since when

Do the citizens of the United States have any say in their own government? The standard answer is that they do not, and this is backed by statistics, and voter preferences, and yards of congressional records. How do we know this?

Do the people in the US support Medicare for All? We know that Congress will not, at the moment, pass any bill of this sort. But, “The vast majority of Americans, 70 percent, now support Medicare-for-all, otherwise known as single-payer health care, according to a new Reuters survey. That includes 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. Only 20 percent of Americans say they outright oppose the idea.”

Do the people in the US support free college tuition? “This might be an idea whose time has come: Nearly two-thirds of Americans are in favor of free college for everyone, and about three-quarters think at least some people should be eligible for free college, a new survey shows.” This means state colleges, not private ones, though it would affect private institutions by the character of grants the government would be giving students.

But any of you who have been following the debates in the public sphere will know that both Medicare for All and free State College Tuition are characterized as proposals by the “far left.” What does that mean? First it means that the people who are so characterizing these ideas are so far out of touch, being on the fringes of our society, as to mischaracterize the center of public opinion as far left.

One more thing, part of the public conversation is the Green New Deal. Do people support it? “The survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans back the Green New Deal plan.” First recognize that the GND is a bill without teeth, that is it only provides context, not juridical action. Its temper is more of a statement of intentions.

But the GND is characterized as “far left” just because its proponents in Congress are Democrats. Since Mitch McConnell has taken leadership of the Senate, not one bit of legislation has come to a vote on climate change. But he is readying a vote on the Green New Deal because he thinks any Democrat who votes for it will “self immolate.”

He may be right, in that the right-wingtip press will try to immolate those democrats. But, as a citizen, if you have only been listening to Pat Robertson, Fox News, Breitbart News Network, or Daily Stormer, you don’t have the full story. You have the corporate story, that is Capitalism out of control, not the the voice of the citizens.

Need I mention how what percentage of the population believes cannabis should be fully legal, happily under a regulatory regime like alcohol or tobacco. “About six-in-ten Americans (62%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The share of U.S. adults who support marijuana legalization is little changed from about a year ago – when 61% favored it – but it is double what it was in 2000 (31%).”

So, it looks like Democrats, and Independents, have the voice of the public, the voice of ordinary citizens, while the Republicans have lost that in favor of the corporations that are trying to protect their interests: insurance companies; big pharma (Medicare for All and MJ legalization); colleges that rely on overinflated tuition costs; oil and gas corporations, etc.

And we suspect these groups because of the multi-millions of dollars pouring into election coffers by these groups, by the persistence of lobbyists in the halls of Congress, and the persistent rhetoric of the right-wing news outlets. But the data is in. Those who oppose the moves outlined above are just out of touch with normal US citizens. They are not representing their constituencies. Their interests oppose ours.

Here are a few funny tricks used by politicians who oppose these measures to garner votes. First, these are unimportant issues. What’s important is making abortion illegal, continuing our moral dumfounding about the use of drugs, mistaking what we believe or don’t believe as the measure of patriotism, race baiting, shouting against “socialism,” “the left,” “gun-control advocates,” etc.

The shouts against socialism are cooked up with a background of fear of communism, and the bad reputations of countries that have tried to convert their countries into communist ones, and have fallen to the ordinary corruption of overweening bureaucracies. These arguments have nothing to do with distinguishing the useful distinctions between business that is better taken care of by government (social security, medicare, medicaid, tax collection, prisons) and those better taken care of by private interests like manufacturing, and energy efficiency.

But those shouting against socialism blind themselves to the government subsidies (social support of private industry) used for fledgling industries like alternative energy (that is now mostly self sufficient, given market forces), and the egregious misuse of public funds for older industries that should be taking care of themselves like banking, auto manufacture, and farming. We still support them to prevent the loss of jobs, corporate collapse, etc., but the most strident rebukes of the new “socialists” come in full light of social support for unpopular programs like unnecessary wars and conflicts, a president out of control who cooks up an emergency to spend money that could go for people who are really in need in this country. So the president and his republican allies are calling for 5-8 billion for construction of an unnecessary and already passé technology to block our southern border, while not one additional red cent has gone to fight the opioid problem which is killing tens of thousands each year.

The Republicans who are shouting “FAR LEFT! FAR LEFT!” are really shouting at the center of our population. But the voters who are putting them in office are being distracted with pseudo-moralizing crap about abortion, law and order, gun freedom, a weirdly unreal and truncated version of the Constitution, and patriotism, none of which signifies the real problems US citizens face.

it’s been ages

Today I am thinking it is time to write. It’s been a while since I did, almost 3 years. But, what has happened in those years almost defies imagination, at least my imagination was too impoverished to imagine a porn star president, a republican party that has gone overboard to expose their racism, vicious capitalism, favoring the rich to the disadvantage of the poor, cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, trying to privatize what could only be fairly adjudicated by the public government sector. Add to that the fairly clear racism of the criminal in the Whitehouse which many of his cronies in the private sector refuse to admit, even trying to shame those who are affected by it, blaming the victims. The implicit violence of the rhetoric surrounding this president’s language is a deep shame to most citizens in the United States. Add to that the benign response of most of the Republicans in Congress as well as outright defense of policies that are both inhumane and a shock to the moral compass that should drive leadership, and I am just about speechless.

Finally the dehumanization of our fellow citizens becomes clear. First, education has been under attack by the mostly republican administrations in the nation and states of the past 30 years. This doesn’t mean that educators are blameless, but that they have often been the recipients of decisions that they cannot control, decisions made by those who have no investment in education or science, and make educators out to be the enemy of the people. Second, the disparagement and lies that “capitalists” have used to reduce and eliminate unions, undercutting their bargaining power, and reducing the lives of workers to the status of proletariat, living on wages that ensure their continued dependence on the company and a persistent poverty. Irrespective of the theories that have come to the defense of a person’s right to work without being saddled by union dues, the writing is on the wall. These people defending these theories are giving more wealth and power to the companies against the worker. Third, complaints about how bad medical coverage is provided by insurance companies is coming to a head. These companies support giving multimillions of dollars to executives, while carrying on policies that deny coverage to people who have fairly paid their premiums. The red tape required to administer healthcare is outrageous requiring the employment of a whole industry of people to both understand and distribute services. And those costs and services are still impossible to predict, and the variety of health plans makes insurance payments problematic in the extreme.

Capitalism in its pure form is an unstable social system. In fact, capitalism is not a social system at all. Under the constraints of ethical realism, capitalism would be forced to provide living wages and benefits, close the loopholes that create a dependent and impoverished workforce, and reign in the salaries of executives and management, provide real and substantial healthcare for its workforce that didn’t force individuals to go bankrupt to pay their hospital bills. If it is to operate, it requires an equitable social system, not a government that just gives corporations what they want without constraints. Further, the corporations that are profiting from the broad freedoms afforded within our republic should be becoming responsible for the maintenance of the stability of our society, not the rapacious scalping of its citizens for profit.

The recent cries about socialism really have nothing to do with any useful version of socialism, which also requires an ethical realism to administer. But rather, these are thinly veiled accusations of communism. This is rhetoric without logos, or ethos, rhetoric that expects and preys upon the ignorance of people, not on their best well-governed sensibilities. It uses the sinister pathos of the mob, trading on the worst instincts of a threatened people. It is an attempt to govern by threats of impending doom using fear of the other, and fear of losing. There is little trade with truth, or facts, or indeed with the real world. The free press, supposedly, and in its best lights, is there to guarantee a critical eye is cast over those who claim to govern in our name. But it has now been accused of being the enemy of the people by the very people who are under suspicion. Yes, yes, yes, the press is not blameless, but the people who are swallowing the bad faith arguments about the press being the enemy of the people are buying into the machinery of tyranny under a false notion of freedom.

So, what do we do about all this. I am unsure. I know what I would desire, realism in government and industry, fairness in the distribution of goods and services, and get the dirty money out of government itself.

Predictions? Universal health care in 10 years, maybe.

liberal and conservative

When I hear the words liberal and conservative I am reminded of Jim Edwards’ notion that we don’t use these words except as weapons. But I have a friend who uses one of these as a defense against the opposing view. “I am a conservative” he says, as if that would protect him against the onslaughts of the liberal.

I was reviewing and revising my marijuana web site, and I again watched the video from 1996 that is posted in that page. I heard from William F. Buckley, Jr., an avowed conservative, that in order to be a conservative one must first be a realist. That might not be a startling claim for some, but having always respected Buckley for his careful exposition of the world, I recognized an axiom that, though I am not a conservative (or liberal), I think is fundamental to our engagement with people and the world.

The axiom, in its uncomplicated form, states: There is a real world whether we perceive it or not, whether we understand it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, and that real world persists irrespective of our association with it.

In contrast with that reality we criticize people for not living in the real world. In this part of the presidential election cycle we know the politicians are mostly not living in the real world, especially if they expect that we will vote them in based on their promises. Politicians are notorious for failing to keep promises to the electorate. There are good reasons for this, of course. The politicians are beholden to powers that prior to election do not express themselves with teeth bared only after the election. We don’t forgive them for this, but they expect us to forget.

Nate Silver in his book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t, he describes two types of people, metaphorically, hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs are free with their opinions, predicting the future but mostly failing, because they have no sense of the tangled reality of the sandbox in which they play. And they never get any better in their predictions, because they don’t tie real causes and effects together successfully. Contrarily, the foxes are shy about expressing their opinions, because there are really so many factors that determine any outcome. They realize the future is fraught with unknowns and the flux of human interactions. But Silver notes that their predictive success gets better the longer they are at it.

The hedgehog does not live in the real world, even though they contact it every day. Though they may go by the label liberal, or conservative, they are not realists in the important sense. Or if they are, they choose to ignore the tangled web of influence and causal complexity. They live in Wonderland, criticizing Alice even as they remain clueless of their own companionship with her.

The fox, however, lives “circumspectly, as wise,” recognizing that though one can’t have an objective viewpoint, there are more or less objective views. They choose self-consiously the entangled universe that is acknowledged as entangled, accepting the fact of their prejudices as prejudice, being aware that it can mislead them.

So, this led me to think that whatever label we choose for ourselves, or the avoidance of labels, that a realist perspective typified by the fox will always be preferred over that of the hedgehog.

Frankly, I don’t care whether one proclaims oneself a liberal or conservative, a socialist or capitalist, except in the case where they live clueless of the complexity of the world they live in, and expect me to favor them because of their label. Labels have the curious effect of locking out options for thinking. Michel Foucault and many others have suggested that labeling is intrinsically reductionistic. That is, a label prevents one from examining possibilities that are by definition unthinkable. Since we’re talking about presidents, let me remind you that some of the most effective presidents are those who attached their own label to projects of the opposing party and pushed them as their own. That certainly is a realist perspective.

So when Bernie Sanders claims to be a Socialist, he stings the eyes of the capitalist, OK, I meant to say conservative because conservatives in this era are capitalists. Let me play with socialism and capitalism as opposing worldviews. Really, they are not opposing worldviews, they are modes of production, more tied to how we divide ownership than how we rule ourselves. As financial modes they are both unstable, not worthy of the totalizing domains they wish to control. Both of them require a moderating influence, a political structure that both stabilizes and moderates their worst effects. Kai Nielsen, proposing socialism as the more moral of our pair, suggests that the errors of socialism can be lived with more easily than the errors of capitalism.

What are the errors of socialism? As Nielsen says, an all pervasive bureaucracy attempts to control every effort and every possible effect of our lives. The errors of capitalism on the other hand, divide the world into the owners of production, and those who work for them, the peasants, the proletariat, the wage slaves. Nielsen thinks that a democracy can control the pervasive bureaucracy, preventing the intrusion of government into the lives of individuals. And those framers of the Bill of Rights thought that could control the worst depredations of capitalism.

Here we are in the real world today in the United States. We see both the errors of capitalism and the errors of socialism. But what controls these errors is not their opposite. Capitalism is not a solution for socialism, nor vice versa, but a democracy that can vote appropriate people to lead the nation. That is why the travesty of the modern oligarchy is so egregious. It prevents the democracy from actually doing anything more than spin its wheels and justify the status quo. That’s the real world we live in today. Capitalism and socialism are companion parts of the grain of our political system. The socialists engage the bureaucracy to surveil you and the capitalist dispenses with you as an employee when they no longer need you. You are not a person to either one, but an irritation that needs to be controlled. Their methods differ, but the result is the similar. You become a construct to be controlled and manipulated by message and media, by money and meaning. That is why a democracy, or in our case a representative republic, is required. Only it can control the out of control bureaucracy and the one-percenters’ oligarchy.

Classical liberals side with the people against the power of government. Classical conservatives aim at a government for the people by the people. But today’s rubbish heap of political cronies have lost the concept of the people entirely.

How do we exit this political and economic grinder? First and foremost, by becoming realists. Recognize the trouble we’re in and then vote to get us out of it. That means, we’ll have to ignore the press who are in the pocket of the cronies who have been purchased by the special interests to send the messages they think will help us ignore our responsibilities to vote these creeps out. Second, let me defer to politicians who are not afraid to challenge the status quo. And I’m not talking about the newspeak where change means the status quo, but the Libertarians like Gary Johnson, or the Socialists like Bernie Sanders. Will they be able to fix the republic? No, not in one fell swoop, but they will bring a shakeup that can at least throw the drones across the yard. (Bee drones can’t find their way back to the hive if they are taken out of it.) Gary and Bernie are realists. Their mutual outrage at the current state of affairs promises a disruption of the status quo. They are not like Hillary “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse” Clinton or the drones of the Republican party, as well-meaning and competent in their world as they may be.

We can vote the status quo, following the press recommendations, or we can change the world. It’s up to us I think.

the atheist and the creationist…

…make the same kind of mistake.

It’s an easy one, but it disturbs me. The mistake is constituted by shutting one eye or the other. Anybody familiar with using a microscope understands this. This may be passé for the moderns, but in the 1960s if you wished to record what you saw through the lens of the microscope, you would have to look into the microscope with one eye and record the observation with the other one. There’s a trick to it that takes some practice. The same kind of skill is required if you wish to fly an Apache helicopter. What is required is that with one eye, the pilot sees the real world, while with the other, they see what is presented to them through an eyepiece that shows the world differently.

It usually takes anywhere between 9 to 12 months for a young pilot to become “safe” enough not to kill himself accidentally during night flights (until then, young pilots fly with instructor pilot or a senior and experienced pilot who can take controls in case of disorientation).1

Though flying a microscope does not risk the life of the pilot, it requires concentration and can be mastered in a few hours or days.

The problem for the atheist and the creationist is that they have closed one eye while they observe their data. The atheist, by presupposition, cannot see the hand of God in the universe, or the Bible that tells about it. The creationist cannot see the real world, or the data that it presents. For both, the world is skewed, by presupposition, to avoid the possibility that data from the other sphere may inform their observation. As a consequence, though the richness of their chosen myopia enthralls them, they are unable to see the world in its living splendor. This is regrettable and sad, but it can be fixed.

A further observation prevents data of the other sort leaking into their chosen world, that is, their opponent presents them with all the arguments against looking into that other world. They see their opponent’s error and rightly reject it as myopic. Their own lack of imagination prevents them from seeing that they make the same mistake. When Jesus pointed out that one’s judgment about the splinter in the other’s eye prevented them from seeing the plank in their own he was encouraging them to do a little self examination. Critique your own failure to see from the other’s point of view.

The golden rule shouts against the splinter judgment. Walk in the other person’s shoes for a mile; see from their perspective; understand their point of view. Both views alone are incomplete and problematic. Both require different skills.

Here’s my suggestion, primarily for the creationist since they do believe that people can change: Try to understand why it is important to include scientific data in your evaluation of the world. Try to understand why the scientist thinks that natural laws, in place from the beginning of time, do not change with every whim of God and lack of foresight. He created the world and called it good. So study the world, and add the lens of empiricism and logic to the tools of biblical interpretation. Try seeing the Book of God called Nature as compelling data for inclusion in your worldview. Open the other eye to the world itself and see the wonders of God unfold in a new fashion, not as the utilitarian groundwork of God’s exaltation of people, but as a living artifact of God’s desire, passion, and grace.


favorite quotes on facebook

I am disappointed that the only MySpace like thing on Facebook was downsized, that is, “My Favorite Quotes.” It is still there, inside the profile, but not prominent. So I put My favorite Quotes right here.

Season 3, Babylon 5, episode 6, Lanier says: “The darkness carried in the heart cannot be cured by moving the body from one place to another.”

Inscription on a bell at the school Clifford Stoll went to:
All truth is one
In this light here may science and religion endeavor for the steady evolution of mankind
from darkness into light, from narrowness to broadmindedness, from prejudice to tolerance,
It is the voice of life which calls us to come and learn.

I am not proceeding by linear deduction, but rather by concentric circles. Foucault, “Archaeology of Knowledge”

Effective history leaves nothing around the self, deprives the self of the reassuring stability of life and nature, and will not permit itself to be transported by a voiceless obstinacy toward a millennial ending. It will uproot its traditional foundations and relentlessly disrupt its pretended continuity. This is because knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting. Michel Foucault (AME, p. 380)

When you turn your car on, does it return the favor? Cadillac commercial. I’ve got an S2000, and when I turn it on, it returns the favor.

“The best thing you’ve got going for you is your willingness to humiliate yourself.” Simon to Melvin in “As Good As It Gets”

It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reason can be found. John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind” (the movie)

Half of being successful is just showing up.

People cease to be foreigners when we recognize emotional structure in them.

[B]ut most of all the attempt, ever more determined, to fix a price for every offense, and thus to dissociate, up to a certain point, the offender from his offense—these are the traits which characterize with increasing clarity the development of penal law. Whenever a community gains in power and pride, its penal code becomes more lenient, while the moment it is weakened or endangered the harsher methods of the past are revived. (205)” Nietzsche, Geneaolgy of Morals, ch 2 section X. On these grounds America has become increasingly weak over the past 30 years.

“The only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” Alien in the movie Contact

I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I’ve seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. And goodness—what God desires—is here [in your head] and here [in your heart]. By what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man. Or not. –Priest in movie “Kingdom of Heaven” speaking to Balian.

Lee Smolin “We have had enough of the weight of violence, and its justification in terms of any and all systems by which people can be made to believe in their special access to absolute knowledge.”

Without empathy there can be no community.

i knew this, but here it is again

Today, I received an email from the Reasons to Believe ministry. Hugh Ross, Fazale “Fuz” Rana, Jeff Zweerink, and Kenneth Samples lead American Christians to trust both the Scriptures and the voice of science, historically the two books of God, the Bible and Nature. So, I decided to quote the Equipping Message from Hugh for 10/6/2015 because this issue is at the heart of many disputes highlighted in a mean-spirited way by the new atheists, but with generosity and wisdom by Hugh and Fuz. Here it is (some emphasis, and all apostrophes are mine.)

This month, Hugh and Fuz are speaking at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA). The theme for this year’s conference is Ideas Have Consequences, and we saw the truth of that in a letter Hugh received recently. A pastor named Paul had started believing that God’s Word and the book of nature couldn’t be reconciled, and the consequences spread throughout his life. He wrote:

“I never questioned whether God was real but lost hope that my love of science could merit as anything other than entertainment. I assumed true answers could not be known until heaven. As a result, my faith and life suffered severely. I quit the church as a pastor and stopped dreaming.

“Then I read your book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is and instantly my imagination started coming to life again. I was surprised when I recognized that my faith had grown exponentially as a result. I look forward to sharing that book with my 22-month-old son as he grows, since he already loves space so much.

“Dr. Ross, this is the answer to reaching the lost in society today. I literally thank God for you and your team daily. I’m more excited about my faith than I ever have been. You’re leading us through the greatest possible uncertainty when the entire world is changing and secular views grow louder in hatred for faith each week. We need your work. Please never give up.”

The new hope Paul found is a direct result of the prayers and gifts of RTB ministry partners like you. We’re not giving up, and we know you aren’t either. Thank you for your commitment to fighting the false ideas that can destroy faith!

The Reasons to Believe website is found at I don’t copy this message to encourage you to give money to this ministry, but if you do give, it certainly will help.

the pensmore conference

September 24th and 25th College of the Ozarks hosted a conference with contemporary Christian luminaries in the sciences. John Lennox, Stephen Meyer, Robert Spitzer, Michael Tenneson, Mark Rapinchuk, Kyle Rapinchuk, and Erin Hayes examined and exposed some of the trenchant issues on the interface between science and faith.

I went to the conference with my friend Steve Krstulovich, a recently retired engineer at Fermilab in Chicago. Unfortunately, he and I napped for some of the sessions, and where we went to different sessions, we recorded them for each other.

I only have the ones I recorded, since I haven’t received any from him yet, but here they are:

Stephen Meyer: Signature in the Cell (partial)

Download 100 MB

Stephen Meyer: Darwin’s Doubt and the Cambrian Explosion

Download 130 MB

Robert Spitzer: Creation and Evolution in My Classroom

Download 108 MB

Robert Spitzer: Evidence for the Supernatural from Human Consciousness

Download 130 MB


The most exciting thing about this conference was the careful philosophical evaluation of materialistic naturalism. With one voice the presenters offered evidenced, nuanced, and valid criticism of the Neo-Darwinian supposition that life and consciousness appeared under the auspices of natural law operating on material reality. That turns out to be insufficient based on the sudden appearance of information in the universe. There was not enough time and material cause and effect is not sufficient to allow the evolutionary leap to complex life forms and then consciousness.


I just got back last week from a 2400 mile trip to Virginia Beach. It was a lovely trip, lovely weather for the most part, and no accidents. I have spotted a bit of bad behavior among drivers that adds to the frustration of driving. This behavior is added on to another behavior that is frustrating as well.

The first behavior that irritates me is driving the freeway without cruise control. Here is how it plays out. The car’s speed is controlled by the driver’s foot. That foot is under stress as long as the cruise control is off. When the car goes uphill, the car naturally slows, unless the driver is attentive. This isn’t true for big trucks. They just don’t have the power to keep on speed. So the inattentive driver slows down going uphill, maybe below the speed limit, maybe not. People following have to be attentive to the changes in the road but also changes in the driver’s attention, speed, lane changing, etc. Some of that is of course necessary, but the speed can be removed from the equation by using cruise control. The following driver can set their own cruise control to mimic the driver in front, keep a safe distance, and one less variable in the risk assessment is taken out of consideration. Drivers who do not use cruise control increase the stress of other drivers on the road.

I understand. Really! Some cars don’t come with cruise control. But I think it should be a necessary addition to all cars, and the car itself should recommend its use. It saves gas, and reduces stress and road weariness, especially on long trips.

The subject of this post has to do with people who do not use cruise but also have a terrible habit. I call these people synchronizers. That is, when they start to pass a slower vehicle, they slow down to the other vehicle’s speed and just stay parallel to them for a while. It’s even worse when they are passing a truck or something and the truck is going variable speeds. The synchronizer, slows down and speeds up to match the truck. Even though they wished to pass the vehicle at first, and were going at a speed that would have done it quite happily, they then block those other vehicles behind them who also wished to pass. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not ready to fly off the handle in road rage, but they aggravate me. Any aggravation on the road causes stress. Some aggravation is part of the territory, like following trucks, but some, like synchronizing can be eliminated.

I’m not saying that we do not all make mistakes. We do, and sometimes more often than would promote general safety and wellbeing. We are all subject to making bad judgments for a variety of reasons. I’m not necessarily a better driver than you.

OK synchronizers, get your act together and become better highway citizens. Don’t snub your nose at me. I am not a snob. I just want you to voluntarily stop being an irritant. Oh, you didn’t know it was aggravating? Now you know. Don’t care about me? That’s OK too. Think about staying home next time. You are one of the causes of road rage, and the increase of blood pressure in the general population. Want world peace? Me too. Do your part.

This can be fixed. Give these people self-driving cars. Take the incompetent out from behind the wheel.