Saturday, June 24, 2006

What about the scientists and engineers?

Alon Levy at UTI has a post that refers to a post by one that refers to by one Kristine Harley that is worth a link and a quote:

We are being groomed by her and the other media sock puppets of rich creationist conservatives for a new American order, one in which the U.S. health care system is for shit! Okay? In lieu of basic health services we are going to be given prayer and preaching and personal guilt, and to accomplish this, these cretins need to rewrite the whole history of science--the most precious thing that we have--in order to push supernaturalism. They who control the past will control the future. Is that clear?

Already, a significant portion of Americans do not have health insurance, and the number of employers who don't offer this basic right are growing. One-fifth of all children live in poverty. Television is killing literacy in this country. And the same Americans who revile Bush for getting us into the Iraq War are the ones who will not step up to the plate and accept responsibility for pushing superstition into our nation's schools. These people have no right to whine about Bush while simultaneously siding with his minions who would teach little kids that the eye was intelligently designed and that people get sick because of "sin."

Whether or not George W. Bush stole the (or both) election(s), we are all responsible for not stealing legitimate science from the next generation of schoolchildren. If we lose the next generation of scientists, it will be our tragedy and our fault, not Bush's. That means that American students must learn evolutionary theory, not the latest supernaturalist garbage. That means that you, dear reader, cannot in any way support the teaching of Intelligent Design or Biblical or Koranic or whatever-have-you creationism in public schools. Facts are facts.

One thing I'd note though, as a scientist: These folks pushing this crap from the highest levels do not, cannot, really believe this crap. They need scientists and engineers to run the creative engines that give them an edge. They "know" the scientists and engineers produce theories and intellectual property and design for stuff that works.

To me, that is one of the big neon signs that indicate that the fealty the ideas of Leo Strauss (or, by way of imitative flattery, Lenin) holds sway amongst the folks in power. The "inside party," in contrast to what Orwell wrote knows they're peddling a crock of shit. From the Wikipedia entry on Strauss:

Strauss noted that thinkers of the first rank, going back to Plato, had raised the problem of whether good and effective politicians could be completely truthful and still achieve the necessary ends of their society. By implication, Strauss asks his readers to consider whether "noble lies" have any role at all to play in uniting and guiding the polis. Are "myths" needed to give people meaning and purpose and to ensure a stable society? Or can men and women dedicated to relentlessly examining, in Nietzsche's language, those "deadly truths", flourish freely? Thus, is there a limit to the political, and what can be known absolutely? In The City and Man, Strauss discusses the myths outlined in Plato's Republic that are required for all governments. These include a belief that the state's land belongs to it even though it was likely acquired illegitimately, and that citizenship is rooted in something more than the accidents of birth.

According to Strauss, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies had mistaken the city-in-speech described in Plato's Republic for a blueprint for regime reform--which it was not. Strauss quotes Cicero, "The Republic does not bring to light the best possible regime but rather the nature of political things- the nature of the city." (History of Political Philosophy, p.68). Strauss himself argued in many publications that the city-in-speech was unnatural, percisely because "it is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros (Strauss' italics). (HPP, p.60). The city-in-speech abstracted from eros, or bodily needs, thus it could never guide politics in the manner Popper claimed.
Now from the above quotes, I question whether much time should be spent on Strauss. I have to find a class of linear operators...which would inevitably be more beautiful and rewarding than to review the musings of some deceased crackpot whose noodle-headed ideas indirectly were implicated as a supporting cause of the deaths of thousands. But one quote at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry bears noting:

…no bloody or unbloody change of society can eradicate the evil in man: as long as there will be men, there will be malice, envy and hatred, and hence there cannot be a society which does not have to employ coercive restraint.
This quote should be singled out because of its interlocking falsities:
  • There are indeed changes of society that can mitigate evil in humanity.
  • There are indeed changes of society that can mitigate greed, hatred, and ignorance. Strauss doesn't mind not mitigating ignorance, I would suppose.
  • These changes start from within one's self, and is quintessentially self-evident.
  • Hence there can be societies in which coercive restraint is minimized. It inolves a disciplined citizenry contributing to the common good.
No society of insiders focused only on their own short-term benefits can remain top dog for any extended period, because some folks who are within the unwashed masses will always discover disciplined awareness transmuted into action will have benefits that help all, to the detriment of the insiders, and these folks within the unwashed masses must exist precisely because at least some of the unwashed masses must always posses a degree of awareness and skepticism because it is necessary to keep the apparatus of the society running.

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