Black Lives Matter, and they hold to quantum indeterminacy?

Let’s applaud Democratic pundit David Mercer for appearing in a debate about Black Lives Matter on Fox News’ “Strategy Room.” Yes, I was watching Fox News, but I am hopeful that Pope Francis will soon be offering absolution for that particular sin. Seriously though, it’s praiseworthy whenever people with different views come together for discussion. Even if it’s stuffed with rote partisan talking points and there’s more heat than light.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Mercer I want to share with you (circa 3:25) :

When black men–now I’m above the age–but I had a better chance between 18 and 35 of going to jail or being shot than I did getting a college education.

Percentages apply rightfully to the activity of indeterminate theoretical entities, like the chance a subatomic particle will pop into being out of a quantum vacuum. Individual human beings, who are always particular and situated in history, don’t reduce down to a neat statistic. They always have the messy baggage of having had some particular woman as a mother, man as a father, or another person as guardian who raised them for better or worse. There are always certain values instilled, and a particular cultural milieu present. Whatever the mix of people and experiences, I bet it was this, more than mere statistical chance, that determined whether Mr. Mercer ended up going to college.

None of this is to “blame the victim” for those who end up killed or in jail. By the way, are there some excluded options, like going to trade school or just entering the workforce? At any rate, the claim I’m making is modest: persons are particular, and given the knowledge a person has about himself, any claim he makes that some statistical chance holds sway over him isn’t credible. It is one thing to talk percentages about the weather or health events, but socioeconomics always involve people informed by values who are making choices. Whatever the issue may be–race, gender, jobs, or families–let’s not abstract away that part of the policy conversation.

Rubio’s rhetoric: Right or wrong?

Marco Rubio has taken a lot of flack from conservatives for pressing Senate Bill 744, the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform.  I have not been thoroughly apprised of the controversy’s details, nor do I especially wish to study a lengthy draft of legislation at this point.  I am curious though, as to how fellow my conservatives respond to the point of this ad that I saw while watching FOX New Sunday yesterday morning:

 

The outset of the ad is a powerful rhetorical turning of the tables.  We hear Senator Rubio say in a speech delivered April 20, “”Our current immigration system is a disaster.  What we have now is de facto amnesty.”

It’s hard to disagree with this.  The question for Rubio’s critics becomes, what is the better alternative to taking bipartisan action now?  Will there be some GOP tidal wave sweep of Congress in 2014, that will so shock President Obama as to paralyze him, rendering him incapable of vetoing their plan?  Will Congressional Republicans win the pubic opinion war if they are seen once again as obstinate bill scuttlers? Why should we live with the status quo, letting the perfect become the enemy of the good?

Conservatives should pride themselves for living in the real world.  President Obama is desperate for some sort of second term achievement.  Republicans have decent leverage with this incarnation of immigration reform.  It’s  the best opportunity to start fixing the “disaster.”  If we grandstand and fail to work out a politically practical solution, we’ll be subject to the old refrain: “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”

Scientists campaign against Republican, conservative brains

Back in April, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater was hosting a speaker promoting a new book titled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.  (Read Jonah Goldberg’s take on the book here)  It’s become a refrain of mine that no one should be shocked at liberal bias in media or academe. But that a campus would sanction an event branded with such a patent insult is a new low for discourse.  Doubtless, the glorified ad hominem that Republicans are wired to deny reality would go unnoticed by the campus’s “Civility Project,” which rather than treat civility seriously, reinforces notions of victimhood and grievance.

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard has managed to capture the zeitgeist of liberal academics who try to analyze conservatives. The New Phrenology, as he calls it, has roots as far back as the “F Scale” psychological test of the 1940s. It was meant to gauge one’s conservative tendencies. The “F” stands for Fascism.

Looking at more recent studies of the same vein, Ferguson finds some recurring faults. In a couple of cases the sample groups consisted entirely of college students. Hormonally-driven and still maturing, these folks are hardly suitable representatives for the population at large.  Furthermore, the subjects were also disproportionately Asian-American and female. One study assessed subjects’ conservatism by asking whether they felt “powerful” that day. The methodology leaves much to be desired.

Remember when Farleigh-Dickinson University’s Public Mind Institute reported that watching FOX News makes you dumber? They recently touted the study’s results were “confirmed” with a follow-up. But by asking the same questions as the first time, they repeated the same mistakes. A self-reporting NPR or evening news consumer is going to get a solid block of news, but a watcher of a 24-hour cable news network quite possibly could miss out on substantive programming. And the questionnaire’s focus on Syria favors a misguided, cosmopolitan set that believes the UN might actually be effective. It’s not FOX News but The Public Mind Institute that has made the world dumber with its junk studies.

Meanwhile, one Marcus Arvan has attempted to pin conservatives on the pages of a journal called Neuroethics. The determinism implied in the journal’s title is striking; as if morality were some lightning to be captured in a materialistic bottle. Arvan alleges conservatives share in a “Dark Triad” of personality traits, among them a Machiavellian bent. It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just what people label realists when they don’t like what they have to say.

But on the contrary, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann finds evangelicals to inhabit a fantasy land.  She sees her native tribe of secular liberals as results-focused, but evangelicals as strangely obsessed with self-improvement and how people could be. Last time I checked, it was liberals who were pie-in-the-sky, swaying to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Serious Christians remain firmly rooted in reality, thanks to a cognizance of sin. Among other things, this is the idea that no one, not even ourselves, is perfect or perfectible on this Earth. The Incarnation excluded. Far from enabling delusion, real knowledge of sin and fallenness equips Christians with an ideal, double-edged skepticism. Like the kind that informed America’s great system of governance.

If anyone, it’s secular liberals who ought to be concerned for their own views of reality. Progressives can’t question the very thing they’re progressing toward. There’s no room for genuine critique if there’s a real war on with capitalism, patriarchy, scientific illiteracy, or some other ill of preference. And, as with war, secular liberals demand that problems be dealt with centrally and in totality. This embarrassing prescriptivism should have died with eugenics and all the other awkward progressive-era vestiges long ago.

Still, we are burdened with the unquestioned assumptions of the liberal-scientific consensus. We’re not allowed to question computer models of climate change. But the layman recognizes the hubris in forecasting a city’s weather one month in advance let alone global conditions one hundred years hence. On policy, the consensus demands economy-crushing carbon taxes, lest famines and war break out. But these conditions prevail already.

It’s maddening that the liberal-scientific consensus recuses itself from the possibility of error. Meanwhile, it treats people and the environment as fragile and unable to adapt–in fact, in need of a strong, capable hand–a scientific and liberal hand.  On this view, everything is material, knowable, and solvable. Their knowledge is so certain that even their critics’ reasons for criticism can be deconstructed with empirical precision.

No one likes to deal with this kind of impenetrable certitude. All the more that liberal scientists and academics should abandon their shameful quest to dismiss conservatives with the cudgel of science. Then we can get around to solving real problems.

Much Ado About Fox

This past Thanksgiving, giddy media liberals parroted the fallacious conclusions of a Farleigh Dickinson University study.  Daily Kos crowed: “New public study: Watching Fox News makes you dumber.”  But it’s clear the poll was rigged merely to be smear fodder against America’s most viewed news channel.

The FDU researchers titled their press release “Some News Leaves People Knowing Less.”  In their misleading parlance, a news source (mostly Fox) “leads,” “leaves,” and “makes” the study participant dumber or less knowledgeable.  The language gives the impression that some active force shapes news consumers’ responses.  From this, one might conclude that Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly emit brain cell-killing radiation when they appear on screen.  But this is not some lab rat experiment with tightly-controlled variables. The researchers stacked the deck against Fox from the onset.

Consider how the study collects data from its telephone respondents.  If one receives any news information from a given source over the past week, his responses count in favor of or against that source.  Now Fox News is a 24/7 telvision operation.  Any channel-surfing couch potato can tune into five minutes of “Fox and Friends” and per the pollster instructions report they got some news from Fox.  Meanwhile, NPR’s reporting, restricted to the commute hours and the less accessable radio format, is shield against association with casual news consumers.  Such people might even tune in during jazz hour and correctly report they had received no news from NPR.

Media Partition in the Age of Obama

Media Partition in the Age of Obama

On top of this selection bias, the FDU researchers share a liberal outlook with their favored media outlets.  As can be seen from the wording in poll question two, they place a premium on foreign news over domestic happenings.  Mainstream media like TIME and NPR devote inordinate amounts of time fawning over the “Arab Spring,” but conservative-friendly media like Fox tend to dispense with the rose-colored glasses.  Their viewers, having a vague awareness of continuing Egyptian upheaval, are not marinated in the feel-good pieces that liberal journalists keep producing.  This disadvantage magnifies when the pollsters fail to mention Mubarak by name in asking whether his regime was toppled.  For all we know, they are asking about the military transitional council!

Then, when the questions roll on to domestic news, the poll fumbles by asking who is the Republican front runner.  This is an especially murky proposition given the fluid nature of the field.  The results vary depending on when and by who the poll was taken.

All told, FDU stacked the deck against Fox, and packaged their study results a little too neatly for Kos, Arianna, and the rest of their progressive news friends.

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