Archive for May, 2009

Good Bye for Now

20 May 2009

If Spring is an emergency, then Summer is exponentially so. I have my garden going, and I’m now tackling weeding that should have been tackled two months ago. That’s tiring enough, but irrigation water will be flowing soon. The mere thought is exhausting.

So I’m leaving this blog to Sybil until my energy returns.

I’ve appreciated the responses we’ve received.


The Humane Condition

16 May 2009

Yesterday’s post by Hunter at the Daily Kos began with these words:

I give up. I’m done.

The rest of this, as usual, eloquent post titled “Friday Night Surrender” dealt with the inexcusable rationalization of torture as moral and necessary and the tortured “logic” of those who support its use.

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve pondered the justification of torture because the topic seems so, well, outdated–as in Spanish Inquisition outdated.

One of my favorite Spanish Inquisition tidbits was a woman who under severe torture still had the wherewithall to add in the name of the local bishop when she listed off her Satanic compatriots. Can’t remember my source here.

But the point is, torture didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. Isn’t there sufficient proof of this in history books, in psychology texts, in casual chats with our CIA buddies? But why let little things like ineffectiveness weigh in? Blood lust is us, isn’t it?

And there, I suspect, is the rub. Most of us don’t really like human nature and want people to be NICE. But, alas, few of us are.

In a chat with a person much nobler than myself, I found myself arguing against him when he said that he objected to torture because it violated what he termed “the dignity of the human spirit.” To me, this comment about the “human spirit” ignores the reality of human nature. We are not kind, caring, sensitive creatures to those outside our loop, usually a small loop bounded by blood or uniforms or logos like crosses and crescents.

I do agree that torture violates whatever dignity the average person has, but not, as some say, because it’s dehumanizing. It’s as human as anything about us. From what I’ve seen and read, morality and sensitivity are not innate behaviors for most of us. For example, I keep thinking about Philip Zimbardo’s famous psychology experiment where Stanford college students–carefully screened and selected because they were normal, normal, normal—were assigned roles as prisoners and guards on a coin flip. These normal boys went Lord of the Flies so quickly that Zimbardo shut down the experiment.

This experiment is still standard stuff in psych courses. Of course, it’s one no ethical psychologist would undertake today–too rife with moral and ethical issues. It’s also an experiment that’s too telling about human nature. And not just because of the results. Think of Zimbardo himself, not the college students.

I keep forgetting. Too few of us think about much of anything. For example, how many of us think about the irony inherent in the word humane?

Thinking. How quaint. Isn’t it so much easier to just pick up a club and act human?

I keep arguing that we don’t HAVE to act like people. A few of us tend toward civility–often because of privilege, sometimes because of genes. A few more of us can LEARN to be civilized. But I’m pretty much as Hunter’s stage. I have little hope of understanding, less of changing what’s going on.

I have little faith in “human spirit.” I see more nobility in horses and wolves than in people. We are a nasty species, and every day I see more proof of that. I just used to have more faith in education than I do now. So few of us have the intellectual drive necessary to resist our human nature.

And so I too say, I give up. In fact, I keep thinking about this famous Jane Wagner/Lily Tomlin line: No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.


P.S. For fun, click here for some wonderful lines on cynicism.

OK, OK, I’ve Tried Ignoring Them

2 May 2009

But then this letter to the editor appeared in the the Daily Collegian Online, a newspaper “published independently by students of Penn State.”

Folks, this got to me, so I’m going to copy and paste the whole thing. I hope author Al Black of Sydney, Australia, doesn’t mind.

Here it is:

“Global Warming Arguments Lack Proper Evidence, Logic”

John Stevenson may in fact be “president, Penn State Environmental Society”, but he’s clearly no scientist, as his “rebuttal” of Samuel Settle’s letter consists of:

1) ad hominem attacks on the writer, including implied guilt by association “funded largely by conservative foundations and ExxonMobil”.

2) Laziness “I chose to trust the IPCC and the UN”. Why?

3) Dismissiveness “I know” to avoid discussing inconvenient facts, such as the virtues of CO2.

These 3 characteristics virtually define the Warmist’s response to rational questioning of the tenets of their faith. Yes folks warmism is a pseudo-scientific religion, not a scientific fact.

Concerning the media’s relation to climate change, read the following article: which says in part “True science does not result in support for what one believes, what anyone asserts, what someone says, whom you recommend or prefer, or outcomes you prefer. It proceeds with evidence, properly collected, reviewed, discussed, and replicated.” 45 Climate Scientists working for the IPCC all doing peer review on each other’s work to establish a “consensus” does not constitute real science. The fact that this Political organisation along with the Politician Al Gore “won a Nobel Prize for its work” will in due course detract from the Nobel Committee’s prestige rather than add to theirs.

Studies published about the same time as his letter prove the Earth is currently cooling, the ice packs are growing, and we have an increase in the number of Polar bears, all over the last decade while CO2 generation has increased. I would apply this evidence to the Global Warming Hypothesis which predicted the exact opposite of these trends and reject it completely. We have plenty of real environmental problems to work on!

Al Black

Sydney, Australia

Here’s the link to the original.

I found this so astonishing that I read it aloud to my husband, who, after listening carefully, nodded and said, “He forgot to say the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth.”

I wish I’d had this letter several weeks ago. It’d make a fine college final for a composition class. I would expect even a rather dim first year student to pick up on the pattern: the author replicates the problems he attacks in his own arguments.

I especially love his final paragraph. Support? Hey, people who are RIGHT don’t need to give no stinking support.



Sorry. I can’t let this go. The pedantic instructor in me wants to give at least some explanation. I’ll go point by point.

1. “[F]unded largely by conservative foundations and ExxonMobil” may suggest an ad hominem attack–certainly if one believes “conservative foundations” equals something like “selfish morons” and ExxonMobil equals a more obvious “greedy capitalist pigs” it’d be ad hominem. But without seeing the original to which Black responds, I’m guessing–a dangerous practice in its own right–that John Stevenson more likely used the terms to show bias on the part of these groups. If Stevenson’s use was NOT associated with an attempt to show biased stances on the issue, I’d agree the use might be a problem. As is though, many argue and offer support indicating that a number of vocal conservatives oppose the idea of global warming, not because it’s a hoax, but because trying to stop it would inevitably lead to a reduction in free enterprise, more taxes, and so forth. Exxon, of course, wants to sell fossil fuels. Hence, they have vested interests in global warming being a hoax. Nicht wahr?

2. I have to agree with Black here. I’d like a little more on why a world organization was reliable. For example, the IPCC bowed to pressure and said that anthropogenic global warming was 90% sure. The scientists said 99% but they were pressured to reduce the number by politicians. Do the research yourself. Or trust me–would I lie to you? {Insert Evil “Warmist” laugh}

3. Dismissiveness? I’d have to see the original letter, but who doesn’t know the benefits of CO2? It’s the dangers that most are unaware of, isn’t it?

OK, I keep forgetting how ignorant the population is. But anyone who’s at least gotten through junior high SHOULD know.

What’s the current CO2 number? How fast is it changing? Huh? Huh? Where are the basics here or anywhere? How often do you see citations in anything these days? Where’s the bleeping CHAIN of evidence? Rant, sputter.

But, anyway, now the letter gets good: “the Warmist’s response to rational questioning of the tenets of their faith”

“Warmist”! Now THERE’s an ad hominem attack! Classic name calling, and following it is a straw man distortion about “the tenets of . . . faith.”

Wow. And I thought the main tenet of science was that everything is open to question. Now I discover that, like evangelicals, “Warmists” aka scientists and those who honor science actually have some sort of delivered knowledge to guide them. From Whom Al Black doesn’t say.

To emphasize his “logic,” Black follows with this: “Yes folks warmism is a pseudo-scientific religion, not a scientific fact.”

And what support does Black give for this? Nada.

And, by the way, standard American punctuation for the sentence would put commas after “Yes” and “folks.”

Oh well. I’ll breathe into my paper bag a bit now.

The final paragraph of this letter is really the only part worth commenting on. Anyone else notice that Black fails to cite any of these studies proving the earth is cooling? Wasn’t he saying evidence counted? For others, I guess.

OK. Now I’ll really go away and do something more productive–rake manure from the horse runs.