Strain Out a Gnat and Swallow a Camel: How Reverse Statism Endangers the Republic

If you want to send a message to Washington, you must speak in its language. Washington only comprehends the electorate’s desires based upon the margin of victory between the winning candidate and the losing candidate from the opposing major party.

If Obama wins, third party votes will go unnoticed and unheeded, and liberals will take the victory to be an electoral mandate to buckle down on the policies we don’t want.

Third party votes do not say, “I don’t like either candidate, so I’m voting for a better choice,” but rather, “I’m comfortable enough with the way things are to spend my vote on a losing cause.”

If Romney wins, the message will be that Americans want Obama out of office NOW, and prefer the general direction that Romney is willing to take. The Romney administration will receive this as an electoral mandate to move as far away from Obama’s worldview as possible.

THE PHARISAICAL PATRIOT: "Ugh, that gnat! I'd rather be dragged through the desert than use that filthy blade." (Click to enlarge)

You might think that your one vote in a liberal district is meaningless anyway – although of course if everyone subscribed to that idea and resulting course of action, it would make a huge impact. Even popular vote-wise, every vote for Romney is a slap in the face of Obama. Every vote for a third party candidate is mere graffiti on the wall.

Many third-party voters are humble and well-meaning, and many are just angry and feeling insubordinate. Either way, I ask you to respectfully reconsider the situation. America made one of the worst decisions in her relatively young life four years ago, and to prolong it would be painful for generations to come.

I now present to you a pamphlet on the 2012 election and Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Hopefully it will answer all of your questions.

Romney praying before making a commencement speech. (Jae C. Hong AP)

But Mitt Romney’s a Mormon! (Fear not)

Our White House has been residence to Unitarians, at least one likely Deist, and multiple Freemasons. Is Romney’s Mormonism really any weirder?

Romney walks down the central staircase inside the Statehouse during a ceremony marking the end of his term as governor on Jan. 3, 2007. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Romnesia: Misconceptions about Romney’s record

Romney is often mocked for being inconsistent. In reality, he has been consistent in a way that would be difficult for most of us.

THREE-WAY WRECK: George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot, and Bill Clinton at the second presidential debate of the 1992 election season. Due to America's mostly winner-take-all system, third parties virtually never win, but can still influence the outcome of elections. Scholars speculate that Perot's candidacy might have given Clinton victory, since Perot garnered 19% of the vote that most likely would have otherwise gone to Bush. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)

Reverse statism: A reality check for voters considering third party

If you think an election that can’t be won with your ideal candidate is an election not worth winning at all, think again.

Also of interest: My research paper “Odd Ones Out: Why Third Parties Don’t Fit in the American Political System“.

Just remember: The Federal Reserve. The United Nations. Osama Bin Laden on the loose. The 2008 Financial Crisis. Obamacare. What do these things have in common? Third party voters along with conservatives and libertarians who refused to vote were complicit in their existence.

UPDATE (11/06/12): Why The Founder Of NotMittRomney.com Has Already Voted For Mitt Romney; Former Libertarian candidate: Mitt Romney is the only sane choice for libertarians.

Dissecting ‘Darwinocracy’ UPDATED – 10/30/2011

Armin Cifuentes/Ronald Martinez (Getty Images)

This post is an appendix to my Washington Times Communities article, Darwinocracy: The evolution question in American politics.

Does Darwin rule the electorate? Why does a stigma surround those who are skeptical of Darwinism, and how should candidates respond?

Ah, the evolution question. It’s one of the latest politipop culture quizzes posed to American political candidates (Republican candidates, to be specific).

The stigma surrounding some conservatives’ answers to the question is grounded mostly in confusion about what actually encompasses Darwinian evolution. The two core principles of Darwinian evolution are natural selection and common descent with modification. The Galapagos finches, dogs, chickens and horses are a few organisms in which the power of natural selection and artificial selection is blatantly obvious to even the casual observer (my college textbook for political theory class erroneously states that conservatives want to ban Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection from schools).

Those who are skeptical of evolution are actually skeptical of common descent with modification, because they think there are reasons to believe that natural selection is limited.

Why?

There is evidence that many Darwinian predictions in this area have been inaccurate. To mention a few: The list of vestigial organs in the human body has been reduced to practically nil; there have been out of place fossil discoveries (as well as soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils); there is an immense gap between prokaryotes and eukaryotes; 99% of evidence from molecular biology does not reflect a trend of common descent (if you scrutinize the results of cytochrome C amino acid sequences according to the metabolic needs of an organism, for instance); there is an increasing absence of “junk DNA”; experiments have shown generations of mutating bacteria to not necessarily increase in fitness (biochemist Michael Behe explains that E. coli experiments have shown “Mostly devolution…[t]he lesson of E. coli is that it’s easier for evolution to break things than make things”), and those are experiments on asexually reproducing organisms – the experiments with sexually reproducing organisms are even less thrilling.

Do evolutionists have explanations to avenge all these dead ends of Darwinism?

Of course they do. They generally operate on the circular premise that evolution happened because it must have happened, so the only questions for them involve defining and refining specifically how evolution did it. The possibility of the evidence actually contradicting evolutionary predictions evidently never crosses their minds.

Amusingly, this is similar to what they accuse Biblical creationists of doing – clinging to predictions derived from historical records in the Bible and never daring to consider the possibility that creation didn’t happen.

These rival perspectives run deep in the soul and neither can be dismissed as merely the result of stupidity or ignorance. One difference between the two is that Darwin loyalists have an image advantage thanks to caricaturing media.

In the scant 150 years since the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were formally presented, the handling of evolution from a public relations stand point has been brilliant (as I explained in a college essay that can be read here).

Essentially, Darwin (and his followers) won the public debate by defining who the debate was between: The scientific and the unscientific.

Thus, before much speculation about the different means and limits of evolution appeared, any potential doubt about them was destined to be labeled “unscientific” by the academic majority that was more afraid of being embarrassed than being wrong.

Yet however much popularity and longevity the theory of evolution has appreciated, if we know anything about the history of science, it is that science is tentative and not governed by majority rule (except when it’s absurdly politicized, of course – which is irrelevant to data).

New data often results in subtle changes in scientific positions that are held for a brief time. For instance, the Davson-Danielli model for cell membranes was “generally accepted” by scientists from 1935 up until the early 1970s, when the Singer-Nicolson model offered a better explanation.

Sometimes new data causes a tremendous upset that age-old politically correct establishments have a difficult time tolerating, such as when Aristotelian natural philosophy dominated for about 900 years until the likes of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton gradually chipped away at the likelihood of it.

For all our nearsighted society knows now, Darwin could be the next Aristotle.

By the way, some Christians and theists – rightly or wrongly – are convinced that evolution is the process that God used to create life on Earth, while others think there is not sufficient scientific or historical evidence for it. This illustrates that believers can, without squeamishness, leverage evidence for and against evolution.

The same cannot be said for most unbelievers, whose leftist obsession with Darwinian evolution is misguided and not so much evidence-based as it is agenda-driven. If Darwinism is shown to not be entirely true, then the very foundations of their ideologies will be uprooted. The slightest amount of evidence to the contrary risks pulling the rug out from under the feet of naturalism and thus they cannot tolerate it.

Q. Do you think evolution should be taught in schools?

This was a question posed to Miss USA contestants earlier this year, and I squirmed the entire time I listened to their bubblegum responses. This isn’t even a difficult question.

Evolution has been so influential in shaping worldviews prevalent in the past century (even affecting Woodrow Wilson’s constitutional philosophy) that you cannot be well-educated without knowing about it.

Furthermore, the most powerful thing you can do for truth is the most devastating thing you can do for error: Thoroughly study it.

Teach the origin of the concept, teach what evolution is observably capable of, and teach what its puzzling limitations are. But to teach that everything about it is settled, unquestionable fact is to undermine and make a mockery of science itself.

Why would any evolutionist be afraid of teaching evolution in its entirety, warts and all?

Well, I’ll admit that most creationists I know have the same story: “I was an evolutionist until I started seriously studying evolution.”

Science is never fully settled. There is data in my college biology textbook that came out just two years before the textbook was published – and new information might one day contradict it (that’s why new editions are constantly being written and published). Those who believe that everything about one principle of one theory of science is “settled fact” appear to be desperately seeking a stable, unwavering substitute for GOD. Science simply cannot offer such a substitute.

LONG OVERDUE UPDATE (10/30/2011):

My “evolution question in politics” column generated many long, thoughtful comments. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I’m glad to see that more and more evolutionists and unbelievers are putting effort into original thought and sharing information in comments – quite an improvement over the short, profane comments I used to get.

Let me begin with posting some of the excellent comments left by the Communities’ very own Politics editor, Jim Picht (I’ll highlight points I find important):

(In response to another commenter)

“”There is no controversy among the science community …” There’s always controversy in the scientific community. That’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength. It’s when people lack the courage of their convictions that they become fundamentalists, whether fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist secularists. People who have mature confidence don’t mind at all having the weaknesses in their arguments pulled out and examined in minute detail.

Science is as prone to dogmatic thinking as any other facet of human existence. The glory of science is that it has built into the mechanisms for the discovery and elimination of its own dogmas. But in a number of disciplines (climate science and evolutionary biology spring to mind), politicization has created a knee-jerk defensive posture that plays into the hands of people who want to discount science altogether.

Science doesn’t have all the answers, as you observe, and it can’t. It shouldn’t ever pretend to. Yes, admitting to problems and inconsistencies and gaps emboldens critics, and in these fractious times no one ever wants to embolden critics (hence like medieval popes, politicians and scientists today are forced into positions of inerrancy), but whatever the tactical gains, it’s a strategic error not to let it all hang out, warts, ad hoc-ery and all. We don’t know how life began (and evolution isn’t about origins, but about diversity, so what’s the big deal?), we don’t know exactly what the impact is of human activity on climate, and some things that science claims it knows today will be found silly tomorrow. Life goes on, and science is still the best tool we have for figuring out the physical world around us.

There’s no such thing, Chris, as “a true fact based science curriculum.” There’s only tentative truth and facts as we know them. The curriculum can do without dogma, religious or scientific. Science education is a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more positive and powerful a force to create a population of critical and original thinkers when we look at it as a voyage, not a destination. Capital-T Truth may be the destination in principle, but it’s the destination we’ll never achieve. Let’s not mess up young minds and sour them on science by pretending otherwise.” – JWPicht

“…In fact I’m an evolutionary “true believer” through and through. I degreed in life-science and worked in a genetics lab (Howard Hughes Medical Institutes) before wandering off to become an economist. I don’t claim to be an expert in evolution, merely a well-informed layman, but it seems clear to me that Darwin gives us the only scientific game in town for understanding the diversity of life on earth.

Scientists should be very pleased with that, trumpet the successes of the theory, and be excited to grapple with its failures. Instead when they write for the lay public, they defensively act as if they have perfect knowledge of absolute Truth. That’s just silly. Science should upset religious and political beliefs. I have no objection with that. What science should not do is impose its own dogmas. Most scientists are like most economists – they don’t have an agenda, they do try to do good, honest work. But the thought that people like Dawkins (the “village atheist”) don’t have an agenda is laughable, and the defensive posture taken by many scientists is predictably human in the face of the political firestorms they sometimes face. Scientists get paid to be objective, but when they apply for grants, they know that some perspectives are preferred to others.

Scientists usually try to be objective (even when their funding comes from energy companies or the NIH), but they aren’t machines, nor are they monsters of logic. I haven’t argued that scientists politicized evolution. But it has been politicized, and they respond in a knee-jerk defensive way. The fact that you read my comments as blaming the scientists for politicization and saw in them an assumption of dishonesty is indicative to me of that sort of knee-jerk response. All I really said is that a defensive posture that refuses to admit to the outside world the possibility of error is the antithesis of science. More than being paid to be objective (a nonsense proposition in the human world), scientists are paid to think critically. If many of the criticisms leveled at evolutionary biology are trivially rebutted, fine, but there’s a great deal of disagreement within the scientific community about the hows of evolution, there’s incomplete understanding about the process, there are gaps in our understanding. That’s the way it is in science.” – JWPicht

“Amanda, arguments about evolution itself were a predictable response to your article. What has been ignored is the question of whether belief one way or another in evolution is relevant to a person’s qualifications for public office.

As it happens, I’m quite convinced that evolution is the only scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth. It’s imperfect, but scientific understanding always is. We don’t every know the absolute truth, but only tentative truths. That’s not a defect of scientific models and method, and if we understand the limits of scientific thinking, they also underscore its power.

But I really don’t care what Rick Perry believes about evolution, and I’m puzzled why anyone wants to know his views on the subject. I don’t care about his views on quantum mechanics, either. What I want to know is what he plans to do about the deficit, unemployment, the deployment of American forces abroad, when he thinks it’s appropriate to intervene in the affairs of another country, and so on. Unless we want the White House to set science curricula in American schools (a serious violation of the principles of minimalist federal government that so many conservatives claim to admire), his views on science just aren’t an issue. (If he wants the federal government to start dictating what’s taught in biology classes, then we have an issue.)

Liberals take disbelief in evolution as a symptom of general intellectual laziness or stupidity, hence they see it as disqualifying for high office. As an economist, I might see their inability to understand the destructive effects of minimum wage on unskilled black men under 30 as equally a symptom of stupidity, or perhaps racial malice and moral degeneracy. I prefer to think that they place emphasis on different outcomes than I do on the basis of different values, but it remains the case their views on minimum wage and their economic literacy are much more important qualifications for public office than their views on evolution.

We all think that whatever it is that interests us is what’s really important. I think that it’s terrible that kids don’t study economics more in school, my wife (a professor of Romance languages) is convinced that learning languages is the key to success, and our neighbor (a professor of math) thinks that math is what people really need to know. As it happens, geophysicists can do their jobs just fine without giving a second thought to evolution. My son’s piano teacher need never give a thought to economics, and I don’t care whether the person flying my airplane has ever read Anna Karenina, so long as he’s read his pilot manuals.

The evolution question is just a political shibboleth. It turns a matter of science into just another religious test. It’s not a constructive question, but destructive. It’s not a constructive question, but destructive. The more candidates talk about their views on evolution, the less I like them, whatever their views happen to be. The more we focus on the subject, the less interested we are in serious policy debates and the more interested in making political points. I wish that in response to the question, “do you believe in evolution,” candidates would simply answer, “none of your d*** business.”” – JWPicht

One reason why I wrote the article is because I noticed that no matter how candidates respond to the EQ (evolution question), the media or opposition (which might often be the same thing) still fixate on the issue. For instance, in her debate with Chris Coons, Christine O’Donnell said that her personal view of evolution was irrelevant to the discussion, and that she would allow local school districts to have the freedom to educate their children as they saw fit. Coons insisted that the people of Delaware wanted to know O’Donnell’s personal views on the issue anyway.

(Funny that a candidate’s personal views on abortion aren’t considered relevant as long as they support Roe v. Wade, isn’t it?)

This brings me to the inference of a candidate doubting Darwin in the first place.

“So pardon me for challenging you Amanda and questioning whether it is authority that is being challenged by the Americans. When so many poorly educated people feel free to be dubious about the scientific evidence for evolution when the principal influence on their lives is a pastor who can preach to them that evolution is the work of Satan I can’t help but wonder whether you should reconsider that patriotic claim you make on the behalf of your people.”

– sjbolton77

“As has already been noted, Republican candidates are in thrall to an utterly ignorant Republican electorate. It is therefore an entirely sensible thing for any liberal to do to enquire what the candidate thinks about such things as evolutionary theory. There answers might appeal to the great unwashed Republican masses, but it reveals to everyone else with a vote that these people are unprincipled opportunists. So, they know what to expect if they elect them.”

– Mike Magee

This is point has actually crossed my mind before. I know there are plenty of people (Americans included) who blindly accept the ideas of creation and evolution without seriously questioning the concepts. Many people defer to popular evolutionists without understanding science (I call their activity “Reader’s Digest science” – no offense to RD, but you know…), and many defer to creationists without understanding science. I’ve known Christians who believed both and never even suspected they contradicted each other. Some people just aren’t that interested in science. They’re caught up in the present, and aren’t deep thinkers.

But lo and behold, there are intellectuals all over the map in this debate who do think deeply and do research. There are also some lay people on the sidelines that occasionally take a look at the scrimmaging and find one side to be more convincing than the other. Because of this, it is downright wrong to dismiss an evolutionary unbeliever as an idiot.

What do I think about political candidates’ personal views of Darwinian evolution?

Well, I don’t mind as long as they don’t operate on a consistently naturalistic philosophy. Extracting naturalism from evolutionism can result in many things that I find morally reprehensible (i.e., basing the value of life on evolutionary embryology could be used to make an argument in favor of abortion).

SEE ALSO:

Would You Vote For An Atheist?

Weinergate, women and a secularized society

DISGRACED: Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) could no longer dodge questions about congressional internet security when more scurrilous photographs surfaced that clearly identified his Twitter hacker to be Weiner himself. (John Minchillo, AP Photo)

DISGRACED: Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) could no longer dodge questions about congressional internet security when more scurrilous photographs surfaced that clearly identified his Twitter hacker to be Weiner himself. (John Minchillo, AP Photo)

OHATCHEE, Al. June 15, 2011 — Last week, I happened to be running errands on a military post when the nearest TV displayed Fox News Channel announcing that Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was about to make a statement concerning his rumored online affairs at any moment.

The next thing I knew, Andrew Breitbart approached the empty podium. Yes, Andrew “that-fool-lying-punk-fake-journalist” Breitbart, who happened to get all the facts straight in this outrageous scandal while (if I’m not mistaken) recovering from the brink of pneumonia and intending to be on Memorial Day vacation.

He was promptly rewarded by some with the slanderous accusation of being the Twitter “hacker” that Representative Weiner flippantly referred to.

To make a long story short, Weiner – who has been a representative from New York since I lived there as a little girl – could no longer dodge questions about congressional internet security when more scurrilous photographs surfaced that clearly identified the “hacker” to be Weiner himself.

Thus, the 46-year-old congressman who has not yet reached his first wedding anniversary tearfully confessed that his adulterous internet flings (and subsequent deception about it) were “destructive”.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Weiner, as he took responsibility for the crazy photos that were sent to various women across the country, most of whom he had met on Facebook.

While watching coverage of this scandal, it appears to me that old school journalists have made some misconceptions about the use of online social networking. There is nothing inappropriate about a member of Congress or political candidate following a young constituent, supporter or media contributor on Twitter or Facebook. For instance, I am followed unobtrusively by Michele Bachmann, Eric Cantor, Thaddeus McCotter, Joe Miller and Dale Peterson, among others. That is merely using a social network for what it is – a network. Twitter is a great way to observe the public’s reaction to various breaking news stories and policy issues.

The line between inappropriate relationships in a network is as clear on the internet as it is off the internet. Weiner crossed it with no qualms whatsoever, and then unconvincingly lied about it to cover up his indiscretion. He would have done well to consider the divine admonition that his ancestors received through Moses: Be sure your sin will find you out.

Perhaps Weiner was taking cues from Machiavelli instead. To the Renaissance political theorist, it was completely possible and advisable to separate public morality from private morality. Essentially, Machiavelli’s warning was that all subjects are immoral and yet admire morality, so a ruler out of necessity must disregard morality in private while maintaining a public façade of righteousness. (What do you think happens to the messengers who blow his cover?)…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.

International Women’s Day and the post-feminist era

REMEMBER THE LADIES: Abigail Adams warned us. If women didn’t have basic civil rights in the first place, things might foment out of control one day – which is exactly what happened.

REMEMBER THE LADIES: Abigail Adams warned us. If women didn’t have basic civil rights in the first place, things might foment out of control one day – which is exactly what happened.

March 8th was International Women’s Day. In fact, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the international feminist celebration initiated by Clara Zetkin, a socialist German politician who took the last name of her Russian lover, eventually married a fellow eighteen years younger than herself and became an executive member of the Comintern.

Well, I don’t suppose many of us women have much in common with her. What does the feminist legacy of Zetkin and others mean to females in my generation?

Throughout my girlhood, I viewed feminism as a sort of lingering ball and chain more than a movement to be proud of. It was something that commanded girls to be in perpetual competition with men whether we wanted to be or not. The presence of feminism was like a ghostly matriarch frowning over me with disappointment in even the subtlest matters.

When I casually wore my favorite denim skirt or floral print dress, I encountered interrogation from observers: “Why do you like to wear 18th century clothes?” “What cult are you a member of?” “Why do you always wear dresses?”

Those are real questions – I didn’t make any of them up. What I began to realize, much to my distaste, is that dresses with hemlines past the knees are subliminally perceived as prison garbs from days gone by. Liberal feminism fought to emancipate women from dresses, from kitchens, from homes and from babies. To embrace any of those things is to disrespect the goddesses of women’s rights.

But colloquialism aside, there are no such things as “women’s rights”. There are only human rights…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.

Moral imaginations, blood libel and the meaning of words

Sarah Palin, Barack Obama

“What is government if words have no meaning?”

Such was the question that Jared Loughner asked Representative Gabrielle Giffords at an event in 2007. Unsatisfied by Giffords’ response (or warranted lack thereof), Loughner targeted her with an apparently vengeful fixation.

The budding thought processes of this anarchical philosopher-wannabe clearly had nothing to do with then-obscure Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck – nor did they have anything to do with the then-nonexistent Tea Party. According to a CBS poll, 57% of Americans agree that today’s political tone did not impact Loughner’s attack. 

It is unlikely that anyone would have seriously considered otherwise had Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik not blamed America’s political climate without evidence (disgracing his status as a law enforcement officer). Left-wing leaning media outlets subsequently seized Dupnik’s talking point with zeal and defined the debate in their favor.

However, just hours later, the primary sources that average citizens have access to via the internet flatly contradicted the politicization.

From online message boards to YouTube videos to the classroom, Loughner demonstrated himself to be a pathological riddler who was angry at the world for refusing to answer his intellectually dishonest questions. As Loughner’s incoherent ramblings and love of conspiracy spiraled downward to senseless bloodshed, King Solomon’s warning proved true – “the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness” (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13).

In response to the tragedy, President Obama’s January 12th speech in Tucson was a bit better than I expected. It was tender, and for the most part above-board and presidential (it is unfortunate that the hooting and hollering disrupted the atmosphere). Obama even dared to go off-script to emphasize that political rhetoric – and “a simply lack of civility” – did not cause the Tucson massacre…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.