Darwin, religion and politics

Interesting article in Sunday’s New York Times pointing out that despite some political victories, “intelligent design” has made few if any scientific inroads — even at religious colleges.

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

“From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.

While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.

“It can function as one of those ambiguous signs in the world that point to an intelligent creator and help support the faith of the faithful, but it just doesn’t have the compelling or explanatory power to have much of an impact on the academy,” said Frank D. Macchia, a professor of Christian theology at Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the nation’s largest Pentecostal denomination.

At Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical university in Illinois, intelligent design surfaces in the curriculum only as part of an interdisciplinary elective on the origins of life, in which students study evolution and competing theories from theological, scientific and historical perspectives, according to a college spokesperson.

The only university where intelligent design has gained a major institutional foothold is a seminary. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., created a Center for Science and Theology for William A. Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, after he left Baylor, a Baptist university in Texas, amid protests by faculty members opposed to teaching it.

Intelligent design and Mr. Dembski, a philosopher and mathematician, should have been a good fit for Baylor, which says its mission is “advancing the frontiers of knowledge while cultivating a Christian world view.” But Baylor, like many evangelical universities, has many scholars who see no contradiction in believing in God and evolution.

Now can we finally dispose of silly arguments that people who oppose the teaching of ID in science classrooms are simply driven by anti-God prejudice, or that “Darwinism” is the fundamentalist religion of the secular left? Alas, I doubt it.

Unfortunately, the pro-ID side is not the only one to play politics with science. Last week’s New York magazine has a generally interesting item about the new Darwin exhibition at the New York Museum of Natural History, done in Q & A form, which ends with this quip:

You think this’ll change anybody’s mind?

Not anybody who really likes Samuel Alito. But, hell, it can’t hurt to try.

So, political conservatives are knuckle-dragging, ignorant anti-Darwin obscurantists. Never mind that some of the most scathing assaults on the “intelligent design” movement have come from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, George Will and John Derbyshire.

I know it’s supposed to be a joke, but this kind of humor is all too indicative of a certain type of “liberal” mindset which assumes that no educated, intellectually sophisticated person can be right of center politically. It’s smug. It’s obnoxious. It’s wrong. And I’ve run into it a lot.

28 Comments

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28 responses to “Darwin, religion and politics

  1. Rainsborough

    Which is larger? The proportion of people on the left who believe that “even if you have concluded your comment was in no way racist, you would still do well to apologize for creating the perception of racism? Or the proportion on the right who believe that it’s better to teach Moses than Darwin in the biology classroom?

  2. Revenant

    rainsborough,

    The former. In fact, the former attitude is pretty much the official policy of many major universities, including the University of California at San Diego (my alma mater).

  3. John Howard

    So who are the ID proponents? Besides the Dembski guy who was let go from a Baptist university for teaching ID? Is ID really supported by anyone else?

  4. Brad

    I’m going to start this comment by saying that I really enjoy your writing, and find your views illuminating. I’m a fan.

    Now, the rub.

    I’m hoping you can see the inherent contradiction in this:

    “So, political conservatives are knuckle-dragging, ignorant anti-Darwin obscurantists. … I know it’s supposed to be a joke, but this kind of humor is all too indicative of a certain type of “liberal” mindset which assumes that no educated, intellectually sophisticated person can be right of center politically. It’s smug. It’s obnoxious. It’s wrong. And I’ve run into it a lot.”

    And this:

    “This is one of those moments of truth that make me realize that no matter how much I may dislike today’s right, nothing could induce me to go over to the left.”

    You are committing the exact same sin here, casting a fairly narrow definition upon a wide group of people. I’d even say this could read as “smug.”

    Not everyone on the right (for which “likes Alito” is code here) wants ID in their science curriculum.

    Not everyone on the left thinks that you should be sanguine about being accused of racism.

    I’d venture that it is equally true that there is “a certain type of conservative mindset which assumes that no sophisticated person can be left of center politically.” Read a few right-leaner blogs, and the word moonbat just keeps coming up.

    And when you tar, say, the left half of the board with the ideas of one or another person, you’re dismissing a very large group of people who likely would have thoughts of their own.

  5. Rottin' in Denmark

    I agree that much of the left is exceedingly smug about things they don’t agree with (I’m from Seattle, which as far as I’m concerned invented this obnoxious attitude). But for this issue, can’t we call a spade a spade?

    It IS fundamentally close-minded and silly to support this ID claptrap as a legitimate alternative to evolution. The fact is that there’s no science to it, as this article (and every academic inquiry into it) confirms.

    I think the problem with this issue, and US political discourse as a whole, is that you can never express an opinion without being discredited as either ‘left’ or ‘right.’ With arguments about ambiguous or unempirical issues (iraq war, gay rights, etc) I can see how both sides could make legitimate points, but things with a scientific bent (global warming, ID), disagreement with the verifiable facts is just stupid.

  6. Rottin' in Denmark

    I agree that much of the left is exceedingly smug about things they don’t agree with (I’m from Seattle, which as far as I’m concerned invented this obnoxious attitude). But for this issue, can’t we call a spade a spade?

    It IS fundamentally close-minded and silly to support this ID claptrap as a legitimate alternative to evolution. The fact is that there’s no science to it, as this article (and every academic inquiry into it) confirms.

    I think the problem with this issue, and US political discourse as a whole, is that you can never express an opinion without being discredited as either ‘left’ or ‘right.’ With arguments about ambiguous or unempirical issues (iraq war, gay rights, etc) I can see how both sides could make legitimate points, but things with a scientific bent (global warming, ID), disagreement with the verifiable facts is just stupid.

  7. Rottin' in Denmark

    I agree that much of the left is exceedingly smug about things they don’t agree with (I’m from Seattle, which as far as I’m concerned invented this obnoxious attitude). But for this issue, can’t we call a spade a spade?

    It IS fundamentally close-minded and silly to support this ID claptrap as a legitimate alternative to evolution. The fact is that there’s no science to it, as this article (and every academic inquiry into it) confirms.

    I think the problem with this issue, and US political discourse as a whole, is that you can never express an opinion without being discredited as either ‘left’ or ‘right.’ With arguments about ambiguous or unempirical issues (iraq war, gay rights, etc) I can see how both sides could make legitimate points, but things with a scientific bent (global warming, ID), disagreement with the verifiable facts is just stupid.

  8. Rottin' in Denmark

    I agree that much of the left is exceedingly smug about things they don’t agree with (I’m from Seattle, which as far as I’m concerned invented this obnoxious attitude). But for this issue, can’t we call a spade a spade?

    It IS fundamentally close-minded and silly to support this ID claptrap as a legitimate alternative to evolution. The fact is that there’s no science to it, as this article (and every academic inquiry into it) confirms.

    I think the problem with this issue, and US political discourse as a whole, is that you can never express an opinion without being discredited as either ‘left’ or ‘right.’ With arguments about ambiguous or unempirical issues (iraq war, gay rights, etc) I can see how both sides could make legitimate points, but things with a scientific bent (global warming, ID), disagreement with the verifiable facts is just stupid.

  9. Anonymous

    rainsborough,

    It depends where you live. I live in the bible belt. We have more of the latter, here.

    Rottin’,

    I think it is a toss up between Seattle and LA.

    Z

  10. Pooh

    Brad, it’s interesting you bring up that point, especially considering the big to do about Cathy being ‘labeled’ as ‘anti-feminist’ not so long ago. As rottin’ points out, it does nothing but obfuscate the real issues, and keeps any progress or compromise (or meaningful governance, he asked cynically)from being made.

    The unfortunate fact of this extreme polarization is the ‘spokespeople’ for either side of the debate make such caricatures trivially easy. Given the public face of the administration and the prevelance of evangelicals is it any wonder that liberals see the Right as ‘knuckle-dragging, creationists’, meanwhile Howie Dean and others don’t make it difficult to portray the Left as ‘smug, self-righteous and cowardly’.

    As a final note, I heartily recomend the back and forth at The Corner over the last few days on this very issue.

  11. Cathy Young

    Brad and rainsborough, I appreciate the corrective, and I mean that without a trace of sarcasm. It’s always helpful to be forced to re-examine one’s assumptions. 🙂

    In my defense, I’ll say that I don’t see myself as being “on the right,” either. Partly because there are too many people on the right promoting stuff like “Intelligent Design.”

    However, I think that tagging anyone who likes Samuel Alito as an ID supporter is a little different.

    I don’t think I’d ever say, for instance, that anyone who voted for John Kerry would like Barry’s advice on dealing with being called a racist.

  12. Revenant

    but things with a scientific bent (global warming, ID), disagreement with the verifiable facts is just stupid.

    Hm. There aren’t too many facts where global warming is concerned. It is a fact that the Earth has gotten warmer; it is also a fact that we don’t have the proven ability to make accurate long-term climatological preductions, and a fact that we have no clear indication whether future global warming will be a net good or bad.

    So my experience is that people on both sides of the debate tend to ignore the facts — the “anti” side ignores that the Earth has indeed gotten warmer, and the “pro” side ignores that there is no reason to assume global warming is a bad thing.

  13. Anonymous

    revenant wrote: ” . . . the “pro” side ignores that there is no reason to assume global warming is a bad thing.”

    I read an interesting article in (I think) SciAm a few months ago, where a climatologist examined the long, long-term effects of the increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. His conclusions, in a nutshell: 1) For the next few centuries, the earth will warm at a faster rate, and eventually reach a higher temperature, than has been seen for several million years; 2) millions of people will be displaced, starve, and die due to climate change in crop-growing areas, and rising sea levels; but 3) all fossil fuels will be consumed in the next 200 years, so we will stop emitting new CO2 into the atmosphere; and 4) eventually, after about 30,000 years, all of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere will be absorbed in the deep oceans and things will go back to normal.

    So in the extreme long view, revenant, you are right. Global warming is a temporary issue, the earth can deal with it. It’s not something to worry about, except for humans.

  14. Anonymous

    I am comfortable with the dichotomy between evolution, in which I believe, and creation, which I also believe. I.D. appeals to those that recognize a need for God but without the faith required to believe his words. They are absurdly looking to the State to shore up their wavering faith by teaching something they themselves are no longer sure of (creation) to the children of non-believers.

  15. Revenant

    So in the extreme long view, revenant, you are right. Global warming is a temporary issue, the earth can deal with it. It’s not something to worry about, except for humans.

    That’s an interesting hypothesis. What it isn’t, however, is a fact or a tested theory.

    I’m not saying that global warming couldn’t turn out to be a big negative for humanity. I’m just saying that anyone who says that it is a fact that it will, or even that we know with a reasonable degree of certainty that it will, is not speaking as a scientist.

  16. Anonymous

    revenant,
    It is a fact that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest that it has been in the past 650,000 years, and that it is still increasing.

    It is a fact that CO2 is the primary atmospheric contributor to the greenhouse effect.

    Ergo, global warming.

    The only points here that scientists, speaking as scientists, still regard as debatable are 1) to what degree is the increase in CO2 due to human activities; and 2) can or should we do anything to reverse the warming process?

    I myself am open to the idea that we shouldn’t do anything about it (Tom Schelling built a convincing case on that point), but I am not open to the idea that global warming is unproven. Few climatologists, speaking as scientists, are open to such nonsense. Nor should they be.

  17. Cathy Young

    I think that by now even most global-warming skeptics are admitting that the phenomenon is real and human-caused, no?

  18. Revenant

    The only points here that scientists, speaking as scientists, still regard as debatable are 1) to what degree is the increase in CO2 due to human activities; and 2) can or should we do anything to reverse the warming process?

    I kind of think you might not have read my original observation. I said that it was a fact that the Earth had warmed, and debatable whether further warming would be good, bad, or indifferent. I was responding to someone who claimed that global warming is a “fact” by pointing out that the primary public claim of global warming advocates — that we’re in big trouble if we don’t stop CO2 emissions and keep the world from heating up — is merely a hypothesis, not a fact. Also, I wouldn’t describe CO2’s primary role in global warming as “a fact”. We believe that CO2 is the main culprit because theory predicts it, not because we know for a fact that it does. Until we take two similar planets, pump one full of CO2, and wait to see what happens, I don’t think the word “fact” is going to enter into play here.

    There’s something disturbing about people in a field as immature as climatology making blanket predictions about what definitely is and isn’t open for discussion. It wasn’t all that long ago that pollution was supposed to cause a new ice age. The current line of “well sure we were utterly wrong then but our knowledge is perfect now” smacks of religion, not science. The truth is that science has very little idea, as yet, how the Earth’s climate and ecosphere work, and anyone making blanket predictions about either is speaking with undeserved authority.

  19. Anonymous

    revenant wrote:

    “Until we take two similar planets, pump one full of CO2, and wait to see what happens, I don’t think the word “fact” is going to enter into play here.”

    Actually, God already showed us the results of that experiment. Venus is about the same size as the earth, and has a similar composition. Being closer to the sun, it ought to have an average temperature of about 90 deg F. But in fact, its average temp is over 700 deg F. Incidentally, its atmosphere is over 90% CO2. Venus is about the same temp as Mercury, which is twice as close to the sun but has no atmosphere at all.

    “It wasn’t all that long ago that pollution was supposed to cause a new ice age.”

    Can you cite any peer-reviewed journals that ever said such a thing? I can’t either. It’s a myth, promoted by those who want to obfusticate this issue.

  20. Revenant

    Actually, God already showed us the results of that experiment. Venus is about the same size as the earth, and has a similar composition.

    Even if I accepted your claim that a planet with 90 times Earth’s atmospheric pressure and an entirely different atmospheric composition qualified as “similar”, you still aren’t allowed to point to the results and infer the experiment that preceeded them. You would need to observe the “before” as well as the “after”.

    Can you cite any peer-reviewed journals that ever said such a thing? I can’t either. It’s a myth, promoted by those who want to obfusticate this issue.

    I’ve no idea if the claim that pollution would cause dramatic cooling of the Earth was published in peer-reviewed journals. I just know that I was taught that it would in science classes in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Are you honestly disputing my observation about the state of ecology and climatology, by the way?

  21. Adrienne

    I think that by now even most global-warming skeptics are admitting that the phenomenon is real and human-caused, no?

    I only wish that were true.

    Rapid climate change = bad thing for many, many species. Not to mention putting coastal cities like Venice in danger of becoming “new” New Orleanses.

    Of course the earth and life on it will recover equilibrium eventually. There have been periods in geologic history when 99.9% of extant species went extinct. But that doesn’t mean humans will recover.

    I have to say, Cathy, what is the “tipping point” that leads you to conclude the far left is loonier than the far right? (Since you keep saying that even though you don’t like the right, you’d never go over to the left). Is it that not enough lefty intellectuals have finally admitted that Communism is a bad thing and that Castro, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, etc. were horrible mass murderers instead of visionaries?

    I see the far left and right as equally bad, really. I mean, I’m annoyed a lot more by the far right at this point of time because their darlings are running the Fed: more tax breaks for the rich, yay! More deficit spending! More soldiers dying in Iraq! If I were in college, however, the far left might be annoying me more on a day to day basis, with the constant harping about the evils of white males, the squelching of free speech, et al.

    But it seems to me that as both sides get more extreme, they actually start to approach each other rather than going in the opposite direction.

  22. Revenant

    I see the far left and right as equally bad, really. I mean, I’m annoyed a lot more by the far right at this point of time because their darlings are running the Fed: more tax breaks for the rich, yay! More deficit spending! More soldiers dying in Iraq!

    The war in Iraq is not a right-wing enterprise. It was launched with overwhelming support and opposed by both the extreme right and extreme left.

    “The rich” pay virtually all the taxes. That they receive the lion’s chare of any tax break in absolute dollar terms is pretty much a given. But a rich person experienced a smaller percentage reduction in his tax burden than the middle and lower-middle class did. This chart sums it up well. The average American paid 12.7% less, in dollar terms, as a result of the tax cuts. The average rich person paid only 11% less. Tax cut for the rich? Not hardly.

    Also bear in mind that many people, and not just right-wingers, consider it unjust that our tax burden falls so disproportionately on high-income earners. It goes against our American sense of fairness and egalitarianism.

    Finally, you’re right about the deficit spending. But that’s a result of Bush and Congress embracing traditionally Democratic tactics — throwing piles of government money at every problem and making every problem a national one. Look at the aftermath of Katrina, for example. The appropriate conservative response who have been to hold Louisiana responsible for its fecklessness, and to refuse to rebuild a city that makes no economic sense to rebuild. Most conservatives are angry at Bush… for acting like a Democrat.

  23. Anonymous

    revenant, I’d like to address some things you said in your comment on Dec 8th at 3:43 pm.

    You’re right, the Iraq war was supported by politicians in both parties. However, it’s since become clear that intelligence data was misrepresented to the public and to the politicians(of both parties) who voted to authorize the war. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Downing Street Memo. There’s no shame in being fooled. Who among us doesn’t want to trust the President of the United States and his administration, regardless of which party he’s from? But the fact is that it was Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz who are the major people behind the war. They’re all Republicans. Don’t be mad at Democrats who voted to authorize the war based on the best info presented to them by the President. They made the best decision they could with the info they had. Same as any responsible member of Congress ought to do. I’m more concerned with “how do we fix this mess we’re in” rather than asking “who can I blame?”, however, I do think it’s irresponsible to say that Democrats are equally responsible as Republicans for where we’re at right now.

    You are correct that most tax breaks will tend to go to the rich because they pay most of the taxes. It’s hard to cut taxes for someone making $20k a year with kids who ends up not paying any federal income tax. However, as one who clearly understands the numbers, you surely do realize that in terms of absolute dollars it is the rich who are receiving the bulk of the cuts. This is why people call it “tax cuts for the rich”.

    I think that the majority of Americans support a progressive tax system. As it stands now, the United States is the least taxed first world nation. (I don’t have a link handy, but check OECD stats, this is easily verified) The United States also has, with perhaps the exception of one or two very small relatively wealthy SE Asian nations, the “flattest” tax structure of any first world nation. Yes, our rich do pay a higher top marginal rate but it’s a lower rate then they’d face in Canada, Japan, or Europe. Further, I don’t think that a progressive income tax is at all at odds with fairness and egalitarianism. It’s not unfair in the least for those who have done well to pay a higher share towards the upkeep of society. And it works, too. It was government deficit spending(WWII) that brought us out of the Great Depression. We paid for it via very high top marginal rates for a long time after the war. It was during this period-of very high taxes on the rich-that the United States became the top superpower, built a middle class society, and won the Cold War. Not bad if you ask me. This is indeed the best nation on earth.

    I may be younger than you(I’m too young to remember Carter’s presidency) but when I think of Democrats and fiscal policy I think about Bill Clinton balancing the federal budget in the last 90s. So when you blame Democrats for what Bush and the Republican controlled congress have done, I’m a bit confused. I think if they really *were* acting like Democrats the deficit would be shrinking, not expanding. But I look at it a different way. If one party controls both the executive and legislative branch, they’re responsible for their own actions and not the opposition party.

    Compelling arguments for tax cuts can be made, however, they ought to be accompanied to commensurate cuts in government spending. It’s easier to blame your opponents, but when your opponents don’t wield any power it’s intellectually dishonest. What the Republicans have done is to embrace tax cuts as a dogma unto itself, with no eye or apparent care to what that does to the deficit. I think it’s irresponsible to borrow money that our children will have to repay.

    Mjrmjr

  24. Revenant

    You’re right, the Iraq war was supported by politicians in both parties. However, it’s since become clear that intelligence data was misrepresented to the public and to the politicians(of both parties) who voted to authorize the war.

    You believe it was misrepresented; I do not. However, since the same data was misrepresented to both parties BY both parties (Clinton and Gore made the same claims as Bush), the notion that the war is a result of right-wing trickery don’t hold water. If you want to claim that the Republicans and Democrats jointly duped the public for some nefarious reason, go right ahead — I don’t believe that either, but at least that claim wouldn’t be in direct conflict with observed reality.

    However, as one who clearly understands the numbers, you surely do realize that in terms of absolute dollars it is the rich who are receiving the bulk of the cuts. This is why people call it “tax cuts for the rich”.

    I understand that’s why you call it “tax cuts for the rich”. It’s just disingenuous to do so. If I confiscate $50 from you and $500,000 from the person next to you, and then return $10 to you and $80,000 to the other guy, do you really expect me to take seriously your whining that the second guy got most of the money? Of course not. If Democrats were willing to stand up and admit that almost their entire voting bloc was freeloading by taking more in benefits than they ever paid in taxes, then maybe I could stomach their anti-rich sentiments.

    I think that the majority of Americans support a progressive tax system

    Oh, I agree. But most Americans have no conception of how income taxes are distributed. There’s a widely-held perception that the rich pay no taxes, for example. You very seldom hear, for example, that virtually nobody outside of the upper income quintile pays their proportional share of taxes. I don’t think most Americans would support a system as “progressive” as the current one if they knew how it worked.

    I may be younger than you(I’m too young to remember Carter’s presidency) but when I think of Democrats and fiscal policy I think about Bill Clinton balancing the federal budget in the last 90s.

    That’s spelled “the Republican Congress”, not “Bill Clinton”. Congress passes budgets. But realistically neither party had much to do with the balancing of the budget. Deficts were expected — we achieved surpluses because the economic bubble caused unexpectedly higher tax revenues. Simply put, the government tried to spend every penny it had and then some, but wound up with a windfall of lots of extra pennies.

    Compelling arguments for tax cuts can be made, however, they ought to be accompanied to commensurate cuts in government spending

    Not necessarily. Bear in mind that money borrowed to cover the deficit is borrowed at an extremely low interest rate, so if the savings are invested (which, in the case of rich tax-cut recipients, they are) the net result is an increase in wealth. If you can borrow money at X% and invest it at X+1%, borrowing money is a smart idea. That’s why corporations issue bonds. Once interest rates rise, deficits will cease to be a good idea; for now, we’re better off leaving the money in the hands of people who actually grow the economy with it, rather than in the hands of a government that will just waste it on pointless crap.

    Besides, if taxes went up, government spending would just go up more. The government will run the highest deficits it can get away with — if we ever see balanced budgets, it will be because Congress screws up and underestimates tax revenue.

    I think it’s irresponsible to borrow money that our children will have to repay

    Eh, in either case you’re spending other people’s money to benefit yourself. What difference does it matter if you’re sending the bill to today’s rich people, or tomorrow’s rich people? Either group receives almost no benefit from the government programs they’re paying for.

  25. Anonymous

    revenant:
    I wonder how many years need to pass before Clinton isn’t responsible for everything bad that happens in this country? The bottom line is that it wasn’t Clinton or any of his guys who took us to war. It was a Republican president and his administration. With power comes responsibility. The buck has to stop somewhere. Bush did everything he could to make a connection between Bin Laden(a crazy religious fundamentalist) and Hussein(a bad guy to be sure, and also crazy, but a secular bad guy with no connection to Al Queada). But again, at this point it shouldn’t be about placing blame, it should be about how do we get out of this mess? If Bush were showing leadership I’d be right behind him even if I thought the war was a mistake. The Commander in Chief has the duty to provide the leadership that we need but he’s not doing it. The voice that I think makes the most sense right now is that of Rep. Murtha who says we should get out right away.

    I don’t whine about anything, I’m an economist. The question that I seek to answer every day is “What is the best way to use limited resources to achieve unlimited desires?”. That you characterize my comments as whining calls into question your ability and desire to hold a civil discussion. We can disagree strongly about issues, but does it do anyone any favors to let the discussion fall to that level?

    Regarding the Democrats as freeloaders, that’s an interesting statement. I would ask you to look at a state by state map that shows statistics on net federal tax flows and look at the correlation between a states tendancy to vote Dem in presidential elections and that state being a net loser in tax revenue. Off the top of my head I know that the very richest states all vote Dem and all pay *more* money in federal taxes than they get back in federal dollars. Actually, I just found the stats for you. http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/b4fe1c704862b2ca580ad2a2e31d4961.pdf Notice the correlation between states that vote Dem and states that pay more than they get back.

    There’s all sorts of misperceptions about the tax code. Is there solid polling data on whether Americans prefer a progressive tax system? I’m not sure. Anecdotally, I do think that most would support a progressive tax system.

    You’re correct that we’re borring money right now at a historically low rate to finance the deficit. And the rich do have a lot more money to invest. What do you think they’re investing in? Housing. We’ve traded one asset bubble(stocks) for another. As Paul Krugman said a few months ago, “Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese.” McMansions can’t be exported and they add no productive capacity to the economy. I’m almost tempted to characterize the housing market as, well, a bunch of “pointless crap” to use your phrase. Once this bubble pops(and it’s happening right now, check your local MLS listings) we’ll be even *worse* off than before. Now, had this deficit spending been steered towards investment in new technology, alternative energy, or anything that would help keep the U.S. a leader in the global market I might see your point. But what did we spend the money on? Inflating a housing market. Pointless crap indeed.

    The bill for this deficit we’re racking up is going to come due someday. I’d be just as worried about it no matter which party was responsible. It’s easy to take a nihilistic attitude, but that guarantees that we’ll fail.

    Lastly, I think it’s quite foolish to suggest that the rich get nothing from what they pay in taxes. The United States has a first rate infrastructure, law enforcement, and legal system. The latter is particularly important in creating a business friendly climate and protecting property rights. There’s plenty of low tax rate countries in Eastern Europe right now. How come I don’t see all the rich folks in the U.S. pulling their money out and moving over there to live and invest? I’ll give you the answer:The United States has the *lowest* taxes of any first world nation, *and* the best climate for business. Pretty win-win if you ask me. Who’s really whining here?

    -MjrMjr

  26. Revenant

    I wonder how many years need to pass before Clinton isn’t responsible for everything bad that happens in this country?

    I didn’t blame Clinton for anything, so I can’t imagine why you brought it up.

    The bottom line is that it wasn’t Clinton or any of his guys who took us to war. It was a Republican president and his administration.

    Only because a Republican coincidentally happened to be in office on 9/11. Gore (or Clinton, had he been eligible for a third term) would also have launched wars against Afghanistan (to get the Taliban) and Iraq (to remove the WMD threat), had they been in office. They, too, would have talked up the threat posed by the WMDs they believed were there; they too would have pointed out Hussein’s associations with terrorist groups. Blaming the war on “the right” is either ignorant or dishonest; the Democrats wanted Hussein gone too, and had for years.

    I’m an economist.

    If true, that certainly makes me wonder why you were claiming that Clinton deserves the credit for balancing the budget in the late 1990s. Because, well, economists know that’s not true; economists know that the few years of balanced budgets we enjoyed were a historical accident, not a result of planning.

    Regarding the Democrats as freeloaders, that’s an interesting statement.

    The overwhelming majority of Democrats are drawn from the lower three income quintiles, which pay less than their proportional share of the tax burden. Ergo, “freeloaders”.

    I would ask you to look at a state by state map that shows statistics on net federal tax flows and look at the correlation between a states tendancy to vote Dem in presidential elections and that state being a net loser in tax revenue.

    I would suggest that you look at who in those states is actually paying the taxes. Hint: it’s the richest 20% of the population, which is majority-Republican in virtally every state, blue or red.

    What do you think they’re investing in?

    All the same things they’ve always invested in.

    Housing.

    No, the rich are not investing the majority of their money in housing. The housing bubble is being caused by middle-class buyers and speculators.

    The bill for this deficit we’re racking up is going to come due someday

    No, it isn’t. The government can roll over debt indefinitely. We’ll just have to scale back the deficit spending once interest rates rise.

    Lastly, I think it’s quite foolish to suggest that the rich get nothing from what they pay in taxes. The United States has a first rate infrastructure, law enforcement, and legal system.

    Only a tiny portion of the budget goes to those things, and much of that is wasted on pork or counterproductive legal tactics (e.g. the war on drugs). What remains benefits everybody equally.

    In any event, I think I see the actual reason why you prefer the far left to the far right; your views on foreign affairs and economics are those of the Democratic Party. Indeed, everything you’ve said in this thread has been unaltered Democratic talking points. You prefer the left to the right because you’re part of the left. 🙂

  27. Anonymous

    Intelligent design is not a good candidate for scientific theory, but it is far worse as a religious conviction. If it is meant as a stalking horse for creationism, it might be called instead a golden calf.

    Ascribing “intelligence” and “design” to Creation is benignly delusional at best and blasphemous by the definition most preachers would use. The human intellect is a puny thing when measured against that miracle of which it is a part. Most scientists know this; a few do not. It is awe and wonder that have caused the former to take up the difficult discipline of scientific experimentation. Some seek understanding in the same way that children cast about their flashlights on a dark night in the backyard, with loads of joy.

    It is diminutive of God’s creation to ascribe the concepts of intelligence and design to Creation. The best minds among us would hesitate to be so bold. Creation’s existence is far beyond the ability of a designer, intelligence notwithstanding. Something vastly better, presently and perhaps eternally, unnameable, is at work: To think otherwise is to make a false idol of “intelligence.” This does not seem a wise course for religious leaders to follw. Let science be science, and exalt Creation in your heart.

    James Michael
    Hixson, TN

  28. Anonymous

    I wonder how many years need to pass before Clinton isn’t responsible for everything bad that happens in this country?

    When Clinton gets blamed for hurricanes, I’ll take this line of inquiry a bit more seriously.

    The bottom line is that it wasn’t Clinton or any of his guys who took us to war.

    So, his lobbing of missiles into Iraq is nothing, eh? He did it a couple of times, you know.

    It was a Republican president and his administration. With power comes responsibility. The buck has to stop somewhere. Bush did everything he could to make a connection between Bin Laden(a crazy religious fundamentalist) and Hussein(a bad guy to be sure, and also crazy, but a secular bad guy with no connection to Al Queada).

    Actually, Saddam and Al Qaeda DID have a relationship. Saddam was hardly hands off when it came to terrorists and terrorism.

    Saddam was NOT behind 9/11.

    Fortunately, Bush never said he was.

    But again, at this point it shouldn’t be about placing blame, it should be about how do we get out of this mess?

    Then don’t place the blame on Bush. You brought up the not-truthful meme of “Bush manipulated intel”. Revenant simply pointed out that Bush said the same things that the Dems were saying in 1998-99 and that the world was saying up until, well, the invasion started.

    If Bush were showing leadership I’d be right behind him even if I thought the war was a mistake. The Commander in Chief has the duty to provide the leadership that we need but he’s not doing it.

    What leadership are you looking for? Seems that anything short of “Yup, I made it all up. BWA HA HA!” won’t constitute “leadership” for you.

    The voice that I think makes the most sense right now is that of Rep. Murtha who says we should get out right away.

    Which will only lead to anarchy and more attacks against us. It will also eliminate ANY ability we’ll ever have to work in the Middle East again as NOBODY will ever trust us again.

    We screwed over the Iraqis once when we suggested they rebel and then left them out to dry.

    Ask OBL how much our running away from Somalia emboldened him.

    Regarding the Democrats as freeloaders, that’s an interesting statement. I would ask you to look at a state by state map that shows statistics on net federal tax flows and look at the correlation between a states tendancy to vote Dem in presidential elections and that state being a net loser in tax revenue.

    Of course, military bases skew that total by more than a little bit. And, unlike other spending, the military is actually Constitutionally mandated.

    Off the top of my head I know that the very richest states all vote Dem and all pay *more* money in federal taxes than they get back in federal dollars.

    Well, the North also had those LOVELY labor practices they engaged in until about the 1930’s — and the South really didn’t get much when it came to Reconstruction (that money went out West).

    There’s all sorts of misperceptions about the tax code. Is there solid polling data on whether Americans prefer a progressive tax system? I’m not sure. Anecdotally, I do think that most would support a progressive tax system.

    Because a lot of people have been brainwashed into believing that screwing over the rich, somehow, benefits them to any degree.

    Playing to people’s baser instincts is not something one should applaud.

    You’re correct that we’re borring money right now at a historically low rate to finance the deficit. And the rich do have a lot more money to invest. What do you think they’re investing in? Housing.

    Umm, no.

    We’ve traded one asset bubble(stocks) for another. As Paul Krugman said a few months ago, “Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese.”

    Advice: Krugman ceased being reputable in any area, including economics, a solid 5 years ago. He’s now a political hack.

    McMansions can’t be exported and they add no productive capacity to the economy. I’m almost tempted to characterize the housing market as, well, a bunch of “pointless crap” to use your phrase. Once this bubble pops(and it’s happening right now, check your local MLS listings) we’ll be even *worse* off than before. Now, had this deficit spending been steered towards investment in new technology, alternative energy, or anything that would help keep the U.S. a leader in the global market I might see your point.

    New technology?

    Missed the dot-com bubble, eh? We were pretty heavily invested there and, wow, that didn’t work out well.

    The bill for this deficit we’re racking up is going to come due someday. I’d be just as worried about it no matter which party was responsible. It’s easy to take a nihilistic attitude, but that guarantees that we’ll fail.

    I feel the same way about Social Security.

    Lastly, I think it’s quite foolish to suggest that the rich get nothing from what they pay in taxes. The United States has a first rate infrastructure, law enforcement, and legal system. The latter is particularly important in creating a business friendly climate and protecting property rights. There’s plenty of low tax rate countries in Eastern Europe right now. How come I don’t see all the rich folks in the U.S. pulling their money out and moving over there to live and invest?

    A preference to remain in America? And I thought the whole “Exporting of jobs” was a huge problem? Don’t the rich ALREADY do that?
    -=Mike

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