Church and State in Kansas

When I finished graduate school in 2000, I interviewed with a large number of schools. One of them was Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. They are a pretty strong liberal arts school which, its name notwithstanding, has never had a religious affiliation. I was interviewed by the chair of the department, and at one point he asked me, after noting that I had lived in the Northeast for nearly my whole life, whether I thought I would be happy to moving to Texas. I waxed eloquent about how I could be happy living anywhere, regardless of the state or whether it was a big city or a small town. The answer was entirely sincere.

As it happens, I did not get that job. Instead I ended up accepting a post-doc position at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas, where I stayed until 2003. At that point I went on the market again, and as it happens I once more interviewed with Trinity University. It was even the same fellow who interviewed me, and he remembered our conversation from three years earlier. The first thing he said to me was, “When you told me three years ago that you thought you could be happy living anywhere, I was very skeptical. But then you went and proved it by moving to Manhattan, Kansas!”

As sincere I was at the time, I don’t think I could still give that answer. The red states have gotten so crazy, so utterly uninterested in anything other than turning themselves into little theocracies, that my earlier, sanguine answer no longer seems appropriate. Consider this missive, by Jeffrey Ann Goudie, about the latest goings-on in Kansas:

The 2014 Kansas legislative session kicked off with more than a prayer — a prayer fest. For the third consecutive year the Old Supreme Courtroom of the Statehouse was occupied by religious conservatives on the eve of the legislature’s opening. Irony bumped up against doctrine.

This year’s event was organized by Concerned Women for America and something called the Culture Shield Network. Governor Sam Brownback spoke at this event, but not before the spokeswoman from the Culture Shield Network held forth.

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the spokeswoman exhorted the audience to take an active interest in their children’s education: “I pray that these children will come out so strong that we will not lose any of them to secular colleges,” she said. She also warned against the teaching of evolution and the notion that some of the founding fathers were Deists.

Charming, but sadly typical. It’s always useful to be reminded that right-wing Christians live almost entirely in a fantasy-land of their own creation. Evolution is only part of it. They also hew to a demented version of American history, where the nation was founded by heroic evangelicals who established the country as a Christian theocracy.

They’re right to worry about the kids losing their faith upon entering a “secular” college, however. That’s not because we crazy left-wing professor types are so keen to indoctrinate them, though. The real reason is much simpler. It’s how do ya keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree. Right-wing culture requires insularity to survive; once that is lost you can never get it back.

This bizarre scenario wasn’t church, this was state — or at least the Statehouse — and the constitution that is revered by social conservatives is very firm on the separation of the two. That separation has gone the way of the Passenger Pigeon in Kansas. If not extinct, it is surely endangered.

The separation of church and state was further collapsed during Gov. Brownback’s annual State of the State speech. My husband, our 17-year-old son and I set up our TV trays to watch Brownback’s speech while we ate dinner. Each time the Governor mentioned God, I raised my hand. I raised it early and often.

After recognizing the House Speaker, conspicuously chewing gum behind him, the Senate President, legislators, cabinet secretaries, and the judiciary, not to mention his fellow Kansans, the Governor pronounced: “As had been foretold and promised to us: God is in Heaven, the Legislature is back and the crane is gone!”

But in the world of right-wing evangelicalism, there is no such thing as the separation of church and state. (Or, to the extent that it is real, it only protects the church from the state.) The phrase does not appear in the Constitution, after all! Church/state separation, like evolution and global warming, are just left-wing hoaxes cooked up my morbid religion-haters for the purpose of killing Christianity.

I spent three happy years in Kansas. They have always been a conservative state, but when I was there I did not feel like they had gone over the bend. I started this blog while I was in Kansas, and never had a nervous moment doing it. I don’t think I could say that today. The red states have been going down some pretty dark roads lately.

Comments

  1. #1 John
    January 28, 2014

    So you’re suggesting all red states are so extreme. Is that how blue state liberals view others? No wonder the liberal agenda is ruining the middle class and causing the polarization of the US. Doom must follow.
    The blue states are going into bankruptcy – what could be darker that utter destruction.

  2. #2 G
    January 28, 2014

    If you really want to understand the religious right, rather than be shocked and dumbstruck every time they manage to pull off another victory for aggressive obscurantism, then you need to keyword search all of the following and read up:

    dominionism
    Christian Reconstuction
    New Apostolic Reformation
    Rousas Rushdoony (sometimes spelled Rushdooney)
    Gary North

    And when you find consistent links from any of the above, follow those as well.

    One good place to start is the site http://talk2action.org The material on that site is written by scholars of comparative religion, serious investigative journalists, etc. In 2008, one of their writers exposed the connection between Sarah Palin and a bizarro religious right cult, including a video of some of the cult’s activities. That exposé cost the McCain/Palin campaign a few points in the likely-voter polling in the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential election, and forced the campaign to respond. Some of the authors on Talk2Action write from the perspective of religious progressives, some from a secular perspective: but ALL of them are our allies against religious extremism and its attempts to influence politics & public policy.

    To be really clear about this: If you’re at war, you need to understand your adversary’s ideology, military theory, strategic plans, and tactical methods. You need to understand these things even if you despise the ideology and hold it in utter contempt, and even if you think your adversaries are as stupid as rocks. If you don’t understand your adversaries, you lose. The better you understand them, the better your chances of beating them.

    Start reading. Right now, do not wait.

  3. #3 G
    January 28, 2014

    Hey John @#1: The blue states contribute more in federal taxes than they receive from the federal government in spending. The red states contribute less in taxes than they receive from the federal government in spending.

    That means the blue states are subsidizing the red states.

    The giant sucking sound you hear, is tax money going from liberal states to “conservative” states.

    So how’bout you put your money where your mouth is and start bugging your red Republican politicians to refuse to accept any more money from Washington DC than your state contributes in Federal taxes, eh?

    Or would you rather just keep up the good old scam and the attitude that goes along with?

  4. #4 Lenoxus
    January 28, 2014

    “As had been foretold and promised to us: God is in Heaven, the Legislature is back and the crane is gone!”

    God foretold that the Kanas Statehouse reconstruction project would finish on schedule? Is that in the apocrypha or something?

    John:

    So you’re suggesting all red states are so extreme. Is that how blue state liberals view others? No wonder the liberal agenda is ruining the middle class and causing the polarization of the US. Doom must follow.
    The blue states are going into bankruptcy – what could be darker that utter destruction.

    So you’re suggesting that all blue states are so extreme…

    Anyway, I don’t mind whatever direction government money flows; if it happens that is does more good for the economy in red states, so be it. What’s really toxic is deficit hawkery: the idea that government debt means “utter destruction”, and we should do everything to fight it, damn the torpedos. (Except don’t actually damn the torpedoes, the military gets all the money it wants because every penny less than last year’s defense budget is a penny less of safety, right?)

    We’re in a recession, and the economy is not some sort of doppelganger of the government’s wallet, such that if the Fed is in the black than so is the country as a whole. If we balanced the budget, say within a year, it would essentially destroy all recent recovery by definition.

    And yet in the last couple months, Republicans in the House have made it respectable to say we should even breach the debt ceiling to sort of “clear out the fluff” in the system; see Yohonomics. They’re so crazy it makes their corporate funders nervous…

  5. #5 Miles Rind
    Cambridge, Mass.
    January 28, 2014

    I also was interviewed twice for a position at Trinity University (in philosophy)! My candidacy went no further, but even so, I’m glad that none of my interviewers asked me that question about living in Texas.

  6. #6 Blaine
    January 28, 2014

    “Charming, but sadly typical. It’s always useful to be reminded that right-wing Christians live almost entirely in a fantasy-land of their own creation. Evolution is only part of it. They also hew to a demented version of American history, where the nation was founded by heroic evangelicals who established the country as a Christian theocracy.”

    Exactly…I heard Gary North in the 70′s ( He’s married to Rushdoony’s daughter ) speak about how Christians need to develop parallel institutions to secular ones to legitimize their insanity. It seems they are well on their way.

    “Right-wing culture requires insularity to survive; once that is lost you can never get it back.”

    That’s why the Amish got the supreme court to allow them to end their children’s education at eighth grade. All these ‘faith based’ belief systems require ignorance to sustain themselves.

    Data plus modus tollens is their mortal enemy.

    @2&3 – two evolved opposable thumbs up.

    The red states also have the worst educational and health care outcomes. If he red states would secede from the union, the US would be near the top in world rankings instead of dead last.

  7. #7 John
    January 28, 2014

    G
    Reference?
    Watch the liberals destroy the US and their states and cities like Detroit and Ca.

  8. #8 John
    January 28, 2014

    Lenoxus
    If your side can make such extreme statements about red states, why shouldn’t the same be said about blue states?
    I think the truth is in between. But as the blog started, the view was extremism.
    I think it is the coming and control of the liberal viewpoint that is the problem. Both parties have adopted it. Politically, the liberal agenda started to get power by the 1960s. Since then the income inequality has grown, the middle class is being destroyed and we are following Detroit into bankruptcy. Both parties keep troops overseas with little to show for it – bring the troops home, avoid war in foreign lands, cease giving money to Europe and others.
    We continue in a recession because the liberals continue to do the destructive thing such as the failed bailouts. Funny thing about the liberal government, whatever they say they intend to sell the voters – the opposite happens. The want federal control of education, education goes downhill. They want housing projects, neighborhoods are destroyed.

  9. #9 Reginald Selkirk
    January 28, 2014

    “As had been foretold and promised to us: God is in Heaven, the Legislature is back and the crane is gone!”

    The word crane appears only twice in the King James Bible.

    Isaiah 38:14 “Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
    Jeremiah 8:7 “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.”

    I don’t see anything like a prophecy that the crane would go.

  10. #10 Delius
    January 28, 2014

    G: “The blue states contribute more in federal taxes than they receive from the federal government in spending. The red states contribute less in taxes than they receive from the federal government in spending.”

    That’s an interesting claim, one I’m willing to concede MIGHT be true, but I’d like to see some statistics for it.

    In any case, the idea that there are “blue” and “red” states is really just as simplistic the Kansas governor’s supposed assertion that everyone there is religious. (We only have the linked author’s word for it, and given that that article appears in the Huffington Post…) Regardless of how they vote in elections, most states are decidedly purple. Even California, surely the bluest state there is, is very much red outside of the line of coastal cities from San Francisco down to San Diego.

  11. #11 eric
    January 28, 2014

    I’ve never lived there, but from the evolution battles its not clear to me that Kansas is all that over the deep end. Historically, there’s been two or three times that some legislature has passed some pro-creationist law or state school board curriculum change, and in each case the voters have hit back in the next cycle and punished them.

    What appears to be the case now, (IMO,) is that there is a strong, moderate, science-supporting middle that tolerates religious right demagogouery in their politicians…but immediately votes them out of office any time they act to introduce creationism into schools. The voters attitude seems to be: you can talk the god talk, but if you walk the creationist walk, we’ll fire you. The result is a set of 2010+ Kansas politicians who attend lots of prayer events, make lots of religious references in speeches, but there hasn’t been a pro-creationism bill passed by the State Legislature or pro-creationist Kansas School Board curriculum change since, what, 2005?

  12. #12 Michael Fugate
    January 28, 2014

    I grew up in Kansas and went to Kansas State back when Sam Brownback was student body president – so he went to a “secular” school and look how he turned out. I can’t imagine what would have happened had he gone to a religious school…

  13. #13 Reginald Selkirk
    January 28, 2014

    Delius #10: That’s an interesting claim, one I’m willing to concede MIGHT be true, but I’d like to see some statistics for it.

    Map: amount of spending received for every tax dollar paid
    Map by Mother Jones. Numbers from the Tax Foundation, based on 2005.

  14. #14 deepak shetty
    January 28, 2014

    (Or, to the extent that it is real, it only protects the church from the state.
    from the IRS , to be precise.

  15. #15 Lenoxus
    January 28, 2014

    Historically, there’s been two or three times that some legislature has passed some pro-creationist law or state school board curriculum change, and in each case the voters have hit back in the next cycle and punished them.

    I’m tempted to wonder how much of that is just a coincidence, given the relatively high nationwide support of creationism in one form or another. Then again, if American voters really were that fine with “teaching both sides”, then we’d probably have seen more of those laws in the redder states.

    But still, is it really true that a Kansas politician can lose for something as “politically safe” (from my limited vantage point) as fighting Darwin and bringing God to the kids? If so, I’m quite pleasantly surprised.

  16. #16 Lenoxus
    January 28, 2014

    I was last quoting Eric, by the way; I should have cited, sorry.

    John:

    If your side can make such extreme statements about red states, why shouldn’t the same be said about blue states?

    I had no problem with the extremism of your statements (or anyone else’s), only the apparent hypocrisy whereby you seemingly condemned extremism in general while committing it yourself. But now that I see you’re quasi-libertarian I may reassess that.

    Politically, the liberal agenda started to get power by the 1960s. Since then the income inequality has grown, the middle class is being destroyed and we are following Detroit into bankruptcy.

    Post hoc, ergo propert hoc. But one of your concerns stands out oddly: income inequality, which is usually something only “the left” worries about. Conservatives and libertarians tend frame that problem as so much liberal class-envy-and-division-mongering, and prefer to ignore the arguments abiut its badness that go beyond “some people have way more stuff than others”. Blaming the actual phenomenon on liberals isn’t actually contradictory, just strange.

    We continue in a recession because the liberals continue to do the destructive thing such as the failed bailouts.

    I’m curious: Do you think recessions are caused by government spending and cured by lowering spending?

  17. #17 John
    January 29, 2014

    Lenoxus
    Thanks for your interest. Let me expound a bit in this science environment. If I follow anybody, it’s Milton Friedman (see his Free to Choose). This places me close to Ayn Rand and the libertarians. See http://intellectualarchive.com/?link=item&id=1093 for my view of the position of the US. But Rand ideal begs the Tragedy of the Commons.
    See the graph “This graph shows the income of the given percentiles from 1947 to 2010 in 2010 dollars.” About half way down http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_metrics

    This graph and those in the file shows that the income of the top percentiles rose at the same rate from 1947 onward. The growth of income inequality derives from the decline of income growth of the lower percentiles and the middle class. This change occurred in about 1970 – just after the liberal agenda started to take effect in the 1960s. How this occurs is a long discussion that liberals really object to. But data is data. The interesting thing to me is that this occurred through both parties being in power.
    My explanation – politicians want to get elected. An increasing number of voters want the handouts (perhaps s bit strong word) from the federal government. Like in Detroit, they elect those who get them the money. One easy way to do this is take debt. This becomes a cycle that can be broken only by bankruptcy that occurs when no one will lend more money.
    I’m into science and science is about developing models that predict outcomes. Friedman consistently predicted events. The predictions of his nemesis (Keynesians) consistently failed to happen. We are still governed by Keynesian doctrine that considers big government good. The only difficulty is the results they achieve are almost always opposite to their stated intentions. (They want to improve education – education declines.)
    Government does not cause recessions. But government makes them last longer and be more painful than would otherwise be the case. Before government stepped in, recessions/depressions lasted about 3 years. Government steps in and they last decades and go much deeper than needed. The big government does the wrong thing, always. I think government cannot cure recessions – they don’t have the tools. Recession can be cured by growth, by evolution.
    We are discussing evolution. How does evolution operate? The unfit die. Do we let the unfit die? Businesses are bailed out and their bad practices that made them fail are perpetuated. Bad money drives out good money. Bad business drive out good businesses. The longer we keep the unfit alive, the more the destruction that will follow. Keeping the unfit alive is the prime cause of all the other problems that are occurring to us.
    Therefore, the 2 prime problems with liberals is: (1) They want big government and control (which occurs at the expense of the middle class – the avowed enemy of the intellectuals). (2) they cannot let the unfit die. The are against nature and evolution.
    I apologize folks. I seem to be drifting away from science. The books I’m reading are varied and political/philosophical.

  18. #18 G
    January 29, 2014

    Re. Blaine @ 6: Thanks for the thumbs, we need all the thumbs we can get;-)

    I’d be very interested to hear more about your experience at the Gary North event. Interesting that North is married to Rushdoony’s daughter; psychoanalysts might have fun with that.

    For those here who aren’t familiar with this, North was a major disciple of Rushdoony’s, and had a famous arguement with Rushdoony about whether drunk drivers should be subject to the Biblical penalty of stoning to death. They agreed that gays, adulterers, atheists, and apostates (people who left the faith of their birth), and teenagers who talk back to their parents, should all be stoned to death. But they disagreed about drunk drivers since automobiles were not in the Bible. Seriously. Serious as a heart attack.

    The DeVos family of Amway fame are also ferocious dominionists, and if I’m not mistaken, Brownback is a member of NAR. These people are as dangerous as rabid pit-bulls.

    Re. Lenoxus @ 15: “Teaching both sides.” WE should insist on “teaching both sides” in a few other subjects as well. For example in high school economics class, teach Marxism and Libertarianism alongside the standard fare. We should absolutely make that demand every single time the creationists use the “teach both sides” arguement. Doing so will cause them to drop that arguement faster than a hot potato.

    Re. John at 17: OK, now we’re debating on substantive grounds, and I appreciate your willingness to do so. Clinton’s presidency saw the elimination of deficit spending and an actual fiscal surplus. I’d be willing to credit Bush Senior for policies that may have contributed to that. The present deficits are primarily the result of the wars in Afghanistan (necessary for national defense) and Iraq (outcome of bad intel, Saddam Hussein’s attempt to convince Iran he had WMD, picked up by political appointees in the G.W.Bush Admin who were vetting intel without proper training), without corresponding tax increases to cover the costs. War needs to be paid for in real-time, and the public will not object when it is truly necessary (such as wiping out Al Qaeda).

    Then came the effects of deregulating the financial industry, for which blame can be assessed to Clinton as well as G.W.Bush. The former head of the Fed, who served both Admins and whose policies were largely responsible for the 2008 depression, was a personal friend of Ayn Rand. He confessed in front of Congress that he was shocked to find that his belief in Ayn Randism didn’t work in the real world. That is an example of what happens when ideology is allowed to trump empiricism in public policy: and it’s as dangerous on the right as on the left.

    I agree with the bailout of the auto industry: At root we need it for national defense if we ever have to rapidly increase production of military vehicles. As well, it is a core industry that we must have for reasons of self-sufficiency and global competitiveness. Look what happened when we hit peak domestic oil in the early 70s, and Saudi was able to jerk our chain: we can’t let that happen to any of our core industries.

    However, the bailouts of banks that engaged in fraudulent practices: let’s just say I am furious that the responsible executives didn’t end up sentenced to life in prison without parole. Put them on the same cellblock as Bernie Madoff, and let them share stories about the good old days of fleecing investors, while they feast on prison meatloaf and raise a toast of lukewarm water in plastic cups.

    Agreed that gov tends to toss problems into the future by way of spending: but that is a core fault of humans generally. See also “externalized costs,” which libertarianism also disallows because they violate the principle of consenting adult transactions. See also “diachronic competition,” which basically means stealing from the future.

    Moral principle: Do unto the future as you would have the past do unto you. (I’ll be writing at length about that elsewhere, stay tuned;-)

    More later, this post is getting too long and I have to scoot for the night…

  19. #19 eric
    January 29, 2014

    Lenoxus:

    I’m tempted to wonder how much of that is just a coincidence,

    I don’t think it is, in the Kansas case. The creationist changes to school policy etc.. in the ’90s and early 00′s were very well publicized by both the pro- and con- sides. They became political issues and so, I believe, impacted the next elections. IMO what happened in Kansas over a couple of election cycles is similar to what happened in Dover post-Kitzmiller, only on a State-wide scale.

    The general lesson may be that while surveys show just under 50% of the public is partly or wholly creationist in terms of personal belief, in most states and counties there is a big silent majority that wants their kids learning mainstream science. When (the more fundie types of) creationists wake that beast, they lose ground. They generally only gain ground when their policies fly under the public radar or are parsed in confusing ways that make it difficult for the public to recognize the creationism.

  20. #20 eric
    January 29, 2014

    John:

    politicians want to get elected. An increasing number of voters want the handouts (perhaps s bit strong word) from the federal government.

    How is this a “liberal” trait? It was Reagan that cut the top tax bracket in half, which economically is equivalent to a huge handout given only to the rich. The GOP is consistent in it’s call to lower taxes on the wealthy. And Republican politicians are just as much involved in pork barrel spending and things like corn subsidies as Democrats are. The recent debt ceiling debate happened because the Republican-controlled House did not want to pay US debts on the 2012-2013 spending that that same Republican-controlled House approved and appropriated. Do you get that? The folks who complained about raising the debt ceiling were the exact same folks who decided how much money the executive branch could spend and then authorized the executive branch to go spend it…and in the case of earmarks, forced the executive branch to spend money that that branch would not otherwise have chosen to spend.

    There are certainly a lot of social policy positions on which liberalism and conservativism differ. But at this point in time, both parties and ideologies are happy to, willing to, and constantly do give handouts. The only difference is that Republicans prefer to give their handouts to the wealthy, while Dems generally prefer to give their handouts to the poor and middle class.

    Keeping the unfit alive is the prime cause of all the other problems that are occurring to us.

    The naturalistic fallacy, a rejection of humanism, and a possible reference to support for eugenics all rolled up into one. Nice. Politically I’m middle of the road, but when conservatives take a position like this, it pushes me more to the left.

  21. #21 John
    January 29, 2014

    Eric and G
    Thanks for your comments. Having others examine thoughts is a learning experience.
    We have been discussing science and evolution in particular. I think these areas of study should be applied to social and political issues faced by mankind (not just the US) today.

    This is not a short-term (2- decades) problem. Previous great societies became big and collapsed. What made them big? What made them collapse? I like to look at the real actions not the history book (written by the winners or critics and are therefore slanted). For example, what was really happening with the expansion of the US westward? The white man was exterminating the red man through biological war, siege (killing the buffalo) warfare, and guns. This is evolution. Kill the weak and take his resources – evolution. For example, the revolutionary war was the pirates of the North wanting to avoid paying their fair share of the French and Indian war uniting with the slave holders wanting to perpetuate slavery (the British were already starting to abolish slavery – the handwriting was on the wall).

    People seem to comprehend only what is immediately before them. This is a short-term view. Sometimes the view is this week, this month, this year, rarely this decade. Consequently, groups (societies less than say tribes) get into trouble and collapse. Enter the religions of today. They set fundamental “morals” which I suggest are really actions and behavior oriented to survival over several generations. When a sick baby dies, its God’s will. Now get over it and use your resources to better purpose. It would never have contributed anyway and was a drain.

    Clinton inherited the situation. A war just ended which eliminated a big expense.
    Like the British in the American colonies and India, the cost of these foreign adventures is never paid. Pax Britiania ended. The goal of war cannot be just to acquire resources (oil – the true reason for the middle east troops). In the span of 5 decades the seeds we sowed are growing and we are losers. Al Queda is a result of our war on them to rob them of oil. The exporting of political systems (democracy) and humanitarian aid is just wasted money. The British and French in their empires learned this. The people in a tribal structure must come to a more advanced political structure themselves. Now, the humanitarian garbage is just eyewash to please the homefolks. I think Obama knows this but others don’t. Hence, his “incompetence”. He is really doing what needs to be done in foreign affairs. The only incompetence in his foreign relations I find is how slow he is moving. The pressure to send money to aid the displaced and sick (the unfit in an evolution battle) is very great and we lose still more wasted treasure.

    My use of “Liberal”. Current liberalism started with W. Wilson. FDR expanded it with equality of outcome philosophy. This took until the 60s to turn into general morals. Now, Equality of Outcome thinking is entrenched. As I noted this is independent of party and is over the term of 1960 to the present. The only long-term difference between the parties is how fast they want to ruin the middle class. Both are creating an aristrocracy and the poor (polarizing the populous) and taking taxes from the middle class. The effect started to be seen in 1970. For example, the issue of health care is what should the federal government do. The Repubs have their plan. Not whether the Fed. Gov. should be involved in health care.
    Note the bailout of the auto industry was not all the auto industry. One major company refused. Only the weak were bailed out. The auto industry would be stronger today if those 2 were gone. (I think)
    Banks are a different issue. The Fed. Government under both parties forced the banks to do unhealthy things to “stimulate” the economy (make house buying easier for the non-credit worthy). As Friedman noted, stimulation is to reduce the pain of a downturn. That is, only temporary not as a years long thing.
    Ideology trumps empirical evidence every day for the last 30+years. The Keynesian models have been repeatedly falsefied. Yet, they are still used.
    Eric: what about evolution operation do you find a “naturalistic fallacy”.

  22. #22 eric
    January 29, 2014

    The white man was exterminating the red man through biological war, siege (killing the buffalo) warfare, and guns. This is evolution. Kill the weak and take his resources – evolution.

    Your view of evolution is so truncated that it’s not even wrong. Any strategy that improves spread of genes is a good one, not just ‘kill my competitors.’ Cooperation can do it too. The evolution of sexual reproduction is a spectacular example of a case of cooperative strategy dominating over a competitive one. So no, evolution is not just ‘kill the weak.’ Want to know why you have sex organs? Because evolution is not just about killing the weak, sometimes its about working together.

    ***

    You don’t see how your argument is the naturalistic fallacy? You are citing what happens in nature as a justification for how we ought to structure human society. That’s the very definition of it. nature is often red in tooth and claw, but that is no justification for making our society red in tooth and claw because there is no metaphysical law, rule, or force that states we ought to act the way nature acts.

    In fact, scrolling down the Wikipedia page I see that Steven Pinker used ‘thinking that helping the poor and sick will get in the way of evolution’ – exactly what you’re saying – as the example of the fallacy. Congratulations, you haven’t just made any old form of this fallacious argument, you’ve made the texbook case of it.

  23. #23 MNb
    January 29, 2014

    “Cooperation can do it too.”
    Has been known since Pjotr Kropotkin studied Siberian tribes more than 100 years ago.

  24. #24 John
    January 29, 2014

    Eric
    You are correct. The goal is to apply evolution and science to social and political problems. How would you do that? It requires an understanding of the fundamental aspects of evolution and science and a model of the primary (read long term viewpoints that decide policies in a given situation) morals of the society and those needed for advancement. I suggest we could compare the actions during a societies growth and the actions during a societies decline. The US grew until the great depression and has declined over the last 3 or 4 decades. What changed?
    I read that you agree that “kill the weak” (or let the weak die) is part of evolution. I agree it’s not the whole story. You said “cooperation”. I say “competition”. Part of competition is conquering others in war. War has the disadvantage of destroying resources and having little return. Better to cooperate and get the resources that war would have lost plus other resources. But if cooperation takes are least 2 to agree. If agreement and common action is not to be, competition must still occur. To not compete is to die. So, what is cooperation? Are excessive (more than needed to defend the citizens) taxes part of cooperation? No, that is theft and it’s killing the middle class. Transfer payment are theft. Evolution also requires the individuals to have progeny. Failure to foster the next generation is also a way for a society to die. What are we doing fostering the debt onto our next generation? Killing them?

    But there is more. The problem is to survive in an environment of limited resources. The 2 actions that allow this for a group are to change (by technology to use resources more productively) and to compete.
    I think I’ve gone further than this. We are taking it piecemeal. My paper “Survival is the only moral goal of life”
    http://intellectualarchive.com/?link=item&id=694 covers the remainder.

    The question to be answered is what do we do next? Rand suggests push the society into economic collapse faster and, by saving the producers, rocover with the objectivist philosophy. After all some of the objectivists actions helped the US grow. But, objectivism ignores the Tragedy of the Commons that can also destroy a society.
    Eric, What should we do next? What are the underlying morals of our actions? What are the fundamentals of evolution for a society?

  25. #25 Blaine
    January 30, 2014

    @18
    It was so many years ago. I was in university and some classmates invited me to an event which was held at a small private school in Fairfax, VA run by the Thoburn family. The school is no longer there. I met Rushdoony and North. The Thoburn sons ran a small press which published many of the dominionist books. Thoburn ran for VA state senator in the early 80s but did not win. I am not sure what they’re doing now but I think they are based out of Tyler, TX currently. I also met Francis Nigel Lee a South African theologian who wrote _Communist Eschatology_ amongst other books.
    My interest at the time was in Reformed Epistemology ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_epistemology ) and presuppositionlism – from a philosophical standpoint. Many trace their roots back to C. Van Til at Westminster and H. Dooyweerd at the Free University of Amsterdam. Alvin Plandinga is also a notable representative of this line of thinking – He’s currently Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame called by Time magazine: “America’s leading orthodox Protestant philosopher of God.”

    Dominionists are a scary bunch ( I’m not including Plantinga in this group) and people have a tendency to poo poo them, but unfortunately, the Tea Party is a direct result of their influence. They use subterfuge to hide their true agenda, but a few key slips of the tongue reveal what they are really about. There are many prominent congressmen and Senators who are dominionists…a day I though I’d never live to see.

  26. #26 eric
    January 30, 2014

    The US grew until the great depression and has declined over the last 3 or 4 decades. What changed?

    So, us becoming the world’s dominant superpower was part of our decline? Exploration of space – part of our decline? The invention of biotechnology industries as well as the internet – part of our decline. Discovery of workable nuclear power and the development of ships that can literally travel years without refeuling – decline. Our continuously increasing life expectancy since the 40s – part of our decline?

    The question to be answered is what do we do next?

    Well, I’m going to start with voting against any candidate for political office that thinks survival is the only moral goal in life or who thinks we should let the poor die rather than help them because, hey, that’s what happens in evolution.

  27. #27 John
    January 30, 2014

    eric
    Believe it or not, you got it right. Look at past empires. Rome, Britain in the 1700s became world powers that marked the beginning of slower growth, then decline. The space exploration, biotech, and the Internet produced many new technologies that have helped. But they had a return to the society. The wars and extension of power and humanitarian aid and exporting democracy have been such a great drain on our resources that produced a slowed growth then a decline that (In my opinion started in the 70s). That is, for a century each generation was better that the last. Now, the following generation is saddled with so much debt they are certainly not better. Look at the increasing poverty rate in the US.

    So you want to ignore evolution and history. Typical. When you stick your head in the sand, you will be kicked in the butt by nature.

  28. #28 eric
    January 30, 2014

    So you want to ignore evolution and history. Typical.

    No, I don’t want to ignore evolution; I want to avoid emulating its nastier mechanisms. As I said before, I recognize that nature is often red in tooth and claw. Where you and I differ is that I don’t take this fact and conclude from it that human society ought to be red in tooth and claw.

    You seem to view resource allocation and economics as a zero sum game. This is wrong. Pretty much every economist in the world recognizes that commerce, technological innovation, and governance can be used to create positive sum societies. Trying to emulate nature’s nastier evolutionary side is, IMO, trying to win a zero sum game. Its a stupid idea because it ignores our human ability to create positive sum economic situations.

  29. #29 Michael Fugate
    January 30, 2014

    My favorites are those like my sister-in-law’s aunt who bitch and moan about government spending and debt and of course blame it on Obama and the liberals. When you point out that the US was spending upwards of $1B/ day on Afghanistan (without mentioning the cost to life and health of US soldiers and Afghan citizens), the reply is always “worth every penny.” As if militarism were making us safer instead of just more paranoid and much, much poorer.

    Oh and by the way, social darwinism has nothing to do with how we should construct a healthy society and nothing to do with biological evolution.

  30. #30 John
    January 30, 2014

    eric
    Thanks for your reply. I suppose I must do something to rephrase.
    I don’t see how you got that from my comments.
    Societies that ignore evolution end up experiencing the nastier side of it – the red in tooth and claw. But if the evolutionary requirements are satisfied, a society can avoid the nasty and prosper. That is my quest.
    Nature will have competition. However one form of competition is cooperation for better use of resources (change, technology). Didn’t I mention cooperation is better than war? I was in corporate environments for many years. Cooperation was the best way to compete in the “rat race”.
    Nature and economics need not be a zero sum game. This is one of the arguments Friedman proposes. the Keynesian approach does suggest it is a zero sum game. For example, the concept that the rich are getting rich at the expense of the poor and middle class is based on the view of a zero sum economics (for the rich to prosper, the poor must suffer). This is what I hear when liberals talk of taxing the rich more.
    Friedman suggests both can be better off if government (that does practice zero sum ideas) would get out of the way. Nature likes positive sum games. That is what evolution is all about. But the unfit fail. So Net advance=total evolved – unfit, in the new environment the net advance is positive.
    We must fulfill nature’s demands for advance or nature will show us its nastier side. The US is not now acting in accordance with nature’s laws as the increasing debt shows.

  31. #31 Michael Fugate
    January 30, 2014

    Sure John let’s just kill off or let starve everyone who can’t compete. I think Jonathan Swift wrote a book on this – people weren’t sure if it was satire – I am hoping your comments are satire.

  32. #32 MNb
    January 30, 2014

    @27 John: “Rome ….. became world powers that marked the beginning of slower growth, then decline”
    Bullocks. The Roman Empire suffered from a severe crisis in the 3rd Century and managed to survive for another 200 years – almost as long as the USA exist. In fact The Roman Empire we must say that the Roman Empire lasted for another frigging 1200 years but just moved its capital to Constantinople. We western chauvinists call it the Byzantine Empire but its inhabitants themselves never did – they called called it Rome. The transition was gradual anyway. Also note that the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire experienced alternating periods of decline and grow and that the Western Roman Empire only lasted 80 years.

  33. #33 eric
    January 30, 2014

    Nature and economics need not be a zero sum game. This is one of the arguments Friedman proposes. the Keynesian approach does suggest it is a zero sum game.

    Now you’re just making stuff up. Keynes argued that the mercantilists of his time were wrong in thinking of economics are a zero sum game. Here’s one example.

    I am beginning to suspect that you don’t know much in depth about either theory and you just associate concepts you view as bad with Keynes and concepts you view as good with Friedman.

    Nature likes positive sum games. That is what evolution is all about. But the unfit fail. So Net advance=total evolved – unfit, in the new environment the net advance is positive.

    I have no idea how you got such a crazy idea about evolution. Here’s a starter list of some things you’ve gotten drastically wrong:
    -Evolutionary fitness is local
    -There is no advance. No progress. Evolution has no single arrow pointing in one direction or towards some goal. There is no measure upon which evolutionary biologists track evolution and go “yup, elimination of the dodo, but it had no defense against predation so net positive” (or net negative).
    -There is no “must.” No karma. If we design our societies in a non-darwinian way, nothing is going to come get us and punish us for it.
    -Within nature there are an extroadinarily wide range of social animal social arrangements, so I don’t even know what you’re claiming nature’s demands are. Considering the vast differences between, say, lion and ant society, (or Chimp and bonobo, to use examples closer to human) I don’t know how you could even make up a list of demands.

    You seem very intent on claiming that nature or evolution supports conservative free market capitalism, but I don’t know of any animal (other than humans) that practices it. Pretty much every social animal you care to name uses some form of social regulation to impose limits on what its members can do. Pretty much every social animal you care to name redistributes gained wealth from some of the producers to some of the nonproducing members of the society. And oh, horror of horrors for the conservative right, in many many animal societies the “state” in the form of social leaders exercise fairly strict control over the means of reproduction.

    Of course to me, none of those observations say ‘we ought to be communist’ (or socialist), because I don’t look at nature and insist we build our societies based on what happens in it. But since deriving ought from is seems to be your one trick argument, I’d be worried if I were you. Because social behavior in many animals has components of what we’d term socialism or communism in it.

  34. #34 John
    January 30, 2014

    Eric
    “Evolutionary fitness is local” Where did I say that?
    “There is no advance. No progress.” Where did I say that? Evolution is all about progress (but we need a definition of progess).
    “Within nature there are an extroadinarily wide range of social animal social arrangements” Where did I disagree?
    “If we design our societies in a non-darwinian way, nothing is going to come get us and punish us for it” I didn’t even talk of a Darwinian society. Where did you get this? I did say we must obey natures rules or die. Do you think you can act against nature and live?
    “so I don’t even know what you’re claiming nature’s demands are.” You should read what I said in the papers.
    “You seem very intent on claiming that nature or evolution supports conservative free market capitalism” Where did I say this? I did say the Objectivist ideals are NOT the way. You should read more accurately.
    “Considering the vast differences between, say, lion and ant society, (or Chimp and bonobo, to use examples closer to human) I don’t know how you could even make up a list of demands.” By looking at the common features of the lion, ant, etc. societies and by looking at history of when empires grow and when they fall. BTW Rome was done as an empire by 400AD. The rest of the time was the fall which took several hundred years. In the end, the decline was so slow (there were a vast amount of resources to waste-the same with the US) that cities ceased. With the cities went the centers of knowledge. It took over a thousand years before Europeans knew how to build on a scale of the Romans. I think that is why Rand wants a fast collapse so the knowledgeable people can come out of hiding and rebuild. Anybody want to discuss the British empire? I think the US has reached its zenith and is now declining. Like the Roman and British empires, a considerable time will be required to collapse.

    BTW what animal competes with the lion (as an example)? It’s the cheetahs and hyenas, etc. They have the same food sources and same territory. The pray animals are in cooperation with lions to use resources more effectively.

    You misinterpret a totalitarian family (human or animal) with socialism and communism. Totalitarian families are relatively small organizations which were replaced by tribes, chiefdoms, etc. Some animals get into the tribe level of organization but not higher.

    You should not read your ideas into what I say and then attribute them to me. If the above are your ideas, you should own them.

  35. #35 Blaine
    January 30, 2014

    It is difficult io use Rome as much of example of anything. Rome was hit hard in the late second century with the plague which is what Marcus Aurelius succumbed to ( which the movie Gladiator got wrong ). Then they were hit with the Rinderpest virus between AD 376-386 which decimated most of the Empires cattle stock and is widely believed to lend a large role in Rome’s subsequent decline.
    If you are a neo-Pagan, you would of course, attribute the collapse to the empire become Christian. As an ancient Sibylline oracle had it, Rome would last as long as the Altar of Victory remained in the Roman Senate. It was removed by the Christian Emperor Constantius I in 357. Julian restored it, but it was removed again in 382 by Gratian. Rome was invaded by Alaric in 410…you know the rest of the story. It clearly was the result of having the altar removed by a bunch of Christists during the vast genocide of pagans ;-)

  36. #36 eric
    January 30, 2014

    Do you think you can act against nature and live?

    Yes, and quite well. Help folk when they are poor, they contribute to society, and I live better because of it. Contribute to other people’s education, crime goes down, I benefit.

    The pray animals are in cooperation with lions to use resources more effectively.

    Wow.

    You should not read your ideas into what I say and then attribute them to me.

    Okay. If I attribute to you the idea that you think the lion’s prey animals cooperate with them, I’m on good footing, right?

  37. #37 Blaine
    January 30, 2014

    “Do you think you can act against nature and live?”

    Curious question since we are evolved products of nature and everything humans do is by definition ‘natural’.

  38. #38 John
    January 31, 2014

    Blaine
    Yes. Also, The global warm period coincided (allowed?) the rise of Rome. Further, the late 1st millennium had a cold period which reduced food in northern Europe.
    But Rome before its decline and the US before the beginning of its decline had big disasters also. The trick was to be strong enough to overcome the disaster.

  39. #39 John
    January 31, 2014

    Eric
    “Okay. If I attribute to you the idea that you think the lion’s prey animals cooperate with them, I’m on good footing, right?” Not quite right.

    The statement is the pray and predator species are living in cooperation with each other to use resources more efficiently. NOT pray are cooperating with lions (a one way street). You see the difference?
    The lions are also cooperating with the prey to take only those that are useless to the pray species.
    Consider zebras. Zebras eat grass and produce more young than the grassland support. If non-reproducing individuals such as the old were allowed to live, they would eat grass that productive individuals such as pregnant females might have eaten. If some weak young reach maturity, they also eat grass better used by others. In short, the overall population of zebras declines. Now introduce lions. Lions want an easy kill. They evolve to the point of being only strong enough to kill the weak and old. They are unable to kill the strong and healthy. Hence the removal of the sick and old helps there be more strong and healthy zebras and, in the end, more zebras for a given amount of grass. The lions help the zebra species. The US is not yet in a state of overpopulation. China is.

    I started hunting deer when I was a teenager. The license was for one buck per individual. The deer population was low. Not everyone in my hunting group filled his license. Then the state got smart. Each year the literature that came with the license described the laws and model of the deer population. The studies suggested that one strong buck impregnated an average of 4 doe. In reverse, if there are fewer bucks some doe are not pregnant. Worse, the weaker doe were allowed to eat early in the winter. As a farmer we would occasionally find frozen does during the winter. The weaker does would eat enough to make even the stronger does suffer late in the winter. Hence the low deer population. Then the laws changed. Hunters were allowed to take doe. Then a funny thing started to happen. The deer population started to rise. More deer were being taken. When I stopped hunting, my last license in the 90s allowed me to take 3 deer of either sex. The group had additional permits. Even then the number of deer taken in the state was at an all-time high. And the deer population was becoming a nuisance. Proper predation allows the pray to increase population. The limit is their food not the predation.
    In my experience, city folks just don’t get it. But they do eat meat. I guess they like others to do their killing for them.

  40. #40 John
    January 31, 2014

    Blaine2
    It is natural for mother nature to kill those that don’t obey her.
    We got here over the dead bodies of many civilizations who thought they could disobey.

  41. #41 Blaine
    January 31, 2014

    @40
    I am not sure what disobeying nature would entail. Jumping off a cliff thinking you can fly by flapping your arms might be one possible example. But I’m not sure what else would qualify. There are many types of social organization in the ethnographic literature. Some might be more adaptive when confronting other groups by pursuing one type of strategy over another. But I don’t think one could derive a law from that. Altruism evolved in humans for a reason. It is not all red in tooth and claw. We have a longer leash that’s for sure to use Wilson’s phrase.

    “Proper predation allows the pray to increase population. The limit is their food not the predation.”

    The arctic fox, arctic hare dynamic might not fit your example. Their main constraint is each other. Fox population increases until the hare population crashes. Then the fox population crashes allowing the hare population to recover. They are so well adapted to each other’s behavior that if a hare spots a fox, it will stand up to show itself to the fox indicating that the element of surprise is gone so it needn’t bother pursuing the hare which can outrun the fox – thus conserving both their energy.

  42. #42 eric
    January 31, 2014

    The statement is the pray and predator species are living in cooperation with each other to use resources more efficiently. NOT pray are cooperating with lions (a one way street). You see the difference?

    Not really. If I say “A and B are living in cooperation with each other” then that’s equivalent to saying A cooperates with B and vice versa. And this does not happen for the example you have. We do see such cooperation in nature, but you’re absolutely and completely wrong in thinking that the theory of evolution supports some notion of predators cooperating with their prey, or vice versa, or predators and prey cooperating together.

    The lions are also cooperating with the prey to take only those that are useless to the pray species.

    No, no, no. Lions will take any prey they can kill. Strongest, biggest, healthiest, doesn’t matter. They’ll kill all of them if they can; N. American wolf populations have historically gone through several boom and bust, because they keep killing deer until there aren’t enough to support them any more. There is no intelligent management, no planned balance. No cooperation of any sort. Now, lions are generally more successful at taking the weak prey animals, so the statistical effect is that the weak die in higher porportion. Lions are also pretty smart, so over time they learn what strategies are most successful and this reinforces the behavior. But the lions aren’t intentionally trying to cull the weakest because they are weakest. They are trying to eat whatever they can catch. That’s it.

    Consider zebras. Zebras eat grass and produce more young than the grassland support. If non-reproducing individuals such as the old were allowed to live, they would eat grass that productive individuals such as pregnant females might have eaten.

    None of the individual zebras care about that. First because you’re anthropomorphizing and they simply don’t think that way. Second because you’re attributing some wierd sort of group selection for cooperative behavior which practically no evolutionary scientist believes exists.
    Third, because you are thinking about this as a zero sum game, exactly the way I said you were and exactly the way you then denied doing. The non-zero sum game is that when the population gets large, they take over more territory. Killing the weak zebras isn’t a sign or assist to zebra evolutionary success; less zebras dying period is a sign of zebra evolutionary success. That may involve individuals who are better at fighting off lions having more kids. Or individuals who are better at taking territory from other herbivores having more kids. But it certainly does not include living in cooperation with lions.

    Proper predation allows the pray to increase population. The limit is their food not the predation.

    There is no proper in nature. In nature, predators and prey regularly go through boom and bust cycles and if one evolves to be very successful, the other goes extinct. That’s natural. What you’re talking about is not natural; it is a designed situation by humans for human benefit, where we regulate predation because we like to keep a certain number of deer around. We are no more cooperating with the deer than the flu virus is cooperating with us.

    In my experience, city folks just don’t get it. But they do eat meat. I guess they like others to do their killing for them.

    Thanks for the gratuitous insult, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have a really, really poor understanding of how evolution works, and you’re still committing the naturalistic fallacy in claiming human society would be better off if we just let the poor die like nature does.

  43. #43 John
    January 31, 2014

    Blaine
    Societies end. Why? What fundamental things did they do wrong?
    That is my quest.
    Your fox. Exactly. As the zebra population goes down, so to does the lion population. It a bit more difficult to see that if the lion population declines, so to does the zebra population. Perhaps if the zebras are not hunted, the excessive number of the old and weak (unable to reproduce) could cause extinction if a drought happens.

  44. #44 Blaine
    February 1, 2014

    @43, and others.

    I am not sure if you have read Jared Diamond’s collapse among others. There is a plethora of books trying to answer those questions.

    Personally, I am not worried about the economic future of the US. After WW2, we were the major supplier of the world’s goods and services….good times. Eventually, Europe caught up and it was 40% US, 40% Europe and 20% the rest of the world ( in terms of GDP ). Now others are catching up. However, US GDP in terms of purchasing power parity is still the largest in the world and stands at 20% of the world’s total. We are 6th in per capita GDP. We are the world’s largest manufacturing nation at 20% of world output. ( it’s a myth that manufacturing is dead in the US ) The unemployment rate has a 7 handle now ( look back at the 80′s and track the fall in unemployment from the almost 11% under Reagan in the fall of 1982 ( much higher than Obama ) to around 7 in 1984 where is stayed for another couple of years. We are in good territory now. The US is much further away from socialism than it ever has been. Remember airline and trucking deregulation in the 70′s under Carter, then the breakup of AT&T in the early eighties.

    US labor markets are some of the most flexible in the world and Obamacare will only add to that as it makes employees less dependent on their employer for the purchase of healh care insurance.

    I am a liberal and I sadly find Obama well to the right of Nixon who was considered a conservative. There are no liberal leaders in the country today with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders.

    Competition is now fierce however ( which of course brings in your evolutionary ideas ). Standard of livings have stagnated in terms of growth because we are no longer a monopoly supplier.

  45. #45 John
    February 1, 2014

    Blaine @44
    Yes I’ve read Jared’s collapse. I like “The collapse of complex societies” by Joseph A. Tainter better. Also read, “The end is near and it’s going to be awesome” by Kevin D. Willianson on which I have mixed thoughts.

    Yes. Our history has brought us to a pinnacle of power and well-being. But are we declining or at least no longer growing? Tainter seems to suggest the handwriting is on the wall.

    Lots of good numbers. I would note the unemployment rate is a poor measure. It was redefine a few years ago that is it is subject to political manipulation. The news programs indicate it goes down because people have been more than a year unemployed that removes them from the “unemployed” category. A bad reason rather than a good reason.

    I think the increasing debt and continued stimulus would tend to inflate the numbers more than is real as a future indicator.

    Thanks for you viewpoint.

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