Libraries: don’t throttle kids’ consumption of books

OK, memories, I’ve experienced this.

I was probably in second or third grade, somewhere around there. The town library was across the street from the elementary school I attended, and rather than walking straight home, I’d often sidle into the library and devour books for an hour or three. Unfortunately, the library had this policy that weird little kids like me had our own specific section of the library, and we were not allowed in the adult section. But I’d already read all the biology books in the kids’ section, and most of them were descriptive and phenomenological picture books, and I wanted to know why, not more what. So I snuck into the adult section one day.

And a librarian caught me. She said I had to have an adults’ permission to be back there with the real science books.

That made me mad. I think eventually I got Mom or Dad to tell them I was allowed to read anything in the main library, and that allowed me to consume everything.

I’m pretty sure that the Kent Public Library changed their policy a few years later, because in high school I noticed that they allowed all kinds of short riff-raff to run free everywhere. Good for them.

I’m sure the College Republicans are thrilled to have made national news

Their little hate signs have gotten attention from Newsweek. That’s all they really wanted, was to be outrageous and stupid enough that they’d get written up and win their 15 seconds of fame.

One catch: the College Republicans are eager to disavow the flyers, while speaking out in favor of what the flyers said. So maybe some aren’t so thrilled at being in the spotlight over their regressive views.

The president of UMM College Republicans, Tayler Lehmann, told the Star-Tribune newspaper that the group was not involved with the recent flyer and did not know who was responsible.

In a statement Friday, Lehmann told the paper the UMM College Republicans would “continue to take a lead role in supporting the freedom of speech on campus and fight against gender hysteria and oversensitive triggers that shut down discussion and critical analysis of opposing viewpoints.”

That’s nice. If they really care about fighting against “gender hysteria”, then they’ll shut down the College Republicans, since they’re the only ones carrying on about this. Also, no one is fooled by their use of buzzwords.

By the way, I could probably identify who is responsible, since I spotted one guy putting them up, and it was the same fellow who was tabling for the North Star in the student union the day before.

Also strange: The state College Republicans claims they are aware that the posters were put up by UMM College Republicans. All right then.

Last Thursday, the Minnesota College Republicans, the broader activist body, attempted to distance itself from the Morris posters, tweeting: “We are aware of the posters put up by UMMCRs. State CRs had no knowledge of or involvement with these posters. Further, we would like to note that this is not the type of discourse the College Republicans seek to promote on campus.”

Our more rational, consistent, tolerant students have noticed a problem.

Truckenmiller accused the faculty of failing to address the problem. “Silence makes you part of the problem,” the student wrote. “It’s an insult to students on campus to have our concerns ignored to protect a small group of harassers.

“These messages posted are meant to directly target students, to coerce them into acting out of impulse by directly targeting core parts of their identities. A student cannot learn if in the halls on the way to class a poster is attacking their gender or religion. Action needs to be taken, you need to protect your students and ensure that UMM is a place where a student can get a high quality education without being harassed in the corridors on the way to class. Silence is not an option.”

I agree. Let’s tear them down.

You don’t have evidence for most of your beliefs. Get used to it.

Spotted on Facebook. Hated it.

I am a very critical thinker, which is why I am an Atheist — I don’t believe in things for the most part, unless there is evidence.

That’ bullshit. I’m an atheist, too, and I’m trained in science, and shocker…most of the things I know I don’t have evidence for. I can’t possibly. There are too many things. I haven’t tested whether brushing my teeth every morning actually prevents tooth decay. I haven’t even read any papers on the subject! It makes sense, and I suspect it’s probably true, and it’s a reasonable practice, so I’ll keep doing it. If I have to, like if there were some surprising statement that countered my subjective belief, I might look it up, and I trust that there have been scientific experiments to verify it, but right now I believe it in the absence of known evidence.

Likewise for every other mundane experience. There is electrical current coming out of my wall sockets when I plug things in, and I accept that as evidence that the wiring in my house is actually functional, and that it’s hooked up somewhere to a power supply, but I haven’t actually traced that wiring back to the (probably) coal plant that is generating electricity for me. The fact that my computer is working right now is evidence for something, sure, but the majority of the “things” that make it work are mostly assumptions on my part.

What I actually have is a consistent worldview built on a model I’ve tested on a few key points, and that seems to hold up well under most circumstances. That’s all any of us have. You can be a devout Catholic who believes in transubstantiation and the trinity and dead saviors rolling back stones, and you can say exactly the same thing — your model of the universe simply includes some fundamental assumptions mine doesn’t, and vice versa. You can even carry out the same logical process that I do with my wiring. You can say you’ve done spot checks of the pieces of your theology that matter to you now, and they hold up, but just as I haven’t visited the coal plant, you haven’t yet visited Heaven. You get satisfaction out of your weekly Mass, just as I’m happy with my house wiring and tooth-brushing, and that’s enough for now.

One difference, though, is that I’m a fan of testing my assumptions, mostly. We have this scientific method we use that allows us — even encourages us! — to examine and verify the stuff we don’t know, even if, to be perfectly honest, we can’t possibly examine everything. A scientist or a philosopher is going to inspect key assumptions now and then, and try to build better models of the world as they go, sometimes throwing out perfectly serviceable models, like religion, for others that get some, but never all, of the details better. Never lose sight of the fact that we’re all dealing in approximations, however, and most of what we think is true is actually simply consonant with our current model.

That’s one of the dangers of the kind of atheism held by the guy I took that quote from. It was taken from a conversation in which he actually refuses to consider evidence against his deeply held belief that women who accuse men of harassment are not trustworthy, and he offered up that statement as a testimony that his beliefs are all true, because as an atheist, he doesn’t believe in false things lacking in evidence. It’s a dangerously cocky dogmatism that far too many naive atheists support, where the fact that he has examined a few key points in his worldview (although, more likely, he’s had them handed to him when he read a book by Dawkins), means he has therefore verified all of his opinions with evidence. If he believes it, it must be a fact, because otherwise he wouldn’t believe it.

You’re supposed to practice this idea called epistemic humility. An awful lot of atheists seem to lack it.

“nobody is above the law”

If this is a “loving tribute to Schoolhouse Rock”, then I’m not going to go back and watch those cartoons, either. I’ve grown up to see through the illusions.

Trump thinks he’s above the law. McConnell thinks he’s above the law. Cops think they’re above the law. Rich people think they’re above the law. So far I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary. It’s pretty clear that there are some comfortable delusions we all hide behind.