Smart people saying smart things

Susan Lawler: “Belief and skepticism: creating nonsense by mislabeling scientists and deniers (via)

[Climate] skeptics, as portrayed in the media circus, are completely mislabeled. Those who deny actual evidence cannot be called skeptics. They begin by believing in the rightness of their cause, and then cherry pick their facts. No true sceptic would develop an argument based on bias alone.

Scientists are the true skeptics. They begin with doubt, rather than beginning with belief. They ask themselves, “What kind of data could I collect that would prove to me that an idea I think is right is actually wrong?”

Scientists ask rigorous questions, test assumptions and scrutinize each other’s logic. Yet when 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activities, they are labelled “believers”.

This is a deeply misleading word for the scientists involved, and it is offensive to true believers as well. I am aware that teaching evolution often causes conflict for students whose families think this branch of biology is opposed to a belief in God, but I do not expect my students to deny themselves a spiritual connection to the universe. Doing our best to love the earth, each other or ourselves does not preclude a sensible approach to knowledge.

Indeed, true skepticism is healthy. It allows a person to begin from doubt and move toward something.

Huey Newton, August 15, 1970 (via)

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppresed people in the society.

James Madison: “The Federalist No. 10 (via)

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

"I must confess I have done that in the past. :D"

The ‘weird’ fringe is the biggest ..."
"Eep! Headbutts (cat variety) available on request."

The ‘weird’ fringe is the biggest ..."
"More like cris de coeur or statements of preference than arguments.I've said before, I'd be ..."

The ‘weird’ fringe is the biggest ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Excellent round-up this time, I must say. I particularly liked Madison’s comments on the self-interest of writing tax laws, as well as Huey Newton’s commentary on the then-nascent gay liberation movement. :)

  • Magic_Cracker

    Newton, and the Panthers in general, are greatly misunderstood, even on the “left.” As far are 60s/70s radicals go, they were the real deal, so real in fact that it took coordinated collusion by the government and media, plus the bad faith of white so-called “radicals,” to destroy them. 

  • It is interesting to note how played-up the threat of “Black Militancy” was in the 1960s and 1970s to the point of being featured in a Dirty Harry movie (though to be fair, the 1975 movie in question portrayed the leader fairly sympathetically, with Harry and his partner agreeing that the leader was probably being put in a frame-up and settling a fair quid pro quo).

    “White militancy” on the other hand is all “lol those silly hicks” never mind that one of them managed to blow up a federal building and the FBI regularly gets a square in the lower corner of a newspaper page about once a year with a report that they foiled a plot by some right-wing group-or-other to attack federal employees and/or the President/VP.

  • Magic_Cracker

    If I were black and, you know, not the coward I know I am, you bet your ass I’d be militant. It’s called having self-respect.

  • I’d like to clarify that “White Militancy” (aka the militia/survivalist movement) is a danger far more so than “Black Militancy” precisely because (a) whites are a majority (even now in the USA) and command greater social leeway than blacks and (b) people who want to preserve the status quo inequities or even extend them are often subconsciously agreed-with by others who nonetheless deplore the violent rhetoric they espouse.

    So all the McVeighs in the USA get just that slight bit of leniency and it adds up. No blaring headlines about the dangers of the “white militant movement”, no editorial pieces demanding the government take a firm line with them, no movies that get blockbuster hits that concern them, etc*.

    But the hint some black person might possibly question anything (like oh say, Martin Luther King Jr or Malcolm X) and the FBI’s practically ready to smear them as a Communist. Or a terrorist.


    * Anybody remember Arlington Road? That’s about the closest I can remember to any movie of any note portraying a right-wing extremist, and va snpg gur onq thl znantrf gb jva va gur raq ol cvaavat uvf nefba/rkcybfvba ba gur qhqr gelvat gb jnea rirelobql ryfr nobhg uvz. (ROT13‘d spoilers**)

    ** Seriously, people! PLEASE bookmark this! It’s a rare week when someone doesn’t ask what that garbled texty stuff is or complains they can’t remember how to get it decoded.

  • If James Madison were writing today, someone would recommend that he work on his paragraph breaks.  That first paragraph is one heck of a wall o’ text.

    I loved Arlington Road, because  vg fher ybbxrq yvxr vg jbhyq or n zbivr nobhg ubj gur onq thlf jrer tbvat gb trg pnhtug, naq vg ghearq bhg gb or n zbivr nobhg ubj gur onq thlf trg njnl jvgu jung gurl ner qbvat.

  • P J Evans

    Science News:
    “People who strongly resist data indicating that human-induced climate change could spell catastrophe aren’t ignorant about science or numerical reasoning. Quite the opposite, a new study finds: High science literacy actually boosts the likelihood that certain people will challenge what constitutes credible climate science.’