The World Of Unreason In The Blogosphere

David Selbourne of The Spectator warns of a world of unreason:

There is a world, increasingly driven by unreason, in which voices in the wilderness denounce each other as ‘traitors’, cry out that ‘all I want is no more Islam near me’, or allege that Prince Charles is ‘waiting in the wings to declare the UK a Muslim country the minute QEII dies’.

It is the world of the American blogosphere of the ‘left’ and ‘right’; the world not of the lunatic fringe, though it may often seem so, but of vox pop. It is a world of which the ‘MSM’, or ‘mainstream media’, knows too little. Yet blog-site contributors’ opinions, threats and predictions — expressed in large volume on such sites as jihadwatch, littlegreenfootballs or Daily Kos — merit increasing attention for what they reveal of the temper of our times.

There is some truth but also considerable over-generalization to Selbourne’s views of the blogoshere. To a degree the blogosphere does reflect the worst of the polarization of this country. Any person, regardless of how radical their views, can post. The anominity of the internet makes it easier to express one’s most extreme viewpoints while showing little respect for the views of others. Paranoid ideas about the other side thrive without a responsible editor to demand that a writer look at both sides objectively.

However that is just one aspect of the blogosphere. Not all conservatives share the attributes of Little Green Footballs and I’ve had some rather cordial discussions with conservative bloggers. On the left, I’ve both agreed wth Daily Kos at times and have also been quite critical of them at other times. Similarly I’ve posted on disagreements with some liberal blogs, while there are also many liberal blogs which avoid the shrill hatred commonly associated with Daily Kos and LGF.

The relationship to the mainstream media is also more complex. The media has many biases and faults which have nothing to do with left versus right bias, which leads to frustrations on both sides. Desite its faults, the mainstream media remains our best source for information, and MSM reports become the basis of many blog posts, left and right. There is also a difference between the typical discussion of the mainstream media in the left and right. Critics on the right are more likely to attempt to discredit the whole mainstream media in the hopes of replacing it with their right wing media. Some on the left express distrust for everything and anything published by the minstream media, but they are a minority even in the left blogosphere. More often liberal bloggers, possibly due to lacking an alternative media as strong as that on the right, are more likely to be pushing for improvements in the quality of coverage by the mainstream media. The goal on the left is not to abolish the media but to get it to stop pandering to the conservative freak show and be more aggressive in their reporting of government claims.

Selbourne writes that, “In this war of words as well as of worlds, reason is under pressure on all sides.” While reason is under pressure, there are many of us on both the left and right who support reason over the hatred described by Selbourne. It would be useful for bloggers to keep Selbourne’s crticism in mind as we try to avoid the unreason he describes. Moving to Liberal Values was one move I took in this direction when the last blog I wrote for, The Democratic Daily, increasingly left the reality based community, increasingly substituting personal attacks and Michelle Mailkin-type activity for consideration of facts and reasonable arguments. The first signs that I should move on came with their defense of Deepak Chopra’s attacks on evolution and science. This was followed by their support for astrology, ghosts, absolutely any claim of election fraud regardless of the evidence, and ultimately their defense of Mel Gibson which caused me to leave.

Still, for every site on the left where irrationality rules there are many which calmly discuss policy matters without resorting to hatred and unreasoned attacks. Similarly there are far too many conservative sites which mindlessly repeat the same talking points without regards to their lack of validity, but there are also some which express an honest and reasoned support for conservative principles.

To some degree those sites which support reason might be rewarded with more readers, but we also know that sensationalism often wins where ratings are concerned. The blogosphere isn’t that much different from the mainstream media in that regard.

Santa’s Butt Banned

While I continue to watch for signs of the War on Christmas breaking out this year, I came across this story.  Maine has banned the Santa’s Butt beer label pictured above. A law suit has been filed arguing that the “state’s action violates the First Amendment by censoring artistic expression.”

Worst President Ever

Historian Eric Foner argues at The Wasington Post that George Bush might be the worst President ever:

Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.

Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court’s unprecedented rebukes of Bush’s policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law…

Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Regardless of whether he is ranked worst ever, the important thing is that the considerable harm done to the nation and the world by George Bush is recognized, and that we learn from these lessons to attempt to prevent such acts from ever happening again by an American President.

Chopra: We Are In God As A Fish Is In Water

I had thought part five was going to be the end, but Deepak Chopra has posted yet a sixth installment in his assault on science and reason. The wonderful thing about posting about Chopra is that it really doesn’t take any work to show what nonsense he is posting when simply quoting him accomplishes this. Part five found the proof of God in yellow flowers. In part six we see him establish his argument that “we are in God as a fish is in water.”

Let’s say God is closer to being a field of consciousness that pervades the universe. Let’s say that this field keeps creating new forms within itself. These forms swirl and mix with each other, finding more combinations and complexities as time unfolds. Such a God couldn’t be imagined because a field is infinite, and there’s nowhere it isn’t. Thus trying to talk about God is like a fish trying to talk about wetness. A fish is immersed in wetness; it has nothing to compare water to, and the same is true of consciousness. We are conscious and intelligent, and it does no good to talk about the probability of not being conscious and intelligent.

We are in God as a fish is in water.

If you follow this argument, you will see that there are “many flaws in current evolutionary theory.” The rest of us will see the fact that fish must live in water as offering neither any evidence that “we are in God” or that the theories of evolution as verified by the scientific method are flawed. Furthermore, reviewing Chopra’s posts demonstrates that anyone desiring understanding of evolution or any other aspect of the universe no more needs Deepak Chopra than a fish needs a bicycle.

Republicans Create Scientific Knowledge by Legislation

We’ve known that the Republicans have little regard for science. Now they think they can dispense with the scientific method by just legislating the facts as they want them. Now they want to set by law when a fetus feels pain (Hat tip to Aetiology):

While they still can, House Republicans are looking at scheduling a vote next week on a fetal pain abortion bill in a parting shot at incoming majority Democrats and a last bid for loyalty from the GOP’s base of social conservatives…

The bill, by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, defines a 20-week-old fetus as a “pain-capable unborn child” — a highly controversial threshold among scientists. It also directs the Health and Human Services Department to develop a brochure stating “that there is substantial evidence that the process of being killed in an abortion will cause the unborn child pain.”

Abortion providers would be required to inform the mothers that evidence exists that the procedure would cause pain to the child and offer the mothers anesthesia for the baby. The mothers would accept or reject the anesthesia by signing a form. The bill allows for an exception for certified medical emergencies.

When fetuses can feel pain — versus a reflexive drawing back from stimuli — has been the subject of heated debate. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco last year reviewed dozens of studies and medical reports and said that fetuses likely are incapable of feeling pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy, when they are about 28 weeks old.

If the Republicans want to move up the date when a fetus can feel pain by about eight weeks from when it actually occurs, I’m surprised that they aren’t trying to move it up even further. Considering their opposition to embryonic stem cell research, why not move it up to this stage? Considering how little respect Republicans show for basic science, why even require a functioning neurological system to experience pain?