Anti-Vaxxers and Their Troubled Logic

prodisease I’m not one to shrink from controversy and when I weighed in on this issue, I did it knowing full well that it would probably go exactly where it did.

Anti-vaxxers as they have become known introduce yet another instance of retrograde civilization at work. The group it hails from is a shocking one in some respects–the upper middle, and supposedly well-educated.

While those on the liberal left have a healthy dose of scepticism when it comes to big Pharma, the anti-vaxxers have as Keegan Michael Key would say, have “taken it to a whole ‘nuther level”.

I don’t intend to debate here. As the Chicago Tribune said yesterday “There is no other side to the vaccine debate.” It is like evolution and climate change. There is only one side, the plain truth.

Let me set the stage:

A person on Facebook posted something about her conclusion that vaccinations ought to be a matter of choice. I’d reproduce that statement accurately, but she’s taken down the entire thing as best I can tell, so I cannot. She expounded in at least one or two additional comments.

I suggested that if she had a right to choose then of course schools had the right to choose not to allow her kids in the building which would force her to homeschool. Additionally this could also lead to groups (I would suggest organized sports and artistic groups) to banning children who could not provide vaccination records as well. Other parents might well determine that their children were unsafe in her children’s company.

All told, I argued, that such restrictions as might reasonably be placed upon her children might so segregate her children from the rest of society that some people might suggest that that amounted to child abuse.

She responded by private message, telling me this:

I deleted your comment. Child abuse? My kids have had some vaccinations, but I’m done with the bs of infecting others and fear. It DOES need to remain a choice. If vaccines become forced, what’s next? I’ve worked with too many vaccine injured children/people to know otherwise. No human life is above another. I’m all for a good debate/conversation, but have no more patience for inflammatory responses.

I was not permitted to answer the message. I tried to go to her page and was advised “no such person can be found” the telltale sign of being “unfriended.”

I wrote this on my Facebook wall:

hahaha, unfriended by a woman who took offense that I indicated that her “choice” not to vaccinate her children impinged on the choice of other children who came in contact with hers. She sent me a message saying she deleted my comment as “inflammatory” and then of course unfriended me in revenge. As I expected she would…..How can some people be so incredibly selfish…She seemed offended that anyone might suggest that she would have to homeschool her kids and keep them from others to protect other children and that some people might call that child abuse…Beware of (name omitted)

I received the following messages from her during the evening:

Really?

Your post about me was both inaccurate and untrue. Sorry you feel that way.

Why would you post that? Most of it is not even true.

Expected no answer. . Meaningful discussion is too scary? You’d rather slam me on Facebook? Maturity? I considered responding, but why? I’m not angry.? I’m not against vaccines. I’m for choice. I’m not the one who is offended. What you choose is fine.

The last is rich indeed. Is it I too scared to confront? I did not delete your comment lady, nor block you from replying any way you wished.

But let’s get to the meat of your argument.

“I’m not against vaccines” Apparently you are, since you said “my kids have had some [emphasis added] vaccinations.

“I’m for choice.”

Have you even spent once single moment examining that? I mean, yes, choice just sounds right doesn’t it? Choice is always a better word than “required, compelled, ordered. So I do get it. A lazy mind would always prefer choice to any of those.

What does it mean in actuality?

It means you can make a meaningful decision that is rational and based on objective facts. You can evaluate all the information and come to a logic-based conclusion.

What does that mean here?

  1. There is an actual debate as to whether vaccines are safe and whether they should be given to all but a few situations which involve compromised health that are known. THERE IS NO SUCH DEBATE. Go to the CDC vaccine page and read all you want. The Mayo Clinic has a full discussion as well. Or go to Parents. The fact is that the Internet provides the ability of every crackpot in the world to set up a bunch of “sciency-sounded arguments” and claim that vaccines are both dangerous and unnecessary. The autism connection has been well proved to be a complete lie, and the doctor in question has been stripped of his license.
  2. You as the average parent have no expertise in this area and cannot begin to “evaluate” the evidence and the websites that try to tell you there is a debate out there. You must trust, as we all do, those who have expertise. Those are scientists around the world who are telling you that there is no responsible study that justifies your avoiding protecting your child from all these nearly eradicated diseases. Vaccines are the reason why we don’t have polio any more and children don’t live in iron lungs.
  3. There is no test that I am aware of to determine whether your child is that one in 50,000 or 1,000,000 who will have a seriously adverse effect from immunization. All states allow exemptions for children with known allergies or known medical conditions that would put them at risk. There is no “general” test to take. Therefore, there is no “choice” to make here.
  4. You do not therefore have the right to unilaterally decide that you are not going to take this small risk on behalf of your child. That is not the bargain you made.

Bargain?

What am I talking about?

Sister, you are not living in isolation, you live in community. Our country was founded in part upon the concept of social compact. We deliberately then, and by inference now, agree that in return for certain agreed upon protections, we give up certain individual rights.

One of them, it seems to me is this: we do not have the right to make a choice of personal freedom that involves not being immunized when to do so threatens the herd. Whether you accept it or not, your “choice” to selfishly go your own way does exactly that.

Society has an absolute right to deny you that right or to explain that you will have to segregate yourself from the benefits of society if you insist. You may be “done with the bs about infecting others” but that is neither an answer or true. It merely suggests that you no longer care since it impinges on some right to do as you please regardless of how it affects other.

The record of immunization is very long and very successful worldwide.

Frankly, I do not think that simply by being a biological component of another life you have the right to make decisions that can so deeply affect their health and well-being. That’s the subject of another post entirely.

Your “choice” is no choice at all. It is simple an  appearance of “taking charge” over an issue you are utterly ill-equipped to decide upon. It makes you feel like a “good” parent when in fact you are arguably the very opposite.

Is that confrontational enough for you?

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Conservative Comedy Show: Is That Some Sort of Oxymoron?

Allahu-Akbar-Its-Friday It is said (or at least it should have been said) that the human brain is pretty much capable of coming up with anything. I mean we humans have invented the most amazing ways of torturing people and killing them off bit by bit.

Go into any supermarket and stroll down the soda pop aisle or cereal aisle and you can see that we can invent several dozen variations on a theme, making each appear fresh and new.

But I swear I cannot come up with a viable version of comedy that stresses conservative themes and is funny at the same time. It would be a bit like pushing matter and anti-matter too closely together. It just implodes.

What on earth is funny about all the things that the GOP is for? They are for cutting taxes for the rich. That’s gotten to the point that nowadays we are sending money to them since they “pay” taxes in the negative.

They are for trying to offset their growing state deficits by adding “luxury” taxes to food and other necessities, taxes that cruelly attach more to the poor than any other group.

They are for the life of the fetus, which is surely laudable if it were coexistent with care for pregnant mothers, babies, health care, and a host of services to support that fetus as it grows to old age. But they are not.

They are against government intervening in the lives of ordinary people unnecessarily. They call this regulation. But the forms they wish to dismiss are those that protect people from dirty water, dirty air, shoddy manufacturing practices, unfair labor practices that endanger and diminish people.  They figure kids, rather than get a free lunch should sweep the school for their dinner.

But when it comes to regulating behavior, they can’t get enough of regulations. They want to and do, try to regulate every aspect of women’s bodies when it comes to reproduction and girls bodies too. They seek to regulate what women wear. They seek to protect the rights of others to treat fellow human beings badly based upon personal ideologies that they call a “religion.”

They seek to express American exceptionalism by meddling around the world, upping the ante everywhere, bloating defense budgets to accommodate their need to puff out their chests and “prove” America is better. At the same time, they protect themselves and their offspring from standing on any battlefield they create.

They seek to pretend that race and ethnicity no longer are of any concern in their America. They turn the page by flipping the equation such that anyone who brings up the issue is dubbed a “racist”. They employ a few dark faces, who for the price of personal fame, are willing to nod genteelly in agreement. They twist and cherrypick the words of great civil rights leaders and try to claim them as their own.

They live every day using every convenience devised by modern technology. They tweet and fly, pick up their fancy lattes, take their youth-enhancing shots at spas, drive computer directed cars, yet when it comes to any science that impinges on their gravy train of K Street lobbyists and the free-flowing money that is funneled their way, science becomes pure bunk.

They prefer stupid, cute-talking bobble heads to thoughtful men and women.

They prefer “common-sense” to education, except when they visit the doctor or the dentist or the accountant or the lawyer, or the airport pilot. Education is for elitists, who are people who want to be better than the average person, meaning they get embarrassed when they haven’t a damn clue what is being said.

They are all for individuality, and they mean that they will say that everyone is equal, and you can just do the best you can. If it don’t work out, why that poor house thing back in the twenties wasn’t so bad, and we got a lot of free road work done. See don’t you feel better knowing you are paying for your own gruel?

They want to, therefore, end social security, cuz individuals properly prepare for their own old age. John-Boy is remembered fondly and surely was going to care for his ma and pa. You don’t need medicare either since health care is no right but a privilege reserved for those who have managed to acquire sufficient funds to pay for it.

There is no need either for unemployment benefits because it’s your job to foresee that free markets might end your job. Worse, if you are so down and out as that, you probably are not of sufficient moral character to withstand the urge to just sit on your ass and suck off the rest of us anyway, and we can’t have that.

Food stamps? Hunger builds character. See the above regarding unemployment benefits regarding your unfitness for food.

Housing? Ditches are quite comfortable in summer I hear.

And let’s not forget the churches. Our fine Christian houses of worships are dedicated to helping the “truly” poor, whatever the hell that means. Not so much non-Christian houses of worship which are really just oxymorons, cuz that’s what my Jezus said, after all, somewhere; at least he implied it.

I mean two thousand years of working on that issue, is a good start!

Immigrants were us two hundred or so years ago, and that was fine. Everyone knows white trash from Europe beats red skins any day. And immigrants are really good at cleaning houses and mowing lawns and picking fruit. They don’t want hardly anything for the privilege. But too many? Oh now, that makes you an ALIEN and an ILLEGAL.

Those words are words of fear, because damn, I’m following all the good rules set up by my betters, and fuck, life is still not any better, so somebody is to blame, and my betters say it’s THEM.

So, we can hate us some Mexicans and, hell all of South America pretty much just cuz. But we will not hate the Cubans, at least the rich ones who escaped Fidel. They are not aliens or illegals, but good people who lost their wealthy land holdings and much to be commiserated with.

We can hate us some Arabs, as many as we want and wherever we want, because we just want their oil, them that got it at least. The rest? Who cares?

We can ignore all our history and all of the worlds for that matter just because it interferes with the narrative we have to tell ourselves today to get to sleep. I mean the past is the past, why dwell on uncomfortable things like slavery and partitioning and supporting dictators and crummy stuff like that. It just makes me feel bad, and, after all, we have to deal with TODAY right?

Let’s make history a quest to make our kids good Americans! And we know what will do that. Put God back in school! In fact, let’s turn over education our youth to private enterprise, cuz they will do the job better and cheaper! And they will never have an ulterior motive to teach our kids anything that was wrong, or quietly made themselves look like the best thing since sliced bread, will they?

Let’s continue to push for not letting those who think against us vote. Let’s continue to make judges do what we want them too.

Let’s put a gun in every graduate’s hand. And I ain’t talkin’ about graduating from college, or even high school. Grade school is old enough to understand proper gun usage. Carry it proudly son. It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted for sure.

This is what the Grand Overly Dead Party thinks. Now, if you can come up with how to make this funny, do tell. I can’t come up with anything. Not a damn thing. A wake? I can come up with that, but not comedy.

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Can They Get Any Crazier?

abortion I do not mean to offend anyone.

That said, lets begin offending!

Seriously, I recognize that people have legitimate feelings and beliefs on this subject. I can sympathize. I can even say (easy coming from my perch as post-menopausal of course), that I might personally agree with those who say that it is taking a life. For me it might have been had I decided to do such a thing at the time that I was capable of conceiving. It never happened so I can’t say.

All that being said, let’s look at some points of contention:

(1) when does life begin? The simple answer to the simple-minded is “at conception. When egg meets sperm, cell division begins. But pregnancy does not, and some 50-80 percent of all fertilized eggs don’t implant successfully, and this can take six to twelve days to happen. Where you draw the line raises a host of really ugly problems that are legal in nature, and that is why when life begins is a subject medical and legal experts would rather avoid.

(2) Is personhood different from life? Surely most of us would say yes. When in the growth of the foetus does it become a person? Most would argue when it has viability outside the womb. Other’s of course want to return to that moment of conception. Again, medical experts will differ and the legal implications are huge.

(3) can you rationally be for some types of abortion and not others? Can you justify logically abortion to save the life of the mother? Are you not tampering with God’s province then? Can you make exceptions for rape and incest and if so why? Morally aren’t you compelled as Steve King is to ban them all? (men find these issues so darned easy don’t they?)

(4) what are the common lies told about abortions: (a) it causes  breast cancer (b) it causes infertility (c) most women regret them later (d) forcing women to watch ultrasounds will change their minds (e) abortions psychologically damage women (f) imposing severe regulations on abortion clinics makes abortions safer (g) abortions threaten women’s lives and health. None of these claims are remotely true.

(5) Fetuses suffer pain at abortion. This is not true either. Most medical experts based on a myriad of studies don’t believe a fetus is capable of pain prior to the cortex being wired in at 24 weeks. The vast majority of abortions are done before this period.

(6) the US in the guise of the right to anti-abortionists is well-known for its save the fetus at all costs” but then ignore the infant, child, youngster afterward. The same people who are in the forefront of pushing these anti-abortion bills through the House of Representatives, are the same folks who vote against food stamps, contraceptive care for women, medical care for children, and a host of other social programs that ensure that youngsters born in this country will be raised under healthy conditions. The argument is clear, you aren’t pro-life if your ONLY concern is bringing forth a birth, a birth you then abandon.

As you can see, the issue is a complicated one and there are no easy answers. While it is easy to take a flat stand as many Republican men do (not having to contend with pregnancy has it’s benefits), when you get in the weeds the going gets pretty darn hard. Not that most of the far right has any problem with being disingenuous or illogical.

On the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the GOP House thought to take advantage of the situation and pro-offer a bill that would make their base happy, and accomplish nothing since it could not pass the Senate, nor be signed by the President. It was a win-win for them. •

Until even some of their Republican ladies even thought that the bill went too far, encompassed too much, and was just full of some of those unintended consequences mentioned in (1) and (2). Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN) and all around stupid person, charged with marshalling the bill through the House, retreated in the face of  growing distrust in their own caucus. The provision that proved deadly was the requirement that rape victims would be denied an exception to the general ban unless they had reported the rape to police.

The extremists on the right are predictably displeased and threatening to pressure those wavering Republican women. I’m sure it’s the traditional, if you want to keep your job, you better!

With all this at hand, just how comfortable are you with telling another woman what is best for her? I know I’m not. And I will support her right to decide these very complicated matters herself and with the people she chooses to ask advice of. As they say, if men could have babies, this would never be an issue.

• • •

Oh Say, Can You Hear Me Now?

Sony-makebelievesecuritySeriously, have I got this right?

First Sony’s emails get hacked and the bodies are strewn across America from sea to shining sea.

Then Sony produces a movie about Kim Jong Un and it  is cancelled because North Korea hacked into their system and threatens to pull out all their fingernails and toenails if they don’t.

I saw the interview with Seth Rogen on the Daily Show, and even I’m scared that they will come after me.

But Sony, what in the hell did you do in a previous life that is bringing down all this upon your corporate shoulders? I know the corporation is suffering, since the SCOTUS has explained to me that corporations are people too and can have religious opinions and political ones, so no doubt they can feel pain and fear as well.

Is this just karma?

Or is that blasphemous itself and really the great white beard in the sky getting back at Sony for some perceived failure to bring good Christian movies to the screen? I mean, I suppose THAT movie, The I N T E R V I E W, (that should confound any hacker), could be considered Christian, but then again, maybe not, since I have not seen it. But I must say that Seth Rogen, (who is an awful interview by the way with a horrid giggle that is super annoying) doesn’t strike me as someone you might see at the local Baptist Church, being Jewish first of all. Maybe it’s his Canadianishness that is the problem, though I don’t recall the Good Lord speaking about Canucks in the New Testament at least, though they maybe those Canaanites with just a spelling error.

By the way, why DO you think that God sports a beard? Did Gillette not get the franchise in heaven?

So anyway, let me just say a word or two about all the hoopla.

First, what possessed Sony to think it was a good idea to make a movie about assassinating a living person? I mean that is really the issue of first import here. I’d be the first to tell you I think His Special Imperialness Kimmy is a screw loose and on the run. Giving that man a nuke is probably not on anybody’s wish list. Still and all, he does qualify genetically speaking as a human being and as such has a right to not expect his very life is made sport of. His life may be supercilious to be sure, but still, it’s the only one he’s got (apparently).

I mean seriously folks, we make sport of crazy people all the time, and we make movies about them, but we call then Prince Crazypants of UZ-beki-beki-Uz-stan. We don’t call-em by name and country. Did Sony fear we couldn’t figure it out?

All would not have happened had they just called him “Jim”.

Beyond that, well, opinions are rampant on both issues. Fear reigns supreme at the present. Sony is “corporately speaking” hiding in the closet, George Clooney is asking why everybody is being such a lady part and having no manly parts? And most normal people go about their business and don’t have much of an opinion, unless it has to do with somehow it being Obama’s fault and therefore a nuke delicately placed up Kimmy’s arse is the ONLY proper response.

Which all begs the second issue, personal chit.

Sony’s other issue deals with hackers who exposed a lot of emails between Sony personnel. They were as you might expect, rather unkind to some people and made jokes at others expense.

What’s new?

I mean that seriously.

We live in a time when the government can hack our phones and listen to our conversations. Corporations regularly have their credit card banks violated. Facebook and my computer monitors everywhere I go, and everyone I talk to, and presents me with “other things I might like”.

While it might be fruitful to make some acts criminal, and a lot more actionable as “violations of privacy”, they cannot be termed unexpected by any sane person any more. They are business as usual.

Whether the government should listen in, it will or somebody else will. And like the rung bell, it cannot be unrung now. The same people who work for the government work for themselves and rogue governments and will do it anyway. If there is a means to profit, people will do it. That has always been the case, and will always be the case.

The fact is, that really smart people choose to do criminal things for either more money, or more thrill. You can’t change that, and so you pretty much gotta live accordingly.

Big brother is watching and so is big sister, and big daddy and mommy.

It’s no use lamenting that fact or pining for the good old days (as we have pointed out, they had plenty enough of their own problems whether you remember or not).  Don’t write down what you don’t want published across public domains. Simple as that. Save your salacious remarks for in-person conversations and check your lunch dates for wires (okay that may be too far).  PS: microphones of any kind are a tell-tale sign that what you say may be heard by OTHERS.

If you are like me, I pretty much don’t care what you know about me, though I would rather you didn’t have my credit card numbers. But I gave up information just a week ago and had to cancel a card and change my passwords, because I acted before thinking it through and was taken in by a website that looked perfectly legit yet on second thought, made no sense. It’s part of life, and with each episode you learn a bit more how to protect yourself.

So, let the media rant and rave about all this business of hacking. Some day, people will find it so normal that we won’t talk of it any more. It will undoubtedly spur new technology to develop “zones” of privacy which will then be the subject of new hacking efforts. And we shall survive it, and on to another level we go.

That’s my take on all this stuff. Sony, I know this will embarrass you, but dude, you were just stupid. Do you feel the pain?

 

 

 

 

From Whence Came We?

titles-in-evolutionary-biology-L-5dgnEbFrom an early age, I wondered about where I came from. Perhaps it is why fairy tales failed to trigger my imagination, for I took such things literally and soon discovered that they didn’t live up to logical expectations.

Take Santa Claus. I loved Christmas more than any holiday as a child, and of course I believed in Santa as all young children do who are raised in the Christmas culture. I was not plagued by older siblings who told me it was phooey, or well-meaning adults who “slipped” and brought that belief to a screeching halt.

No, I figured it out all alone, one pre-Christmas night as I lay in bed, trying to will Christmas morning a more hurried arrival. Ignore all that problem of reindeer and flying, and just how much any sleigh could carry, the time just made no sense. Even with a full 24-hours across the globe, Santa would have to travel faster than fast to visit all us boys and girls. I started with just my own “neighborhood” of about one square mile. Why it would take at least an hour, but even it only took 15 minutes to visit a few hundred homes, why there was the city, and then the state, and then all the states, and then ALL of Canada, and then Europe, and even those awful Ruskies had children, and that was a BIG country too.

Well, that is one story, but eventually that grew to all the other questions that needed answering about how the earth came to be, and how the moon came to be, and how humans came to be. I systematically investigated all these things from childhood to adulthood, getting more and more sophisticated answers surely. I became a student of sorts of astronomy and later cosmology, and paleontology. I read books about these subjects for fun, marveling at great mysteries.

I became of course no authority, and understood only up to a point, for sooner or later much of this turns into mathematical equations far beyond my learning. But I got the scientific answers for the most part. As I matured, and developed some sense of a spiritual life, God entered the equation as well, and over the years I discerned that these are really two questions. One demands reproducible proof; the another a philosophical elegance of argument.

Of course the argument rages on, with fundamentalists entering where they do not belong, and atheists peppering them with irrefutable logic at most turns. Both are wrong, because as I said, one does not really relate to the other except when one (the fundamentalists) demands that the Bible be used as a scientific text, and the other (the atheist) insists that all believers are fundamentalists.

Science, in the area of cosmology does posit that there may be unknowables, forever unknowable. Brain scientists question the ability of the brain to know itself in all it’s complexity. There may be limits therefore to human knowledge. If there are, then God has the place of “unmoved mover” as Aristotle suggested.

Fundamentalists fundamentally don’t understand or don’t choose to understand things like the 2nd law of thermodynamics for instance. Sooner or later, in an attempt to sound scientific, a fundamentalist while draw herself up and point out that Darwin’s evolutionary theory violates it. Now, if pressed, she would not have a clue as to why, but she read it somewhere in one of her “how to stump your evolutionary friends” and prove Darwin wrong. Of course it does not, because entropy only works in closed systems. The earth is not a closed system because it is being bombarded continuously with solar radiation (energy).

This is only their second best argument, for their first is always, “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” Well, my fine airhead, it’s because we didn’t evolve from monkeys, and nobody ever said we did, except another uninformed fundamentalist. First, we are related to apes, not monkeys (and there is a rather big difference), and second we are not evolved from them, but actually share way way back, a common ancestor. We both branched off in different directions (picture the fork in the road), one leading to life in the savannah and mountains, another covering the earth and developing bigger and more complex brains.

Why do I rehash all this?

Why because there has been a significant breakthrough as of late. And it’s worth your time to learn about it. The results are far from in, and it may not prove to be what the author thinks it may be. But it has the scientific world of evolutionary biology and probably physics as well in a tizzy as other research facilities begin the wonderful process of devising experiments to test out the new hypothesis.

As people like myself, and hopefully you as well know, evolutionary theory does not purport to explain “how life began” a common mis-argument of the fundamentalist sort. Such a thing is called abiogenesis. Evolutionary theory has to do with how species change over time due to natural selection. However, a rather smart guy has offered an explanation of “how life began” in a sense, and it involves that 2nd law we talked about earlier.

He posits, by way of mathematical equations, that replication of cells may be a response to infusions of energy (the sun) into the primordial soup. In other words, life arises as a methodological answer  to the desire to “even” out or reduce the heat of the energy. Because the 2nd law suggests that energy dissipates across the spectrum of the system seeking equanimity, replication of cells actually fosters that law England claims.

If this is true, then it is the underlying foundation of Darwin’s theory, and of course it means that life is what is to be expected in the universe, and not at all a rarity.

Of course, not everyone agrees that Jeremy England is right.

That is what science is all about. There is and will be, as I said, plenty of testing and experimentation to determine whether his hypothesis is correct. But it’s exciting news to anyone who, like I, is always wondering and asking “how and why”.

*Do read the article. It’s not that long.

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Running Smack Dab Into the First Amendment

freespeechYou would think that it is a simple enough concept, but a whole lotta people seem pretty confused about it when you get right down to it.

We live in a country that guarantees us the right to say what we wish.

Except that there are limits.

The most famous of which is “you don’t have the freedom to yell fire in a crowded theater”–unless of course the theater is actually on fire.

You can’t go around trying to encourage people to riot either.

People on the Right think that if you are denied a creche in a public place that that is somehow a denial of their freedom of speech and/or religion, which it definitely is not.

There is such a thing as appropriate venue. It’s probably not a good idea to set up an outdoor symposium about the benefits and joys of orgies next door to an elementary school.

But this is really not so much about what is free speech as it is about venue.

A day or so ago, I learned that my Alma mater, MSU was hosting  a “Creationist Forum” of some sort, put on by some bunch of loons who believe in that stuff. I fired off an angry letter stating my objections and got the obligatory form letter the next day, reminding me that a “public” institution has an obligation to provide a venue for “ideas” whether we like them or not.

Well it’s not like I expected anything else.

But it did get me to thinking. While it’s always easy to hide behind the “Black rule” –“I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it”, it fails as a critical argument of just when a university is properly within its rights legally and ethically to grant or deny access to its campus for ideas that are distasteful to rational beings.

So I propose to set out at least some standards here by which we might intelligently discuss the issue. There is no particular order.

1. Is it a proposed scientific claim or wholly an opinion? While being the latter is not always disqualifying, I think opinions need not be provided a forum in most cases. You are entitled to yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthy of my spending money to insure that you can pontificate. There are exceptions and we will discuss them later.

Assuming we say yes, it is a proposed scientific claim then the following analysis suggests itself. We can start with evolution versus creationism since that is what opened this issue in the first place.

One can argue successfully I think that creationism is not any sort of science at all. It is in reality a rather strange concoction that arises not out of any particular desire by its adherents that it be true on the merits. Let me explain. Those people who believe in creationism and espouse it, are folks that have chosen to designate a book, the bible, as some inerrant creation by God, fashioned by human hands, but containing nothing God does not want out of it and everything He does want in it. It is purposefully designed to be readable by the average person without training or guidance. It is meant to be taken quite literally as the words themselves are commonly understood by the reader.

This of course all works out magnificently for the holder of said belief, since an entire world view is thus created about all manner of things in life, to suit one’s own interpretation of what words and sentences mean, and if pressed that one’s beliefs about say slavery or homosexuality, or women’s role in society is questioned, one need only point out that it is God’s opinion and they are simply in obedience. In other words, the bible can be used as a defense to charges of racism, homophobia, plain old greed and stingyness. Creationism only becomes important because if they give in on this then they may have to admit that they really are racists, homophobes and a whole host of unsavory characteristics they can now foist onto the shoulders of a God who “must have a good reason” for that.

Such self-serving beliefs of course need not be given any credence at all. Similarly those hangers on who “preach” and write books, and create homeschooling curricula, create therapies to “cure” the biblically ill, and so forth join these true believers.

Quite simply, their theories are entitled to no weight because they have everything to gain and everything to lose in holding their “belief”.

2. If there is actual “scientific” inquiry into this belief, who is paying the bills? This is clear of course in some manner as to “evolutionary” research that is funded by religious organizations, but is more clear in the area of climate change.

It is now apparent that some 97% of the scientific community world-wide (whose business it is to understand the subject) are agreed that the climate is warming and that it is doing so at an alarming rate AND that human beings are largely responsible for this surge. These 97% are employed in divergent locations, and under many different auspices, but many are university professors who are doing pure research.

If you follow the money as to the deniers, you find that they are all pretty much being paid by fossil fuel companies. They are being paid to find that the real science is faulty and that it is therefore a good idea to continue to spare no expense environmentally to locate and retrieve the oil and natural gas where ever it may be found.

Again, there is little reason to given them a hearing when they patently have a desired outcome.

3. Is there a general consensus in the scientific community? We do well to remember that many abrupt and shocking turn arounds in science start from one person who has a completely unorthodox explanation of the same events as is the norm. Therefore, that alone is not a disqualifier. What it then requires is a fair examination of the new theory, and its supporting documentation. We are aware that there are probably difficulties getting funding when you are going against the grain, and there is probably difficulty in getting published if your ideas are  inopposite as well, but truth does win out and if you have the facts, people start to listen.

It seems to me that where there is a general scientific consensus, and where the opposing “science” has been examined and found lacking, no university should feel the least obligated to provide a venue for strange and bizarre ideas that are clearly self-serving and are merely trying to “dress” themselves in scientific jargon. Groups who promote creationism, denial of climate change, and so forth should not be granted university services to promote their voodoo.

This is not a denial of freedom of speech. Said groups are free to rent halls anywhere and from anyone who wishes to make a buck and then spout their nonsense to willing fellow-travelers. But a university should not lend its prestige and imprimatur to wacky flat-earthers and gravity deniers in the name of providing an open forum for the exchange of “ideas”. These are not ideas, but self-serving clap trap.

freedom-of-speech

4. Opinions. Here I speak of ethical issues arising from philosophic concerns. At one time, slavery was accepted throughout the world. Yet someone certainly sought to examine the issue for the first time. Absent, (at that time) any scientific evidence, it became a philosophic discussion on the nature of humanity. Something quite similar might be said about “woman’s place” at some long ago time. While these were more opinions than scientific inquiry, they deserve, it seems to me, consideration by being given a forum even when they suggest a quite radical change in thinking.

One might argue that this opens the door to the KKK being given a meeting hall on campus, or other hateful groups whose agenda is to place blame and/or punishment on this or that group.

I think that is rather easily addressed by a simple question–is the new radical idea one that is inclusive, welcoming to more people, fair, equality driven, broadening in its scope of who or what is acceptable? This errs on the right side I think rather than opinions that would give rise to exclusiveness, sexism, racism, or other limiting factors.

Surely there will be issues that run a fine line. I understand that some seek to bar Bill Maher from speaking at Berkeley’s commencement because of his remarks about Muslims. I’m not sure how I feel about that, though I surely disagree with Mr. Maher’s remarks. No one says the decisions will be easy, but I think that the above analysis makes the decisions at least reasonably defensible. After all, we must believe that there is a better answer to all of our ethical questions. If not, then why bother with civilization at all?

What say you?

 

 

 

Another Angle

panicI think it’s the Boomers fault.

If like me, you grew up under the specter of the ATOM BOMB and “duck and cover” exercises in school, you can see that we are at fault.

Since us Boomers all feel that we grew up pretty much okay, except for the one quarter of us who are certifiably insane right wing ranters who think denial of the obvious will some how insulate them from extinction at the hands of an angry god, we figure that we best instill a large chunk of panic in the national diet so that upcoming generations will grow strong like us.

This explains, I think, why media grand viziers seem determined to make each and every “event” one in which we should all be checkin’ our survival rations and “bug out” plans.

It should be, therefore, clear why  ALL the media is in a panic about EBOLA. The fear of God requires it ya see, for only after learning to hold one’s bladder and sphincter in the face of impending death can we come out the other side as well-rounded happy and content people that most of us Boomers actually are.

Of course on the far-far-right in a galaxy too stupid to find it’s way in orbit, the media has all sorts of unusual if not predictable explanations. WorldnetDaily which is peopled by a class of subhumans intractable in their level of stupid, it’s all a deliberate plot by the dark guy Barack Hussain to rid the planet (Amerika that is) of white people. Secretly of course all black people have been issued hazmat suits. (The fist bump signals, “I got mine, you got yours?)

Every Republican running for office is pondering whether we should close the beaches or just nuke the hell out of the continent of Africa and make the world safe for white people. The media, meanwhile is busy asking questions like, ” are we prepared, should people fly, should they poop, and WHO THE HELL IS IN CHARGE?” Which is all quite funny since the Surgeon General would be the obvious person to be in charge but we don’t have one, because the NRA doesn’t like the choice, and the CDC functions with a slashed budget, again because the NRA is afraid that somebody might suggest that gun deaths are a national epidemic and where the hell are guns sales going then?

There is a story, but of course, not one that anybody bothers with, because gosh and darn it, one might have to think a bit, and actually go out in the FIELD and ask questions rather than simple vomit (yikes, where’s the HAZMAT suit?) out trite talking points?

A few days ago, just after the nurse was confirmed as a patient, a bunch of nurses representing some nurses association started talking. And at first it seemed weird and rather silly. Ya see, at first the only question was “how could this nurse contract EBOLA? After all, we had been assured that all them medical folks knew the “protocols” and so it must be this damn African thing was a lot more dangerous than we had been led to believe (enter cries of “it’s Obama’s fault”).

My first reaction was that this was just a bunch of nurses arguing that they were not to blame (the CDC insisting that for a caregiver to come down with the virus meant that there had been a break in established protocols). I kind of laughed it off.

But it was more than that. It turns out the National Nurses Union was giving the country information that was not forthcoming from the people in charge. Certainly nobody at Texas Health Presbyterian was making these admissions. The information the NNU was providing came directly (so they claim) from nursing personnel at THP, information that they were afraid to share openly out of fear.

Why you ask?

Because like most of the South, and increasingly almost everywhere, Texas is a right-to-work state, and the massive THP is not unionized. Nurses there had a story and they were afraid for their jobs to relate it. The NNU received their reports and relayed the information anonymously to protect them from retaliation from the corporate heads.

The reality is that the first patient with Ebola was left in a common area (with other patients and medical personnel) for “hours” after being brought in by ambulance before he was transferred to secure isolation. Senior nursing supervisors complained of this to no avail apparently. Further, nurses were not given proper hazmat suits but used fairly flimsy “contagious disease” coverings that left parts of their bodies exposed. Protocals were “not in place” and the required equipment was not there. Higher ups in the administration of the hospital apparently would not ask for help.

What does this all mean?

It’s hard to say, but surely it should be looked at. The fact is that it is hard to believe that in a unionized business, workers would be afraid to speak out against dangerous conditions. Unions are there for that reason, to protect them against being fired. Further, unions themselves put their foot down and insist on corrections or threaten a strike. It is entirely possible that the the secondary infections could have been avoided.  Of course it may not have been either, and we make no blanket assertion because it is an unknowable.

However, we do know that unions are in place for just these sorts of things–to give workers the ability and protection needed to speak out about issues that often they know much better than suits far removed from the scene do.

It continues to be appalling that our apparently poorly educated folks never learned how much their good life today was due to the unions that are quickly becoming a quaint history notation. Many of these people grew up in union homes and should know this without more. Yet, they have so readily been misdirected to blaming unions for their present financial woes whatever they might be. Surely unions are not perfect, but without them, the worker is left to the devices we see in play at DHP–proper actions being taken too late to be effective.

Just something to think about.