Greg Correll


Greg Correll

Greg Correll
New Paltz, New York, US
September 21
Founder, Chief of Deselopy (small packages); Editor (
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FEBRUARY 10, 2010 1:27PM

The Right isn't wrong. They're just stuck.

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The Right isn't wrong, per se. They're just stuck.

Consider this dilemma: you are Conservative, and a decent joe, a good egg, a regular gal, and you worry about gangsta culture, about the sexualization of youth, about rapid culture change.

About the drift from Faith, which you hold as necessary for morality.

You don't hate anybody. The Other just makes you nervous, maybe; the unfamiliar is frightening. But this is a common human feeling, and not altogether a bad survival trait. You like your traditions; you love the goodness that Christmas and hometown neighborliness and multi-generational bonds have given to you and yours. And fear the volatile, information-rich, vastly impersonal technology of NOW.

So who do you adhere to? Who speaks to you? For you?

It isn't the (rapidly disappearing) moderate conservative, the Republican career politician, who comforts you. You correctly distrust them. They have not defended your traditions. They have allowed things to slip.

So you turn to polemicists and diatribists, even if the baggage they carry disturbs you at times. You overlook the off-note of racism, the sarcasm, the bile, because you Identify. (We on the left did and do the same; we ignore the anti-semitism of Chomsky, just as we ignored the vile and stupid hate rhetoric that permeated the 60s "movements").

You, decent conservatives, believe your heroes -- Beck, Rush, Carlson, O'Reilly, Coulter -- are using distasteful methods as weapons in the Good War they fight on your behalf, for Sanity and Decency. And Reason.

Ahhh. Reason.

Here we are, at the Great Irony.

In ancient times, the first historians -- Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenephon -- both reflected and affected their times, and all of human development, by considering how we got here. What we are as a result of what was before. This was NEW.

(Please! don't click away. I know: I just said "Herodotus" up there. Bear with me.)

For the most part this was filtered through the Great Man theory: we "got here" by dint of ambition and power and war, driven by Big Personalities, themselves controlled by the Gods.

But the idea that we could assess ourselves even through limited criteria, filter truth from myth? This was revolutionary.

What they lacked was a sense of Progress. To the ancients, cycles repeated. And barbarians weren't "before our time", necessarily, they were just somewhere else, beyond our pale horizons. With us always. Stuck, like us, in the amber of fate.

In Medieval times Historians, beginning with Augustine, saw the arc of history as developing, from the primitive to the more advanced. The stories of the Torah set the stage for this, but it was Christianity (see? I promised you: irony) that gave human thinkers their first ideas that we were moving towards something, something greater and better.

The problem was: it was a narrative frozen in time, a fixed Before, Currently, and Final. For a millennium religious thinkers -- the only kind in the West -- tried to suss out what God intended. The German baronies invade your Gaulist precinct? God required this. The Roman emperors failed to hold their territories? God wanted this. Humans suffer and die? God's plan.

And why? Because he wanted us to reach our readiness for Christ, then endure the centuries of struggle toward him, then be rewarded at end time with his return.

History as fulfillment of a larger narrative. But this, too, was NEW: progress, not cycles. And while they were building skills at parsing motives and causes and all aspects of Progress, they honed Crtical Thinking Skills.

Enter the Renaissance. As religious ideas failed to explain, to satisfy, despite centuries of councils and debates, elaborate apologias by devout and learned theologians, historians began to see  human beings as Prima Causa. Yes, faithful, Newton was a believer, but -- more irony -- once he established natural laws, historians could consider: if gravity is a law that requires objects to fall, what laws require empires to fall?

It took centuries, and millions dead, thousands tortured and burned, but the Age of Reason prevailed.

And thus the Great Irony: all of us, even the most fundamentalist among us, are products of, participants in, the creed of Reason.

(Wait! Don't mistake creed for faith!

Religions are systems of belief. Scientism (materialism) is a system of belief. Secular Humanism, animism, cynicism, optimism, flying-spaghetti-monsterism, are all systems of belief.

And thus all have creeds.

To borrow happily from Susan Wise Bauer, the creed of reason is this:

  1. Reason is "autonomous" or independent of any other part of man.
  2. Institutional Authority is suspect.
  3. Every effect has a cause, and that cause can be discovered.

Even the most hidebound believer lives fully in our world, wherein we expect and rely on rationality, not intuition or faith, to discover the principle of aerodynamics and flight, to discern between good and better outcomes, to improve our direct-mail methods, to correct machinery's imperfections.

They are embedded in this perspective, like us.

While religious conservatives invoke the logical fallacy of argument from authority (the Bible, their ministers, Glenn Beck), their rhetoric today is filled to the brim with awareness that authority is about power, not truth. They rail against real and imagined intellectual control over their lives and want to swap it with the ancient authority.

But they are nonetheless stuck, like us, with the permanent awareness that authority has no permanent capital A.

There is no monolithic church anymore. The 500-year-old reality of thousands of schisms in Christianity is a result of the Age of Reason, whereby individuals began to think for themselves, using human thought, to understand first the will of God, then the workings of reality.

And cause and effect is intrinsic to Christian doctrine, leading generation after generation "astray" as they see the good unrewarded, the wicked unpunished. Christians raise children, and thus know magical thinking must be overcome in order to function in a technological world.

Science is the embodiment of reason. Through applied, systematic experimentations and testing we arrive at a world where the practical benefits of independent thought, distrust in arbitrary authority, and careful examination of effects has made us healthy, wealthy and wise.

Well, wiser, anyway.

So when the Right fights against intellectuals and intellectualism, it rings hollow.

Do they really want to return to the 8th century? Of course not. They are engaging with the left in the world of ideas, using ideas to fight ideas, using critical skills to debunk, or attempt to, the follies and fallacies of progressive thinking.

They sometimes succeed. Workfare is vastly superior to welfare. Ok, so that was 1994. What, Right, have you offered up since?

In his review of "Intellectuals and Society" by Thomas Sowell, Alan Wolfe takes this apart far better than I. It is at once a coherent dissection of the empty, repetitive vacuum that is conservative thinking, post-Goldwater, post-Buckley, and a soaring paean to the ecstatic vision of Reason, to the gifts of thinking.

Sowell, like many on the Right, pretends to be against intellectuals, while working tirelessly as an intellectual (46 books!).

We need ideas, whatever the provenance, that hold our interest, generate discourse and deliberation, and cause good effects. Blind Authority will not do, it's too late for that. And we have exhausted the ancient wisdom books. They have long ago given up their secrets and benefits, and are now a subset of the testable world of ideas.

It is not enough to wait for the racists and haters and superstitious to die away. We must engage, to keep alive the idea of Ideas. Each generation must find its way. The reason the Right is stuck is Reason itself.

They are here with us, like it or not, and must make their case, think things through, reflect on reality.

 Be coherent, or become irrelevant.








(I owe a greeat debt to "The Well-Educated Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer for this piece)

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I'm coming back to read this again when I have some time to really digest this. It is very interesting, and very good . . .

BTW, "spaghetti-monsterism" is technically pastafarianism, but many would not recognize it as such . . .
Yes, yes yes! For my book's research I read new philosophers like Susan Neiman ("The Moral Compass") and Austin Dacey ("The Secular Conscience.") As the majority of people ascribe to a belief system that includes a Supreme Being (and I accept that as fact), then there has to be a way to persuade them that using one's gift of reason to sort through problems and arrive at conclusions does not require that one abandon one's faith. Al Gore even said it in his 2003 book "Assault on Reason": "Faith is not the enemy of reason. Fear is."

*sigh* I gotta go back and read Thomas Aquinas...
Sorry, typo "flying-spaghetti-monsterism." May you be touched by his noodly appendage . . . :~)
What a great political science lesson. Takes me back to college days.I too, will need to go back and digest. Wow, you're smart.
Well said, my reasonable friend and fellow worker in the fields of the Lord and the trenches of common sense. Some of my best friends are/have been/were staunch conservative Republicrats, and I know/knew them to be solid citizens and good souls worthy of my friendship. That we disagree on some issues was not a detriment to the larger process of our dynamic, and our efforts to be coherent, rather than irrelevant. It is the same with many Demublicans, who have their own faults and foibles; and yes, yes, so obviously yes, we are all in this together.
Greg- Coherent, cohesive and commendable! Thanks!
Owl: I considered the proper name but a) thot this was funnier, in a piece that needs some funny, and b) figured most would think I misspelled rastafarianism
Thanks, and yes, i feel noodled.

Nikki: Thank you, and thanks for two new author leads!

sweetfeet: uh-oh. I knew it. No mater how light a touch i try for, i end up pedantic and soapboxy and dry. But this stuff excites me so! thanks

dynomyte: you respond to an important part of this: Right and Left both feel Correct. We must correct this.
Ideas either work or they don't, evolve or die. Reality shifts; we must be agile, not party-bound. Thank you

Mothership: thank you

Donna: I bow very slightly on behalf of the two I cite above, who inspired this synthesis

Bonnie: I fear the triumph of incoherency. Thank you.
There is so much I don't have given me a lot to think about.
Science is as much religion in these terms as any other form of it. I have always relied heavily on intuition to guide resolution of an equation. I intuit a direction and prove it out or not. That is also called experience, trial and error. But intuition sounds more fun. And for the inventor? Dream the dream, and make it happen. Then again, I worked for the company that invented GPS systems. The 'dream' was expressed, and I watched PHD's from MIT say, "Okay!" What sounded like an impossibility, with reason and work, became a reality. Albeit, perhaps an unfortunate one. xox
You intellectual, you. Well-reasoned and insightful. You make a lot of sense...and yeah, you are reallllllly smart.
Greg a great piece of logic. thanks
Robin, me pal, allow me to politely disagree with part of that, because I fail in some respect with this piece: Science is not religion.

But the blurriness you touch on IS real. Religion, in the small L liberal sense has moved toward science and the scientific worldview. It has ceded ground for 500 years. This is why so many fundamentalists are digging in their heels. So in a meaningful sense religion is like science nowadays, in that both are worldviews, both have traditions of thoughtful exploration of ideas, and both have creeds.

But where they differ, profoundly, is on the issue of faith. Science, despite the crude attempts by Intelligent Design advocates to (ironically!) "tar" is as such, is NOT faith. Faith means believing what you cannot empirically prove or disprove. Science isn't just the opposite, it transcends it, because science IS empiricism, in and of itself. The scientific method is built such that if a deity were to suddenly appear and perform miracles, all scientists would have to radically widen their definitions of physical laws, and begin furiously devising new tests. The first being: is this an alien with advanced technology, masquerading as a supernatural being?

Religion has no meaningful respect for such method or priority for empirical truth. Well, amend that: Judaism hardly any, Christianity and Hinduism none at all, Buddhism more than any other, since the Dalai Lama's famous declaration that if science disproves any aspect of Buddhism, science must "win". But he immediately retreated to ancient defenses of doctrines like reincarnation and a militant antipathy to homosexuality, despite overwhelming science that refutes both.

Religion relies on faith. Faith has nothing to do with science. Science is the contingent use of re-testable truths, not blind allegiance to a fixed Truth.
Well, intellectuals (or pseudo-intellectuals, which the anti-intellectuals can't distinguish) sometimes say things like, 'deconstructing the monumentalist cultural hierarchy that is historically as well as morally distortive' and go on to discuss this issue in relation to 'metaphysical realisim' and 'logocentric predjudice.'
sophieh: I scroll too fast! thank you

M.McKenzie: hmm. Well, I must insist I struggle to be smart. I am no scholar. Thank you.

OESheepdog: Thanks. I like the compact way this came to me today, and i played hooky for an hour and grabbed it, put it down, before I started to think about my wisacre kids or American idol or whether I should trim the wild irish hairs that fly out of my eyebrows

Maulsinka: yes, and those postmodernist intellectuals be horse's asses. i recommend "Higher Superstition" by Gross and Levitt, and especially "Fashionable Nonsense" by Sokal and Bricmont, the two who successfully submitted a paper comprised of illogical inanities to Social Text magazine, who printed it. The editors were unable to tell the difference between empty parody and "real" postmodernist lit crit.
It takes a right and a left to make a complete body, and there are two sides to every issue; but it doesn't take Demublicans and Republicrats to make a nation. That the Congress is so divided and duplicitous is toxic enough; and provides theater for the evening news; but no resolution. We would be far better off without so much ready made division amongst the people, who need honest communication and intelligent dialog amongst ourselves so we can all understand both sides of the equation and reach consensus.

It is time to deconstruct the republic, which allows other people to 'represent' US, when in fact Congress does not; and I rarely encounter a person who thinks they do. Congress is an anachronism that has run it's course and deserves to be retired - without a $15,000 per month pension for life with complete universal health benefits - something no other American enjoys. This fact alone is proof of who they truly represent.

The banks and corporations must be defanged and taken out of the bloodstream of our nation, which has grown cold and cancerous after generations of political manipulation. The Fed and the IRS must be dismantled as well. We the people should not be paying for wars in Afghanistan so the CIA can control the opium poppy crop. We need to rebuild OUR nation, before it expires.
I think that practically every stand-off is the result of one de-valuing the what the other values, real or imagined. Of course you said that more eloquently than I ever could have and with the melody of historical context as accompaniment. I love your balanced and thoughtful analysis.
Good stuff, stuff I have known is there without handling it as thoroughly as I'd like. A few undergrad courses in the surrounding material (art history, philosophy, psychology, literature) just doesn't do this subject justice. This is a lifetime learning project for me.
But, my friend,...heheheee! The day is young and our minds so easily led to believing anything 'science' proves. This all makes me think of Leonardo Da Vinci and his many drawings of flying machines. He had only intutition, an idea to work with. No empirical proof. Yet, he persisted. Today we have airplanes. Helicopters. Galileo was imprisoned for stating that the world was not flat. He couldn't exactly prove that either, the way we can today. And the Kalahari Bushmen believe if you walk far enough, you will fall off the end of the earth. They also get their water from rain on the leaves trees, and by sucking it up from under the desert with reeds. They are amazing botanists and conservationists. And yet, when the film The Gods Must Be Crazy was released, people started trying to send them water. Primacy...something about that...we must always remember there is more in heaven and earth than ever dreamt of in our philosophies. You know I love you. xox
I should add that the Catholic Church apologized to Galileo in 1992 for keeping him on house arrest until his death for his vision.

...Galileo was 68 years old and sick. Threatened with torture, he publicly confessed that he had been wrong to have said that the Earth moves around the Sun. Legend then has it that after his confession, Galileo quietly whispered "And yet, it moves."

For an organization that talks so much of forgiveness, that took 'em awhile, didn't it? xox
Well thunk, well presented.
dyno: hokey fudge, you are a radical!
I wouldn't go so far. I would support limiting congressional terms to ONE. And removing their pensions. It should be an honor to perform public service. The argument that they need to acquire experience doesn't wash anymore in the era of lobbyists. We can start schools for teaching us how to legislate instead.
And I would say bust the trusts that are US banking. Regulate the crap out of them.
But the IRS is a noble institution. What?!?! Did he just say that? Taxes enable ours schools and highways and health care, and it is an honor to pay them. We must always guard against corruption and waste. so what? It's hard work. Truman did it. So can we.
Bu I think we agree on this: progressives want to solve problems. The Right currently is the enemy of deliberative democracy, because their leaders are Stuck, and refuse to engage.
_Mother: You have it right: we must stop seeing other as the opposite of Good and True.
Leslie: and what else is a life for? thank you

Robin: we are not so far apart on this: we both recognize that vision, imagination, a sense of intellectual daring produces remarkable things. But only -- ONLY -- if the ideas test out. Science tests things, Religion ossifies around a fixed idea. Love you back.
And hey, officially, the Vatican supports evolution!


(Where are the right wing posters? Your quietude sorta proves my point, eh?)
Greg, you are a delight! xox
Refreshing to take a step back from it and see things in some perspective. Well done.
ClarK: Thunks, er, thanks!
Well put. Big Herodotus fan, by the way. Rated.
Brilliant Greg! A great call to awareness, cause, and action.
"We must engage, to keep alive the idea of Ideas."
This idea has been lost among the "pay for it" frame of thinking our culture sports.
jimmy! thanks

Steven: thank you. I am about 1/4th thru the Landmark Herodotus. In the fraudulent Egyptian section. Riveting to consider, line by line what was true, hearsay, and a complete lie, to make him seem erudite to future readers. That in itself is cool: he was thinking about the future, the first to do so in that way. Not even Hesiod shows such awareness.

It is a whole new translation, with incredibly fascinating maps and notation. Makes Herodotus brand new for me.
Great Piece! While the religious zealots hold fast to their faith, when it's profitable, their followers hold fast until their hell freezes over~ and rough contact sport it is too. It bears repeating: ours is a deliberative democracy. The Right would wish it otherwise. This is profoundly un-American. but before we bask in our smug something or other, I see much on the left, including here on OS (cough, BBE, cough) that is just as shut-down, self-righteous, and wrathful.

I trust engagement. I know my limitations as a speaker and thinker, but I'll give it a go. we at last have a "paper trail" -- ironically, not paper -- that is up to the task of mass contribution in Jefferson's participatory democracy. And we waste it with "gotcha last?"

Unnumbered women and men, dead by musket ball and auto-de-fe, are shamed for us, wasting what they manned the barricades for. We have an opportunity to produce things here. Is it so unrealistic to think we could, right and left, generate Good Works here on OS, that make for useful, instructive reading to our grandchildren? are we not humble and daring and literate and compassionate enough to make the effort to deliberate together, on their behalf?

If not us, who?
How much do you think the baggage of the diatribists and polemicists like Beck actually upset most of the conservatives you write about? These "spokespersons" seem miles away from reason and have made piles of cash from the support they generate.

This is a really interesting, thought-provoking post.
scanner: thank you

Verbal! thank you
"We must engage, to keep alive the idea of Ideas"

Exactly so. Great piece Greg.
LuluAndPhoebe: ooh I love this "not expect for others to pick us up where we leave off. " this is an important and subtle part of this: we somehow want others to be what we are not, or won't try to be: smarter, more forbearing, compassionate, clever -- then we pre-emptively condemn or attack them. I invite people to go see, Donna Carbone's crisp reporting on a scary elected official (KKK member); then look thru the comments as I and several others try to engage with rwnutjob. Is spite of how it turned out, it inspired me to write this. I hate that his hate is on OS -- his posts are dreadful RW spew -- but still: we must engage. we must.
salvation and redemption are not just for the religious, are not predicated on the supernatural, and are always possible. ALWAYS.
This is one of those post where I really have to put my thinking cap on...which is good. I especially relate to this ..."And fear the volatile, information-rich, vastly impersonal technology of NOW."

To quote Canadian band the Tragically Hip I say ...

"Bring on a brand new Renaissance
cause I think I'm ready ..."
Dear Reader; more too-fast scrolling, sorry!

I truly think they are not embraced "wholesale", to the extent even they might think. I know leftists who dislike Al Sharpton but made apologies for him, once upon a time.

I truly understand a lot of right wing ideas, and find misc merit in many of them. It's possible to dislike the welfare state, and want to change it, but make exceptions for WIC and Food Stamps, begrudgingly, without being onerous. It's possible to want to aggressively pursue terrorists in Pakistan without being a war-mongering lackey of the oligarchs. I find it frustrating that there is almost no one on the right with which to engage about these things, with nuance and intelligence.

The Left has shibboleths. I fear our becoming frozen and polemical, when the wheel turns again -- and it will. Alertness, humility and clarity of thought should always be in fashion.

thank you

Mark: thank you
Scarlett: capitalizing NOW is a bit of a writerly affectation. OS is cool with that, what with the sheer mass of writing talent, and how we all just get the spillover of poetry and personal reporting and essay and wtf-is-that? It's nice to write without dumbing down, yet still feel the imperative of being understood, of avoiding pretense.

like THAT wasn't a pretentious thing to say! ha!

thank you.
This feels so damn smart to me, just beyond the edges of my ability to understand. Whew! and Wow!

A couple things:
~Chomsky's an anti-Semite? I honestly had never heard that and will have to investigate.
~Was it Zinn who first suggested--and to me it's a radical thought--that the notion of the inevitability of progress is flawed? You bring up the beginnings of such a notion here, but Zinn (I think) says it's an untrue and potentially detrimental concept. But I can't remember why! (Damn--another thing I need to look up).
~I appreciate your compassion, your decided inclusiveness, in suggesting a pattern of thought that could justify participating in the logic of social conservatism. I know too many good people who fall under that particular description to dismiss it easily. And I agree with you that mostly it's driven by fear.
~Systems of Belief. Hmm. Yes, that feels important--the crux, even--but I can't quite grasp it. I'm not sure I would put religion and science in the same category, although I think they can be. Isn't one about the process itself--about the searching?--and the other about an ideological embrace of a predetermined notion of What's Right?
~There's something about the science of the brain that feels relevant here but again I can't quite get to it. My psychologist neighbor did some research about the difference b/t the Eastern and Western religions and traditions and discovered that, for example, adherents of the Christian faith demonstrated a different neural circuitry than adherents of, say, Buddhism. Something about black and white thinking, an us-versus-them mentality on the one hand and "oneness" or inclusiveness on the other. In other words, the formal, doctrinaire religions promote increased electrical activity in precisely the part of the brain that distinguishes things, that contrasts, that suggests "self" and "other." The Eastern stuff apparently lights up the parts of the brain that relate more to universality. I think the study was done by attaching electrodes to practitioners at the height of their religious feeling--transcendental yogi masters reaching their state of whatever they call it and evangelical Christians speaking in tongues. Now have I gone off the deep end by bringing all this up? I have no freaking idea.
This need for engagement is what worries me about FOX and MSNBC. I watch MSNBC all the time but never watch FOX News. What I see of FOX News is carefully selected by MSNBC and summarily attacked, and I'm pretty sure that's what happens at FOX News, but in reverse.

If we don't listen to other perspectives, I don't think it's possible to find common ground. There is plenty of common ground to be had, but the media encourage this ideology-over-practicality impasse. Lefty news and analysis speaks to me, but it may not be good for me or the country to restrict my sources to just those. My own political views have moved markedly to the left since Obama's inauguration.

I also think the filibuster problem encourages polarization and needs to be stopped now and forever, regardless of the party in power. Will the Democrats follow suit and threaten to filibuster or otherwise block everything when they inevitably lose control of Congress? Wouldn't they be stupid not to, now that the ground has been broken?
"If not us, who?"
Words haunted with Americana
Right on Brother!

I have made small edits today on this, to improve clarity, to simplify sentences. I sometimes over-write.

-Chomsky: o my. A can of worms. His publisher in Europe publishes two things: Chomsky and holocaust denial literature. Chomsky wrote the introduction for one particularly vile bit of neo-nazi nonsense, and he defends doing it in sneering, intellectually dishonest terms. Some think genetic Jews can't be anti-Semites. David Irving and Chomsky are just two examples. As a Jew, with relatives who are Survivors, I loathe Chomsky for his hypocrisy and obnoxious beliefs.

Just because someone panders to left ideas doesn't make him defensible in any and all things. Google: "Chomsky, anti-semite"

- There are interesting new ideas about "progress", yes! I considered expanding to those in the post but it seemed fussy. Specifically, emerging ideas in biology about humans being pattern-seeking puts a different spin on how far we can go with technology before the manipulation of our predictable responses to patterns is turned against us. Then there's deSouza's absurd "End of History" idea -- but it is not prima facie absurd, just his spin and application of it. That is: if we reach a single global state, end hunger and want, stabilize as a species, will it be the end of history? deSouza is a sad case, a genuine intellectual who stiffened up.

I dont think progress is the same as improvement. I think there will always be the need to adapt because change is inevitable.

Then there's Dawkins' idea that some things about the universe might be ungraspable. That there is an organic upper limit to what sentient apes can comprehend and thus manipulate. We might be 1000 years away from that, if true. But it's sad to consider.

I like and respect Zinn, btw. I reviewed for publication his History, years ago, in Chronogram. I find him sometimes gullible, but admirable, and necessary.

- the essential idea of conserving is a good one. In a better world the sustainable movement would have found common ground with a less vitriolic and more principled conservative movement. A world in which Sirhan Sirhan missed, perhaps.

- it is an uneasy fit, science and religion, as i noted in comments to Robin. But we must acknowledge something like a "creed" behind all "beliefs", yes? Imperfect terms, but so long as one understands belief to be a term of convenience, and not the same as Faith, it works.

Without "creed" or something similar we would be unable to express the tenets and criteria that underly a system of belief.

One can stop short of the existentialist inanity that all meaning is contingent and thus worthless -- one must, to live, pragmatically -- and use the word "belief" in the most banal way. As in "I believe in gravity." The essential difference and advantage that science offers are ways to explore, prove, and quantify "gravity". Religion simply says "it's a mystery" or "God's will" that things fall.

I think you say this distinction well: searching vs "what's right"

-- I would like to see that research about speaking in tongues!

(funny thing: what the bible meant by that was literally that one could speak in other languages; hillbillies and ignoramuses with a penchant for glossolalia turned it into divine baby talk.)

I dunno. The most exciting brain science development i've heard about was that neurosurgeons can replicate Out of Body experiences by electrically stimulating a specific part of the brain

If this doesn't disprove the "soul" and establish mind/body duality as an illusion, I don't know what does. So i expect we will ultimately find everything in the brain: love, hate, religious ecstasy, all of it. if not the brain what, the liver? of course the brain!

thank you for the close read!
In a capitalist system, change appears to be imperative.
Wow, Leslie, that IS the meat!

MSNBC, Keith that is, strays at times into that territory. yeah, yeah, i know the rationale. But as satisfying as it is for this old pro-union, pro-rights lefty to hear some firebrand rhetoric, I am also uneasy sometimes.

That said, there is a HUGE difference between O'Reilly and Maddow. Rachel is civil and through and fair, if opinionated. Bill is anti-intellectual blowhard who rarely finds real perspectives, credible arguments to make.

And Fox so relentlessly distorts the truth, and is so beholden to entrenched corporate interests, they have no real credibility. Murdoch is in the entertainment business.

Just because both can be wrong, boneheaded, or stupid at times does not make the scale of it irrelevant. Fox is uniquely, perversely, dishonest.

And man, i want smarter people than me to go over the filibuster thing. My gut instinct? and thus not necessarily intelligent? is to use whatever tools are available to us to pass real health care.

The world will see it as boring history in 20 years, and our grandchildren will have affordable health care.

The Right is gleefully abdicating engagement. So: fine! disengage, get 'er done. I doubt the repercussions will be much different either way. Except we will have affordable health care.

I lost my only home to pay for my wife's cancer costs 4 years ago. I'm a renter again at 55. If i lived in Canada or Europe i would still be sitting on my porch swing, under the wisteria I nurtured for 7 years.
great post, Greg, the long view carefully thought out and expressed

. . . but . . .

they're wrong
I love Rachel Maddow and Glenn Greenwald. Dishonesty in reporting is in the eye of the reader as it were. It's the intentional way they overlook established facts and manipulate a particular event that is the most troubling. Because it is not rooted in fact, it is straight propaganda. I'm much more willing to listen to conservatives if their platform has something other than has spaghetti scaffolding. (I like that "spaghetti scaffolding" bit, but I'm sure it popped into my head because of your spaghetti-monsterism/pastafarianism thing.)
Eye of the reader or viewer, I should say
Do we know that MSNBC is always completely forthcoming with the facts?
this is excellent. glad i waited so i could read all the comments. my garage door just fell down or i'd have more to say ...

the nonresponse from the right does, indeed, prove your point.
Roy: Well, according my upbringing and life experience and reasoning, they are usually wrong and wrong over all.

-- but there is still great merit in engagement. And what motivates some of them some, some of their ideas, is not necessarily wrong. And they were right about workfare. Right about the concept, right about the critique of no effective time limits on welfare, right about pegging it to work and training, right in the results, Studies proved them right.

donnastreet: except for some of them they DO think they are reasoning correctly. The point is to get them to thrash it out in constructive ways. Why won't they do that? because they have linked their specific ideas, fatally, for some, to whole-cloth worldview culture issues.
thank you

Leslie: I am certain MSNBC does not always get it right.
This is just spectacular Greg in so many ways. I will also reread, there's much to soak in but I love the essence of this post.
I have no trouble with conservatism - I share some of their concerns, and there's nothing wrong with fiscal responsibility and smaller government - but the Republicans today are intellectually dishonest and they make no effort to pretend otherwise. Otherwise you wouldn't have Sen. Shelby holding up Obama nominees so he can get pork for his state, or Sen. McConnell pushing a bipartisan committee for budget cutting but then voting against it once Obama indicated support.

They know they're exploiting the fears by spouting utter bullshit but they don't care. They're not even trying to be part of the solution.

And their star is Sarah Palin! Either they're doomed - or we're doomed.

You say science has nothing to do with faith. I whole-heartedly disagree. As a disabled man, and a life long patient of the sciences, ie medicine, there is an immense amount of faith involved in the progress of new, experimental, controversial drugs that have never been tested. That is the entire reason for clinical trials, the faith that a given treatment will work for a given patient under a given set of circumstances. Experimentation and exploration is rooted in a person's faith that their belief is true.

The difference is that Organized Religion's faith is BLIND, where Science's faith is based on the successes, and yes, even failures of the past.

Trust me, I and millions if not billions of people would be dead if it were not for the faith that, for example, Jonas Saulk held that his vaccine for Polio worked, or the cure for The Plague, or any of the other diseases that have been treated or cured.

As an addendum, would astrophysicists have built the $50B Large Hadron Collider if they did not have faith that they would find the Higgs-Boson (aka "God Particle") that the LHC is built to hopefully detect?
Very cool and interesting comment, Studman.
femme: o no! garage door! snow?

I would rather have a discussion than have my point proved.


Aunt Mabel: I will look tomorrow. i shudder to think.

MaryT! thank you

Cranky: yes to fiscal responsibility (tho Bush was a disaster on this score). The correct size government for the times is how I see it, but of course that opens the floodgates.

I totally agree about Shelby (feh!) and McConnell (feh feh!).

This piece is more about average schmoes like me and thee, tho.

But I gotta agree: how can they live with themselves, not even engaging, what is that they think they will "win"? If its a waiting game, don't they see the demographics changes coming?

Stuck, i tells ya.

Placebostudman: I "believe" we actually agree on the principles and fundamentals idea here, but I must nitpick on the semantics. I think you mean colloquial "faith" in the sense that they have reasonable expectations that an outcome will be X. "Faith" with a capital F, has nothing to do with science.

Big F Faith is not what scientists have when they built the collider. They based their expectations on a hundred years of science and experimentation and previous colliders. The same is true essentially with medicines and procedures.

But more important than the previous assumptions and trials are the results. Science is based on replicable results and falsifiability (see Karl Popper).

That is: scientists, unlike those who are Faith-based, actually seek out ways to disprove their assumptions, to fault their study methodologies. Falsifiability is the foundation of science. If something can't be falsified, it is by definition NOT science.

Let's pretend: I say I have an invisible teacup floating above my head that tells me the secrets of the universe, and predicts the future for me. The first thing you say is: OK tell me what it tells you.

I say "Be kind to one another."

This is not falsifiable. Neither is the reality of the cup. You might be able to rig me to a machine to see if I am lying, but these are unreliable and i might be delusional and actually believe it.

So you say OK tell me what tomorrow's lotto numbers are.

If I ask the cup and it tells me and i tell you we can check the next day. See? it's falsifiable. If i am right, I am lucky twice: I have the first documented paranormal, supernatural, metaphysical experience that is verifiable AND I win money. Of course a good scientist would have me do it for a few weeks, but if I am right every time, et voila!


If I am wrong, and then wrong again and again, it is still not falsified per se. i might say: it is deliberately giving me the wrong numbers, or the numbers change the moment I tell you.

Perhaps I will simply say: I am not supposed to use this teacup helper for personal gain.

Quandary. Not falsifiable.

Science proceeds based on the assumption that there will be a lot of failure and unexpected results. It THRIVES on this. I think you are confusing reasonable expectations based on previous science, combined with reasonable hope by a doctor, when trying a promising routine or drug, with (blind) Faith.

Anyway, I understand your general point. And thanks for the close read.
Oh no, you mean we could have yet another revolution in thinking that may cast aside science in favor of some other social construct? Impossible!
(Oh, and I love and support science, but I don't believe we will ever stop changing how we view the world. That's a good thing!)

And I have to say this whenever this conversation comes up. Ever read Moby Dick?
You rightly described the people I live around. They aren't bad folks but are brainwashed into picking the ones who are somewhat close, they think, to what they believe. The really don't follow things too closely, never read anything and get all their "news" from Fox. They are totally brainwashed but don't even consider that a possibility. Good essay. Well-thought out and presented.
The history of philosophy compressed into a few tightly-wound paragraphs - congratulations.

There's much food for thought here, and the first thought that occurs to me is that reason (and a growing body of scientific evidence) leads to me suspect there's more to the Left/Right divide than philosophy. Research suggests the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired differently, that conservatives gravitate toward authoritarian figures, while liberals tend to be repelled by them.

If that's true, what history suggests is that over millenia, liberals have won a hard-fought battle to wrest at least some measure of power from conservatives, tho that battle is more like waves on the ocean than a straight line. War and other hard times, tho, make conservatives even more fearful than usual -- and likely affect faint-hearted liberals as well, which explains not only Hilter, but Churchill.

Of course, my conjecture is as full of holes as swiss cheese, but that's what occurred to me immediately.

The second thing that occurred to me is to call bullshit on your judgment of workfare v welfare. Obviously, working is good for the soul, but slaving a way at a menial task for less than minimum wage is not soul-enriching, it's not economically enriching either.

My argument to Newt and Nincompoops then and now is what economic sense does it make to pay a 19-yr old HS dropout with 3 kids $4.00 and hour? That is hardly enough to pay for transportation to and from work. And whose minding the children? And what future is she being prepared for by scrubbing toilets or making hotel beds? There are few jobs for such persons even in the best of times, and in times like these, college graduates can't find work.

The whole workfare logic was fallacious, it's aim was impurely political, and it's consequences were and are Dickensian. Yes, Newt and the Numbskulls had success stories to point to, but as ever, those are the exceptions that merely prove the sad rules of the game.

Further, it is disgustingly hypocritical for those who refused to raise the minimum wage for a decade, who fight unionization , and who fight tooth and nail against every attempt at creating a social safety net -- I could go on and on -- to claim to be interested in the workfare -- let alone the welfare -- of ordinary workers.
i think the message may be getting through to some. an example: many so called right leaning mega-churches are embracing and mainstreaming the environmental message (stewardship of the earth and all that). they aren't shrieking that climate change is a hoax because "if it's snowing, there can't be global warming."

i think part of the problem is that 24/7 media (main and cherry picked on both sides) pays waaaay too much attention to the shrillest shrieking un-reasonable types. it makes for good ratings. a perfect example is the tea-bagger "movement." one would think there are vast, massive numbers of them "out there." when in fact, they account for only a small portion of the right. and likewise, given media coverage, one would think that millions of the left's uber-progressives, sporting che guevara tees, are ready to storm the cities waving red flags.

these exaggerations fuel fears, both overt and subliminal, among the majority, the center. these fears are as primal and animalistic as it gets...the fear of abandonment, being left behind, not having enough.

unless and until those fears are somehow calmed (insert call for real leadership)...reason, in much of any form, can not prevail.

it's 2:30am...i sure hope that made sense...:)
First, correction on myself: in both cases where I say deSouza up there I meant to to say Frances Fukuyama. Both are non-wasp rightwing intellectuals but still, a dumb mistake. Probably mild racism, my aging brain, sunspots, etc.

Leslie: I don't believe that science is just another social construct. I Think Big S Science can be in a limited way, but science alone has built into it the mechanisms for self-correction based on empirical information, allowing it to transform and refine. And the postmodernist idea that science is just another way of seeing the world is metaphysical nonsense. Derrida et al never metaphysical they didn't like.

Dr. S: not bad people , per se, is an essential part of this post. the circumstances of a 20-somthing leftist greenpeace PETA Chomskyite are nearly identical to your neighbors'. To get unstuck we need to learn and teach critical thinking.

Tom: thank you for this close read!

Well, a compression of the history of historiography anyway. And I violate normative historian practice by bending it all ruthlessly to my agenda.

I seem to recall hearing about that Right and Left brian difference about 6 months ago, and the fearfulness aspect. Very interesting, and very pertinent. If true, think our ideas of Right and Left can be roughly applied to it, but that the chemical difference can be found across the spectrum, per individual.

And since i am an amateur, too, and make conjectures, we share that swiss. And frequently find ourselves in a pickle. pass the mustard!

I politely unbullshit your bullshit on my bullshit. Workfare arguments like yours are true enough. I made them and still track them, find merit in them.

But setting aside the hypocrisy and intentions and distortions of the politicians and professional Republicans on these issues -- and my piece tries to be about ordinary people R and L, rather than the party hacks -- the part of workfare I like and that studies have shown are effective are:

1. Requiring TRAINING is a way up and out of welfare cycles and poverty, This part of workfare as actually applied has been a success. Requiring jobs, however meagre, is a mixed bag, and I take your argument.

But there are only two ways out of dependency on welfare: training, and/or jobs. To integrate this reality into the welfare system was and is a step in the right direction, even tho it raises the issues you describe. To leave them out is to endure what the right correctly identified as multi-generational hopelessness and institutionalized poverty.

And as many on the left and many black writers have described, it is a paternalistic, statist racism, however well-intended.

I was on WIC and food stamps when I first became a single parent (described, ahem, in my Redaction piece). I devised my own workfare program, and clawed out of it. it meant some pretty menial work for a while.

2. Putting time limits on how long a young, able-bodied person can receive assistance is a very complex issue. To apply it stringently in places like Detroit would lead to starvation. That doesn't make the concept wrong or unworkable everywhere. The current job market makes this even more complex. I think the solution is not to abandon weaning healthy young people off assistance (I do NOT include WIC and food stamps in this, as these ensure nutrition for children), but rather make programs flexible, based on local conditions and current realities.

As to you last paragraph, I am in strong agreement. The Republicant party is obligated to oligarchs. And have heartless, fixed ideas that are Dickensian and worse. Ironic, that they subscribe to the fiction of Social Darwinism in spite of being full of creationists. Darwin did not apply his ideas to social ills and human in this way; it is an invention of fascist and the organically cruel.

excellent and pertinent points

I note with great happiness the shift toward earth stewardship by many on the religious Right. An excellent example becoming un-stuck!

And the parallel between the relative smallness of extreme fringes on R and L, your specific examples, too, plus the way the media promotes these for cheap ratings purposes? spot on.

I write this post in the understanding that the fringes are not typical, that someone on the Right might read this, respond, and thumb-wrestle effectively with me, BECAUSE i trust there are many such out there.

We shouldn't get too black and white on this, forgive the phrase. The cynical manipulators aside, there are those on the Left who demonize the Right reactively, refusing to believe that someone could "not see" how "our fringes" are just rambunctious well-meaning types, and have nothing to do with "progressive mainstream" ideas, while at the same time shrieking about the fellow who spoofed Acorn as some kind of evil agent, rather than him being simply the equivalent "rambunctious fringe" on the Right.

We mirror each other in human ways. Admitting this does not undermine our positions. It makes us more clear-headed and effective.
I'll take Thomas Sowell in a steelcage intellectual death match with Alan Wolfe.
RE: "The problem was: it was a narrative frozen in time..." I seem to be on a related thread this week and took a little jaunt back to the Boston Tea Party to compare that to the contemporary Tea Party narrative.

Great post. Rated.
Con: and John Yoo can be the referee. No holds barred. Sponsored by Whole Earth Foods and Dominos Pizza.

Steve: thanks. I will check your post later today. i played hooky so bad yesterday, as evidenced by these long comments of mine.
It's the irony all over history that should give us pause, keep us on our toes. Pause our toes. If you will.
Many are invested in the polemics. They need the strife to persist. They need the 'other' to remain 'other'. It's key to their identity. If the cause for fighting should be resolved they fear that they, themselves, will disappear along with it.
As you so ably put it; they need to get over that.
Fantastic post, Greg. You're making me think on a Friday, but it's good for me. It is.

Thanks and Rated.
Eric: thank you for this close read and comment. We must meet somewhere. The more i read and think the greater the apparent irony of Fundamentalists "arguments" for things like TakeItOrLeviticus. In the primitive fiefdoms of what they THINK they want to return to , no one was literate, and it was all dogma. They would have us return to a time when thinking and argumentation was not allowed.

Their own grandchildren would then pick up the fight again to overthrow it. So it goes.