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Are YOU a Science Denier?

[I have lifted this test in its entirety from the ever-scientific Mister Hans Moleman, over at mistermoleman.com. I am sure he won’t mind.]

Take this simple test and find out!

There is much concern these days about the current scourge of “science deniers,” people who refuse to accept factual truth as defined by a consensus of scientists. Of course, you don’t think you are one of “those people”. But can you be  sure?

Take this simple test and find out.

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Section 1:   Organic Food

Scientific consensus, as reflected by the US Department of Agriculture findings, says that organic foods are not safer or healthier than those grown conventionally. In the biggest meta-study to date, researchers at Stanford University conducted a systematic review to determine if organically produced foods are safer or healthier than conventionally produced foods. Overall, the published literature does not suggest health benefits from consuming organic rather than conventional foods.

Organic agriculture does, however, use far more of earth’s precious land and water resources than conventional farming.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Are you skeptical or unsure about this consensus? (1 point)

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Section 2: Vitamins

Scientific consensus, as reflected in the US Food and Drug Administration, finds that “There are many good reasons to consider taking vitamin supplements, such as over-the-counter multivitamins. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a doctor may recommend that you take them for certain health problems, or if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.” Otherwise, multivitamins are not needed by anyone eating a balanced diet.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Do you take a multivitamins without having been advised by your doctor to do so? (1 point)

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Section 3:  GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

The scientific consensus has resulted in determinations by the FDA: “Nutritional assessments for foods from genetically engineered plants that have been evaluated by FDA through the consultation process have shown that such foods are generally as nutritious as foods from comparable traditionally bred plants.” And “Foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same requirements, including safety requirements, as foods from traditionally bred plants.” No GMO foods go to market without FDA approval.

In addition, the EPA requires verification that the GMO is safe for the environment and conduct a food-safety analysis to ensure that it is not allergenic.

GMO foods are also essential for addressing the issues of world food production, especially in the famine-prone Third World where the “Green Revolution has radically increased crops.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Or do you prefer to buy foods that are certified non-GMO, “just in case,” even if they cost a little more? (1 point)

Extra points: Do you think GMO foods should be labelled to assist science deniers when shopping? (2 points)

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Section 4: Global Warming

Scientific consensus has determined that potentially disastrous Global Warming is resulting from human use of hydrocarbon fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The two fuels that provide the bulk of the industrialized nations’ energy production are nuclear power plants (10%) and hydroelectric dams (2.3%).  All other non-carbon fuels (wind, solar, and geothermal) together add up to less energy than is produced by hydroelectric dams.

France alone provides 80% of its total electricity needs by nuclear power plants. Worldwide 69 new plants are under construction, a third of them in China, only 5 in the US.

Only nuclear power has the potential economically to replace fossil fuel use in the near future. Al Gore (voice of the scientific consensus) says ”The future of human civilization is at stake.”

Do you AGREE with the scientific consensus that only the rapid expansion of nuclear power generation can replace fossil fuels in the near- to mid-term? (no points)

Or do you think nuclear power is too dangerous (even more dangerous than global warming which puts the future of human civilization at stake)? (1 point)

Bonus Questions:

Do you think hydroelectric power dams should be built wherever possible, to increase our supply of clean, renewable energy? (no points)

Or do you think hydroelectric power dams are too environmentally harmful (even more harmful than global warming which puts the future of human civilization is at stake)? (1 point)

Extra Points: Do you think existing hydropower dams should be dismantled, so rivers can run free? (2 points)

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TEST OVER:  How Did You Do?

Add up your score to see how scientifically inclined you are.

0 points? Congratulations! You are a good scientific-consensus follower! Tell all your friends. Give them the test and see how THEY do.

1 or more points? You are a SCIENCE DENIER! SHAME ON YOU! You might as well skulk off to a trailer in backwoods Alabama, since you are unfit for enlightened society.

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It starts and ends with Nietzsche

I just read Maureen Mullarkey’s post “The Toxic Legacy of Rachel Carson” on First Things. Well-written and thought-provoking, as always. I will pursue the Rachel Carson references further. But it reinforces my beliefs about the ugly transformation of science in our time.

At least consciously, it starts with Nietzsche, who said what clever individuals have always believed: Truth may be awkward, annoying, and inconvenient; but what really matters is power. We say “What is Truth?”, when we would rather talk about what we want to do.   Truth is subjective illusion; power is real. You can tell because the powerful individual can silence the truthful individual.

Science, like religion, can easily find power more attractive than truth.

Once science served capitalism (e.g., Social Darwinism). Now it serves the New Elites (government bureaucracy, news and entertainment media, schools). Once the Comtian positivist invention “social science” was the leading edge of the science of power. Now it has expanded into any science that can be used to “save the world” (i.e., strengthen the New Elites), particularly the environmental sciences. As Francis Bacon observed long ago, “Knowledge (i.e. Truth) is Power.” But the knowledge/truth produced (on demand) by today’s “sciences” have several things in common. These sciences are highly speculative, often resulting from computer models extrapolating uncertain data into uncertain futures (global warming). Or they may be based on highly subjective “data” collected and massaged by agenda-pushing “scientists” (transgendering, i.e. genital self-amputation, is not a sign of mental illness). Either way, they are inherently untestable.

The distortions that result from such “science” can be seen in the now-discredited but very influential classics Coming of Age in Samoa (Margaret Mead), Silent Spring (Rachel Carson), or Population Bomb (Paul Ehrlich). Or the timely and convenient findings that same-sex marriage is just fine for children. Wise judges such as Vaughn Walker, ruling that the voters of California have no right to decide so important a question, wrote:

“The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment… The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology…Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”

The worst effect that such empowerment of science is that once the New Elites close ranks around a satisfactory finding that confirms their ideology, the likelihood of contrary findings diminishes to the vanishing point. Vaughn Walker and Al Gore agree: once the science is settled beyond serious debate, so…Shut Up!   Imagine that you are a university researcher and your studies demonstrate that children need both mothers and fathers, or that CO2 plays a minimal role in global warming, or that homosexuality is not genetically but behaviorally caused. How eager will you be to publish, knowing that you will be blasted as a liar, a “science denier”, and a bigot; and knowing that funding for your next research grant will be limited to what you collect selling pencils on a street corner?  So the conclusions of “science” are not only untestable, but also irrefutable.

Originally truth was primarily moral: “the things we cannot not know”. As Aristotle demonstrated, science only added to this base of knowledge what we clearly see around us. We always knew right from wrong, evil from good, sense from nonsense. Of course there were also always those who knew the value of being able to muddle our sense of truth: men like the Greek Sophists (lawyers, activist judges, politicians, community organizers) whom Socrates/Plato fought against.

Now our only source of truth is “science”. (It earned its quotation marks when universities accepted “social science” as legitimate.) And science is only of real value when it disproves what we think we know (like children need mothers and fathers).

With all human institutions, what starts as pursuit of truth and freedom suffers a sea change when its initial triumphs carry it to power. As soon as that happens, the battle begins for the institution’s soul. Continue to pursue truth and freedom, or use the power to “improve the world” (i.e., strengthen the New Elites).

The battle for the soul of the institution can be brutal or it can be swift and painless. For in many minds, truth is less attractive than power (for power is never inconvenient to the powerful). And for many, truth is of value primarily as a means of achieving power. The illusion of Truth is just a means; Power is the end.

Which brings us right back to Nietzsche.

Pope Francis’ Eminence Grise ?

I have found that Maureen Mullarkey often says what many others are thinking. A blogger on the excellent First Things website, she has recently published a searing criticism of what appears to be Pope Francis’ strong predilection for left-wing politics expressed in religious garb.  Read it here: “Francis and Political Illusion”. It is appropriate to give a new voice of the church a chance to define himself before we react.   But so far Joseph has done little to reassure, and much to worry those who see the Church as the prime bulwark against a world losing all sense of order, morality and purpose. As I have said in the past (on my blog benfiniti.com), for me the first alarm was raised by his relationship with Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras, a classic Latin American Marxist “liberation theologian” (and anti-Semite, but that’s a post for another day) as well as Pope Francis’ close confidant (appointed to head his Vatican Reform Commission).

Maradiaga’s thoughts are clear (and familiar): He rails against “the neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies” and advises that “to change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords.Continue reading

Hans Moleman on BDS Antisemitism: A Partial Dissent

In his recent post [The “BDS” Movement: A 3-Question Test for Antisemitism], my friend Hans Moleman [mistermoleman.com] offers his usual valuable insight into a troubling question. Are the harsh Western leftist critics of Israel (typified by the BDS movement to “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction” Israel for its purported sins in the occupied territories) truly anti-Semites, or are they what they claim to be: fair and balanced human rights activists?

His basic argument is undoubtedly correct: those who single out one unique group, such as the world’s only Jewish state, and subject it to a higher standard, and who ignore the far worse acts of others, are highly suspect in their motives. “Activists” who old one nation to a higher standard than any other, while ignoring far worse behavior by other countries and ignoring the acts of its enemies bent on extermination, are quite simply enemies – not critical friends applying tough love.

But Mr. M makes two errors in his analysis, and they misdirect him to a partly mistaken conclusion. Continue reading

Criticism, Self-Criticism and Antisemitism

A common thread of modern leftist anti-Israel anti-Semitism is the claim that Israel has only itself to blame for Jew-hatred. If only they had been “nicer” to the Arab armies and terrorists committed to their annihilation! A preposterous but familiar excuse for leftist racism.

But in another sense, anti-Semitism does indeed have roots in Jewish history. For Israel, in addition to discovering monotheism and the concept of a meaningful history, also invented self-criticism. The first references to Jews as a stiff-necked, materialistic, ungrateful people may be found in the words of the Prophets of ancient Israel, quoted in the Jewish (and Christian) bible.

In a PBS series on Jewish history, host Simon Schama (a respected historian) cited as proof of St. Paul’s anti-semitism his claim that the Jews had often slain their own prophets. Schama seemed unaware that Paul was quoting Jesus, and Jesus was quoting the Prophets Nehemiah and Elijah, criticizing Hebrew ingratitude:

“They were disobedient and rebelled against Thee, and cast thy laws behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.” (Nehemiah 9:26)

“They children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” (1 Kings 19:10, quoting Elijah)

Continue reading

The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Monument at Brandeis

My friend Moleman has posted (mistermoleman.com) an article about the brave Somali feminist freedom fighter snubbed by the cowardly liberals of Brandeis.

It’s worth a look. Moleman is proposing that a monument to Ms. Hirsi Ali be constructed near Brandeis. Good idea.

“Blind, pitiless indifference”

As I have written below, I have spent many years trying to find God.  I have found much Judeo-Christian theology coherent, consistent with reality, and therefore highly plausible.

But I still cannot convince myself that the other coherent, consistent worldview, atheistic materialism, is not also plausible.

Many authors have helped me along; I will list and discuss them sometime.  But nothing so far has been quite so compelling as this quote from atheist guru Richard Dawkins:

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

This chilling statement, offered in support of Dawkins’ atheism, is from his book Rivers of Eden, which I found quoted in Francis Collins’ The Language of God.  (I recommend Collins’ book highly.  He was the director of the Human Genome Project as well as a Christian.)

I expect to be contemplating this for a long time.

The Death Throes of Western Civilization, Part 97

If you are concerned about the dreadful direction taken by the modern university liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences, I urge your consideration of an excellent article, “The Humanities and Us”, by Heather Mac Donald in City Journal.

She begins with the UCLA English faculty’s recent purge of any requirements for the study (or even reading) of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, or any other classics.

The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.

She deftly punctures the arrogant presumption of academic elites:

Course catalogs today babble monotonously of group identity. UCLA’s undergraduates can take courses in Women of Color in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the Caribbean; Chicana Feminism; Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures; and Feminist and Queer Theory.

Today’s professoriate claims to be interested in “difference,” or, to use an even more up-to-date term, “alterity.” But this is a fraud. The contemporary academic seeks only to confirm his own worldview and the political imperatives of the moment in whatever he studies. The 2014 Modern Language Association conference, for example, the annual gathering of America’s literature (not social work) faculty, will address “embodiment, poverty, climate, activism, reparation, and the condition of being unequally governed . . . to expose key sites of vulnerability and assess possibilities for change.”

Progress Report on the Search for Faith

[Written November 11, 2013]

Still searching.

The best result so far is that I can accept the Thomist logic of a plausible God.  But I cannot make the leap from this Philosopher’s God to a loving, caring, father God; and only such a God can offer Hope for what I love. (see previous posting)

The Catholic Church attracts me, calls to me.  Its commitment to Faith and Reason is essential: I cannot believe in a God who makes no sense.  This Thomist thought is one of the Catholics’ greatest contributions to humanity.  (Not to mention other gifts such as clarified morality, organized charity, and the sanctity of marriage.)

But sometimes the church seems to know too much.  Too much confident Dogma where it seems only Trust can serve.  Too much certainty regarding details of God’s thinking.

On this too-great certainty the Church has constructed a demand for trust in its own thinking; and the Church has too often been too wrong.  It has been the fountainhead of anti-Semitism.  It has massively and brutally inquired into individual souls.  It has criminalized heresy and apostasy.

To its credit, the modern Church has purged itself of these errors (sins).  This has been late in coming and grudgingly accepted, but it has happened.  The heroic efforts of the modern popes (from Pius XII to Benedict XVI) deserve honor.

I cannot oppose myself to the Catholic Church of today.  Indeed, the Church today stands as the leading champion in defense of almost all that I hold dear and that is now under such attack.  Family, Life, Truth.

So I find myself standing with the Church…but apart from it. Continue reading

Hope for the Hopeless, O, Abide With Me

News today from the Mideast – all bad.  The Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” drag on, with the US Secretary of State publicly blaming Israel for the lack of success.  In Geneva the US is on the verge of giving Iran the kind of deal the Mullahs want; in response, the Saudis are ready to buy their own nukes from Pakistan.  It will take a miracle to prevent a truly horrible all-out war in the region within a year. (My friend Mr. Hans Moleman has an insightful take on all this at his site mistermoleman.com.)

Back home, the trend towards undermining of the family continues at a rapid and yet accelerating pace.

Meanwhile, I continue my lonely search for Faith. And I sometimes wonder why.  What is so imperative about Faith?

I could, like many good people I know, put the Big Questions aside. Without Faith I could live a relatively moral, or at least decent, life, and when the time comes die a bravely accepting death.  It mightn’t be too bad.   I have lived an extremely easy life; with luck I could just continue on until it ends.

But without Faith there is no Hope.  And that I cannot do without.

As a young man, I saw the world as do most young men fresh out of (liberal arts) college: a cesspool of suffering and misery, caused by greed and folly, and just waiting for some brave, bright young man like me to set all things right.

The course of my adult life was one of gradual discovery (re-discovery, some might say) that there was much to love and value in this world.  The beauty of art and music, as humans re-capitulate the wonders of nature. The courage shown throughout history by those fighting (what they believed was) the good fight. The endless search to find the truth about ourselves and our world.   In a word, the great culture we have been blessed to inherit, and graced with the opportunity to hand forward to the future.   (In a word, I became conservative.)

But all this appreciation brings with it fear – the fear that every parent feels when gazing into his child’s future.  Can it possibly be safe, in such a dangerous world?

What if everything exists by accident, constructed on nothing, the result of an inexplicable chance pinpoint explosion called the Big Bang?  If we are accidental, then all we have done and built is doomed, if only by the force of Entropy.  We see these forces of entropic doom all around us every day, and we keep our sanity only by extreme mental exercises.

Some place their hope in mankind and science as the forces that will save us.  This is a fool’s hope, available only to those who haven’t looked into it too deeply.

Some avert their eyes and seek constant distractions to avoid thinking about it.  This works well until it doesn’t.

And some find Hope in their Faith in a loving God who cares about us and has a plan for us.

I have tried the first two, and they no longer work for me.  So I keep knocking on Door Number Three.

I still don’t know if God exists. But I know that without God, there is no Hope.

And I don’t think I can live without Hope.