Monday, April 13, 2009

The Objective Media

Update: I do realize that "blaming Bush" won't forever be a reason to ignore the GOP. When will I take the right seriously again? I'm not sure how to answer that, but I do know what will make me continue to ignore the right: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Michael Steel, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and "Tea Party Protests". While the left wing also has its fringe extremists, the Democrats are not dominated by them.


I was folding clothes tonight and so watched a little bit of cable news. I ended up flipping between two shows that might as well be mirror images. MSNBC's Countdown, with Keith Olbermann, features plenty of Bush bashing and Obama praising. Fox News has the OReilly Factor, which true to the network motto was going to extraordinary lengths to make Obama look bad. The thought occurred to me that a reasonable, objective person might almost be tempted to think that the current setup is fair. After all, the GOP has their channel - Fox News. Nobody is deceived by the "Fair and Balanced" slogan; Fox News was the last administration's Pravda. Meanwhile, the Democrats have their stations too - CNN and MSNBC. However, I actually don't think the current status quo is reasonable in the slightest.

Presumably (and whether or not this happens in reality is obviously a subject of considerable debate) the purpose of the media is to find out the objective truth, insofar as it is visible, and report on it. Furthermore, it is absurd to think that the careers of political leaders are entirely subjective. There is of course some subjectivity. Democrats will be tempted to see their leaders as great, Republicans will disagree, and vice versa. Bill Clinton is a striking example, adored by Democrats but generally not well liked among Republicans; Reagan being an opposite example. As I said, though, things are not entirely subjective. At some point, there is truth as to whether or not a political career was a success. I don't know of any reasonable Democrats who would call Reagan a failure. Its also relatively difficult to call Bill Clinton a failure (although one can attribute the successes in the 90s to other factors).

Here is the clincher, and the relevance to current issues. The Presidency of George W. Bush was an objective failure. A response will inevitably be made about Iraq, but to call Iraq a success is to completely ignore the original intentions, plans, and purposes that Bush had in mind when he invaded, not to mention the precarious nature of the fledgling democracy at the present time. Bush was a failure, in all but the most partisan of minds: so doesn't it make sense that the media is coming after him? If the purpose of the MSM is to report the truth, then when the media slammed Bush all of those years, it was doing its job - reporting the facts, not acting out of some sort of vindictive liberal bias.

Keep in mind, I am not saying that the media does NOT have a slight liberal bias. Overall, it probably does. But when the president was such a dismal failure for 8 years, instead of screaming liberal bias, conservatives should be seriously introspecting the party's decisions and positions and changing things accordingly. They've done nothing like that of course for the last 8 years, which is why the party is in an intellectually bankrupt, tantrum throwing, leaderless funk. On the other side of the coin, many major news networks have been friendly to Obama. Rightfully so; Barack Obama has barely been in office 100 days. That is not a liberal bias. That is called giving the winner of our democratic election the benefit of the doubt; perfectly appropriate. Interestingly enough, Fox News and a host of supporting conservative "intellectuals" were after Obama from day 1, and did not give him a fair chance. That is conservative bias. Towards the end of his term, many in the media wouldn't give Bush his due when he did manage to do things right; that was liberal bias.

At the end of the day, people should remember this. If the media was anti-Bush 99% of the time, and Bush failed 90% of the time, the problem isn't liberal bias.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Do you want to know why some people don't believe in evolution?

Update: came across this video which seems very relevant to this post. It is a quick (ten minute) video that discusses whether or not people are actually open minded.


Here is a short piece that explains why bad arguments persist.

...there’s a certain class of rhetoric I’m going to call the “one way hash” argument. Most modern cryptographic systems in wide use are based on a certain mathematical asymmetry: You can multiply a couple of large prime numbers much (much, much, much, much) more quickly than you can factor the product back into primes. Certain bad arguments work the same way—skim online debates between biologists and earnest ID afficionados armed with talking points if you want a few examples:

The talking point on one side is just complex enough that it’s both intelligible—even somewhat intuitive—to the layman and sounds as though it might qualify as some kind of insight. (If it seems too obvious, perhaps paradoxically, we’ll tend to assume everyone on the other side thought of it themselves and had some good reason to reject it.) The rebuttal, by contrast, may require explaining a whole series of preliminary concepts before it’s really possible to explain why the talking point is wrong. So the setup is “snappy, intuitively appealing argument without obvious problems” vs. “rebuttal I probably don’t have time to read, let alone analyze closely.”

A classic example of this theory in practice is the absurd 'watchmaker' argument. It goes as thus: a person stumbles across a watch, a fantastically complex device. Obviously, there was a creator of the watch; the pieces couldn't have accidentally happened together by chance. To a layperson, that sounds intuitive. Now any biologist will tell you that evolution doesn't work that way, but explaining precisely why to a layperson is going to take multiple steps and they'll probably have ceased paying attention by that point. And thus bad arguments persist, and there are people who don't believe in evolution. Going further, creationists can be neatly placed in one of three categories:

1. People who simply do not have the mental capacity to comprehend the theory of evolution. This would include small children and people with mental disorders.

2. People who are insufficiently educated about the concepts involved, or just don't care all that much. This is by far the largest percentage. They may be creationists because they were raised by creationists, or work with creationists, or because their friends are creationists. These people may also erroneously believe that they are forced to choose between God and truth, evolution is easily reconciled with religious belief.

The curious thing is that you would have expected this group of people to have gradually diminished, just like I'm quite sure that many people still believed the world was flat hundreds of years ago. And yet, they persist. This is explained by a force that is opposing the spread of knowledge in this particular area, a force composed of people that are placed in my final category...

3. People that are willfully ignorant, irrational, and / or malicious. Some people have simply made up their minds, and no amount of evidence and reason could ever sway them otherwise. And there are others, about whom I have written written before, who deny the theory of evolution in order to create a false controversy and generate a false enemy. It boils down to power and influence.

I would also like to point out that I am absolutist about virtually nothing, save evolution. There are incredibly smart people who believe in god and can use logical argument to support their position...likewise, there are atheists who can do the opposite. Reasonable people can disagree about abortion rights, and there are powerful arguments on both sides. Reasonable people can disagree about global warming and what we should do about it.

Alternatively, there are no reasonable people that are actively arguing against evolution. Not once in my entire life have I read a reasonable, logical, and honest argument against evolution by someone who actually understands evolution. The people that attempt to make them are either uninformed or deliberately disingenuous. Denying evolution is like denying the Holocaust, except that there exists far more evidence for evolution than there is for the Holocaust.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Glenn Beck is NUTS!

Obama = fascism?

He is so scared for the future of our country!

The fact that this man has his own television show on a major news network has got to be one of the 7 signs of the impending apocalypse.