Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Introduction: The Myth of American Exceptionalism

The following is a brief introduction to an interesting and controversial book that was recently published by Yale University Press. The Myth of American Exceptionalism by Godfrey Hodgson, a Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, takes a quasi-antagonistic stance against the idea of American povidentialism and its alleged impediment of America's true heritage and purpose. From Yale University Press:
The idea that the United States is destined to spread its unique gifts of democracy and capitalism to other countries is dangerous for Americans and for the rest of the world, warns Godfrey Hodgson in this provocative book. Hodgson, a shrewd and highly respected British commentator, argues that America is not as exceptional as it would like to think; its blindness to its own history has bred a complacent nationalism and a disastrous foreign policy that has isolated and alienated it from the global community.

Tracing the development of America’s high self regard from the early days of the republic to the present era, Hodgson demonstrates how its exceptionalism has been systematically exaggerated and—in recent decades—corrupted. While there have been distinct and original elements in America’s history and political philosophy, notes Hodgson, these have always been more heavily influenced by European thought and experience than Americans have been willing to acknowledge.

A stimulating and timely assessment of how America’s belief in its exceptionalism has led it astray, this book is mandatory reading for its citizens, admirers, and detractors.
Hopefully one of our contributors/readers will have the time to read this book and give us a brief review. It should be interesting to see how Hodgson's work is received.

184 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I would have to argue that this view is prevalant in many academic circles. But, I think that one cannot "look back into history" and make modern assumptions and judgments about the Founding era. Their time is not our time.

And because their time is not our time, we have to carefully understand why the Founders formed our "more perfect union". And after coming to one's conclusions, come to resolve the tension between the why and the when of now...

Therefore, I think that psychologically and morally, our Constitutional Republic is the best form for humans, as it allows the liberty for self-development, while maintaining the boundaries of proper social order.

"Globalism" is a hodge-podge multicultural conglomoration that leaves one with no way to ascertain where boundaries must lie and why.

The higher courts seem to uphold the "ideals" of liberty under law, at the costs of personal feelings, such is the case of the recent Baptist/homosexual case.

Pinky said...

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Heeeey, Angie!!
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The myth of American exceptionalism has allowed people in positions of power to lead us about by our baser emotional noses.
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On the other hand, Timothy Ferris, builds a great case for the idea that America was Founded on the model that comes out of science.
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My recommendation is that as many as can, get a copy of his, The Science of Liberty, Democracy, Reason, and The Laws of Nature, which might blow away some of the more literal findings that are published here.
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bpabbott said...

A similar parallel is the tendency for individuals to presume that globalization is a one-way street.

jimmiraybob said...

Pinky

I looked into Ferris' book and found the following:

NY Times review, Freedom’s Laboratory.

and

A CATO video.

I haven't viewed the whole video yet but did read the review. I was heading to the bookstore tonight for another book but it looks like it's getting bumped for Ferris'. This looks like a good fit with the modernity writings (I believe also at CATO) that were highlighted here a while back.

Thanks for the heads up.

The Myth of American Exceptionalism looks like it would dovetail well following a read of Ferris' The Science of Liberty - in a special jimmiraybobian way - in that we often tie our exceptionalism to our perception of progress based on our scientific and industrial (science-based) accomplishments at the expense of excluding the vast historical development and global cooperative venture that is the modern (18th century and beyond) scientific method.

Pinky said...

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I read the first three chapters and decided to go back to the beginning to start all over again. This time I'm going to break my daughter's rules and mark it up as I go.
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It is a fascinating read.
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I'm sure you will like his scholarly approach, Jimmy Ray.

Tom Van Dyke said...

According to the book's own blurbs, it's a "polemic." Sounds pretty much like Howard Zinn territory.

From a review by my former colleague at The Reform Club blog, Herb London:

Notwithstanding the obvious fact that Europeans have at long last come to love freedom, they still seem to be incapable of defending it. They depend on the United States to provide the backbone for NATO and whenever there are wars or battles somewhere on the globe, Europeans ask what will the Americans do.

If the Hodgson thesis has any meaning, it is as an exemplar of a new genre of historiography called “American Declinism.” Rather than admire American accomplishments, the revisionists like Hodgson emphasize the flaws. Rather than see national greatness, Hodgson sees only arrogance. Rather than fulfill The Promise of American Life, to borrow a title from Herbert Croly, the declinists see delusions.

Pinky said...

Timothy Ferris writes, on page 4 of his book,

“The claim that science flourishes only in liberal-democratic environments rests on five assertions.

“First, science is inherently antiauthoritarian. In order to qualify as scientific, a proposition must be vulnerable to experimental testing. If it repeatedly fails such tests it tends to fall by the wayside, regardless of who supported it or how much it may have seemed to make sense. The verdict of experiment has rudely dismissed the pronouncements of great thinkers from Aristotle (who thought that men and women were born with a different number of teeth) to Einstein (who insisted that quantum physics must be deterministic), and has sufficed to unhorse the claims of alchemists who sought to turn lead into gold and the folk wisdom behind a thousand racial, ethnic, and sexual stereotypes. The very process of doing first-rate science—of making important discoveries rather than merely refining old ideas—depends on unfamiliar and sometimes unpopular ideas being freely promulgated, discussed, and in some instances accepted. The fact that millions of people today are open to new ideas and skeptical about political or intellectual authority is largely due to the rise of science.”


Ever since I first started learning the truth of science and scientific inquiry an inner sense of honesty has forced me to question authority—especially that authority that appears incapable of introspection or the ability to question its own self righteousness. We see examples of that here at this forum.
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Have a Happy Easter, all.
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Tom Van Dyke said...
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Tom Van Dyke said...

“The claim that science flourishes only in liberal-democratic environments rests on five assertions.

What does he say about the flowering of science during the Golden Age of Islam? Euclid under Pharoah?

That last bit was real nice, Phil. I'm sure you're questioning Ferris' authority word by word.

;-)

jimmiraybob said...

What does he say about the flowering of science during the Golden Age of Islam? Euclid under Pharoah?

Interesting question. I think that the Golden Age of Islam ancient Egypt are outside the scope of the book which would appear to focus on European and American development in light of the renaissance, enlightenment and beyond. A glance at the index indicates that Iraq and Iran are included in the discussion but I'm going to guess these countries are discussed in their modern incarnation.

Your question is interesting in that it might propose a test of Ferris' thesis, especially with respect to the Golden Age of Islam. If we think of Islamic countries today we don't automatically think liberal democracy and openness. We also don't see a thriving science. So, was the governance of the earlier Islamic empire/region more open than today?

Was there more openness to ideas and how did commerce/trade play a part? Ferris' model would say yeah. And that includes Euclid/Alexandria too.

I'll keep this in mind as I work my way through the book.

Pinky said...

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Responding to Thomas:

What does [Ferris] say about the flowering of science during the Golden Age of Islam?

So far as I have read, he only mentions that Islam had something to do with the release and distribution--of what had been the suppressed or lost works of the Greek classics--during the advent of free speech and, as a result, free inquiry (a.k.a. science?) in the Italian city states some of which were more liberal and others more illiberal than others.

Oh and that last bit was real nice, Phil. I'm sure you're questioning Ferris' authority word by word.

Ferris has bolstered my interest in Locke and a few others. I never question anyone's authority "word by word"; but, it seems I focus on the gist of what anyone might claim. Do you get my drift, Thomas? Maybe I'm not much of a literalist as I am one who looks for what is underlying?

For example, Thomas, you have put Ferris out of bounds as a person for which one might have some respect and that says much, much more about you than it does Ferris or his works. Why would you put someone down for whom you have no first hand knowledge?
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That tells me that you come here with an agenda and my suspicion is that it has something to do with your Catholic upbringing which appears authoritarian. But, I don't know; but, actions do speak.
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Pinky said...

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And, by the way, Thomas, it's a little difficult to get a good handle on your meanings sometimes. For example, your use of the word, flowering. Generally, when we speak in such metaphorical terms, we understand that it is a particular stage of development.
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So, if you want to talk about the Flowering of Science as a stage in the overall development of the subject, well, that is now taking place for the first time in the history of the world right here in the good old liberal and democratic United States of America. That is, at least, part of what Ferris is getting at in his book in so far as I have read (some 100 pages or a little more).
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Other than that, you have to explain what you mean when you use the word, flowering.
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Okay?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_science

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks, Pinky! I ordered the book you suggested. And I also listened to the CATO video. I am desiring to counter-balance "faith", because of its absurdity to me these days.

Pinky said...

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I checked out the Wikipedia item you pointed to, Tom, but, I don't see anything about science having ever flowered in the World of Islam.
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It's great that three of us are reading Ferris' book, The Science of Liberty.
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I'm sure that we will be able to see a new perspective on the American Creation.
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Once I get Ferris' email address, I'm going to send my congratulations on such a great work.
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jimmiraybob said...

There's a NY Times review of The Myth of American Exceptionalism. Here's a bit:

"This is the idea that Godfrey Hodgson, a British author with wide experience of the United States and some of the feelings of a jilted lover about it, examines in his provocative new book, “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” As the title suggests, Hodgson is unconvinced about America’s global mission. The United States, he writes, has become 'just one great, but imperfect, country among others.' More than skeptical, he is angry, dismayed by what he sees as the religious, self-righteous and rightist manipulation of a once ennobling idea. Hodgson argues that 'what has been essentially a liberating set of beliefs has been corrupted over the past 30 years or so by hubris and self-interest into what is now a dangerous basis for national policy and for the international system.'"

I'm not usually moved to read these types of books but I don't rule it out just to see what the basis is for the thesis. I think that many of the founders would agree that hubris and unchecked self interest is not a recipe for policy.

There's also a Google Books preview available. Since I've already started The Science of Liberty I don't think I'll be looking into much more than a cursory glance at the preface - It could be interesting to get the perspective of an intimate outsider though.

Pinky said...

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One of the things that comes more oftener to my mind as I approach my 79th year is what I think might be the high point of America's exceptionalism and that is American Pragmatism.
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I have long been a fan of Charles Sanders Pierce.
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Perhaps one of our more scholarly contributors will get around to writing about his contributions to our American society?
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I didn't think of you as a "determinist", or one that would suggest experimenting on probabilities.

Pinky said...

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Who knows the mind of man?
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(Smile)
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I once read there are, at least, fourteen variations of American Pragmatism.
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Pinky said...

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And...
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My whole life is one long set of experiments.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

It seems a little presumptuous to experiment in the human realm, because the one doing the experimentation is also a part of the human experience. How, then can one be objective, or know that they are objective when they are part of the realm of human experience?

On the other hand, one's brain would process certain stimuli in similar ways, if one was looking at the biological responses of human emotion. So, our physicality is "common".

But, how is one to ascertain how one understands their experience? This is where diversity and complexity combine to create individual personality, etc.

The American experiment is an experiment that affirms the presumption of human diversity, I think. The value of the objective law, that forms and protects society, while giving room to individuality as the subjective realm of experience are the core values of American ideals.

Pinky said...

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Well, Babe, you will enjoy Ferris. I am almost sure of that.
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Tom Van Dyke said...
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Tom Van Dyke said...

I checked out the Wikipedia item you pointed to, Tom, but, I don't see anything about science having ever flowered in the World of Islam.

Of course you didn't, Pinky.

For the record, it was William James' "pragmatism" that claimed the American fancy. CS Peirce renamed his system "pragmaticism" to distance himself from it.

Peirce was quite an amazing man, but I think his brilliance is only beginning to be appreciated.

The less said about Hodgson's anti-neocon screed masquerading as history the better. Some people will always prefer opinions they like to facts they don't.

Or as Dr Johnson put it in a similar context, "Truth, Sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull."

Pinky said...

I'm glad you caught the typo, Tom.
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It renews my faith in you.
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heh heh
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bpabbott said...

Re: "What does [Ferris] say about the flowering of science during the Golden Age of Islam?"

My impression is that this culture was quite open and tolerant of various ideas and cultures. The scientists of that day were diverse in ethnicity as well as in religion.

It isn't to be expected that science would flourish under an authority, but some times the authority is benevolent.

The wiki article Tom pointed to include the observation " One reason given for the scientific decline was when the orthodox Ash'ari school of theology challenged the more rational Mu'tazili school of theology".

Unfortunately, the benevolent authorities are consistently replaced by the hard line variety, with scarce examples of reciprocity.

In any event, ethics of the Islamic Golden Age appear to be compatible with Ferris' point that science is antiauthoritarian.

Pinky said...

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I most often resist authority which tends toward being closed minded, expressing the idea that it has attained a level of truth that requires a solid defense and refusing to consider "outsider" input.
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Like, maybe it the "outsider" hasn't achieved the proper level of education?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course. I'm questioning Ferris' use of "liberal-democratic environments," which emphasizes politics, not culture.

A competing thesis would be that Protestantism, not democratic politics, broke the "authoritarian" logjam.

It could also be argued that the Golden Age of Islam and post-Aquinas Christianity had another thing in common, which benefited the sciences---the Greek systematized way of looking at things, specifically Aristotle. Aristotle's influence swings from the Muslim world with the onset of the authoritarian Ash'ari theology [or al-Ghazali's] to the Western world, and Aquinas' contemporary Roger Bacon picks up the baton of scientific method [circa 1250 CE].

http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/Introl1.html

These are all alternate cultural theories to Ferris' political explanation.

Pinky said...

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So, Thomas, are you trying to tell us that you have read and thoroughly understand Ferris' hypothesis?
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Why don't you give us a thumbnail on it?
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bpabbott said...

Re: "A competing thesis would be that Protestantism, not democratic politics, broke the "authoritarian" logjam."

Sounds like a false dichotomy, to me. I think they each played substantial roles, and they neither would have flourished if not for the support of the other.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Ben, since democracy doesn't hit Britain until 1688, America in 1783 or so, and Europe not atall except for that interlude in France in the 1790s, I'd say the ball's in Ferris' court.

So, Thomas, are you trying to tell us that you have read and thoroughly understand Ferris' hypothesis?

No, I'm asking you to explain it, since you're the one reading the book. I asked you if he accounted for the pre-democracy advances in science. You haven't answered with anything substantive. I'm the one being "open-minded," or challenging "authority," if you will. So stop bothering me with these sophistries and get back to milking the bull, or pony up some facts and arguments.

bpabbott said...

Re: "I'd say the ball's in Ferris' court."

Tom, are you questioning the assertion that science is inherently antiauthoritarian, or something else?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm questioning Ferris' use of "liberal-democratic environments," which emphasizes politics, not culture.

Geez, Ben, I don't really care that much about this hijacked thread. I'd just hoped to tease out a decent argument for Ferris' thesis, because I haven't heard one yet. Da Vinci worked for the Duke of Milan and studied under neo-Platonists and Aristotelians. Roger Bacon [a monk] worked back in the 1200s; Copernicus lived in the kingdom of Poland; Newton thrived under both a monarchy and a parliament; the list goes on.

Pinky said...

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Thomas writes:

Of course. I'm questioning Ferris' use of "liberal-democratic environments," which emphasizes politics, not culture.

A competing thesis would be that Protestantism, not democratic politics, broke the "authoritarian" logjam.

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Unless I am completely out of it, it looks to me as though Tom has a tight grip on Ferris' ideas.
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Do you even know if Ferris deals with Protestantism in the sense you seem to be inferring here?
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I think you need to break loose and get a copy of it so you can lead us in a discussion of Ferris' book.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is always the case that social change takes place when there is revision of cherished norms. But, don't we have to question what is on the agenda of the revisionists of American history?

Islam views America as "Satan". So, wouldn't it be convenient for these to subvert our nation's rank? and subvert our nation's value in the eyes of her people?

Wouldn't undermining our exceptionalism undermine the need for military power that has fought and protected our liberty? And as bpabbott has pointed out, where do the Europeans look for stability for NATO forces?

I wholeheartedly agree with "The Reform Club" review above, via Tom.

So, I am not about to "give up" on American exceptionalism.

jimmiraybob said...

Angie So, I am not about to "give up" on American exceptionalism.

But are you willing to examine its limitations?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

jimmyraybob,
Do you mean things such as "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man", which I read a couple of years ago? Or do you mean the licentiousness that some believe is the moral disgrace of our nation? Or the limitations of the law? Or what?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Perhaps, you have already told us with, " dismayed by what he sees as the religious, self-righteous and rightist manipulation of a once ennobling idea. Hodgson argues that 'what has been essentially a liberating set of beliefs has been corrupted over the past 30 years or so by hubris and self-interest into what is now a dangerous basis for national policy and for the international system.'"

So, are you talking about the religious right using their liberty in ways that circumvent sober, diligent engagement with dangerous aspects of national and international issues? I would whole-heatedly agree!!!

jimmiraybob said...

Instead of hijacking this thread maybe someone could do a similar The Science of Liberty post. In the meantime….

Ferris opens with a quote by Jefferson which is reproduced here without ellipses:

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, March 24, 1789 – “It is for such institutions as that over which you preside so worthily, Sir, to do justice to our country, it's productions, and it's genius. It is the work to which the young men, whom you are forming, should lay their hands. We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment among the founders (with special attention to political science) and friends. And so Ferris's not really a new thesis.

Ferris builds on the notion that societies that have the greatest liberty also foster the greatest advances in science. Ferris partial describes his conception of liberty on page 3, “Liberty means the observance of human rights and freedoms.” He goes on, “In practice the governments that have done so have almost all been liberal democracies, so the rise of liberty is roughly equated with the rise of liberal democracy.”

It should be noted that the scope of the book begins in the renaissance period and primarily examines western society through the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment.

Overall, it seems that the general thesis is that during periods of greater liberal governance, including tolerance of more open expression and exchange of ideas, science flourishes and that the importation of science - scientific ideas/methods – sparked a democratic revolution in Europe and beyond.

I would say that it wasn’t specifically the science that sparked the advance toward greater liberty but the emerging understanding that authoritarian, top-down rule and adherence to traditional dogma was holding the western world back. New and intriguing scientific ideas were being imported to the west through open trade, and the brightest and most inquisitive minds of Europe began to accumulate and study what had previously been subjugated by religious/political orthodoxies (at the pain of societal disenfranchisement, imprisonment and/or death if one were to trespass).

Certainly the Protestant Reformation took advantage of this greater demand for liberality – a greater demand for individual rights and autonomy - and managed to break free of RCC domination (or at least started the process). But, whether considering the RCC or Reformed theology, there was still a great aversion in the west to open scientific ideas that were seemingly in contradiction with scripture or extra-scriptural dogmas. The authority of the Church, whether the RCC or Reformed, still provided the brakes on science to the best of their abilities. And it’s still happening today with biology (evolution), geology, medicine, astronomy, etc. But always less so in the more liberal – secularized – and more democratically oriented theological traditions. Science doesn’t conform to Scripture or authoritative command. As Ferris puts it, “…science is inherently anti authoritarian.” In other words, scientific conclusions follow from the evidence (all the evidence). In other other words, it’s not science when evidence is merely collected to prove/support preconceived notions or dogma (excluding the inconvenient).

To do modern science you've got to be willing to go where you go and that's scary and unnerving to institutions and individuals that want absolute certainty.

jimmiraybob said...

Angie,

If we take hubris to mean:

"Extreme haughtiness or arrogance. Hubris often indicates being out of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities, especially for people in positions of power."

then an inflated, uninformed and unexamined American exceptionalism can't make good policy. And no, this is not a religious right-specific problem (or a right or left problem). It's a human problem. There are, have been throughout history, plenty of examples of wishfull, exceptionalistic thinking gone wrong.

Someone once said (roughly) "Know Thyself." Not bad advise for nations as well as individuals.

Someone else once said something to the effect of "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride/hubris have long pedigrees. So it might be that an unencumbered examination of The Myth of American Exceptionalism could provide some valuable thinking space even if in the end you don't agree with the conclusions. If anyone can think of a Founding Father, key or not, that would not be in agreement with this please let me know.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

jimmyraybob,
some believe that education will bring about a revolution of the Islamic world. I don't think this will be the case, why? Because of those who have been indoctrinated into such a system and their testimoney over how hard it was, even when they were willing, and "willing hard", to undermine their cultural upbringing.

In fact, one such person's sister, who had followed her to the West to seek education went back into the cultural system. She couldn't deal with the differences between the cultures of birth and the West.

Why does anyone think that those that "are not willing" to be "converted from the faith" will change? This is nothing than hopeful thinking.

Make no mistake, Islam's intent is to subvert the West, and we should not be naive in attempting to change these. And Islam will use deceptive means and our own liberality to do so.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

jimmyraybob,
I don't think "using" the naive, uneducated, or religious people to promote an agenda is something that is palatable for most. This is why we see the reaction in the 'tea parties'. The people have not been listened to, and we find we have been duped.

Those that have promoted such changes without listening to those who have put them in office are not acting in hubris? I believe we all are proud, because most of us are so unaware or ignorant of what we don't know. And even when we know a lot, we surely don't know it all. But, without taking a chance, by even revealing one's ignorance is at least courageous, I think. (I have many times felt "shame" over how ignorant and naive I am/have been).

jimmiraybob said...

Angie,

What did I say regarding present day Islam? The history of Islam and Islamic culture goes back a ways and its earliest history is radically different than its present history. From approximately the 8th to the 13th/14th centuries there was a period of time that some call the Islamic Golden Age (a period preceding the European Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment).

As wiki puts it, this is a period where
“…artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own.[5] Howard R. Turner writes: ‘Muslim artists and scientists, princes and laborers together made a unique culture that has directly and indirectly influenced societies on every continent. [5]’”

Some dispute this contention but most do not. Regardless, it was a period where Islam was considerably more open to free and open intellectual inquiry than today. Islam has a legacy that can inform a new awakening. Some Islamic countries have a relatively recent flirtation to liberal democratic institutions. If I’d say anything about today it’s that the hard-line conservative (supposed traditionalists) along with the radical extremists are and will block any liberal expression in order to survive. If the coercive force toward ultra conservative governance can be broken from within then there’s no reason to think that the people (the more liberal and moderate) in many of these countries a majority, couldn’t dominate the future by making the case for the past.

Anyway, I’m not advertising for Islam. And I don’t think that reasoned and critical examination of American exceptionalism automatically leads to an American Caliphate - or even to the end of American exceptionalism, albeit somewhat dampened in overt passion. To not be informed of Islam's full history might not lead to the best understanding of its potential today and might lead one to a false sense of superiority which might in turn lead to someone saying something like, 'screw the backwards sand monkeys lets bomb them back to the stone age and show them what real freedom and democracy is all about.' I'm not saying you or anyone on this blog but I've traveled to some very strange and dark places in the back alleys of cyberspace. Places that expound a breast-beating, no holds barred, God'll sort em out American exceptionalism.

jimmiraybob said...

When I said this, "Islam has a legacy that can inform a new awakening" I also meant to point out that the specific tradition is described at wiki as follows:

"The Islamic Golden Age was soon inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to the newly founded city Baghdad. The Abbassids were influenced by the Qur'anic injunctions and hadith such as "The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs" stressing the value of knowledge."

Of course the veracity of Wikipedia should be questioned but I don't think you'd have much trouble verifying this earlier tradition - I've read the same in other more mainstream sources.

Pinky said...

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We have some Persians in our family by way of one of our daughters.
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The love of democracy is very much alive in the Middle East and IT WILL PREVAIL over the religionists that censor life. It's just a matter of time. In that sense, the Bush invasion can be seen as having some noble motivations; but, if anything, it hurt progress and not by a little.
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Ferris talks about liberal democracy and how important it has been in the world. It is what overcame slavery, brought full suffrage, and now is ushering in homosexual rights. It only started late to emerge in the nineteenth century.
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jimmiraybob said...

The problem with history is that it happens so slowly in the present it's hard to see what it will look like tomorrow.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So,Pinky, is this your new adventure, or experiment? going to the Middle East to educate?

And jimmyraybob, are you going to give your life in blood so that history will progress?

Maybe those who "do" bibilical studies would have something to bring into reality if you two do such....because Jesus was called to the "outsider"...and since there is such a move to unite the three historical faiths, I'm sure you would find support.

Tom Van Dyke said...

See, my problem with this "authoritarianism" riff is that the laws of nature are quite authoritarian. Don't follow the rules and you blow yourself up or go splat on the ground.

Mathematics isn't "liberal" either; it's quite "authoritarian."

The breakthrough in the Western world and the reason for the decline of science in the Islamic revolves around the constancy and universality of the laws of nature, and further, that the universe is rationally constructed, not just a hodge-podge of God's whims. As the Wiki puts it well re Roger Bacon:

Roger Bacon, O.F.M. (c. 1214–1294), also known as Doctor Mirabilis (Latin: "wonderful teacher"), was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on empiricism. He is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by the works of Plato and Aristotle via early Islamic scientists and Jewish scholars: Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides.[2][3][4]

It is the discipline and order of the "scientific method" that lies at the heart of true science, and a belief that the universe is rationally constructed. Not "anti-authoritarianism," an overgeneralized term of art, and completely unhelpful here.

Read a few pages of this and it shows the difficulties Muslim theology ran into as its concept of God's nature ran into physical reality. If God is the proximate cause of even a piece of paper burning, then there is no chain of causality to be investigated. The paper burns because God wills it to burn.

Hence, the beginning of the end for Islamic science, no more or less than a return to superstition: it rains because we danced.

The problem, then, isn't revealed religion per se: indeed Aristotelian Christianity assures man that the universe makes sense, and is not just the product of the magic of the gods. This makes scientific inquiry a rational and likely fruitful pursuit.

And even men like Newton couldn't quite shake the belief in magic---he spent much time on alchemy, Kepler on astrology.

Indeed Kepler and Galileo corresponded, but Galileo didn't build on Kepler's work. Why not?

Here's some of the stuff I've been talking about. It pops up everytime I google something, basically because it's true.

http://www.uwgb.edu/DutchS/WestTech/suncentr.htm

The suppression of Galileo is overblown as a touchstone. The information of past giants like Copernicus [himself a "canon" and perhaps later in life, a priest] was available to him.

One must keep in mind that yes, the "powers that be" feared society would be disrupted by certain new facts about the nature of the universe, and our 21st sensibilities argue that "liberalism" is self-evidently good.

However, in that direction also lies anarchy, as we saw in the Thirty Years War in the 1600s and of course later the French revolution. The "Powers that be" had good reason to fear such dramatic upheavals, and it's unfair to judge them by our comfortable liberal democratic standards where we take peace and order as a given.

As for "democracy," again, it seems an unnecessary injection of modern politics. Much important science happened anyway in its absence.

jimmiraybob said...

And jimmyraybob, are you going to give your life in blood so that history will progress?

Wha?

jimmiraybob said...

Read a few pages of this and it shows the difficulties Muslim theology ran into as its concept of God's nature ran into physical reality. If God is the proximate cause of even a piece of paper burning, then there is no chain of causality to be investigated. The paper burns because God wills it to burn.

That's like citing Pat Robertson's rantings on hurricane Katrina being God's wrath on homosexuals to argue that science doesn't exist in America. One view on ontology does not negate all other concurrent views on that or science.

If the prevailing view had been that science is pointless because God is the cause of everything then the science tradition would have died in the world.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OK, I give up. It's not Pat Robertson. John Calvin mebbe, Karl Barth. The link is a serious study of Islamic theology for anyone interested. It's tangential to the core point of "liberal democracy" and secondarily Aristotelianized Christianity and there are a dozen other more important points in what I've written here. Islam's turn away from Aristotelianism was merely an illustration of the alternatives, and in stark relief, since the rise of the West and fall of the "East" are proportional to their view of Aristotelianism.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
You presuppose that math is only realistic...or that natural laws are ONLY causal...what about probabilities and possibilities? that is what Quantum physics addresses...and what art also expresses...there seems to be an anti-realist view in Math as well as a realist one...

Are the law of nature something that is there because God has created it such, OR do we, as humans observe and create such laws to explain the universe and the natural laws?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom, Do you believe in the DCT in ethics?

jimmiraybob said...

See, my problem with this "authoritarianism" riff is that the laws of nature are quite authoritarian. Don't follow the rules and you blow yourself up or go splat on the ground.

Mathematics isn't "liberal" either; it's quite "authoritarian."


Science and pure mathematics don't necessarily conflate. Science is grounded in the natural world using empirical methods and pure mathematics is much more abstract. Of course the language of mathematics is irreplaceable in describing the scientific models most accurately and in exploring new models. But, to this day, numbers are still the servants.

Science is neither liberal nor conservative nor authoritarian. Doing science is to realize that no scientific law or theory is immutable to new evidence. This is very unsettling. Is this to say that it's just a bunch of unsettled hooey? Sure, some do. But overall it's got a pretty good track record of explaining the world in a very usable way.

bpabbott said...

Re: "See, my problem with this "authoritarianism" riff is that the laws of nature are quite authoritarian. Don't follow the rules and you blow yourself up or go splat on the ground."

Tom, that's quite a stretch.

There's a large gap between the subjective authority/tyranny of a dictator and objective authority of nature/mathematics.

As science's purpose is to discover an understanding for natural/objective phenomena, its even ironic ;-)

jimmiraybob said...

One must keep in mind that yes, the "powers that be" feared society would be disrupted by certain new facts about the nature of the universe, and our 21st sensibilities argue that "liberalism" is self-evidently good.

But it's the judgment of every century over the last 500 years, if not always immediately self evident. Of course there have always been and always will be those who fight creeping liberalism tooth and nail. In every society. And don't get me completely wrong, I'm not saying that a reasonable conservative caution isn't a good thing. That's why I think the historical tension between conservative caution and progressive enthusiasm has been for the most part a constructive model.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Angie, my answer to your first set of questions is I don't know. An undeterminated, "universe still in the state of creation" is interesting: CS Peirce, AN Whitehead, Teilhard de Jardin, if I understand them correctly.

I like Ben Franklin's take on DCT and the Bible [and, by extension, "natural law"]:

I entertain'd an opinion that, though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered.


But I think you'll find not only Muslim theology, but their entire view of the universe is a DCT [not ALL Muslims of course, but the prevailing view in the culture], that yields only a fatalism that makes all man's thoughts and efforts useless. That's what Insh'allah carries. Not so much if God smiles on our efforts, but that He wills something good to happen [but only for His own reasons].

Or as Chesterton put it in another context

Man could say nothing to God, nothing about God, except in an almost inarticulate cry for mercy ...in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Will was useless. Man could not make himself move an inch any more than a stone could move itself. Man could not trust what was in his own head any more that a turnip could.

Now, Chesterton's talking about a certain strain of Protestantism here, but it fits any religious system that relies on DCT even down to the foundations of nature itself. There are no freestanding "laws of nature," only the laws of "nature's God."

Which is why I don't think we can pick up the study of "science" just in Renaissance Europe," and through 21st century eyes. There are just too many presuppositions that they already held that enabled them to go on from there. We must start at the beginning to find out what those presuppositions were that enabled them to advance.

jimmiraybob said...

I should reiterate that I don't believe that science is "anti-authoritarian" but the proper practice of science is (not withstanding the relationship between the adviser and the lowly grad student slaving away in the lab).

Maybe Ferris would have been better off not using "science" as the practice of science.

jimmiraybob said...

Should have read "...then the science tradition would have died in the Islamic world."

Of course, maybe the world too.

bpabbott said...

Re: "We have some Persians in our family by way of one of our daughters."

I current have two good friends who are Iranian. They have a much better understanding and appreciation for liberty than my American friends do ... on average any way, and with present company excluded ;-)

I also have friends from the Saudi Arabia, United Arab Immigrates, Lebanon, Malaysia, Turkey, and Lebanon. These are all Islamic societies, and some are Islamic States.

None of these individuals have any desire to subvert the West. In fact , they each hope for that more freedom will eventually be possible in their home lands.

However, I would caution judging Islamic societies by those we meet here, half a world away. Proportionately it is the smart ones, and those drawn to liberty, that stray so far from home and to America. They are not a representative cross-section of their societies.

And, to be fair, I have meet some rather disturbing individuals from Islamic societies. A guy from Iraq who I met in Munich during the 1st Gulf War. And several Syrians in college who genuinely liked their classmates but were certain our government was run by Satan.

Even so, I share Phil's expectation that liberty will eventually prevail in these societies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, Ben and JRB, I think terms like "liberal" and "authoritarian" and now "progressive" are too poetic and generalized [and politicized] to tell us anything of value here. I won't call them sophistic, but they're rhetorical and not, um, "scientific."

This "meta-narrative" of rhetoric like liberal or democratic or progressive completely ignores all the uncounted failures [and explosions!] that came from "liberality," or all the time wasted on alchemy, a "liberal," "anti-authoritarian" pseudo-sciences. The real truth is that it's hard to find a single major advance that didn't come from someone standing on the shoulders of some previous giant. A Burkean respect for the achievements of previous ages and the quite conservative values of hard work and the application of the discipline of the scientific method is the real, "unromanticized" history of science.

But I wouldn't write a book about it, because such a rhetorical "conservative" meta-narrative doesn't tell us much of value either.

Basically, I disagree with "liberal democracy" as meaning very much. I think most scientists would rather be housed and fed by someone else---king, duke, despot, "liberal democracy" or university, or even a corporation like Bell Laboratories, where they discovered the Big Bang, whatever---so they can just get on with their work.

Or in a free enterprise system, where a clever poor man can become a rich one through science. That's something we haven't even touched on.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heh. Come to think of it, what would a "liberal democracy" think of Priestley electrocuting his cat?

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/04/joseph-priestley-kills-his-cat.html

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Doctrine of God is based on what? the Patristic Fathers, the Pope? the confessions? The Church? subjective experience? personal belief? The list is endless, and that is why theology is NOT science, properly so called. One can not ascertain anything about God directly. Therefore, it is only presupposed, or descriptive of certain experiences in life, as an interpretative lens. But, one could just as easily use other language to describe what the "faithful" describe with religious language.

I just think it is deceptive to use religious language to get the religious on board, when 'secular' language (as the religious term it) will do just fine.

Ethics is an interesting subject and one worthy of investigation, I think. Is it ethical to be deceptive for "moral ends"? That depends on if you believe that there is a universal or absolute ethical norm.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

or ethical value, which the globalist does believe.

jimmiraybob said...

I think most scientists would rather be housed and fed by someone else---king, duke, despot, "liberal democracy" or university, or even a corporation like Bell Laboratories

I don't think that you understand the profession. By working for Bell Labs or the university they are feeding themselves and putting a roof over their head. And, in the early days, seeking the patronage of king, duke, despot or church was a way of paying the bills or surviving. Free exchange of services for the means of sustenance. Not altogether different that being a carpenter or tradesman. Since when is working for a living the equivalent of letting someone else feed you and house you?

jimmiraybob said...

The real truth is that it's hard to find a single major advance that didn't come from someone standing on the shoulders of some previous giant.

Or ten or a hundred normal-sized or merely slightly larger than normal-sized individuals.

jimmiraybob said...

Heh. Come to think of it, what would a "liberal democracy" think of Priestley electrocuting his cat?

Well, most certainly "liberal democracy" would have him executed.

jimmiraybob said...

...terms like "liberal" and "authoritarian" and now "progressive" are too poetic and generalized [and politicized] to tell us anything of value here

I agree that the argument weakens considerably the more words that get thrown out. I think Ferris is still right about "and" and "the."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, Angie and JRB, I can't deal with your anger about "religion." I spoke only of worldviews, "cosmologies." And as far as Bell Labs goes, JRB confirmed my point.

There hasn't been a single counterfactual presented to Roger Bacon, let alone the other dozen examples presented here, only rhetoric.

I just think it is deceptive to use religious language to get the religious on board, when 'secular' language (as the religious term it) will do just fine.

I find that offensive, Angie. I speak only of what these people believed; I never even claim on this board that God exists, let alone that any religion is "true." But to discard religious belief in some explanation of history is what's deceptive and dishonest.

You write:

I am desiring to counter-balance "faith", because of its absurdity to me these days.

So go for it. But this has nothing to do with history or "open-minded" discussion of it. You get more leeway here than any other commenter and seldom write anything that has anything to do with the topic of the original post, even less than your new friend Pinky. Take your anger and desire for "counter-balance" somewhere else. And your constant bagging on immigrants and 21st Islamic jihad should probably get your posts deleted immediately, because all they do is junk up the threads and make this blog less serious.

I wrote you a lengthy reply to questions you asked me about DCT out of courtesy, but since you ignored it, it's clear you're using this blog for therapy and not honest inquiry.

You're taking advantage of people's good will, Angie.
__________

But all in all, this has been a good discussion. But I think its productiveness is over, unless somebody has something substantive to add. I have additional thoughts that this discussion has triggered, but they can wait for a more proper time.

So, thx to everybody. Cheers.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
I have never meant to take the thread and "run with it". Sorry if what I have offered has not been of any significance. I am trying to learn, but not be indoctrinated. That means that until I find a way to separate in my thinking "this from that", it will probably be best for me to only ask questions. If you have other suggestions, I am "game".

I am not angry over "God", but deceptive means. And I think that today's pragmatic view is what makes for a "worldview", which is "what works" for those in power. This was never the intent of the Founders, as they balance power with accountability.

We have left the "ideals" of the Medieval era, with the Enlightenment. As the Enlightenment was based on empiricism and coherency, not authority. Now, we have no authority or coherency, other than the individual's reality in a democratic society.

You mentioned I was not serious as I didn't respond to your "take" on DCT...

The theoretical or the ideal can universally be agreed upon, unless "the other life" is more important than this life. And this is what fundamentalists do and think is what God requires; sacrifice, and self-abnegation about this life. And those that believe this way become useful for pragmatic reasons to the empowered. (The empowered today have little sense of accountability, it seems.)

The practical realm of experience and life itself does not lend itself to Utopian ideals. Humans must be practical in their commitments. And practically, we do not all agree about many things concerning culture. Even in our liberal democracy, we do not agree, and this is not a bad thing, for liberty requires dissent.

This is my beef with "a one understanding" of practical realities. Unless one subscribes to a uniformity that allows no diversity of expression, then, one must agree that the "ideal" will never be expressed in the same way.

Ben Franklin's view on DCT seems to be the "evangelical" mode of interpreting the Ten Commmandments. But, is there not a basis for his belief that what is commanded is the best, other than authority?

Until we can all agree as to what we fight for, then there will always be wars, and rumors of wars. War is the result of a dispute or dissent of opinion over our human realities. And to suppose that we all want the same things, I believe is naive. How do we go about "wanting the same things"; by killing those who do not want the same things. Diplomacy is what is attempted to bring about resolution when these differences of value collide.

But, those who do not believe that there is any other way to think, believe or behave than "their" way, cannot believe in deplomacy, because there is nothing to negotiate.

And thanks for "giving me room" here on this blog.

Pinky said...

.
Authoritarian
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The word, authoritarian, deals with society and politics and is not properly used to explain science. Of course, science is authoritarian and its authority is derived at scientifically. Whereas political authority is quite another thing.
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Tom can be quite the obfuscator.
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Pinky said...

.
Sorry, Ben and JRB, I think terms like "liberal" and "authoritarian" and now "progressive" are too poetic and generalized [and politicized] to tell us anything of value here. I won't call them sophistic, but they're rhetorical and not, um, "scientific.
.
Geez, I want to jump in there on such commentary.
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I sure wish one of the resident bloggers would begin one on Ferris as relates to the Founding.
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Then we could have a well tempered discussion that could be quite refreshing.
.

Pinky said...

.
Ferris gives us a clearer understanding of what is meant by laws of nature.
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His tracings regarding Locke, Newton, Galeleo, and others shed much needed light on the development of liberty.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
One question about science's authority. What is to be pursued in endeavoring to uncover a particular question is one of personal value and choice as a scientist.

If one doesn't believe in a certain hypothesis/question, or doesn't value it as an important and necessary pursuit, then I doubt that one would pursue or investigate that particular area of scientific inquiry.

So, the authority question goes to the heart of who is to determine what is to be investigated, and that gets back to politics, as science must be underwritten by monies/grants/scholarships, etc. So, the politicalization of science is the demise of our society's liberal democratic governing. Independence has been replaced by a certain form of determinism.

Pinky said...

.
We don't consider science as an item of personal choice.
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Whatever I might think of science is unimportant to the larger picture which is science itself.
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We can't make personal decisions about scientific facts. We only uncover what appears to be so and then we must test our findings under controlled conditions.
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Authoritarianism does not care to put its standards up for testing.
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Reality is reality regardless of what we think or say it might be.
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jimmiraybob said...

I don't think that I harbor any particular anger toward religion. You've mentioned anger before and I have tried to use smiley faces where appropriate but sometimes I miss the mark. For instance, when I wrote, "Well, most certainly "liberal democracy" would have him executed," I should have used a smiley face, since my meaning was that liberal democracy is not an entity that can do anything - I was trying to play to the absurd.

I may also have been lumped in with the haters in comments of a recent Barton post - don't know, it was kind of vague.

I've enjoyed commenting here along with the challenging interactions and have learned a lot from the posts as well as the informed comments and discussions. I've tried to be respectful and constructive and for the life of me I don't recall ever saying anything here that was overtly against religion or specifically Christianity. But if I come off as hostile and angry and or a hater then I'll rethink commenting. Don't want to be just a troll. [even if Brad does pay me a bounty for raising the comment count. :)]

Regards

Disclaimer: There's a new post on paganism that I may not be able to resist.

Disclaimer: Brad doesn't really pay me to boost the comment count. At least not much. I'll have to check the contract.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I am NOT questioning science as a valid endeavor of exploration, but I am questioning ethical questions as to individual scientists and their choices and pursuits of exploration. That is a question of personal conviction, don't you think?

Not only does the individual scientist have a right to his own convictions, but also the questions about what his commitments are to be. These cannot be defined for any individual, unless one lives under dictatorial rule.

Pinky said...

.
Okay, Ange, maybe I misread your intentions. My mistake. Sorry that I am.
.
Read pages 72 and 73 in The Science of Liberty. See how Ferris traces Locke.
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I'm not ashamed to admit that I have an anger toward religionism with its authoritarian ways. And, when the tide is up, I move it right out of the harbor onto the sea.
.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I got Ferris' book this afternoon. I finished the first chapter.

His argument that democracy and science go hand and hand, I buy. But, I question how he supposes that science brings about democratic government.

Governments exists and then, sanction or do not sanction scientific findings.

Scientists in the past have suffered great persecution from the Church because of their findings, which were in opposition to Church teachings. And since the Church had political power, scientists were "condemned" (excommunicated, killed, etc.).

Is Ferris suggesting that to bring about change worldwide, then those countries that have totaltarian religious regimes must have scientists willing to sacrifice their lives to this cause? (Good luck, as this "experiment" will take loads of time and effort, as jimmyraybob has suggested)

jimmiraybob said...

Scientists in the past have suffered great persecution from the Church because of their findings, which were in opposition to Church teachings.

And it should be emphasized that science/scientists haven't just been thwarted by closed religious thinking it has also been thwarted by governmental structures and individuals completely antithetical to religion - see Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

Lysenko, under Stalin in the USSR, rejected Mendelian genetics, denounced academic scientists and in his political role instituted policies that lead to mass starvation and deaths - Lysenko impressed the right soviet political bosses and "was put in charge of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Soviet Union and made responsible for ending the propagation of "harmful" [me - orthodox] ideas among Soviet scientists" and instead instituted a discredited pseudo-science approach.

This is again a case of science being stiffled by authoritative, ideological, top-down control.

Pinky said...

.
Well, three of us have the book.
.
My suggestion is that we refer to page numbers instead of cutting and pasting text. It' makes it easier to comment about Ferris and his points and we are able to read the reference in the context it was presented.
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Check out pages 72, 73, and 74 regarding Locke.

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Pinky said...

.
It's Authoritarianism that is the problem and it exists in every sort of institution that is founded on some absolute truth.
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When it comes to totalitarian ideology, Marx and Engels had nothing over on some religions.
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jimmiraybob said...

Is Ferris suggesting that to bring about change worldwide, then those countries that have totaltarian religious regimes must have scientists willing to sacrifice their lives to this cause?

I think that Ferris is suggesting that science flourishes in political/social environments that offer a relative free exchange of ideas and can accept the consequences - change. Conversely, societies in which science flourishes also tend to flourish. But it's not just science in a vacuum, it's the mindset that allows science to be done. Whether it's religious or secular or a combination of forces that dictate what scientific results have to be, it is all the same. You can't artificially impose a scientific conclusion. Or at least not for long and the outcome's generally not pretty (RE: Lysenko).

If you want to see a modern totalitarian society that lost brain power and subsequent diminishing of scientific capacity look to Nazi Germany and the exodus of the likes of Einstein. Or look to modern Islamic totalitarian societies that reject modernity and where scientific conclusions are dictated by religion. Look at the thousands, including students and scientists, recently killed in protesting the totalitarian Iranian government.

Philosophers (natural science/religion/political), clergymen, scientists have for centuries...millenia...risked life and liberty to advance ideas that were/are not popular with the prevailing ruling elite (whether Pagan, Christian, secular). Yes, it takes a long time.

The unfortunate clash between science and religion is that science has become, and through the middle ages progressively became, more empirical/naturalistic, which was often seen as contrary and threatening to the religious worldview based on the premise of supernatural intervention/supremacy.

It is my opinion, and I've said it before, that the Enlightenment didn't create secular ideas but instead created the space for more secular ideas and approaches to gain traction and prosper. It of course also allowed the intellectual space for different religious ideas and approaches to flourish. And here we are.

One other thing that I've mentioned here before and that Ferris also stresses is the force of economics and trade along with geography (in addition to religion and goverment).

Taken together, these are the answers to Tom's questions about the Golden Age of Islam and Euclid under Pharoah (Ptelomy/Hellenistic-Greek influence).

Interestingly enough I just read this letter today that I think bears on this topic:

"My History of the Jesuits is in four volumes in twelves, under the title of " Histoire Generate de la Naissance el des Progres de la Compagnie de Jesus, et l'Analyse de ses Constitutions et ses Privileges" printed at Amsterdam in 1761. The work is anonymous, because, as I suppose, the author was afraid, as all the monarchs of Europe were, at that time, of Jesuitical assassination."
--Adams to Jefferson, November 4, 1816

Now those were the days.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Taken together, these are the answers to Tom's questions about the Golden Age of Islam and Euclid under Pharoah (Ptolemy/Hellenistic-Greek influence).

No, y'all skated around my questions completely. But if you want to tell each other what you want to hear, that's cool. But surely you see the irony of rejecting "authority" [me] while pumping another one [Ferris]. It's supposed to be about the ideas, right?

The fact is that for all of man's history, ideas were exchanged absent "liberal democracy," Kepler and Galileo's correspondence being just one refutation.

And our rocket and jet engine technology is still substantially that of Nazi Germany's, is it not?

Lysenko perfectly illustrates how bad science cannot sustain, no matter how powerful the "powers that be" are. Scientific fact and truth are simply more powerful than superstition, more powerful than politics. But to the "political": neither was Copernicus' work which both Kepler and Galileo built upon, safely buried by the big bad Catholic Church, was it? And the famous quote of Ptolemy to Pharaoh was: "Sire, there is no Royal Road to Geometry".

There is no necessary link between democracy and science. In fact, if you look at the politics of science today, it's scientists themselves who suppress each others' work out of self- or partisan interest.

As for Angie trotting out the old "Martyrs for Science" meme, I hope Ferris debunks some of that nonsense.

http://www.bede.org.uk/conflict.htm

And my core argument is that the Golden Age Muslims, followed by Roger Bacon and medieval Christianity---and both flowing from Aristotle---had confidence that God was rational and so was the universe, making scientific inquiry worthwhile in the first place. That's my meta-argument against what I consider Ferris' less comprehensive one: not that he's wrong, but by only starting in the Western world at the Renaissance, he doesn't look at a big enough historical and philosophical picture that takes in all of man and the history of science.

Mostly, not one counterargument has been offered yet to science thriving under the patronage of Pharaohs or kings or dukes or F├╝hrers or universities, or capitalism's Bell Labs or DuPont or Rockefeller Foundation or MacArthur "genius grants" or even churches back in the day, with monks like Roger Bacon and Gregor Mendel.

If Ferris has "answers" to these questions, well, he should. But I can't let the assertion pass that my questions have been answered. They haven't even been addressed.

Rock on. I'll monitor this discussion and respond if anything substantive comes up.

[As for Jesuitism, JRB, that's largely a different subject, arising from anti-papism and the Guy Fawkes plot. John Adams had a bit of a Da Vinci Code sensibility, something Jon Rowe and I share laughs about.]

Pinky said...

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Rock on?
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Come on, Thomas, you're doing yourself a disservice.
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Ferris isn't claiming there never was anyone that refuted authority before the Italian City States.
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Instead, he is tracing societal moves beginning at that time, showing how they blended in so that favorable developments ensued that led to America's Founding.
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Read the book before you give it such a bad review.
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His book is an excellent source showing definite lines running in the history of liberal societies leading up to the Founding. He gives great credit to men like Locke.
.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom, I said that I questioned how Ferris says that science produces/promotes democracy. I do think for science to flourish, there needs to be an open and enlightened government. Otherwise, certain aspects of science may not be allowed. And there will always be the question about where lines should be, whenever science undertakes defining society in full.

If one only looks at science as the answer to man's problems, then one will make all decisions based on material grounds. And humans are more than material beings. This is what some fear about a government run "universal healthcare program", where the government will decide who are the productive. Those who do not produce, are unnecessary for society. In fact, they may drain society of valued resources.
This is when science has over-stepped over the bounds of ethical propriety. Society should be more than a technocracy.

Aristotle's "first cause" is outdated, isn't it?

Pinky said...

.
It seems there's no end to metaphor.
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What is it on which authority bases its power to dectate any rules?
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It has to be some accepted standard that passes for the foundation on which all else is built, right?
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That standard could be a sacred revelation or it could be something else--like a university degree or some diploma hanging on a wall. Wasn't that what the Wizard of Oz explained to Dorothy and her friends when he handed out the answers to their hearts' desires?
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Who are the authorities here at this blog site? Who has a delete button on their keyboard?
.
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Tom Van Dyke said...


Aristotle's "first cause" is outdated, isn't it?



That is the common misunderstanding of the argument these days. It's not "first" cause, it's "final" cause.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/04/nothing-but.html


If one only looks at science as the answer to man's problems, then one will make all decisions based on material grounds. And humans are more than material beings.


That's the non-materialist argument, anyway.

His book is an excellent source showing definite lines running in the history of liberal societies leading up to the Founding. He gives great credit to men like Locke.

Of course he does; that's the prevailing narrative. But where did Locke get his ideas?

As for the Wizard of Oz, see Ben Franklin above on the Bible and natural law. Ignoring it is what I mean by "skating" past the arguments.

As for giving the book a "bad" review, I simply asked its readers to defend its arguments against obvious historical counterfactuals, all of which were "skated" past.

Pinky said...

.
Thomas, I think you have to be a bit more responsible in your criticism of anyone before you give them a fair hearing. I have not seen you write that you are reading Ferris.
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As far as the Wizard of Oz is concerned, you might want to read how Ferris traces Thomas Paine beginning with the last paragraph on page 81 through to the end of page 83 where he quotes Paine.
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Makes you wonder where the author of the Wizard of Oz got his ideas, huh?
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Pinky said...

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http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/2009/05/over-rainbow.html

Check out that site for the following information:

Thomas Paine's Corner

Thomas Paine's Corner is dedicated to ending the unnecessary suffering of oppressed and exploited sentient beings and to the total liberation of human animals, non-human animals, and the Earth.
Friday, May 22, 2009
"Over the Rainbow"


"Baum had dark message as well. As Brown explained: "there are invisible puppeteers pulling the strings of the puppets we see on the stage, in a show that is largely illusion." The Federal Reserve and most central bankers rule world economies by controlling their money, their very lifeblood without which commerce can't function. As long as that continues, Wicked Witch power will prevail."

By Stephen Lendman

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It's refreshing for me to learn that such a discredited student as pinky would come up with the Paine/Baum comparison made by others far more respected and who have preceded me.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You have no standing to give lectures, Pinky. You hijacked this thread and cannot defend Ferris' thesis, and now you blame because you can't. Tell us how Ferris reconciles Nazi Germany's rockets and jets and the other dozen things I've mentioned.

And yes, I've heart the Oz one. William Jennings Bryan is the Cowardly Lion. But now you're hijacking your own hijacking...

Pinky said...

,
I hijacked this thread?
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YOU are something else, Thomas, and it is coming through very clearly to anyone who has followed along for much time at all.
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I give a hoot about standing as you notice. I have great standing compared to you and others when it comes to experience. I think it was Leonardo DaVinci that Ferris quotes regarding the value of experience over something out of a book.
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.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

"Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."---Benjamin Franklin

Pinky said...

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Exactly.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."---Benjamin Franklin

You two are promoting education? That is good.

Education allows freedom of thought, such that, the student explores possibly different ways of thinking, seeing and doing things. Rather than, the teacher teaching answers, and making sure the student recites verbotum...

It is a wise teacher that can help the student to "think" and can guide, but not dictate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."
---Dorothy Parker

Pinky said...

.
How thinly you disguise your disrespect for others, Thomas.
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Shame on you.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Hehe. What I could respect is you defending Ferris' thesis against my dozen challenges instead of attacking me. You're the one defending "authority," and not very well.

Do let me know how he deals with Nazi technology, if it all, or how Roger Bacon and Copernicus did such good science under monarchy and the big bad Catholic Church.

Pinky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinky said...

.
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You've inferred someone is a whore and another is a fool.
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And, you accuse me of attacking you?
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Instead, I have referred you to Ferris, himself. I'm not his defender.
.

bpabbott said...

Very tactful Angie! :-)

Tom, please don't decide so be tactful yourself. I'm convinced your seditious comments do as much to keep this blog active as all the intellectual discussion combined ;-)

Pinky said...

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I think that problem is all settled.
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You put the bandage on it, Dr. Abbott.
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I wish one of the blog members would host a thread on Ferris as his work greatly plays into the American Creation.
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He casts a bright light that hasn't much been felt. And, to me, it appears to be the most accurate perspective as it plays out so well using logic.
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All I'm asking is that his work be considered officially.
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What's to fear? Who knows, it may increase the number of hits this site gets.
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But, for God's sake, keep the troll on a short leash. He tries to exact a toll from everyone who crosses over the bridge here. The adolescence of choosing up sides and going off on tangents might work on FOX TV; but, it turns most people off on the 'Net.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Hehe. Thx, Ben.

Pinky, I'm sorry Benjamin Franklin insulted you, but the quote was an apt rejoinder to your attempt to defend "experience" over thought and learning.

As for Ferris, you injected him here and you're doing a lousy job of convincing anyone he's worth reading.

But do report back on the Nazis and Copernicus. Perhaps there's an intelligent reply in your book there someplace.

jimmiraybob said...

Hehe. What I could respect is you defending Ferris' thesis against my dozen challenges instead of attacking me.

"Tell us how Ferris reconciles Nazi Germany's rockets and jets and the other dozen things I've mentioned."

First of all, if you want to make a serious challenge it's your burden to show how your challenge is relevant. I don't know how you do that if you haven't read the material or at least viewed the available Cato video.

You're bullying is unbecoming. I've assumed that it's occurred to you that the book hasn't been finished by anyone here that have started the project, so forcing a defense is premature.

The following isn't Ferris's and isn't based on a complete reading of the book. However, withing the thesis of the book there are shared traits attributed to science and liberal democracy that allow some advance speculation. First, a few observations:

• Ferris’ major thesis is that there is a symbiotic relationship between science and liberal democracy and not that science can’t be done outside of a liberal democracy or prior to the advent of liberal democracies.

• Ferris is talking about modern science (the active social institutions of scientific establishment – professional scientists, universities & departments, laboratories, refereed journals (early coffee houses), conferences, etc.

• Science and liberal democracy share attributes such as a general anti-authoritarianism, experimentation and self correction, power in bringing about broad positive changes in societies (health, wealth and happiness), and communal social activity that requires maximizing intellectual resources (which require open communication).

In addition,

• There is a difference between pure research (or theoretical) science, applied science/engineering and technology/production. Rockets and jets at the time of Nazi Germany would fall increasingly under applied-science/engineering and technology.

• There is a lag between scientific research (theory) and the pinnacle of any technological development and use.

• Scientists are human and their range of political views and sensitivity to political authoritarianism are as wide ranging as the general population, possibly skewed. Some are capable of non-altruistic actions.

• Neither Nazi German society nor German science grew or prospered as a result of rockets and jets, and in fact were decimated because of rockets and jets with much of the brain trust responsible for the base science as well as their development (and many other areas of science) migrating to more functional liberal, open and democratic environments, including America.

(continued below)

jimmirabob said...

Germany, under the Weimer Republic underwent a brief "Golden Age" in the mid to late 1920’s when a large segment of society could express and share in a wider range of intellectual thought (and hanky panky). With the collapse of the Weimer Republic in the 1930's and the ascendancy of Hitler’s Nazi regime, an increasing authoritarian control on society and the academic institutions, ultimately leading to a purge of intellectuals and scientists not sympathetic to the Nazi cause – some found a way out of the country and some found their way into concentration camps. Additionally, the stricter secular control on society seemed to be congruent with and reinforced by conservative religious orhodoxies.

In the meantime, Hitler increased technological development and production, presumably to improve the earlier bleak economic environment at home and to begin acquiring regions with natural resources that would fuel his growing industrial war-making machine. Technological development flourished for a while, utilizing earlier scientific advancements (the lag effect), but ultimately Hitler couldn’t compete successfully in the scientific realm - atomic development being an example. He was eventually beaten by the scientists who had deserted Hitler’s oppressive domination. Nazi ideaology stifled intellectual growth, even if some scientists remained behind doing some form of science – you really have to wonder about their enthusiasm though and how that also stifled the nation’s ability to even sustain itself much less prosper.

Meanwhile, in our more liberal and democratic country, we were able to enjoy an immense kick in scientific achievement and subsequent technologically-based affluence and defense capabilities (this would be the environment that science flourished in the universities, at the Bell labs, at Dow chemical, etc.). We not only got to the moon and back but we got Tang in the process. And I Dream of Jeannie to boot (is this a great country or what).

That's a test of the general model based on Ferris' thesis: the more repressive, authoritarian, secretive and ideologically driven the governing regime, closed to the open transmission of ideas, the less likely that the society will flourish. And the converse.

Research science, pure science, and theoretical science can lead to tangible and usable results if left unfettered by ideological restraints (Angie, I'm not saying an absence of ethical considerations and constraints).

Within Ferris' thesis is the notion that societies that recognize these benefits and a fundamental right to intellectual freedom will benefit at a greater rate than its counterparts (and can be measured in the areas of health, wealth and happiness).

In my opinion, this model is predictive as well as explanatory and can be applied to the question of Euclid under Pharoic (Ptolemy) governance with its Hellenistic/Greek influences as well as the opening of the Islamic Golden Age, guided with hadith such as “The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs," and its closing when religion became more fundamental and restrictive. Both were periods in which curiosity, inquiry, and a willingness to critique and eventually accept the outcomes of inquiry over the dictates of dogma were acceptable within the framework of governance. Neither of these societies were completely free and open or could be considered democratic but both were more liberal in that both allowed a greater liberation of the human intellect - and this transcended across social divides.

Again, in my opinion, the progressive, increasing liberation of and trust in human intellectual capacity is the common denominator in both the trend toward more modern liberal democratic governance and the trend toward religious unorthodoxies.

Pinky said...

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I'm glad you noticed, Thomas.
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I'm not trying to convince anyone. I'm trying to learn. I think Angie made a good point about being educated. I've already given you what for and you have been put in your place so quit trying to egg others on any further.
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jimmiraybob said...

As to Ferris addressing Nazi Germany (and Communism), starting on page 192:

"If, indeed totalitarianism nourished science and technology more efficiently than liberalism did (me: as some were claiming at the time), then the future of liberalism looked dark. But was this the case? How did sciences fare in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and communist China?"

This, it would seem, is a good starting point to see how Ferris answers one or more of TVD's questions. I'll be interested to see how my speculation holds up.

Pinky said...

.

• Ferris’ major thesis is that there is a symbiotic relationship between science and liberal democracy...

.
Not so sure that Ferris would use the term "liberal democracy" here. I think it suffices to say that he points out the relationship as being mostly all about free speech in one form or another. But, you sure did a good job with your two posts.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, thank you, JRB. All I was asking for was something substantive. Sorry if that's "bullying." I think of it as a plea for fact and argument over vague terms and opinions.

My initial challenge was only to "liberal democracy"; since the world has seen so precious little of it, and most of it's accounted for by America, it seems too small a sample to draw conclusions from.

And then to a rhetorical term of art, "authoritarianism." Much research these days in "liberal democracies" is under government grant: is this not "authoritarian?"

Is "industrial policy," as they call it, any more effective than the patronage of churches and nobles of bygone ages?

These were what's behind my "challenges," not mere grenade throwing. Is Ferris, under guise of a socio-political "thesis," merely stating the obvious, that when scientists have each other's work to learn from, advances come more quickly?

I mean, duh.

Skulking around the edges, of course, is the Galileo story, and the bogeyman of the Church, if not religion itself. But the Galileo story is far overblown, and as the above "Martyrs for Science" link argues, the entire religion vs. science may be more myth than fact.

But perhaps seeing reason as a gift from God, an Aristotelianized Islam, Christianity or Judaism [or a combo of all three] is as efficient [or more!] than the less mentally disciplined "liberal democracy."

Perhaps "liberal" Europe will be no more innovative than "authoritarian" China.

As for perhaps the two most stunning achievements of the 20th century, nuclear power and getting to the moon, both were defensive, in that the real object was to beat the Nazis or the Commies to them. There was no certainty that the A-Bomb would explode, or if space travel was even possible for man because of cosmic rays.]

And did the US get there first because of "liberal democracy," or because "our Germans were better than their Germans," or simply because the US had more resources to throw at the Manhattan and Apollo projects?

These are getting to the meat of the matter, at last. I didn't "challenge" Ferris just for the sake of contrariness. You fellas ought to know me better than that by now. If I wave a paddle, it's because I'm hiding a hammer.

;-)

jimmiraybob said...

If nothing else I'm impatient. Pinky & Angie, consider this a spoiler alert!

Skipping to page 193:
"Instabilities continued to bedevil the Germany of the Weimer Republic (1919-1933), when innovations like expressionist art…nudity and drugs in the nightclubs, Marlene Dietrich…[didn’t] accept the responsibilities that went along with their newly acquired freedoms…[I digress]

"During its time of limited liberal and progressive reform, Germany emerged as a center of scientific research and development."

Some accomplishments during this period:

• Willhelm Konrad Rontgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895
• Max Plank’s founding of quantum physics in 1900
• Einsteins 1905 and 1915 theories of relativity
• Chemistry discoveries in the late 1800s like aspirin and heroin (who knew)
• Gottlieb Daimler’s early automobile from 1887

This goes on for a while. I’ll leave it here.

(continued below)

jimmiraybob said...

Skipping to page 202:
"The failure of the Germans to develop nuclear weapons – a failure that surprised the Allies, who had invested in the Manhattan project out of the quite sensible fear that the Nazis would otherwise get there first – also reflected the hobbled state of communications among the scientists and engineers involved. Historians differ sharply over whether Heisenberg, whom Hitler appointed to head up the German A-bomb project, deliberately let the project languish, but whatever the motives, his approach was a far cry from the egalitarian ethos of the Manhattan project. Disinclined toward laboratory work, Heisenberg played Bach fugues on the chapel organ at Hechingen while his subordinates there conducted nuclear experiments with uranium, graphite and heavy water. ('Had I never lived,' he mused dreamily, 'someone would probably have formulated the principle of indeterminacy; if Beethoven had never lived, no one would have written Opus 111.')

[my break] A similar insularity appears to have afflicted Walther Bothe, the eminent experimentalist whose mistaken calculation of the absorption characteristics of graphite led the German bomb project astray. Bothe, whose heart was not in his work anyway – the Nazis having hounded him over his antifascist political views so severely that he sought treatment in a sanitarium – concluded that graphite would not work as a neutron absorber in sustaining a nuclear chain reaction. Actually he was testing the wrong grade of graphite, but his results were taken at face value, leading German bomb scientists to conclude that only heavy water could do the job. This set them on a path that dead ended once the allies disabled the German heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway, in a series of raids conducted by Norwegian, French, and British commandos flown in on American bombers. A mistake like Bothe’s would have been unlikely to persist in the atmosphere of Los Alamos, where Gen. Leslie Groves had agreed to let the scientists work with their customary informality and ordinary engineers would have felt free to question an Oppenheimer about where he’d gotten his graphite.*

"By the end of the war it was starkly evident that the Nazi campaign of top-down totalitarian science had failed. ‘In the early days of the war the world was amazed at the efficiency of the Nazi war machine,’ wrote Needham, but ‘in every theater of war...the technology of the democracies has proved superior to that of the fascist powers.’ Needham concluded that ‘the Axis powers have carried out a great social experiment. They have tested whether science can successfully be put at the service of authoritarian tyranny. The test has shown that it cannot.'" [I would add, as long as there is a free, liberal government or governments with the resources to put to bear]

[…]

*Foot Note: "When Cambridge physicists made the same error, it was quickly discovered. Their results failed to comport with those obtained by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, who on December 2, 1942, engineered the world’s first controlled fission reaction in a makeshift laboratory set up in a doubles squash court under the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. Fermi, furiously devoted to free speech, objected indignantly when his graphite work was classified in order the news from reaching Germany."

jimmiraybob said...

And then to a rhetorical term of art, "authoritarianism."

Some times a descriptor is just a descriptor. I guess it's how you use it.

Much research these days in "liberal democracies" is under government grant: is this not "authoritarian?"

It would be authoritarian if it were dictated what the conclusions would be based on government policy or ideology. Although I know that some people believe that this is the way that it is, it really isn't. I've written, helped write, and reviewed grant applications, among them National Science Foundation grant requests. I've published results based on work done under federal grants. My conclusions were my own and there was no hint of pressure otherwise.

As for perhaps the two most stunning achievements of the 20th century, nuclear power and getting to the moon, both were defensive, in that the real object was to beat the Nazis or the Commies to them. There was no certainty that the A-Bomb would explode, or if space travel was even possible for man because of cosmic rays.]

Regardless of the motive(s) the science and engineering in America were relatively unhindered by ideology.

As to some of the other things that you mention, I think the might be answered, at least in part, in what I posted of Ferris.

If I wave a paddle,...

Dammit, stop doing that. I'm too easily distracted and have yard work to finish and a report or five to write.:)

[sticking fingers in ears now; attempting productivity; damn, so close to time for a beer]

Tom Van Dyke said...

heh heh. you're doing a good job for ferris.

however,


• Willhelm Konrad Rontgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895
• Max Planck’s founding of quantum physics in 1900
• Einsteins 1905 and 1915 theories of relativity
• Chemistry discoveries in the late 1800s like aspirin and heroin (who knew)
• Gottlieb Daimler’s early automobile from 1887


are all pre-Weimar, which rose [or was imposed] after Germany's defeat in WWI.

The period you describe is the "Second Reich"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Empire

which I meself know diddly about.

But again, we must inquire how liberal the disciplined, "authoritarian" German mind actually allowed this politics to be, and if these scientific advances might be more properly attributed to their German-ness than their form of government.

But, hey, now we're discussin'! You know, I don't get to play the skeptic around here very often, and indeed this time around as is my custom, my contrariness takes the form of offering counterargument and counterfactuals, not just mindless disagreeableness or anti-authoritarian skepticism.

Again, Ferris might just be in Painfully Obvious mode, that ideology suppresses truth.

But my counterargument again is that Copernicus was "suppressed" by the Church for nine sentences in his entire thesis [did you read the links?], Galileo got his message just fine, and neither did the "suppression" of Galileo hide the truth for very long, if at all.

And neither did the Soviet Lysenko survive very long. And the Nazi atomic scientists could have guessed right, and the world might still be under its boot. [See Harlan Ellison's "Return to Forever" Star Trek episode.]

I'm not saying Ferris is wrong, because on the duh level he's of course right. What I'm saying is he seems to be taking select fragments of history and turning them into a socio-political thesis far beyond what the historical facts can hold.

For the failure of Weimar puts to the question that "liberal democracy," especially of the European sort, is even self-evidently the best form of government. Not that I advocate a return to monarchy, mind you, but the Second Reich you cite here, JRB, appears to be the proper mix per Aristotle between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, and that era worked out damned well for science, putting Ferris' hypothesis in severe jeopardy.

jimmiraybob said...

In addition to the link that you provided I did a quick look through these sites:

Here http://www.ohio.edu/chastain/ip/libgerm.htm

Here http://motherearthtravel.com/history/germany/history-9.htm

Here http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=1826

Here

And Here

Basically it seems that liberalism and democratic tendencies had a rather wild ride in the fifty years preceding the unification of German states under the Constitution of the German Empire (April 16, 1871). The overall trend under the earlier confederated system was toward more liberal and democratic reform but with considerable conservative opposition.

From the second link above:
“The failure of the 1848 revolutions also meant that Germany was not united as many had hoped. However, some of the liberals' more practical proposals came to fruition later in the 1850s and 1860s when it was realized that they were essential to economic efficiency. Many commercial restrictions were abolished. The guilds, with their desire to turn back the clock and restore preindustrial conditions, were defeated, and impediments to the free use of capital were reduced. The "hungry forties" gave way to the prosperity of the 1850s as the German economy modernized and laid the foundations for spectacular growth later in the century.”

During this period of the confederation it too operated under a constitution. And following the unification, this from Wiki:

"The King of Prussia was named in the constitution as the "President of the Confederation", and given the title of German Emperor (Deutscher Kaiser)."

The Emperor/President was limited by the constitution.

The empire had a parliament with two houses. It was a period of "universal suffrage" (at least all male citizens over 25), and all voting was done by secret ballot. Elected officials served in the lower house, or Reichstag.

"During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire emerged as one of the most powerful industrial economies on Earth and a great power, until it collapsed following its military defeat in World War I and the concurrent November Revolution.”"

This was not quite a monarchy and not quite a liberal democracy but was much more liberal and democratic than totalitarian. The citizens were recognized as such and retained the rights of citizenship (in my short search I couldn’t find any specific documentation). Overall, academic institutions appeared to function with no or minimal government interference and it would appear that travel and communications were relatively open.

Overall, I think the culminating scientific accomplishments of the latter 19th century fall within the general Ferris thesis.

I feel obligated to tie this in with the American Creation. So I'll just mention that a lot of the political developments that the German states underwent in the 19th-20th centuries arose from the destabilization of Napoleon's adventures. Therefore, Jefferson =>France=>Napoleon=>German unification.:)

It's been fun but I guess there are a few new threads.

bpabbott said...

Re: "But my counterargument again is that Copernicus was "suppressed" by the Church for nine sentences in his entire thesis [did you read the links?], Galileo got his message just fine, and neither did the "suppression" of Galileo hide the truth for very long, if at all."

Is the counterargument that; (1) Ultimately, authority isn't effective in restraining scientific progress? or that (2) Authority isn't effective in restraining scientific progress?

These are two very different things.

I expect any reasonable person would accept the former and reject that latter.

Pinky said...

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"Liberty...is the great power of science and of virtue; and...a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free." --Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, 1789
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"Science as subversion has a long history." --Freeman Dyson, 1989
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Over the past few centuries, two transformations--one scientific, the other democratic--have altered the thinking and the well-being of the human species. The scientific revolution is still gathering momentum, but has already revealed more about the universe than had been learned in all prior history, while technological applications of scientific knowledge have rescued billions from poverty, ignorance, fear, and an early grave. The democratic revolution has spread freedom and equal rights to nearly half the world's inhabitants, making democracy the preference of informed peoples everywhere.
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The first paragraph of chapter one followed by the two quotes above sets the trajectory for the author.
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Helter skelter attacks to the contrary.
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http://www.amazon.com/Science-Liberty-Democracy-Reason-Nature/dp/0060781505

Pinky said...

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Is the counterargument that; (1) Ultimately, authority isn't effective in restraining scientific progress? or that (2) Authority isn't effective in restraining scientific progress?
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The facts of the matter are that authority is effective in restraining scientific progress. And, if progress means a steady movement and if to restrain means to hold back and to control, then, ultimately authority does restrain scientific progress. The facts speak for themselves.
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Just one present day example is the restraints put on stem cell research.
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Pinky said...

.
In fairness to Ferris, I believe it is important to allow his purpose to be shown. He does it within the first several paragraphs. I'm posting them. Continuing from my prior post of the first paragraph here is a little more:
.
These two transformations were linked, and remain so today: Every scientific nation in the world at the close of the twentieth century was a liberal, or at least partly liberal, democracy (meaning a state that guarantees human rights to its citizens, who elect their leaders). But how are they linked?
.
The scenario most of us learned in school presents the transformation in three acts--the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment. In the Renaissance (meaning "rebirth," from around 1450 to 1600), classical Greek and Roman writings became available to Europeans through trade with the Arab world, producing an outpouring of humanistic art and thought along with a few green shoots of science--as when Copernicus in 1543 demonstrated that the motions of planets in the sky could as readily be explained by the earth orbiting the sun as by tghe old earth-centered cosmology. The resulting brew of humanistic and scientific thinking eventually produced the Enlightenment, which in turn sparked the democratic revolution: Hence the Enlightenment is often dated as beginning with the English Revolution of 1688 and ending with the French Revolution of 1789. Meanwhile there was for some reason a scientific revolution, and so the modern world emerged.
.
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The next six paragraphs detail the author's purposes.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

There's a correlation between the Western world and scientific achievement.

There's a correlation between the Western world and liberal democracy.

There's a correlation between the Western world and "The Enlightenment."

There's a correlation between the Western world and Aristotelianized Christianity.

There's a correlation between the Western world and wealth.

There's a correlation between the Western world and travel and familiarity with other cultures.

Basically, Ferris wants to credit all good things to the Enlightenment and no doubt "secularism" or liberalism" or whatever he fancies himself, and ignores or blames everything outside it as irrelevant or suppressive to scientific advance.

It's basically a variant of what Allen Guelzo calls the Harvard Narrative.

Isaac Newton was either an Enlightenment figure or not, depending on where you start the clock. But he did all his early work under a king, and built his work on Descartes, who also lived under a king.

Great scientific advance certainly owes a lot to geniuses, and the test is how a society develops that genius. But as we move into "Enlightenment" times, we see that the great universities of Europe that developed that genius were built by kings and churches.

All in all, it's a continuum in the West, and it's hard to credit any one element, especially the Enlightenment, because there were at least four, according to Himmelfarb.

How did Voltaire or the brilliant but undisciplined babblings of Rousseau get us to the moon? Lavoisier was executed by the "liberal democracy" of revolutionary France. For every "unitarian" Priestley there was an orthodox Boyle. How "liberal" could a 19th century German actually be? Why are Germans so overrepresented in science? Jews? Scotsmen?

Sure, once we drag in words like "totalitarian" or "authoritarian" it looks like we've proved something. But not very much---such suppression is a duh as a negative to any endeavor.

Correlation is not cause, and there was a constellation of factors that made the West the West, from the orderly thought of Aristotle to a religion whose God was reasonable and created a rational universe, to scores of great universities to material abundance unmatched in human history, and eventually to peace and prosperity, surely the two things necessary to any endeavor beyond mere subsistence.

Ferris will be accepted by people who are told what they want to hear, but in the "constellation" of factors that created the Western World, the "Enlightenment" is just a part, and it's no certainty we wouldn't have reached the moon without it. The Soviets eventually would have, and absent liberal democracy---they just gave up because the US got there first and it wasn't worth the expense.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Basically, Ferris wants to credit all good things to the Enlightenment and no doubt "secularism" or liberalism" or whatever he fancies himself, and ignores or blames everything outside it as irrelevant or suppressive to scientific advance."

There is a substantial difference between correlation and causation. I haven't read Ferris's work so I can't comment on whether or not he properly distinguishes between the two.

However, from what I do understand, it isn't fair to say Ferris blames everything outside of science as irrelevant or suppressive to scientific inquiry.

He appears to be focused on the social phenomena which have historically interfered with scientific inquiry ... i.e. the usual suspects. Among those it is abundantly obvious that authority has been its greatest inhibitor ... ironically, there are amble examples where authority played the role of its greatest allie.

I haven't read his work, so I'll leave it to Phil and/or JRB to correct my impression(s).

Tom/others, I think a more appropriate approach to critique would be from the moral side. Science studies natural phenomena, it is not a system of values (moral or otherwise).

There are potential advances in science that society finds objectionable (human cloning for one). There must be some authority involved. Its a matter of finding the correct balance.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom,
It is debateable in today's understanding whether "all" the "laws of nature" apply to human society, or social structures. Wouldn't Aristotle argue that the "unmoved Mover" is the first cause. This is an outdated view...and the earth is not the center of the universe, is it?

In the Enlightenment period, order was true as life was understood as an ordered and structured environment created by "nature's God". Because the "ordered system" of a Constitutional Republic has worked over the course of time, it is assumed that these laws apply universally to produce a more productive society. But, laws that protect liberty are different from prescribing liberty. One assumes individual autonomy, while the other assumes that society must "take care" of the issues of "morality". Where people put those lines in defending libertarianism, or Constitutionalism is again debatable in free societies...

I think you 'mix' scientific theories with technological advancement. Of course, scientific theories are to be "experimental", as this is what verification and application is about. But, to say that "order" is the only way that science explains "reality" is just not true, unless you are understanding a particular context in which the theory is being understood and applied.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

bpabbott,
Thanks for your concise comment, which is what I was also trying to say...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I went to see "Asher Lev" last night. Tradition does bring limitation to certain aspects of "being human"....

Pinky said...

.
Tom is doing more to discredit himself than he is launching successful attacks on Ferris.
.
His actions are not in keeping with the rules of this blog site as far as I can see.
.
I could be wrong.
.
It appears he wants to censor out any productive commentary regarding Ferris' ideas and the American Creation.
.
Why would an intelligent person do such a thing?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I've been begging you for actual facts and arguments, Pinky. Only JRB provided any, and I thanked him.

Censor? My God, man, just the opposite.

____________________

Among those it is abundantly obvious that authority has been its greatest inhibitor ... ironically, there are amble examples where authority played the role of its greatest ally.

Indeed, Ben. The same "system" that suppressed Galileo [and that's overblown] also created him. Irony, exactly.

_____________________


It is debatable in today's understanding whether "all" the "laws of nature" apply to human society, or social structures.


The "laws of nature" are Hobbesian: war is the state of nature, and life is nasty brutish and short.

"Natural law," by contrast, is the product of the discernments of "right reason": there are many natural impulses that we avoid in pursuit of the good.

Wouldn't Aristotle argue that the "unmoved Mover" is the first cause. This is an outdated view...and the earth is not the center of the universe, is it?

Until you read the links I've posted to Ed Feser's blog, we are not discussing what Aristotle actually said. "Outdated" is an judgment made by those who don't understand the subject.

I went to see "Asher Lev" last night. Tradition does bring limitation to certain aspects of "being human".

Since ritual and tradition are features of every human culture, one might also say that summarily discarding them isn't very human, either.

The internet tells me that Asher Lev will continue to be an observant Jew.

Pinky said...

.
Tom wrote, I've been begging you for actual facts and arguments, Pinky. Only JRB provided any, and I thanked him.

.
And, I've been begging for a dedicated thread; but, to no avail. I don't think it is wise to respond to attacks where you, Tom, control the direction--where you set the agenda. Looks more like you're setting up pins so you can knock them down. In other words, your motives appear to be untrustworthy. It's an old rule in communication that the one asking the questions is in control of the discussion.
.
And, he wrote, Censor? My God, man, just the opposite. As per my comment above, you appear to be wanting to control the thread so you can destroy it. That, would be a form of hard censorship in my mind. Remember? You started out defending authoritarianism as far as I could see.
.
Jimmy Ray Bob's post to the contrary.
.
I believe there is the possibility that we could hit some pay dirt on the forces leading up to the American Creation--Ferris is on to something more likely that the religious convictions of any of the Founding Fathers. And, it is too important an issue to be destroyed by the skepticism of one who hasn't even read his book. And, it seems, you have made light of Ferris and his work. I'd rather not have a discussion at all than to give in to o9utright attempts to turn the author into a straw man. It's not my idea of honesty.
.

Pinky said...

.
ERATA
.
This line,
.
Ferris is on to something more likely that the religious convictions of any of the Founding Fathers.
.
Should have read,
.
Ferris is on to something more likely than the religious convictions of any of the Founding Fathers.
,
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Maybe I am off-base and don't understand the discussion at all, but it seems that the authoritarian argument is about who and what is to rule...as to developing man's potentiality.

Do religious convictions inform the populace? Certainly.

But, should religious convictions rule the laws of our land? Our Founders didn't believe that religion per se was to be the formal cause of the Constitution, but only a "conditioning element".

Are humans created with an innatedness that is to be developed, or are humans born a "blank slate", or are humans in a "state of nature" and must be conformed by cultural conditioning, by social norms. How much of cultural conditioning internalized such that it becomes part of personal identification?

Are there categories of the mind universal and absolute, or are the categories universal but developed and understood differently? One holds to an innate difference in man, as a creation of god, while the other understands "man" as a developed animal.

If thes categories are understood differently, then are they "conditioned" or informed by personality, giftedness, as in individuality, or by cultural context, or both? Is asking which affects the other like asking the "chicken and egg" question?

Experience obviously impacts humans, but don't similar experiences create different responses in individuals? Why is that? Are some predisposed to believe and other, not? OR is it something else?

Pinky said...

.
So, Angie, what is it you think caused the Founding Fathers to talk about the "God of Nature"?
.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I think the Founders were steeped in Greek (and Roman) tradition that understood leaders (the Founders) as the "gods" of the real/political world.

God, as the religious ideal, was the "creator" of social norms. The Church had been the informer of society until the Enlightenment, where science became an equal informer.

The laws of cause and effect are what underwrite our understanding of "justice", in criminal law. The rights of individuals within our representative government was to be held in check by our laws. And law was what protected the balance of powers in our Constitution. The Founders were concerned about tyrannical rule of one segment.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I might add, that systems, that is, beauracracy...is NOT limited government and inevitably leads to "evil", because of the difficulty of "systems" to do justice to individuality.

Systems is what define "big, bad and ugly", in regards to human flourishing...the Founders would have been against systems, as they were about limiting government.

bpabbott said...

Re: "what is it you think caused the Founding Fathers to talk about the "God of Nature"?"

I've always thought it obvious that the founders where poking a sharp stick at the human religious authorities of Britain. Essentially saying that God does not serve a human authority.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

bpabbott,
I agree, because man as developed is "god-like", or autonomous...

To reformulate something that Jesus said about the Sabbath, "Man was not made for government, but government for man" :)....

Pinky said...

.
If you read Ferris, I think you'll find his posit on the subject is that many of the Founders were heavily influenced by the science of the day. They saw that nature had specific rules that were governed by an authority--the God of nature.
.
It came to some that humans were as much a part of nature as any other thing.
.
Were they coming to believe that man was as controlled by nature as were ther earth and all existence?
.
I do believe we have to open our minds to some possibilities even though they might be highly unpopular.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Mr. Ferris wisely counsels against mistaking the pursuit of knowledge for the pursuit of certitude, which he considers not only unscientific but hostile to science. As he suggests, dogmatism—in the name of science, democracy, or Rousseau's "general will"—leads to the guillotine, the gas chamber and the gulag.

One weakness of this thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining book is that Mr. Ferris might have offered a more satisfactory explanation of how, in the last years of the 18th century, the Enlightenment itself led to such different results in Paris and in Philadelphia, producing a Robespierre there and a Jefferson here. The answer might well lie in the fact that there were, arguably, two Enlightenments.

The French Enlightenment, rationalist and truly revolutionary, came to regard an abstraction called Reason chiefly as a source of power over others, which soon enough soaked the Place de la Revolution in blood. The Scottish Enlightenment, by contrast, constituted a "common sense" empiricism—the sort that reflects Mr. Ferris's own view of science—and led to no such fatal extremes of thought or action. Although its influence on America's revolutionary generation was probably more profound than that of the French philosophes, the Scottish Enlightenment is given relatively short shrift in "The Science of Liberty." This is surprising because its influence better explains the Founders' belief in limited government, which was rooted in a sense of how little people know, not how much, and how difficult it is to know anything with certainty."


Exactly, and pretty much this was at the core of my reservations, and I was proved right, that and starting only at the Renaissance takes for granted the foundations of Western thought, such as the belief in a rationally-constructed universe in the first place. The Scottish Enlightenment represents the American one, and it's Anglo-Americanism [including free markets] that is the ne plus ultra of "scientific" liberalism.

Although Obamaism is fixin' to destroy that "exceptionalism."

http://www.fireandreamitchell.com/2010/04/12/obama-science-czar-john-holdren-%E2%80%9Cwe-cant-expect-to-be-number-one-in-everything-indefinitely%E2%80%9D/

But soon we'll be as mediocre as Europe, God willing.

Pinky said...

.
So, now we've drawn you out, Tom.
.
It seems your agenda is anti-liberal.
.
I wonder, does that surprise anyone?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I found this chart VERY helpful about libertarianism. This is what our country should be about!

hat tip: http://www.surlycurmudgeon.com/blog/

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And this quote insightful...

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heinlein is mostly echoing Aristotle, that some men are "natural slaves," Angie. It's very classical philosophy. Plato also said that some men are made of gold, silver or bronze. This is Plato's "noble lie."


It seems your agenda is anti-liberal.



Phil, we "liberals," not to mention Christians, reject that account of man. But that liberalism has its roots in Christianity, medieval philosophy, and yes, Thomas Aquinas.

"By nature all men are equal in liberty, but not in other endowments."---Aquinas

All you ever had to do was say Ferris was defending "classical liberalism." Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Anglo-Americanism.

You have never heard a goddam thing I've ever said on this blog. At least Angie hears me once in awhile, and continues to ask the right questions. All you want to do is argue, and argue with me. Forget me. I'm not a topic here.

Read Ferris' or Shain's or somebody's book and say something that contributes to the discussion. Your anger is your main contribution.

We had a whole discussion of Ferris' thesis without you and around you and it was pretty good. You didn't even seem to notice. You got your "dedicated thread," over 100 comments now since you hijacked the original post at Comment #2. If you want to squander it, that's a shame. You were given your shot.

Aw, Phil, please get into the game. If you can't hear me, listen to somebody else. But hear them fully. Your last "favorite" historians were Guelzo and Shain, but it turns out they agree too much with me, so you've moved away from them. Now Ferris turns out to be not at loggerheads with my take on things. Where will your search for "anti-authoritarianism" end?

It's not that I "outargue" you, or cheat the arguments like you accuse me of. It's that the facts turn out not to be on your side. I'm clever enough, but nobody's clever enough to transform fiction into fact.

And frankly, when you accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, of "cheating," that's when I want to hunt you down and smack you upside the head. [Where do you live? Mebbe I could hire a smack-upside-the hitman.]

I chafe Ben and JRB bigtime, but we never sever the connection, our joint inquiry into the search for the truth.

And it's not that we'll ever totally agree---it's that we agree that there's a truth to be sought. And that's enough to keep the connection intact, that we share a pursuit of the truth, and need each other to pursue it.

Did you actually read Guelzo, that the pragmatists "shrank in horror from the carnage of the Civil War, convinced that the pursuit of truth was what turned men into absolutists and sent them into battle with each other."

They abandoned the search for "truth." Too bloody, too untidy. Better to be "nice."

Oh, I dunno why I even bother writing to you. All you do is spit on me back. Bless those who curse you, the man said. But jesus christ, it's hard.

Pinky said...

.
A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
.
I figured this site would welcome open and free inquiry regarding its stated intent.
.
Pretty much, it seems to uphold that expectation.
.
It seemed obvious to me that you, Tom, started out to prove that the Ferris work was unworthy of consideration. I've seen you operate before and, so, have a pretty good idea of your ways.
.
I think your approach, in this case, was unfair. It seems evident by your last post that you have decided to give Ferris the quietus at this blog site.
.
Too bad you had to have a fit.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Are you finished? You ruined your own discussion.

I think Newton even more than Copernicus stands as the biggest obstacle for Ferris, since he thrived under both monarchy and parliament.

Pinky said...

.
At a certain point in life, Tom, a person is able to separate their thinking from their adolescence and to move into a more matured outlook on reality.
.
This little episode is telling--not only about the individuals involved; but, also, to the larger picture.
.
Our purpose here can be seen as a wonderment about who is the most intelligent or it can be seen as a collegium of equals all seeking information regarding concerns about the history of our American society..
.
I don't think most of the people here give a tinker's dam about who is the most intelligent--it certainly isn't me. But, I do think everyone would like to be respected for their individual interests and YOU have by some way set yourself up as the single arbiter of what is and what is not acceptable.
.
I think you need ot back off--especially on the efforts you put out to qualify what is and what is not acceptable input. You do a lot of damage to efforts to enhance participation at what might otherwise be the most interesting site on American history on the 'Net.
.
In so far as who has put an end to this discussion is concerned, you have not read the book involved; but, you are the one that has been in control. Go figure. It doesn't take a rocket scientist.
.

Pinky said...

.
Three participants have invested at least $25.00 each acquiring the book based on its relevance to the interests of this site.
.
It could be an experiment in developing additional interest at this site if it were given respect by those persons who have the power to set up blogs.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom and Pinky,
The issue is NOT authority, per se, but what is authority's attitude about things "outside the box". This is where our liberal democracy, as Ferris calls it, allows diverse views (at least in principle or ideals).

Freedom of the Press is an attitude from the government (the people) about things that might differ from majority opinion. Free societie's are open to change and ideas are not threatening to authority in our governmment (unless it subverts the rule of law in maintaining order where others are concerned).

Pinky said...

.
I think you make a good point, Angie.
.
Something about this type communication in which participants are attempting to build a collegium for discussion on issues of importance to them that is similar to a legal contract. And this is, the definition of terms. That's an item that is taken out of the mix in post modernism, i.e., definitive terminology.
.
Simply put, we can't discuss "liberal" in a thread dedicated to Ferris' book without having a concise definition of what he means by the word.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

How does Ferris account for this/

http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/NaziMedEx.html

Pinky said...

.
You need to read the book as all you seem to want to do is to knock down whatever answers are given.
.
But, I think you can find a link to ask him personally at this site:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ferriss#Productivity_and_teachings

Tom Van Dyke said...

If you don't want to answer a direct question, fine. I'm used to it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jesus, Phil, that's not even the right Timothy Ferris.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ferris

I don't know where you got the idea that vague and angry generalizations should be given the same "respect" as specific fact and argument. It's completely unscientific, for one thing. The irony is so thick here you can skate on it.

Pinky said...

glad you noticed.
.
:<)

bpabbott said...

Re: "How does Ferris account for this?"

The question really should be directed to Ferris himself. Phil can only speculate.

But, I'm curious. How is the question relevant?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, the counterargument was that Hitler's insanity cut off the more correct ideas of "Jewish" science, plainly true. But we need to invoke such "totalitarianism" to give Ferris' argument wheels. However, his argument is "liberal democracy." he mentions, but skates past Copernicus; Newton's work under monarchy, building upon Descartes' work under monarchy, is often seen as the wellspring of modern science.

[Although it might be traced as far back as the monk Francis Bacon in the 1200s, the discipline of "scientific method." Indeed, some credit the (Aristotelian) Golden Age of Islam with both that and "peer review."]

If you read the link above, the godless and antihuman Nazi medical experiments produced a lot of good science [unfortunately]. It stands as counterargument to Ferris' thesis, as does Nazi rocket and jet technology, which cannot be waved away as mere engineering---there was plenty of theory involved.

There's no question that Ferris' thesis works on some level; however, "Westernization" is a much stronger correlate to good science than mere "liberal democracy," which is a feature of the modern West, but perhaps not as distinguishing a characteristic as say, Aristotleianism is to Westernism when taken as a whole.

Westernism seems to be the highest correlate to good science.

Am I not making myself clear? I really thought I laid out the shape of these demurrals already.

Ben, it's not as though I hadn't already spent some time previously musing on this science-and-culture equation. I thought I'd try it out. I'm not particularly interested in Ferris' thesis except as a counterargument to my own thesis, which I hoped to draw out [to little avail except from JRB] because I'm not going to invest time and money on a book that so far strikes me as rather shallow and not even worth writing in the first place.

Because I don't care if Ferris is a Pulitzer winner: we're strictly "anti-authoritarian" around here, eh? I'll put my thesis up against his anytime. And just did.

;-)

Pinky said...

.
"Anti-authoritarian around here", heh?
.
Bull Roar!!
.
Not only are you authoritarian; but, you give yourself the authority to control the site.
.
In so far as you have put your thesis up against Ferris', you don't even know what his thesis is and that is evident from your self aggrandizing post.
.
You spend too much time thinking about how smart you are compared to everyone else. And, that gets your ego caught in your zipper. Wake up!!
.

bpabbott said...

Re: "[Ferris] mentions, but skates past Copernicus; Newton's work under monarchy, building upon Descartes' work under monarchy, is often seen as the wellspring of modern science."

These individuals lived under an authority, but one which was largely benevolent with regards to how they carried out their work and to the results produced.

My take is that Ferris uses the term "authority" in a command and control sense. Meaning that the authority is active and is prejudiced by some particular ideology that interferes with, or hinders, following the data/evidence to where ever it may lead.

bpabbott said...

Re: " Not only [is Tom] authoritarian; but, [he grants himself] the authority to control the site."

I think we can all appreciate the symbolic irony in that.

And I'll repeat that this is a big reason why (1) many participate here (Tom elevates their passions), and (2) why the more radicalized do not.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you, bpabbott. You have good arguments...Christian theology is nothing BUT philosophy! That is my point...philosophy is man's attempt to understand and know about things in the world. God cannot be known because he is beyond the domain of scientific investigation.

Then, the question becomes does God exists or not...and is that really important..

After you dissolve the need to believe that God controls all thiings, then one is left with the natural world of disasters and disease, which does not "reveal" a benevolent God, as far as his Human, or higher creations...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I should have said that after one comes to the understanding that man is the culprit of what is in this world, then one is left with natural disasters, and disease...is God the culprit for that? then he isn't very benevolent...

bpabbott said...

Re: "I'll put my thesis up against his anytime. And just did."

I'll assume you're not implying that the example of Reductio ad Hitlerum is a thesis ... and that your thesis amounts to mincing or words.

i.e. if Ferris were to replace "liberal democracy" with "westernization" there'd be no argument?

I get the gist, but I don't think westernization is a proper term because it only works well in a modern context where all western nations are governed by liberal democracies ;-)

In any event, science progresses fastest when well supported by authority and when the practitioners enjoy the liberty to follow the data where it leads them (i.e. when human authority supports, and is not antagonistic, to natural law).

Pinky said...

.
These past few comments point up the importance of reading the book.
.
For example, the claim by TVD that he knows the exactamento of Ferris' thesis.
.
What Ferris is doing with his book overcomes the simplistic reductions made by the prevailing mythology about our society's Founding. And, it is never easy to overcome long standing mythology.
.
For those who have access to the book, I'm recommending a reread of pages 83 through page 95 where Ferris focuses in on Jefferson. It takes some doing to build a strong case. And, Ferris is well on the road to doing just that.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

For example, the claim by TVD that he knows the exactamento of Ferris' thesis.

I never claimed that, Pinky. You're really grabbing at straws now.


What I said was that Ferris thesis isn't necessarily wrong, but it seems banal. Aristotelianism is a cause of Western civilization, liberal democracy a correlation and a product of it.

Ben, it's I who am arguing against a reductio ad Hitlerum, since the Nazis still managed to do some damn good science.

As for the Nazi rejection of the "Jewish science," physics, it appears that didn't last very long, much like Lysenkoism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Physik

But such facts and arguments have no place in this "discussion," and I'm attacked for posting them. I'm not the Lysenkoist here.

Pinky said...

.
Here is the comment you made, Tom. If we break your statement down, it is obvious you are claiming you know Ferris' thesis exactly. How could you possibly claim to put yours up against his if you didn't know his exactly?

Because I don't care if Ferris is a Pulitzer winner: we're strictly "anti-authoritarian" around here, eh? I'll put my thesis up against his anytime. And just did.
.
You can get off the hook easily by just discontinuing your attacks and entering into a reasonable discussion with respect to those who are reading the book instead of forcing irrelevant rabbit runs.
.
I'm concerned you have discouraged worthwhile insight into Ferris' book and his additional work.
.
Does his work fly in the face of positive liberty? Is that the problem?
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
You are onto something...

Here is the difference between negative and positive liberty:
The concept of negative liberty refers to freedom from interference by other people. According to Thomas Hobbes, "a free man is he that in those things which by his strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do." (Leviathan, Ch. XXI, [2])

The distinction between negative and positive liberty was drawn by Isaiah Berlin in his lecture "Two Concepts of Liberty." According to Berlin, the distinction is deeply embedded in the political tradition. The notion of negative liberty is associated with British philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, and Adam Smith, and positive liberty with continental thinkers, such as Hegel, Rousseau, Herder, and Marx.

The distinction between positive and negative liberty is considered specious by socialist and Marxist political philosophers, who argue that positive and negative liberty are indistinguishable in practice, or that one cannot exist without the other.[

NOTICE THAT MARX DOES NOT THING THAT THERE IS A DISTINCTION BETWEEN POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE LIBERTY!!! WHAT, THEN, IS THE "CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED"? iS THE "CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED" THOSE THAT ARE MANIPULATED OR CONTROLLED BY THE INFORMATION, OR THE LACK OF INFORMATION GIVE TO THEM? THIS IS ALSO IN OPPOSITIION TO OUR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS.

Therefore, I think that co-ercive education in a certain direction is abuse of power...the Magna Carta, the Summa Theologica, Two Treaties of Govenment, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution ALL represent liberty in the face of tyranny, which "positive liberty" is....according to Wiki's definition!!! Brain-washing or indoctrination is NOT what I call a liberal democracy...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

correction, I meant to say, negative liberty..

Is the point being that those that adhere to the animal nature of men think that men have to be trained to act alturistic, or benevolant...while they hold to such thinking "above the frey of the common man"?

Such thinking is what the Roman Empire did to Christian communities. But, it is not what our Founders did to Christian communities. Our Founders wanted liberty, and protected liberty through our rights, while Rome wanted peace at all costs...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And peace was bought by those who did not adhere to Rome's power and authority...the Ceasar's were considered the "gods' and this is when Christians were viewed as atheists, because they would NOT worship Ceasar!

Pinky said...

.
I dont' know, Angie; but, it sure seems like there must something about Ferris and his book for it to have set off so much resistance.
.
I have a lot on my plate and like to stick to one thing at a time here.
.
You've got to hand it to TVD though. He certainly is good at discombobulating what he doesn't like.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Here he goes again. He's not listening to you either, Angie. It's just a pretense at discussion, not a real one. he doesn't hear a word you say.

Pinky, why your anger against me is more important to you than explaining Ferris' thesis or actually reading mine, that's for a professional to answer. I've never shown you anything but friendship, behind the scenes.

Pinky, Pinky, why do you persecute me? [Oh, we both know why...]

I don't have to read Ferris' thesis in toto because his original premise is flawed: he starts only at the Renaissance.

Too late to understand science and the West.

My thesis, which leaves you speechless, starts at the proper place---the whole of Western Civilization.


What I said was that Ferris thesis isn't necessarily wrong, but it seems banal. Aristotelianism is a cause of Western civilization, liberal democracy a correlation and a product of it.


Angry people can't hear logic, and so you have made yourself deaf. A commenter on a philosophy blog I participate on sent me a citation from the Roman Lucius today, and all I could do was think of you, Phil. Wise up, old man, before it's too late. Don't die angry. You don't even know who your friends are. I'm the only one around here who gives you the time of day. Because I love you man, despite your hate toward me. You don't have to love me back, but know who's who and what's what.

"And it's exactly the same with you people; you grant the premises of any
given doctrine and accept what follows from them, assuming that the consistency
of the argument proves its truth, when in fact it is a false consistency. And
some of you die in hope, before you see the light and condemn your deceivers;
some do realize that they've been duped, but too late--they're old men by that
time, and can't face recanting. They're ashamed to have to admit at their age
that they've merely been playing childish games and didn't realize it; so they
cling to their ways for very shame, vociferously accept their situation, and
proselytize busily, so as not to be the only ones deceived, but to have the
comfort of seeing many another in like case with themselves. They see too that
if they let the truth be known they will forfeit the respect and eminence and
honor they now enjoy. So they say nothing, if they can avoid it; they know how
far they have to fall to the level of everyone else. You won't come across very
many with the courage to face up to it, say that they've been deceived, and try
to turn away others who are on the same path. But if you do come upon such a
man, call him an honest man, a good and righteous man--a philosopher, if you
like, for he is the only man to whom I do not begrudge the name. The rest,
though, either have no knowledge of truth, though they think they have, or do
know the truth but conceal it in their cowardice and shame, in their desire for
men's good opinions."


I don't care what you think of my thesis. It is what it is, and you haven't said a damn word about it. I didn't even write it for you, because I knew you'd be deaf to it. And don't try to turn Lucius around against me either, Phil. I don't give a shit about your or anybody else's "good opinions" of me. Which I prove with every comment and post, eh, Ben?

You and Angie can have the rest of this thread, talking past each other, each for your own purposes, pretending to be having a discussion with each other.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Tom AND Pinky,
I am "double minded"...that means, I wanted to delete the last several of my entries and found I cannot!

You are right, Tom. I can't hear when I have not cleared my mind of past indoctrinations/experiences/etc. But, the process of getting rid of the old and transforming into the new is a process of reflection and study.

I appreciate of you guys and your input here on this blog.

Education, which liberal democracy demands, is the only way to remain free. And as I said before, the "ideals" of life liberty and pursuit of happiness are the ideals that must be defined by the individual person. No one should be defining those ideals for another. This is what negative liberty affirms, isn't it?

Our country's educational system is where positive liberty also is affirmed. And without understanding our liberties, Americans do disservice to furture liberty.

I am continuing in the book and appreciate the comments. Progress has been made by scientific discovery. Understanding history helps one to appreciate that.

Philosophy helps one to form that frame so that progress can be seen. But, at the same time, ethics demands a constancy with what traditional values of behavior. Otherwise, science becomes the usurper of the "human and their rights" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The culture wars seem to be over tradition's role, while the scientific realm is continuing its debate about where to draw its lines in maintaining civil society.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Pinky, Pinky, why do you persecute me? [Oh, we both know why...]"

Seriously?

Can't be. There must be rich sarcasm intended in that ;-)

Pinky said...

.
Ya think the guy's got a messianic complex?
.
But, I'm sorry that what he has to say isn't as interesting to me as it is to him. Like I say, I have a pretty full plate.
.
I would like to discuss the book; but, would want to do that according to the book as I'm reading it rather than according to some person's attacks about helter skelter subjects--ones that haven't come up yet in my reading even though I know they get covered. This isn't a community college 101 course is it?
.
With due respect to Thomas, he doesn't have a very good handle on Ferris from what I've read so far.
.
Hey, Angie, have your read those pages I referred to about Jefferson yet?
.
Could you comment on that. I'm sure sorry JRB has left the building. He seemed to have a good grasp on the book.
.

Pinky said...

.
By the way, human love is not such a simple thing as can be had by saying it is so.
.
Love is supportive of the other person's efforts at self discovery and as such, is at the root of liberty.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course I was having some fun, Ben. But Phil does persecute me, and finds that more worthy of his time even after he's hijacked the thread and has the floor. He's barely written anything about Ferris' book, except revealing its agenda from the preface.

Ferris is a smart guy, but he starts too late in human history. Modern science is possible without liberal democracy---as I proved---but it's fairly impossible without Western Civilization and specifically Aristotle.

Ferris is a science writer, so when all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Science. Liberty.

Balderdash. Liberty was in the works well before modern science. It's a correlation, not a cause. Aristotle is a cause.

And I write this to you Ben, as a manifestly sensible and unangry man. The rest of this is giving unpaid therapy.

______________



Angie, I know you got issues. I didn't grow up under these Calvinist-authoritarian lunkheads who thought they had to scare me into some love of God to save my soul. Well, actually, I did, growing up in 1960s Catholic grammar schools taught by nuns, but actually, they weren't as crazy as the stories make them out to be. As time went on, looking back, I came to see each one of them as human beings, too.

Even Gronk, Sister Miriam Paul, who had a face like the Wicked Witch of the West that could scare the bejesus out of any babe-in-arms just by smiling at them.

Y'know, Gronk was OK. In fact, she was damn nice. We got her in 8th grade, probably because she was the smartest one of any of 'em.

But, as you know, I'm still learning about this Protestant thing. As much as the Roman Church has disgraced itself [and God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, if any of 'em exist] with this molestation scandal, our local church [St. Mike's] was never under the dictatorial control of any one priest. What sermon you heard depended on whether you went to the 6:30, 8'o'clock, 10, 11, or 12:30 mass, because it all rotated.

Plus the sermon was only 5-10 minutes anyway. It was about the mass, not the sermon.

Every once in awhile, one of these dudes would say something wack. You'd kind of shake your head---Did he just say what I think he said?---but soon the sermon was over, and you'd forget it.

From what I read from you and Phil---and even from the Founding era---the Protestant churches tended to get personality-based. Not only did many Congregationalist congregations go unitarian, but there was one who followed the preacher into Episcopalianism.

That could never happen in Catholicism [although it's happened a few times in South America, where there was only one priest.]

[Oh, yeah, recently in Florida.]

But on the whole, not. No one preacher could tyrannize or seduce his congregation into his own wackness.

So I understand your anger, if I've read you right. Even if God exists, even if Christianity is true, there are human egos and narcissisms that are more interested in themselves than that truth.

That's human nature, and God gives full rein to human nature---free will, all that.

And that you rejected these wackos, well, that's part of your path as a living, breathing, thinking human being endowed by God with a brain and free will. If you didn't reject them, you'd be denying your very own God-given humanity. So you're doing just fine. Just don't substitute "humanism" or Ayn Rand for what you just turned your back on.

That would be making the same mistake twice, and worse, Angie, because now you know better.

______________

Tom Van Dyke said...

Which brings us to my brother, Phil.

Love is supportive of the other person's efforts at self discovery and as such, is at the root of liberty.

Oh, there's nothing in the Declaration or the Constitution or the Bible or Roman Law to support anyone's foolishness.

That's "positive" liberty, mate.

Allow it, sure. But if you actually read this blog, Phil, don't I protest when anyone does a "commercial" for their faith? Why would I be any different toward your secular if not anti-theistic foolishness?

Believe whatever you want, but if you want to pump Mormonism or Unitarian Universalism or Roman Catholicism or scientism or Ferrisism, be prepared to defend your ground.

You did put your Ferrisism out there, and I gave you a fuller thesis, and didn't charge you $25 either. You're a fucking ingrate.

;-)

Have I ever offered Thomas Aquinas' views on the Trinity? Heh, hell, no. You do not throw what is sacred to the dogs. Neither do our Mormons on this blog offer their beliefs to scorn.

But you put your and Ferris' beliefs out there and now you say that we're---I'm---supposed to have "love" for you, that


Love is supportive of the other person's efforts at self discovery and as such, is at the root of liberty.

It's not love to let you drown in your own bile. That would be downright unChristian, Phil.

And I'm a really shitty Christian, OK, Phil? No Christian is any better than any other, and no better than any man. That's a fundamental truth of Jesus' message.

And I'm trying to take to heart what you're saying, that I'm an arrogant prick who takes too much delight in his cleverness and God-given gifts. You're entirely right about that.

But I really try to play it straight on this blog---that there is a truth to be found, or at least sought after, and that's what it's all about. What I write here on this blog is my best attempt to be true, and apply all my God-given gifts, and not stilt anyone's search for truth one way or the other.

To fool anyone into "the truth" means nothing. Every time it looks like I'm "winning" an argument, I back off and introduce complications that trouble me. Read what I write sometimes with love instead of hostility. Each person must seek the truth for themselves. We teach each other, that's how God planned it. Of that one thing, I'm sure.

So thanks for alerting me that I'm an arrogant prick. On the other hand, I gave you a better thesis than Ferris did, and didn't charge you 25 bucks. And put up with you calling me an arrogant prick, plus I wrote back to thank you for calling me an arrogant prick. What else do you want from me, Phil, and what more could I possibly give back to you? You got a good deal here.

Pinky said...

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Tom Van Dyke writes:
You did put your Ferrisism out there, and I gave you a fuller thesis, and didn't charge you $25 either. You're a fucking ingrate.
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It's good to blow off steam, Tom.
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But, a "fucking ingrate" I am not.
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The reason I would not discuss Ferris is plain to see and I explained it. I wasn't interested in getting set up by you just to get knocked down by you. I'm not going to be your strawman.
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I asked several times for a thread on Ferris' book. But, couldn't get it. I suppose there are other places on the 'Net where some free and open discussions are being held. I can look for them if it's a big enough deal for me. Otherwise, I'll just ponder the ideas on my own.
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jimmiraybob said...

Modern science is possible without liberal democracy---as I proved--

You've proved adept at building and knocking down strawmen. As Ferris states, his thesis is that there is a symbiotic relationship between science and liberty and that they mutual flourish. As I said above, Ferris does not present a thesis that science has never been done or never will be done outside of a liberal democracy since that would be absurd.

However, given the political systems arising in the west from Medieval time, the trend toward liberal democracies has been most conducive to the rise of modern science.

I'd recommend that Tom read the book so that Ferris himself can present the case, but he's rejected that idea since he holds the superior thesis and has already proven Ferris, the science writer hack, wrong. There's really not much more to say.

Pinky said...

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Well, we could talk about the claim that Tom makes saying he is anti-authoritarian when, in fact, he claims to be the authority, who cannot be refuted.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

JRB. I explicitly said I didn't say he was wrong. Why should I spend time and money on his book to discuss it with people who won't even read what I say?

What I said was that his thesis "seems" to be banal, and not one of you has quoted a passage or idea that indicates otherwise.

Pinky said...

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Please answer this simple question for the readers, Tom.
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Was America founded with the thinking that it was to be a grand and noble experiment in self government?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

You do not use "experiment" in the scientific sense. You speak nonsense. Every new undertaking is an "experiment" of sorts. Even answering your continuing personal attacks and refusal to say anything of substance with sincere replies is an experiment of sorts.

But not in science. Philosophy.


And yes, Jefferson's interest in science isn't any more probative than his interest in religion, which he probably spent more time on. Of course, although he was a dilettante at both and his thoughts on religion are sophomoric, he does seem to have conceived of some sort of macaroni machine.

I let the charge pass that there's some difference between science and technology that I ignored, since there were so many much more idiotic charges to answer. However, it appears Jefferson was far more interested in technology than pure science. You could look it up for yourself.

What this "experiment" has proved is some folks would rather attack [me] than defend [Ferris]. This is pretty much the politics of our day, as well. But attacks bring us no closer to truth. At some point, one must defend their thesis, and I'm quite satisfied with my thesis on Aristotle since it also accounts for Islam's Golden Age, and medieval "Christian" science as well. [Note I really didn't credit Christianity for medieval science except for the belief that God is rational and created a rationally ordered universe. The credit goes to Aristotle.]

I wouldn't have gone on this long [170+ comments now, perhaps an AC record---you got your "dedicated" thread, Phil] just to fight with you. This has been an area of interest to me, and this has been a productive discussion at least for me, making me hit the books more deeply on the subject. The history of "Jewish science" and the Nazis in particular was fascinating.

And further, this: Einstein, in fighting against quantum theory, itself a product of "Jewish science" via Heisenberg [the "Uncertainty Principle" guy] and Niels Bohr, is famous for saying, "God doesn't play dice with the universe."

Bohr supposedly replied, "Einstein, don't tell God what to do!"

As we know from our studies of American mythology, that exchange probably never took place, certainly not in those words, and I certainly can't confirm it anywhere from any credible internet source.

But I like the story. A lot. The full tale with Bohr's response included is more informative about both religion AND science.

My "experiment" here was to try out my own ideas on science and mankind's history, to see if anyone could seriously challenge my take, especially in front of people who so desperately want to prove me wrong. The personal attacks were proof that they couldn't.

Thx to everybody for your time, passion, and hostility. The "experiment" so far is a success.

Pinky said...

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So, are the readers to take it that your answer to the question, "Was America founded with the thinking that it was to be a grand and noble experiment in self government?", is "No" or "yes"?
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Pinky said...

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In response to the opening comment for this thread (made by Angie), I responded with,
The myth of American exceptionalism has allowed people in positions of power to lead us about by our baser emotional noses.
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On the other hand, Timothy Ferris, builds a great case for the idea that America was Founded on the model that comes out of science.
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My recommendation is that as many as can, get a copy of his, The Science of Liberty, Democracy, Reason, and The Laws of Nature, which might blow away some of the more literal findings that are published here.

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It appears as though there was a distinct backlash to the idea that Ferris might blow away some of the more literal findings that are published here.
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It also suspiciously appears that there might be a distinct desire to keep the subject involved in Ferris' work off limits. And, so, the suspicion gives umph to our curiosity to learn more of what Ferris has to say.
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So, methinks, Tom, thou doest protest too much.
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jimmiraybob said...

JRB. I explicitly said I didn't say he was wrong.

Quite right. So I've issued a correction.

I'd recommend that Tom read the book so that Ferris himself can present the case, but he's rejected that idea since he holds the superior thesis and has already proven Ferris, the science writer hack, banal. There's really not much more to say.

Pinky said...

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Hey, R.H.I.P..
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Pinky said...

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For what it's worth on Timothy Ferris' book:
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I've been reading the book for over a month. I read books that promise to give me some insight this way. Carefully and slowly, often reading and rereading some sections over and over several times. This book is one like that.

So, what am I getting out of it?
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It looks to me that Ferris has gone back far enough in history to trace a particular line regarding the development of the ideas that led Western Civilization to think about self government. He starts talking about the Italian peninsula being a focus of expanding worldly influence as a result of its access to the sea and trade with so many ports. He dips back far deeper into history; but, his real focus begins with the Italian experience.
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He moves on to ideas that developed in the minds of people as a consequentiality of free speech as well as how ideas have been squelched.

He touches on the lives of many historical celebrities and he shows how that line (I mentioned above) developed to feed the minds of America's Founding Fathers. And, he brings in actions that unfolded in other parts of Western Civilization around the time of the American Revolution and Founding.
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He is building a fairly strong case about how free speech fueled ideas that led to the major changes in world politics during the late eighteenth century. And, he talks about what took place in France around those same few decades. He gives some thumbnails on Rousseau and Robespierre that are quite different than what I had learned before.
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So far, that is as far as I've read in the book. I like to reflect on what I read when it is so interesting.
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The reader has to keep in his or her mind that Ferris is a science writer. He has done a great deal of study regarding the history of science.
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Pinky said...

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Self Government!
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Imagine that in the late eighteenth century!!
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