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The Heedless People Who Didn't Care About Michael Oher Enough of the 100 Hours Already

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The 100 Hours of Democratic Superstition

by Christopher Chantrill
January 07, 2007 at 2:54 pm


HOW DO YOU spell superstition? The professional atheists have been busy spelling it out lately, especially Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion and Sam Harris with The End of Faith. There is almost certainly no God, according to Dawkins.

The atheists worship a different God. For Dawkins, it seems to be the power of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. For Sam Harris it seems to be the value of meditation and a rational ethics. And don’t think you can talk them out it.

We can thank the atheists at least for this: They are magnificently applying the principle of “motivated skepticism” to the human God project.

Motivated skepticism? That’s the concept from the paper “Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs” by Charles S. Taber and Milton Lodge. Hat tip to Arnold Kling.

Taber and Lodge observe that we humans have lots of faith in our own ideas and plans but not in other peoples’ ideas.

Physicists do it...Psychologists do it...Even political scientists do it...Research findings confirming a hypothesis are accepted more or less at face value, but when confronted with contrary evidence, we become "motivated skeptics" ... picking apart possible flaws in the study, recoding variables, and only when all the counterarguing fails do we rethink our beliefs[.]

To understand the power of faith we have only to look at the 100 hour legislative marathon of the newly empowered House Democrats. They are intent upon passing an increase in the minimum wage. But the science is in on this, and it has been for over a century. The minimum wage puts low-skilled people out of work. Democrats are also intent upon adding new subsidies to college students. But the science is in on subsidies. And the science is also in on drug price controls.

Why do they do it? Faith, that’s why. Blind faith in the power of government and their own good intentions.

When a faith has been utterly exploded by science, rational folks like you and me usually call it “superstition.”

Human faith, like human science, is ethically neutral. We all agree that you can use science for good or ill. We can use the power of human faith for good and evil too.

The question of God is a mystery and according to Kant beyond proof or disproof. It’s easy for professional thinkers to cavil over ultimate questions and levels of proof, but the rest of us need to make decisions--right now--about how to give our lives meaning. That is where gods and “belief systems” come in.

During a period of crisis this need becomes more urgent.

Many people have noticed that the world entered a period of extraordinary crisis about two centuries ago when a vast human migration began from the farm to the city. This extraordinary phenomenon is probably at its peak right now as 25 million Chinese reportedly leave the country for the city every year.

Many people have not noticed that wherever the crisis of urbanization occurs the ordinary people create a movement of enthusiastic Christianity to cope with it. For the mechanics of the British Industrial Revolution it was the Methodism of the Wesley brothers and the injunction to work all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. Then, of course, the Methodist circuit-riders converted North America and the Irish Americans used Methodist revivalist techniques in building a mighty Catholic Church in the US.

That was just the warmup. A century ago, as The Economist recently discovered, African Americans got in on the action when William J. Seymour started a new church in 1906 in Los Angeles. The resulting Pentecostal community worldwide is now about 500 million souls, strongest in Latin America and Africa. Why is this? According to David Martin in Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish Pentecostalism empowers women to free themselves from the Latin machista culture of the “street, bar, brothel, football stadium, and drug culture... The restoration of the family as a viable moral, cultural, and economic household, largely through the reformation of the male and the elimination of the double standard of morality for the two sexes” is the key result of converting to Pentecostalism.

Naturally, we all respect the Darwinian faith of Richard Dawkins and value his motivated skepticism. And we are tolerant of the economic superstitions of our Democratic friends in Congress. But in judging the people who believe in God, we might follow Deng Xiaoping, who famously said:

It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

As I have written elsewhere,

[I]t is precisely the genius of enthusiastic Christianity that it perches so precariously and so daringly on the fault line between the fatalistic, passive culture of the country, with its age-old submission to the power of nature and of the landowner, and the rational, cause-and-effect world of the middle class culture, with its reason, its purpose, its faithful performance of promises, and its society of equals.

The Democrats’ 100 hours of welfare-state ritual up on Capitol Hill isn’t really intended to catch any mice. And that’s a shame.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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