Saturday, May 18, 2013
A movement starts because of social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close acquaintances.He refers to this as "a three-part process that historians and sociologists say shows up again and again".
It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.
And it endures because a movement's leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and ownership.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I was taught as a scientist to think logically and empirically, rather than intuitively or spiritually. When I was at Cambridge University in the early 1960s most of the scientists and science students working in the Department of Zoology, so far as I could tell, were agnostic or even atheist. Those who believed in a God kept it hidden from their peers.Below is an excerpt of dialogue from the Voyager episode, "Sacred Ground" by Dr. Geo Athena Trevarthen a.k.a. Geo Cameron. The encounter has a delightfully wry feel to it. The setting is that Captain Janeway has undergone an arduous religious ritual in order to obtain scientific data to help a crew member, Kes, mortally injured by a "biogenic field" after approaching a shrine. She has returned to Voyager with her information but it has proven fruitless in helping Kes. Desperate to help Kes, Janeway returns to the sanctuary where she had earlier encountered three elders while undergoing the "meaningless ritual".
... there are many windows through which we humans, searching for meaning, can look out into the world around us. There are those carved out by Western science, their panes polished by a succession of brilliant minds. Through them we can see ever farther, ever more clearly, into areas which until recently were beyond human knowledge.
... Yet there are other windows through which we humans can look out into the world around us, windows through which the mystics and holy men of the East, and the founders of the great world religions, have gazed as they searched for the meaning and purpose of our life on earth, not only in the wondrous beauty of the world, but also in its darkness and ugliness. And those Masters contemplated the truths that they saw, not with their minds only but with their hearts and souls too. From those revelations came the spiritual essence of the great scriptures, the holy books, and the most beautiful mystic poems and writings. That afternoon [in May 1981 in the Gombe forest], it had been as though an unseen hand had drawn back a curtain and, for the briefest moment, I had seen through such a window. In a ﬂash of "outsight" I had known timelessness and quiet ecstasy, sensed a truth of which mainstream science is merely a small fraction.
Male Elder 1 (ME1): Well. Look who's come back. So, your little adventure didn't quite work out the way you'd planned it. You put yourself through a lot of trouble and for nothing, didn't you?
Male Elder 2 (ME2): Don't feel bad. You wouldn't believe some of the things people have done to themselves on their way to seek the Spirits.
Janeway (J): So there's no real ritual after all.
ME2: "Real" is such a relative term. Most of the challenges in life are the ones we create for ourselves.
Female Elder (FE): And you are particularly hard on yourself, aren't you?
J: I've always been driven to succeed.
ME1: Stubborn, I'd say. You didn't really consider sitting and waiting with us, did you?
J: Well, I'm here now, and I'm asking for your help. I want understand the purpose of waiting in this room.
FE: But isn't it enough enough to sit and be sociable? We're good company.
J: That's what I'm supposed to do, talk to the Ancestral Spirits.
FE: Oh (giggles), first we were a test, and now we're the Ancestral Spirits.
J: Are you?
ME1: That would be nice and quantifiable for you, wouldn't it? If the Spirits were something that you could see and touch and scan with your little devices.
ME2: If you can explain everything, what's left to believe in?
J: I know it's an important part of your religion to trust the Spirits without question, but I wasn't brought up that way. It's hard for me to accept.
ME1: So much for your tolerant, open-minded Star Fleet ideals.
J: There's a difference between respecting the spiritual beliefs of other cultures and embracing them myself.
ME1: Fine. Don't embrace a thing. It's all the same to us. Go on back to your ship and play with your molecular microscanner.
FE: You've tried all that already, but it didn't work, did it? Kes didn't get better.
J: No, she didn't.
FE: Why not?
J: The Doctor couldn't explain it.
FE: So, it's inexplicable. A miraculous non-recovery.
J: We haven't found the reason yet.
FE: But of course you will. You'll find all the answers eventually with enough time and study and the right sort of tools. That's what you believe, isn't it, as a scientist?
ME1: Be honest.
J: Yes, that's what I've always believed.
ME2: Even when her science fails right before her eyes, she still has full confidence in it. Now there's a leap of faith.
FE: Unconditional trust. Now that's promising.
J: All right ... if you're saying that science won't help Kes, what will?
ME1: You won't like it.
J: I'm willing to do whatever's necessary.
ME1: Kill her ...
Labels: religion and science
Monday, April 01, 2013
Despite the utopian dreams of some gun control advocates, guns in America aren't going anywhere ... Nevertheless, disarmament was the motive behind the D.C. laws challenged in the Heller case. The D.C. city council hoped that its ban on handguns would trigger a nationwide movement to eliminate civilian ownership of guns. The folly of its idealism was highlighted when, a decade or so after enactment of its strict gun laws, the District came to be known as the "murder capital of America." ... In the absence of any short-term hope of disarmament, gun control extremists throw their support behind poorly designed and predictably ineffective reforms. The statistics that clearly suggest bans on handguns and assault weapons don't reduce crime—or even the number of handguns and assault weapons in circulation—don't seem to matter. [p. 10]
Few people realize it, but the Ku Klux Klan began as a gun control organizations; after the Civil War, the Klan and other violent racist groups sought to reaffirm white supremacy, which required confiscating the guns blacks had obtained for the first time during the conflict. To prevent blacks from fighting back, the night riders set out to achieve complete black disarmament. In the 1960s, race was also central to a new wave of gun control laws, which were backed by liberals and even some conservatives, like Ronald Reagan. Enacted to disarm politically radical urban blacks, like the Black Panthers, these laws sparked a backlash that became the modern gun rights movement—a movement that ironically, is largely white, rural, and politically conservative. [pp.13-14]
Nelson "Pete" Shields III, one of the founders of Handgun Control Inc.—later renamed the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence—argued for eliminating all handguns. "We're going to have to take this one step at a time ... Our ultimate goal—total control of all guns—is going to take time." The "final problem," he insisted, "is to make possession of all handguns, and all handgun ammunition" for ordinary civilians "totally illegal." Sarah Brady, who serves as chair of the Brady Center, argues that "the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes," not self-defense, and supports the creation of a national gun licensing system in which only people with government approval can have a gun. Self-defense, the core reason why many people in America own guns, would not be a proper basis for government approval to be granted.[p. 35]
...Used to losing battles over gun control, gun controllers latch onto any proposal popular enough to make it through the legislature—usually right after some school shooting or other tragedy. Whether or not a proposed law will actually curb gun deaths is irrelevant; gun control extremists will stand behind it. ... Consider the federal gun ban on so-called assault weapons, adopted in 1994 during the Clinton Administration. The controversy flared up a few years earlier, when Josh Sugarmann, founder of the pro-gun control Violence Policy Center, published a study entitled "Assault Weapons and Accessories in America." Sugarmann called for a ban on guns he termed assault weapons—a name derived form a German World War II-era battle rifle called the Sturmgewehr, or storm rifle. ... Machine guns have been heavily regulated in the United States since the 1930s [civilian ownership of new machine guns has been illegal since the 1986 passage of the Firearm Owners' Protection Act - VFPD], Sugarmann was referring to semiautomatic rifles that just looked like machine guns. A semiautomatic rifle can't spray fire like a machine gun. Instead, when you pull the trigger on a semiautomatic rifle, it fires only one bullet. ... Sugarmann was unusually frank about how public misperception of assault weapons would make banning them the sale of them easier. "The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semiautomatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons." [pp. 35-26]
... in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, law enforcement began confiscating guns from law-abiding people even though police protection was nowhere to be found amid the looting and theft. Often, if there's a crisis, the easy solution is to do away with the guns. [p. 40]
Not only did killing [in Washington, DC] become more common after the [1976 Washington, DC] gun ban, but guns also became a more common way to kill. [p. 42]
Concerning the legislative debate over the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, Winkler writes: Gun rights advocates managed to defeat registration and licensing by arguing that such measures would lead eventually to confiscation of all civilian guns. In the House of Representatives, The Michigan Demcorat and NRA board member John Dingell warned his colleagues that the Nazis adopted mandatory registration and used the records to disarm the Jews and political dissidents. This law, too, could be the first step toward a holocaust. While others dismissed the analogy to the Nazis, it didn't help that [US Senator from Connecticut] Thomas Dodd had in fact asked the Library of Congress to provide him with a translation of the German laws of the 1930s when he was drafting his bills ... [p. 252]
Thursday, March 07, 2013
The illogic comes in play when gun control advocates suggest that the answer is more gun control laws and more draconian ones at that. I have pointed out to such people that there are countries with much stricter gun laws and lower gun ownership rates than the US that nevertheless have higher firearms-related homicide rates, which suggests that the solution to reducing the use of guns in homicides is not so simple as more and/or stricter laws.
More evidence for this comes from Craig. R. Whitney, author of Living with Guns: A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendment (Public Affairs, 2012). Make no mistake, Whitney's case is truly a liberal's--he's no "gun nut" or libertarian when it comes to gun control. But he seems to be sincere and striving to be honest.
Any way, on p. 156, Whitney points out:
... a closer look at the statistics shows that strict gun-control laws by themselves do not lead to less gun violence. Census bureau figures show that the homicide rate in Massachusetts, where the gun laws are pretty strict, was much lower in 2008 than it was in Georgia or Mississippi, where they are pretty lax. But the Massachusetts rate was barely below Vermont's, a state that has no statewide gun laws at all, and it was almost twice as high as the rate in Utah, where guns laws are also very relaxed (Utah adopted the Browning M1911 .45 pistol, invented by a native son, as the state firearm, in 2011).Below, using the source Whitney consulted, Table 304 of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2011, are the homicide rates for the five states he mentions. The figures in parentheses are the percentage, by state, of the 201,881 respondents to the CDC's 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey who said they kept firearms in or near their home (I couldn't find any more recent figures).
Even in cities where handgun ownership has been so severely restricted that it amounted to a ban, it is hard to see what effect that has on gun violence. Chicago banned handguns in 1982. Yet in the years that followed, the crime rate and the murder rate rose steadily. The rate of murder involving handguns in Chicago was 9.65 per 100,00 residents in 1983, the Supreme Court was told in the McDonald case, but by 2008, with the ban in effect, it was even higher at 13.88 per 100,000. Similarly, in the District of Columbia, the homicide rate also rose in the 1980s, after the district banned handguns--in fact it rose even more than it did in forty-nine other comparable major cities, as Justice Breyer conceded in his dissent in the Heller case. In 2008, the murder rate per 100,000 of population in the District of Columbia was 31.4, far higher than the rates of 6.3 per 100,000 in New York City (where handguns are not banned but only 37,000 people are licensed to own them and only 4,000 have concealed-carry permits) and 3.1 in Austin, Texas, where as everybody knows, it's a lot easier for anybody legally to get a gun.
Georgia 7.1 (40.3%)
Massachusetts 2.6 (12.6%)
Mississippi 8.9 (55.3%)
Utah 1.5 (43.9%)
Vermont 2.8 (42.0%)
I also want to point out that Vermont does not issue permits/licenses for the concealed carry of firearms. In Vermont, anyone who can legally own a handgun can lawfully carry a concealed handgun.
See also: Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser. "Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. Vol. 30, No. 2. Spring 2007.
Friday, February 15, 2013
I will only comment on the first graphic. A common objection to such assertions is that Barack Obama and his family need armed security because they are very high-profile targets. Fair enough, but the fact is that hundreds or thousands of innocent victims of gun crimes in the US are not VIPs. They are ordinary folks and they're not asking for Secret Service and police/military security details, they just want the right to use guns to protect themselves and their families.
You may think this is misguided and there are good grounds for such an opinion but no one is forcing you to buy a gun. So, why not try to change the minds of the people who don't see things your way instead of trying to empower people with guns and badges to force your opinions about guns on otherwise law-abiding citizens?
Clicking on the images below will enlarge them.
Saturday, February 09, 2013
First at 7 PM was Radiolab, replaying an episode called "Lying to Ourselves". It first aired in 2008 and featured psychologist Joanna Starek and the team of psychiatrists Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gur. Below is a partial transcript from the last two minutes or so of the episode.
Co-host Robert Krulwich: ... denying certain facts about the real world ... according to any number of new studies produces people who ... are better at business and better at working with teams. And now here's the real kicker: They turn out to be happier people ...Then, at 9 PM, a 2012 episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge came on. Entitled "You & Your Brain," the segment featured an interview by Senior Producer Anne Strainchamps with neuroscientist Julian Paul Keenan. Below is a partial transcript from the last three minutes or so of the interview.
Sackeim: ... people who were happiest were the ones lying to themselves more ...
Krulwich: Time and time again, researchers have found that depressed people lie less.
Sackeim: They see all the pain in the world, how horrible people are with each other. And they tell you everything about themselves, what their weaknesses are, what terrible things they've done to other people. And the problem is, they're right. And so, maybe it's, the way we help people is to help them to be wrong.
Krulwich: It might just be that hiding ideas we know to be true, hiding those ideas from ourselves, is what we need to get by.
Sackeim: We're so vulnerable to being hurt that we're given the capacity to distort, as a gift.
Strainchamps: I just keep thinking that what you're saying is that much of our experience of life and of the world and even of ourselves is a lie.So, here's what I found striking, even disturbing, about both of these programs. No one--not the researchers, not the interviewers/hosts--ever raised the idea that the solution to the depression that realism and honesty bring to some people is not to train or encourage people to "distort" or "just go for the ride"--to engage in deception--but to work to figure out how make the world a less painful, a less depressing place. Yes, of course, there will always be the pain of loss and death but to suggest that deception is the only desirable or viable solution for coping with "all the pain in the world" seems to me to evince a defeatism of the worst, saddest, and, ultimately, the most ethically bankrupt sort.
Keenan: Yeah. And you can either be depressed about it or just go for the ride. A lot of this remains still to be confirmed and, uh, replicated, but a lot of the indications are that we are living in a deceptive world, at best, perhaps a false world in its most extreme.
Strainchamps: ... I'm trying to figure out what the consequences are of everything you've laid out. We have no free will, we're basically lying ourselves through life. What do you do with those insights? Should you just sit back and enjoy the dream or should we all be meditating very hard and trying to lose our sense of self?
Keenan: I, you know, I'm going to go with the former. I think a lot of self-deception goes a long way, that giving yourself positive affirmations in the mirror, whether you believe them or not, would probably be the route I would suggest taking. You know, surrounding yourself with people who, even though you know they're lying to you, as long as they're saying good things, that's probably a healthy way to go. The alternative scares me. We used to think people with clinical depression didn't see the world realistically, you know, they saw it in an overly negative light. Well, it turns out, they're seeing it quite realistically and it's you and I who were seeing it in an overly rosy light, we're the ones not in reality. So, the suggestion is that reality is a somewhat scary place to be.
Strainchamps: So the purpose of therapy is to learn to be better at lying.
Keenan: Absolutely. It clearly puts into question this idea of deception is morality, "Thou shalt not lie." Well, then thou shalt be depressed.
12 Feb 2013 Addendum: It is has been suggested to me by a friend and reader of this post that religion is a form of deception or dishonesty that people employ in order to avoid reality. I have two responses to this: First, yes, religion can be and has been used for deceptive and dishonest purposes but that is not inherent in religion; science, too, can be so used.
Second, the idea that religion is an invalid or false way of knowing about the world and that only a scientific approach can tell us anything meaningful or true about reality is itself a deception and logically invalid. The supposed conflict between science and religion is a subject I have blogged about on several occasions and my comments on it here will be brief. This viewpoint that rejects religion is known as scientism and even the National Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have published statements rejecting it.
I'll close with the thoughts on the subject of two noted physicists. According to Freeman Dyson:
"Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.
"Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute."
Ian Barbour writes:
"I suggest that the concept of God is not a hypothesis formulated to explain the relation between particular events in the world in competition with scientific hypotheses. Belief in God is primarily a commitment to a way of life in response to distinctive kinds of religious experience in communities formed by historic traditions; it is not a substitute for scientific research. Religious belief offers a wider framework of meaning in which particular events can be contextualized."
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
- Both the federal and state governments are violating their constitutions in numerous major and dangerous ways, particularly regarding the individual rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Bill of Rights.
- These documents are contracts between government and its citizens with the primary purpose of limiting government power, scope, and functions. As a result of these violations of the rights of the people, we no longer have the same government; government will do whatever it can get away with; government can be manipulated to the advantage of those wielding the reins of power and their cohorts, associates, and financiers.
- This type of government and social order is contrary to everything the founders of our country tried to create.
- The average American worker now pays over 50 percent of his or her earnings in taxes--income tax, excise tax, sales tax, property tax, and so forth, and the huge hidden tax of government. Given the size of the federal budget and our rapidly decreasing standard of living, many Americans wonder where their hard-earned dollars are going.
- People within the U.S. government and power elites are trying to subsume our country under a United Nations-controlled one-world government, endangering the sovereignty of the United States and the validity of its constitution.
- Beneath all the rhetoric, the New World Order is simply the concentration of power into a few hands and a global monopoly over the sources of wealth.
- The mainstream media, both print and electronic, is controlled by the same big-money monopolies working hand-in-glove with the government, resulting in a public overwhelmed by trivia and dangerously uninformed about the issues that affect them most.
- America's founders warned that, somewhere down the road, citizens might have to defend their free form of government from usurpers--whether within or without the country's borders--and such a time may be close at hand.
Source: Barbara Dority. "Is the extremist right entirely wrong?" The Humanist. 21 Nov. 1995.
Monday, February 04, 2013
Source: Character of The Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).
Sunday, February 03, 2013
The question asked of the likely voters is: "The Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. Does the federal government today have the consent of the governed?" The Rasmussen firm reports: "just 25% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government today has that consent. Sixty percent (60%) believe the federal government does not have the consent of the governed. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure."
Last month, Rasmussen Reports polled 1,000 American adults asking them: "The Second Amendment to the Constitution provides Americans with the right to own a gun. Is the purpose of the Second Amendment to ensure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny?" The reported margin of error and confidence level are the same as the October poll. Here's what the poll revealed:
Two-out-of-three Americans recognize that their constitutional right to own a gun was intended to ensure their freedom.There are at least two problems with the poll question. First, by prefacing the question with the affirmative statement "The Second Amendment to the Constitution provides Americans with the right to own a gun" Rasmussen may have introduced some bias into the results.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 65% of American Adults think the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny. Only 17% disagree, while another 18% are not sure. ...
Not surprisingly, 72% of those with a gun in their family regard the Second Amendment as a protection against tyranny. However, even a majority (57%) of those without a gun in their home hold that view.
Many gun control advocates talk of the right to gun ownership as relating to hunting and recreational uses only.
While there are often wide partisan differences of opinion on gun-related issues, even 54% of Democrats agree with 75% of Republicans and 68% of those not affiliated with either major party that the right to own a gun is to ensure such freedom. ...
Seventy-four percent (74%) of all Americans continue to believe that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an average citizen to own a gun. Just 17% disagree. These views haven't changed in nearly four years of surveying.
Whereas the prefatory sentence in the consent question accurately quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the gun-tyranny question does not; it takes some interpretive license. While it is an interpretation with which I happen to agree, American citizens and courts have long debated what the Second Amendment means--it is not exactly a picture of clarity. It was not until 2008, for instance, that the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the amendment addresses an individual, rather than a collective, right.
Bias is further suggested in how Rasmussen reports their results. "Two-out-of-three Americans recognize ..." does not indicate a neutral understanding of the meaning of the Second Amendment on the part of the pollster. Constrast "think" and "believe" in the reporting on the consent question with "recognize" in the gun-tyranny results and you should see the difference. Generally speaking, professional, scientific polling organizations strive to refrain from interjecting their own views into poll questions and results.
The second, less serious, problem with the question is that, as many gun rights advocates and political scientists and Constitutional scholars, in general, will tell you, the "Bill of Rights" does not provide any rights whatsoever. In the classical Lockean liberal tradition of the main authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment merely recognizes, affirms, or guarantees a right already conferred by God or nature.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
I also learned about the inspiring story of the Battle of Athens from Ross' book. In 1946, WW II vets and other locals successfully took up arms against a corrupt, local Democratic Party regime in Athens, TN, the county seat of McMinn County.In a world where so many people are passive and disengaged from the major questions of political and social life, I expect I will always find righteous resistance to be inspirational. Yet, I am also keenly aware, that violent resistance is almost always a blind alley, which typically empowers not necessarily the kindest or most just among us but rather those who are adept at inflicting or orchestrating violence.
I was reminded of this recently while reading some of the post-Newtown massacre gun rights discussions. Unintended Consequences is, of course, an ardently pro-gun novel and it is therefore no coincidence that the story of the Battle of Athens appears on a lot of pro-gun web sites. While I unsuccess in verifying the provenance of an op-ed concerning the Athens revolt attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, I did find an article in the New York Times (Jan. 12, 1947; p. 6) entitled "Athens, Tenn., Regime Set Up by GI's Falls." It reports:
The unofficial organization of the veterans is torn by dissension.
Four of the five leaders of the veterans movement declared in an open letter yesterday:
"We abolished one machine only to replace it with another and more powerful one in the making."
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Seven short stories about drones.* According to ProPublica, a "signature strike" is a drone attack targeting "apparent militants whose identities the U.S. doesn't know."
1. Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike* leveled the florist's.
2. Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.
3. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.
4. I am an invisible man. My name is unknown. My loves are a mystery. But an unmanned aerial vehicle from a secret location has come for me.
5. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was killed by a Predator drone.
6. Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His torso was found, not his head.
7. Mother died today. The program saves American lives.
Everything we know so far about drone strikes: propublica.org/article/everything-we-know-so-far-about-drone-strikes
Here are the literary works referenced:
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- "Here Are Seven (Very) Short Stories About Drones by Award-Winning Author Teju Cole" on Gawker.com
- "7 drone stories: Teju Cole creates literature from US assassination program (Video)" on Examiner.com
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Source: Edward Abbey. "The Right to Arms." Abbey's Road (1979) p. 132 as qtd. in Edward Abbey: A Life by James M. Cahalan (University of Arizona Pr., 2001) p. 225.
After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.
Source: William S. Burroughs. "The War Universe: Interviews with Raymond Foye." Grand Street. No. 37 (1991) p. 107.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members [the workers] are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 27 (Goodwin quotes only the first sentence); Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, p. 90.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.-Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 28; Smith, p. 148.
The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from [capitalists], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 29; Smith, p. 288.
Great is the usefulness of Ricardo's method. But even greater are the evils which may arise form a crude application of its suggestions to real problems. For that simplicity which makes it helpful, also makes it deficient and treacherous. -Alfred Marshall qtd. in Economix, p. 40; Alfred Marshall, Money, Credit, and Commerce, p. 190. This is a comment on the pitfalls of taking economist David Ricardo's economic models too seriously.
Its limitations are so constantly overlooked, especially by those who approach it from an abstract point of view, that there is a danger in throwing it into definite form at all. -Alfred Marshall qtd. in Economix, p. 70; Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, p. 461. This is a comment on the pitfalls of taking Marshall's own market equilibrium models too seriously.
An industrial system which uses forty per cent of the world's resources to supply less than six per cent of the world's population could be called efficient only if obtained strikingly successful results in terms of human happiness, well-being, culture, peace, and harmony. I do not need to dwell on the fact that the American system fails to do this, or that there are not the slightest prospects that it could do so if only it achieved a higher rate of growth of production. -E. F. Schumacher qtd. in Economix, p. 162; E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, p. 96.
All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 198; Smith, p. 444.
Everything the communists said about communism was false. Everything they said about capitalism was true. -Economix, p. 242; William J. Duiker & Jackson J. Spielvogel, World History Since 1500, p. 763. This is a bitter joke that Russians reportedly told one another in the wake of devastating economic reorganization after the collapse of the Soviet Union--the rise of the oligarchs.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
See also: "3D Printed Guns Render Gun Control Moot" by Tony Cartalucci on the Land Destroyer Report.
Friday, January 18, 2013
The US National Oncologic PET Registry lists 2,272 facilities that are approved to conduct PET scans for cancer screening or monitoring. Thus, the use of these machines in the US, while perhaps not exactly routine, is not rare or exotic. But there is something exotic about PET scans--they depend upon matter-antimatter annihilation to produce their images.
Our everyday world is made up of matter and energy (which are convertible). Atoms are a basic unit of matter comprised of subatomic particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons (except the most common form of the element hydrogen has one proton, one electron, and no neutron). Likewise, antimatter is comprised of antiparticles which have the opposite charge and quantum spin of ordinary particles (there are no known naturally-occuring antimatter atoms).
Antimatter particles ("antiparticles") are extremely rare. According to physicist Brian Odom: "In molecular gas clouds in our galaxy, there is less than 1 antiproton for every 1015 protons." Nevertheless, antimatter is produced naturally by cosmic rays colliding with the Earth's atmosphere, lightning, and the beta decay of natural occurring radioisotopes, such as the Potassium-40 found in bananas.
Any way, let's get back to the PET scanner. The figure below illustrates how it works using an artifically-produced radioisotope, fluorine-18 (18F) as an example. If it is intravenuously administered in the form of the glucose ("blood sugar") analog 18-fluorodeoxyglucose then the 18F will be concentrated differentially based upon different rates of glucose metabolism. For example, cancer tumors typically have higher rates of metabolism than surrounding tissue.
18F has a half-life of 109.8 minutes. So, after 109.8 minutes half of the 18F atoms will have decayed into the rare, but stable, oxygen-18 isotope, usually (96.73% of the time) by emitting a positron (an antiparticle also called a "positive electron"). That positron will immediately collide with an electron (a negatively-charged matter particle). When it does the positron and electron will annihilate each other--mass is converted to energy--yielding two 511 keV gamma photons or gamma rays. These pass through the patient's body and are detected by the gamma ray detectors.
Source: Peter Ustinov. "Der Krieg ist der Terrorismus der Reichen." Die Welt. April 22, 2003.
I found quite a few articles about the billboard pictured above. It appeared in Caldwell, ID last summer. None of the reports I saw allowed that the sign's creator might just have a point. Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas opined: "It's a private sign on private property and protected by the First Amendment, but this message crosses the line by politicizing the killing of innocent civilians in a movie theater." In other words, how dare you use your rights to say something that offends me.
No word on whether Mayor Nancolas is condemning Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, etc. for "politicizing the killing of innocent civilians" in Newtown by using the tragedy to push through gun control measures. Although, to his credit, the Mayor did speak out over a National League of Cities "letter advocating a ban on certain weapons."
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
If you are offended by profanity then skip both videos. If you are offended by Jackie Mason (I know I am) then skip the second video or fast forward through the short segments featuring him. Click here to view the public service announcement that inspired the second video.
Saturday, January 05, 2013
Friday, January 04, 2013
Source: George Will, International Herald Tribune. May 7, 1990 as qtd. in The Columbia Book of Quotations by Robert Andrews (Columbia UP, 1993) p. 341.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Epistemological scientism lays claim to an exclusive approach to knowledge. Human inquiry is reduced to matters of material reality. We can know only those things that are ascertained by experimentation through application of the scientific method. And since the method is emphasized with such great importance, the scientistic tendency is to privilege the expertise of a scientific elite who can properly implement the method. But science philosopher Susan Haack contends that the so-called scientific method is largely a myth propped up by scientistic culture. There is no single method of scientific inquiry. Instead, Haack explains that scientific inquiry is contiguous with everyday empirical inquiry. Everyday knowledge is supplemented by evolving aids that emerge throughout the process of honest inquiry. These include the cognitive tools of analogy and metaphor that help to frame the object of inquiry into familiar terms. They include mathematical models that enable the possibility of prediction and simulation. Such aids include crude, impromptu instruments that develop increasing sophistication with each iteration of a problem-solving activity. And everyday aids include social and institutional helps that extend to lay practitioners the distributed knowledge of the larger community. According to Haack, these everyday modes of inquiry open the scientific process to ordinary people and they demystify the epistemological claims of the scientistic gate keepers.
The abuse of scientism is most pronounced when it finds its way into public policy. A scientistic culture privileges scientific knowledge over all other ways of knowing. It uses jargon, technical language, and technical evidence in public debate as a means to exclude the laity from participation in policy formation. Despite such obvious transgressions of democracy, common citizens yield to the dictates of scientism without a fight. The norms of science abound in popular culture and the naturalized authority of scientific reasoning can lead unchecked to a malignancy of cultural norms. The most notorious example of this was seen in Nazi Germany where a noxious combination of scientism and utopianism led to the eugenics excesses of the Third Reich. Policy can be informed by science, and the best policies take into account the best available scientific reasoning. Law makers are prudent to keep an ear open to science while resisting the rhetoric of the science industry in formulating policy. It is the role of science to serve the primary interests of the polity. But government in a free society is not obliged to serve the interests of science. Jurgen Habermas warns that positivism and scientism move in where the discourse of science lacks self-reflection and where the spokesmen of science exempt themselves from public scrutiny.
Source: Martin Ryder. "Scientism." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. (Macmillan Reference USA, 2001-2006). Page numbers and inline references omitted.
The roots of scientism extend as far back as early 17th century Europe, an era that came to be known as the Scientific Revolution. ...
Scientism today is alive and well, as evidenced by the statements of our celebrity scientists:
"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." –Carl Sagan, Cosmos
"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." –Stephen Weinburg, The First Three Minutes
"We can be proud as a species because, having discovered that we are alone, we owe the gods very little." –E.O. Wilson, Consilience
While these men are certainly entitled to their personal opinions and the freedom to express them, the fact that they make such bold claims in their popular science literature blurs the line between solid, evidence-based science, and rampant philosophical speculation. ...
Physicist Ian Hutchinson offers an insightful metaphor for the current controversies over science:
"The health of science is in fact jeopardized by scientism, not promoted by it. At the very least, scientism provokes a defensive, immunological, aggressive response from other intellectual communities, in return for its own arrogance and intellectual bullyism. It taints science itself by association."
Noting that most Americans enthusiastically welcome scientific advancements ... Hutchinson suggests that perhaps what the public is rejecting is not actually science itself, but a worldview that closely aligns itself with science—scientism. By disentangling these two concepts, we have a much better chance for enlisting public support for scientific research than we would by trying to convince millions of people to embrace a materialistic, godless universe in which science is our only remaining hope. ...
So if science is distinct from scientism, what is it? Science is an activity that seeks to explore the natural world using well-established, clearly-delineated methods. Given the complexity of the universe, from the very big to very small, from inorganic to organic, there is a vast array of scientific disciplines, each with its own specific techniques. The number of different specializations is constantly increasing, leading to more questions and areas of exploration than ever before. Science expands our understanding, rather than limiting it.
Scientism, on the other hand, is a speculative worldview about the ultimate reality of the universe and its meaning. Despite the fact that there are millions of species on our planet, scientism focuses an inordinate amount of its attention on human behavior and beliefs. Rather than working within carefully constructed boundaries and methodologies established by researchers, it broadly generalizes entire fields of academic expertise and dismisses many of them as inferior. With scientism, you will regularly hear explanations that rely on words like "merely", "only", "simply", or "nothing more than". Scientism restricts human inquiry.
It is one thing to celebrate science for its achievements and remarkable ability to explain a wide variety of phenomena in the natural world. But to claim there is nothing knowable outside the scope of science would be similar to a successful fisherman saying that whatever he can't catch in his nets does not exist. Once you accept that science is the only source of human knowledge, you have adopted a philosophical position (scientism) that cannot be verified, or falsified, by science itself. It is, in a word, unscientific.
Source: Thomas Burnett. "What is Scientism?" AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2012). Endnote references omitted.
- Austin L. Hughes. "The Folly of Scientism." The New Atlantis. Fall 2012, pp. 32-50.
- Edward Feser. "Blinded by Scientism." Public Discourse. March 9, 2010.
- Edward Feser. "Recovering Sight after Scientism." Public Discourse. March 12, 2010.
- Michael Shermer. "The Shamans of Scientism." Scientific American. June 2002, p. 35.
- Bob Perry. "Defrocking the Priests of Scientism." Apologetics 315. April 8, 2010.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
No one way of knowing can provide all of the answers to the questions that humans ask. ...
Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.
Source: Working Group on Teaching Evolution, National Academy of Sciences. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. (Washington, DC: National Academy Pr., 1998) p 58.
The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is elementary physical processes, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The second level is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third level is the universe as a whole. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. We stand, in a manner of speaking, midway between the unpredictability of atoms and the unpredictability of God. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, and we are small pieces of God's mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputs equally from atoms and from God. This view of our place in the cosmos may not be true, but it is compatible with the active nature of atoms as revealed in the experiments of modern physics. I don't say that this personal theology is supported or proved by scientific evidence. I only say that it is consistent with scientific evidence. ...
Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.
Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious dogma or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Curiously, the book also includes a chapter on "Jewish Art and Biblical Exegesis in the Greco-Roman World". The most common "Jewish" motif was a seven-branched lampstand a.k.a. menorah, which, according to Dr. M. D. Magee, was originally a Zoroastrian cultic object. In at least two ancient examples (Beth Alpha and Hammath Tiberias B "synagogues") in the book the menorah was paired with a Zodiac, which is of ancient Babylonian origin. Of course, the Hexagram a.k.a. Star of David appears nowhere in the book as it only became associated with Judiasm in modern times.
Any way, what prompted this blog post was Stein's interview near the end of the film with Richard Dawkins. Starting at about 3:10 in the clip below is the following exchange:
BEN STEIN: What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in Darwinian evolution.
RICHARD DAWKINS: Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.
BEN STEIN (in narrative voice): Wait a second. Richard Dawkins thought Intelligent Design might be a legitimate pursuit?
RICHARD DAWKINS: And that Designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that higher intelligence would itself have had to have come about by some explicable, or ultimately explicable process. It couldn't have just jumped into existence spontaneously. That's the point.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Source: Character of the keeper in Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. (Center Street, 2011) p. 276.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Such modern ideologies as socialism, (both Marxist and anarchist), Zionism, and various forms of the psychiatric worldview (Freudian psychoanalysis and related schools) all emphasize the tainted or sick qualities of Gentile existence, be it in exploitative capitalism, aggressive nationalism, or repressive Victorian prudery. Jewish frustration, anxiety, and rage at being considered inferior, and in some partial and tormented sense agreeing with that evaluation, found an alluring outlet in these ideologies - and a hope for eventual redemption.
Obviously, these ideologies cannot be described as simply or explicitly Jewish condemnations of the Gentile world; non-Jews in great numbers were also attracted to them. ... But by the end of the nineteenth century Jews were attracted to socialism and, after 1917, communism in significantly greater proportions than were non-Jews. It is instructive that it was Jewish intellectuals, Marx and Freud are the most obvious examples, who became the most brilliant and preeminent exponents of these modern theories.
... Study of the sufferings of Jews [i.e. Leidensgeschichte - "suffering-history, or the tendency to write Jewish history largely in terms of the suffering endured by the Jews at the hands of Gentiles"] is now advocated mostly as a way of preventing suffering in the future, largely by exposing the sinful or corrupt nature of Gentile society and its responsibility for Jewish suffering and almost never as a means by which Jews could become aware of their own sins, except insofar as an error in judgment, a naive misperception of Gentile malevolence, is considered a sin. Anything else, again, would be blaming the victim.
Source: Albert S. Lindemann. Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews. (Cambridge UP, 1997) pp. 14-15.
See also: Esau's Tears reviewed by Kevin MacDonald
Monday, October 01, 2012
In "civilized" Europe, not so long ago--relative to the broad scope of human history--professing Christians killed other professing Christians over translating the Bible into the vernacular or common language of the people and related doctrinal matters. You see in 1401, inspired by the proliferation of so-called Wycliffe Bibles, the English Parliament passed an act known as De heretico comburendo, Latin for "Regarding the heretic who is to be burnt".
Among other things, it made it unlawful to "make or write any book contrary to the catholic faith or determination of the Holy Church". The "determination" of "the Holy Church" being that, as far as the laity was concerned, the Bible should be in Latin only because "... Scripture was given only to, and could only be understood by, either the extremely learned. 'the doctors', or the clergy". So writes David Daniell in The Bible in English (Yale UP, 2003; p. 68). As Daniell notes: "Heresy was soon to include reading not just owning even a scrap of Scripture not in Latin" (p. 68). Daniell, citing Nicholas Watson, further writes: "the capacity of the English language was rejected; the lower classes were refused [English] texts; limitations were imposed on what it was 'necessary' to know; and the role of clergy as guardians of truth and controllers of its communications was emphasised" (p. 110).
De heretico comburendo was enforced well into the 1500s and, "between 1553 and 1558 ... about 300 men and women were burned alive" (p. 263) under the law. Perhaps the best known victim of the vernacular-Bible-as-heresy principle was English Bible translator William Tyndale, who was executed in October 1536 in Belgium.
Monday, September 10, 2012
... great allowances should be given to a king [the King of Brobdingnag], who lives wholly secluded from the rest of the world, and must therefore be altogether unacquainted with the manners and customs that most prevail in other nations: the want of which knowledge will ever produce many prejudices, and a certain narrowness of thinking, from which we, and the politer countries of Europe, are wholly exempted. And it would be hard indeed, if so remote a prince's notions of virtue and vice were to be offered as a standard for all mankind.
To confirm what I have now said, and further to show the miserable effects of a confined education, I shall here insert a passage, which will hardly obtain belief. In hopes to ingratiate myself further into his majesty's favour, I told him of “an invention, discovered between three and four hundred years ago, to make a certain powder, into a heap of which, the smallest spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment, although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up in the air together, with a noise and agitation greater than thunder. That a proper quantity of this powder rammed into a hollow tube of brass or iron, according to its bigness, would drive a ball of iron or lead, with such violence and speed, as nothing was able to sustain its force. That the largest balls thus discharged, would not only destroy whole ranks of an army at once, but batter the strongest walls to the ground, sink down ships, with a thousand men in each, to the bottom of the sea, and when linked together by a chain, would cut through masts and rigging, divide hundreds of bodies in the middle, and lay all waste before them. That we often put this powder into large hollow balls of iron, and discharged them by an engine into some city we were besieging, which would rip up the pavements, tear the houses to pieces, burst and throw splinters on every side, dashing out the brains of all who came near. That I knew the ingredients very well, which were cheap and common; I understood the manner of compounding them, and could direct his workmen how to make those tubes, of a size proportionable to all other things in his majesty's kingdom, and the largest need not be above a hundred feet long; twenty or thirty of which tubes, charged with the proper quantity of powder and balls, would batter down the walls of the strongest town in his dominions in a few hours, or destroy the whole metropolis, if ever it should pretend to dispute his absolute commands. This I humbly offered to his majesty, as a small tribute of acknowledgment, in turn for so many marks that I had received, of his royal favour and protection.
The king was struck with horror at the description I had given of those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. He was amazed, how so impotent and grovelling an insect as I (these were his expressions) could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner, as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation which I had painted as the common effects of those destructive machines; whereof, he said, some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver. As for himself, he protested, that although few things delighted him so much as new discoveries in art or in nature, yet he would rather lose half his kingdom, than be privy to such a secret; which he commanded me, as I valued any life, never to mention any more.
A strange effect of narrow principles and views that a prince possessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and esteem; of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning, endowed with admirable talents, and almost adored by his subjects, should, from a nice, unnecessary scruple, whereof in Europe we can have no conception, let slip an opportunity put into his hands that would have made him absolute master of the lives, the liberties, and the fortunes of his people. Part II, Chapter VII.
[A Houyhnhnm] asked me what were the usual causes or motives that made one country go to war with another? I answered they were innumerable; but I should only mention a few of the chief. Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never think they have land or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption of ministers, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle or divert the clamour of the subjects against their evil administration. Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives ... Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.
Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of them pretend to any right. Sometimes one prince quarrels with another for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a war is entered upon, because the enemy is too strong; and sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours want the things which we have, or have the things which we want, and we both fight, till they take ours, or give us theirs. It is a very justifiable cause of a war, to invade a country after the people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render our dominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into a nation, where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully put half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living. It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequent practice, when one prince desires the assistance of another, to secure him against an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill, imprison, or banish, the prince he came to relieve. Alliance by blood, or marriage, is a frequent cause of war between princes; and the nearer the kindred is, the greater their disposition to quarrel; poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance. For these reasons, the trade of a soldier is held the most honourable of all others; because a soldier is a Yahoo [i.e. human] hired to kill, in cold blood, as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can. Part IV, Chapter 5.
Source: Jonathan Swift. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships (1726, 1735).
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Mohammed: We know that people are different from their government. The [US government] is made up from about fifty thousand people, but the other 250 million are victims of that government. So we believe that America should free itself before freeing any other country. ...
Ted: Is there any one last thing you would like to say to Americans?
Mohammed: I say love yourselves and you will love others. Live in peace with yourself and you will live in peace with others.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Amish Man 5: I have to tell you a little story. There was a tour bus. Amish man got on and they asked him -- what's the difference between you and us? ... Well, he said how many of you have television? All the hands went up. He said, how many of you, if you have a family, think you'd be better off without television? Practically all the hands went up. He said how many of you are going to go home and get rid of it? No hands went up. He said that's the difference between you and the Amish. Because we will do it. If it's bad for the family, we will not have it.
See also: Anarchy, Technology, the Amish & Rumspringa
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
On the third anniversary of massacre Adams wrote in his diary:
Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the quakers or witches anciently. As the evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right. ... This, however, is no reason why the town should not call the action of that night a massacre; nor is it any argument in favor of the Governor or Minister who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest of proofs of the danger of standing armies. [emphasis added]Adams was a supporter of militias composed of civilians called into service as needed, as opposed to standing armies. In the second year of the Revolutionary War he wrote the following in a letter to Brigadier General Samuel H. Parsons, who started his military career in Connecticut's colonial militia:
With regard to encouragements in money and in land for soldiers to enlist during the war, I have ever been in favor of it, as the best economy and the best policy, and I have no doubt that rewards in land will be given, after the war is over. But the majority are not of my mind for promising it now. I am the less anxious about it, for a reason which does not seem to have much weight however with the majority. Although it may cost us more, and we may put now and then a battle to hazard by the method we are in, yet we shall be less in danger of corruption and violence from a standing army, and our militia will acquire courage, experience, discipline, and hardiness in actual service. [emphasis added]In Adams' A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States (1787) he wrote:
Shall we conclude, from these melancholy observations, that human nature is incapable of liberty, that no honest equality can be preserved in society, and that such forcible causes are always at work as must reduce all men to a submission to despotism, monarchy, oligarchy, or aristocracy?A footnote to the above-cited passage and of uncertain provenance says: "Would that it had constantly been refused! A standing army is dangerous in any hands! Even if the people had preserved their share in the legislature, a standing army in their pay would be inexpedient and dangerous."
By no means. We have seen one of the first nations in Europe, possessed of ample and fertile territories at home and extensive dominions abroad, of a commerce with the whole world, immense wealth, and the greatest naval power which ever belonged to any nation, which has still preserved the power of the people by the equilibrium we are contending for, by the trial by jury, and by constantly refusing a standing army. [emphasis added]
Finally, in a letter to Thomas McKean, dated June 21, 1812, Adams said:
The danger of our government is, that the General will be a man of more popularity than the President, and the army possess more power than Congress. The people should be apprised of this, and guard themselves against it. Nothing is more essential than to hold the civil authority decidedly superior to the military power.Adams' particular fear about the popularity of generals seems not have been realized but unfortunately we have a Congress and Presidency that rarely say no to military funding requests, in peacetime or war. That's true even when it comes to illegal, undeclared wars waged on false pretenses such as the 2003 Iraq War. The civil authority all too often bows to the military.