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Author's Note: This is my newest essay published on my blog. I am cross-publishing here, because I so value DKos' many contributors and great thinkers and would love to hear your comments and feedback. I will endeavor to respond to all who post substantive replies.

An article I came across last week got me to thinking about epistemology, the sub-discipline of Philosophy that determines what we know and how we come to know it. Turns out voters in Missouri have now granted themselves the right to skip classes and classwork if the subject matter or presentation violates their religious beliefs. I'm not an attorney, but this new law presumably also means that parents who object on religious grounds to their children being taught the principles of natural selection and evolution in Life Sciences classes in public school can pull their children from those classes:

Continues below fold:

    "Last week, Missouri voters gave themselves the right to pray without state interference. But some science educators are worried that the seemingly innocuous referendum on the 7 August ballot, which passed overwhelmingly, could also undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.

    Amendment 2 "is a lawyer's dream" because of its vagueness, says Joshua Rosenau, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which tracks efforts by groups that oppose evolution. While the amendment begins by declaring that all residents "have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences," it also lists several situations in which that right must be protected. Rosenau is worried about one particular clause: "that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs."

    Those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says. And that exemption could extend throughout their scholastic career, he adds, since evolution is not just taught in one lesson but remains a recurrent theme throughout science education. The amendment also leaves a hole in their coursework, he says, as it provides no guidance on any substitute lessons."

What caught my eye was the final sentence, a paraphrase of Joshua Rosenau's comments. The new amendment provides "no guidance on any substitute lessons." So what exactly will those children and students learn about the origins and development of life in the universe? And how will its validity be measured and evaluated against the validity of the theories of natural selection and evolution? The Scientific Method - built around the simple schema of Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment and Conclusion - now has a challenge to its very existence, as epitomized by the broad support for Missouri's Amendment 2. But what shall replace the Scientific Method?

We face a new epistemological crisis in this country. The crisis has been brewing for well over 50 years but, I would argue, since the advent of the internet has reached epidemic proportions. In an age where every URL is created equal and where precedence goes not to knowledge which is tested in the cauldron of the scientific method but rather by which spurious link comes up first in a Google search, how are we to evaluate statements and data to see whether they accurately represent truth or reality?

Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, argued that the history of science could be explained by anomalies in a prevailing paradigm reaching the point where a 'crisis' occurs, such that the existing paradigm must be overthrown and replaced by a new paradigm. Think Einstein replacing Newton or Darwin replacing the Biblical account of Creation. The point is that internal contradictions within an older established order reach such a fever pitch that the older order no longer suffices. That crisis now besets the very mechanisms by which our culture arbitrates what it calls knowledge. The epistemological crisis is now upon us and it is hard to forsee the new paradigm that will replace the ancien regime.

Were one to turn to the media to arbitrate and decide upon 'Truth,' one might be sorely disappointed these days. According to the Pew Center, public faith in the media is at historic lows:

    "For the second time in a decade, the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines. In the new survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested. This follows a similar downturn in positive believability ratings that occurred between 2002 and 2004.

    The falloff in credibility affects news organizations in most sectors: national newspapers, such as the New York Times and USA Today, all three cable news outlets, as well as the broadcast TV networks and NPR."

While the survey says that the public no longer believes the media, one might be tempted to still believe that the media itself still offers some claim to "objectivity." But one would be hard-pressed to find any examples of that. A media that blithely equates statements of fact about Romney (Romney has not and still refuses to release his tax returns) with the Swiftboat slanders about John Kerry (belied by Kerry's service records and contemporaneous accounts) as though the two are somehow equivalent shows how far from credibility the media has fallen. The media no longer has any special claim on the truth, if it ever did.

The old authorities - Church, Academia, Media, Government - have broken down, but no new authority has risen to take their place. Those of us who looked to the Occupy Movement as a new source of epistemological authority -- a crucible where competing theses were tested and through dialogue and the testing of experience rejected or accepted -- found ourselves dismayed by the constant Babel of voices. When the ideas of those opposed to the flouridation of water receive the same level of credence as ideas about global climate change, well Houston, we have a problem.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a very interesting article in the online edition of Smart Money about self-publishing and the demise of the great publishing houses and the thousands who are employed there. I was struck by the author's penultimate paragraph, for it turns out that self-publishing is the material manifestation of this epistemological crisis. When everyone fancies him- or herself an author and there are few if no barriers to electronic publication and distribution, what will prevent a terrifying cacophony of voices from polluting the Commons?

    "Self-publishing will produce a tsunami of books. Very few will be financial successes. Very few will be any good. Sifting your way through the chaff for the wheat will be much harder than browsing through a bookstore. I suspect the best-selling few, like Fifty Shades of Rubbish, will "crowd out" the rest. Once upon a time Internet cheerleaders talked about the so-called "fat tail," the idea that the Internet would make marginal products profitable. The reality seems to be the reverse: The overwhelming dominance of the few."

I have often called for a latter-day Martin Luther to tack a new 95 Theses upon the doors of the Academy. But now I fear that the Reformation (v 2.0) would not accomplish much. We are, I fear, destined to live through an age of epistemological anarchy for many years to come. The Scientific Method, that system of knowledge which ushered in vaccines, space travel and good nutrition may become simply another cult among many other cults of knowledge. More to be pitied, I suppose. But again, how shall we evaluate the world we live in and representations about it for their truthfulness? How will we know what we know?

Originally posted to CharlesInCharge on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If Fundamentalism Were Rational There'd Be a Way (19+ / 0-)

    around the supposed conflicts between scientific and biblical claims.

    The type of answers you get depend on the type of questions you're asking and the way you ask them. When you ask the Bible about creation, you get 6 days a few thousand years ago. When you ask science using the scientific method, you get billions of years, and evolution.

    It's not necessary to dismiss the Biblical claims and stories as untrue in an absolute sense, although I am fairly sure that most rational Christians do. It's only necessary to say that they don't function in the practice of science. Fundamentalists should be able to understand that humans being of such limited minds compared to God, science is the way we get answers that we can use with our human capabilities.

    But they're not rational, they won't tolerate disagreement with the particular passages they've selected to be the word of God even with this much concession.

    There's been other mention of this law here recently, and I think you're right. It exempts them from being required to study anything contradictory at all levels of education. I have to think that includes testing for grades, graduation and professional employment.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:48:45 AM PDT

    •  Thank you for this measured and considered (8+ / 0-)

      response. I believe in the validity of the Scientific Method and take assaults upon its legitimacy very seriously, hence the origin of this essay.

      I'm not sure that Kierkegaard would agree that there is such a thing as a 'rational Christian'. Almost seems a contradiction in terms, without casting aspersions on either rationalists or on Christians. To believe in the core tenets of Christianity seemingly demands that one abandon 'rationality' and take the Kierkegaardian 'leap of faith.'

      •  Rational Christians (9+ / 0-)

        Easy enough.  Take out the superstitious parts of The Bible, a la The Jefferson Bible.    

        Take out all the supernatural parts and you still have a lengthy grouping of different books with all sorts of useful accumulated wisdom.   There's a book Jesus and the Buddha which shows that many of the sayings in the New testament attributed to Jesus bear remarkable similarties to the sayings of Buddha which evolved 500 years earlier--and the author rejects the idea that Christ, rather than the supernatural son of God with magic powers, was simply a brilliant Rabbi who became a Buddhist disciple as "unthinkable."

        Why should Christianity be defined as believing in certain versions of the supernatural?   I understand the superstitious view it that way--and they've mainly had ascendancy in most religious organizations.

        I think some of the Mormons have gone on record as claiming that the Constitution is a divinely inspired document, rather than written by self-proclaimed rational men who expressly rejected the thesis that God wrote it.  

        •  Jesus may also have come to those... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          native, DBunn, Neon Vincent

          ... insights entirely on his own, and I tend to believe this is the case because all other factors equal, it's parsimonious.  

          Very often in the history of a range of fields of human endeavor, ideas occur almost simultaneously and independently to people in the same society and in different societies.  But even where there is transmission of ideas within or between societies, each person involved may bring in something wholly original.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:38:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Christianity is based upon the notion of (0+ / 0-)

          salvation via grace or faith that the ultimate human sacrifice of the son of God is the means of salvation of all humankind. It is celebrated and reinacted in the Eucarist. How rational is that? Without that irrational faith, it is not Christianity.

        •  Or make a distinction (0+ / 0-)

          between literal truth and mythic truth.  However, this requires an ability to "get" metaphor and that is what is lacking in fundamentalists.

          I have to deal with both fundamentalists and pentecostals.  One difference is that fundamentalists may oppose the teaching of evolution but not oppose the Harry Potter books.  Pentecostalists (at least those in the Assemblies of God megachurch that dominates my school district) are against the Harry Potter books because they believe all the magic in it is real.  They are also opposed to yoga.

          I think of fundamentalists as those who never made the transition from concrete to formal operational thinking. TPentecostals never made it to concrete thinking.  They live in a world of magic.

          I don't know what effect Amendment 2 will have on science teaching in Missouri. On the one hand, there certainly are people who will leap at the opportunity to undermine science education.  On the other hand, it seems to me,  Amendment 2 (if interpreted in the way you have outlined) is on a collision course with state standards and the common Core movement.

          Light is seen through a small hole.

          by houyhnhnm on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:41:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  This is a questionable reading of Kierkegard (9+ / 0-)

        given the context. While he saw religious belief--specifically Christian belief--as giving oneself over to uncertainty (and, in that sense giving oneself over to irrationality,) he would not (arguably) have accepted the raw irrationality promoted by the mis-education desired by the contemporary "Christian" churches, the sorts of people many of us around here have come to call "Christianist" which is what you are describing.

        Indeed, Kierkegaard launched a major assault on such "Christians" ("God is not in the churches", "God is not in the pews", etc) as promote the stupidity that claims to be Christianity (both in his time and today.)

        I think we need to be careful with the notion of "irrationality" here; the failure of complete rationality (as in Hegel's system that K makes fun of) does not result in the same sort of irrationality that lack of education breeds. Contemporary Christianists fundamentally despise education and critical thinking (witness Texas's attempt to outlaw critical thinking in the schools!!)

        Kierkegaard was suspicious (and rightly so) of

        "There's no ideology [t]here [on the right]. It's just about being a dick." Bill Maher, June 22, 2012.

        by caseynm on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 04:23:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  oops. (5+ / 0-)

          the sort of faux religiosity offered by such promoters of "proper" faith.

          "There's no ideology [t]here [on the right]. It's just about being a dick." Bill Maher, June 22, 2012.

          by caseynm on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 04:25:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you for the gloss on Kierkegaard. I'm no (0+ / 0-)

            expert on his life and thoughts, by any means, and only meant to draw attention to what I think was K's point that one cannot use 'reason' to deduce the death and resurrection of the Christ. Such a belief requires the so-called 'leap of faith.'

            In so doing, I am relying on what may be a popular misunderstanding of K's thought and I appreciate your taking the time to fill in some of my gaps.

    •  "I am fairly sure that most rational Christians do (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Lefty

      Sadly, most polls show that between 30% and an astounding 63% (Ras - 2005) do.  Explains a lot about the mess we're in.

      It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. G. K. Chesterton

      by redbaron on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 11:37:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  While I agree in a gut-feeling kind of way, (10+ / 0-)

      I don't think that's an accurate portrayal of how fundamentalism works.  In their minds, they have found a consistent reconciliation between scientific claims and the literal interpretation of scripture: God is testing us with misinformation.  It sounds like a cop-out, except that the God of the Bible most certainly does send down irrational-seeming tests from time to time, so the idea of planting fake dinosaur bones is at least consistent with the idea of, say, a God who demands Abraham sacrifice his son, or the tempter showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth during his desert journey.   Once you accept scripture as literal, you can rationalize real-life inconsistencies as God's constant testing of his creations.   For them, the rest of us have fallen for a grand cosmic hoax.  They shake their heads at our limitations.

      That's at least the line of the less ambitious fundamentalists: some have tried to prove that, for example, our methods of gauging time (carbon dating, geology) are bad science, and 'good' science shows that creation is much, much younger, and consistent with the Bible's literal interpretation.  Not even going there, because that's just desperate.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 12:11:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes!! "testing us with misinformation" (11+ / 0-)

        I've been proposing that for years as the only possible 'rationalization' of the fossil record; God purposely fiddled with carbon 14 decay rates, stratigraphy etc. ca -7k years ago just so that 7k years later, when we doubting sinners developed the technology to read these indicators we would draw false conclusions, thus testing our faith in the actual factual historical truth of revealed knowledge.

        Oy! Which way would Occam's Razor cut that knot? Fortunately, no matter how many times they embroider their sacred garments, the Laws of Physics remain unaltered by faith. There have always been competing epistemologies and in this respect our time is no different. Those who cannot understand the science behind the technology of the modern era cannot understand the era itself. Crucial to that understanding, among other things, is Darwinan Evolution. The fundies 'educated' in their way can neither compete nor contribute without that thought tool as well as say, thermodynamics, calculus, biology etc.

        Like in the jungle, in an ecology of ideas the fittest will out compete the less so. Eventually, or we fall back into darkness.

        Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

        by Old Lefty on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:32:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have found that certain types of higher level (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty

          education allows for magical thinking of fundamentalism. That is electrical engineering for example.

          •  Hahaha, most of the CivilEngineers I've (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            worked for were obnoxiously Xtian evangelical types as well. But taking the evolutionary perspective implies a multi-generational time scales, and I think that the anti-scientific notions and self contradictions at the heart of their epistemology must wither into a kind of persistent social and intellectual appendix, ever present and occasionally subject to disease but at most times a quaint historical vestige of earlier, darker times.

            Or not, or they win and we are all screwed.

            Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

            by Old Lefty on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 12:59:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  but how are we to reconcile... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, GreenPA, Neon Vincent

        ... the development of ethical and moral systems since Biblical times, with the Biblical stories of a cruel deity?  

        Perhaps by insisting that individuals and cultures perceive the deity in ways that are essential for their survival and development in their own times?  

        A fatal flaw in fundamentalist thinking, is the idea that a deity is going to behave in an unchanging manner across all times and places.

        If a sane person today were to have the experience of a visitation from God demanding that they kill their own son, they would reject such a thing as a pure hallucination or as the presence of an evil force in the guise of a deity.  

        If one accepts the premise that a deity deliberately interposes "tests of faith" that contravene a culture's grasp of reality, then there is no firm place upon which to found any system of epistemology: one is left with nothing more than reacting to circumstances that ultimately have no consistency.  

        Yet one of the central themes of all of the Abrahamic religions that have survived to this day, is that God behaves in a manner that is at least consistent and lawful, even if not unchanging.  

        From there we get to the 18th century Enlightenment principle of God as the architect of Nature, where Nature reflects lawfulness and consistency that are perceptible to humans via scientific exploration.  

        One might make the case, purely retrodictively, that God doesn't allow humans to gain access to scientific insights that would quickly lead to the destruction of human societies upon the whim of a few.  Thus Einsteinian relativity found its most famous application in WW2, rather than in WW1 where its most important lesson (the unthinkability of great-power war) might not have been learned.  

        And thus we might conclude that the unification of gravity and electromagnetism is an insight for which humans are not yet ready, as it too could be turned into a weapon of world destruction (malevolent use of a gravity shield could siphon Earth's atmosphere out into space).  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:08:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  very very well said: (5+ / 0-)

      What you said:

      "It's not necessary to dismiss the Biblical claims and stories as untrue in an absolute sense, although I am fairly sure that most rational Christians do. It's only necessary to say that they don't function in the practice of science. Fundamentalists should be able to understand that humans being of such limited minds compared to God, science is the way we get answers that we can use with our human capabilities."

      The word "truth" itself has different meanings in different spheres of activity:

      In science, it refers to measurements and supported hypotheses & theories.  In religion it refers to the sense of wisdom and spiritual meaning.  In the law it refers to evidence and sworn testimony.  In journalism it refers to conclusions supported by facts that would stand up in court if challenged.  In athletics it refers to recognized achievements of excellence.  In the arts it refers to authenticity to the human experience.  

      Each of these stands on its own two feet, and they are not interchangeable in the lives of individuals and societies.  Attempts to collapse all of these into one thing usually do violence to one or another meaning along the way.  

      We even recognize this in our cultural icons, for example in so many stories where a character sought to understand or force-fit one form of truth in terms of another, and the outcome was tragic or comical.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:17:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  we used to have businesses that people (8+ / 0-)

    created because they believed in what they did.  publishing of all types was because they wanted to disperse truth, or quality, or higher truth, but now it's all owned by people after profits.  it is getting to be impossible to find a publisher that will nourish new authors, nor carry a line of books that might be eligible for honors, but not become best sellers.  So, if we only are willing to support books for the lowest common denominator, we will only get dross.

    Another minor matter the books we get self published, will of course be edited by the writer, so many will read like Kos's hate mail.

    •  I came of age during the heydey of the (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bnasley, G2geek, native, vahana, northsylvania

      giant publishing houses, so I look upon their demise with no small regret, even as I recognize they limited discourse and 'manufactured consent.' I also fancy myself something of a bibliophile and view the advent of ebooks with something approaching the dread that millenialists must have felt ca. 1099 :)

      •  publishers are not infallible (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, native, vahana, kait, qofdisks

        I recall that Robert Pirsig sent his manuscript to well over 100 publishers before he found someone to publish "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance." All institutional systems tending to move away from the edge of innovation, publishers are not exempt from this.

        "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

        by US Blues on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 05:59:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I recall a similar story about Joseph Heller's (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          US Blues

          "Catch 22" and publishers rejecting it for its supposed similarities to the (inferior, imo) novel "Mash."

          IIRC, initial reviews of "Catch 22" were negative and it only became famous after college students first turned it into a cult hit.

          Hard to believe now.

      •  though i'll disagree with you about the... (5+ / 0-)

        ... effects of online publishing as being wholly deleterious.

        Musician/composer Frank Zappa said, in the 90s, that the advent of then-new software controlled digital music synthesizers would unleash a torrent of "dreckmeisters."  And while that certainly happened (the latest atrocity being "autotune" that can transform any screechy tone-deaf singer into a virtual virtuoso), it also made it possible for genius composers to render their works into synthesized symphonies without the need of institutional endowments.  

        Ultimately the issue is one of discernment, but that boils down to a question of the intelligence of authors and readers.  There will always be trash, but in the past it got the endorsement of publishing houses whereas today it may get no such backing.  And there will also always be venues that cater to more intelligent authors and audiences, with the potential today of gaining wider memetic traction in society than before.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:21:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  there is one undeniable benefit of... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac, Neon Vincent

        .... online publishing, which is the ability to edit for corrections and for changes in knowledge.

        For example one might publish an online science text for secondary schoolers, and create new "editions" (notice the root word "edit" in "edition", as in "invent" in "invention") as quickly as new findings appear and are replicated.  A collective that did this with consistently high quality output, would quickly gain traction with local school districts seeking to reduce spending on textbooks that went out of date before they reached the end of their physical usability.

        One might also (heck, I'm going to do this some day) publish online philosophical essays that refer to scientific findings, and be able to make corrections and updates as new knowledge becomes available.  For example if a conclusion is based on a given body of knowledge, and the latter changes substantially, then the conclusion may no longer be valid and should probably be removed or at least noted as being obsolete.  

        Doing either of the above in printed media is difficult and in some cases not even possible.  Doing it in digital media is trivially easy.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:31:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This discussion of publishing, publishers (6+ / 0-)

      and the books they are willing to publish reminds me of Chris Hayes' book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy.  The ocean of information available means one can pick and choose his "experts" and the reinforcement of his own already-formed beliefs.  For the open-minded knowledge seeker, who to believe?  Who to trust?  Who or what to reference?

      I grew up and was educated in the '50s and '60s.  There were crackpot beliefs back then, but there was an accepted foundation of basics for what one needed to learn in order to build a stable structure of knowledge on top of it.  The idea that my parents or my school or, god forbid myself, could dismiss me from the obligation of learning anything that might disturb preconceived notions would have been met with derision.  Acquiescence by the authorities to my refusal to be exposed to basic science, great literature or any of the dramatic arts would be seen as an outrage.

      The rest of the world will not be concerned when a portion of our capable but misguided population refuse to have their minds opened and their curiosity piqued by education.  It will not bother them a bit to see us shrink into irrelevancy.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:35:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  sometimes I think we should retroactivly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        lose the civil war, and lose a whole lot of crazy.

        •  The North won the War. . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SueDe, BrianParker14

          But, the South never quit Fighting!  Nixon's Southern Strategy is the birthplace of today's Tea Party.  We see the Solid GOP South and that is all rooted in the racism of the KKK and the Confederacy.

          Dick Cheney said, "Pi$$ on 'em!" And, Ronald Reagan replied, "That's a Great Idea. Let's Call it 'Trickle Down Economics!"

          by NM Ray on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 08:58:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)

            Hence the current cry from Republicans for states' rights.  That phrase has never meant that states should act as "laboratories of democracy" but more about states' ability to discriminate against and oppress various segments of their own populations.

            "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

            by SueDe on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 09:45:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  People learn from narratives, not data... (19+ / 0-)

    ...and an understanding of that goes a long way towards explaining why the majority of people harbor irrational beliefs.

      Irrational things are not always bad, often a fictional story can convey a truth or beauty that is hard to get to on rational roads.

      The sad thing to me is that I find the story of evolution to be beautiful and compelling, and a connection to the other species on the planet. The creationist world view places humanity on top of the mountain free to exploit and destroy their cousins.  It displays an arrogance and "species-centricity" that is distasteful to me.

    Everything Right is Wrong Again - TMBG (lyrics)

    by GreenPA on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 11:17:27 AM PDT

  •  Victorian science, Darwin, (5+ / 0-)

    seems the high water mark for science helping us understand the world in any straightforward way.

    Twentieth century science can be oh so challenging on epistemology.

    Modern scientific philosophy has given up on "true," and has gone with "useful." Religious truth versus scientific truth was a battle starting maybe with the Enlightenment, and going on through Darwin. Religious truth versus scientific usefulness is a much trickier battle.

    In the educational system, I think high schoolers are ready to grapple with the difficult epistemological consequences of modern scientific discovery and philosophy. It's perhaps inconvenient, if the battle is seen as with religious literalism and fundamentalism. But I just don't want them allowed to force the battle and the debate back to the Victorian one.

    •  just say Einsteinian relativity & quantum reality (8+ / 0-)

      I don't believe science has given up on the concept of truth.

      What has happened is a recognition of certain key insights from 20th century physics:

      = Relativity:  Measurement is relative to one's frame of reference, which is based within one's "local universe" (the limit of perceptibility of objects based on distance relative to light speed).  

      = Uncertainty:  All measurement is subject to uncertainty: at root, the tradeoff between measurement of the velocity and position of a particle, generalized to encompass other tradeoffs that are empirical as well as those that are theoretical.  

      = Indeterminacy: Randomness and stochasticity play a very real role in the outcome of all measurements.

      Now when you consider that in science, the definition of "a fact" is "a measurement," you can see how these three points converge to undermine the potential for absolute and unchanging truths that arose from the beautiful precision clockwork of Newtonian physics.  

      However that does not mean throwing out the concept of "fact" or of "truth."  It only means injecting the element of uncertainty and revision into the picture. IMHO this could have a wholly salutary effect, by way of requiring a greater degree of humility in making generalizations about the universe at-large, and in making plans for the exercise of human will in various domains.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:42:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The changing nature of knower and known (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, G2geek

        if acknowledged, as they are for the known in relativity, affect how people understand the world and live. We are always creating models of self and universe to help us anticipate and navigate the complex situations we are an active and changing part of. On a practical level this works pretty well for throwing a spear, landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars, growing more food, creating shelter etc.

        Uncertainty about the nature of self and the world external to what the self can observe is, it seems to me, essential for creativity and new discovery. Certainty, fixed assumptions related to as fact are also necessary to create something because action must be undertaken and sustained for creativity to generate concrete results. Our species has evolved both modes of operating.

        I am reconciled with the changing nature of things and see that insight as applying to both self and the world observed by self. Once we try to project the idea of an absolute and unchanging self or object we have created a vampire, dead but ever alive, thing. Living without this vampire mental model as a linchpin of relating to self and world doesn't make action futile or impossible but it does bring humility, creativity and useful fact creation/discovery into play in a very lively way.

        Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

        by Bob Guyer on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 09:16:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are absolutes. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The Victorian scientist, Lord Kelvin, came up with a pretty good one: absolute zero in temperature.

          Interestingly enough, he also had a Victorian Theory of Everything. To ward off relativity, the Baron badly wanted the existence of an ether.

          He also was early in on information theory. Which I think ends up as challenging to straightforward epistemology as relativity does.

          •  yes, there are... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bob Guyer

            .... Absolute zero, and 9.8 meters per second squared (the rate of acceleration of objects on Earth under the influence of gravity), and so on.  And as well, the approximately seven cosmological and other values that are essential in order for our universe to exist and for life to exist within it (thus giving rise to the moderate version of the anthropic principle: that we could only be alive to observe a universe that was favorable to our existence).

            But let's also not forget that some of these theories & models that make room for uncertainties and indeterminacies, are also empirically validated beyond any reasonable doubt.  The Standard Model, now with the Higgs Field confirmed through the observation of the Higgs Boson.  The Copenhagen Interpretation of QM, in which the act of measuring certain variables affects the value that is measured.  Nonlocality or entanglement, in which particles exhibit correlated behavior instantaneously (as in, apparently regardless of the constraint of light speed).  All of this stuff has aspects that violate "common sense," which only means that "common sense" needs to expand to accommodate them.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:37:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  and about information theory: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Garrett, Bob Guyer

            Shannon's major contribution was to quantify information in terms of bits, 1s and 0s, as we now take for granted in all forms of digital information transmission.

            But that opened the door to something else, the implications of which are going to take probably more than a couple of decades to work out:  Semantic information (as distinct from Shannon's bits), the meanings associated with specific configurations of ordered bits, is apparently orthogonal to thermodynamics!  As such, it should also be orthogonal to vector time (one-directional time).  

            If you want something that violates common sense in spades, consider the possibility, or perhaps the necessity, that semantic information (as contrasted to Shannon information) can propagate "backward" across time!  

            And once again, common sense will have to evolve to deal with the implications of that.

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:41:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  hell yeah! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bob Guyer

          Newtonian clockwork still works as well as it ever did.  

          Those who say that Newton was "overthrown" by Einstein, and that Einstein was "overthrown" by QM, are over-dramatizing.

          What each new theory in physics did do, was circumscribe the range of application of the preceding one.  

          Newton still works for launching space craft to Mars, Jupiter, and even out of the solar system (Voyager), just as long as we don't start getting close to light speed or dealing with such extreme distances that the accumulation of tiny increments of indeterminacy starts to have an effect.  

          But the idea of perfect stasis, as you said, creates vampires: all of these things being human perceptions and decisions about nature at-large, which ultimately transcends our necessarily limited human perspectives.  

          One can learn to "walk in the gray," between the precision of Newton, the local universes of Einstein, and the indeterminacy of QM, recognizing that each holds part of the bigger picture.  And one can create a worldview that abides with all of these.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 10:28:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Walking in the gray with ya (0+ / 0-)

            Both constants and indeterminacy are real in experience as well as in the science you describe so well. One of the big problems I see on the side of our subjective experience is that much of our religious definition of self and the overarching context and cause of self wants to make those ideas about us unchanging and eternal.

            In the realm of meaning once an eternal soul and god become a foundation of a person's world view much of the value of the acknowledgment of indeterminacy is denied in favor of certainty with self and context fixed in form and eternal. Then creativity is applied to maintaining those self concepts against the uncertainty of a changing world and self. I think this explains at least a little of why our religious fundamentalist folks are easy prey for Republican strategists who substitute truths for facts.

            Climate change denial is a good example. I see the PR going like this; The Bible says the earth is x thousands of years old, science says the bible is wrong. Free markets are our defense against tyranny, climate scientists say C02 is warming the planet and that we should interfere with the free market. Science is wrong, science is a scam, science undermines all we know as true, science is an evil trick designed by God to test our faith, fall for science and go to Hell for eternity.

            I always learn a lot from your posts G2. I had to look up orthogonal and I am puzzling over your use of the word in your comment about meaning. I like the feeling of not quite understanding and living in the gray. Sometimes the gray clears, sometimes it stays, its all good.

            Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

            by Bob Guyer on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 08:36:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  science, theology, and psychology: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bob Guyer

              This is always a controversial mix at best, but none the less:

              You're right, and it's a really good insight, that one of the problems of fundamentalism is that it asserts that God is unchanging.  In a purely theological sense, that element of fundamentalism is lacking:  it demeans and limits God.  It imposes the desire of some humans for eternal certainties, upon God, much like a boss imposing his desire for increased production, upon the workers he supervises.  

              (Here I'm looking at this from within theology, not from within science, which is necessarily agnostic since a deity could interfere with any experiment performed to ascertain its existence, therefore no such experiment can be valid.  For our purposes here I'm going to assume that God exists and that souls exist.)

              There's an important distinction to make between "eternal" and "unchanging."  They can't be used interchangeably, because anything that is eternal necessarily changes over time.  

              We can see this in all of our observations about the natural universe.  We can also see this in our observations about our own selves, our own minds.  On one hand we have a sense of identity and of our own existence, and we have the experience that our existence is a continuous one throughout the course of our lives.  But on the other hand, we learn, we grow, we have certain experiences, we change as a result.  We are not the same this year as we were last year, much less as we were when we were little children, or babies.  

              If as religion asserts, mind is the expression of soul, then it also follows that our souls grow and change over time.  In fact this is a core assertion of the majority of Abrahamic traditions and Asian traditions.  The idea that the soul is a fixed entity that does not change, is particular only to Calvinism and its immediately-related branches of Protestantism, where one's actions in this life have no bearing upon one's destination hereafter.  

              The variable "desire for certainty" varies along a normal curve as with many other measures of humans.  Some people have a high desire for certainty: they gravitate toward fundamentalism.  Some people have a low desire for certainty: they gravitate toward philosophical worldviews that entail uncertainties (for example the worldviews that arose out of modern physics).  One can have a deep desire for knowledge while at the same time being able to "walk in the gray" of uncertainty.  Conversely one can desire certainty and yet also fear knowledge.  All of those combinations are possible because the variables involved are not strictly interdependent.  

              Why religious righties don't like science:  simply put, because it tells them things they don't want to hear.  

              About information & time:  My wild & crazy theory basically works like this:  

              There is no thermodynamic entropy penalty for transmitting semantically meaningful ordered bits, as opposed to semantically meaningless ordered bits.  That is, the energy cost of each is identical.

              Thought experiment:  

              Two teletype machines on a circuit.  A punched-paper tape with ASCII characters.  The total energy consumption of the entire system: both teletypes and their communications circuit: is measured with high precision.

              Now you run the punched paper tape through Teletype A, and look at what is printed on Teletype B, and what you see is a Shakespeare play.  Now you turn the tape over and run it through Teletype A backwards: what comes out of Teletype B is exactly the same characters but backward, so the person reading the output sees meaningless gibberish.  

              Then you go back and look at the energy consumption for both of those runs (Shakespeare and gibberish) and you find that they are identical.  It took no more energy to transmit the bits in a configuration that was semantically meaningful, as to transmit the bits in a configuration that was semantically meaningless.

              What this means is that semantic information carries no thermodynamic penalty.  It uses no more energy than transmitting meaningless gibberish.  

              Thermodynamics is the basis of "time."  "Time" is the measure of the increase in thermodynamic entropy.  

              But here we have something, semantic information, or subjective meaning, that has no thermodynamic penalty.  It exists outside of thermodynamics.  Therefore, logically, it escapes the thermodynamic necessity of "forward-only" time!  

              This is wholly contrary to common sense.  And yet if it turns out to be true, it may also explain nonlocality: instead of signals propagating instantaneously (faster than light), they'll be propagating at lightspeed but retrocausally: backward across time.  How's that for wild?

              I gotta' scoot right now, client-work... be back later today.

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 09:15:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Love the meaning back and forth in time (0+ / 0-)

                idea. I have been focused mainly in trying to understand the nature of human experience and most of my science is health care related. My need to include the religious/spiritual side of experience goes back to my early years and an experience I had when doing a thought experiment related to my understanding of relativity and how it shaped the universe. Later in life I have become more interested in systems theory, environmental science and evolution and one of the, to me compelling, ideas I have come to is that in the realm of experience time is always experienced as an interdependent set of past, present and future that modify each other as life is lived. Changes in meaning always modify the meaning of the past because the past is constructively alive in the present. Changes in the present change the forward moving vector of the present in terms of meaning as the future emerges from the present. This line of thought was stimulated by reading Joanna Macy's book Mutual Causality in General Systems Theory and Buddhism. Anyway, even though I don't understand all of the physical science that is running around in your head I resonate with your conclusions coming from a different direction of inquiry. Thanks again G2.

                Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

                by Bob Guyer on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 08:39:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  On your last paragraph: (9+ / 0-)
    what will prevent a terrifying cacophony of voices from polluting the Commons?
    This isn't an internet-age question but a printing-age question, and it's been asked for last few hundred years.    We've managed to muddle through it, one way or another.

    My guess, as far as the internet-age is concerned, is that what we're seeing in the blogs will reflect a lot of what we're seeing in print: yes, there will be proliferation, yes, there will be some who become more popular and others read by no one, and ultimately a lot of the communication will take place through social connections.  This or that book will spread because I recommend it to my friends, and maybe some of them recommend it to theirs.  Reviews will still be important, as will academia, in helping sift through some of it.  We'll have a harder time coalescing around a particular age's Great Writer, which is fine, too.  

    I dunno... the publishing part of it, the internet part of it, doesn't bother me so much.  Good writing tends to survive not through immediate impact, but through time, and the internet doesn't look poised to change that.  The epistemic problem is a real one, though.  But is it a new problem?   Or just a new iteration of an old problem, and one which we're (thankfully) more aware of now?  Is the breakdown of the old authorities a bad thing, ultimately, even if a new one doesn't rise from their ashes?  

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 12:19:18 PM PDT

    •  Middle-early printing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bnasley, aitchdee, G2geek

      Bibles. Religious tracts. Ribald satire, often under a very thin cover of moralizing. Large volumes of legal documents. Newspaper accounts of the wars.

      Mostly, you know, fiction.

      An awareness of the very tenuous connection between what you can do with words, and where the truth lies, just goes way back.

      •  lol, Garrett; you spit out (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenPA, Garrett, 18038, G2geek

        fiction as if it were an epithet! You seem to take for granted that nothing could be more oxymoronical than the idea of fictive truth. I wonder why? Have you studied any poetry at all? Do you know that famous first line from Emily Dickinson, Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--? A bit sly wisdom, right there. ;^)

        (I don't mean to sound confrontational, btw, in case my tone isn't clear. Just an idle Saturday afternoon, Philosophers' Club kinda question, asked in fun & friendliness; reply or not, as you will. Cheers :))

        God bless our tinfoil hearts

        by aitchdee on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 04:03:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My real love in literature (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aitchdee, G2geek

          is earlier than Emily. It's the early English novel.

          "See, see, what you read is all true" they told us in novel form. "How could you mistrust a printed document?"

          Then they went back to the printing shop they owned, to spew out more legal documents. Or perhaps just sat around reading the newspapers. Or some letters from their friends.

    •  The problem with the new telecommunications (6+ / 0-)

      isn't so much the quantity or quality of the information delivered, but in the means of delivery themselves.  For most of human history, information for all except a tiny elite was passed through images and oral recitation, which engaged non-rational, non-linear  thought processes.  With the advent of movable type, a whole new way of thinking and knowing emerged as available to the general mass of society, linear and rational, disciplined discourse.  However, the communication technologies that have become dominant in the late 20th and early 21st century in a sense revert us to the image-based ways of thought that prevailed prior to the dominance of text, and undermine the social strength of the rational that a textual society was based upon.  The consequences of being in a post-textual society are rapidly emerging as being also a post-rational society.

      Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

      by ActivistGuy on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:31:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would date it from television n/t (4+ / 0-)
        •  I do too (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, melo, vahana, bigjacbigjacbigjac

          ALthough for perhaps the first half of television's existence  the effect was limited by the presence of generations whose minds had been fully developed and shaped in a text-based society.  It's only with the transition into a culture in which all have been immersed in TV and other image-based info sources tht the "epistemological" consequences become more clerly defined.

          My family didn't have a TV until I was 12, we were the last people I knew without one, so I'm kind of a throwback for that reason.

          Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

          by ActivistGuy on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:35:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not so sure that's true. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            TV since its early days has splintered into cable, Youtube, satellite and so on. It's nowhere near the authoratative hypnotic medium that it used to be.

            At the same time, the internet is still largely text-based. I mean sure, you've got all these eye-popping ads all over the place, and much commercial pressure to make the net primarily image-based, but the main reason and focus of internet communication is still based on text. I think that's pretty solid.

            "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

            by native on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:54:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We are using text now, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              as we "speak!"

              I agree,
              text helps us think more clearly.

              But text needs help,
              needs some updating.

              That's why I write everything in free verse,
              because this helps the reader think

              I force the reader to pause,
              when it'll help the meaning come through,

              I'm a nut
              about making myself clear.

      •  Yes, post-rational. What I see in all this (5+ / 0-)

        is that we are moving away from considered voices into simply the latest thing heard or said.  Carl Sagan was worried about this as well.

        Rather than solid factual basis for belief in rational facts, we are moving more into gossip (social media) and superstition/personality cults.  

        Even, or especially, politics are imbued with these themes:  Republicans believe strongly in irrational religious themes based upon superstition more than even religious texts, while a good number of Obama supporters are behind him because he is Obama, rather than rational evaluation of his policies.

        Not that any of this is new, but that the nation as a whole - and the world as well - is moving into a rapid communications phase in which information based upon emotion has vast impacts.

        Look at the "Stop Kony" campaign with its vast and rapid spread, but the emotion-based appeal of the video was not based in fact, in sound policy or in anything other than an admitted campaign to ADVERTISE MORE to "Stop Kony" via military action, not through help to the child soldiers.

        To me, the "Stop Kony" campaign was a warning about how easily the public is manipulated into donating money (or taking any action, really) based upon emotional appeal, spread through gossip sources (social media) and manipulating the body politic with nothing more than heart-string-tug video clips.

        Say what people will about "elite-based" filtering mechanisms (and there is much that was wrong with it), there is actual value in everyone not having an equally loud megaphone.  For every good policy choice, there are dozens upon dozens of points of view which are damaging, injurious, diversions, and manipulations.

        How this all comes out is very hard to see at the moment. Most likely, those with the most money and power will simply gain even more through the splintering of opinion and easy spread of emotion or fear-based memes.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:39:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  early in the development of the internet... (6+ / 0-)

        .... many of us, including more well-known thinkers such as John Perry Barlow, looked forward to the dawn of a great new age of literacy: everything from a renaissance of letter-writing via email, to a renaissance of literature that was formerly too abstract or otherwise risky for publishers to touch.

        It didn't quite work out that way.  

        Frankly we overestimated the immediate intelligence of the vast mass of humanity, in a manner that is almost as obvious a flaw as Lysenkoism is for agriculture:  

        A stupid person with cruel instincts won't magically transform into a smart person with empathy, upon exposure to information.  

        The stupidity and cruelty, or intelligence and empathy, are the outcome of a wide range of factors including genetics, prenatal and childhood nutrition, family upbringing and education, history and culture.  These things don't change overnight, much less whenever a new "disruptive technology" appears.  

        None the less, the technology has made it easier for people who are smart, empathic, artistic, creative, and capable in whatever way, to communicate more readily and to at least gain the means of influencing the culture at-large.  

        Bottom line is, it's up to us.  Now more than ever.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:53:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, live and learn as they say. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

          by native on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:59:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Hey! it did come true! (0+ / 0-)
           a renaissance of literature that was formerly too abstract or otherwise risky for publishers to touch.

          It didn't quite work out that way.  

          Yes it did!

          It did work out that way!

          At least for me.

          I'm joyfully writing,
          in my free verse style,
          and you're writing words
          more impressive than mine,
          and many are reading us.

          It's great!

          I truly like my work,
          and yours is very educational.

          And here we are,
          we have some readers,
          and we can link to all this later,
          and others can link to it after we're dead and gone.

          I love it,
          it makes me feel good,
          it gives me hope.

          Let's keep it up.  

    •  "Is it a new problem?" seems a good question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to remind ourselves that we have been fighting the religion vs. science war at least since it was called "the ancients vs. moderns" debate back in the 1700s.  Jonathan Swift took up the problem in his satiric The Battle of the Books, Alexander Pope defended the religious view against science's hubris in An Essay on Man, and the debate's been back and forth ever since.  

      While I generally think of much of Sigmund Freud's work as bunk, his notion of "the return of the repressed" seems to fit the resurgence of religious fundamentalism we are witnessing now.  After a 19th century marked in the US by the religious fervor of the Great Awakenings, the American 20th century grew ever more secular and modern in a very fast-paced, ever more chaotic way.  Society's elevation of scientific and technological advances pushed religion to the background just as church attendance declined.  More pressing, though, is that scientific inquiries into the nature of reality (relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc.) have outstripped the capacity of many people to understand them, and scientists--for whatever reason--have done a poor job of translating the arcane mathematical equations that tell them alone what they do and know into plain language and imaginable stories that average folks can engage.

      Sure, there have been a few excellent efforts made to popularize science and its achievements: Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  We all have our favorite science spokespersons.  However, when scientific knowledge still sounds like fantasy, the religious fundamentalist is not going to abandon his or her familiar, God-centered epistemology for the so-called "rational" one that is strange and dubious.  Moreover, the high pitch of emotions--fear, resentment, anger--bound up with being relentlessly told (or just thinking you've been relentlessly told) by secular society that religion is belief in an imaginary friend and, therefore, holds no legitimacy next to science--all that repressed negativity had to emerge sometime.

      Because of my own work in higher education, I cling to the notion that lifelong education is the answer to the question, "How do we know what we know?"  Education for Missourians looks very bleak right now, yet I can't help but think very little has changed.  Students and their parents have been challenging curricula on personal conscience grounds for years but even more telling of people's claims to their right to be ignorant is the elevated school drop-out rate seen in some parts of the country.  "I don't need this" doesn't need a religious foundation to deny education to those who think that way about schooling.

      No one elected Grover Norquist anything. If everyone ignored him, he would dry up and blow away.

      by vahana on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 12:26:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  maybe it's just DNA, chemical (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        derived paranoia.  I agree no amount of relative facts based on reality (i knw, whatever that is...) will convince too large a portion of humanity that we're all in this together w/a somewhat limited amount of resources BUT maybe unlimited brain power if we decided to encourage it rather than fear it, especially if you look different. Just scary and weird.

  •  Been Here Before (14+ / 0-)

    (This is what I "do" all the live, long, day.  Albeit with a sharper focus on software and hardware rather than meatware; however, one must always keep the latter in mind.  Human Interface & all that.)

    One of the causes of the religious wars that wracked Europe from 1524 to 1648 was the Gutenberg's invention in 1439.  Hand written manuscripts were expensive, thus information dissemination was limited to the ruling classes and their flunkies.  Printing allowed authors to reach a "mass audience" - for the time - with whatever nonsense they cared to scribble.  
    (If one bothers to read the more obscure writings of Luther, say, the 'distance' between him and the current pack of god-bothering dimbulbs shrinks dramatically. )

    Simultaneously printed material allowed a jump in the dissemination of technical and scientific works.  The Scientific Revolution, well underway by 1543 and continuing to the present, would have been impossible prior to 1439.

    Computer word processing has lowered the barriers to content production, the Internet has erased the barriers to potentially reaching a mass audience.  Together they have created what the University of Berkeley researchers has termed 'The Data Avalanche' because the world in 2002 (note date!) was producing the equivalent of one Library of Congress per year.  Total content production has increased dramatically over the ensuing ten years.

    Applying Sturgeon's Law:

    Ninety percent of everything is crap.
    it's easy to see:

    1.  The total amount of Good Stuff is increasing

    2.  The Good Stuff is buried in the crap

    3.  The difficulty finding the Good Stuff is increasing at a 1:9 ratio

    4.  The ease in finding The Crap is increasing

    Humans, being humans, are much more likely to respond to emotive discourse (h/t to Logical Positivism) due to the fact - speaking carelessly - the Limbic System gets first whack at Information Processing.  Human, being humans, are much more likely to accept confirming data than challenging data.  


    5.  The response to The Crap having a high emotional content confirming and validating existing opinions, call it, will be far, far, greater than Good Stuff with a low emotional content questioning and challenging existing opinions.

    Granted, history doesn't repeat.  (Screw Toynbee!)  But it does, to some extent, chime.  The Models we have for a dramatic leveling of communication via the introduction of a new mass media is printing, radio, and television and none give a Model for increasing the Good Stuff over the The Crap or even to avoid or limit conflict and violence.    

    The prognosis is, thus, grim.  

    "...[one] must still have Chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." Nietzsche

    by ATinNM on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 12:36:30 PM PDT

    •  Every Media Revolution was shortly followed by (11+ / 0-)

      a 'real' revolution. Writing; tribal wars. Printing; 100 years of Religious Conflict. Radio/Film/Talkies; WW1 and WW2. TV; Colonial Revolts/Imperial Disintegration.  

      Internet; Unknown as of the moment, but some speculation includes a balkanization into Like Groups of True Believers at the expense of Nation/States.

      Older forms of media represent and embed and represent older forms of civilization and organization. Those people who get their "info" from the TV tend to be much stronger nationalists and religionists, since that form embeds these older ideologies much more out of tradition and bias.  Those who cleave towards the Internet Tubes seem to be much more likely to identify with smaller, specialized subgroups nationally, but more importantly, internationally.

      While it is impossible to predict, it may be that the new form of Internet Organization is sufficiently ecological and imitative of large, sophisticated biological organisms to embed for the first time, International Consciousness, for good and for ill. It may be the last version of the Language Revolution sufficient to PREVENT the correlative Revolutions which have preceded it.

      I take as evidence the Syrian Revolution, in which all factions are now opposing the tyranny, within and without the country, just as in Libya and Tunisia. Religious groups such as Sunni, Shia and Christian have found common ground in economic prosperity and free exchange which overrides their age old friction by simple exchange of language in a common international medium.

      I am not a complete optimist, but I think there is reason for real hope. There are enough sane people who DO use the internet to influence the less reality-based, and as we go along, we find out who ARE the older forms of media users and how detached they are from reality by way OF their media choice and preference.

      Full disclosure; I have a Master's Degree in Media and Information Technology, but I did some work in Media Preferences correlated to IQ and learning ability. The preliminary data shows what we expect; the easier the media is to access and operate the more correlation there is to brains which find learning difficult. Media preferences DO have selection predictability. There is a LOT more to do.

      Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

      by OregonOak on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:51:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  While I agree with much of what you've said, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm not sure about this part:

        I take as evidence the Syrian Revolution, in which all factions are now opposing the tyranny, within and without the country, just as in Libya and Tunisia. Religious groups such as Sunni, Shia and Christian have found common ground in economic prosperity and free exchange which overrides their age old friction by simple exchange of language in a common international medium.
        I don't know that all factions are necessarily opposing tyranny.  Perhaps a number of factions would like to impose their own tyrannies.

        I'm also not sure where there has been evidence of Sunni, Shia and Christian religious groups finding common ground in economic prosperity.  Isn't much of the Middle East still suffering from splintered and poor economies at present?

        I think the ability of Internet groups to connect with smaller, more specific, more sharply defined groups internationally may have a destabilizing effect.  There's still great value to be found in knowing all your flesh-and-blood neighbors, understanding their struggles and being united across a spectrum of beliefs.  We have much more in common than we all have in difference, but it seems the Internet and smaller specific groups emphasizes differences even into distortion.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:49:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And I agree with you as well... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Last week I saw the funeral of several Syrian civilians killed in a Government raid. The Christian pastor wanted to have the funeral inside the church, but all those present, Islamic, Christian and Other demanded that the funerals take place outside in the street, with hymns of all the faiths and the National Anthem of Syria being sung. The picture was of a highly emotional unity; a meeting of the "reality-based" community of all faiths and beliefs opposed viscerally and spirutually against tyrannical genocide. They were all willing to be blown up together in the same space and time for the cause, and this emotional solidarity is the future of Syria, as was the Libyan Revolution, and I believe, the Egyptian Revolution. All are works in progress, but religious tolerance and cooperation are the stated hallmarks of all of these places. The social network and the internet, I believe, is the cause of this new-found solidarity. These revolutions MAY be hijacked by totalitarians from ANY of the factions, but the public will is clear. They quote Jeffferson, Lincoln and Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, and we should be very proud of the direction they are pointing.

          The communcations ecology which supported Nation/States (centralized and concentrated for profit information media-tv, radio, movies) is clearly changing, and it is my belief that any communications ecology which more closely is analygous to biological ecosystems is more likely to be stable, fair and sustaining in the long run. It must be paired with our hightly developed human moral consciousness, however, since a natural ecology, while stable, is also highly competitive and opportunistic. Our commmunication ecology can and should contain a humanist tradition, or a Golden Rule feature which will prevent the worst kinds of abuses.

          Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

          by OregonOak on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 02:01:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Things like that certainly give one hope. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Real life unity in the face of destruction can teach us all a lesson.

            I'd like to see our Democratic leaders adhere more to the teachings of Jefferson, Lincoln, Gandhi and MLK as well.  I have zero expectation that Republicans will, but I have higher standards for my own party.

            This is the key, which you rightly highlight:

            Our commmunication ecology can and should contain a humanist tradition, or a Golden Rule feature which will prevent the worst kinds of abuses.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 02:22:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  The Internet is not the problem. (9+ / 0-)

    After all, the World Wide Web was invented as a way for scientists to share information.

    The problem is that some people, in order to maintain their emotionally comforting cultural beliefs, or to exercise power, have to reject scientific reasoning.  This has always been the case, it is just showing up in a new form on the Internet.

    There was very little editing before Gutenberg made publishing an industrial process.  I don't think Plato, Herodotus, Caesar, or Chaucer had any editors for their writings.  Their writings survive because enough people thought they were worthy of remembering.

    The problem of filtering all of the information now available is a real one.  Now there is a lot more writing to see to sift the wheat from the chaff.   But the Internet is still very new, and filtering methods are in their infancy.  But attempts are being made.  Look at what happens here at DKos.  You have the dairy list, where anyone can be published.  You have the front page, with writing selected and editted by the admins of the site, with Markos ultimately in charge.  But you also have the rec list, which depends on popularity of the dairy (plus whatever secret formula it uses).  You also have Community Spotlight, with a group of people picking out dairies they consider worthy of highlighting.  Hopefully methods like this will improve over time, and allow the best stuff to get nore exposure.

    The biggest problem I have with the Internet is that it tends to discourage long, book length writing and reading.  Some topics need the length.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 01:18:47 PM PDT

  •  God said it. I believe it. That settles it. (8+ / 0-)

    I actually saw the above bumper sticker. In New Jersey, which is pretty civilized, usually.

    Can't fix something like that.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:06:43 PM PDT

  •  At least we know better where we stand. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, vahana, G2geek

    The trouble with the old sources of truthiness, Church, State, Family, is that all of them lied like hell. Their one advantage, as Orwell points out somewhere, is at least their lies were usually fairly stable and consistent. You could build a whole life around the idea that your country was the best in the world, or that you were smarter than people whose skin was a different colour. I don't miss it.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:20:16 PM PDT

  •  The ultimate "religious" student (5+ / 0-)

    "God hates math."

    "God hates homework."

    "It says right in Leviticus that book reports are an abomination before the Lord."

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:20:45 PM PDT

  •  The Web and Epistemology (7+ / 0-)

    Someone smarter than I am should write a treatise on how the Web impacts epistemology.

    To pick just one area, think about medicine. The absolutely raging debates online about nutrition, meds, specific conditions are full of amazingly complex ways to offer, assess, weigh and validate claims. These discussions help show the inherent flaws in western-style medical studies - while also demonstrating the intellectual anarchy unleashed by totally dismissing them as well.

    All over the web, there are huge groups and subgroups conducting massive demonstrations of epistemology, struggling to set parameters for discussions, showing the limitations of logic, desperately searching for some kind of "truth" or answer.

    I find it fascinating and it's really heightened my thinking abilities. Being online too much, that is.

    But anyway,  have definitely used the phrase "epistemological crisis" to define our times, and I think it's pretty apt.

  •  Why I do not believe knowledge is possable (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at least in a complete way.

    something better than JTB is needed to be dogmatic.. It is better to be like Cantor in his view of infinite progression. i.e. we can never know with certainty anything compleatly. :)

    This is why I am not a foundationalist in my epistemology as it does not seem to fit with scientific nor propositional logic.

    Chiselom was an entertaining read so was kuhn and Waltersdorf. But JTB is flawed. JTB+ is needed.

    "We need a revolution away from the plutocracy that runs Government."

    by hangingchad on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:44:13 PM PDT

  •  we deserve that anarchy and in fact will be the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    better for it as a possibility of teleology. Viable challenges and bundlers for a/the Scientific Method have been around for a while

    We are, I fear, destined to live through an age of epistemological anarchy for many years to come. The Scientific Method, that system of knowledge which ushered in vaccines, space travel and good nutrition may become simply another cult among many other cults of knowledge. More to be pitied, I suppose. But again, how shall we evaluate the world we live in and representations about it for their truthfulness? How will we know what we know?

    Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:52:08 PM PDT

  •  rather weighty topics made easily digestible. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, vahana

    thanks for the diary!

    as for students/parents being given the right to opt-out of science classes or work assignments that conflcit with their religious beliefs, the obvious question is, why don't they attend a religious school where that won't be problem? -- with a follow-up question: isn't it a bit hypocritical for people to not want students to learn about the theory of evolution on religious grounds then turn around & whine about the boogeyman issue of sharia law being forced on them?

    stephen colbert's show the other night did a brief segment on paul ryan's reading choices, which were books ryan characterized as having to do with the "enlightenment argument" & the role science & rational thought should play in government -- which, colbert added, was still a raging debate among conservatives.  that, to me, says it all.

    •  haha (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac, bluezen

      Daily Kos: You've Got to Show Me: The (New) Epistemological Crisis

      isn't it a bit hypocritical for people to not want students to learn about the theory of evolution on religious grounds then turn around & whine about the boogeyman issue of sharia law being forced on them?
      hole in one...

      why? just kos..... *just cause*

      by melo on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:47:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  why don't they: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac, GreenPA, bluezen

      Because they're tribals who are easily manipulated by people in a leadership role, whose goal is to impose their will upon society at-large.  

      That is:

      The people who want to opt out of science classes but who rant about Sharia, identify as members of a "tribe" consisting basically of religious fundamentalists.

      They are in favor of anything that advances their own tribal interests, and against anything that advances the interests of competing tribes.

      Their leaders in the religious right know this very well, and take full advantage of it to promote their (the religious right's) agenda.  And that agenda consists of the imposition of theocracy on the United States.  

      The leaders of the religious right work hand-in-hand with the leaders of the plutocracy.  The religious right's goal is to dominate (impose their will on) the cultural aspects of society.  The plutocracy's goal is to dominate (impose their will on) the economic aspects of society.  Together they cooperate to seek to dominate government as the means of enacting both of their agendas.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 01:04:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We have written the 95 thesis (5+ / 0-)

    Our book will be out soon.  In it we trace the failure of science to be what it claims to be and thereby allowing the religious to gain all the ground they have.

    Our book among other recent books rewrites the current (failed) epistemology.  

    The real world is complex and Cartesian reductionist/mechanist science has failed us by rejecting this notion substituting a surrogate world that is clearly the servant of technology and the antithesis of real world science.

    Real world systems can not be dealt with reductionist models.  Organisms, in particular, are not mechanisms and all of modern medicine has been vicitimized by this.

    I could go o n but if you are interested I have a large number of blogs here that speak to this.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 03:56:39 PM PDT

    •  Amen, Brother. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky, melo

      Science as currently practiced is often no more truthy than fundamentalism. The coming change may be about integrating true science with a direct experience of the numinous.

      "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

      by US Blues on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:06:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  read our book...........................n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:07:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

          •  Global Insanity:How Homo sapiens Lost Touch (0+ / 0-)

            Global Insanity:How Homo sapiens Lost Touch with Reality while Transforming the World

            The Global Economy that sustains the civilized world is destroying the biosphere.  As a result, civilization, like the Titanic, it is on a collision course with disaster.  But changing course via the body politic appears to be well nigh impossible, given that much of the populace lives in denial.  Why is that?  And how did we get into such a fix?  That question has two answers, one historical, the other phenomenological.  First, Western science conceived nature as a machine, a legacy of the empiricism of Bacon, the dualism of Descartes, and the determinism of Newton.  But that metaphor is fundamentally flawed, as Robert Rosen has rigorously demonstrated.  Second, the Global Economy, like any complex system, developed into existence.  Development is a growth- and feedback-driven trajectory of systemic change that reinforces specific dependencies while eliminating alternatives, reducing the diversity that affords degrees of freedom.  The more developed a system is, the less potential it has to change its way of being.  That is why, in the evolution of life, most species become extinct (overspecialization), and ecological collapse is a common occurrence.  But we humans have taken it to a new level.  On a global scale, we built an industrial “metabolism” based on nonrenewable high energy resources, which fueled our exponential growth and socioeconomic development.  As a result, we are now deeply dependent on that system, and are forced to keep repairing it in order to survive.  Unfortunately, not only does the system lack the resources it needs for long-term survival, it is based on the misconception that life is a mechanism, with its implicit assumption that technology has an unlimited capacity to fix all our problems.  Now that we are trapped, people don't want to hear that those ideas are wrong, because that brings to light just how dire our predicament really is.
            The book closes with our thoughts on what options humanity has for negotiating the impending worldwide collapse of social and economic systems—which can also be viewed as a metamorphosis—with minimal suffering, and what we hope will persist through the transition.

            An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

            by don mikulecky on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 10:55:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  How will we know what we know? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenPA, KJG52, linkage, G2geek

    Easy.  Our tribal leaders will tell us what we know, and we will have the choice of accepting that knowledge or being cast out of our tribe (or killed).

    Same as it always was, and still is for about half the world.

    190 milliseconds....

    by Kingsmeg on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 04:02:02 PM PDT

  •  I'm not sure this is such a great problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, G2geek

    Americans are fortunately quite impervious to Grand Theories of Everything.  True, religion is something of an exception, but that imho has more to do with situational social needs than serious abstract commitments.

    I'm not sure a collapse of popular epistemological certainty is such a bad thing.  We know the standard Right epistemologies are defective; the standard Left ones are to a large extent simply antagonistic to Rightish ones and need some amount of rejiggering.  

    Everyone will be aware of how weak all the usual authorities are when that time comes, so I don't see any authoritarian ;) solution.  What's left as guides after that are egotism/ego needs and the practical/empirical, which has no basis to rest on other than the scientific.

  •  Competence and integrity are the issue not... (7+ / 0-)

    epistomology. When the social, political and religious institutions of any group are subverted by power seeking and greed, then propaganda, not information, becomes the primary tool of moving opinion in that society. The number of instances in history of social deconstruction by the powerful of the societal institutions created to act as checks on power, are legion.  

    The failure of a "knowledge based" social structure is guaranteed when critical thinking, debate and dedication to presenting, or striving to present, "truth" is abandoned for the benefits to one class of the concentration of power, wealth and political control. The current situation we find ourselves in, is not a result of not "knowing what we know," it is the result of an intentional program of the destruction of social ethical behavior, the destruction of institutions and foundational systems  like "education", "constitutional government," the whole concept of "human rights" and devaluing common humanity in favor of the "elite."

    The whole concept of "meritocracy" is a utopian/dystopian construct of neglible value, inherently creating perverse incentives that lead to the manipulation of the rules for the gain of personal power in corrupt institutions. Diminishing the value of humans serving and cooperating with each other to resolve the issues that face us through social mechanisms that support us all.

    We know, all too well, that "we" are being led down a path of selfish, wilfull ignorance, supported by agendas of hate and fear. We know, that mysogyny, racism, religious bigotry, violence, homophobia etc..., are being used to manipulate us every day; as our standard of living declines, our educational institutions are subverted and our human rights are removed through the legislative and executive processes of our "democratic institutions." It is not that we don't "know what we know," it is that many of us choose to respond to social anxiety by blindly putting faith in corrupt ideologues, economic and social institutions, whose adherents only aim is the amassing of power, wealth and social dominance.

    It is our leaders and institutions that have failed to be kept to standards of competence, integrity and humanity, that are failing us. Not our ability to determine " what knowledge is and how do we know it," ethics, not epistomology, is the branch of philosophy that we have failed to apply, and we are paying for that every day.    

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 05:41:23 PM PDT

  •  If they want to be ignorant, let them be ignorant. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, happymisanthropy

    You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him read.

  •  I'm sure that if one looked long and hard (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at this conclusion of yours:

    The old authorities - Church, Academia, Media, Government - have broken down,
    and then recalled that this diary was introduced by a quote from Science Magazine  - a veritable intersection of two of those authorities (Academia and Media) - some real good irony could be enjoyed . .  .
    •  Hi there. This discussio has become, for better or (0+ / 0-)

      worse, a hydra-headed monster. (I think for better but am not an expert enough DKos user yet to be able to single out who is responding to whom and where.)

      The quote from Science magazine is what prompted me to start thinking again about a 'epistemological crisis,' an idea which I have been thinking about for some time. I do have a love for words (one of my profs called me 'logo-centric'), but also believe in science as the best way man has come up with thus far for determining knowledge.

      Speaking of irony, one day after I publish this essay keying off recent 'know-nothing' events in Missouri, the Akin story breaks. Does life imitate art or what???? I am feeling eerily prophetic these days.

  •  Saturday Night Live was on the case... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo 1987. Truth was arbitrated by a survey of 17-yr-old high school seniors (Steve Martin hosts):

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:57:13 PM PDT

  •  It depends on what you mean (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, OrdinaryIowan, vahana

    by "truth" and "reality". Both concepts are predicated on agreement.

    The simple schema of "Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment, Conclusion" has served Western civilization well, over the past several centuries, and might even be said to form the core of what Western civilization is. It has been able to transport mankind physically beyond the planet Earth, and deep within its own nature.

    This core is not faith-based, it is rather doubt-based. It is what the people of Missouri meant when they said, "Show me". Western science as a whole endeavors not to teach, but to show. Demonstration is considered to be proof of truth, and so it is.

    Christianists have been railing against science for centuries, whenever the latest discovery contravenes some long-established doctrine, or tends to de-legitimize some scriptural teaching or other. There is nothing new about it.

    However scientific doubt does not bind people together socially -- not the way religious certainty does, and always has. Belief itself, far more than truth, is what binds people together. We all want and need to believe in something, but science undercuts and subverts this basic human need.

    This I think is the underlying reason why some sub-cultures deny the obviously objective facts of evolution. Because "truth" is not true unless it is widely believed, and because there is no ultimate "truth", not even by scientific standards.

    "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

    by native on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 08:49:16 PM PDT

  •  don't blame new media for confirmation bias (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, GreenPA

    It's a problem with the wetware and it always has been.

    Besides, I'd argue that elite failure is ultimately a good thing.  At the end of the day, who in their right mind would want a little group of people acting as arbiters of reality?  You assume - wrongly and dangerously in my opinion - that anyone in that position would not ultimately misuse that power.  Even if the experts themselves remain objective, that doesn't solve the problem of high-level filtering: corporate and political authorities that employ the experts could easily control how much - if any - of the truth we have access to.  It's flirting with elitism and paternalism to argue that only some information hegemon can make sure we get good information ... and it goes without saying that it, not you or me or any of us, gets to define good.  There is only one truth to be spoken, but it does not follow that a single voice therefore speaks only truth.

    I think that so many people having almost unfettered access to so much information is what's going to make it possible for the truth to emerge precisely because no-one can control what we see and hear except for us: the consumers of information.  I think that the lack of authoritative voices is going to make it harder - not easier - for epistemic closure to occur.  And even if it does occur, it'll be us doing it to ourselves.  I also don't believe for a moment that elites do not also want to create epistemic closure, where we all live in a mental universe of their making.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:32:05 PM PDT

  •  I never saw an entire state vote to end its own (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    academic accreditation before. Their diplomas will be meaningless except to religious institutions. They will not prove that the students have met the academic standards of the rest of the country.

    Maybe their new state nickname will be "The Blow Me State".

    I can see whole graduation classes of students having to get a GED from another state before going to college.

    As Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride: "Humiliations galore"

    Every country in the West will get a good laugh out of this one.

    Supply follows consumption. You cannot stimulate consumption by crushing the consumer. Deal with it.

    by Zera Lee on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 01:49:57 AM PDT

  •  Extant revealed truth/Political epist. vaccuum (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenPA, qofdisks

    The alternates are not provided in the law, but some schools will attempt to supply alternative assignments -- which would be subject to the same "I doan believe it" law -- while others will not. The referendum itself, though, is evidence of the paradigm shift, in Kuhn's terms, already having taken place. I prefer Macluhan, and I think the shift to the global village (a bad thing, as it meant becoming global villagers, with shamans, taboos, etc.) is now fully formed. The referendum was there because of the repeated lie that it is illegal to pray in schools. There never was "state interference" in prayer in schools. There was only a prohibition on the state leading prayers.

    Without the lessons and alternatives, though, a vaccuum does exist, but there are many ready to fill the void. I have seen, and I wish I were exaggerating, a massive uptick in Christian Identity among young teens. They will learn a narrative, but it will be a racist one or a separatist one.

    Finally, from an actual epistemological point of view, the people who object to evolutionary theory rely upon revelation. I do not mean that they expect to have Genesis 1-3 revealed to them, but that they require a mandatory conversion experience, which is a powerful emotional and spiritual act, and then experience as a confirmation of the truth of what had been revealed before. As far as it goes, the model is fine: it has tests in it. The book has internal tests, and history and theology and human reason give external tests.

    However, they marry the traditional mystery religious model with a belief that their fellows are corrupt. Therefore, any failure of the tests is an indication that the internal evidence needs to be re-read (or not read) or that those other people are corrupt. That is an old and dangerous model, one found in cults, heresies, and revolutionary cells. It is socially inimical, because it historically emerges at times of social disintegration.

    Everyone is innocent of something.

    by The Geogre on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 05:43:04 AM PDT

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