29 Comments


  • Shameless Plug, Actually
    Miscarriage of Justice, by Robert J. Howe
    ————————————————————————
    That’s my boy 🙂

    Its interesting that you bought the struggle of the enlightenment into your discussion on the public discourse surrounding abortion, for I always believed, (and of course may be wrong) that the emergence of the Individual during those times was a distinctly political act, that human psychology was inseparable from political thought, and that the autonomy inherent in ideas was a precondition to the public discourse of democracy. I’m not wording this correctly-I’m tired-I suppose I was taught that the process of democracy was fed by reason and will and this process demanded a certain amount of introspection, as a public service almost.

    Therefore, when reason seems in short supply, and a casual observer can chart a growing disinterest in science, for example, what conclusions can we draw regarding our relationship with ourselves? Do you think many of us are turning our backs on our own capacity to reason, or are these reactionary ideas legitimately rooted in a tangible set of real morality, as opposed to dogma. You seemed to be suggesting an inner struggle based on a psychology of fear, which is why I’m curious.

    July 15, 2004
  • This is better, less wordy: has fear become the dominant condition for public AND private ideas regarding morality, and is this fear something new? Yes, I should have just fucking asked that, sorry. I am tired.

    July 15, 2004
  • Actually, the first one was perfectly comprehensible.

    So…I’m not sure this struggle is about morality. I think even the worst reactionaries aren’t motivated solely by fear, but by a (misguided) notion that there’s a better way to live, and that way lies in the past.

    Human memory of pain and suffering tends to fade with time, leaving only the pleasant scenes in our minds. This makes for a cognitive bias: the past was better than the present. It’s very seductive, and it takes an effort of will to ignore the bias—moreso when our present, and forseeable future, is full of anxiety. This is neither a new problem nor an original observation: Et in Arcadia Ego

    July 15, 2004
  • It was an original observation for me :).

    Unfortunately, you are probably and most certainly right- and using will to conquer something traditionally seen as destructive (fear) is not the same thing as surrendering a romantic view of the past in favor of uncertain notions of progress. The past is seductive, and if I fell victim to it I don’t know that i’d be so willing to leave it behind.

    I’m not sure how this makes me feel yet, but I don’t think you were being alarmist at all. When the sane world wakes up this will be a most compelling entry.

    July 15, 2004
  • Thanks, Bob, for summing up so well some serious and legitimate concerns. Some of my new fiction is attempting to project this “culture war” 100 years forward, so these worrisone issues have been much on my mind lately.

    The reference list is a real community service. The Demon-Haunted World should be required reading in schools, or at least open on every adult’s coffee table. Why People Believe Weird Things and Fashionable Nonsense are also on my shelves and recommended with enthusiasm. Add Martin Gardner’s books as well.

    And if you ever get a chance to see Penn & Teller’s Showtime TV series Bullshit! (now arriving on DVD), take it.

    Thanks for pounding the table on this.

    July 16, 2004
  • I mentioned briefly in my LJ that I spent Wednesday evening at a discussion of the ways in which politics is tainting science. Specifically, it was a roundtable of people who work at UCSF’s Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, and the focus of the discussion (though we rambled a bit) was “How do we improve the general public’s understanding of the scientific method so people understand why ideology-driven science is bad, as well as how it might affect the long-term quality of health care, and not only as it relates to abortion and birth control?”

    Part of the problem, of course, is that half the country believes ideology does, should, and must play a role in what knowledge we choose to pursue. Just look at the Traditional Values Coalition and its “hit list” of research projects for which it demanded the NIH review funding. The TVC believes any sex for non-reproductive purposes, as well as any sex outside of marriage, is wrong — and therefore it questioned any study related to changing sexual attitudes and behavior for the sake of improving public health. The TVC doesn’t want us to understand how to prevent the spread of AIDS among Asian sex workers; the TVC just wants those heathen whores to cross their legs and pray.

    But another part of the problem is that people have come to expect that everything is ideological, that there is no such thing as objective truth when it comes to politics, that twisting the facts in order to gain or retain power is as natural and desirable as breathing. And I have no idea what to do about that, because on some level, it’s absolutely true.

    July 16, 2004
  • Hey Mark, thanks for the kind words.

    You’re right: I should have included Gardner’s books (I have Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, and like it quite a bit). I’ve seen a season’s worth of the Penn & Teller series, courtesy of . I have mixed feelings about them: like Michael Moore, they sometimes stretch the truth to be funny and make a point.

    Some of my new fiction is attempting to project this “culture war” 100 years forward…
    I’m intrigued. Can you point me toward it?

    July 17, 2004
  • Simpler Times

    I remember years ago someone my age wrote a letter to the Times complaining about how complicated things were for young people nowadays, and a few days later an older man responded that he’d been born between the wars, grew up during the depression, lost his father in WWII, served in Korea, watched his kids do duck&cover wondering if they were going to be blown up any minute, and basically told the young letter-writer to get over it.

    So yes, I think the “simpler times” perspective is mostly delusional; as much as I love Jack Finney’s Time and Again, he manages to largely ignore the fact that 19th century New York was crowded, dirty, noisy and dangerous in a way that would horrify anyone who thought the 70s were a bad time in the city. And fiction is of course a reaction to its times. Time And Again was published when? 1970 — when people were scared and worried about New York City’s future. When did science fiction itself really take off? During the Great Depression.

    I think you’re right about the nature of the culture war; I wonder sometimes if we each don’t have our own, between optimism that drives us to make things better and pessimism that leads us to give up. I know I’ve been feeling the latter more than the former. A few days ago, I mentioned Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. In a novel about the rise of a fascist U.S. government, he describes the conflict this way:

    Everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring critical spirit … the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and silencing them forever.

    July 17, 2004
  • Hey, I saw your mention of the discussion in your blog; I was wondering if you were going to amplify on it. Glad you did.

    But another part of the problem is that people have come to expect that everything is ideological, that there is no such thing as objective truth when it comes to politics, twisting the facts in order to gain or retain power is as natural and desirable as breathing. And I have no idea what to do about that, because on some level, it’s absolutely true.

    Well, yes. You expect politicians to lie, reflexively and without apparent remorse. But scientists? I think this is another manifestation of the lack of scientific literacy in this country. People don’t understand what scientists really do, or how science works; to the average American, the superficial similarity between the clashes of competing religious and social ideologies and the clashes of scientific theories appear the same. You have to know a little science, and a little about the scientific method, to understand that objective truth does exist, and that the physical universe is the final arbiter.

    It doesn’t help that the far right and far left deliberately blur the distinction between science and faith, and that our political leaders—even those who know better— ignore unpopular science for the sake of expediency.

    July 17, 2004
  • Re: Simpler Times

    …I wonder sometimes if we each don’t have our own, between optimism that drives us to make things better and pessimism that leads us to give up. I know I’ve been feeling the latter more than the former.

    Exactly. It doesn’t help that the social and economic rewards for being a boot-licking conformist are more obvious than the rewards of being a freethinker. I think the culture wars are our internal struggles, writ large. Some people cease to struggle at all (or don’t acknowledge the struggle), and take the simplest, meanest tack: trying to control other people’s lives and thoughts.

    It is hard to be optimistic in dark times. I can’t imagine what it felt like to be a socialist during the McCarthy era, or an anti-fascist in Germany from 1933 to 1945. I was going to say that it puts things in perspective, but the real fear is not where we are today, but that we could be headed down the same road again. Who can doubt that if John Ashcroft and his fellow travellers had their way, there’d be book burnings in Georgetown?

    July 17, 2004
  • Anonymous

    The cause of the coming dark Ages? Prosperity!

    Just stumbled into this blog on a search for references to “red states” and see a worthwhile discussion. Would like to add that prolonged prosperity is the destroyer of souls. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but the comment that good science fiction was born in the depression is the flip side of what I’m saying here. Exposure to hard reality in the real economy regrounds people, they become less absurd in their behavior, but the experience drives the need for a transcendental vision of some kind. Exposure to multidecade prosperity allows people to become very ungrounded in reality, and offers material distractions to the development of a rich and sustaining inner life.
    The ironic thing is that these two opposite modes cause each other…one leads inexorably to the other…Ungrouded people make bad choices on all levels of society, bring great misfortune to themselves and others, and start a process where things get generally so bad that people start to improve their attitudes and start making the right personal choices again.
    And they begin again to hope and have positive dreams about the future…
    I would also add that it is in a period of hard times that interest in education and hard science will return.

    July 17, 2004
  • Point taken re Penn & Teller’s series, although they aren’t nearly as heavy-handed or deliberately clownish as Moore, a trait that undercuts Moore’s valid messages almost as much as his data-skewing does. Still, Penn & Teller strike me as more honest and even, yes, optimistic in their approach. Where they trump Moore is in the type of passion they put into their episodes, which revolve around the importance of critical and unclouded thinking and the perfidy of dogmatic and ideological thinking. Moore aims to punch the Reflexive and Angry buttons, Penn & Teller the Heartfelt Love of Science (etc.) buttons.

    I’m intrigued. Can you point me toward it?

    Not yet, unfortunately. It’s in the nascent stages, though the theme starting emerging when writing a novelette that I’ll be sending out in a day or two. However, now that I think back on it, you might find early hints of that direction seeding stories such as “Mustard Seed” from F&SF.

    July 17, 2004
  • Re: The cause of the coming dark Ages? Prosperity!

    Yeah, the Decadent Romans Argument. It’s an attractive theory, but I’m not convinced that all the data points that way: you could say that Nazi Germany was a product of the Great Depression. Most Chinese people, for most of history, have been poor, illiterate peasants, well-grounded in the day-to-day reality of making a living from the Earth, but as prone to fear and superstition as any Twentieth Century American.

    The 1960s were a relatively prosperous time in America, and though they have a reputation now for fuzzy-headed hippie philosophy, it was also a period of relatively high standards of scientific literacy and educational rigor among the middle class.

    You could make the argument, in fact, that “a rich and sustaining inner life” is a possibility only for people who’ve achieved a certain level of material comfort, at least to the extent that they have a roof over their heads, and they know where their next meal is coming from. Too many Americans are currently living with a certain amount of economic insecurity, and it hasn’t had a salutary effect on the public discourse.

    July 17, 2004
  • No, I think you’re right: Penn & Teller are much more honest and straightforward than Moore. And they clearly understand the subject matter of their work in a way that Moore does not (his Bowling for Columbine is not a stellar example of a grasp of the laws of cause and effect).

    I shall check out “Mustard Seed,” thanks.

    July 17, 2004
  • Re: The cause of the coming dark Ages? Prosperity!

    prolonged prosperity is the destroyer of souls

    Exposure to hard reality in the real economy regrounds people, they become less absurd in their behavior

    one leads inexorably to the other

    Can you point to any evidence at all, beyond the anecdotal, that supports these claims? There’s nothing “inexorable” about any of that. From where I’m sitting, those are just versions of the “noble savage” or “artists must suffer before they can create” notions — quaintly Calvinist and romanticized, not to mention exclusionist is their own way.

    How about: Exposure to multidecade prosperity CAN FOSTER SOME people to become very ungrounded in reality, just as that prosperity can allow other people to devote their attention, energy, and drive to creating or dreaming up things beyond what’s required for basic survival, thus improving “reality” for themselves and probably others? What makes one person take one route and another person the other? I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s a host of factors both internal and external, and never exactly the same for any two individuals.

    What I see instead is a world evolving, however fitfully and with some resistence, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or something thereabouts, and the sooner more individuals and entire populations can move from “hard reality in the real economy” to “multidecade prosperity,” the better off everyone will be, from the individual to the global levels.

    I would also add that it is in a period of hard times that interest in education and hard science will return.

    “Things have to get worse before they can get better”? Man, I hope not. Poverty is a far, far greater and more commonplace “destroyer of souls” than prosperity; one reason is because poverty is a fertile soil for religion-sanctified ugliness, small-mindedness, and Us vs. Them attitutes. The majority of the world now living in what we would call “hard times” — far harder than we’ve seen in this country for a century at least — are certainly not wellsprings of education and hard science. One look through today’s papers should make that clear several times over.

    July 17, 2004
  • Re: The cause of the coming dark Ages? Prosperity!

    (Upon reflection, I’m wondering if I just fell for a troll who posted a deliberately ridiculous message just to watch the result. If so, pardon me while I remove the hook from my mouth.)

    July 17, 2004
  • Re: The cause of the coming dark Ages? Prosperity!

    You said what I meant with less equivocation and more depth. If he(?) was trolling, so what? It made for an interesting post.

    July 17, 2004
  • Anonymous

    I stand by this

    Hello, guest here again. No, I’m not a troll.
    No, I don’t buy the Roman analogy either, I’m not comparing the U.S. to any one culture. Or any one time in history.
    That doesn’t mean that comparisons can’t or shouldn’t be made, but you have to have very complete data sets, and factor in differences in cultures as well. It’s a painstaking effort and yes, there will an element of the subjective in it. Can’t be avoided, due to the subject matter.
    I’m simply saying that average people, of which all societies are mostly composed, after a multigenerational boom, will be more disfunctional then the period in time right after emerging from it’s opposite. Now, many of the more creative types will prosper regardless of the external economy, as will the ambitious. But economic cyles still exist, and they exist, not just to clean up some of the dead wood in the economic sphere, but they have a tendency to refocus people on what’s important. I’m not advocating great depressions here, but some severity is tonic. I would add that economically, the more major the boom, the more major the best. Regression towards the mean, with overshoot. The West, particularily the U.S., has just left behind probably in both duration and in level of oportunity the greatest boom in history. The economy is softening, but we do not have the majority of people thinking things are real bad, though anxiety is increasing. The detritus left behind as the boom wanes includes (but is not limited to) massive debt levels at all levels, drugs are simply everywhere, and relations between the sexes are dismal. You hear people mentioning that our social capital has declined severly. It has, because many people have no idea what that means. If you spend time with a variety of regular people of different ages, talk to them about their families, their jobs, what they hold important, and have done this for over 25 years, you will have constant “aha” moments where the deterioration is plain and clear. Unfortunately, I think the bust thats looming will be quite severe and the “refocusing” may have unwelcome or tragic side effects. That sometimes happens.

    July 18, 2004
  • Anonymous

    mispellings

    That should have been:
    The more major the boom, the more major the bust…

    not “best”

    July 18, 2004
  • Re: I stand by this

    Do you stand by these fluffy, vague, and rather 18th-century generalizations because it makes you feel good to do so, or because you can concretely back them up? Really, I’m not trying to be snarky, just curious.

    drugs are simply everywhere

    As they were in the ’20s, the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s. What we have more of now are people bringing it out into the open and talking about it.

    relations between the sexes are dismal

    Really? Where? How so? Worse than ever before? It’s not so in my world. I’ve never seen it better, and I’m old enough to tell a difference.

    You hear people mentioning that our social capital has declined severly

    That’s right, because we’ve ALWAYS heard people mentioning that. In this country alone it goes back to Cotton Mather and that gang, at least. But look at the facts and you’ll see that things are getting better more than they’re getting worse (editorial aside: no matter how much the current administration is trying to reverse that trend). It may be “two steps forward, one step back” progress, and despite the pockets of recent horrors such as Iraq or the African AIDS epidemic, but I’d rather be living here and now rather than any other period in our social and cultural history.

    you will have constant “aha” moments where the deterioration is plain and clear

    And at least as many where the opposite is true. Granted, the “regular people of different ages” that I talk to daily may be startlingly different from yours, given as how I don’t know who or where you are, but it’s clear that either we exist in two very different types of political/social environments, or else (far more likely) we are separated by viewing the same world through two very different lenses of our own making. To me, my lens is the clear one, though no doubt you feel likewise about yours. Thus we have A.M. talk radio.

    July 18, 2004
  • Re: I stand by this

    Hi “Guest”

    First, a few administrative issues:
    Saying “I stand by this” doesn’t have much force when you post anonymously.
    Trolls don’t say they’re trolls, and I imagine many of them don’t think they’re acting trollishly, but when you post (moderately) provocative comments anonymously, you look like a duck and quack like a duck, so to speak.
    Posting anonymously, without even putting your name at the end of the comments, seems a bit rude, especially in serial posts. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of registering for a (free) Livejournal account, the least you could do is sign your work.
    I’ll allow responses to this one, but your future comments will be screened; if they remain anonymous and unsigned, they’ll be deleted. That seems only fair to the folks who put their names on their opinions.
    Now, onto the substance of your remarks.

    I’m simply saying that average people, of which all societies are mostly composed, after a multigenerational boom, will be more disfunctional then the period in time right after emerging from it’s opposite.

    We know what you’re saying: the problem is that you offer no examples to back the assertion, and haven’t responded to the substance of the counterarguments offered.

    The detritus left behind as the boom wanes includes (but is not limited to) massive debt levels at all levels, drugs are simply everywhere, and relations between the sexes are dismal.

    Again, where’s the data? The debt level is quantifiable, and is greater than it was ten years ago, I believe—a function of the worsening economy—it’s akin to saying people work less during an economic depression, as if it’s a choice.
    Drugs are not as ubiquitous as they were ten years ago. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control (see the data HERE), cocaine use among high school seniors is half of what it was in 1980, and only slightly higher than it was in 1990 and 1995: in 2002 it was 2.3 percent, hardly ubiquitous. In the same population, use of inhalants are almost exactly where they were in 1980: 1.5 percent, down from 2.7 and 3.2 percent in 1990 and 1995 respectively. Likewise, high school seniors’ use of marijuana is down 13 percentage points from 1980, to 21.5 percent, approximately where it was in 1995.
    As far as relations between the sexes being dismal, I have no idea what that means. The divorce rate in the United States actually declined slightly in the 1990s, and has remained more or less stable since (see statistics HERE).

    You hear people mentioning that our social capital has declined severly. It has, because many people have no idea what that means.

    Many people have no idea what it means because it’s an impossibly vague assertion that can’t be quantified. It’s another way of saying “society is going to hell in a handbasket.” Well, people have been saying that since the first handbaskets were made. It’s no more true now than it was then: as I said in the body of my post, it’s nostalgia for something that never existed, and it’s poison.

    Unless you’d like to offer some statistics to back up your assertions, I’m afraid this is going to be a conversation about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and how they used to be better dancers.

    July 18, 2004
  • Continuation

    I’m back.
    Where to start?
    O.K. I’m not making 19th century judgments, alright?
    The United States has serious economic and social problems,and no, I don’t enjoy saying that.
    My comments are directed toward the idea that some of this is tied into where we are in the business cycle, particularly the very long intergenerational cycles.
    Now you may tell me that things are getting better in this country, but I have my doubts. It’s helpful to compare the U.S. with other countries to understand just how very messed up we are.

    Here’s some stats for you;

    The position of the U.S. vs. the top 100 countries in each catagory per capita:

    Behavior stats:

    Total crime rate: we are #8
    Total rapes : we are #1, relations between the sexes couldn’t be better!
    Total prisoners : we are #2, Russia is #1
    Drug Offenses : we are #4, Norway,Switzerland and New Zealand are ahead of us. So we are getting better here, glad to hear it.

    One bright spot
    Murders : we are #24 here, per capita

    Statistics available on http://www.nationmaster.com

    I have experienced here in houston, over the last 5 years or so, that if i want to go out for a drink in the evening, I must be selective. I can hear drug talk and see drug paraphernalia in many local bars here in the suburbs. I have talked to some of these people and they don’t even care if they go to jail. When I question them, they ask right out if I’m a narc. This stuns me, and this has been a relatively recent phenomenon down here.
    I’ll tell you right off, I’m not a fan of talk radio. I don’t fully understand how people can narrow their information down to one source like that.
    Now lets talk about social capital. So we’ve always had naysayers back to Cotton Mather? I would say that starting with the nuclear family of the ’50 and ’60’s. (Didn’t Time magazine have that as a talking point back then? A magazine cover?) We have done a good job of making the family an ever smaller unit. We don’t even have a lot of intact nuclear families nowadays. In single parent families we are #5 in the world at 9% and the number of people living by themselves, we are #1 at 26 per cent! Yeah, we’re competing for an award of some kind against other nations. I’ll leave it too you all to decide what that award should be.

    If we can get past the talking points that this country is in trouble, then we can get back to my original thesis. If not, then everything is fine and I’m sorry I disturbed you all..

    Cheers,
    Mark Lytle, Houston, Texas
    mlytle@texas.net

    July 18, 2004
  • Re: Continuation

    We definitely agree that this country is in trouble. No question, and I’ll buy you the drink of your choice at one of our many drug-free bars here in downtown Portland, OR and clink glasses with you on that. However, it appears that the causes, the effects, and nature of that trouble aren’t points where we’re likely to find common Venn diagram ground. For starters, from my experience the so-called “traditional nuclear family” gets more credit than it deserves (especially the lip-service catechisms of an election year), at least to the disservice of perfectly fine and child-friendly non-traditional families of all stripes.

    I’m sorry I disturbed you all

    Oh, no disturbance at all. Just wondering where (literally and otherwise) you were coming from. Thanks for filling in the details.

    July 18, 2004
  • more on that

    I agree that you don’t need a nuclear family to do well,
    I have no judgments to make against families of any type.
    In my own case, I came from a traditional family, but it was dysfunctional as hell. That’s not uncommon. The advantage of the traditional and yes even the old-fashioned extended family was economic first and after that, to some degree emotional.
    I only launched into that because I felt a bit ganged up on, it’s difficult in one post to address two people at once.
    I am a center-left sort of individual, but I will wear more than one hat sometimes. I use what I believe are roughly historical norms for me to come to some conclusion about when a society is in trouble. The stats I gave in the last post are indicative of some kind of deep alienation which I believe is the result of a kind of hyper-materialism.
    Now before anyone gets excited, I would say that science and technology still have tremendous potential for mankind, or it can also kill us. That’s our choice. We seem to have created a consumer culture to provide a market for the products of our technological prowess. I’m not trying to make too sweeping of a statement here, but there’s advantages to our model and drawbacks. We know that our medical advances for example, and many other good things, are directly a result of having a society affluent enough to pay for the research, whether through product sales or tax-dollars. Our successful,but highly competitive society,
    also has produced some of the illnesses that we use that medical technology to treat.
    What will become our greatest challenge in the coming years is how to have a society where people can find meaning in a fashion that doesn’t require spiraling energy or resource usage, so Thorsten Veblen consumerism is out.
    This is against a backdrop of raging deficits from the wild excesses of the boom years, and aging demographics. I’m assuming the U.S. taste for empire will wane as the economy droops, and that’s a good thing, a silver lining in a dark cloud. But we still will awaken from our love affair with hyperconsumerism and hypermaterialism in a bad way, as these are almost unspoken, and unconscious religions for millions of Americans. Like the Russians when socialism imploded, we will go through an existential trauma when it becomes clear that much of our recent lifestyle was an unsustainable mirage, built on IOU’s.

    Where does family come in? When the world goes weird, or no longer conforms to expectations, it’s family and friends that help ground us. It doesn’t have to be the traditional nuclear family, by any means. But 26% of America lives alone. By the standards of any society in history, anywhere, this is beyond odd. We are currently structured into a very weak form of a society.

    Another anecdote from life:
    This is three weeks ago, I meet this guy at a local watering hole. He’s 26 years old. He’s drowning his sorrows over a beer about a breakup with a girl friend. He spills his guts to me, he wants to join the military. Why? I ask.
    He replies” Because of the comradery, it’s like family.”
    It was easy to figure out he had no place to go, no family. He also told me he had a “good job” for a couple of years painting cars, but he blew all the money. Now, he had a job moving furniture and was barely making rent. He has no hospitalization, and if he hurts himself on the job, he’s indigent. So the military looks very attractive for him.

    This story can be repeated with variations all over this town, and probably elsewhere in the U.S. as well. This also explains the lure of the drug culture, for theses kids, it tempts big money through dealing.

    Also associated with the entry of formerly middle class kids into the underclass, is identification with rap music. you would be amazed here in houston of the blue-eyed kids singing gangsta’ rap tunes.

    I have seen enough first hand down here to know that we have some serious pathologies building up out there. I would assume that Oregon with a slightly different demographic may be spared some of this, as I think parts of Oregon became havens for ’60’s folk, and you may have a gentler gene pool than down here, I don’t know.

    July 18, 2004
  • Re: more on that

    Hey Mark, thanks for shedding your anonymity. Welcome to the Livejournal monkey house. I’m sorry if your first visit seemed a bit overwhelming.

    I think we all agree that American society has some big problems: where we disagree, or where I do, is that I don’t think the problems are tied to periodic booms and busts in the economy. I was going to go over the statistics again, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Yes, people feel alienated and there’s a breakdown of the community (which I alluded to in the main post when I said I was writing the post, rather than having a conversation with a friend), but I think that’s got multiple causes and probably isn’t cyclical in any meaningful sense. My fear is that the lack of scientific literacy in America is just one symptom of the cultural malaise.

    In any case, sorry you felt ganged up on. Feel free to come back any time.

    PS: The blue-eyed kids and rap thing? That’s more than a decade old here in New York. There’s a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Bensonhurst, which is still largely second- and third-generation Italian-Americans. The kids who formerly would’ve gone into the building trades no have no place to go, and some of the rage they feel is directed at minorities, especially blacks. It’s ironic, then, that these same white kids from Bensonhurst dress, talk, and carry themselves like gangsta rappers, whose music they play at full volume in their cars.

    July 18, 2004
  • There’s a good, clear article in the most recent (August?) issue of Discover about this targeting of scientific programs by conservative groups. The article focused on a study of the sexual behavior of truckers in Georgia and Arizona that’s under fire for the same reasons, but provided many other examples as well.

    The thing is, these groups try to never mention what the end purpose of the research is. To achieve their medieval goals, the groups will simply characterize a program as a study of the sex lives truckers, as if prurient interest is the soul purpose of the study. And their congressional mouthpieces will stand up in the Capitol and omit the important facts just as casually.

    July 19, 2004
  • Which reminds me that I failed to send you sentences over the weekend. Argh! Tonight, tonight, if it’s not too late.

    July 19, 2004
  • Not too late. And I still owe you a few too, which I send you this evening (PST).

    July 19, 2004
  • I have to resubscribe to Discover. On my to-do list.

    July 19, 2004

Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright © Robert J. Howe