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Posts Tagged ‘reason’

How ‘Pro-Choice’ are Democrats?

Posted by Richard on September 6, 2012

When Socialist Democrats talk about being “pro-choice,” they’re invariably referring to a woman’s right to choose abortion over childbirth. Reason TV went to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and asked delegates and attendees about some other choice issues, like what you choose to put in your body, what school you choose for your child, and whether you choose to join a union. The result is amusing and (to me at least) not at all surprising.

It seems that Socialist Democrats strongly support your right to make the choices they approve of. And the government’s “right” to stop you from making “bad” choices.


[YouTube link]

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Conservatives aren’t credible on scientific matters

Posted by Richard on July 2, 2009

Dafydd at Big Lizards has identified the greatest weakness of the conservative movement, the one that cripples them in debates over some of today's biggest issues (emphasis in original):

… What do all these contemporary issues hold in common?

  • Cap and Trade — rather, Cripple and Tax
  • The expansion of nuclear power generation
  • The EPA's attempt to outlaw CO2 (and now NO2 as well; hat tip to Hugh Hewitt)
  • Missile defense, both theater and strategic
  • Nationalization of major industries
  • Nationalization of health care to a single-payer, government-controlled system
  • The promiscuous proliferation of "endangered species" that are, in fact, not endangered

First, each of these controversies is a wedge issue by which Republicans and conservatives can oust Democrats and liberals from Congress — and potentially from la Casa Blanca, as well.

Second, each is fundamentally a scientific question, from climate science, to nuclear physics, to aeronautics and cybernetics, to the optimal pursuit of medical research, to economic science, to the biological sciences.

And most important, for each of these wedge issues, the Right can only win if it is more credible when speaking about scientific matters.

It's not good enough merely to be no less credible than, on a par with the Left — in this case, a "tie" in rationalism goes to whoever is best at slinging emotional arguments; and in that arena, the Left always has the home-field advantage.

All of which leads me, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to the hubris-flaw of conservatives; and that is, of course, the squirrely refusal of so many prominent conservatives to accept the findings of a century and a half of evolutionary biology.

Read the whole thing.

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Bailouts and Bull

Posted by Richard on March 13, 2009

ABC is airing a new John Stossel special on 20/20 tonight, "Bailots and Bull," featuring Drew Carey and Reason.tv. Now that's must-see TV!

From Reason's David Nott (via email):

During this hour-long special, which was inspired by Reason.tv's Drew Carey Project, Drew and John will discuss the bailout fiasco, medical marijuana, universal preschool, toll roads, and the myth of the struggling middle class. You can watch a really great preview of "Bailouts and Bull" here:

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7067358

20/20 is on Friday night, March 13 at 10 p.m. ET, but please check your local listings for exact times. You won't want to miss this!

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali defends reason and the Enlightenment

Posted by Richard on January 9, 2008

I'm a strong defender of Western Civilization and the Enlightenment, but I've always argued that the ideas and values of the Enlightenment are available to anyone who chooses to embrace them, and not the property or province of some particular cultural or ethnic group. Nothing illustrates my point better than this: an African immigrant brought up in a primitive tribal culture has brilliantly corrected a conservative American intellectual's misunderstanding of reason and the Enlightenment.

Ayaan Hirsi AliThe conservative intellectual is Lee Harris. The African immigrant is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The vehicle is Hirsi Ali's outstanding review of Harris's new book, The Suicide of Reason. The book is about Islamic fanaticism and what Harris calls "the fanaticism of reason." Hirsi Ali refutes Harris's premise masterfully, rejecting the Hegelianism and collectivism that's hidden within conservatism and that undermines its intellectual foundation (emphasis added):

Harris’s book is so engaging that it is difficult to put down, and its haunting assessments make it difficult for a reader to sleep at night. He deserves praise for raising serious questions. But his arguments are not entirely sound.

I disagree, for instance, that the way to rescue Western civilization from a path of suicide is to challenge its tradition of reason. Indeed, for all his understanding of the rise of fanaticism in general and its Islamic manifestation in particular, Harris’s use of the term “reason” is faulty.

Enlightenment thinkers, preoccupied with both individual freedom and secular and limited government, argued that human reason is fallible. They understood that reason is more than just rational thought; it is also a process of trial and error, the ability to learn from past mistakes. The Enlightenment cannot be fully appreciated without a strong awareness of just how frail human reason is. That is why concepts like doubt and reflection are central to any form of decision-making based on reason.

Harris is pessimistic in a way that the Enlightenment thinkers were not. He takes a Darwinian view of the struggle between clashing cultures, criticizing the West for an ethos of selfishness, and he follows Hegel in asserting that where the interest of the individual collides with that of the state, it is the state that should prevail. This is why he attributes such strength to Islamic fanaticism. The collectivity of the umma elevates the communal interest above that of the individual believer. Each Muslim is a slave, first of God, then of the caliphate. Although Harris does not condone this extreme subversion of the self, still a note of admiration seems to creep into his descriptions of Islam’s fierce solidarity, its adherence to tradition and the willingness of individual Muslims to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the greater good.

In addition, Harris extols American exceptionalism together with Hegel as if there were no contradiction between the two. But what makes America unique, especially in contrast to Europe, is its resistance to the philosophy of Hegel with its concept of a unifying world spirit. It is the individual that matters most in the United States.

I was not born in the West. I was raised with the code of Islam, and from birth I was indoctrinated into a tribal mind-set. Yet I have changed, I have adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and as a result I have to live with the rejection of my native clan as well as the Islamic tribe. Why have I done so? Because in a tribal society, life is cruel and terrible. And I am not alone. Muslims have been migrating to the West in droves for decades now. They are in search of a better life. Yet their tribal and cultural constraints have traveled with them. And the multiculturalism and moral relativism that reign in the West have accommodated this.

Harris is correct, I believe, that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic world. They are woefully uninformed and often unwilling to confront the tribal nature of Islam. The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason.

Both the Romantic movement and organized religion have contributed a great deal to the arts and to the spirituality of the Western mind, but they share a hostility to modernity. Moral and cultural relativism (and their popular manifestation, multiculturalism) are the hallmarks of the Romantics. To argue that reason is the mother of the current mess the West is in is to miss the major impact this movement has had, first in the West and perhaps even more profoundly outside the West, particularly in Muslim lands.

Thus, it is not reason that accommodates and encourages the persistent segregation and tribalism of immigrant Muslim populations in the West. It is Romanticism. Multiculturalism and moral relativism promote an idealization of tribal life and have shown themselves to be impervious to empirical criticism. My reasons for reproaching today’s Western leaders are different from Harris’s. I see them squandering a great and vital opportunity to compete with the agents of radical Islam for the minds of Muslims, especially those within their borders. But to do so, they must allow reason to prevail over sentiment.

To argue, as Harris seems to do, that children born and bred in superstitious cultures that value fanaticism and create phalanxes of alpha males are doomed — and will doom others — to an existence governed by the law of the jungle is to ignore the lessons of the West’s own past. There have been periods when the West was less than noble, when it engaged in crusades, inquisitions, witch-burnings and genocides. Many of the Westerners who were born into the law of the jungle, with its alpha males and submissive females, have since become acquainted with the culture of reason and have adopted it. They are even — and this should surely relieve Harris of some of his pessimism — willing to die for it, perhaps with the same fanaticism as the jihadists willing to die for their tribe. In short, while this conflict is undeniably a deadly struggle between cultures, it is individuals who will determine the outcome.

Bravo! Bravissimo!

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