which are directly relevant to your interpretation of his article, I’ll consider taking your position more seriously. And dude, calm down. You think I’m stupid and that what I’m saying makes no sense – I get it.

    Look,, if you are not aware of who Shermer is, go read a load of stuff he has written. Then, and only then, come back.

    Until then, I consider you to be arguing from a position of willful ignorance. And if you do not want to be thought stupid, stop saying stupid things.

  77. transkeptic says

    “Wouldn’t raising these objections / looking for clarification be the surest method of determining what he means?”

    Yes, you’re right. And to be honest, my first comment about PZ trying to troll was unfounded and I take it back. I was just biased by all the controversy I’ve read about PZ and did the same thing with him as I’m arguing against we do to Shermer. I guess what I’m saying is that PZ should have said “if what Shermer is trying to say is…” before he went on to demolish the argument.

  78. Matt Penfold says

    transkeptic,

    Could you also please let us know how you tried to get in touch with PZ so that you could clarify this post of his with him, before you posted your comment. Or do you think the rules you want PZ to follow do not apply to you ?

  79. transkeptic says

    “Look,, if you are not aware of who Shermer is, go read a load of stuff he has written. Then, and only then, come back.

    Until then, I consider you to be arguing from a position of willful ignorance. And if you do not want to be thought stupid, stop saying stupid things.”

    No, I just want you to calm down so that you can articulate yourself better. You’re making a claim and then telling me to go find the evidence supporting your argument. C’mon.

  80. transkeptic says

    Beat you to it, Matt. Now that we’ve established that I’m willing to withdraw comments that I realize are incorrect, maybe you’ll be willing to extend the same courtesy.

  81. Matt Penfold says

    No, I just want you to calm down so that you can articulate yourself better. You’re making a claim and then telling me to go find the evidence supporting your argument. C’mon.

    I am telling you to go an read more Shermer. That you seem to be unable to find anything else by him suggests I am right to think you stupid.

    Stop be a fucking idiot. If you don’t know who Shermer is, say so and apologise.

  82. Matt Penfold says

    Beat you to it, Matt. Now that we’ve established that I’m willing to withdraw comments that I realize are incorrect, maybe you’ll be willing to extend the same courtesy.

    What I have said that is incorrect ?

  83. transkeptic says

    Practically everything you just said about how you know what Shermer thinks. And I won’t bother replying anymore if you can’t understand what I’m going to say next. I asked for articles that we could use to cross-check our interpretation of this one; that requires that they are somehow related to this topic. I’ve read a few of Shermer’s books and many of his other articles, mostly on new-age stuff, morality and beliefs. Nothing to do with the political left and anti-science. I know who he is. What I don’t know of is any other sources we could use to determine if Shermer means what you think he means. You said that there are, and I’m asking for them. It’s up to the person making a claim to provide the evidence.

    Your condescension was probably justified given that I can see how my first post was silly and inflammatory, but I’ve already taken that back. So, yeah.

  84. Matt Penfold says

    Your condescension was probably justified given that I can see how my first post was silly and inflammatory, but I’ve already taken that back. So, yeah.

    At least you accept you were fucking idiot.

    Next time don’t offer an opinion about something you know nothing about. And don’t complain when people point out you are fucking idiot either.

    That you are still not aware Shermer is a professional writer, and can be assumed to mean what he writes suggests you still have not fully got the hang of not being a fuckwit though. So keep trying.

  85. Maureen Brian says

    transkeptic,

    Once you find out who Michael Shermer is, read some of what he has written and brought yourself up to date on what has been happening lately, then your point of view will be of interest.

    Those of us who read PZ frequently and sometimes disagree with him do not need a child’s guide to what the professor may be thinking. That does not mean that we are wrong. It means you will do better in a fight if you know the lay of the land, in this case if you find out who it is we are talking about.

    While you’re doing that you might want to ponder how it is that within two days a feminist science commentator and a philosophy professor put up blog posts critical of two entirely different articles. An interesting exercise might be to discover what those critiques have in common and how they differ.

    The links, again, are here …

    http://skepchick.org/2013/01/is-there-a-liberal-war-on-science/

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/michael-shermer-on-morality.html

  86. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I asked for articles that we could use to cross-check our interpretation of this one; t

    Why should we do your homework for you arrogant and ignorant one? Must be another liberturd.

  87. transkeptic says

    Thanks for the reply Maureen. My main disagreement with Matt was that his argument was essentially “it’s obvious, it’s obvious!”, with no backing evidence. Admittedly, I stopped being ‘in the loop’ with skepticism and atheism 3-4 years ago for lack of time, and as stated my readings of Shermer had little to do with the current topic. But none of this excuses his sloppy, hand-wavy argumentation which was the main point of disagreement.

    Now, if I’m not mistaken, what you’re trying to get at with those articles is that Shermer is viewed as someone who likes to make bold statements, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that he’s trying to do the same in this case. Fair enough, I accept that. I’ve already retracted my original criticism of PZ, however, so I think any disagreement we may have on this issue is already long gone.

  88. Matt Penfold says

    blockquote>Thanks for the reply Maureen. My main disagreement with Matt was that his argument was essentially “it’s obvious, it’s obvious!”, with no backing evidence. Admittedly, I stopped being ‘in the loop’ with skepticism and atheism 3-4 years ago for lack of time, and as stated my readings of Shermer had little to do with the current topic. But none of this excuses his sloppy, hand-wavy argumentation which was the main point of disagreement.

    So you now admit to arguing from willful ignorance. And I was not saying “it’s obvious, it’s obvious!”, I was saying you need to read more Shermer. It seems you now accept I was right. There was no need to point to any specific article of his. Indeed, the argument I was making is not one that can be made by doing that. You know that of course, but you are trying to hide your intellectual dishonesty.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    with no backing evidence.

    You were making the skeptical claim, ergo it was up to you to provide the evidence that Matt was wrong. You aren’t much of a skeptic. Change your nym.

  90. Matt Penfold says

    Oh, and I would add that if you had bothered to inform yourself, you would find that whilst Shermer makes bad arguments poorly supported by evidence, the arguments he makes are clear and not ambigious. In other words, he writes clearly. That is something you only realise by reading what he has written, which is what I told you to do.

    Can you explain the intellectual dishonesty you have shown here ?

  91. Roy Crawford says

    I thought Jon Huntsman was the only Republican candidate who was not anti science. He actually made a statement that evolution and climate change were valid. Of course that’s why he never got 1% of their vote. A shame.

  92. transkeptic says

    Uh, Matt is claiming that because Shermer didn’t *explicitly* say that he *doesn’t* have some view, that he must have that view. I made no claim. Are both of you serious posters? If so, you’re doing a great disservice to FTB with your crappy reasoning. Certain people, like myself, come here to see if FTB really is full of vitriolic people who whose sole purpose in life seems to be to troll the fuck out of people who disagree with them. Okay, this may be how you get your kicks, but you’re only damaging what the bloggers on this site are trying to build up. Anyway, like Matt, I won’t bother if you’re just going to troll.

  93. Matt Penfold says

    transkeptic,

    That was not an explanation of your intellectual honesty. Do you want another go ?

  94. says

    transkeptic:
    I wanted to point out that your finger wagging at Matt over his perceived anger is presumptuous (in much the same manner as your opinion of reading between the lines). From where I am sitting, nothing Matt said indicated anger on his part (so no need to be condescendingly told to calm down by a commenter focusing on his tone, rather than the substance). If you are unfamiliar with Pharyngula’s style of comments, may I suggest you lurk more?

  95. Matt Penfold says

    transkeptic,

    And if you recall, it was you who was claiming that Shermer did not mean what he wrote. You have never once offered any evidence to support that claim other than he might have been drunk or in a rush.

    Look you came, you make a stupid comment because you are none to bright or honest. Accept that you got caught.

  96. says

    Transkeptic:
    You are not going to last here if all you can see in responses is vitriol. The responses to you have been mild. You have been intellectually dishonest. Do not berate bloggers and commenters who have read material by Shermer and thus have an informed opinion while you have failed to do so yourself.

  97. Steve LaBonne says

    You know, as silly and intellectually dishonest as I find liberal religion to be, I’ll take a liberal-in-both-senses Christian over a libertoony atheist any day of the week.

  98. Matt Penfold says

    You know, as silly and intellectually dishonest as I find liberal religion to be, I’ll take a liberal-in-both-senses Christian over a libertoony atheist any day of the week.

    Me too. I am coming to realise that belief or not in god does not really make any difference as to how progressive one is politically.

  99. md says

    If a Libertarian were ever to truly have some Federal influence on education policy, be still my beating heart, the pointless Dept. of Education would perhaps be eliminated freeing us from the possibility of national standards across the country. The country would then respond, as it has done for the 200 years prior to the creation of D of Ed, by choosing education standards at the community level. PZ himself found his way to a nice science education without the guiding hand of an Arne Duncan. Most folks would have access to decent science education if they so desired. Some would not. Its imperfect.

    But you go and create a national one size fits all policy, you get No child Left Behind, you get teachers teaching to the largely pointless national standards, you get teachers engaged in cheating scandals for their students, and you get a bureaucracy with the capability to do something like this should the wrong people get hold if it, which is quite possible.

  100. Maureen Brian says

    And now, transkeptic, I’m going to disagree with you on several counts.

    First, we have the OP written by PZ – a science professor, a noted campaigner for decent science education, for critical thinking and against the way religious baggage interferes with both – in which he is critical of the quality of Shermer’s argumentation. He’s allowed to do that. It’s his blog.

    After some conversation you walk into the centre of the room and announce that PZ has got it wrong – no introduction, no credentials, no supporting evidence, just you have an opinion. So? Did no-one ever tell you such behaviour is rude?

    Clearly not because 2 posts later Matt pops up to point out that it is rude and direct you towards the notion that this is not happening in a vacuum – there is a backstory. He made his point forcefully but I do not see that he was personally abusive to you. Perhaps he showed just a touch of the ennui we all experience when faced with people who have not done their homework, of whom there seem to be millions all wanting to take a pop at someone.

    Have you admitted to yourself that your behaviour triggered the response you got? Are we going to see you again once you have read the two blog posts linked and are able to take a full part in this discussion? It will be interesting to watch.

  101. Ogvorbis says

    Yes, md.

    It was done wrong and thus there is no possibility that a national education standard, a national curriculum, a national standard for a minimum corpus of knowledge could ever be done right. It failed once so we should never try again. Gotcha.

  102. Matt Penfold says

    As I understand in the US, the curricula to be taught in schools is decided at a local level. Given all the attempts to get creationism taught as science, and the resulting lawsuits, it is not at all clear to me quite why anyone would think education in the US is safe in local control.

  103. says

    md:
    You must masturbate to the idea of the US no longer being competitive in the sciences. What a massively STUPID thing to hope for. We need a national standard (actually, we need a much better one), otherwise religious officials, who hold quite a bit of influence on local levels, will have evolution kicked out of class. Chemistry, geology, and biology (the Oxford comma lives on) and many other sciences would be revised to reflect the babble. History would also be screwed.

  104. Ogvorbis says

    Matt:

    Some states (such as Pennsylvania and Texas) have state wide standards (not sure how many). And we see how well that worked in the Dover school district of PA and the entire state of TX.

  105. Matt Penfold says

    Some states (such as Pennsylvania and Texas) have state wide standards (not sure how many). And we see how well that worked in the Dover school district of PA and the entire state of TX.

    Thanks, and yeah, it worked really well!

  106. Ogvorbis says

    Thanks, and yeah, it worked really well!

    No, it didn’t.

    (I really need to start using a [sarcasm]sarcasm[/sarcasm] tag.)

  107. Maureen Brian says

    And there was I thinking that PZ rode to glory on the back of the liberal ideas validated under FDR, the collective and communitarian behaviours triggered during WWII and the massive investment in building a modern country made under Dwight Eisenhower. And his own brain-power, of course.

    Now I discover that it was entirely because some edifice in Washington DC either hadn’t been built yet or was occupied by a different set of people.

    You live and learn!

  108. says

    Maybe Shermer wrote the article while he was intoxicated. Maybe he was rushing through it to meet a deadline. There are plenty of possibilities that could explain why Shermer hasn’t explicitly mentioned something

    Wait, are you actually trying to defend him by saying “maybe he was drunk when he wrote it”?

    I’m literally laughing out loud right now.

  109. embraceyourinnercrone says

    Duphrane @52

    I don’t think nuclear is as energy efficient as some proponents believe, partly due to the energy costs of mining and processing uranium.

    Also the elephant in the room for me is we don’t have a safe disposal or storage method for all the nuclear waste we already have. And some of the holding tanks we are using are leaking:

    http://www.kplu.org/post/new-hanford-tank-leak-raises-questions-about-waste-storage

    Hanford reservation has a huge amount of nuclear waste, some of which is on track to contaminate the Columbia river:

    http://www.nwcouncil.org/history/Hanford.asp

    “The magnitude of the radioactive contamination at Hanford is staggering. Much of the waste is liquid — about 53 million gallons — as the chemical extraction process used at Hanford involved soaking the spent uranium fuel rods from the reactors in nitric acid to separate the plutonium. Liquid wastes are stored in 177 underground tanks; 70 are leaking, and a plume of radioactivity is seeping toward the Columbia. There are 1,700 waste sites and about 500 contaminated buildings.”

    “As for the Columbia, it is not known when the radioactive plume of contaminated groundwater will reach the river. Radioactivity has been detected in the water in the vicinity of the Hanford site and downriver.”

  110. md says

    Tony,

    My post made no reference to sex. Id be surprised if any of my posts do, unless the topic is rape. And yet both your posts in response to mine make explicit and infantile references to sex. Ive noticed you like to play thread psychologist on occasion, lets flip the script this time. What does this behavior say about you?

  111. atheist says

    @md – 24 January 2013 at 8:31 am (UTC -6)

    If a Libertarian were ever to truly have some Federal influence on education policy, be still my beating heart, the pointless Dept. of Education would perhaps be eliminated freeing us …

    Apparently you’ve snoozed through the past decade or two, but libertarians are having a great deal of influence on education policy and have been for years. Why do you think vouchers are such a hot item? Why do you think municipalities are de-funding and closing public schools? And who do you think is funding ALEC and similar right wing PAC, liberals?

    Here’s the crazy irony: you’re living in a libertarian paradise and don’t even realize it.

  112. says

    It says I like to make infantile comments about sex. So what?
    How about you address the massive problem of piss poor and inconsistent standards that would occur if education was decided on a local level? How about you explain how the US would remain competitive in the sciences with religious leaders influencing local school boards to revise textbooks to support their theology?
    Why are you focusing on my flippant sex related comments rather than the more important points I made?

  113. md says

    —How about you address the massive problem of piss poor and inconsistent standards that would occur if education was decided on a local level?

    We had just that thing in this country until recently. If it was such a problem, how did we educate the great migration of Americans from the rural to the suburban/urban areas and turn out so many scientists and engineers that won us a couple world wars and put us on the moon and discovered DNA to name just a very few.

    The Dept. of Ed was created in 1980! Its done nothing of value since. Has not educated one student. Has not raised one test score. Good Liberal Teachers hate NLCD. They know by and large what is best for their students.

  114. Ogvorbis says

    md:

    You do know that before the Department of Education was created it was part of HEW (Health, Education and Welfare), right? And before that (1949) was the Department of Education and Welfare? You do know this, right? Or is it just since it became a stand-alone agency that it has been destroying education>

  115. Ogvorbis says

    The Dept. of Ed was created in 1980!

    And who became President in 1981? And who gutted educational spending at the federal level? And who slashed the Department of Education’s budget and managed to convince the professionals who had been at E&W and HEW to retire and replaced many of the senior professional positions with anti-government cronies? The GOP stated that the Department of Education would fail and then made sure they had the budget to fail. Or, rather, the lack of budget.

  116. md says

    And its done so well and so much under Clinton, Bush (who gave it its biggest gift), and Obama. Just look at our test scores.

    This is the rub with bureacracies, if they fail, its always because the meanie Repubs underfunded them, if they succeed, the problem is not solved and we can be done with it, no no no, we’ve got to reward that success with a bigger budget.

    I didnt say its destroyed education. I say its incapable of improving it and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

  117. Ogvorbis says

    So, md, what happened? From 1953 to 1980, the Education part of E&W and HEW had adequate funding. Since 1980? Or are you now going to argue that E&W and HEW also did absolutely nothing to improve education when they had funding? Why the change?

  118. vaiyt says

    Maybe Shermer is actually an hologram projected by the Chinese.

    The country would then respond, as it has done for the 200 years prior to the creation of D of Ed, by choosing education standards at the community level.

    Are you some kind of Communist? Each person should choose their own education standards!

  119. atheist says

    @md – 24 January 2013 at 10:31 am (UTC -6)

    I didnt say its destroyed education. I say its incapable of improving it and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

    If you always compare the real world with a fantasy world, then the real world will naturally seem less ideal. We’re not really interested how it seems to you, though, because we want to affect the real world and we don’t care about your libertarian fantasies.

  120. Ogvorbis says

    md:

    Are you making the argument that funding of programmes has absolutely nothing to do with the effectiveness of a programme? Or are you making the argument that it is impossible for any federal agency to ever do anything right under any circumstance?

  121. says

    Ah, crud, I meant <.02%. Stupid. You all knew what I meant.

    Anyway, Duphrane @ 52:

    I want to expand nuclear energy, if we expand anything, because I think it is better than the alternatives. But, as Shermer criticizes, I will place the caveat that we should figure out how to dispose of the waste.

    While I don’t oppose expansion of nuclear energy on principle, if we look at it realistically, we’d just be replacing one finite resource with another finite resource. In 30 years, we’ll be having this conversation again, only instead of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, the topic will be reducing our dependence on foreign ore. It’s not a good long-term solution. Neither is it a good short-term solution, because, barring any further setbacks, construction of new nuclear facilities won’t be completed until 2030.

    A multi-pronged strategy of creating various sources of renewable energy is the only long-term solution. There are drawbacks, certainly, but that’s what research is for. One example: avian-safe wind generators

  122. anteprepro says

    Oh Cato. It complains about the Department of Education not being constitutional, conveniently overlooking that it was siphoned off from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. They cry about its “3000 employees!” and you can almost hear them actively paying no attention to the fact that the Department of transportation has 58000 employees, Health and Human services has 67000 and Agriculture has 105,000. Oh the excess! Did you know that the department has a budget of 120 BILLYUN dollars? Oh, sure, military spending is around 900 billion. Oh, sure, the department’s budget is money that it gives to schools. But the Department of Education doesn’t get results! I mean, sure, in that very article, they show a graph in which there is clear improvement in reading scores (with the starting year being an outlier) since the Department became a thing, but you can ignore it because scores for that year don’t clearly correlate with allocation of spending for that year! Because that’s how education is supposed to work, somehow! And, finally, of course, Cato thinks that we should get rid of the Department of Education because of Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

    For more evidence that md is full of shit, try here: http://nationsreportcard.gov/ltt_2008/ltt0001.asp
    (You can check some graphs if you hit “student groups”)

    There have been consistent upward trends for the youngest age groups in math and reading, consistent upward trends for minority groups, and consistent improvement in middle school math. The Cato article says that there haven’t been improvements in 12th grade history, but there have been in middle school level, and there have been large improvements for minority students, especially at the youngest grade levels. And scores for their science assessment have increased by an amount that is statistically significant in the two year period that they have started doing a science assessment . So, md, we aren’t completely stagnant. Cue the fucker saying that “well, there’s no proof we can credit improvements to the Department of Education” right after he was trying to pin his completely made up lack of improvement on them.

    Is there any area in which you aren’t completely dishonest, md?

  123. Rodney Nelson says

    Whenever I read a libertarian complaining about the government I know the whines are about 10% factoid and 90% propaganda. Exhibit A: md’s prophetic announcement that the Dept of Education will never do any good.

  124. Matt Penfold says

    10% factoid

    Factoid in fact means something that appears to be true but isn’t! Hunter S Thompson coined it.

  125. anteprepro says

    -I was completely wrong, but I’m going to pretend that I was close enough.

    The new motto of md

  126. Ogvorbis says

    md:

    So did federal involvement in education, from 1953 until 1980, improve US education, do nothing, or make US education worse?

  127. says

    md seems to think that none of the countries that are beating the crap out of the US in terms of education and test scores have national departments of education.

  128. dontpanic says

    Re md@134,
    A quick check of the (misleading) graph on page 4. Note the suppressed zero on the score when comparing a total spending. They at least adjust for inflation (2001 dollars), but don’t account for changes in student populations. So lets divide by the numbers one finds at: National Center for Education Studies.

    Basically the student scores are relatively flat (again, not the suppressed zero) ranging from ~217 to ~210 (1990) to 211-212 (1999). No error bars for whether these variations are anything more than testing differences or just natural fluctuations.

    cato/nces year, cato $, total K-12 students (public only), $/student
    1980/1980 $14B 46208k (40877k) $303 (342)
    1985/1985 $11B 44979k (39422k) $244 (279)
    1990/1990 $15B 46864k (41217k) $320 (364)
    1995/1995 $17B 50759k (44840k) $335 (379)
    1999/2000 $22B 53373k (47204k) $412 (466)

    Much of the increase I suspect is due to testing (which I think is a mistake the way it was implemented). But even so we’re talking about a 30%-ish increase in spending (per student) with little change in that particular test score. Without some further investigation into the demographics of the student population I’m not sure that tells us anything.

  129. Stacy says

    @Matt Penfold

    Factoid in fact means something that appears to be true but isn’t! Hunter S Thompson coined it.

    It was Norman Mailer. And a factoid can be true, but presented without supporting evidence (per Wikipedia.) It also can mean a fact that is possibly interesting but irrelevant or unimportant, like the fact that the word “factoid” was coined by Norman Mailer.

  130. warispeace says

    PZ Myers said: “Among the worst of the presidential candidates, though, was Ron Paul, who was one of those who does not accept evolution and also desires the elimination of the Department of Education.”

    This aside has nothing to do with Shermer’s false equivalences but since you mentioned it it’s total nonsense. I would have preferred Nader than to the two nominated phonies but Ron Paul was one of the best candidates for consideration out of all the other bozos. Who cares if he does not accept evolution or wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education? This fact wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, and nothing significant because of those facts wouldn’t happen anyway. America’s education system is fucked. Democrat or Republican, makes no difference which party rules, nothing’s changed except for the worse. They don’t learn anything in public schools anyway these days, unless you count the video games gratis the military recruiters leeching on young blood to fight America’s wars. America’s public education system has been invaded by corporations, and a good number of stupid teachers who won’t hesitate to call the police if a 5 year old gets out of line. It’s nonsense because constantly sneering, thinking left-right paradigm, doesn’t contribute to any solutions in this country except to divide and conquer us more thoroughly. I’d rather have a nice-guy religious President who will not expand Bush’s surveillance police state and go further by signing the NDAA, killing innocents with drones, and surrounding himself with banksters and supporting and boot-licking globalists intent on sabotaging the US economy. (rant over)

  131. David Marjanović says

    Oh, please, you’re not going to spew BS about reprocessing ‘spent’ fuel rods or thorium drivel, are you?

    Please tell me more about thorium. All I know is that it’s said to be quite common in sand in some places in India.

    Oh, it won’t be a nice ecosystem, it’ll be one with teeth in it, aimed at your throat –

    Insert obligatory fact about Australia here.

    Over a 20 year period you will get more energy out of a kg of silicon in a solar cell than you will out of a kg of uranium in a nuclear power station.

    …Wow. Already? At the current pitiful efficiencies of photovoltaic cells? That’s impressive.

    I know that a kg of silicon is a lot and a kg of uranium is very little. But still, I had no idea of the… orders of magnitude, I guess.

    But you go and create a national one size fits all policy, you get No child Left Behind, you get teachers teaching to the largely pointless national standards, you get teachers engaged in cheating scandals for their students, and you get a bureaucracy with the capability to do something like this should the wrong people get hold if it, which is quite possible.

    o_O

    Then why can so many other countries do it? Sure, the ones I have in mind are smaller, but a country of 8.4 million (where I come from) isn’t exactly a community either.

    What are you talking about? Perhaps the stupid “test, test, and test again” attitude and the No Child’s Behind Left Act? Those aren’t automatic outcomes of national education standards. They’re automatic outcomes of the wrong end of George Walker Bush.

    and a plume of radioactivity is seeping toward the Columbia

    Fuck.

    nice graph on the 4th page

    You actually cite the Cato Institute?

    That’s a bullshitting stink tank with a stinking agenda!

    It complains about the Department of Education not being constitutional

    Seriously? If that’s true, that’s a pressing argument to amend the Constitution.

    They cry about its “3000 employees!”

    In a country of, what, 310 million people? That’s laughable.

    —we aren’t completely stagnant

    The new motto for D of Ed.

    Oh, so you accept everything anteprepro wrote – and shift the goalposts.

    Is it really that hard to recognize that you’ve been wrong?

  132. David Marjanović says

    By “recognize” I mean “acknowledge”.

    America’s public education system has been invaded by corporations

    …and Paul wants more of that.

    globalists intent on sabotaging the US economy

    I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  133. anteprepro says

    Heh. Speaking of being wrong, I was wrong about that Cato graph. Thanks to dontpanic for helping me realize that (even if it wasn’t intentional!). I read the test scores as the spending and the spending as the test scores. Oops. So, reading is fairly stagnant (and the Cato graph exaggerates the tiny fluctuations in that score to make it look it significantly declined). But, of course, reading isn’t the only thing they teach in schools. I’m sure this shocks libertarians, but it is true. And, surprise surprise, it is also not the only thing that the Department tests.

    You see, they also have mathematics assessments.

    For age 9, scores in mathematics, from 1978 to 2008, went from 219 to 243. For age 13, it went from 266 to 281. For age 17, it went from 300 to 306 (statistically significant, but not statistically significant from scores from 1990 onward). Going back to when that article was published, checking only to the 1999 scores, it is 219 to 232 for 9 year olds, 264 to 276 for 13 year olds, and 300 to 308 for 17 year olds. I guess it is rather convenient that they chose to only look at reading, huh?

  134. md says

    —So did federal involvement in education, from 1953 until 1980, improve US education, do nothing, or make US education worse?

    Ogvorbis,

    If you’re arguing that if we return to 1953 – 1980 levels of federal control and spending on education that we will see a corresponding rise in the relevant metrics, I will gladly co-sponsor that bill in congress with you.

    But that isn’t really what you want, is it?

  135. anteprepro says

    It’s nonsense because constantly sneering, thinking left-right paradigm, doesn’t contribute to any solutions in this country except to divide and conquer us more thoroughly.

    Oh no, I smell the rancid stench of a BOTH SIDES crusader.

    Seriously? If that’s true, that’s a pressing argument to amend the Constitution.

    True. It is also myopic, hypocritical idiocy because there were cabinet departments explicitly controlling education well before the Department of Education was made to deal with education exclusively. But, libertarians , so no surprise.

  136. daniellavine says

    This is the rub with bureacracies, if they fail, its always because the meanie Repubs underfunded them, if they succeed, the problem is not solved and we can be done with it, no no no, we’ve got to reward that success with a bigger budget.

    That sounds a whole lot like an admission that bureaucracies don’t inevitably fail. So md, please please please tell us which bureaucracies do you think are successful?

    I don’t even necessarily entirely disagree with you on the Dep of Ed thing except I do worry about the fact (yes, fact) that much of the country would prefer their children are indoctrinated into worldviews that are not only at odds with the fact but actively hostile to critical and independent thinking.

    Besides that, homeschooling is perfectly legal so I’m not entirely sure what the complaint is here. Yeah, you pay taxes to educate other people’s children. But those children are going to be part of the economy from which you make your living so you’re really just investing in your own livelihood with those taxes. You could say that government school educations are worthless so it would be a waste of money…but you wouldn’t be entirely correct. My public suburban high school was not stellar but I got a pretty decent education out of it.

    Try looking at some actual data, Mr. Steely Eyed Pragmatist. Compare state by state test scores with per capita spending on education. Here’s a list of the highest and lowest spenders on education. Compare the test scores for those groups. (The spending is as of 2010; California probably isn’t in the top 10 any more.) One example with which I’m pretty well-acquainted: MA seems to get its money worth. MA students consistently score higher on SATs and other standardized tests than students in other states.

  137. anteprepro says

    Ogvorbis, trying to pry out evidence:

    So did federal involvement in education, from 1953 until 1980, improve US education, do nothing, or make US education worse?

    md, blithering:

    If you’re arguing that if we return to 1953 – 1980 levels of federal control and spending on education that we will see a corresponding rise in the relevant metrics, I will gladly co-sponsor that bill in congress with you.

    Are you supposed to be presenting yourself as an example of how our educational system is failing? Because I will completely grant your argument that your education was a complete and utter failure. In what world does your comment constitute an actual response to Ogvorbis? Is your response evidence in Libertaria? Is it an actual coherent joke in Libertaria? Because it is none of the above here.

  138. anteprepro says

    I eagerly await md attempting to dismiss daniellavine’s evidence by mentioning the possibility of confounding variables. Oh, the richness of the irony that will ensue.

  139. dontpanic says

    The more I think about it the crazier those DoEd numbers are. $400/student would buy like 2 weeks of daycare by unskilled workers if that’s all they spent the whole department money on. Even if you could get skilled teachers at those rates and there was no administrative overhead and no money spent on program design/planning/improvement, to expect wild improvements based on such trivial amounts of money is crazy. I think I remember (can’t be arsed to look it up) that the average spending per K-12 student is like $6000/year, so $400 is … 6%. We’re talking variations on that $400 of 30%. And “md” expects huge results.

    Oh, here’s some interesting data: Per Pupil Expenditure. Hmm, $6612 (Utah) to $17746 (New York). Bah, 3000 employees and a miniscule budget for DoEd and “md” expects them to change the world. Sounds like they need a bigger lever.

  140. atheist says

    @daniellavine – 24 January 2013 at 12:53 pm (UTC -6)

    That sounds a whole lot like an admission that bureaucracies don’t inevitably fail. So md, please please please tell us which bureaucracies do you think are successful?

    Not to mention, not all bureaucracies are public. md’s precious corporations have bureaucracies as well, and they can be even more difficult to deal with than the public ones.

  141. Rich Woods says

    @md #128:

    If it was such a problem, how did we educate the great migration of Americans from the rural to the suburban/urban areas and turn out so many scientists and engineers that won us a couple world wars and put us on the moon and discovered DNA to name just a very few.

    I usually get pissed off when some random Yank claims the US won two world wars, like it was done all on their lonesome — bloody Johnny-come-lately’s! But md’s claim that the US discovered DNA is a new one on me. DNA was discovered by a Swiss scientist, Friedrich Miescher (sp?), who was working in Germany at the time. The structure of DNA (possibly what md meant to refer to, if only typing a few extra words hadn’t been so difficult) was successfully determined by an American and a Brit, working in a British lab, and crucially supported by two British researchers.

    What’s up, md? Is your education that lacking?

  142. daniellavine says

    atheist@160:

    That’s one thing about libertarians I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. They’re anti-corruption…so they want to move as much political power as possible out of the barely accountable public sector and into the completely unaccountable private sector. Which we already know is rife with corruption but have little clue to what extent since corporate law provides many ways in which such corruption can be hidden.

    Elected officials have power over you, but that power is in some sense consensual and revocable. Really wealthy folks also have power over you but they have not the slightest obligation to you except in the least substantial “brotherhood of man” sense.

    Right, sounds like a recipe for good governance, fair dealing, and free and open competition. Existing business interests would never do anything to stifle competition if it weren’t for the mean old gummint making ‘em do it.

  143. daniellavine says

    If it was such a problem, how did we educate the great migration of Americans from the rural to the suburban/urban areas

    No education involved. The appeal of the displaced farmers as factory hands was precisely that they were unskilled and uneducated. Otherwise they might have had better options than working 12 hours a day in conditions that give most people some kissing cousin of black lung.

    Cripes, man, how is it that no libertarian on earth knows the first thing about history.

    Wait, I think I just answered my own question.

  144. w00dview says

    That’s one thing about libertarians I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. They’re anti-corruption…so they want to move as much political power as possible out of the barely accountable public sector and into the completely unaccountable private sector.

    Well you see, there would be a lack of corruption as the corporations could do whatever the fuck they wanted without bribing or extensive lobbying of politicians! It’s not corruption if you can just fuck over people and the environment out in the open! Instead it is just LIBERTY and FREEDOM and all other sorts of nice sounding things.

    Seriously, deregulation is pretty much a nicer way of saying you want corporate power to be even greater than it is now. It implicitly approves of corruption.

  145. Rodney Nelson says

    Libertarians are anti-democracy and pro-plutocratic oligarchy. What they really want is the reinstitution of feudalism only based on corporations rather than aristocracy.

  146. Ogvorbis says

    What they really want is the reinstitution of feudalism only based on corporations rather than aristocracy.

    Listen to the way they worship capitalists. Corporations are the aristocracy in a libertarian paradise.

  147. Ogvorbis says

    Dole may be an example of a corporation that also has been (is?) a feudal power.

    Or United Fruit in some Central American and Caribbean countries?

  148. says

    Enopoletus Harding

    I view the Randists as similar to, but separate from, the libertarians. Ayn Rand never liked the word. The Randists are typically quicker to support a war (I think they still support war with Iran). The Randists also strongly oppose anarchism.

    The difference between Randists and libertarians IME is basically like the difference between Catholic and Orthodox christians; They insist that there are huge and significant differences, and hate each other because of them, but on the ground there’s no meaningful difference.

  149. says

    Ogvorbis

    Or United Fruit in some Central American and Caribbean countries?

    And Standard oil, Shell, others. Going back a bit farther we have of course got the British East India Company for a hell of a big feudal power, not to mention the Dutch, and the West India Companies, and….you see where I’m going with this, right?

  150. Nightjar says

    But md’s claim that the US discovered DNA is a new one on me.

    Indeed.

    possibly what md meant to refer to, if only typing a few extra words hadn’t been so difficult

    I’m actually thinking of a few extra words md could have typed around DNA to make that claim not wrong.

    I’m pretty sure that‘s not what md meant to refer to, though.

  151. says

    @atheist

    Here’s the crazy irony: you’re living in a libertarian paradise and don’t even realize it.

    -Nonsense. We have government schools. Ergo, this is not a libertarian paradise.
    Also, the Randists and libertarians don’t hate each other, but the Randists do consider themselves separate from the libertarians. Also, as long as corporations get welfare, we are not living in a libertarian paradise. Libertarians are, indeed, anti-democracy, and some do romanticize feudalism. Also, libertarians consider business to be subject to what they consider to be the highest form of accountability: the will of the consumer.

  152. Esteleth, Ultra-PC Feminist Harpy Out To Destroy Secularism says

    So, md thinks a return to the education funding of 1953 would be a great idea.

    Hmm.

    I think returning to the tax code of 1953 would be a great idea. Maybe that has something to do with things?

  153. atheist says

    @daniellavine – 24 January 2013 at 1:40 pm (UTC -6)

    That’s one thing about libertarians I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. They’re anti-corruption…so they want to move as much political power as possible out of the barely accountable public sector and into the completely unaccountable private sector.

    The key to understanding libertarians is that they are authoritarian followers who believe they are authoritarian leaders. They hopefully imagine a world completely divorced from the actual world. This fantasy-based point of view allows them to criticize the real world. With this mythological point of view in place, they can believe whatever they want, and they can evade the contradiction at the heart of their belief system.

  154. atheist says

    @Enopoletus Harding – 24 January 2013 at 6:18 pm (UTC -6) Link to this comment

    -Nonsense. We have government schools. Ergo, this is not a libertarian paradise.
    Also, the Randists and libertarians don’t hate each other, but the Randists do consider themselves separate from the libertarians. Also, as long as corporations get welfare, we are not living in a libertarian paradise.

    You’re being absurd. The entire libertarian reason for existence is to increase corporate power. It is possible that even the libertarians don’t understand this, but if so they are fooling themselves.

  155. says

    Atheist @ #174:

    The key to understanding libertarians is that they are authoritarian followers who believe they are authoritarian leaders. They hopefully imagine a world completely divorced from the actual world. This fantasy-based point of view allows them to criticize the real world. With this mythological point of view in place, they can believe whatever they want, and they can evade the contradiction at the heart of their belief system.

    The other aspect of their philosophy is that it is fundamentally parasitic. There is no way for a libertarian free-for-all society to actually create itself. It can only start expressing itself once a strong infrastructure has been built by other means, and if ever put into action would dissolve as soon as the democratically-built infrastructure collapses.

  156. says

    It can only start expressing itself once a strong infrastructure has been built by other means, and if ever put into action would dissolve as soon as the democratically-built infrastructure collapses.

    Yet another similarity between Libertarianism and Fascism, two tastes that go great together.

  157. says

    Yet another similarity between Libertarianism and Fascism, two tastes that go great together.

    The other part of the equation is that libertarians want to remove the power of people acting together in the form of a government to counter the power of fascism. Libertarians are generally in truth de facto fascists in that they would work to remove any possibility of resisting fascism. They think that by removing the guiding hand of government they make room for the “invisible hand” of markets. They are idiots, because all they’ve done is made way for the hand of oligarchs. At least the clumsy hand of government has to at least theoretically answer to the people. Oligarchs answer to no one.

  158. says

    @Rodney Nelson in #165:

    Libertarians are anti-democracy and pro-plutocratic oligarchy.

    Indeed, it seems that libertarians just fundamentally don’t believe a representative democracy can ever work. Look at how they always talk about “The State” as if it’s some entity that is completely separate from the people it governs, and that its interests are inherently opposite to its citizens.

  159. warispeace says

    1. 154
    @anteprepro
    24 January 2013 at 12:47 pm (UTC -6)Link to this comment
    It’s nonsense because constantly sneering, thinking left-right paradigm, doesn’t contribute to any solutions in this country except to divide and conquer us more thoroughly.
    Oh no, I smell the rancid stench of a BOTH SIDES crusader.”

    Oh no, and I smell the rancid stench of fake liberal.

    1. 165
    @Rodney Nelson
    24 January 2013 at 2:35 pm (UTC -6)Link to this comment
    “Libertarians are anti-democracy and pro-plutocratic oligarchy. What they really want is the reinstitution of feudalism only based on corporations rather than aristocracy.”
    What the hell do you know what they want? You obviously have no idea of what a Libertarian is; they are not pr- plutocratic oligarchy. jesus you’re so stupid I don’t believe it’s worth bothering to tell you to do your own research you parrot you.

    1. 179
    @Deen
    25 January 2013 at 4:10 am (UTC -6)Link to this comment
    @Rodney Nelson in #165:
    “Libertarians are anti-democracy and pro-plutocratic oligarchy.”
    “Indeed, it seems that libertarians just fundamentally don’t believe a representative democracy can ever work. Look at how they always talk about “The State” as if it’s some entity that is completely separate from the people it governs, and that its interests are inherently opposite to its citizens.”

    So you think our current “democracy” is working out for you? Do you really believe our representatives have the people’s interests at heart? Do you really believe you are living in a democracy? Are you an Obama-bot? Are you delusional? Go back and watch your TV reality show, everythings fine with this country, the government cares for you, why even your friendly TSA wants to stick their fingers up your ass.

  160. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    More liberturd slogans. Show me 30 years of a first world country using liberturdian principals and look a the results. Historically it has happened. Nothing like you claim was the result. Put up or go away.

  161. Maureen Brian says

    So, warispeace, what’s the case FOR libertarianism, then?

    It would have to be a case which did not depend upon either alien abduction or the ravings of the NRA. Can it be done? Using only actual facts? And without hyperbole?

    I doubt it!

  162. anteprepro says

    Oh no, and I smell the rancid stench of fake liberal.

    lolwut? Is it common for libertarians to not understand how to make coherent jokes?

    What the hell do you know what they want? You obviously have no idea of what a Libertarian is; they are not pr- plutocratic oligarchy. jesus you’re so stupid I don’t believe it’s worth bothering to tell you to do your own research you parrot you.

    Dunning-Kruger is strong with you. We know what they want because we have had tons of arguments with plenty of them in addition to, you know, observing the arguments and policies supported by the higher profile ones. I will grant you that maybe they aren’t actively pro-plutocracy: maybe they just accidentally support it because they are too myopic to realize the full implications of their own ideas. But that’s just letting them off on a technicality, settling on stupid instead of evil even if the results are the same.

  163. dean says

    but Ron Paul was one of the best candidates for consideration out of all the other bozos. Who cares if he does not accept evolution or wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education?

    Because he has no problem palling around with racist scum, as long as they pay him? Because he seems to be scientifically ignorant? Because he is incredibly hypocritical by screaming “smaller government” to his minions while having no problem backing things that would be step all over rights of women?

    He (and you, it seems) come from the branch of libertarianism defined by “libertarianism means never having to have an intelligent thought”.

  164. anteprepro says

    So, warispeace, what’s the case FOR libertarianism, then?

    It would have to be a case which did not depend upon either alien abduction or the ravings of the NRA. Can it be done? Using only actual facts? And without hyperbole?

    warispeace is probably too incompetent, but I bet someone could. You would be amazed at what you can do when selectively ignoring tons of information and intentionally avoiding the inconvenient applications or implications of “obvious” general principles.

  165. la tricoteuse says

    Because I missed this before, warispeace:

    I would have preferred Nader than to the two nominated phonies but Ron Paul was one of the best candidates for consideration out of all the other bozos. Who cares if he does not accept evolution or wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education?

    Er. As those are rather important issues, I’m going to go ahead and say that his stance on them disqualifies him from being “one of the best candidates for consideration.” Putting aside for a moment that not accepting evolution is ridiculous and flies in the face of all evidence, and I don’t want someone running the country who is that disconnected from reality, public education is an essential component of an egalitarian society, and to eliminate it would be to relegate a very large percentage of the citizenry to illiterate peasants, creating an even worse class division crisis than currently exists in the US. If the system is broken, fix it, don’t dismantle it. So…to answer your question: I care, and anyone else with half a brain cares. I wonder why YOU don’t care.

  166. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Every time I hear a libertarian babbling on about “personal freedom” and “personal responsibility,” I feel an urge to reach for “personal lubricant”. It is hard to reach any other conclusion but that these folks are simply broken.

    Ed Wilson said with regard to the collectivism of ants, “Marx was 100% right. He just had the wrong species.” It is similar with the glibertarians–they want humans to be something less than what they are.

  167. atheist says

    I would have preferred Nader than to the two nominated phonies but Ron Paul was one of the best candidates for consideration out of all the other bozos. Who cares if he does not accept evolution or wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education?

    Paul had good things to say about foreign policy, but he also had bad things to say about economics, and horrible things to say about women’s rights & disaster readiness. So while I appreciated his statements about Iraq, many of his other statements meant I would never have supported him as a candidate.

  168. Michael Hraba says

    Michael Shermer is too busy self promoting to worry about salient arguments, critical thoughts, or us “lesser” skeptics that aren’t famous. That guy went from being a skeptic to shameless peddling of his “brand me”. ick

  169. says

    IJoe

    Libertarians are generally in truth de facto fascists in that they would work to remove any possibility of resisting fascism. They think that by removing the guiding hand of government they make room for the “invisible hand” of markets. They are idiots, because all they’ve done is made way for the hand of oligarchs.

    Indeed, sometimes they’re outright fascists; look hoe many of them cite the Chicago Boys and the way they ran Chile’s economy (into the ground).

  170. says

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    In my experience the ideas suggested in the critique or many comments simply don’t define or relate to modern Libertarianism.

    IMO Schermer has a point on extremism of left and right that veer into anti-science and reason. They often switch sides as well, as in the fracking issue.

    The LIO encourages dialogue on teaching of logic, comparative religion and philosophy, practical economics and non-punitive behavior/positive parenting starting at the secondary level.

    For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://​www.Libertarian-International.org , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization….