Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pavlov's Blogs: If They Want To Prove My Point About Atheists Not Reading Things Before Blathering I'm Powerless to Stop Them

But I Can Get Them To Do It

Why would I care about what people who can't navigate the complexity of an argument we might have gotten the first week of our Frosh Rhetoric class in our first semester think they think about something?   

As to what you've said, if people want to misrepresent what I said in a way that validates the point that blog atheists don't even bother to read what they comment on, demonstrating one of the points in the post they didn't read, I'm powerless to stop them. 

Update:  Open Post:   And sometimes they prove they can't tell the difference between one and two.   Thanks for the heads up, I did actually chuckle when I read it.

Roger Sessions: Symphony No.4 (1958)

Columbus Symphony Orchestra
Christian Badea, director

Session's 4th is one of his best.

More Fun With Feyerabend

Thinking more about Paul Feyerabend's fascinating short essay, The Strange Case of Astrology, from his book, Science in a Free Society, and especially considering what he said early in the developing sTARBABY scandal, before he could have known about it, it is remarkably prescient of not only that event which proved Feyerabends' contentions, more about it should be said.  The reason for that is that as early as 1978, the ongoing practices of "skepticism" and neo-atheism were set out in clear detail in it.

Even as he was writing the essay, the instigator of Objections to Astrology:
A Statement by 186 Leading Scientists, Paul Kurtz, and one of its signatories, George Abell, joined by the statistician Marvin Zelen were doing just what could be expected of people who held the view of science, scholarship and standards of integrity that the essay exposed.

For my own purposes, it is a good example of something I recently said about neo-atheists, even the scientists among them but, just as much so, the non-scientists, science journalist, bloggers, etc.  That they shared all of the sins of medieval scholastic scholars and none of their virtues.

Here's a passage from Feyerabend's provocative and rather brilliant essay:

Now what surprises the reader [of the Humanist anti-astrology statement] whose image of science has been formed by the customary eulogies which emphasize rationality, objectivity, impartiality and so on is the religious tone of the document, the illiteracy of the "arguments" and the authoritarian manner in which the arguments are being presented.  The learned gentlemen have strong convictions, they use their authority to spread these convictions (why 186 signatures if one has arguments?), they know a few phrases which sound like arguments, but they certainly do not know what they are talking about.(1) 

Take the first sentence of the "Statement."  It reads:  "Scientists in a variety of fields have become concerned with the increased acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world."

In 1484 the Roman Catholic Church published the Malleus Maleficarum, the oustanding textbook on witchcraft.  The Malleus is a very interesting book.  It has four parts:  phenomena, aetiology, legal aspects, theological aspects o witchcraft.   The description of phenomena is sufficiently detailed to enable us to identify the mental disturbances that accompanied some cases.  The aetiology is pluralistic, there is not just the official explanation, there are other explanations as well, purely materialistic explanations included.  Of course, in the end only one of the offered explanations is accepted, but the alternatives are discussed and so one can judge the arguments that lead to their elimination.   This feature makes the Malleus superior to almost every physics, biology, chemistry textbook of today.   Even the theology is pluralistic, heretical views are not passed over in silence, nor are they ridiculed;  they are described, examined, and removed by argument.   The authors know the subject, they know their opponents, they give a correct account of the positions of their opponents, they argue against these positions and they use the best knowledge available at the time of their arguments.

The book has an introduction, a bull by Pope Innocent VIII, issued in 1484.   The bull reads:  "It has indeed come to our ears, not without afflicting us with bitter sorrow, that in ...."  - and now comes a long list of countries and counties - "many persons of both sexes unmindful of their own salvation have strayed from the Catholic Faith and have abandoned themselves to devils ..." and so on.  The words are almost the same as the words in the beginning of the "Statement,"  and so are the sentiments expressed.  Both the Pope and the "186 leading scientists"  deplore the increasing popularity of what they think are disreputable views.  But what a difference in literacy and scholarship!

Comparing the Malleus with accounts of contemporary knowledge the reader can easily verify that the Pope and his learned authors knew what they were talking about.  This cannot be said of our scientists.  they neither know the subject they attack, astrology, nor those parts of their own science that undermine the attack.

It is a poor account of the superiority of materialistic "science" - or, rather as I'd call it, scientism - that they practice an inferior, though otherwise identical form of argument from authority with a late medieval Pope, placing ideas and practices they don't like on a modern Index Prohibitorum.   And that their scholarship is generally of a uniformly worse variety than that practiced by the authors of a witch-hunters manual.  And even as the atheists assert their superiority to even modern religious scholarship, which is conducted at such a superior level to that practiced by the pseudo-skeptics that its dismissal can only be out of the total ignorance or inability to make that comparison

That is the real practice of the pseudo-skeptics.  And, it has come to my attention, again, that, not infrequently, the pseudo-skeptics do them better by misrepresenting research and simply lying about the existence of even published, reviewed, rigorously conducted scientific research when it doesn't serve their ideological purposes.   And, as it pretty obvious from the people involved and their developing activities, as well as their polemics, that the "skeptics" were only a cover for the promoters of ideological atheism.   Their practices merely the extension of those which date back to the 19th century with the sleazy, dishonest Joseph McCabe and many others.

About twelve years after his critique of the statement of the 186 authorities,  Feyerabend also said in Three Dialogues on Knowledge:

I have no special love of astrology and much that is written in this area bores me to tears.  But astrology is an excellent example of the way scientists deal with phenomena outside of their area of competence.  They dont' study them, they simply curse them, insinuating that their curses are based on strong and straightforward arguments

If he had lived about fifteen or more years, he would have seen even more evidence of that in the early books of neo-atheism.   The frequently named "four horsemen" of neo-atheism aren't the heralds of the end of religion, they are the heralds of the new dark age we are in, one made all the darker for falsely taking the name "science" for its trade mark and label, even as the medieval variety took the name of Jesus in vain as they violated everything he taught.   They will likely do more damage to the reputation of science than they will religion.   It is noteworthy that almost forty years after the efforts of the 186 that the public understanding of science is not notably healthier and that its reputation is not what it was even as they issued their fatwa.

Update:  I decided that I should include Feyerabend's first footnote as it supported his assertion about the ignorance of the signatories.

1. This is quite literally true.  When a representative of the BBC wanted to interview some of the Nobel Prize Winners they declined with the remark that they had never studied astrology and had no idea of its details.  Which did not prevent them from cursing it in public.  In the case Velikowski the situation was exactly the same.  Many of the scientists who tried to prevent the publication of Velikowski's first book or who wrote against it once it had been published never read a page of it but relied on gossip or newspaper accounts.  This is a matter of record. Cf. de Grazia.  The Velikowski Affair,  New York 1966, as well as the essays in Velikowski Reconsidered, New York 1976.  As usual the greatest assurance goes hand in hand with the greatest ignorance. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Roger Sessions: Symphony No.3 (1957)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Igor Buketoff, director

More Hate Mail: I've Given Scandal

If anything I said wasn't true, point it out.   This place has the name it does for a reason, I say the forbidden, frequently and flagrantly.  

Hate Mail: The Point I Was Making Isn't The One The "Skeptics" Are Hoping For I'm Not Pro Astrology I'm Pro Honesty

My post last night mentioning CSICOP's sTARBABY scandal wasn't about astrology, it was about skeptics lying about their expertise and their low level of integrity and total lack of honesty.   It was also about incompetence, once proven, passed off as fact by scientists who knew it wasn't true,  in the interest of their promotion of materialist ideology.

For an ideological cult which disclaims such things as argument from authority, idol worship and blind credulity, they are notably reliant on all three to maintain a following in a large group of people whose "skepticism" consists of all three of those.   It has to because most of the self proclaimed "skeptics" are entirely lacking in the knowledge to even understand the issues involved in scientific research.

As the three major participants in the sTARBABY scandal, Paul Kurtz, George Abell and Marvin Zelen prove, even some people whose professional and academic fields require that knowledge failed to understand the issues involved.  George Abell was a rather prominent astronomer at UCLA and Marvin Zelen was a statistician who taught at Harvard, yet they were the ones whose incompetence led to, first the incompetently framed challenge made against the claims of the neo-astrologers Michel and Françoise Gauquelin, and then the ever worsening incompetence in handling it and then the wider cover up by them, Paul Kurtz,  the head of CSICOP and numerous other atheist-"skeptical" organizations, the central figure in American pseudo-skepticism.  And by all of the members of CSICOP who were aware of the scandal, competent to understand it and who, yet, did nothing and remained with an organization they knew were publishing fraudulent claims about science and the conduct of the Gauquelins.  

That group of CSICOP "Fellows" includes Carl Sagan, who as an astrophysicist and astronomer specializing in the solar system certainly understood the issues and Ray Hyman, whose grasp of statistics certainly was enough to have understood that aspect of the problem his colleagues made for themselves, though he may not have understood the physics of it.   I would add Martin Gardiner to that group of CSICOP superstars whose professional and media PR should have meant he understood the botch that Kurtz, Abell and Zelen made of the thing and the depth of dishonesty in the cover up.  If he's going to be held up as a mathematical genius, it's only fair to hold him responsible in this scandal.

And here, today, we find that such luminaries of the "skeptical" movement as James Randi and Michael Shermer are teaching young "skeptics" to misrepresent themselves as "experts" in "Communicating Skepticism to the Public".   Joined by such organizers as Susan Gerbic, whose intention is to turn popular online authorities as Wikipedia into tools of "skepticism".  And, since they are all conjoined, you can safely substitute any of the the words "materialism" or "scientism" or "atheism" for "skepticism" and you'll never be far off.

I have little in common with Dennis Rawlins, the ultra-skeptic, old line materialist and obnoxious atheist except a respect for the standards of science, a requirement to be honest and the need to correct mistakes in public statements about science.   We also share a skepticism in astrology, neo or old fashioned.   And if you doubt my characterization of him, look at his thoughts on Atheism and Religion  at his website, complete with many false statements and accusations.  Rawlins, in common with many of his ideology, doesn't care much for history when it doesn't say what they want it to, which is especially odd for someone with his CV.

I am skeptical of astrology or any other form of determinism, I'm not an absolutist on the issue, as Rawlins is. His pretty old fashioned materialism precludes one of the purported requirements of science, that all questions remain permanently open, that any claim of even long standing science can be subjected to new information and even overturned*.  Not being a dogmatic or ideological materialist, I prefer to take the claim of scientists that all questions are open to account for new information.  There are interesting critiques that can be made, even while maintaining my skepticism.   You don't get to break the rules of science based on whether or not you like what's being talked about, not while claiming that those rules are inviolable and required of everyone else.

The Strange Case of Astrology, the philosopher of science  Paul Feyerabend's  critique of Paul Kurtz's well known petition against astrology, the origins of both CSICOP and the challenge made against Gauquelin,  was interesting in pointing out how scientists both wanted to have extremely subtle effects of the sun and planets on organisms and each other recognized while denying any possible effects that they didn't like.  He also pointed out that few, if any, of the famous people who signed onto Kurtz's call for forbidding the topic of astrology in public life had studied it. Their objections to it were based, firmly in not knowing anything about its claims.  It's well worth reading in full as he makes some unusual and entirely rational and important points.**

The conclusion I drew from reading all of these things isn't that astrology is established or valid, it is that scientism and self-announced "skepticism" are just as liable to be wishful thinking and to lead to error and open dishonesty as any other area of human folly.   As the sTARBABY scandal proves, even a high degree scientific competence (Abell, Zelen, Sagan, Hyman) isn't a guarantee of avoiding folly and dishonesty when it's a question of protecting your ideological preferences.    Those whose scientific knowledge is very low, often consisting of what is more accurately termed urban myth and folk lore, are even more likely to be at the mercy of their cherished beliefs, in the case of scientism, one that I think is probably more difficult to question than Biblical Fundamentalism frequently is. You see, they have the oracle of "science" to guarantee it.

I read through Patrick Curry's analysis of the sTARBABY scandal  last night. It is very hard going because the years long mess they made of it added layer after layer of complication.  I would have to go through it for many hours to really understand all of the issues.   His conclusions are the easiest part of it to understand.

I don't think I need to stress how badly the Committee has handled the investigation of the Mars effect; the facts above speak for themselves.  Their work could now best function as a model and a warning of how not to conduct such investigations.   Given the ample internal (Rawlins) and external (Gauquelin) warnings that went suppressed or ignored, it is even difficult to accept protestations of "good faith" and "naivete" (Abell, 1981c).   Rawlins and Gauquelin are in fact, the only two major figures to emerge with scientific credibility intact.  It seems to me that this situation must call into question any further (unrefereed, at least)  CSICOP involvement in research on the Mars effect, and possible other "paranormal" areas.

I earlier mentioned that there are occasions in the history of science when a "sociological" explanation seems called for.  This seems to be one.  It would have to take into account such considerations as:  the nature of claims being investigated; undue involvement of scientists with media and publicity, or perhaps conversely, unique (especially  in America?) pressures of public-relations on science; considerations of where power resides in such an organization; and how it is exercised (financially?  publishing rights?);  and lastly, how information circulates, or fails to circulate.  (of SI [Skeptical Inquiry, the official publication of CSICOP, now CSI] policy, we are now aware; readers of SI alone are not so lucky. [Skeptical Inquiry was the major organ of the botch and the cover up.]  Also, there are a number of "big name" figureheads on the masthead;  are they aware of CSICOP behavior, which they presumably support?)

Of course, it could be argued - and has been (e.g. by Abell, 1981c) - that the entire testing of Gauquelin's work was a purely "personal experiment," and nothing to do with CSICOP.  This would involve believing that these experiments "just happened" to be run by the Chairman and Fellows of the CSICOP,  and be published in its official organ.  It would also overlook the fact that Rawlins was paid (starting Oct. 20, 1977) with CSICOP checks for his calculations; and contradict Abell's earlier (1978b) description of "the subcommittee that agreed to look into the Mars  effect on behalf of the Committee."  Finally, such backpedaling is unflattering to CSICOP; if true, it implies that an organization whose much-publicized raison d'etre is ".... Scientific Investigation..."  The scientific quality of its work, if we refuse disownment, is something that thankfully needs no further comment.

But, as mentioned, none of the major figures or the minor accomplices in the scandal ever suffered any serious loss of public credulity of professional consequences, some of the worst continued, in the intervening decades and today to be presented in the media as entirely reliable and even some of those, such as Paul Kurtz,  who proved their total incompetence, as experts.   James Randi, totally incompetent to understand science and a proven liar, deceiver and fraud, is held up as even a figure of science and promoted, by scientists as an ally and practically as a colleague. Prominent scientists associate with him and add luster to his PR events such as his Amazing Meetings.   Science journalism, when it comes to the pseudo-skeptics and the materialists practice the same standards as the journalists in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."   Apparently that's a standard of truth that can get you far in the world of "science," these days.

*  He shares that closed minded attitude with a lot of scientists, even some who will both share his dogmatic view of things while mouthing the claims that all scientific holdings are contingent and open to testing with new information.  It's a very old and illogical holding, one that isn't compatible with the very foundations of science in empirical observation.   A particularly bad case of it was from the 19th century scientific polymath, Hermann von Helmholtz.

"I cannot believe it.  Neither the testimony of all of the Fellows of the Royal Society, nor even the evidence of my own senses, would lead me to believe in the transmission of thoughts from one person to another independently of the recognized channels of sensation.  It is clearly impossible."

If he distrusted the evidence of his own senses on that question,  that would mean that his senses were unreliable, something that is frequently asserted by pseudo-skeptics but only when what is observed isn't to their liking.  That only impeaches the reliability of observation, one of the absolute requirements of science.  If he rejected the unanimous judgement of the Fellows of The Royal Society,  that would impeach the very substance of science which consists of the judgement of the majority of scientists working and publishing science at any given date.   Without those two things science as it's asserted to be, wouldn't exist.   But I've never found the materialists to be especially good at reflecting on things like that, they take so much as a given without understanding what it is they are taking as given.

As I've pointed out many times, materialism, at its most rigorous assertion, would invalidate not only all of science but the possibilities of objective observations or analysis and even the possibility of people discerning anything that had the transcendent property of being true.

**  It's also worth reading this paper which includes a long analysis of what Feyerabend said and why he may of said it.

It is unsurprising that Feyerabend was familiar with the Humanist
statement. He was well informed and widely read, with a keen sense for the wider cultural and intellectual scene. It is equally unsurprising that he disliked it, partly for its reliance on a crudely triumphalist account of the historical development of science, and partly because it evinced a range of intellectual attitudes to which he was starkly opposed.  Feyerabend offered three specific objections first, the "religious tone of the document; second, the weakness--or, in his preferred term, "illiteracy"--of the arguments; and, third, the authoritarian tone and style of the statement.  Rather than summarise each objection in turn, which Feyerabend does clearly enough anyway, Iwill focus only on those aspects germane to the theme of epistemic integrity. The core of Feyerabend's objections is that the authors and signatories of the  Humanist  statement criticise astrology by an appeal to their authority rather than by offering a carefully informed procedurally impeccable critical analysis and rebuttal of astrology.  With characteristically imaginative flair, this objection is presented byunfavourably comparing the statement with the Catholic Church's witch hunters manual, the  Malleus Maleficarum , also known as the Hexenhammer, or "The hammer of the witches"... 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pseudo-Experts Peddling Pseudo-Expertise Online

It is something I'd noticed before but the practice of "skeptics" and other materialist ideologues to pretend that they have "math degrees" "science degrees" and, now, I suspect, "MDs" is rampant on comment threads.   Several times when I knew what the "expert" was saying was bosh I asked them some questions and found out that the person claiming that didn't even have a grasp of high school algebra.   I suspect this is something that is being encouraged by one or more of the pseudo-skeptical groups such as those that "edit" Wikipedia or ratfuck (sorry, no better word for it) such online resources as "Web of Trust".

There is evidence of this among the pseudo-skeptics.  At the 2005 James Randi cult's "Amazing Meeting" Randi conducted a workshop with Michael Shermer called "Communicating Skepticism to the Public."  During that session the participants were handed a manual that said, among other things,

“Becoming an expert is a pretty simple procedure; tell people you’re an expert. After you do that, all you have to do is maintain appearances and not give them a reason to believe you’re not.”  *

James Randi has no training as a scientist or, I believe, even a high school diploma.  As one of the more sleazy of the participants in the sTARBABY scandal, CSICOP's one and only "scientific investigation," he has had to confess his total incompetence in mathematics** that would be necessary for him to even read scientific research, never mind evaluate someone's competence.   I believe that Shermer has a degree in science of some kind but couldn't find any evidence that he's conducted research or published.  He's pretty much an opinionator, not a scientist.   It's pretty telling what his approach to science is if he would put his name on that kind of statement.

So, there are good reasons to suspect that the wider pseudo-skeptical-atheist online manifestation are taking up that advice and lying about their "expertise" to dupe the unaware and uninformed.  Which was pretty much the idea of pseudo-skepticism from the start.

*  Skeptics admire Randi’s belligerent style and his tireless activism in the skeptical cause. From 2003, he held an annual gathering of skeptics and atheists in Las Vegas called “The Amazing Meeting,” which was like a revivalist rally. Inspirational speakers included Richard Dawkins, Richard Wiseman and Michael Shermer. Participants were not just motivated but taught the tricks of the trade. For example, in the 2005 meeting, Randi and Shermer gave a seminar entitled “Communicating Skepticism to the Public: A Seminar on Promoting a Scientific View of the World.” Attendees were handed a manual that told them how to be a media skeptic: “Becoming an expert is a pretty simple procedure; tell people you’re an expert. After you do that, all you have to do is maintain appearances and not give them a reason to believe you’re not.”

In real science, becoming an expert requires qualifications and hard work, but as Randi and Shermer pointed out, the rules are different for skeptics. All you need is to form a club with like-minded people: “As head of your local skeptic club, you’re entitled to call yourself an authority. If your other two members agree to it, you can be the spokesperson too.”

Neither Randi nor Shermer are scientists, and their “scientific view of the world” is a fundamentalist belief system rather than science itself. For decades, skeptics have got away with deceit, dishonesty and ignorance by laying claim to the authority of science. Those who disagree with them were portayed as ignorant and irrational. But if skeptics want to be taken seriously, then they should be subject to the same kinds of quality control as genuine science. In the long term, the cause of science and reason will not be advanced by unscientific and irrational behaviour.

** And Randi was hardly the only sciency "skeptic" who proved that among the "skeptics"  "expert' and "authority" used as slogans aren't any guarantee of finding it in the contents.

 At this time Kurtz attempted to persuade Gauquelin to agree to the suppression of even my mild September 18 report. He also tried to dissuade Gauquelin from visiting me during the latter's April trip to San Diego. 
    He never told me any of this. Instead he pretended (as he had the previous year) that he might be willing to publish my report if KZA got to sum it all up afterward. And this is roughly how it was done eventually. 
    However, my challenge to call in outside refereeing (as Abell had promised in September-October 1976 Humanist) to determine the truth did not tempt the Committee. 
    During this period Randi would occasionally phone up for a friendly "just-happened-to-be-thinking-of-you" chat. l suspected he was trying to draw out of me statements of anger or of dissatisfaction. Despite his private rages Randi wished to make no public waves. When I asked him why, he repeated the tired old alibi that the occultist kooks would whoop it up if Kurtz fell. But he claimed that he had dressed down Kurtz (privately) in Washington in December. He stated without qualification that Gardner Hyman and he all supported my scientific position on the sTARBABY mess. (I knew, however, that he was telling all inquiring Fellows that a little old nonstatistician like himself just couldn't understand the problem.)

And Randi wasn't the only "expert" in pseudo-skepticism who was forced to admit their incompetence.   In his examination of the sTARBABY scandal, Richard Kammann said:

- George Abell sensibly wrote Paul Kurtz saying the Gauquelins had won that round, and he suggested getting on with the new test on American athletes. Rawlins used this "smoking gun" letter as proof that the trio knew the true situation right from the start, but the case is not strong. Abell specifically asks in the letter what Zelen saw in the data. Meanwhile, as I described in Part 1, Zelen fancied he saw two anomalies in the data that suggested a biased sample. In my "subjective validation" scenario, Zelen's erroneous statistics became the starting point for the trio's private belief that the Gauquelins had probably cheated. By the time the paper got to print, Zelen's skeptical approach had replaced Abell's; although the trio did not openly accuse the Gauquelins of fraud, they smothered the victory under a blanket of bogus side issues, partly achieved by deleting the favorable Mars results for female champions.

Against an "innocent goofs" theory, the trio was warned before publication that their statistics were wrong, once by Michel Gauquelin and once by Elizabeth Scott, Professor of Statistics at Stanford University. (Rawlins was not consulted.) Even worse, after the paper came out, neither Scott nor Gauquelin could get space in The Humanist for a reply.

- After reading the Rawlins expose in Fate magazine, I was only sure of one thing--if any part of his story were true, I could count on Gardner, Hyman, Randi and Frazier to set the record straight. It was a very long time before I gave up that belief.

CSICOP's first reply was to circulate some photocopied old letters to show (ad hominem) that Rawlins was a habitual troublemaker. Two months later, CSICOP mailed out two privately authored white papers, without taking an official stance.

In "The Status of the Mars Effect," Abell, Kurtz and Zelen simply re-hashed all the statistical errors that Rawlins (Gauquelin, Scott, Hyman, Tarkington) had protested. I did not see this, however, until I had spent hours analyzing four years of published statistics--the errors were even worse than Rawlins had stated, but most Fellows would never learn this.

- The Klass letter started a long and exasperating exchange in which he talked about everything but the statistical errors and the real cover-up. He kept me busy for a while answering irrelevant questions, while periodically attacking my objectivity, intelligence or integrity. From time to time, he threatened to expose my cover-up of scientific evidence he imagined he had uncovered. After he regularly ignored all my serious answers and questions, I nicknamed him T.B. Diago--the best defense is a good offense. He eventually fell back on the traditional Council stance--he didn't understand statistics.

Around March, Zetetic Scholar featured a review of Mars and CSICOP with a lead article by Patrick Curry who not only agreed with Rawlins and me about the Zelen test fiasco, but presented a good case for more bungling in the U.S. champions test. But Council had already adopted the line that ZS editor Marcello Truzzi was on a "vendetta" kick. Ad hominem be thy name.

I will point out that the passages are from Dennis Rawlins, one of the founding members of CSICOP, one of its "Councilors" until his ouster as a result of too much competence in statistics and too much honesty and Richard Kammann, a member of CSICOP who couldn't believe Rawlins' accusations until he went over the evidence and found, if anything, that Rawlins' understated the catastrophe.

None of the "skeptics" involved, who disgraced themselves, not even Abell and Zelen, whose professional competence as scientists didn't keep them from making some rather obvious and absurd errors in statistical analysis IN THEIR OWN FIELD, suffered any loss of "credibility" among the "Skeptics" cult.  Few of the "skeptical" scientists among the CSICOP "Fellows" resigned at the disgraceful behavior of Paul Kurtz and co. including such luminaries as Carl Sagan.   Such is the reliability of the "expertise" peddled by the pseudo-skeptics.

Update:  I found out that all of the numbers of the "Zetetic Scholar" are posted online, including the March issue mentioned above that goes into even more depth over the sTARBABY scandal.   I haven't read it yet, hope to soon, but here it is for anyone who wants to read more about how the "skeptics" conduct science.

Roger Sessions: Symphony No.2 (1946)

New York Philharmonic
Dimitri Mitropolos, director

It has to be significant for the difference in language and mood of Roger Sessions Second Symphony that the Great Depression, followed by the Second World War came between it and the first.  It is, if anything, even more mature than the first one, even more serious and profound.  I believe one other recording of it has been released, there should be at least a half dozen of all of them in the catalog.

Hate Mail: The Habit Of Jr. High Thinking Dupes Us Into A Dead End Of False Alternatives

The response to my criticism of the detour that the various Marxists, anarchists, etc. took the American left on for much of the past century has been a reminder of how much of that was based on a ruse, itself based in some rather juvenile and obviously false modes of thinking.   The most obvious of those is an inability to analyze and see past various artificially constructed false alternatives.   The simple and liberating fact is you can reject them both for the alternative that is already present in the aspirations of egalitarian democracy.

The assertion that either you have to support communists or you have to support the American right is as absurd as the idea that you either support the Yankees or the Red Sox.  You don't have to support either of them or be sucked into their rivalry, you can oppose both of them with equal vehemence and, in the political choice, with some actual substance to your opposition other than mere local chauvinism.   And with the choice between the crypto-fascism of the American right and the red-fascism of the communists, the articulation of that opposition is far more lucid.   They both are total disasters for human rights, human life, and the foundations of democracy and a decent, peaceful life.

Yet one of the ways in which the Marxists suckered the left was by holding up that choice, "which side are you on" based on the spectacles and show trials and rituals of degradation and unjust prosecutions of the red-scare.   Those were, of course, wrong.   However,  they were a mere shadow of those which happened as a matter of course in the Soviet Union, the occupied countries in Eastern Europe and everywhere else presented as being on the right road by the very same people.   That the communists' heroes were even worse than the vulgar anti-communists who went over the line in the United States by an enormous factor is certainly true.  If the Hollywood Ten had been the Leningrad Ten and they had gone up against Stalin instead of HUAC, they'd have almost certainly been shot, likely without trial, certainly without a fair trial or due process.   The number of artists and writers who were killed by Stalin is far, far  higher than those of his supporters in the United States who were jailed or even found it hard to get work under their own name.   The violations of constitutional rights here, under the despised bourgeois political system (which, by the way, you don't have to champion as it is, either) were insignificant as compared to those in the system championed by the American communists whose rights were violated.

Of course, those victims of the red-scare who had never supported Stalin or Lenin or Mao or even Marxism, are entirely sympathetic victims of the excesses of HUAC, etc.  They were not guilty of the massive hypocrisy that the Stalinists were for the period when his crimes were already known in the West.  The report on the Moscow show trials of the group under John Dewey* wasn't anything like the first credible report of the mass murders, those reports had been coming in from credible sources within months of the Revolution.

But the vulgar, distasteful excesses of the anti-communists here, the political use that Republicans, segregationists and others on the right made of anti-communism to attack people and ideas that had nothing in common with communism, their alliance with racists, segregationists, fascists and fans of Hitler were quite useful to the communists in getting them the one thing they ever got, the unearned and unwise sympathy of many on the left.   Their use of the antics of the anti-communists was similar to that of communism by the Republicans. The Republicans used communism and the fact that the communists here supported dictators as bloody, ruthless and horrible as any to scare voters into supporting them, the communists success was far more modest, they only duped an effective part of the real left into being their stooges, damaging the left as well.   Many of the most unwise choices of those on the left were forced by that dirty dance between the Republicans and the communists and when presented with the choices they had,  Americans knew they didn't want communism, even as they did want health care and a full range of other good things that the Republicans and corporations and the media successfully prevented by associating them with communism.

The one and only thing the Marxists in the United States ever accomplished in politics was the weakening, division and discrediting of the left.   Other than that their only accomplishment is their victimization by American fascists.   They are certainly not a choice that ever was a good one for the real left and many on the left knew that.   It was the day that I realized that the left owed them nothing and could cut them and their phonied up history and legend off it felt like a burden was lifted from me.  The tension of trying to square the support of civil rights, human rights and the morality essential to support them with any kind of sympathy for those whose basic political and intellectual framing would lead to their destruction disappeared.   It felt like I saw things clearly for the first time, even if I did have to give up the misplaced idolatry I'd been taught to practice.  I don't have to like or respect the Marxists who supported some of the biggest murderers, enslavers and oppressors in history just as I don't have to support the American right who championed other murderers, enslavers and oppressors.  If either of those alternatives took power here, they'd both do the same things to people, merely organizing the economy a bit differently.   With the development of Chinese communist-capitalism, you can't even count on that difference.

*  It's a fact that the committee of luminaries assembled under John Dewey was for the goal of rehabilitating Leon Trotsky, someone who, as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman pointed out, rather convincingly, was no slouch when it came to the advocacy and use of violence, terrorism and the denial of rights and justice that the Dewey Commissioners complained he had been denied.  The fact is, he merely lost the power struggle with Stalin and managed to get away.   In reading more about the various reactions in the 1930s as the crimes of Stalin were being revealed in the West, it's striking how the intellectuals seem to worry, mostly, at times exclusively, for the lives and rights of various sects of Marxists, as compared to the millions of peasants, workers and others murdered.   Which certainly put the last nail in the coffin of my misplaced respect for them.

Update:  I should have added that a "Leningrad Ten" would have almost certainly been tortured into confessing, they and their families, including their children, many of whom would likely, as well, have been killed.   Remember that the next time you read the legend of the persecution of the actual Stalinists here, which wouldn't justify any violation of their rights, it would, though, force you to conclude that they were no heroes, either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Roger Sessions - Symphony #1

Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
Akeo Watanabe, director

It is grotesque that this is the only recording of this symphony, one of the really great orchestral works by one of America's great composers.

Why Religion Belongs In Public Life And Political Discourse: An Example

Yesterday I reposted a piece I did on two passages in The Bible, the story of Susanna and the Elders in the Book of Daniel and the story of the woman caught in adultery from The Gospel according to John.   In thinking more about it I felt I should point out something about the passage from John because it includes about the strongest anti-capital punishment argument that could be made to a Christian, more than 80% of the population.

In the story, as you'll recall, Jesus challenged the accusers who wanted to stone the woman to death on their qualifications to do so.

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

It is unstated in the story but an article of faith for Christians that the only person, there, indeed, anywhere in the world, who met that qualification was Jesus.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:16*

But he, himself, refused to carry out the law.

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”

It is certainly worth bringing up to serious Christians who favor the death penalty that they are violating the disqualification made by no less than Jesus, in imposing death on someone.   They pretend that they have a status that they couldn't have if the Epistle to the Hebrews was true, a status that only Jesus had (Catholics would include his mother) and he refused to throw the first stone against someone who had clearly violated a law for which the legal penalty was death.   By doing that they are clearly putting themselves above Jesus.

Who the hell do they think they are?

*  Yes, I know the Epistle to the Hebrews is widely accepted as not being authentic by scholars but it is by most of the large denominations.

What Information and The Only Reason That Is Really Important

It is impossible to disagree with the recycled, seven year old item originally posted at TomDispatch, up at Alternet by Rick Shenkman about the extent to which Americans are dangerously ignorant and how dangerous that is.  I think it's fairly safe to say his approach in reproaching Americans isn't going to do a thing to help fix the problem.  Since the chapter is an excerpt from a book, he might have had some ideas in that but I don't have the book, I only have this excerpt and it's hardly news that Americans know dangerously little about the world, history, etc.

Perhaps I'll go back later today and look at comments to see how self-congratulating they are that the readers of Alternet are so much smarter than the vast majority of people and the group shunning of the ignorant masses, having fact checked and analysed a number of Alternet articles and comments in the past, they don't have nearly as much to brag about as they like to pretend they do.

From looking around for more of what Shenkman said apparently he did have some ideas about how to fix the problem, even mentioning the unmentionable, that television plays an enormous role in that ignorance and disinformation.

Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this: "Homer Simpson, Yes -- 1st Amendment 'Doh,' Survey Finds" (Associated Press 3/1/06).

"About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.

"The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms."

Having committed the unpardonable sin of mocking FOX Entertainment's products online, Matt Groening's cutely cynical cartoon, included, I can tell you that the audience he probably hoped to attract and which Alternet is geared to is probably far better versed in The Simpsons and sit-coms than they are in the laundry list of ignorance the post goes through*. And boy do they get touchy when you diss their shows.   Which should inform them that the practice of mocking people for their ignorance and on their taste in entertainment isn't likely to make them want to learn.  It's certain to make them not want to take the advice of those who are mocking them.

Television and now the internet are the central problem because there are only so many hours in a life and when you spend eight hours a day watching TV, that's what's going to be in your head and how you're going to use it.  Television, not schools, have become our de facto public education system and it is about the worst one imaginable.   Television isn't required to serve the common good, providing  The People with the right to information that they need to cast an informed vote for people who aren't crooks and crackpots and so they don't.  It's in their interest as corporate, profit making entities to entice an audience with what's easy, facile and entertaining and excluding anything that is at all challenging or, especially, what would be disadvantageous to their financial interest and the interest of the owners and the class that they serve, the rich.

There is some irony in the fact that when he posted this piece that Shenkman worked at George Mason University because George Mason is where the problem he decries originated.   As the "father of the Bill of Rights" Mason drafted a much longer set of proposed amendments to the original Constitution. His #16 said:

16. That the People have a right to Freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their Sentiments; that the Freedom of the Press is one of the great Bulwarks of Liberty, and ought not to be violated.

Expressed in that First Amendment as the briefer catch all:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Which has been interpreted by the branch of government most friendly to the interests of the wealthy and the oligarchs, the Supreme Court, to pretend we are still an 18th century print based world, totally ignoring the danger of mass media to prevent effective self-government and to serve any interest except the one the Constitution claimed to serve, The Peoples' right to self-government.

It also doesn't distinguish between the personal liberty of natural people as opposed to the artificial entities that are "the press."   Especially when "the press" is actually a corporation, that difference becomes crucial as corporations are formed to greatly increase the power and ability of those involved to bend things to their own ends, including corrupting governments and duping The People into acting against their own good.  That, in short, is the problem of why ignorant people can't govern themselves and why they will be at the mercy of demagogues, corporations and a real ruling class, whether called a plutocracy or an oligarchy.

Our Bill of Rights is dangerously vague** in addressing that issue and the corrupt Supreme Court has used that vagary to corrupt elections and the information that people need to rely on to vote in the best interest of themselves, their families, their communities, their country and the world.   The Supreme Court, being chosen in the most undemocratic manner of any part of our government, has proven to be untrustworthy in that and so many ways.   Since they can be counted on the continue in that, we will only be safe if the Amendment is amended to place responsibilities for honesty and truth on electronic mass media.  The environment in which democracy will have to survive and live has changed, absolutely, from the one the 18th century aristocrats who wrote the First Amendment,   The history of the use of mass media as a tool of deceit, cheating, robbing, oppressing, inciting mass murder all through corrupting of the minds of The People with lies appealing to the basest of our weaknesses proves that democracy won't survive under the rules as they are now.

When the history of how The United States lost democracy is written, it will probably be a lie financed by billionaires, under the system the libertarians of the "free speech-free press" industry has promoted.  The real reason will be because of how The First Amendment has been interpreted to allow the mass media to distract and lie to The People through television, radio and other electronic media.

*  No one can know everything, they can't even know everything they're supposed to know or need to know.  Certainly, as a citizen in a democracy, you need to know what you need to cast an informed vote on current issues than you do to know a lot of facts about things that you will never need in your lifetime.  I don't think it's going to be a serious impediment to casting an informed vote if an American doesn't know the date of the Norman Conquest of England.

[Note, yeah, that "Normal Conquest" got past me this morning.  I have to stop using the automatic spelling corrector on my word processor.]

One of the big problems caused by the mass media is that a lot of people believe they know about the past based on historical fiction, the falsified history found in movies and TV shows, costume dramas, falsified historical myth, etc.  The cult of Constitutional Originalism is founded on obviously ideological lies told about the document, its writers, those who voted to accept it and the history of its use.  It was a cult that has clear political and economic goals,  promoted and supported by the same wealthy class that has taken up the pseudo-liberal chant of "free speech" "free press" to use for those ends.  The suckers that so many liberals are, misinformed by their own romantic view of history and civics, don't even seem to notice that operation going on in the open, right before their eyes.

** The one that became the "Second Amendment" is actually, somewhat more specific and, so, less dangerous than the abbreviation in the final version.

 17. That the People have a Right to keep and to bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free State; that Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the Circumstances and Protection of the Community will admit; and that in all Cases, the military should be under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Susanna Again

This is an update on a post I did almost a year ago, I'll begin with the update.  I noted that the first reading in the mass that day (yesterday this year) had the story from the Book of Daniel about how the two corrupt elders falsely accused Susanna of adultery, a capital crime and how Daniel, by questioning the two accusers separately, exposed their lies and saved Susanna.  The two elders, by the law of Moses, suffered the same penalty they tried to falsely impose on the innocent Susanna.  I'm an absolute opponent of the death penalty but I've said that if they are going to have it it should be imposed on police, prosecutors, lawyers and judges who were guilty of falsely charging or convicting people of capital crimes.   I said that knowing it's about as likely to happen as a perfect justice system.

In the post last year I mentioned Antonin Scalia, a member of the Supreme Court who has chuckled over the issue of painful botched executions from the bench and who has contended that there is no right of innocent people to not be executed as long as the petty, official procedures of courts are followed.  If I had time today, I'd look up what he said over the issue of executing people when their information exonerating them or mitigating the circumstances under which the death penalty was imposed on them didn't arrive according to the set scheduling of the courts involved, but I doubt it was much less depraved than everything else he and his pro-killing colleagues have to say on the matter.

I also noted his and other Catholic reactionary justices and judges at the "red masses" on the occasion of St. Thomas More's feast day.  I do think it would be interesting to watch his face if the priest at such a mass preached on the text that Daniel cited, from The Law in the book of Exodus 23:7 "Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty."   It couldn't be more appropriate to the occasion and if he were any kind of preacher he'd make it relevant to his audience of lawyers and judges, people for whom the temptation to violate those commandments is part of their job.  I doubt that unless the matter were specifically pointed out that someone as inured to judicial murder as Scalia is would get the message.

Here's what I said last year with the great motet by Orlando di Lasso on the text.

Today's Catholic liturgy reads the story from the Book of Daniel, Susanna and the Elders, about how two corrupt judges falsely accused an innocent woman of adultery after she refused to have sex with them despite their blackmail that would lead to her death.   As with the story of Abraham and Issac, the story ended in her exoneration as a young Daniel insisted on asking the two accusers, separately, under what kind of tree they caught her and a young man who they said had gotten away from them.   So they ended up being put to death for perjury in a capital case.  While I'm entirely opposed to the death penalty, I do think if it's going to be done that police, prosecutors, judges, etc. who put people to death by false testimony or withholding of exonerating evidence should have a mandatory death penalty.  I know that will never be done and it shows why the death penalty should be abolished because it is an open opportunity for the state to falsely kill innocent people.

The gospel for today is the famous passage from the gospel according to John in which Jesus goes even farther, getting off a woman who was actually guilty of adultery by shaming her accusers and would-be executioners with their own sins, though there was no accusation that they were lying about her adultery.   The lesson I take from that is that none of us is qualified to kill someone, even someone guilty as charged.  You can see why that lesson might be good news for people without power and why it would be most unwelcomed news for people with the ability to exercise power.  I doubt that any of the conservatives on the Supreme Court who make a show of being religious would welcome having to consider their qualifications to kill people, which they do as certainly as the crowds who waited, no doubt with a similar thrill of power and self-righteousness, eagerly to kill Susanna and the nameless woman who Jesus, acting as defense attorney, got off with a far lighter reprimand than courts give to anyone but the rich and famous under our supposedly enlightened justice system.

I would think that the questionable fashion of Catholic lawyers, judges and Supreme Court judges making a show of piety at a "Red Mass" on the feast day of St. Thomas More (I believe started by the ultra-conservative St. Thomas More society) would be better held on this day when the focus is on the victims of the legal system, both the innocent and falsely accused and the guilty and disproportionately punished and those destroyed by "justice" as meted out by fallible and less than fully qualified human beings.   Seeing the likes of Antonin Scalia preening for a camera as he comes out of the Red Mass turns my stomach.

Update:  Score   Orlando di Lasso, what an incredible genius he was.

Hate Mail: The Defining Difference Between Real Liberalism and the Pseudo-left

"Our Holocaust Is The Good Holocaust"  

That wasn't how it was put but that's what it meant.   For the second time in less than two weeks someone has said pretty much that about the murders committed under the Marxist regimes of the 20th century as opposed to the murders committed under Nazism, for some reason they neglect to mention those murdered by Mussolini and other fascists but when you can excuse the murders of scores of millions of people maybe that's an established habit.   It certainly is among the fascists.   So there is some indication of similarity in the two mindsets, a view of human beings that allows them to be considered as objects and even lower as material, useful or disposable and if disposable then not worthy of consideration.

That is the "scientific" view of human life,  And by the use of those quotes I'm not saying that it is something scientists do as part of science but that the pretense that the study of political-economy is a science, something that Marxists, fascists, Nazis, some, not all, anarchists, and others pretend.   I think a general category of such "science" can be made and it is the extension of the agriculture of raising animals for food and other uses applied to the human population.  Any system that produces the results that Marxism, fascism, Nazism, have begins with that view of human beings as material entities and the results are no different from how other living beings are treated when they are considered in terms of utility and use.   The details of how those chosen for slaughter and those chosen to keep as breeding stock or to put to other uses before they, too, are not useful and so disposable are the real differences among them.

The alternative to that is to consider people as more than mere material objects, to consider them as sacred, as the possessors of inherent and inalienable rights and moral obligations to respect those in others without discrimination,  the gift of their Creator.   And, as a consequence of that status, only a political and economic system that respects all of those conditions on an equal basis, with the consent of The People, is legitimate or capable of just and sustained rule under peaceful conditions without violating the rights of people.   The extent to which The People take up that moral obligation is the extent to which they will be able to govern themselves justly and obtain the good that is the result of that practice.

There is a reason that the Marxists have violence as an inherent feature of their system, put there by Marx and Lenin,  in common with the fascists and Nazis and it is because their ideological framing and consideration of people as material entities can't produce a stable government on any other basis than terror and inhibition of opposition by that means.   It was a given in Marx and Engels that violence would be necessary to take power but that it would also be necessary to transform society from feudalism and bourgeois capitalism to their workers paradise, they imagined that the violence would be as beneficial for the survivors as the Nazis did.   I really do have to wonder at how the white collar Marxists whose soft hands never did anything more like work than move books around read them and Lenin, even more an enthusiast for violence, and how they saw only differences where the similarities are far more striking.   Maybe they figured their Never Land lay just over the pile of corpses on their side of the divide.

I went into the hypocrisy of the ACLU free-speech, free-press, privacy worshiping, study-group Marxists here as their heroes were slaughtering tens of millions of people, banning free speech and press and setting up massive surveillance operations* to intimidate people even in the most private settings, making heroes of 12-year-olds** who informed on their parents.   Just to complete the picture, as they were also opposing the death penalty here, memorializing Sacco and Vanzetti and Joe Hill (today it seems odd  how Marxists shed so many tears for anarchists),  it was legal to execute 12-year-olds in their workers' paradise.  And that is only the "legal" killing of children, there.

One of the most unfortunate results of the entirely unnecessary, entirely futile and opportunistic red scares in the United States is that it discredited the criticism of communism for decades.   The excesses in anti-communism, the vulgarity of its public face, the sleaziness of the means it used and the company it kept in our domestic fascists still impede speaking honestly about the massive evil that was done in the name of workers rights, socialism*** and other goods more in keeping with the opposite of both the fascists and communists.   The best you can do in trying to cover up that is to try to associate what I said with that vulgar anti-red effort.   But, just as you fail to see the similarities between Nazism and Communism, you fail to see the differences between a criticism of both from a genuine egalitarian-democratic point of view.   My critique notes the features of both of those which they hold in common,  My criticism of communism and communists is on the same basis as my criticism of fascism and Nazism.

As for why atheism and materialism is relevant to those, I pointed that out at length over the past several weeks.   Materialism produces the mindset that sees people in material terms and denies their metaphysical possessions of rights, equality and moral obligations.   Every time you accept materialism as your ideological framework, you will come up with similar results, merely some details being dissimilar.  My non-materialist, religious beliefs require me to concentrate on the many millions of murder victims that produces, your materialism allows you to choose to pretend the details Marxism and Nazism don't share in common is more important than those people are.   There isn't anything that isn't totally obvious in the differences between our thinking and why that difference is there.

*  I saw a figure recently that said that the Stasi in East Germany under Communism was twice the size of that which the Nazis set up over the entire German

** The infamous, gaudily sentimental and likely entirely false cult of Pavlik Morozov, encouraging children to turn their families in to the Soviet State, was well known, even to those white-collar Marxists here as they whined about the FBI surveillance of communists here as a violation of human rights.   Of course it was but that only points out the hypocrisy of them approving of the system that guaranteed such violations in places they didn't choose to live.

*** It is one of the tragic features of the Communists and others distorting the use of the word "socialism" and discrediting their distortions of it to the extent that I don't think the word is useful anymore.   Any "socialism" that doesn't begin with egalitarian democracy as co-equal with economic justice and worker ownership of the means of production is a "socialism" that will be oppressive.  I don't think any materialist-socialism will avoid discrediting it by seeing the very workers socialism exists to serve as more than the thing through which labor is created.   The word "socialism" needs to be scrapped and a new, accurate and closely defined term used to name democratic economic justice.

Update:   I think the progression of the Marxist view of violence from being something forced on communists by the bourgeois capitalists who resisted change, to a means of forcing change under Marx but even more so, Engels to a tool of administration and the exercise of authority under Lenin to its even greater extension and casual bureaucratic use of mass murder and terror to control under Stalin,  Mao, the Kim regime in North Korea and the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia shows what inevitably happens when there is no inhibiting force working against that.   I don't think it is a progression that is unique to Marxism but is characteristic of any system, atheist or religious, which doesn't begin with the view of people I take as its only alternative, above.  I can't recall an instance of its use in the name of Christianity when it wasn't associated with political despotism or outright banditry, both forbidden by the Gospels.

Monday, March 23, 2015

We Must Not Join Forces With Atheists We Must Not Be Duped Into That Disaster Again

At first glance, you might think that Steve Neumann's post at Salon,

Atheists’ self-defeating superiority: Why joining forces with religion is best for non-believers, 

is a step in a better direction but it's a really bad deal for the believers and for the left.   If there is one thing that the past thirteen or so years of intensive atheist propaganda online has taught me, it is that when you accept atheists as collaborators, that will be what you get.   They will insist, on the basis of "secularism" in politics and in the public forum, that atheism is to be taken as the norm, the default, the language of discourse and the ideological frame of everything.  As I have been pointing out, in example after example, in context after context, that is not only bad politically but it is destructive of the very basis of liberalism which cannot be separated from its metaphysical and moral roots and survive.  A mere form that is called "liberalism" or "the left" can be asserted, generally an inconsistent and selective promotion of libertarian objectives, but not real liberalism in the American, as opposed to the European, use of the term.

The atheists, never more than a few percentage points of the population, many of whom are conservatives who attack liberalism and the people who liberals have a moral obligation to support, will always insist on having it their way.  The history promoted as the history of "the left" in the media and the academic establishment is largely the atheist, pseudo-left.   The real left, which produced progress for real people in real life, is demoted to some kind of moderation or some kind of accommodation with the right.  That is, of course, best disproved by the viciousness with which the right attacks the very programs that were produced by that liberalism, quite often against the opposition of the pseudo-left as well as the right, before it was adopted and the pseudo-leftists pretended they provided the power to push it through when they never had the power to do anything.

My conclusion, reached in the past 12 years, is that atheism will always be destructive of liberalism because it cannot abide the moral and metaphysical truths of liberalism.   Atheism will always attack the real, true and absolute existence of free thought, consciousness, equality, rights, and, most of all a binding and effective moral obligation to respect those in even those you really don't like or when it disadvantages you and, on a basis of ideological interest, even when it's just a question of abstract consideration.  That is the history of atheists addressing the human mind, morality and life.   The reliance on a vestigial remnant of respect for those as a cultural habit of atheists acculturated in a non-atheist world is not nearly a sound guarantee to make those political reality or for them to endure in a secularized society.

Neumann's citations are rather telling, * the standard resources of current atheism.  Most tellingly for my contention that his call is primarily problematic for the left and not the right is his use of  Jonathan Haidt, one of the "9-11 made me a conservative" type that is so common in the young, relatively, atheists on the make today.   I share a lot of Chris Hedges' reservations and objections to Haidt's thinking and his superficial and dishonest assessment of liberalism, conservatism and institutions.   Here from Hedges' review of the book Neumann cites:

- Haidt, although he has a refreshing disdain for the Enlightenment dream of a rational world, fares no better than other systematizers before him. He too repeatedly departs from legitimate science, including social science, into the simplification and corruption of science and scientific terms to promote a unified theory of human behavior that has no empirical basis. He is stunningly naive about power, especially corporate power, and often exhibits a disturbing indifference to the weak and oppressed. He is, in short, a Social Darwinian in analyst’s clothing. Haidt ignores the wisdom of all the great moral and religious writings on the ethical life, from the biblical prophets to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to the Sermon on the Mount, to the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita, which understand that moral behavior is determined by our treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable among us. It is easy to be decent to your peers and those within your tribe. It is difficult to be decent to the oppressed and those who are branded as the enemy.

Haidt, who is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is an heir of Herbert Spencer, who coined the term “survival of the fittest” and who also attempted to use evolution to explain human behavior, sociology, politics and ethics. Haidt, like Spencer, is dismissive of those he refers to as “slackers,” “leeches,” “free riders,” “cheaters” or “anyone else who ‘drinks the water’ rather than carries it for the group.” They are parasites who should be denied social assistance in the name of fair play. The failure of liberals, Haidt writes, to embrace this elemental form of justice, which he says we are hard-wired to adopt, leaves them despised by those who are more advanced as moral human beings. He chastises liberals, whom he sees as morally underdeveloped, for going “beyond the equality of rights to pursue equality of outcomes, which cannot be obtained in a capitalist system.”

You should read the entire review because Hedges shows in his analysis of this book why it is entirely incompatible with liberalism**.

The dream Neumann sees of some kind of unity between atheists and religious people has happened already, it is the history of the American left in the 20th century and today, of the atheists bullying, coercing and duping their way into dominance and the hampering and destruction of the left as a political force in the past fifty years as the atheists have dominated it.  It was a great deal for atheists and a disaster in every other sense.  The reason for that is that they never had what it took to sustain the moral force and strength of metaphysical faith that is the essential holding of the left that can't be sacrificed without destroying it.

If we follow the pleasing looking path of niceness that Steve Neumann points to, it will just prolong our stay in the political wilderness.   Atheists sometimes have mocked the story of Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness for forty years.  Atheists have led us into one for longer than that and counting.  The left won't survive any more time wandering around following them.

* Chris Mooney is one of them.  I like him and had hope for Mooney in the last decade as he seemed to be a reasonable atheist who was opposed to the worst excesses of neo-atheism but who has since gone back to working with such groups as Center For Inquiry and whose agenda, including the promotion of GMO the foods industry, is remarkably consonant with them.   I'm afraid that while I still respect some of his work, I don't trust that his other work won't undermine the left in other ways.   He, like Haidt and Neumann is a real sucker for pseudo-science and some really bad analysis.

** Even more illuminating is this passage in Hedges' review:

“People should reap what they sow,” he writes. “People who work hard should get to keep the fruits of their labor. People who are lazy and irresponsible should suffer the consequences.”

Haidt lists six primary concerns of those he considers morally whole—care, liberty, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity. He believes liberals, because they do not sufficiently value fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity, are morally deficient. The attributes he champions, however, when practiced among social conservatives, often mask a rapacious cruelty to the weak and oppressed. Slaveholders in the antebellum South, courteous and chivalrous to their own class, church going, fiercely loyal to the Confederacy, in short morally whole in Haidt’s thesis, created a hell on earth for African-Americans. One could say the same about many German Nazis and members of most cults. Haidt, although he acknowledges this dilemma in his moral constructions, would do well to ask himself whether there is something deeply flawed in a model of moral behavior that a slaveholder, a member of a cult or a fascist could attain.