Republicans: 21% of the United States Population

So according to a new Washington Post poll. That’s the lowest Republican self-identification in over 25 years. Just one in five Americans is now openly Republican. Imagine. And what’s left of the Republican Party seems to be veering towards the Looney Tunes side of the scientific, religious, political, and economic spectrum.

Is it even thinkable that a Republican moderate might win the 2012 presidential primary? And if not, how will the Republicans persuade centrist independent voters to not vote Democratic again (as a majority of them did in the last election)?

Just asking.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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22 Responses to Republicans: 21% of the United States Population

  1. Jared K. says:

    I think it will be Gingrich in 2012. He will lose decisively, making John McCain’s 2008 showing appear a narrow loss in comparison.

    Then I think that Hillary will be elected at McCain’s current age, and perhaps even re-elected. In other words, the GOP can thank W. that they won’t be anywhere near the White House for at least 12 years (good riddance!).

    What scares me is what the GOP will be like when they finally take the white house again. Right now, with McCain out of the picture, the only Republican currently on the scene that even seems remotely palatable for President, and I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, is Arnold.

    I think maybe conservative commentators are actually ecstatic about this. Better for Coulter’s and Limbaugh’s pocketbooks when there is a installed democratic figure to loathe. Unfortunately, a generally dismissed, nutty, loud, and scary minority can still do a lot of damage from the sidelines.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    Perhaps you saw the news—but Newt can’t even call torture, well, torture. I know you don’t buy the authoritarian thesis, but it still seems to me that only authoritarians could possibly not call waterboarding etc. torture.

    I think you might be right that Gingrich could be the nominee. He’s very smart. I respect his intelligence and his 21st century visionary rap. But unless plague overtakes the world and the economy is in steep decline, it’s hard seeing anyone beating Obama in 2012.

    I hope you’re wrong about Hillary. I think she’d be an awful president. She’s really emotionally flat and monotone as Secy of State, totally uncharismatic and bureaucratic. But maybe she’d perk up with the top job.

    —Santi

  3. Jamie Q. says:

    Wow, people astound me with their ignorance.
    Newt Gignrich will not be the nominee in 2012, nor will Arnold. Hopefully, the conservatives and libertarians in America will take back the Republican party from the liberals and wannabe-Democrats that are currently running it and kick them all out. The only reason 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans is because the Republicans suck. Conservatives and libertarians have always been against things like universal health care and big government, whereas today’s Republican party is all about universal health care and big government; just a litte bit smaller big government and universal health care with a modicum of choice. That isn’t a diferent idology, its just an alteration of one – teh Democratic ideology. Either the Republican party will undergo a transformation after the 2010 elections and return to their roots, or they will disappear and not even be relevant in 2012.

    I am a conservative libertarian and I would NEVER vote for a Republican, the way they stand right now. But I would also never vote for the Democratic party.

  4. santitafarella says:

    Jamie,

    If you are libertarian, then I suppose you feel uneasy with all the overt religiosity of fundamentalist Christians in the Republican Party. Do you see the libertarian/conservatives splitting off from the theocratic wing of the Republican Party?

    —Santi

  5. Jamie Q. says:

    Duh! Of course I do. I consider the “theocratic wing,” and by that I mean the people who want prayer mandated in schools, Jesus’ face on our money, to be the fringe of the Republican party. Just as the people who want a strict Marxist, severe Communist style government in the US to be the fringe of the Democratic party. Unfortunately, the fringe on the left are gaining more power, while the fringe on the right are losing theirs. Until you have a politician demanding we all say the lord’s prayer every morning by law, you have no case against the religious right. They are simply a group of people who push for leglislation based on principles they hold from religious beliefs. I am Jewish and yet, *gasp*, I still hold to a pro-life, anti-abortion ideology. I want Roe v. Wade verturned, not because I’m a religious zealot but because its wrong.

    The Christian/religious right argument is old and weak. Give it up.

  6. Jamie Q. says:

    And to clarify, I don’t feel uneasy about it. In fact, I’m inspired by it. I just don’t want their “overt religiosity,” whatever the hell that means, to determine legislation. I have no problem with it influencing legislation.

    Religion influencing legislation is no different than emotion influencing legislation.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Jamie:

    Emerson once said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and I have more than my share of ideological and behavioral inconsistencies, so I’m not trying to corner you here, BUT you said that you are a libertarian. Isn’t an anti-abortion libertarian an oxymoron? And would, say, a libertarian like Ayn Rand or Leonard Piekoff express themselves as being “inspired” by the religious right?

    Maybe you mean that you are a libertarian in the loosest sense of the term. If you are a libertarian, for example, then I take it that you support the abolition of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, yes? And civil unions and gay marriage—you support that too, right? And the decriminalization of pot—you’re for that, isn’t that so?

    And if you really think that the religious right is not a serious force within your party, how do you account for the anti-scientism within the Republican Party (with regard to such things as evolution and climate change). For example, I take it that you accept that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that plants and animals have changed over time, right? How do you feel comfy, as a libertarian, in a movement where so many people within it are young earth creationists and highly alienated from, and suspicious of, university trained scientists?

    Also, do you, as a libertarian, take your role models from the Enlightenment (such as from Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, both deists) or the Bible? I’m asking because it seems that contemporary conservatives don’t know that there even was an Enlightenment period in European and American history, but assume that our founding fathers must have read their models for democracy and scientific reasoning out of the Bible.

    —Santi

    • Jamie Q. says:

      Santi:

      I swear its as if someone read you a definition once of “conservative/libertarian” that read: “Someone who believes God created everything in 7 days, and whose word must be followed to the T.” and you believed it 100%, never questioning it.

      I’ll tell you what kind of libertarian I am. I’m one who believes that the individual is more important than the government, that I can make my own choices and that the government can’t make them for me. Yes I am pro-life. Does this mean I against abortion in all circumstances? No. I agree with it in cases of rape and underage pregnancy, where logic permits. However, I do NOT believe in abortion as a form of birth control. How do I reconcile allowing the government to control this? I don’t. It has nothing to do wtih government. I am of the belief that a fetus is a sovereign being and that just because it resides in a woman doesn’t give that woman the right to “choose what to do with her uterus.” Just because I’m in your house doesn’t mean you can stab me.

      I’d also like to know where your information about the Republican party is coming from. I have yet to find a single person (and I live in the South) who believes the earth is only a few thousand years old. You’ve got to somehow break through the ignorance. Do I believe in creationism? Sure. I believe that God (or whatever name you want to give a supreme life being, or such) created the world, the univers, everything in existence, including evolution. Why do I believe this? Because I am not comfortable with the answer being: well it all just appeared one day. After all, who can asnwer the question “what was here before that?” If you can seriously find a single person who beieves that in 7 days the world, including animals and people appeared, and we all came from two naked folk in a garden somewhere on earth, smack them upside the head. They deserve it.

      Now as for climate change, take the cotton out of your ears and the tape off your eyes. Its about time you got a little bit of a shock…. Libertarians and conservatives believe in climate change! Gosh, what a concept! Of course I believe in climate change, after all the only thing consistent about the climate is the fact that it changes. What I don’t believe, however, is this theory of man made global warming, that humans are responsible for the slow death of the planet. Then again, slow is a stupid word, considering according to Al Gore, the earth has been dying for 100 years, and you personally just said the earth has been around for 4.5 billion. Slow isn’t exactly the term that ought to be used. In fact, 100 years over the course of 4.5 billion is pretty much inconsequential. I respect that people want to feel good an fuzzy inside and that by championing global warming you can make yourself feel better by lashing out at those who “hate the planet” (you know, the global warming deniers). Unfortunately, I do believe in science, like I wuold assume you would too, considernig your comments, and science has not proven man made global warming. Hell, science can barely tell me if its going to rain today, let alone predict the demise of a 4.5 billion year old planet within the next 25 years or less. See, what I just did there was I took science, and I infused something called logic, a foreign substance to many liberals. You really ought to try it some time.

      I’m not even bothering with your whole diatribe about deists and Enlightenment. You want to know my greatest role model? Logical thought. So you can go on thinking that all libertarians and conservatives are just a bunch of ignorant religious nuts if it makes you feel better. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a religious person, and damn proud of it. But my own idea of democracy comes out of logic and reason.

  8. Jared K. says:

    Duh!

    I take issue with being called “ignorant” because I suggested that Gingrich is a serious contender in 2012. Even if it doesn’t come to pass, he is regarded as a leading candidate–hardly ignorant, it is a real possibility. I don’t think anyone suggested that Arnold could win the nomination, only that he seemed the most palatable to my subjective taste–that is a far cry from saying he stands a chance in hell of winning.

    Jamie Q. sounds like one of the Ron Paul style libertarians. Santi is right for calling him out on abortion. The pro-life message makes no sense in the context of supposed libertarian ideology. The pro-life message is ultimately restrictive and government-intrusive on one of the most divisive moral issues in the country. Even if you are a federalist, you know that half the states are going to ban most abortion procedures if Roe is overturned. Yet half of the country’s population, probably a bit more, believes that abortion should be legal in a many instances.

    I myself cannot stand Ron Paul libertarianism–it makes absolutely no sense. It makes no sense to hold anti-abortion views, which entail government intervention, regulation, and restriction, when you think that government restriction should always be severely limited. Abortion is clearly an extremely divisive issue and any major pro-life shift will necessarily involve government intrusion and coercion into a moral issue that people are split right down the middle on. It makes absolutely no sense to be pro-life as a libertarian.

    Please note, I am not arguing for or against the pro-life position, I am arguing that true and consistent libertarians cannot be pro-life as it is standardly defined. There is no way to reconcile the two views. We have another name for folks who are socially conservative and economically libertarian: Republican.

    Duh!

    • Jamie Q. says:

      Jared,

      I called you ignorant because I’m guessing, and I may well be wrong (though probably not) that you heard the prediction of Gingrich becoming the next candidate on CNN, MSNBC, or read it in the New York Times, or Time magazine. If so, yeah you’re ignorant. Liberals, especially, liberal journalists, have no clue how conservatives and libertarians think. That being that liberals generally lack thining capacity as their brain has been replaced by a bleeding heart.

      I’m also not surprised that you believe a pro-life stance to be anti-libertarian. That’s because you probably don’t believe that a fetus is anything resembling human, and just a mass of cells that a woman is free to dispose of at will. Libertarians believe that all humans deserve equal protection under the law, including unborn humans. Strangely, we believe that just because a person can’t tell you they’d like to live doesn’t give you the right to kill them. Yeah, I know… what a foreign concept…

      As for this “Ron Paul libertarianism” you speak of, you’re right that it makes no sense, that is, to you. Libertarianism requires you to relinquish your emotions and use this thing called logic. But it seems you’re lacking that skill.

      Good luck.

  9. santitafarella says:

    Jamie Q:

    You said: “I’ll tell you what kind of libertarian I am. I’m one who believes that the individual is more important than the government, that I can make my own choices and that the government can’t make them for me.”

    What you’ve expressed here goes back earlier than libertarianism. This is John Locke and John Stuart Mill. I too lean strongly towards the Lockean. But there is a continuum between the Hobbesian Leviathan State and the Lockean individual liberty State. For example, you surely don’t oppose earthquake building codes, set by the State of California, for building a house or commercial building in California, do you? It is an intrusion of the State on individual liberty to not let people buy and sell unreinforced ticky-tacky buildings, and assume their own risks, I grant you. But you surely wouldn’t want to live in California without earthquake building codes, right? When Turkey (without earthquake building codes) had a big earthquake several years back, tens of thousands of poor people died. When California has a big earthquake, maybe 50 people die. Obviously, the world is not linear and black and white with regard to the role of the State in a complex world. And if the State is not to be relatively large, what democratic offsets are there to balance the power of Leviathan capitalist corporations?

    As for your claim that there are no young earth creationists to speak of, I run into them all the time. If you live in the South, you aren’t paying attention. There are two on my local city council in California. And they are vocal on the local schoolboards in my area.

    —Santi

  10. Jared K says:

    Jamie,

    Since you claim to know how conservatives and libertarians think, who do you believe will be the 2012 Republican pick? Enlighten us, please. Will it be Ron Paul’s decaying carcass?

    And is it fair to assume, then, that you knew, quite in advance, that Republicans would choose McCain in 08? Somehow, I think not.

    I appreciate rational thinking very much. I don’t appreciate relying solely on ad hominem attacks, as you seem to. Last time I checked, the ad hominem was a logical fallacy–particularly in lieu of rational argument.

    Should we believe Jamie Q or Jamie Q! Pro-life or pro-choice? One minute you are a libertarian who wouldn’t vote Republican, the next minute you are defending the Republican sub-culture.

    No young earthers in South, eh? 66% of Americans think that God specially created man in the last 10,000 years–likely because they think the earth is only about that age. Poll after poll reveals that around half the country are “young-earthers” (assuming that you accept polling data. I know you Ron Paul supporters are convinced the illuminati generates this type of data ex nihilo as part of the “new world order” conspiracy): http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2007-06-07-evolution-poll-results_n.htm

    My experience is that Ron Paul libertarians are the most emotive political creatures I’ve ever met–bleeding heart liberals have nothing on these wackos. Indeed, Ron Paul himself is said to have the MBTI type: INFJ, which is among the most hyper-emotional of all personality types. In my experience, his followers whine and sob and cry incessantly at their pathetic fundamentalist rallies, while simultaneously emitting a continually palpable and highly sensational conspiracy-laden paranoia that makes Oliver Stone seem cool and sensible.

    They continually reject the best science we have on global warming, something you seem to do–and casually dismiss the reigning scientific data accepted by virtually all of the scientific community. Tell me again about your commitment to reason and evidence?

    And of course, they are thoroughly inconsistent on abortion–as you are. You wrote: “However, I do NOT believe in abortion as a form of birth control. How do I reconcile allowing the government to control this? I don’t. It has nothing to do wtih government.”

    To say that it has nothing to do with government is to say that you take the libertarian position on abortion even though you think that abortion-for-birth-control is immoral. We have a name for this position: pro-choice. “Duh!” “Yeah, I know. What a foreign concept…”

    You seem either ignorant of even the most rudimentary facts in the abortion debate, or else incapable of actually deciding where you stand on the matter. One minute, you declare yourself “pro-life”, the next, you endorse de facto the pro-choice platform.

    Holding that abortion-for-birth-control is immoral is entirely consistent with being pro-choice, indeed, I think this is the majority view among pro-choicers. Pro-choicers think government shouldn’t get in the way of women making the choice–even if the choice is wholly immoral from their perspective. Pro-choicers often privately condemn abortion, but do not believe that government should prohibit it–they don’t think they have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies. Pro-choicers are libertarian, something you and Ron Paul claim to be.

    In contrast, pro-lifers seek to overturn Roe BECAUSE they want to immediately implement restrictive laws, if only at the state-level, that result in government regulating and barring many, most, or all abortion procedures. This is the standard understanding of what it means to be pro-life. You seem as ignorant of this as you are of climate-change science. I know of absolutely no one, conservative or liberal, who defines “pro-life” to mean the view that one privately opposes abortion but takes the libertarian view of non-intervention.

    You seem to think yourself quite a reasonable thinker–then please come to terms with reality: YOU CANNOT BE A LOGICALLY CONSISTENT LIBERTARIAN AND BE “PRO-LIFE” AT THE SAME TIME. Which are you, libertarian or pro-life? The abortion issue “requires you to relinquish your emotions and use this thing called logic. But it seems you’re lacking that skill” Jamie. Good luck. You’ll understand the law of non-contradiction some day. Many folks don’t grasp it until they hit puberty. Hang in there a few more years.

    • Jamie Q. says:

      Jared, you idiot. Learn to read poll results. The question asks whether people thought that God had created man IN ITS CURRENT FORM within the last 10,000 years. Sadly, because you are too narrow minded to accept that people believe in God in a different way than you, you are unable to understand why people would think this. It doesn’t necessarily mean they think man just magically appeared on the Earth 10,000 years ago. Just that 10,000 years ago, or so, man did not exist in its current form, andbecause of God man became what it is now. Besides, its also a misleading question. What would have happened if the question had been 20,000 years. Or 50,000 years. Or 100 million years? So the results are skewed towards the bias of the question. In the end it means nothing. But it REALLY doesn’t mean they think the world didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. Idiot…

      Also, if you’d learn to read rather than continually admire your own typing, you’d have read that I consider myself a conservative libertarian. Basically I hold conservative values, and I want the government to generall stay the hell out of my life. This is a concept you will not understand because you seem to be one of those people who thinks that liberty is something they deserve only if you see fit. I call people like you arrogant pieces of crap.

      Continue hating Ron Paul. It makes as much sense as any other thought you’ve shared here.

  11. Jared K says:

    Q is for quack.

    Quote: “Even today on opinion polls almost half of U.S. respondents typically say that they believe that the earth and the entire universe are less than 10,000 years old.” Citation: National center for science education.
    http://ncseweb.org/evolution/science/age-universe-measuring-cosmic-time

    I have paid attention to the evolution/creation debate for many years. In fact, I am a theist with fairly conservative religious views. I am familiar with progressive creationism and I’ve read plenty of creationist material. I know that Hugh Ross, for example, is generally regarded as the leading old-earth-creationist. I wonder if you’ve heard of him? Ross follows the standard timeline for the origin of homo-sapiens: somewhere between 40,000 and 200,000 years ago, but he attributes human origin to special creation rather than common descent. This is a standard move for old-earth-creationists. I’ve encountered a lot of strange ideas, but I’ve yet to meet a single creationist who holds that the earth is old by the standard scientific timeline (4.5 billion years), but who also holds that humans originated within the last 10,000 years—something you seem to think is quite plausible.

    You know and I know that virtually all the respondents who said humans were created in the last 10,000 years are young earthers. Why be dishonest about it? It is common knowledge that around half the population in the U.S. has, for decades, consistently held that the earth is young.

    That you are a “conservative libertarian” explains what exactly? Other than suggesting the internal inconsistency I’ve pointed out? It certainly doesn’t answer any of my earlier questions.

    Jamie, you seem totally disinterested in having a serious discussion or engaging in serious argument, real data, or honest debate. Why do you bother blogging if you have no real interest in sincerely engaging with others’ ideas and arguments? Sure, we disagree. But your replies are heavy on pre-school slang and light on substance. If you are going to resort to name-calling in lieu of arguments or dialog, at least choose something more interesting than “idiot,” “dum-dum,” or “whippersnapper,” etc.

  12. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    You said to Jaimie Q this: “Jamie, you seem totally disinterested in having a serious discussion or engaging in serious argument, real data, or honest debate. Why do you bother blogging if you have no real interest in sincerely engaging with others’ ideas and arguments? Sure, we disagree. But your replies are heavy on pre-school slang and light on substance.”

    I think that your “pre-school slang” reference is actually revealing.

    I have a general armchair psychological theory about such posters. Like you, I’ve been bewildered by their refusal to really debate, but just berate. I wonder what they get out of it. But here’s my bet: What we are dealing with are the family dynamics that they grew up with, and that they now use when posting on the web. I think what we are seeing are people who grew up with very stern family members in their household—perhaps most commonly fathers or big brothers—who berated and mocked them. They may also have been humiliated by school bullying. When they grow up they attach themselves to strong and charismatic movements—displaced animus (male authority) figures—and take on the role of tough guy policing on their behalf. Thus you might see such a character at Richard Dawkins website, or Jerry Coyne’s website, or attached to the conservative movement, or a defender of conservative Catholicism. In other words, religious or irreligious, once they find a “big brother” or father substitute to give them the power position, and you attack it, they let loose on you with the kind of language that was part of the upbringing or childhood experience. It’s not a matter of reason for them. It’s a matter of psychological integrity. They have cast their lot for a particular team and now take power from being an orthodox and pure defender of that team. They are defending their psychological animus figure with, well, animus!

    Of course, it’s also possible that some of them are just plain mean and cranky.

    In any case, you’ll rarely get a more than superficial argument from them (if any at all), and if they think you are cornering them on a point, they’ll simply go into berate mode and declare you to be stupid (or worse). There’s also a vampire quality to them. They draw off your energy to argue and reason with them because when you make the effort they are not really listening. They’re just looking for their chance to retort with a gesture of superiority—and mock you and declare you to be obviously “dense” and “stupid”—but without any apparent reason that you can detect.

    There is a great Kafka parable that goes with this behavior, and if I can find it I’ll post it later. As I recall it is called something like “Give It Up.” I’ll google the phrase with Kafka’s name and see if I can locate it. It’s a man who asks a police officer directions, and the police officer just looks at him and laughs for no apparent reason. This is similar to what I think is going on with such posters.

    —Santi

  13. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    Here’s an example of a family dynamics “tape” that runs in the head of (I think) a lot of people: “I’m in the superior position (as a parent or older sibling). I, therefore, am not obligated to be clear or fair with you, or treat you with serious equality, or take what you think all that seriously. You must infer by my emotional signals what I want from you and what I’m thinking. I won’t tell you what it is, exactly, that I want or am thinking. Thus it is your obligation to divine what I’m thinking, and what is correct in each instance. And I’ll become very impatient with you if you don’t figure it out very fast. I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you, or be clear, and I won’t be. That would teach you that I’m somehow obliged to be fair with you, and I’m not obliged to be fair with you. And if you can’t get it (like everybody else in the family gets it) then you’re obviously a dumb shit.”

    This is the kind of tape that people learn in childhood from parents and fundamentalist religion and older siblings and older kids at school. It’s a power play, and it appears all over the internet. When you talk to people on the internet, you often encounter family dynamics, and the patterns of argumentation (or manipulation) that they learned as kids.

    —Santi

  14. Jared K says:

    Santi,

    This is really insightful. I think you are on to something here.

    I’m sure that what I’m about to say is descriptive of so many of my fellow evangelicals, but I think the most confusing part of this type of fundamentalist is that he or she continually throws out very specific rhetoric of how “logical” and “reasonable” he or she is compared to you–and yet absolutely nothing is offered in the way of support. It is all smoke and mirrors when you ask them (and I mean when you sincerely inquire out of curiosity) for their reasons. Then the name-calling begins because there is no logical support.

    During the election, I encountered quite a few “free-marketeers” like this. They would say scoff at McCain and Obama and make comments to the effect that both men were intellectual nincompoops when it came to economics. Funny part is, most of these folks hold to what is called “the austrian school” of economics, which is ironically the young earth creationism of the entire discipline (it is anarcho-free-market extremism). It struck me as so odd that they continually chose rhetoric of the candidates educational and intellectual inferiority, when they themselves held to a view rejected by almost every economist today.

    And of course young earthers do this kind of thing too: I’m so smart, you are so dumb. I saw a clip about carbon dating on youtube one time, so there!

    I would be really interested to learn why this brand of fundamentalism hides behind a veil of intellectual superiority (rather than, say, mere threats)? Perhaps it has to do with the bully’s feelings of intellectual inferiority?

    Maybe this approach is simply effective–at least most of the time. Most folks don’t read or engage with ideas generally and so will probably be impressed if you just put on a superiority act like you know what you are talking about.

  15. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    You said: “Maybe this approach is simply effective–at least most of the time.” I agree with you. That “most of the time” part is operational. In other words, people try to make arguments that will “catch,” say, 30% or 60% of the eyeballs or ears that catch them. They don’t have to get 100%, and they don’t have to convince a logician. They don’t even have to actually be rational or clear headed, and if a bluster or insult will do as well as an argument, it will be used. They just have to get a percentage of the like-minded to agree with them to be “successful.” This is my quarrel, for example, with an apologist like Josh McDowell. He doesn’t have to be rigorous; he just has to net an audience that is paying just so much attention (and no more). The rest can pass through his net and he can still sell a million books. It’s akin to the old question: “What good is half an eye or half a wing?” The answer, of course, is that insofar as it grabs a percentage of some goal, better than no eye or no wing at all.

    I actually arrived at my own conclusion about this from visiting the threads at Richard Dawkins’s website. It is breathtaking how much shoddy thinking and personal berating—as well as orthodox atheist policing—goes on beneath the articles posted. The latest thing that has been giving atheists a hard on is what they have now termed “accomodationism.” If you give any truck at all to religion, you are an accomodationist (a very, very bad thing to be). Bad people like Francis Collins and the Templeton Foundation, and Miller (who is Catholic) are all out to get you—and seduce you into a peaceful coexistence between science and religion.

    It’s all very silly and entails boycotts of Science News (because they ran an article that suggested that Darwin’s tree of life metaphor may not be all that useful) and a science conference by Brian Green in New York (because some of the money for the conference has come from—gasp!—the Templeton Foundation).

    In short, it’s not a religious thing or an irreligious thing, or a left thing or a right thing. It’s a human thing. Whatever your utopian ideal—a right wing theocracy or a left wing secular society—the same human patterns of paranoia toward outsiders—sadism and masochism—will probably always emerge, and people will always seek daddy substitutes to attach themselves to, and then berate and fear and demonize those who dare to say, uh, maybe the emperor that answers to your pain has no clothes.

    I’m certainly not above this impulse. I get pissed, for example, when people berate Obama or question his whole grain organic goodness in my presence. And if I hear somebody question the value of having kids, I get pissed. The things that answer to my pain, I get defensive about too.

    As for Austrian economics, I’ve actually read a lot of that stuff, and some of it is actually pretty good. I like Ludwig Von Mises and Hayek (for example). They have balancing things to say to my liberalism, and I try to keep them in mind when I’m too enthusiastic for utopian social goals.

    —Santi

  16. santitafarella says:

    Jared:

    You said: “I would be really interested to learn why this brand of fundamentalism hides behind a veil of intellectual superiority (rather than, say, mere threats)? Perhaps it has to do with the bully’s feelings of intellectual inferiority?”

    Some of it is an inferiority hiding thing. I agree with you on that. But I’d also suggest that it is the Wizard of OZ—miracle, mystery, and authority. To bluster at Dorothy and her companions, and put on a show of superiority, is just a form of bamboozlement—a way to stop thinking. If you tell a vulnerable person that you KNOW something, and they’re “dumb,” and obviously have a problem because they can’t see it, what you’ve done is set them into a defensive and self-doubting position (if you are a decent and receptive and self-conscious person). For example, you start saying things like this: “Are they right? Am I missing something here? Am I not trying hard enough?” But they’re not saying that to themselves. They’re laughing at you! It’s not an equal exchange. It’s a power exchange. You’re trying to have a dialogue—they’re trying to build a wall (or hold a curtain closed). They’re playing King of the Hill; you’re playing “let’s see if we can, together, get at the truth of something.” So long as you don’t knock them off the hill, they “win.” But, of course, they’ve really won nothing, except to confirm themselves in their own prejudices and not make any progress toward dialogue or greater understanding of people unlike themselves.

    I actually don’t mind talking to people who are playing this game sometimes. The reason is that someone who tells me that I’m full of shit, even if I know it is born of insincerity, belittlement, or rigidity, and not from genuine dialogue, provokes me to think about it. Am I full of shit? I internalize it, regardless of the source. And then I think about it, and probe my own ideas more deeply. I think it’s good to be told that you’re full of shit, or to remind yourself that you are full of shit, because it makes you think. I learn very little from people who agree with me—and a lot from people who vociferously don’t agree with me. I want to think, and have the holes in my arguments exposed. I don’t want to go around entirely blind (if I can help it).

    —Santi

  17. Jared K says:

    Santi,

    This is good stuff. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve seen the Dawkins site before in passing. I think Dawkins himself does this quite a bit actually. (I agree that we all do to some degree–including myself).

    I know you don’t agree with Plantinga, but taking grad epistemology this semester revealed to me that Plantinga really is well-regarded in mainstream philosophy and is quite notable for a number of non-religious contributions.

    That said, when Dawkins came to OU, someone asked him about Plantinga in the Q&A and I can’t express to you how condescending and dismissive Dawkins was. His approach was to immediately call Plantinga a “theologian” (without mention of philosophy), and then dismiss all of theology as bull-shit. Next question.

    It angered me but I forgot all about it until last week when I was working on a paper and, I kid you not, I was reading a scholarly book by a mainstream philosopher explicating Plantinga. He was driving home the point that Plantinga is a philosopher and NOT a theologian! I chuckled, then felt a bit angry at Dawkins again.

  18. Jared K says:

    Santi,

    As for Austrians–I am going to be the one who is dismissive and bullyish now 🙂

    Maybe if economics comes up in a later post, I can ask you more about this. I know that you are a civil libertarian, but I really don’t understand what you see in Mises or Hayek. First, they are defined so much by their reactionary qualities, which is something I am always on the lookout for.

    I’ve noticed that most extreme points of view begin with with a reactionary response to some loathed and opposing extremist philosophy. I find, for example, that if I am interacting quite a bit with outspoken economic conservatives, I have to take repeated steps back and remind myself that a balanced and regulated capitalism, with market competition IS a good thing and makes our lives better in many ways. If I don’t do that, I can get sucked in to despising it all by association. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I’ve actually noticed it in myself.

    I view Mises and Hayek and their followers today as damn-near anarchists.

    I know that Ron Paul is, in the grand scheme, a nobody, but sometime, I would be interested to hear your reaction to an in-depth look at his bizarre politic. The man and his followers are so paranoid, so extreme, and so scary (in a Tim McVeigh sort of way) that I think that even a libertarian / individualist sympathizer like yourself would be alarmed. Maybe California escaped this movement, but these people are everywhere here in middle-America.

    Here is a link to a short audio of a typical Ron Paul supporter nutjob talking to a neo-con nutjob–the second half gets interesting. Scary.
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f95_1205073293

    Feel free to ignore this reply altogether as it is pretty far off topic.

  19. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    I’m on my way to work this morning, and so have to be very brief. I’ll be more verbose later. But for now:

    1) Plantinga is a very formidable philosopher, and a very important person to read. I’m glad you turned me onto him a few years back.

    2) Hayak and VonMises etc. are applying Malthusian/Darwinian principles to economics (The Invisible Hand). Or more accurately, Darwin derived natural selection from economists like Malthus and Adam Smith. The interaction is very close. There’s a good libertarian economics book you can get from Amazon cheap called “Bionomics.” There’s also a book by Wired editor (his last name is Kelly) called “Out of Control” (if I recall the title correctly). The irony, of course, is that a lot of the wingnut followers of these ideas reject biological evolution.

    —Santi

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