Talking about Pope revives science-versus-religion debate – Science- msnbc.com

 

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Pope revives science-versus-religion debate – Science- msnbc.com

I have to wonder if anti-Catholic interests are trying to skew the Pope’s words again, given that he has made other remarks in the past that were more favourable to science. 

Any area of human behaviour, whether business, industry, unionism, capitalism, socialism, sexuality, science – or religion-, if not held in check by other interests, takes on a life of its’ own and becomes a dangerous cancer. 

For many centuries the words of Jesus were abandoned in favour of the views of heretical pharisee types like Augustine and Aquinas, and as with the pharisees of Jesus’ time, rather than the law serving man as intended, to build a good and just society, man was made to serve the law as narrowly and in general cruelly interpreted by pharisee types.  For some time it was religion that was the cancer and the scourge of the earth. 

Now, the cancer is business, as there appears to be a general consensus with even the more left leaning political parties that the sole criterion of merit of a nation should be the GDP and that progress should be measured by never ending, cancerous growth of the GDP, even though our present GDP levels are not environmentally sustainable over the medium term. 

In some areas of science, science is threatening to become a scourge.   There is a certain irony in the science vs. religion debate that the key problem with science is faith- too much of it.   Science is becoming something of a religion where "scientific" claims are increasingly accepted uncritically.

I’ve always been of the opinion that around 90% of alleged science is actually junk science.  The worst offenders are the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry.   Much of alleged science these days is devoted to hooking people on chemicals that create dependancy while doing more harm than good, which is facillitated by the new religion of psychiatry, which apart from where common sense is used, is entirely junk science.   In some states where drug companies have issued kickbacks averaging $40,000 per psychiatrist in the state (!), public outcry has led to some action against this outrage, but not enough. 

Then there is our medical system generally.  In spite of the increasingly enormous expenditures on medicine in recent decades, according to Dr. Michael Colgan the vast majority of the reduction in human mortality due to modern medicine resulted from antibiotics and most of that benefit was achieved by 1950.   Obviously there have been some other clear benefits such as improvements in trauma care leading to the saving of otherwise healthy lives that have experienced a life threatening incident.   I have read that up to 80% of expenditures on health care are in the last two weeks of a person’s life.  If you think that that is humanitarian, you should witness a "Code Blue" in a hospital.  Instead of dying at home with one’s family, the deceased will probably crash while alone in his hospital room.  The family then gets a phone call.  If you think this is increases human dignity you haven’t seen it.  I have and on a number of occasions.

Even where there is a benefit from science we shouldn’t be sucked in to selling our souls for it.  It doesn’t follow from a practice being evil that no benefit can be gained.  Maybe the best historical example is in the area of hypothermia.  If the Hippocratic Oath had been followed rigourously, much of what is known about hypothermia would never have been known because it is unethical to subject patients to those kinds of risks and to that suffering in order to study it carefully.  Much of what is known about hypothermia was learned through the research of the monster Dr. Mengela at the Nazi death camps, wherein unwilling subjects were subjected to hypothermia so that it could be clinically studied.   There is a certain irony that Dr. Mengela through his research probably has saved more lives than he murdered.  But can that be the criterion for what is acceptable?   If you knew that if his research was allowed to continue it would save many lives, would you stop it? I would, without a moment’s hesitation and I would hope that most others would as well.

Religion is not the threat that it once was to public order, and now it can serve a very legitimate purpose of being a check against any other area of human endeavor becoming an unexamined absolute. 

Whenever intelligence becomes more important than wisdom there is danger.   The question of what we ought to do must always be more important than the question of what we can do.   The increasing environmental problems of this world show why this distinction is so important.  Without human ingenuity, we never would have been able to do this much damage.   The supreme triumph of this direction I take it would be to make the entire planet uninhabitable. 

Science has up-sides and down-sides, like every other area of human endeavor.  Every area of human endeavor needs some antagonists or devil’s advocates to annoy the protagonists with difficult questions, without which that area will atrophy and become artificial, and without any checks at all, will eventually become a cancerous scourge.   Most areas of human endeavor will have a very small number of visionary types and a large number of bureaucratic pharisee types.   If the pharisee types have their way, they will take steps to prevent criticism, checks, balances and ultimately will turn their area of endeavor into a cancerous scourge if they are allowed to get away with it. 

Science needs some assistance from religion to avoid becoming an abomination just as religion needs science to avoid becoming an abomination.   In this way, via criticism, each keeps the other healthy and relevant.   That is the way of things.

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The Republican Manifesto?

In about 1848 Marx and Engles came up with a certain book called the Communist Manifesto.  In this book, ten specific points are highlighted as the main planks in the platform.
 
1.    Abolition of all property in land and application of all rents to public purposes.
 
We aren’t here yet, but curiously the so-called right wingers seem to be even less respectful of private property rights than the left and centre these days.  The Bush administration is very fond of expropriating land for what are usually dubious purposes.
 
2.    A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
 
Do I need to elaborate? Note also that when the right wing credit junkies spend now and pay later, it makes it inevitable that income taxes will be higher later than if they’d just been raised straight away to meet obligations.
 
3.    Abolition of all inheritance.
 
This hasn’t happened yet, but there are inheritance taxes in some places in the western world and sometimes they are heavy. 
 
4.    Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
 
In some countries, capital now leaving the country is taxed.  The U.S. government’s ability to freeze assets of anybody that it considers antisocial should be scrutinized very carefully as the potential for abuse is enormous.
 
5.    Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
 
While the situation is not quite that bad, most states have a central bank with exclusive powers that has enormous control over the economy.  The decisions of these entities are often questionable and it is not at all clear that they serve the common good.
 
6.    Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
 
There is a great deal of this centralization and again, curiously, those that purport to be right wingers are often the strongest proponents of said centralization.  That, and the fact that most U.S. news organizations including CNN and Fox seem to view themselves as the propaganda wing of the Republican party, should disturb anyone.
 
7.    Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
 
In most countries now, state projects for irrigation etc. make farming possible where none was before, especially in the U.S.  I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but we do need to closely monitor the cost benefit of each operation as any project that defies nature is at greater risk than normal of being a boondoggle. 
 
8.    Equal liability of all to labour.  Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
 
For some reason both the extreme right and the exteme left are both fond of the idea of masses of workers in poor conditions under a central control.  Whether that is by the elite of an industrial conglomerate or by the elite of a politburo is, in my view, semantics.   Elites without checks and balances always serve themselves.  The idea of liability to labour is these days one of the favorite pet ideas of the so-called right wing with workfare. 
 
9.    Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
 
The first part has certainly happened, as it inevitably would regardless of politics.  The second part has to a degree happened, more by the efficiency of transportation than by equal distribution of population.    The main bogeyman here would be central planning, a favored concept of both rabid Stalinists and many alleged right wingers.  Too little central planning leads to anarchy and disorganization, too much to stagnation and inappropriate organization.  No group has found a particularly good solution to this important problem of politics.
 
10.   Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of child factory labour in its present form.  Combination of education with industrial production etc. etc.
 
This is my favorite plank of the Marxist platform, because anybody of any political stripe now supports it.  A presidential candidate opposing public education couldn’t do worse if he had Jeffrey Dalmer as a running mate.  Every time you hear that Marxism is dead, reread what he actually had to say. 
 
Marxism is often confused with Stalinism.  Every time that you take your kids to school, remember that if it wasn’t for Karl Marx you’d probably be taking them to a coal mine or worse. 
 
We do have a dictatorship of the proletariat, it’s called a democracy.  That is the closest to a dictatorship of the proletariat that I think we could ever get.  Elites of any political stripe that do not have to answer to the people, serve themselves.  I hope that is a self evident fact of history.   Whether they call themselves left or right I see as having little importance.  Better to judge people by their actions and consequences than the noises that they make in their defence.
 
Obviously there are aspects of Marxist thought that I think are dangerous, but that must be weighed against the evil that he sought to remedy.  Borrowing a phrase from Ronald Reagan, are we better or worse than we were in 1848?   We are obviously better.  The conditions were so bad then that workers had to be given rights to avoid revolution. 
 
Now, Marxist thinking so permiates western thought so completely that it often goes unrecognized.  This conveys both benefits and challenges. 

Talking about Why Obama won, what win gets him – Barack Obama News- msnbc.com

 

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Why Obama won, what win gets him – Barack Obama News- msnbc.com

I hope that I’m stating the obvious by saying that the democratic ticket should be either Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton. Edwards kind of presents as a weasel- he would probably make a good chief of staff but there’s just something about him that feels icky. He’s smart and he’s organized so he’d be good for a position making sure that all the ducks are in a row so to speak.

So then there is the issue of whether Clinton or Obama should be the presidential candidate. Obama has one key issue that he will have to address- experience. The normal custom is to have a former governor of a state as the nominee and that is with good reason. The person has already shown that they can run something. We know that Hillary had a lot of influence in the former Clinton administration- one might ask tongue in cheek whether she is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in office.

Now, I’m not saying that Obama hasn’t done anything, I have no idea if he has or not. But the focus of the campaign hasn’t addressed that issue. What management experience has he had? We need to know. The Republicans certainly won’t show him any mercy if he’s underqualified. Will eloquence be enough?

Politicians are often impatient and want results right away. Jean Chretien was, in my opinion, the best prime minister that Canada ever had. Back in 1983 he lost the party nomination to John Turner and quit politics in a snit until Turner stepped down. The irony is that Turner did him a favor by winning. Whoever got the Liberal nomination in 1983 was going to lose the next election. If Chretien had won in 1983, he would have never been prime minister.

There is a bit of an analogy here. I do not know if a Obama- Clinton ticket will win. I’d give a Clinton-Obama ticket 80% odds of winning against any Republican combination. If Obama is the vice-presidential nominee, that will give him the inside track for a later nomination and in eight years he probably would be the first black president of the United States.

If Clinton does take the nomination for president, the Democrats need to lean on her heavily to make Obama the VP candidate. In my view the central problem with politics is succession. If you do not groom an appropriate successor, it doesn’t matter how you run the country- some monkey like Bush Jr. will come along and try to roll the clock back to 1848.

There will be a temptation of the more conservative Democrats to limp in to the presidential race with a token white male to add more theoretical appeal to that demogaphic. In my view that would be an error. Liberal white males will not be deterred from voting for a ticket with a woman and a black and conservative white males probably won’t vote Democrat anyways. That rare breed of males that traditionally vote Democrat in spite of being racist and sexist may be lost but I see that being more than made up for by the highest turnout of black and female voters in U.S. history.

Then there is the Republican race. I suspect that Guiliani got asked to tank his campaign because he is unelectable. People close to him are going to prison for ties to organized crime and he was known as mayor to be exceptionally ruthless. Rather than have the real reason for him not pursuing the nomination to come out, I think that he was asked to quietly scuttle his campaign. Wise decision.

McCain may have a similar problem. While he is often depicted as an outsider, remember the Keating Five. When Charles Keating went down for fraud, five politicians were investigated for trying to intervene on his behalf. McCain was one of them. For me, that is all that I need to know about McCain. Defending Keating is the job of his lawyers. The job of politicians is to defend us from people like Keating. Going to bat for someone involved in organized crime with strong Republican connections makes McCain look more like the ultimate insider when it really counts.

I can’t say that I know much about the other Republicans, other than Ron Paul. A Republican who is against war and for the constitution- I’d like to see him run as an independent if he doesn’t get the nomination. Anybody that is for unnecessary wars and against the constitution- which seems to be most Republicans these days- is too dangerous to be president.

The success of Romney is no surprise. "Presence" is very important for a presidential nominee. If you can’t carry yourself as a president, you probably won’t be elected president, although that does not appear to have been an impediment for Bush Jr.

I haven’t had the patience to watch a Republican debate but I’ve seen enough to see that Romney has presidential presence. He will have to address the issue of what a mormon in the Whitehouse would mean for the presidency. That should be an issue for any Republican candidate because evangelical nutbars have traditionally had an undue influence on the Republican party. The evangelicals may not like Romney as a Mormon but that doesn’t mean that he will be necessarily liberal in policies. Will he, as other Republicans before him, put his religious views on abortion etc. ahead of the public interest?

Mike Huckabee is the rarest of breeds, a likeable evangelical. Most evangelicals strike me as hateful, poisonous pharisees who are saddened that the Salem witch trials haven’t continued to the present day. Huckabee is light and humorous and has been accused of being a liberal- as if common decency and believing in the brotherhood of mankind were bad things. But his joking apart, how much different would he be from the rest of the field? Apart from Ron Paul, the general comments of the Republicans about war, the economy and everything else sound pretty much the same to me. The Democrats are facing the attack of the clones. If Huckabee wins it will be due to Reagan style likeability.

Whoever wins may be a one term wonder for inheriting the mess created by Bush Jr. The U.S. will go into the next great depression and will probably still be in it in four years. It’s too late to stop it, all that can be done is to mitigate the damage. I have to agree with the market analysts that take the position that spending another $150 billion to keep the economic bubble going a little while longer is likely to make things worse in the long term rather than better.

Key to mitigating the damage will be getting U.S. forces out of the middle east. The real U.S. debt, some of which has been said to have been covered by fancy accounting, is said to be 8 trillion dollars. The real cost including long term costs of the U.S. adventures in Iraq has been said to be estimated at 2 trillion dollars.

Right wingers like to say that throwing money at problems is no solution, and I do agree with that principle although I do not agree that their actions are consistent with what they say. A similar adventure in Iran would probably be a lot worse, and if all it cost the U.S. was 4 trillion dollars the U.S. would be getting off lightly. This manner of handling problems is insanity and it has to stop. Eventually we will have to pull out of Iraq for purely economic reasons and in all probability Iraq will be worse than when Saddam was in charge and we will have accummulated 3 trillion dollars in debt and future liabilities with nothing to show for it but failure.