Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Comments on another "Proof" that Obama is a Muslim

Owing to my extreme lack of free time, I am posting an email to my "not really right-wing Mom", essentially unedited. The email that she found alarming follows my comments

It's hard to deal with on a point by point basis. To find any stats on how often wives accompany husband heads of state on state visits is difficult. I suspect they frequently don't. It's not clear what she'd do there -- probably be kept out of public sight as are all women in Saudi Arabia.

There are a lot of dubious "facts" that I find very difficult to check on, but why is it believable that Obama is a Muslim? If he was, there would be much more solid
evidence than this coming out. Why does a Muslim attend a Christian church for a decade or 2? Are there scads of stories of his refusing pork on campaign stops? No, and there are stories of him sampling exotic ham in a New York food shop. It seems to me you have to believe Obama was invented just to become the U.S. president and do all the terrible things some people imagine he will do. That sort of thing just doesn't work except in thriller novels and movies He's been in the U.S. since he was a young boy, but they can't find a couple of dozen credible people to say they saw him perform this or that Muslim activity? The very fact that they have to resort to such convoluted logic to "prove" he's a Muslim is practically a proof that he's not.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Overview of "Right Wing Forwards"

Am I nuts to see these right-wing anonymous emails as a major source of the insanity that permeates our politics today -- the labeling of anybody who'd consider a return to 40% tax brackets for multimillionaires as Marxists or at the least "dangerous ideologues" never mind the 90% rates still current in Eisenhower's day?

In the 1st Spring and Summer of the Obama administration, I started getting these things forwarded from my parents, who were always Republican, but never inclined to this sort of extremism, and my mother, at least seemed totally taken in by them, and this was exactly when "tea partiers" started going to congressman's "Town Hall" meetings to discuss the issues of health care, and drowning out any voice but their own.

My strong impression is that there is quite a consistency to a large number of these messages that indicates someone is churning them out regularly -- someone who absolutely knows he or they are spreading lies, and I am trying to come up with tactics for exposing it en masse, but nothing will happen unless first my intuition can be confirmed that this having a tremendous impact, and may well be a sine qua non of the Tea Party movement.

I think this tool is being wielded like one of those utterly brilliant on-the-cheap tactics, that when nobody suspects their existence can turn the world upside down -- like, say, getting suicidally inclined fanatics to learn how to pilot an airliner, taking over planes with a handful of men with boxknives -- too little metal to trip the old metal detectors, and you know the rest.

Yes, it's an extreme comparison, but frankly if Americans lose all ability to think clearly and govern this country sanely, the results can be (or have they already been?) far greater than the damage done by all the terrorists in the world.

I have a notion of how to test the hypothesis fairly cheaply (beyond my means, but cheap as polling studies go), which I've tried to share with various parties.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Epistemology of Consensus"

This is from very early in my blogging

This is still very sketchy and evolving, but I'm putting it out just in case someone stumbles upon it and has a reaction.

I wanted to explore the phrase "Epistemology of Consensus". Has it inspired any serious philosophical current?
At the time I posted this, I found just seven google hits for the phrase.

Here is some exploration of the idea which may seem like wild ravings, but I post it in case someone stumbles across it who sees some kind of sense in it, especially if they will send me their thoughts.

I think as a practical matter, the way we decide what we think we know in our everyday lives is very much a matter of epistemology of consensus.
Also, another posting http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheism-agnosticism-and-lock-in-clause.html
suggests that in early stages of human development we relied on quite a PURE epistemology of consensus.

The Enlightenment helped spawn a "meme" (not, I think, a gratuitous use of that overused word) that is quite the opposite of Epistemology of Consensus. Now Enlightenment philosophers had good reason for attaching the consensus of their time, but this has become a sort of cliche, and frequently in my opinion, applied inappropriately -- the idea of the lonely genius who alone understands how it works -- surrounded by nattering idiots. This is often how the Glenn Becks of the world seem to see themselves (They think they're Galileos!!).

Daniel J. Boorstin however gave an accessible alternative view of the Enlightenment in The Discoverers, when he gave institutions, like first scientific journal, the Journal of the Royal Society, the salon movement, and other institutional constructs a central role.

Summary of the Seven Google Hits I Found (on 8/9/2010):
+ http://www.jstor.org/pss/2706493 (Human Nature and Truth as World Order Issues by Miriam Steiner).
+ ASTRO.TEMPLE.EDU/~msolomon/cv.doc (Miriam Solomon CV):
+ www.springerlink.com/index/p445753171j4g376.pdf (Article or chapter:
"From New Technological Infrastructures to Curricular Activity ...
Contained in book Designs for Learning Environments of the Future
2010, 233-262, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-88279-6_9 (Springer-Verlag).
+ http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&docId=26348438
(Excerpt from _Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays_,
Russell Hittinger 1992
If there exists a law of nature, it presumably exists
independent of our theories about it. But our theories about it
have so drastically restricted the meaning of 'nature' in human
actions to a political epistemology of consensus about basic good
or needs, that discourse about the role of the virtues, as comple-
tions rather than mere recognitions of needs, will have to find a
language other than that of modern natural law theory.

+ http://hidinginyourcupboard.blogspot.com/2008/03/dont-believe-everything-you-read-about.html
+ existenceisidentity.blogs.ie/category/philosophy/
(Uses "Epistemology of Consensus" as an epithet directed at Paul Krugman).

MY THOUGHTS: The hits probably represent several different people's independent coining of the phrase. Not surprisingly, it occurs as a term of abuse in
HTTP://existenceisidentity.blogs.ie/category/philosophy/ written by a Von Mises-ian pseudo-skeptic who is "skeptical" about the consensus of the scientific community, but swallows the "Oregon Petition" whole.
NOTE: I've been toying with this phrase pseudo-skeptic, as it seems so many people from the Glenn Beckians to new-Agers (and there are indeed New Age - Glenn Beckian - NRA members -- like some friends of ours who edit a "Metaphysical newsletter", where by metaphysics I think they mean what I would call "Weird shit").
Anyway, the pseudoskeptic, as I look at him, tends to be skeptical about "mainstream" sources of news, theories, or wisdom, while latching onto some collection of arbitrary sources with far less claim to rigor than the sources they are so skeptical about. (Not to say the mainstream is beyond criticism)