Paul's Here

Willful Blindness

117 posts in this topic

Seems like the issue of Christian theocracy is alive and well, and apparently more imminent than last year, election results notwithstanding.

Diana Comments

Oh, and in answer to Steve: Yes, some Objectivists dismiss the threat of religious fundamentalism entirely. Betsy Speicher is the most prominent advocate of that view. I have no truck with the people still honestly struggling over this issue, still invetigating it. It's the willfully blind that I condemn.

I must go get my glasses. Apparently the Lasik surgery didn't take.

See also Theocracy in America

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And I have no truck with Ms. Hsieh's methods, manners, pontifications or bandwagon.

Mike Mazza, whom Diana quotes in that blog post, makes an inapt comparison to prove his point.

He states, paraphrasing, that if there were 150 Objectivists in the administration, Objectivists would be delighted, believing that victory was at hand.

The comparison is flawed in several ways.

1. Christianity is over 2000 years old and has been influencing governments for over 1600 of that. It would be statistically shocking if there weren't 150 Christians in government. Objectivism is a relatively new, and still not widely adopted philosophy. That there has been a few, including most prominently the Chairman of the Fed, in several administrations, should be given corresponding and offsetting statistical weight. Yet, no balance is evident in Mike's blog post, nor Diana's.

Mike's point is strengthened by the fact that those 150 are allegedly graduates of Pat Robertson's college, but the comparison is still weak for the reason given and for another. People in government (like many in business) hire those they know. If Pat Robertson is an advisor to Bush, which wouldn't be surprising, it's not surprising they should enjoy preferential hiring. It doesn't follow that they have any more influence than others, especially since we don't know whether they are minor functionaries or major advisors.

2. We are provided only these two facts, their number and college, from which we are expected to conclude that Evangelicals have a frightening amount of influence in the Bush administration. Yet, is 150 a lot or a little? With the many thousands who work in the executive branch it sounds like a small number to me. Further, and more importantly, is that number less or more than in decades past, and by how much? I don't have any studies, but I'd venture to guess that it is not considerably more or less than in, say, the Carter administration or even Clinton's. In other words, what is the trend? Up, down, non-existent? From the facts of the number quoted and the source of their college degrees, we can't say.

3. Perhaps most importantly of all, what are we likely to observe in two years, when Bush leaves office? Whether Guiliani or Clinton are elected, which are the two most likely at this point, most of those 150 are likely to lose their jobs, if they are doing anything important. They are likely to be replaced with persons with rather different backgrounds and philosophies. If so, the 'trend' will be halted in its tracks, even if we assume the Evangelicals have strong influence now. An early preview of this has already been seen since the mid-term elections.

Mike/Diana's point in this case is far from well-founded.

The 'enemy' remains any individual, group, or philosophy opposed to reason, individualism, and individual rights. Those are found among all types of political aspirant or government employee, in large part because they are found in such large and/or influential numbers among the electorate.

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Recently, I've begun wondering how much one's view on this issue has to do with the area one lives in. I do not see a strong religious influence at all. Granted, I tend to be pretty oblivious to "the world beyond my doorstep," so to speak, but over the past five years, I can count the number of Christians I've met on one hand. Here, I mean real Christians, that do more than give lip service to their religion, wearing it like an out-of-style accessory, and then act--in every area that counts--exactly as they would if they were atheists.

But, I've lived in urban areas during that time, and that definitely makes a huge difference what kind of people I come into contact with. If I'd lived in Colorado where Diana Hsieh lives, I probably would have had a drastically different experience. (According to the movie Jesus Camp, Colorado Springs has the highest concentration of evangelical organizations in the country; I'd imagine the number and influence of evangelicals is pretty large throughout the state.)

I wonder: if people who live in areas like that came to San Francisco for a year, would their view change at all? My own experience here has made me aware of environmentalism in a way that's left me feeling truly helpless for the first time in probably twenty years.

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Recently, I've begun wondering how much one's view on this issue has to do with the area one lives in.

It could for some people; that sort of potential personal bias in science is a known issue. But I think people like Diana, Mike, and others who agree on the issue are much smarter and more broad-focused than that. They have done considerable research on the issue and have looked at both philosophical and concrete sources.

In any case, Diana lives near Boulder/Denver, which is quite far from Colorado Springs. So far as I know, the Evangelical influence in that area is no more, nor less, than in many other urban areas. The South remains the strongest area, to the best of my knowledge. I don't know where Mike lives (back East somewhere, I think), but as a student in college he's much more likely to be exposed more to other philosophical, cultural influences.

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I don't know where Mike lives (back East somewhere, I think), but as a student in college he's much more likely to be exposed more to other philosophical, cultural influences.

New Jersey, which as far as I know doesn't have a huge concentration of evangelicals. He goes to Rutger's.

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In any case, Diana lives near Boulder/Denver, which is quite far from Colorado Springs. So far as I know, the Evangelical influence in that area is no more, nor less, than in many other urban areas.

My understanding is that evangelism is highly concentrated throughout the entire region including Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas. I really just mentioned Colorado Springs specifically because of the interesting trivium.

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Addendum:

One thing is certain: San Francisco is not representative of the rest of the country, even focusing mostly on urban areas. (Thanks god!!) SF is the most far left -- and looney, in general -- major city in the U.S., including New York, Boston, and L.A. so one would expect quite a difference there.

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Recently, I've begun wondering how much one's view on this issue has to do with the area one lives in. I do not see a strong religious influence at all. Granted, I tend to be pretty oblivious to "the world beyond my doorstep," so to speak, but over the past five years, I can count the number of Christians I've met on one hand. Here, I mean real Christians, that do more than give lip service to their religion, wearing it like an out-of-style accessory, and then act--in every area that counts--exactly as they would if they were atheists.

But, I've lived in urban areas during that time, and that definitely makes a huge difference what kind of people I come into contact with. If I'd lived in Colorado where Diana Hsieh lives, I probably would have had a drastically different experience. (According to the movie Jesus Camp, Colorado Springs has the highest concentration of evangelical organizations in the country; I'd imagine the number and influence of evangelicals is pretty large throughout the state.)

I wonder: if people who live in areas like that came to San Francisco for a year, would their view change at all? My own experience here has made me aware of environmentalism in a way that's left me feeling truly helpless for the first time in probably twenty years.

Like jdperren, I also don't believe that that is the reason Diana says what she does. She explicitly says her interpretation is based upon her understanding of Dr. Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis. The problem is, I never see any detailed analysis of what DIM is or of the Christian "theocracy" using the principles of DIM. At best, I see assertions about Dx and Mx, who is in which category, what those categories are, a theocracy is imminent, etc. But I see no connection to Objectivist epistemology or political theory. And my criticism pertains specifically to "theocracy" and those who assert it is imminent. In the months of debates about this issue, (which I'm not going to rehash here) I don't recall anyone saying that religious fundamentalism is not a threat. Yet this issue is still very much alive for various bloggers and commentators who continue to misrepresent their opponents' statements.

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My understanding is that evangelism is highly concentrated throughout the entire region including Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas. I really just mentioned Colorado Springs specifically because of the interesting trivium.

Here's one source that looks reasonably complete and reliable, though figures do vary among studies.

Affiliation by State

Jeff

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Addendum:

One thing is certain: San Francisco is not representative of the rest of the country, even focusing mostly on urban areas. (Thanks god!!) SF is the most far left -- and looney, in general -- major city in the U.S., including New York, Boston, and L.A. so one would expect quite a difference there.

That depends on what you're taking it to be representative of. As far as religion is concerned, it's pretty typical to what I've seen in the other large cities I've spent a lot of time in--there just isn't much of it around. But for some other things... yeah, SF is about as abnormal as it gets. All large cities have their own unique characteristics/culture that make them highly atypical in certain contexts. That's one of the things that makes them more interesting than the suburbs!

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She explicitly says her interpretation is based upon her understanding of Dr. Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis. The problem is, I never see any detailed analysis of what DIM is or of the Christian "theocracy" using the principles of DIM.

I have only the vaguest knowledge of DIM (I haven't listened to the lectures, and probably won't know anything about it until OCON), but I have an extremely hard time convincing myself that any abstract theory can tell you which groups are influential in a given culture at a given time. This skepticism holds especially true when the choice is between two groups which, in their essential approach, are identical (the two groups I'm talking about are religious fundamentalists and environmentalists--I agree that the old-school Marxist/FDR variety leftists are yesterdays news).

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And I have no truck with Ms. Hsieh's methods, manners, pontifications or bandwagon.

I'm afraid I must agree. It's unfortunate.

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Mike/Diana's point in this case is far from well-founded.

And it wasn't advanced by Mike's assertion (admission?) that [paraphrasing] if another poster, who rejected his conclusions, didn't agree with him, he didn't know anything about the nature of the religious right. What's up with that? Although the other poster "let Mike have it", I find it hard to believe that a statement like Mike's was allowed to stand on an Objectivist site.

The 'enemy' remains any individual, group, or philosophy opposed to reason, individualism, and individual rights. Those are found among all types of political aspirant or government employee, in large part because they are found in such large and/or influential numbers among the electorate.

Indeed. I did notice that more people appear to be making this argument (or one approaching or very close to it) in this latest Imminent Theocracy retread at Noodlefood.

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Correction -- Mike's assertion was actually worse than my original paraphrased rendering: he actually wrote that if the other poster didn't believe him, he didn't know anything about the nature of the religious right.

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Correction -- Mike's assertion was actually worse than my original paraphrased rendering: he actually wrote that if the other poster didn't believe him, he didn't know anything about the nature of the religious right.

You don't say to which site you're referring, Noodlefood or Primacy of Awesome (the original source of Mike's comments). The latter is Mike's blog and therefore he gets to say which comments 'stand' and which don't.

In any case, I'm not interested in any sort of personal criticism of Mike. I know him only slightly, but I've read enough of his comments over the past year to believe he has a good mind, is honest, and is still sorting things out. Whether he is being unduly influenced by others, whether Dr. Peikoff or anyone else, I leave to his conscience to decide.

Jeff

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And I have no truck with Ms. Hsieh's methods, manners, pontifications or bandwagon.

Ditto.

If you read the exerpt that Paul's Here quoted in its original context, there's no reason for her to bring up Betsy's name, other than to take a mean and gratuitous swipe. If that's what she wants on her site, that's fine; that's the level of content I've come to expect from her. But is there a good reason to repeat it here on the forum? Speaking for myself, I'd prefer to leave that other site be.

As to the issue of the extent of the threat posed by Christianity, that's been discussed in other threads on the site. Is there something new to add to that? If this thread is just a response to the comments on NoodleFood, isn't that the better place for it?

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The problem is, I never see any detailed analysis of what DIM is or of the Christian "theocracy" using the principles of DIM. At best, I see assertions about Dx and Mx, who is in which category, what those categories are, a theocracy is imminent, etc. But I see no connection to Objectivist epistemology or political theory...

-- let alone any real knowledge of what the actual means and mechanism are for gaining power and taking over the Federal government, the resources and political sophistication that gaining political power takes, how that is actually being done by different groups, including especially viros, and who is actually doing what within government agencies operating under what laws giving them the power to do it. The discussion on that forum shows no knowledge of or concern for such mundane matters of fact and means to an end at all. The entire discussion, with rare execeptions that don't belong there, resembles a laughable immitation of a college dorm bull session based on ignorant speculation and rationalism from slogans, factoids and anecdotes promoted with wide-eyed credulity, in the name of "philosophy". (One of the all time classics there is "Islam and Environmentalism are not a threat because these two ideologies don't have much root in America", which does not appear to have been said in satire.)

I have an extremely hard time convincing myself that any abstract theory can tell you which groups are influential in a given culture at a given time.

Yes, you have to actually know something about what is going on with government and who is doing it how. The notion that anyone can rationalize in a vacuum the actual course of who is about to impose what kind of political power, let alone an "imminent theocracy", from a reduction to appeals to the likes of "they're D1 and they're D2", etc. is preposterous and embarrassing. But we are supposed to believe that someone who hamstrings his own thinking through belief in the supernatural threatens an inevitable "imminent theocracy", winning over more sophisticated and resourceful equally evil opponents aleady in power and growing. The interesting insights from Leonard Peikoff's lectures are being buried in an embarrassment. Those who want to actively do something to "buy time" in politics should learn something about the subjects of what has to be stopped and how to do that.

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--------

As to the issue of the extent of the threat posed by Christianity, that's been discussed in other threads on the site. Is there something new to add to that? If this thread is just a response to the comments on NoodleFood, isn't that the better place for it?

Several of us have been banned from posting there.

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Ditto.

If you read the exerpt that Paul's Here quoted in its original context, there's no reason for her to bring up Betsy's name, other than to take a mean and gratuitous swipe. If that's what she wants on her site, that's fine; that's the level of content I've come to expect from her. But is there a good reason to repeat it here on the forum? Speaking for myself, I'd prefer to leave that other site be.

-----------

I usually do let it be. But when specific names are mentioned and positions are misrepresented with no recourse to rebut those comments, I think mentioning them here is entirely appropriate.

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Several of us have been banned from posting there [On NoodleFood].

Including Paul and me.

Also Diana and Mike resigned from THE FORUM.

As I often say, "You get the kind of friends -- and the kind of enemies -- you deserve."

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I usually do let it be. But when specific names are mentioned and positions are misrepresented with no recourse to rebut those comments, I think mentioning them here is entirely appropriate.

I agree. Some people seem to have a need to make things a personal matter like a substitute for concretization or something.

The blog that started the most recent mudslinging is a complete straw man anyway. Who are these theocracy deniers? Imminent theocracy deniers, sure. But disagreeing with an unsupported timetable is tantamont to evasion? Please.

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I agree. Some people seem to have a need to make things a personal matter like a substitute for concretization or something.

The blog that started the most recent mudslinging is a complete straw man anyway. Who are these theocracy deniers? Imminent theocracy deniers, sure. But disagreeing with an unsupported timetable is tantamont to evasion? Please.

And that just about says it all. It is this assertion that is at the base of her rant against those who disagree--that they deny the dangers involved in religion. Pfft! I've been doing battle with Christians since before she was born. I don't need a table of statistics to tell me about the danger of fundamentalists. It isn't an abstraction to me, it is my own family--bible thumping fundies all. I know from my own experience exactly what the nature of the breed is because I grew up among them and learned it at my daddy's knee. I still deal with them all the time. (They do have the honesty to no longer claim that I can have no morals because I'm an atheist. They've learned differently.) I'll say this for them, though: not one of them indulges in the kind of viciousness that that swipe exhibits--vicious because it was entirely gratuitous, with no other purpose but to attack and hurt.

If she and the others have an argument to make, let them make it. I consider "Either you get it or you're an evil evader who has no right to call yourself an Objectivist" the antithesis of argument. It is the very method of the mystics of whom they are so fearful.

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It is the very method of the mystics of whom they are so fearful.

Yes, exactly. Whether it's one sub-cult, or another, calling it a rose won't change the nature of what some people *actually* practice.

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Mike Mazza, whom Diana quotes in that blog post, makes an inapt comparison to prove his point.

He states, paraphrasing, that if there were 150 Objectivists in the administration, Objectivists would be delighted, believing that victory was at hand.

The comparison is flawed in several ways.

I thought of another flaw when I read the above. Didn't Dr. Peikoff null and void Alan Greenspan by stating "An Objectivist would never work for the government."

Personally, if I learned that there 150 *working in* the Administration, I would definitely question their sanity. :)

Lady Brin

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