Pick Wayne's Brain

June 5, 2016

Can American Democracy Actually Work?

Filed under: Commentary, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 10:55 PM

I want to believe. I want to believe that democracy can work in America. But can it? Can it really?

Although it was originally posted more than two years ago on Alternet, Raw Story reprinted an article that makes me wonder. It seems humans will believe what they want to believe, facts be damned. People who thought there were WMDs in Iraq clung to that misperception even harder when shown an article correcting that story. People who thought President George W. Bush banned ALL stem cell research still believed that even when told only a partial ban was put in effect. (No new stem cell lines could be created for research, but research was allowed to continue using the 60+ lines then in existence. Which isn’t nearly enough.) These were examples making conservatives look bad, but political leaning has nothing to do with it. It’s true of all humans, regardless of political philosophies. Facts simply don’t matter. But Education does. If you’re taught the truth about things when you’re younger, you’re less likely to believe false things when you get older. Kids grow up believing what their parents teach them to believe, which is fine if the parents aren’t complete idiots. But if they are, by the time kids enter the public education system they’re already off to a bad start. It would help if schools were allowed to teach actual critical thinking skills, as people would learn how to verify new information and not just accept it because it confirms what they already believe. But as the study shows, that seems to be the essence of the problem. We do not seem to be wired to process information this way. At least, according to how the scientist interpreted the results. There was no measure beforehand of how well the participants could use critical thinking skills, and therefore may have had pre-conceived ideas (however false) but couldn’t process the new information in a way that would make them change their opinion. Hence, the tendency to cling harder to what they previously believed to be true.

Religion may also be responsible for much of this. And not just Christianity, but organized religion of any kind. Particularly in America, we have a lot of people who claim religion is important in their lives, but who don’t even know basic facts about their own religion as well as atheists and agnostics do. But the areas in America where religion is least important are also the areas where literacy rates tend to be higher. Religion requires no critical thinking, and discourages questioning what one is told to be the truth. And while there have been men (almost entirely) who were allowed to explore questions about faith, their answers were heavily censored and only allowed publication if approved by the religious leaders. In other words, not a lot of objectivity, and essentially just an addition to what people are being told to believe. The approved philosophical writings were used to justify why what you were being told is the truth, which is what the study seemed to indicate happens even with so-called smarter people. People still believe what they want to believe and use their reasoning to justify it afterwards. The problem is, there are way too many people in this country who believe provably false things like the Sun revolves around the Earth, and a large percentage who don’t know the Universe began with some kind of large explosion (as opposed to being brought into existence as is). Even more frightening is that more than half do not understand or believe in Evolution. How many times have you heard someone (often a religious conservative) say, “If we’re descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” (Evolution doesn’t say all monkeys turned into humans. Evolution says humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.) If you can’t start with the most basic of factually correct information, how can you possibly make a well-reasoned decision on which direction to take our country? If you think voting for someone who actually believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old is going to solve our nation’s problems, then you’re one of the problems.

As I said before, Education can help, especially when started at an early age. As soon as children learn there are natural explanations for the way the Universe works (even if we don’t fully understand them yet), and that it’s not all attributable to an impossible Being with severely psychotic tendencies who kills at a whim, there is hope for Democracy in this country. And a better life for all, too. Studies have shown that elsewhere in the world, the highest standards of living tend to be found in the least religious countries, and the poorest in the most religious. America seems to be the exception. We have both a higher-than-average standard of living and yet are among the more religious countries in the world. But that will change if more Americans grow up believing nonsense before they are taught to think for themselves. Otherwise we just end up with another generation that doesn’t have enough sense to realize someone like Donald Trump is too ignorant and unqualified to run this country. And because he loves the poorly-educated, he’ll create more because they love him so much. And the Great Experiment known as America will have finally failed.

Please don’t let anyone you know vote for Donald Trump. You’ll just be voting for the end of America.

May 30, 2016

Will America Elect Yet Another Overtly Racist President?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 2:11 AM

America is far from perfect. We have achieved many great things in our history, but it has been despite our flaws, not because of them. And among the worst of our flaws is this country’s history of racism and white supremacy. Yes, not just the racism but the white supremacy, too. We on the Left post many words decrying white supremacists, but we rarely admit our country has elected many white supremacists POTUS, and they weren’t all Conservatives and/or Republicans and at least a few were Progressives and/or Democrats. As a Liberal, that bothers me. I want what’s best for everyone, and the color of one’s skin does not determine whether one is a human being or not. But there are many people, white people in particular, who feel this is not so; they feel that one’s skin color DOES determine how human one is. And sadly, these people often get elected to public office, where they are able to put their racist viewpoints into law. A President Donald J. Trump would be such a racist president.

It’s bad enough that Trump lies, and lies, and lies, and (more…)

March 6, 2010

Mister Old and Careless Guy

I am not a fan of David Gregory on Meet the Press. I’ve watched, and I find that he seems more concerned with getting his list of questions in than he is with refuting the lies his guests tell. And the entire show’s format is part of the problem. The guests know they’re only going to be on for a limited amount of time, and if they stall long enough, or simply refuse to address the question being asked, the host will move on to another subject. And when the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, there were always more Republicans on the show than Democrats. Now that Democrats control both Houses of Congress and the White House, there are still more Republican guests than Democratic ones. Why? And who the hell cares what John McCain thinks about anything? He lost, Mr. Gregory. The country rejected his ideas. We don’t need to hear what he thinks because, well, for one thing, he can’t make up his mind what that is, and for another thing, he lost!. In fact, throughout the past year, you’ve let one Republican lie go by after another on the health care debate. I think you’re getting old and careless on the job, Mr. Gregory. And maybe the show has outlived its usefulness as a means of informing the public about the facts. And here’s America to help me say it another way.

Mister Old and Careless Guy
Original words and music “Sister Golden Hair” by Gerry Beckley 1975
Additional lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider 2010

Well I tried to watch it Sunday
But I got so damned distressed
That I told myself that one day
They should cancel “Meet the Press”

He ain’t steady (more…)

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