The GOP Retreat From Empiricism

I am hardly the only person to observe that Trump’s election was a predictable consequence of the fact that, over a number of years, the GOP has morphed into something bearing very little resemblance to a rational, center-right political party.

Political pundits differ on when the changes began. Certainly, Nixon’s “Southern strategy” laid the groundwork for the GOP’s growing appeal to racial grievance. Stuart Stevens’ recent book It Was All A Lie detailed five decades of “hypocrisy and self-delusion” dating all the way back to the civil rights legislation of the early 1960s.

A recent article from Pressthink, a project of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU, reminded readers of the 2004 Ron Suskind article about the George W. Bush White House–the article that gave us the now-ubiquitous quote about the “reality-based community.” Suskind was writing about concerns voiced by so-called  “establishment” Republicans who were increasingly encountering what Suskind called  “a confusing development” within the Bush White House. Suddenly, asking for corroborating evidence, expressing doubts, or raising facts that didn’t fit an official narrative were considered disqualifying or disloyal acts for allies of the President.

Knowing what you know now, about candidate Trump, listen to these quotes from 2004…

* “He dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts.” —Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan and Bush-the-elder adviser.

* “In meetings, I’d ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!” —Christie Whitman, head of the EPA under Bush.

* “If you operate in a certain way — by saying this is how I want to justify what I’ve already decided to do, and I don’t care how you pull it off — you guarantee that you’ll get faulty, one-sided information.” —Paul O’Neill, Treasure Secretary under Bush.

* “Open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker.” —Suskind’s words.

* “A cluster of particularly vivid qualities was shaping George W. Bush’s White House through the summer of 2001: a disdain for contemplation or deliberation, an embrace of decisiveness, a retreat from empiricism, a sometimes bullying impatience with doubters and even friendly questioners.” —Suskind.

* “You’re outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way [Bush] walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what those folks don’t like? They don’t like you!” — Mark McKinnon, media adviser to Bush, explaining the political logic to Suskind.

That last quote, by Mark McKinnon, goes a long way toward explaining the root emotions of today’s Trump supporters, whose overriding need is apparently to “own the libs”–no matter what the cost to the country or their own prospects.

Suskind’s article was about the growing tensions within the Republican coalition. When he talked to Bruce Bartlett, Christie Whitman, Paul O’Neill and other loyal Republicans, they conveyed alarm over what he termed “the retreat from empiricism.”

It wasn’t only Republicans who were retreating from empiricism and reality–liberals had their anti-vaxxers  and people hysterically opposed to genetically modified foods–but they lacked the influence on their party that climate change deniers and birthers had in the GOP, and that asymmetry posed a “false equivalence” problem for journalists trying to be (excuse the phrase) fair and balanced.

Worse, fact-checking Trump had little effect, because he wasn’t trying to make reference to reality in what he said. He was trying to substitute “his” reality for the one depicted in news reports.

The goal of totalitarian propaganda is to sketch out a consistent system that is simple to grasp, one that both constructs and simultaneously provides an explanation for grievances against various out-groups. It is openly intended to distort reality, partly as an expression of the leader’s power. Its open distortion of reality is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.

On November 3d, creating an alternate reality worked for 70 million Americans.

Houston, we have a problem.

 

44 thoughts on “The GOP Retreat From Empiricism

  1. There’s a big difference between “leading” and “controlling”. Over the past few decades the Republican Party has drifted into control as their goal, abandoning any semblance of leadership. It started with the dog whistle and has ended up with the outright lie. No wonder that the United States has lost its way, and that along the incoherent path that we have been led we have lost our friends, wrecked our home, and divide the citizens one against another.

  2. My father was a die hard Republican until Bush the Younger. He said the party no longer made sense. When Trump took over Dad blew his stack. We are New Yorkers and were well aware of Trump. But it seems that the Republicans are afraid of Trump. I’d like to say they can only go uphill from here but I have my doubts.

  3. Thank you Theresa Bowers for this simple but direct explanation! “There’s a big difference between “leading” and “controlling”.

    Working in Indianapolis City Government beginning in 1972 under Republican Mayor Richard Lugar, through SIXTEEN YEARS of progress with Republican Mayor Bill Hudnut; I watched the local Republican base change between December 31, 1991 and January 1, 1992 when Goldsmith took over. And “took over” is the proper term for his administration because leadership means people will follow you, controlling means you are forced to accept their status quo. The first order from “Little Hitler” as he was called throughout the City-County Building, was to destroy all files and paperwork from the Hudnut administration. His second order was to ignore all laws, rules, regulations and ordinances because they can be changed…but they never were. Sound familiar? Paranoia was rampant, people were fired with no warning and escorted from the building by security, no one was safe. Sound familiar?

    Trump is well on his way to staging a coup; he is using the Covid-19 Pandemic to aid his actions and to cover up what is going on behind the now walled-in White House. He doesn’t leave because he fears assassination and he is a coward. Ivanka and Jared removed their children from their private school; reportedly because they ignored the school’s Pandemic protections and the school demanded they follow them. They are now safely ensconced behind the walls surrounding the White House with Grandpa and the rest of the family. Barron was removed from his school earlier. Trump will indeed attempt to use the military to remain in the White House after January 20, 2021 and we cannot trust the military to protect the country from Trump.

    Remember that old game show, “Who Do You Trust?” That question is no longer about a game; it is about survival of this country which has been severely weakened by Trump, Putin is waiting for the outcome of Trump’s coup attempt to see how well his election interference has worked this time. Houston; we do indeed have a problem!

  4. We are so in trouble as a country. Listening to CNN yesterday doing an interview with a trump supporters at the ( no where near a) million morons march its clear that they have their “facts” and that anyone who counters their “facts” with verifiable truths will be ignored and dismissed. How do we educate people to accept reality when their politics require they build a firewall to prevent reality from coming into their lives.

  5. The roots of the GOP’s descent into messaging and labeling hell really lie in the corporatist sponsorship of that political entity. Teddy Roosevelt saw it. Each Republican administration since has taken steps down that rabbit hole of branding to win as it curls its way down that fetid path to destruction of democracy.

    Here are a few names that will be all too familiar to those of us on Earth #1 who have accelerated that descent:

    Roger Ailes
    Lee Atwater
    Dick Armey
    Karl Rove
    Rupert Murdoch
    Mitch McConnell
    Dick Cheney
    Tom DeLay
    Rush Limbaugh
    Lou Dobbs

    …and a host of supporting cast members

  6. Empiricism is no different than any other philosophy or philosophical house from ancient Rome or ancient Greece! It attempts to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    The animal kingdom has the ability to gain knowledge by genetics (instinct). They can genetically pass on information and knowledge to future generations.

    Humans are supposed to be self-aware and therefore somehow more intellectual than animals. But in essence, humans tend to rely on self more than the internal guardrails of conscience and such that can steer a person in a proper direction. In other words, not being a lemming running off the precipice.

    Humanity seems to use observable perception, communication, intention, and certain beliefs in an attempt to elevate itself above the animal kingdom. But, you don’t have the animal kingdom destroying the only home that they have! So, the king of the castle so to speak, cannot figure out how NOT to kill itself off and destroy its home.

    People will criticize animals and say that they eat their own, well, so does humanity!

    Animals rely on instinctual intellect, humans have a certain amount of instinct, but usually override it for personal benefit and other issues. In other words, instinctively you will not want to stick your hand in the fire, but some will do it anyway.

    Philosophy has been used throughout man’s history to try and put a positive spin on its shortcomings and illogical motivations.

    Humans use aesthetics, logic, metaphysics, supposed ethics, and epistemology! Most of it is derived from the philosophical houses of old. Sophists, Epicureans, Pluralists, Socratic’s, Cynicism, Aristotleicum, Stoicism, Skepticism, Platonism, Neapolitans, all of these are idiosyncratic and related to these different philosophies. They all attempt to explain stupidity for the most part. Most of modern religion is based on these philosophies, so, is there any wonder that religion is the cause of most of the world’s problems because philosophy does exactly the same thing.

    Thomas Aquinas was one of the 1st to really pump philosophical beliefs into Christianity.

    One thing that philosophy did accomplish, it was a blueprint on how to manipulate the weak minded and modern thinking from every EPOCH in time since the beginning of philosophy. Bigotry and hatred of your fellow man was never a tenant of original Christianity. It was never a tenant of original Judaism. But, you can see how even if most of the words of Scripture have not been altered, many have found meanings for those scriptures that were never intended or are completely out of contextuality false.

    When you can reach a point where people can be manipulated and taught something completely contrary to its instinct, well, that’s about as good as it gets if you are an authoritarian or one that wants to manipulate the populace. Nefarious reasons be damned, because it doesn’t matter to those wanting to manipulate or those willing to be manipulated.

    Mostly, man wants to be led, they want to be told what to do. Very few people have the intellect to get along with their fellow man. So, they don’t love their neighbor, they covet their neighbors possessions, they look at their neighbor as their enemies, and, because philosophy does not promote God, it drives a wedge between that original connection of man and his God.

    This was something that was discussed amongst early Christians and before that and before Judaism, King Melchizedek! But, that’s something that a lot of people don’t get into so I probably shouldn’t here.

    Suffice it to say, humans are a fearful and cowardly creature, they don’t have the assuredness of animals that use instinct, it’s an assured genetically ingrained knowledge, part of that would be the human conscience which like I mentioned before, is consistently run roughshod over.

    Is there a fix?

    Well, I don’t think humanity has the stomach for it! Because it’s going to take some tough love so to speak. One of the 1st things right now would be to arrest Trump and his sycophants, that is going to create a lot of turmoil. But, there’s going to have to be power brought to bear against what’s going on right now, because obviously philosophy including logic is not going to cut it with what’s happening. When all else fails, brute force will have to take its place at the table. This is going to draw out all of the nut jobs, the right wing conspiracy theorists, the authoritarian capitalist wannabes, and everyone else that cannot abide by a civil society.

    These philosophical houses and religious ideologies are going to have to be annihilated. It’s going to be uncomfortable, there’s going to be a lot of whining and wailing, if it doesn’t happen, we’ll be back in the dark ages again! And we probably will not survive as a species or civilization.

  7. It seems to me that many conservatives prefer leaders who are more authoritarian. It reminds me of the idea that “father knows best.” And, of course, evangelical Christians are prone to this as well.

    The danger of this is that it can lead to government leaders that can easily abuse their power because they have blind followers. They deeply fear “the other” because “the other” challenges basic beliefs and premises that create the Weltanschung of these leaders and their blind followers. They don’t understand that “minds only work when open.” And when they have military backing, it is extremely hard to liberate the people.

    We definitely “have a problem Houston”. The question is how will the so called Republican “Anti Trumpers” move the GOP out of an alternate reality into one that is based in empiricism. They seem to be in the minority. If the GOP cannot enlarge its tent to include moderate Republicans, our country will remain highly divided. I can only hope that if Trump tries to create a coup that the miltary will move to uphold our Constitution, our democracy.

  8. Mark McKinnon hit the nail on the head. Most Americans still want a President they think they can have a beer with. Note that I didn’t say that they CAN have a beer with, because none of his followers could ever get close enough to a table where 45 is sitting to have even a word with him, much less a beer. Just the word empiricism is enough to set them off on a rant about us snowflake libtards, with our big fancy words and our big fancy ideas. They revel in ignorance as if it truly is a great thing to possess. This, sadly, is our reality.

  9. Our society was formed with precise checks and balances on power so that the collective body can move forward together without dominance by one on another.

    At least that was the intent.

    It appears to me that the oligarchs tried to establish a society where they maintained the power, and there were checks and balances to ensure the people didn’t rally around one central idea to overthrow the government. They were scared of democracy or the power of the masses. How do we keep the masses in check?

    At that point, you had oppression. “Could you imagine what would have happened if all those Negroes in the South on plantations got the idea to rise?”

    Systematically over the years, the game has become more and more rigged against the people.

    And who has told us the plan was to rig the game against us? Or, who told us they were rigging the game against us?

    If we were remotely close to democracy, the people would have to know all sides of issues and then collectively vote on such matters.

    Look how the Oligarchs or Robber Barons or Elite handled FDR talking to them about the New Deal in the 1930s. Why did he even have to go to such extremes to confront the Robber Barons with what the people (working classes) wanted?

    If we asked Howard Zinn, what would he say about our history from inception to the 1930s? Did we have leaders or controllers? Were the masses oppressed by the oligarchs?

    We killed off Native Americans. We used slaves for hundreds of years. Poor, uneducated white men had superiority over black men for generations, and in the 60s, they became equals. Did they really?

    Or, did the poor, uneducated white men become resentful like the Robber Barons before them and the Native Americans before them?

    When you use your power to push down on people (oppression), you divide. When you stand behind them, you support and serve them (leadership).

    I would say our society’s structure is an oppressive one and has been since the day we landed here as pilgrims.

  10. I have been reading your articles for several months now and posting most of them on Facebook. I have learned a great deal and clarified my thoughts on issues. Thank you for your careful research and clear thinking.

  11. Folk wax eloquently. Is it always right to be right? Your response, please, fifty words or less. Brevity is memorable. You just might qualify for the history books. Don’t give the stone inscriber thumb cramps.

  12. Another lovely blog day of erudite explanations of our situation. Folks, you are amazingly educated…so how about using those brain cells to suggest pragmatic and doable strategies and tactics to turn our Titanic?

    Already we are getting more “our way or the highway” from AOC and friends on cabinet appointments – the GOP is dancin’ in the streets on that tact…

  13. I read a piece yesterday where the author said that it was always thought that humans were thinking creatures that sometime have feelings. The election has proved this wrong for about half the population. Humans are feeling creatures that sometimes think and for some people I believe that the “sometimes think” may be generous.

    Republicans have latched on to the politics of fear and that thrives in a low reality based information environment. I think very few people will react or even bother to read a whole paragraph trying to explain a complex idea unless you have them sitting at a desk in a classroom. If you want proof of this, look at the instructions that came with your iPhone.

    People will react to “They want to Defund the Police”, “The election is fraudulent”, or “The virus is a hoax” and that is all a politician needs regardless of what it really means, or if it is even true. Unfortunately that last lie happens to be randomly killing Americans, and it seems that in the eyes of the voters that was the Republican’s only failure and they pinned that on Trump.

  14. Lester, you might want to head over to Breitbart. Not for the insight but for the slant and then read the comment section.

    Those poor uneducated aggrieved white people have found a home. Someone who understands their grievances (maybe because they feel the same way) are manipulating them for gain and eventually votes.

    How would you reach them so they’ll embrace a solution to our social ills?

    Just remember, their ancestors laid down their lives for Plantation owners so they could use slaves which gave them status over the slaves. They don’t think they are equals with black men or anybody confused over their sexuality. Their “political party” gives them superiority over “libtards.”

  15. You might check out the term “motivated reasoning”. I heard the difference between motivated reasoning and just plain reasoning as the difference between being a scientist and a defense attorney. The scientist gathers data, tests the data for its accuracy and uses it to arrive at a conclusion. The defense attorney (with due respect) hears the conclusion and looks for evidence that will fit it. Motivated reasoning is arriving at a conclusion that you wish were true, using “evidence” that will fit it. You have heard Mr. Trump say that, upfront, that he knows the conclusion and wants the evidence to prove it. In a courtroom, that has its place. In running a government, not so good.

  16. Todd – NP – the ones with money – think we have to wait until they die out or leave and move to Brazil. But many are not so well off and rural. They could use some strong emphasis (at least as much as “Black Lives Matter” from the DEMS for their needs (these are for a lot of Blacks and Latinos, as well):

    – Rural broadband
    – Rural healthcare/hospitals
    – Rural infrastructure
    – Support for family farms instead of huge payouts to “Big Farma”
    – Incentives for small businesses/entrepreneurs in more rural areas
    – Etc.

  17. I hear ya, Lester. However, they just want to know they are superior to others. That is all they’ve cared about for generations. Well, beer and fast cars, too.

  18. Authoritarianism is not only purveyed to us under the guise of religion and government; it is also built in to a society of “Father knows best” (when he often doesn’t) and not just through the word garbage and cunning politics of a Nixon “Southern Strategy,” Reagan’s destruction of the remnants of FDR’s New Deal, Bush, Jr.’s “I’m the kind of guy you would like to have a beer with,” and Trump’s “I know more than all the admirals and generals” etc. Perhaps the best antidote to the rise in authoritarianism is reform in the curricular design for child and adolescent education (one in which fathers may audit but not for credit).

    I think without knowing that those who undergo such civic training would be poor prospects for cult membership and would treat political word garbage for what it is – word garbage – and thus become good prospects for democratic idealism and service to the common good.

  19. Todd,

    WADR and the wall streeters and SF-techies don’t think they are superior??? The “Me” movement is neither unique to money, location, party, etc.. It is growing cultural aberration – me take a vaccine? Me drive anywhere near the speed limit? Me not go to a party for 100? Etc.

  20. Empiricists are the intellectual elite who look outside themselves for reality because they know that relying on internal feelings is culturally based and self serving and largely reflects what they happened to be born with and into. In some ways the opposite of empiricism is common sense based on what people happen to come across in their life rather than the inclusive story of large numbers of lives.

    Common sense requires no effort, no outreach, and works fine for some things but it’s hardly as good as humans are capable of. Attaining more, self actualization, requires investment in learning as compared to just existing with a memory to take in what happens to happen.

    When I was managing people doing complex design work I thought that the most capable collaborative group was the right mixture of those with more common sense and those with a broader kind of empiricism based on what’s colloquially called “book learning”.

    That’s also my inclination for effective political groups.

  21. Norris and Dan,
    Yes, brevity has it s place.
    But, when you’re discussing millennia of rot, a tweet or a blurb is not going to get it done! I think most everyone is tired of the tweets and the blurbs from the upper echelons of the political realm.

    Yes, morphine is a wonderful thing, and it does help quite a bit. So thank you for your inquiry Dan.

    Those that I communicate with on a regular basis, are the ones that are bringing dinner over to my house for me and my family every day. They are wonderful people and the type of folks that I love to associate with. We always reciprocate when it comes to this sort of thing, and there is always a lot of love shown towards each other.

    I truly love my neighbors and I love my brothers and sisters in faith and Spirit. It makes navigating through all this philosophical bologna much easier!

    Fixing something broken it’s not always easy, and most the time it can be quite complicated! So, if we decide to be lazy about it, if it can’t be discussed because it’s too complicated, then that’s part of the problem! And, I might add that’s part of the philosophical conundrum. Most philosophy is extremely simplified and minimalist and therefore it’s useless in a complicated situation. It doesn’t lend itself to finding solutions, it lends itself to being self-aggrandizing and narrowly focused.

    Philosophy is not going to fix anything in this situation that we find ourselves in. There is no answer in philosophy or philosophical dogma concerning Mass delusion and Hysteria, more often than not, it would tend to promote something like that than find a solution for it.

    The fix is going to be complicated and not simplistic period. It’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to take a lot of blood and sweat and tears! And I really don’t believe many looking for a simplified way of doing it will be interested in finding that solution.

    So, my suggestion would be don’t delude yourselves, because the older we are, the less likely we are to take the long road, younger people would be more inclined for that task. But those that have the knowledge and experience can be directors, can be leaders for that short period of time to bridge the gaps. But I doubt if that will happen either!

  22. Lester,

    After hacking through WaPo’s ads, I got this message, “This file was inadvertently published.”

  23. John,

    By impugning empiricism, it seems to me that you are denouncing the scientific method in favor of chatting with a creepy creature you call “god” and suggesting we accept his mythical leadership by divining stuff we have no way of knowing. Isn’t the scientific method the most successful approach to discovering reality? Isn’t living a reality-based life what educated people wish for themselves and their friends and family? If there is something that offers more hope than the scientific method, please let me know what it is. Will it work against Covid-19?

    Very few philosophers are able to arrive at the essential principles they strive to understand, but also very few are dopes. If religion (aka useless efforts to read god’s mind) had not gotten in the way and put the brakes on the advancement of civilization for 1600 years, imagine where we might be today. We might have solved the problems of dictators and wars and pandemics; instead we wasted those years getting blisters on our knees.

    Science may not solve all problems, but it does make us better informed on most, and religion has a perfect record of never having solved any, except where to send your spare change. Show me someone who speaks with a higher power and I’ll show you someone who is certifiable and possibly dangerous. Science offers such a powerful approach to analysis that to ignore it or renounce it(as Republican politicians do) makes one appear quite daft.

  24. We all have faith. We are all inclined to assume things to fill in the blanks left in our human knowledge and there have always been and will always be those holes. Empiricists fill in as many holes in their personal knowledge as possible by learning what other people have empirical evidence of to replace some holes with certifiable knowledge. But other holes remain and if they become important in life our inclination is to assume something or sometimes to assume that they are holes in reality with zero content.

    I will debate anyone anytime about what I regard as empirical knowledge mostly to find out from others if they can add to what I know. However I try to not debate faith with anyone because I assume that their assumptions are important to their comfort and that’s the purpose. There’s no purpose in trying to sell my assumptions because they aren’t knowledge and can’t be supported by evidence.

    That’s who I am.

  25. Psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman found that the way the human brain is set up, people with “low information” who make up their minds in the absence of much data are actually more confident about what they believe than people who make decisions after exposure to all the available facts. It turns out the thing the human brain finds most convincing for confidence is not accuracy based on adequate information; our brains love a simple story, which is easier to achieve with less data! “Poor people are just lazy.” (false) “The government can’t do anything right.” (false) “If elected, I will make America great again.” (FALSE)
    Recommended reading: Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

  26. I love reading John Sorg’s long entries, at least he gets me thinking.

    First, today, there was that reference to the perfection of animal instinct, followed by that reminder of all those animal lemings following each other off a cliff: so much for the perfection of instinct. And so much for a flawed lesson that defeats its own conclusions with obvious inconsistencies.

    And then there was that claim that philosophy — any of dozens of thought systems, take your pick — is the root cause of all the ills we later experience, because ideas have power to get you hooked sooner or later. Inexplicably, you gave us that little lesson…two years after you violently disagreed with my assertion of the preeminence of philosophy as a causal agent of all mankind’s behavior, good and bad. Ahhh, inconsistencies. But this time you came around all those inconsistencies to arrive at reasoning that makes some congruent sense.

    Giving you points for that, I won’t even go into the confusion of instinct with conscience.

    At least I can agree (and help you emphasize) that philosophy plays an important role in behavior…something like a hundred years after a charismatic philosophical idea appears. Which means: at any given time in a people’s history, they are being led by a philosophy that has been aged through about six generations of peer analysis, academic acceptance, institutional refinement, and finally popular dissemination by teachers, writers, and popular media. Philosophy is how we got to the Me-first hoards. Philosophy is also how we got Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

    It is one thing to quote philosophers and drop names of philosophies but quite another to actually engage in the act of philosophy. The former requires memory; the latter thought.

  27. Pete, we don’t all have faith. Some of us when faced with a decision for which we have few data do not go forward on faith; we go forward on the basis of the prevailing information we do have, no matter how small, much in the same way odds makers in Vegas go ahead and lay odds on events for which there are limited data.

    It’s not faith; it’s calculating the odds and moving on by riding the best information available.

  28. Terry,
    I understand your viewpoint! One of the things that scripture will tell you, humanity, all of humanity, are free moral agents, free to make any decision they desire! No one is forced to make any decision they don’t agree with. So, either you believe? Or you don’t? That’s up to you.

    I would venture to say, I’m not an idiot! So, I’m familiar with philosophy and the philosophical houses of old. And, if you’ve studied philosophy, you would realize how daft most of it really is! Because it is people trying to claim they have a higher power of intellect more than anyone else. And that their philosophy, their philosophical ideals and dogmas are superior to everyone else’s thoughts about life and reality!

    To claim philosophy is science, or philosophical opinion is science, is ridiculous! Is theoretical physics science? Because, it changes constantly! So, what’s taken as gospel in theoretical physics during one decade, is completely different a few decades later. That’s philosophy playing fast and loose with scientific laws! we can get into that aspect of it but I don’t think you really want to judging by your opinion.

    Philosophers and philosophical beliefs are what had changed religion! Not the other way around. So, a lot of the stuff people Roil about concerning religion, has not come from religion itself but from the philosophers that infuse their opinions into the religion and science!

    Now, that’s factual!

    When people talk about burning hell and damnation, that’s not taught in scripture! That’s philosophical dogma. And Judaism where the philosophers in the Sanhedrin told their adherants to hate your enemy, because scripture only applied to your Jewish neighbor, well, that wasn’t in scripture, that wasn’t anywhere in the Mosaic law, but philosophy changed the meaning of that particular pillar of judaism.

    You can hate God for whatever reason you feel you need to hate God Terry, I don’t follow that particular belief. I do follow the belief that there are those who have manipulated religion to cause people to hate God therefore those people have been easily manipulated and choose to willingly believe the philosophical bologna that’s been put forth concerning religion, science, and how it’s been blended with philosophy and falsely called empirical evidence!!!!

    Again, that’s your choice, because you’re a free moral agent, and you will live and die by your own decisions not someone else’s that goes for everyone.

    So, I would suggest that before you completely come down on and demonize every portion of religion and things that you don’t believe or understand, maybe you should actually investigate it and research it before you do so. But, that’s up to you, I’ve done my research already and I know what I know!

    I don’t blame you for hating the philosophy that’s called religion and the philosophy that’s been blended with science. Because, these things are born by men with gigantic egos and not a lot of knowledge scientifically wise.

    One un-philosophically tainted scripture tells us that the Earth hangs on nothing! Philosophy told us up until a couple of centuries ago that the Earth stood on the back of a turtle which was on top of giant elephants! Or, that the Earth was flat. Scripture always called the Earth a sphere so, when you start talking about several millennia ago, and scripture talking about the Earth hanging on nothing and it being a sphere, compared to philosophical opinions, what makes more sense? Why did it take science so long to catch up?

    You see Terry I don’t care what anybody else’s opinions are, I believe what I believe and I have the freedom to do that because I’m a free moral agent just as you, and you’re free to believe whatever you desire! And the long run, maybe we’ll find out who’s correct and who isn’t! Because the path we’ve been following right now has not been a good one.

    The point of the column was empirical evidence and alternate realities, so, if empirical evidence is alternate reality, I’ll stick with what I believe.

  29. You would need to draw up a Venn Diagram to capture the Trump Cult in it’s entirety, among them are Bible Thumper’s, Male Macho Authoritarians, the gun toting camouflage types, domes day preppers, anti-government regulation types and include the 1%.

    The GOP in acquiring these various groups also know The Trumpet has captured them. The elected GOP officials know they risk their political careers by outright opposition to The Trumpet. Thus, we have the empty suits like Pastor Pence and Barr, there are also the associated grifters and stooges that hope to profit some how.

    Rudy Giuliani is the poster boy for a Trump Stooge.

  30. I recall reading years ago a wise man who wrote “In the end, all is philosophy.” My guess is that he was and is right, but this is not the end and we have many roads subject to choice to travel before arriving there, roads of science, faith, nihilism etc. My particular means of travel to such destination is science with such markers as Charles Darwin over Oral Roberts, FDR over Donald Trump, Martin Luther King, Jr. over Jerry Falwell, Jr., Keynes over Friedman etc. Those who choose otherwise in this conjectural exercise will meet me at our common destination, that of philosophy. Meanwhile and en route, let’s all practice the humanism (We’re all in this together) practiced by the Christ, the Buddha, the Prophet and other such religious figures before their views were hijacked by politicians and TV preachers, who appear to be all in this for themselves, “we’re” to include all those of us irrespective of color, gender, economic status etc.

    Impossible to make happen? How do we know? We haven’t tried making it happen yet.

  31. Larry,

    You are one messed up dude! I recall some of our debates, but, I’d have to scroll through them because I’ve saved them all in my file. so you’ll have to refresh me on that one, the date so I can reread it!
    Lol, you’ve been laying in the weeds all of that time for this? Your craw must really be full!

    That being said, I don’t really believe your educational prowess will sway any opinion I might have. And, what is the difference between a human conscience that steers someone in a specific direction or animal instinct which steers an animal in a specific direction?

    A human conscience will allow someone to take their own life, animals that go against their instinct will usually end up in a bad way, probably a meal for another animal.

    Instinct is genetic but it is also learned, case in point, fear of man. Instinctually animals are afraid of men. But, when those animals are raised with men they are not afraid. And as a matter of fact, in certain cases they will kill they’re human companions because of that lack of fear.

    I’ve asked you several times to explain your opinions on the genetics of it all, and you continually refuse, so until you can make your claim, then your opinion is basically worthless to me anyway.

    Maybe you can tell me what empirical evidence there is to make your points, and if you can do that, I’ll change my opinions. But you won’t change my opinions because you can’t prove empirical evidence!

    I’m just wondering the sixth generations of empirical evidence concerning systemic racism? The conscientious allowance of white European males to enslave what they consider an inferior race of people to work for nothing, and because for most of that time, and really still to this day, are considered below human, how does that work?

    How is that refined Larry? Manifest Destiny was a philosophy, American Romanticism was a philosophy, American exceptionalism was a philosophy! These things still circulate! It’s good that I am a little bit in your craw, because if you’re talking about two years ago, that would have been when I first discovered Sheila’s blog.

    Michiru Kaku the theoretical physicist, has a lot of interesting ideas! and although I’m not a physicist, I could come up with some doozies myself! And even he says, that all physics are local! That means the physics that are here in our solar system might not be and probably are not the same as physics and another part of this galaxy or another galaxy! So, what is reality? Empirical evidence would be observable fact, and there is empirical evidence or observable fact that physics act differently in other parts of the Galaxy and universe.

    So someone coming up with a philosophical idea that supposedly will be refined through generations, is a joke! And if you consider that real science, well that’s your issue!

    What’s the difference between Meiosis and Mitosis Larry? How does that affect DNA? How does that affect philosophy? Has philosophy had an impact on just this one issue? What about RNA Larry, what philosophical ideas expanded our understanding of that? What effect has philosophy had on the discovery of RNA? Or the workings of RNA? What did philosophy have to say about myotic proteins and endorphins?

    What about philosophy and it’s bearing on dark matter? Or contraction of the universe? Or expansion of the universe? Or gravitational waves? Or quasars, pulsars, black holes?

    Or just explain how philosophy has made society so much better Larry!

  32. Pete. Common Sense has absolutely nothing to do with RW political beliefs. Common Sense is based on facts, not feelings. The stove is hot therefore you do not lay your hand on the stove because you will get burned!!! That is common sense. The RW have no common sense what so ever. They are lemmings willing to be led over the cliff. LBJ said it best: I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

  33. Vernon, Robin, Dan, Michele-
    The list of malfeasants missed Newt “There is no acid rain” Gingrich, for one, but it’s pretty inclusive.
    Authoritarianism is close to the hearts of conservatives, and evangelicals, both of which groups have great difficulty with nuance and anxiety. They deal with this by looking for an authority whom they will see as comforting, politically, religiously, or both.
    Reagan, who famously, or infamously, said “Facts are just annoyances,” helped move the sickness along. And, it’s certainly been downhill since then.

  34. John,

    Saying I hate god is like saying I hate dragons flying upside down. I don’t dislike either, and for the same reason – they don’t exist. When you say you and I are free to believe what we want, is that true if one of us bases our thoughts on facts and reality while the other bases his evidence-free thinking on what he wishes were true? And if the two approaches are equally valid, shouldn’t I honor Trumpers for the thoughts that led them to love their cult leader?

    Nobody said you were an idiot. Au contraire. You’re smart as hell and that’s why it disappoints me that you accept stories told 5,000 years ago as a foundation for your philosophy. And as for physics not being philosophy, every physicist I know has a doctorate in philosophy and what is now called science used to be called natural philosophy.

    When you say “one of the things scripture will tell you…” Scripture won’t tell me anything because I don’t try to learn from fantasy-based falsehoods. Religion is about obedience, putting down women, belief in the supernatural, authoritarianism, a cockeyed view of how the universe was created and how reality came to be, denying science, opposition to skepticism, a priori reasoning, Popes who get canonized even though they protect pedophiles, money raising, self-serving ideologies, insistence on the correctness of their viewpoint, denying the sexual nature of mankind, fighting defensive battles against progress, instilling feelings of guilt, providing loopy people with irrational feelings of certitude, claiming that those who update their views based on new knowledge are guilty of not knowing the truth, claiming exclusive access to truth, arguing about which god is god when none of them are, sponsoring way too many wars, etc., etc.

    Religion, however, does weddings, funerals, and solace better than secularism and should be confined to those roles.

    After starting college as a pre-ministerial student, my religion professors soon showed me the error of my ways; I never transitioned to hedonism, but skepticism made me a lot more comfortable so I’ve stuck with it.

    I respect you for not caring about the opinions of others. Some of yours are quite interesting (that is not meant sarcastically).

  35. John,

    I meant to add that I don’t see how religion has any useful meaning if each and every believer is free to pick which aspects of which religions he finds palatable. Your eclectic approach seems less reprehensible to me, but no more valid than that of more orthodox believers.

  36. Maybe, John, our hogs on the family farm were not animals that sinlessly followed their perfected instinct/conscience (lol).

    See, we burned a pile of corncobs in the same field where we kept about 200 nearly fed-out hogs, and were taught a fine lesson about the limitations of animal instinct. As evening arrived, the burning cobs had turned to coals, and with darkness those coals glowed like radioactive candy.

    The hogs were facinated.

    I guess, if you are right, at least the hog’s superior instinct then failed them, or simply failed to overcome their lust to eat pretty candy, or whatever they thought those glowing coals were. Even after the coals burned blisters in a hundred hog’s mouths, the hogs kept trying to eat them. None of the hogs died, but all lost nearly forty pounds each, which was a lot of money out of my father’s bottom line, because they couldn’t eat for two weeks.

    Maybe eating burning coals is in a hog’s DNA. Whatever, they could have benefitted greatly from a bit of philosophy, or the tiniest particle of empirical evidence, maybe even religion, but of course those are human things, I’m told, to be avoided at all cost.

    I am reminded that some philosophers and some religious entities believe people can walk on coals and not be harmed. Hmmm; on the other hand, maybe it was some outlying hog religion that conned our hog’s minds into believing they could eat live coals. Or maybe their minds were dumbed to uselessness by the millions of hog names and hog terminologies and hog concepts and hog rationalizers and ancient hog houses which they and their ancestors had merely memorized. Eating the coals may have been the hog’s way of showing off their prodigious memory and not so much for productive thinking.

  37. Terry,

    I enjoy the conversation immensely with you. And, I’m not trying to change your mind because everyone has free will to believe what they will and what they won’t.

    It seems like a good fairytale doesn’t it? But why does it seem like a fairytale? Religion is not Scripture, and Scripture is not a religion! They are 2 separate and distinct entities. Almost the entirety of religion was invented by men. Scripture was manipulated and used to control men. If you’re good you’ll go to heaven, if you’re bad you’ll be in a burning torment for eternity. Therefore, donate your money to the church, and you might not live in eternity of agony.

    This has nothing to do with Scripture or God, this is made up drivel that was concocted by man-made philosophical dogma. Sure, we can talk about what truth is, what life is really about, why are we here, but, most don’t want to hear that anyway.

    There are many books that predate some Scripture, the Targum of Onkelos, the Jerusalem Targum, and the Midrash. These discuss many things, and these books have not really been corrupted because most attention has been put on biblical Scripture. How to manipulate that Scripture and how to sow disbelief in it. Religions were born from that very thought process and for that very purpose. And, this made many people doubt the validity of religion because it’s based on Scripture or supposed to be.

    What those who flock behind Donald Trump claim is religious, never was and never will be. Nowhere has Scripture authorized any religious individuals to force it’s ideas on anyone else. Throughout Scripture it talks about loving your enemy, loving the widow and the fatherless child, aiding the foreign resident, and on and on and on. It’s diametrically opposed to anything that is being pushed forth by this currant administration.

    I don’t believe in religion so to speak, I believe in the truth, I believe in Scripture. Because true interpretation reveals a lot of excellent qualities, and it condemns the opposite.

    But, like I said before, there are a lot of religions out there that are constructed by men for nefarious purposes. And, you are correct Terry, because worshiping should be done in private. People can debate Scripture and worship, but even in Scripture we are told to keep our worship private. And that’s what I do for the most part except when I’m discussing issues here.

    In Job 26:7 talks about the earth hanging on nothing, this was written thousands of years before science realized the earth was not a painting or standing on the backs of turtles and giant elephants. Thousands of years Terry, and eventually science caught up. Just an accident? Just happenstance? No, there is truth in those pages. There is scientific evidence in those pages, it’s just that many refuse to look for it.

    There are a lot of misconceptions concerning Scripture or what many call God’s word, and, that’s okay! Because we are not automatons or robots forced to act in a specific way, we are free to choose our conduct and therefore our lifestyle. But, that choice comes with a price. And, are many willing to pay it or are many afraid of what it might be?

    I believe you’re a very smart man also, I also believe you probably had a lot of bad things happen to you in your life I myself was shaped That way. So guess it just depends on what you are willing to believe in what you are willing to not believe.

    Everyone has faith on this planet Terry, it might be faith in the person that they love, it might be faith that the sun will rise in the morning from the East, it might be that that paycheck will be cashed, it might be that the government is not going to come for you and throw you in prison, it might be that you have enough food to sustain yourself and your family, or to have the freedom to come and go as you please. Or, to have the faith that the superior authorities as mentioned in Romans the 13th chapter will do their due diligence for all men and not just some. Hebrews the 11th chapter discusses that faith of all men.

    Anyway, time for some morphine brother, LOL! I know one thing, I will definitely not purposefully break a bone, this is the 1st time I’ve ever broke one, and, it really sucks! I hope you and yours have a good week coming up and are safe from this Covid 19 fiasco, it’s a terrible thing Terry, my wife’s family are frontline medical workers and she’s lost several. Hopefully these vaccines will come in time and she won’t lose any more, I’ve become quite fond of all of them.

  38. I was just thinking about this the other day. During the W time, I came up with a phrase I’d use “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, you don’t need a DNA test to prove it’s a duck.” I would say this when they would go to all efforts to prove their ideas as fact and facts as unproven hypothesis.
    I have seen this in the Trump time over and over again. Facts are doubted and then people (reporters, investigators, scientists, you and I) are stuck having to re-prove proven facts. And every test, every expert, every source is questioned.
    Another thing I remembered was what happened to Dan Rather. Where they set him up, placed false facts in place, usual background checks were done, the report went out, then the team that set it up released the proof that the report was false. Discounting one of the most reliable and integrous reporters of our time.
    There is no bottom to the lengths that these people will go to control the people and retain their wealth and power. When there is no shame, no guilt, no empathy there is no limit.

  39. Larry,

    Could be similar to the natives that haunted monkeys by putting a nice piece of ripe fruit in a jar, when the monkeys reached in to grab it, they wouldn’t let go of the fruit and couldn’t pull their hand out of the jar. The natives hunting the monkeys would just walk up to that monkey and whack them in the head and eat its brains. I guess we can call that greed! Not much different than human nature, going back to the well one too many times? Maybe becoming addicted to cocaine or heroin? Dying of an overdose because of the pretty hallucinogenic dreams?

    Mankind learned a long time ago how to use certain humans or animals to lead others to the slaughter! These were called the Judas goat! The goat or person would be allowed to live, and all of the others that followed the goat or person would be dead. Adolf Hitler used the Judas goat methodology to get many of the Jews on board those death trains to the concentration camps. And used this methodology to slaughter so many in those camps.

    The Judas goat methodology is used by Trump’s constituency, those that are leading the charge so to speak. And the others are just following to the slaughter.

    It’s great that you were raised up on a farm larry, so was i! So are my parents! Besides living in the city also. Castrating the bulls, castrating the hogs, where they would eat their own glands after you cut them off not unlike humanity.

    You do this all the time larry, that’s why I don’t really think you’re as intellectual as you believe you are. And, you can never engage in a conversation on a specific subject! You jump from window ledge to window ledge and leave everything hanging. So that tells me, your knowledge level is not really where you claim it is.

    So, if you want to engage in some sort of scientific debate, maybe ask Sheila if it could be done on her thread, maybe a special edition on another day or an other time. I’m sure many would find it interesting!

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