Biblical objections to the Pro-Life agenda

In this election year politicians are appealing to the support of the voters, and some are trying to appeal to the Evangelical vote by declaring they are “pro-life”. That is, they would like to criminalize abortion.  I believe we should be careful of politicians that cater to us on such grounds, but beyond that I have a much more serious problem with that behavior:  The scriptures don’t favor the criminalization of abortion.

I know that the common view among Evangelical Christians is to support the pro-life movement, which aims to make abortion illegal.  This is not the way I read scripture.  The problem is that the whole of scripture, not the New Testament only, is about grace, not law.  Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes it clear that law cannot produce moral behavior.  Grace is the Biblical focus because “law” cannot make us human beings practice the morality we espouse.  It is by grace that morality is enabled.  To oppose abortion by making it illegal is to remove grace from all possibility.  By rights the woman caught in adultery should have been killed (John 8:1-12).  That is what law does:  it specifies, and it cannot be broken; it must apply in all cases, as specified.  She should have been stoned.

If that is how God had dealt with me, my life would be hopeless and I would be forever condemned, and probably a failure in many other ways than I am already.  Grace appeals for repentance, not punishment.  So if we oppose abortion we must not insist on making abortion illegal because that is contrary to the point of the Bible.  If an anti-abortion law is ever enacted the resulting society will not in any way demonstrate the love of Christ.  “The law of Christ” is of a different sort altogether: bearing other’s burdens.

If the pro-life movement gets what it wants, it will insist.  It will make abortion criminal, with specific rules for who should be punished and under what circumstances.  I therefore urge against making abortion illegal.  I don’t want to think about what our society would look like if such a moral appeal were made into law.

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The increasing desperation in the Middle East

The news reports are preoccupied with the many families fleeing the Middle East — mostly Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan — desperately trying to get into Europe, as if Europe were a safe haven.  As is becoming evident, after so many days and so much expense in order to make the journey, they are being greeted by reluctance if not open hostility.  Europe is in no way ready to receive them. But it is evident that these peoples — Muslims, Christians, people of all kinds and of all walks of life — are desperately voting with their feet.

In a sense this pattern of migration is not new.  The western world has benefited for many years by the flight of the middle classes, the professional and educated elements of these societies.  Those folks have been fleeing the troubled parts of Asia and Africa for years.  What is new here is that these refugees are from all levels of society:  the poor, the weak, the sick, the broken.  Everyone that has the means to flee seems to be fleeing.

So what drives them out of their homes, their whole social worlds?  Here is a note I received from a friend from one of those countries.

Tragedy and pain have found their way into my every organ today. What has turned my world upside down is that I have no solution to the problems I see. I have become mute. There’s too much suffering — way beyond my comprehension. Why God punishes its people when they are innocent? It’s on these trying days that we’d like to doubt God’s existence, His glory, His powers. But as I probe into the territory of the divine, it’s then that I see Him most vividly. Suffering and pain — contrary to the conventional belief — can make us a whole lot closer to the Almighty. I’m a fighter. Even though I despise the world and all its designs sometimes, I am grateful for all that has been bestowed upon me; and I feel lucky to be alive, fully functional — with all my cognitive faculties intact. In the midst of darkness, there’s always light. And that’s why I must remain sanguine and continue to stay in the fight and forge ahead.

At some point in the course of events we can come to the point when desperation leads us, as he says, to appeal to and seek help in the notion that there is a God who is above it all, who is well aware of the messy world that we live in, and is the only hope for any sense to be made in the human condition.  If there is no judgment, if there is nothing to look for beyond this life, if there is no mercy, then there is no hope.  It’s not good enough to rail at God.  At some point we have to throw ourselves on the mercy of One who is bigger than the world as we know it and has, as generations before us have desired, a bigger plan.

In the mean time, “In the midst of darkness” we seek the light, and remain sanguine, and continue the fight, and forge ahead.

[See the following site for a helpful analysis of what has caused the movement to flee Syria: Click here]

 

 

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Fahim Masoud on the overwhelming need in Afghanistan

Fahim Masoud has written on Afghanistan, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Chinese affairs has paid a visit home to see his family in Herat.  He has been sharing his experiences and observations with us.  Here is the latest report:

It happens every time I come to Afghanistan. During my first days I am shocked by the amount of pain and poverty I see. During my first days I go out of my way to give out money to the poor and to the people on the streets. Even though it relieves me to know that I just gave someone money to buy himself/herself a dinner, I become down as soon as I realize how temporary the fix to the problem of poverty is. You can’t keep giving these people fish — without teaching them how to fish, any aid is useless. People in Afghanistan have been given a lot of fish in the last 15 years, but they were never given lessons on how to fish. That’s why we have so much pain and poverty in this country today.

Foreigners gave Afghans billions of dollars in aid, but the majority of that money left Afghanistan for foreign banks before they arrived to Afghanistan. Corrupt leaders and politicians stole every dollar they could get their hands on and deposited it into their foreign banks. I think had the world community spent the money on building factories and industries in Afghanistan, today the people of Afghanistan would have been much better off in every way.

Before I proceed, please allow me to say what I mean by normalization of pain. Earlier I said that the amount of pain and poverty on display in this country shock me. However, after a few days of being here, I’m no longer shocked. In fact, because I see so much misery, it no longer bothers me. I no longer go out of my way to help out the poor. I become de-sensitized. I feel like I no longer have warm feelings toward my fellow human beings. Pain can become normalized. Pain can be processed like all other things and feel like it’s not there when it’s right in front of you. Pain — even though it’s very visible — can become very invisible.

Everyday I spent hours with people from all walks of life. These people are teachers, students, intellectuals, and laborers. Even though these people are so different in their occupations, they are very similar in their forecast of how the affairs will turn out for Afghanistan. They know that Afghanistan has traveled beyond the point of being fixed.

Some say that a lot of good things have happened in Afghanistan — an idea that bears some truth. What they mean is that Afghans shouldn’t forget where they came from. They compare the current situation to the times of the Taliban. Then Afghans were stripped of every basic right there was. Now, they are endowed with some rights; it’s not perfect but in comparison to the the Taliban times, it is much better. The same argument is held when it comes to the sphere of economics. The majority of Afghans are much more better off. Yes, there’s a lot of poverty but poverty is universal. People who hold this line of argument say that Afghanistan will get better. We, the Afghans, need to be patient because this situation of terror and panic cannot last for too long.

So many issues and so much poverty in this country that it breaks my heart to be witness to so much misery in this country.

We have stress and misery everywhere, but the kind that is manifested in this country is beyond comprehension. One of the guards — at a school that I frequent and utilize their wifi services — works for $100 a month day and night. The interesting thing is that he feels very lucky to be working at this job.

When I see so much pain and poverty, I feel extremely lucky to be a citizen of America. We have our stresses and pains in that world too, but at least we are entitled to rights and have options. Not in this country. The status of women is especially appalling. People treat their women worse than property. At least there are people in this world who take care of their properties but in Afghanistan there are some people who have no respect for women. I have heard some “intellectuals” say: zan che ast ka aql-ash bashad — what is a woman for her wisdom to be of any value? I feel sorry for so many people in this country.

What’s amazing is that some very patriotic Afghans who would have never imagined leaving Afghanistan are now thinking of leaving this country. There’s a doctor who’s a close relative of ours. He’s considered the best heart doctor in this country. This man has many good skills — skills and an education that makes him about $10,000 a month in Afghanistan now. But he’s too decent of a human being to think about money. This man with so much money and so much prestige is now leaving Afghanistan. Another friend of mine who knows this doctor said: I thought he would never leave this country. Now that he leaves, I realize how dire our situation has become.

This paragraph will intrude on the coherence of my other paragraphs, as it doesn’t bear relevance to them. The other day I was in a busy part of the city of Herat. All of a sudden I saw a number of police vehicles cruising through the crowded streets in an extremely unprofessional way. The convoy of the police cars were still on the streets when people on my right and left began to curse them. Such a scenario — people holding feelings of disgust and anguish toward their government and security officials — seems to be prevalent throughout the city of Herat and Afghanistan in general.

The people of Afghanistan have lost all their faith and confidence in their government. A government that is losing the fight against the insurgents is not because it doesn’t have enough security forces capable of doing the fight, but because it doesn’t have the backing of its own people. Today, a BBC article says that only 20 percent of the Afghan people approve of Ghani’s government. That’s the lowest of any other government I know around the world. Another recent report, which was prepared by Tolo TV, claims that corruption has gone up under the Unity Government. These are not good signs. Ominous dark clouds are gathering over the skies of Afghanistan. I’m afraid no sun can smash these clouds and make them go away . . .

I’ll be back with more to say.
Fahim

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Fahim Masoud: The view of the taxi driver

I take taxis or rickshaws everywhere in Herat. Most of the times I avoid taxis — instead I take rickshaws because I can save some money and give it to the poor. I say this not to show off my virtues. But to tell you that people here are very desperate and any amount of money can help mitigate their hunger.

Today, on my way to the doctor I took a taxi because I was in a hurry. The cab driver looked really interesting — his physical stature and form looked like an elite soldier, which prompted me to start a conversation and ask him: how is business. He said it was alright — not as good as it used to be only to finish his sentence with saying that there’s not “maza” in anything anymore. Maza means taste but in the vernacular sometimes people say that business maza nadara which means business is not too good.

The long taxi drive and the rush hour spearheaded our conversation into political issues. In a country like Afghanistan, everything and everyone is political. Necessities and pressing social and economic matters have made everyone political. To be political is to be bedar (awake) in this country. So no matter who you meet the issue that they want to engage in talking to you about is politics.

We, the driver and I, came across a number of traffic cops — and his disgust for them became obvious immediately.He talked about this morning and that he was pulled over by a cop for having run through a red light. While he was being questioned as to why he committed this traffic violation, an important car which meant it belonged to some high ranking commander or wali (governor) did the same thing as this cab driver had done. Instead of pulling over this traffic violator, and to the taxi driver’s surprise, this cop and his colleagues didn’t even bother going after this important car.

In Afghanistan, there are some laws and regulations — but only for the poor. The rich and the governing class can get away with anything and everything. Go murder someone, but if you have money, you will walk away Scott free. These are things that have turned people away from the government — to the point that some want to join ISIS or the Taliban in order to be free of this constant oppression and subjugation.

The taxi driver continued to register his frustration with the government. He said this current government is over. It’s been six months, he said, since its employees have been paid. He said every public official knows that this government cannot work and that its doomed to collapse. But he said they are here to enrich themselves and walk away. It’s amazing how much corruption there’s in the government of Afghanistan.

You cannot find one government office — one office that’s clean. The high degree of corruption combined with the regular abuse of the people by the security officials are driving the people into the arms of the insurgents.

Today is the 19th of August. It’s the day Afghans claim to have gotten their independence from the British. A number of celebrations are underway. For example, at the stadium of Herat there will be a large number of people talking and celebrating their independence. Around the city there are small gatherings in which a mullah or a prominent leader talks about Afghanistan’s heroic history and how Afghans have always maintained their independence.

As my taxi was making a turn toward our destination we heard a bunch of people clapping to the words of whoever was speaking to them. The driver started laughing out loud. He said I don’t know what our officials and politicians are thinking. He said either they are mad or we are mad. He interrupted himself right away and said: I know we, the Afghans, are not mad. These politicians aren’t mad either. They are just too stupid celebrating an independence that doesn’t mean anything because Afghanistan is still occupied and has become a rentier state. How can we claim independence, he said, when we are so dependent on foreign governments? Independence must mean not only political independence but also economic independence.

As we got closer to my drop-off spot, the driver said: I’m so tired of the government that sometimes I’m tempted to join ISIS in Afghanistan. Then before stating his last sentence, he looked at me to reveal the seriousness of his tone to me, he said: “sometimes I am tempted to join ISIS so I can kill as many officials as I can. It pays $500 a month. What can be worse than that?”

PS: a bomb went off a couple of hours here in Herat. About half a mile from our house.

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A Critical Note from Afghanistan July 2015

The following is a note from Fahim Masoud, who is visiting his family in Herat, Afghanistan.  I present it here as received.  This is Mr Masoud’s sincere appraisal of the situation.  He is deeply discouraged about the prospects.  This is significant because in the past he has held high hopes for the future of his country.  Fahim is a well informed commentator on affairs in Afghanistan and Central Asian affairs, which makes his dark estimation of the situation all the more sobering.  RLC

The Wall Street Journal has an article on the first female Afghan pilot who has been getting a lot of recognition from around the world. Though now her life is at risk. She’s getting all kinds of threats from the Taliban and her own relatives. This is one example showing how terrible the security situation is in Afghanistan.

This will break your heart, but I believe (BELIEVE) there’s no future for Afghanistan. There’s no order in this country. The people of Afghanistan have devolved into a soul-less bunch. They have no compassion. No understanding of one another. They are too intolerant and cannot accept each other’s differences. This is what the war has done to them. This is what unemployment and lack of resources are doing to them. Ethnic divisions have become much more obvious and pronounced.

Leaders from all around the country voice their support of one ethnic group over another vociferously. Tonight I’m at a gathering in which a bunch of people from a prominent village in Herat are here. They are talking about an “arbab” or village leader chosen by the people of the village. It’s been months since this village is without an arbab yet no one has been chosen yet — even though the village desperately needs one.

Folks in this village cannot choose their leader because they haven’t reconciled their tensions over whether a Tajik or Pashtoon leader should get elected. It’s a shame because most of my father’s relatives claim to be Pashtoon yet they cannot speak a word of Pashto. It’s crazy to be fighting over the election of a leader when you have nothing but the zai suffix at the end of their names.

This county is in a lot of mess. You need to be here to see the degree of chaos and disorder. No one cares. No one. Everyone is here to enrich themselves and walk away. Thousands of people are leaving this country on a daily basis. What’s so amazing is that there are a great number of really, really nice houses on sale in Herat now. The owners of these houses are not only selling their houses but also everything in them. Home prices have gone down significantly because no one is buying anything anymore. There’s no flow of cash. Too many people are on the streets begging for money to feed themselves.

The whole survival of the country depends on the presence of U.S. troops.

Ghani has proven himself a very incompetent leader. He’s disappointed everyone in this country. I doubt he came make it.

A guest of ours a few nights ago said something very wise. He said we liked Karzai because he was our beggar. He said Karzai didn’t mind going abroad and begging for money — to the point that once on a trip to Iran, he brought a bag of cash with him on the plane. Ghani — on the other hand, he said, is too proud and arrogant. He’s too proud to ask for aid. Instead, to make up for the government’s expenses, Ghani has raised taxes on people. This gentleman, after changing his posture, and making sure I was fully listening, said to me, “how dumb is it to raise taxes when people have no money and there’s no business?”

The seriousness and sincerity of his voice, the gravity and reality of the situation made me think very hard about this issue. It reminded of the United States. The reason Americans began their war of independence against the British was taxation without representation. How can you tax people heavily when you can’t give them proper representation, security, and employment? Such a really stupid move on Ghani’s part.

One thing is for certain. This situation is not sustainable. Something catastrophic is inevitable in Afghanistan. Most foreigners don’t say this because they are in Kabul. They don’t visit the provinces often. Kabul is pretty safe. There’s money. Bureaucracy and lots of non-governmental agencies are in Kabul, keeping many Kabulis employed. This is not the case in provinces. None of Herat’s districts and villages are safe and there are Taliban presence in almost all of them.
More later.
Fahim

Find the article HERE

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HOW POWER WORKS IN THE UNITED STATES AND EGYPT

I don’t have time to elaborate now, but today’s news is full of great examples of how power works.To see how power works in capitalist countries have a look at this: New climate war: Billionaires vs. Big Oil

To see how power works in Egypt — that is, how the Egyptian army runs its country — look at this: Prominent Muslim Brotherhood Leader Is Seized in Egypt

Egypt does not have an army:  Its army has a country:  to see more of how it works, look at this:  Ousted General in Egypt Is Back, as Islamists’ Foe

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POISONOUS LIES CAN RIP OUR COUNTRY APART

We don’t watch Fox News at our house because we understand it was founded to be a Republican “news” outlet, which is to say it’s a propaganda vehicle.  So I am ignorant of what they say and am often surprised to hear what is stated on that news source.  And of course Rush Limbaugh is so notoriously biased that it is hard to understand why anyone takes him seriously.  Even so, we know folks, good folks, who listen to these sources and seem to take them for granted, as if they were reliable sources. Politicians are different:  we expect them to overdraw an issue

But in truth I have been dumbfounded to hear what some of these people in the Republican propaganda network have been saying.  [From Bill Moyers today]

SENATOR STEVE KING: If Obamacare is ever implemented and enforced, we will never recover from it. It is an unconstitutional takings of God-given American liberty.

AINSLEY EARHARDT on Fox and Friends: Thanks to Obamacare, doctors will be forced to ask patients about their sex life, even if it has nothing to do with the medical treatment that they are seeking at the time.

MICHELLE MALKIN on Fox and Friends: That healthcare plan puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health away from the elderly and the infirm to other special favored interests and patients.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: What we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. Obamacare is just a massive tax increase, that all it is.

SARAH PALIN on Cashin’ In: Of course there are death panels in there, but the important thing to remember is that’s just one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil policy of Obama’s and that is Obamacare.

These are not inadvertent misstatements; they are outright lies. Everyone who formulated these statements knew better.  So why are they making such outrageous claims?  What are they lying to accomplish?  Bill Moyers today quoted from the right-wing blog, RedState.com:

“Congressmen, this is about shutting down Obamacare. Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it. This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.”

It is crucial that we recognize lies to be what they are. Whatever are their purposes they are social poison.  They weaken the fabric of trust that enables a social contract to work.

The American people have been lied to many times:  Just go to the Lincoln National Historic Site in Springfield, IL, and look at all the cartoons about him; he was treated with disdain and scorn my many in his time. Some lies erode the fabric that makes society possible.  

In fact Lincoln and his times are quite a relevant analogue to our times.  How could the American people have been brought to kill each other in the Civil War?  Only by years of bitterness and slander.  By the time the country came to war both sides believed that the other incarnated evil.  Are we on a similar path?

Lies — slanderous innuendo and outright calumny — can bring down a country.  They are the foundation for the distrust that erodes the unite of a society and they are the ground on which the abuse of other human beings is based.  Consider these cases of civil abuse:
• The Nazis were able to put into motion their Jewish death camps only after years of slanderous tales about the Jews.
• When Yugoslavia splintered into several pieces, the terrible abuses of “ethnic cleansing” were made to seem right by the slanders that were promoted by Slobodan Milosevic (on behalf of the Serbs) and Franco Tudjman (for the Croats).
• The Rwandan genocide was made possible by the persistent propaganda of a government under the control of Hutu Power, which spouted poisonous propaganda on the radio about Tutsi “cockroaches”.

Calumnious propaganda – that’s how you create the climate for civil war.  And that’s what’s being spouted out in our own radio and TV stations.  The effect is growing bitterness, scorn, and distrust on all sides.  Is it not necessary that we expose the lies for what they are? This is why I appreciate Bill Moyers.  Whatever you think about his work, he is at least trying to set the truth straight.  In today’s broadcast he concludes a critical review of what the dangerous slanderers have been saying with the following:

Like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the Union before giving up their slaves, so would these people burn the place down, sink the ship of state, and sow economic chaos to get their way. This says it all, they even shuttered the Statue of Liberty.
Watching all this from London, the noted commentator Martin Wolf, of the capitalist friendly Financial Times, says “America flirts with self-destruction.”
This man [picture of Newt Gingrich] is the biggest flirt of all, Newt Gingrich. It was Newt Gingrich who twenty years ago spearheaded the right-wing’s virulent crusade against the norms of democratic government. As Speaker of the House he twice brought about shutdowns of the federal government once, believe it or not, because he felt snubbed after riding on Air Force One with President Clinton and had to leave by the backdoor.
It was also Newt Gingrich, speaker Gingrich, who was caught lying to congressional investigators looking into charges of his ethical wrongdoing. His colleagues voted overwhelmingly, 395 to 28, to reprimand him. Pressure from his own party then prompted him to resign.
Yet even after his flame out, even after his recent bizarre race for the presidency bankrolled with money from admiring oligarchs, even after new allegations about his secret fundraising for right-wing candidates, Gingrich remains the darling of a fawning amnesic media. …
On CNN.com the other day he issued a call to arms to his fellow bomb-throwers, “…don’t cave on shutdown.”
At least let’s name this for what it is, sabotage of the democratic process. Secession by another means. And let’s be clear about where such reckless ambition leads. As surely as night must follow day, the alternative to democracy is worse.”

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THE POWER OF LIES TO SHUT DOWN THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN HISTORY

For those of us who are mystified by the behavior of the Republicans in Congress two recent articles have been useful.  They reveal that a cabal set this confusing project – to overturn The Affordable Care Act, which they have derisively called Obamacare – in the face of all odds, as if they could force the Senate to support their proposals and the President to sign them into law.  From here it seems like a fools errand, tilting at windmills.  But the NYT article about the secret meetings immediately after the last presidential election seeking a strategy to at all costs derail the Affordable Care Act help me to get it.

All this is interesting and helpful to me, but merely a revelation of what I had supposed all along.What has helped me especially understand it is an article by Joshua Holland [“To Understand the Shutdown You Have to Grasp the Mindset of the GOP Base,” October 5, 2013, by Joshua Holland] who has summarized a survey of Republican groups by the Democracy Corp.  This is what they say about the voting base that supports these Republicans:

The base consists of three kinds of groups. Even though they differ in certain ways, they agree on their fear of a changing society.  For all of them The battle over Obamacare, “goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle.” They think [the …] Democratic Party … is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support.” So, food stamps for the poor, unemployment benefits, legalizing the illegal immigrants, insuring the uninsured – these policies create dependency.  So they oppose support for the poor, the unemployed, the immigrants, the uninsured.  “They believe this is an electoral strategy — not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view,” says Holland.  What especially struck me was the comment that this group is fully aware of how white they are “in a country with growing minorities.” So there indeed is an implicit racist worry in this movement.

They all see Obama as a usurper, a liar, a Marxist, even (as some believe) a Muslim, but they differ in certain ways.
The Evangelicals are primarily alarmed about the gay rights movement.
The libertarians hardly believe in government and are strongly pro-business.
The moderates on the other hand disdain the Tea Party elements of the party and scorn Fox News – surely the main source of the notions that Obama is a liar, a Marxist, a Muslim, etc. – but they are concerned about how marginal they are becoming to the GOP. In fact, they see the party as pathetically out of date.

So here we are, a country in the grip of a terrified, paranoid minority who have the wealth and leverage to shut down the whole country.  That the rank and file are animated by fears created by a small cabal makes the scene all the more scary.

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JOHN BOEHNER IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH

The way I understand it John Boehner could get a vote to fund the government if he would be willing to let it happen.  The problem is that he is deferring to the demands of his Tea Party colleagues.  He wants to get majority votes in the House that gain the support of all his Republican colleagues.  So he would be glad to have the support of the Democrats in the House if he can get them but he dare not allow his Republican colleagues to split.  The Tea Party guys won’t budge.
So what if [and when] he allows a vote to fund the government to be held?  Could he then be splitting the Republican Party?  Doesn’t it look like we now have three parties, not two?  But the charade that the Republican Party is a more or less united group may be losing its appeal:  the reality is too evident.  Congressman Devin Nunes told CNN “I’m going to continue to support our leadership. Even if we have entered the valley of death, when you enter the valley of death you have to keep running and the whole team has to stick together.”  

The valley of death.  I wonder if in truth the GOP is risking a split.  How can they be hostage to the most extreme elements of their party and remain a serious force in American politics?  By extreme shutdowns?  

If politicians who call themselves Communists were trying to shut down the government there would be a groundswell of outrage in this country.  Does anyone else have the feeling that a tiny anarchic cabal is trying to bring down not only the Republican Party but the economy of the United States?

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CULTURE MAKES SOME UNACCEPTABLE PRACTICES SEEM NATURAL. BUT COULD WHAT IS CONVENTIONAL NOW BRING DOWN CIVILIZATION?

We all tend to reject some practices that were considered conventional in the past.  Would we countenance the way the EuroAmericans treated the Native Americans who hunted down and drove out from their lands the Seminole, the Chickasaw, the Creek, the Choctaw, the Cherokee?  Would we have participated in the night patrols seeking to recapture runaway slaves in the 1850s? What was practiced in those times was consider conventional and necessary by otherwise god-fearing Americans.

But what is conventional and seemingly fitting to the times need not be wise or fitting for the long term.

Adam Frank, a physicist at the University of Rochester, has written such a nice statement on popular attitudes toward science [NYTimes 8/22/13].  What the article implies but does not state is that the doubt about scientific formulations in our time has potentially tragic — rather, catastrophic — consequences.

Global warming is the most obvious example.  A few days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established by the United Nations issued a 2,000 page report claiming again that human beings have caused the warming of the globe and that if the trajectory of warming is not interrupted human society will be radically disrupted.  This time they have announced that they hold this position with 95% certainty, a rare degree of agreement among independent scientists.

We live in a time when a confusing mix of politics and religious faith has undermined the authentic attempts of scientists to reach a degree of certainty about what is happening to our world.  So the claims of science about a vitally important condition, the physical object we live on, are openly scorned.

I have friends who want their doctors to be the best trained and the most up to date physicians available but at the same time refuse to accept the results of scientific knowledge in other fields such as biological history and the climatic changes in our time.  In truth the scientific assumptions and methods that enable medical science are the same as those that lead scientists to conclude that the earth is warming.

A fundamental assumption that made “science” as we know it possible was uniformitarianism, the notion that everything works the same everywhere, provided that the conditions be the same.  Such assumptions and others make a science of the natural world possible.  The knowledge tradition we call science is a single fabric of assumptions and approaches.  Science is a way of thought, a way of seeing.

But in a sense it can never be fully right, which makes it possible for “experts for hire” to claim, as some did, that the evidence linking smoking and cancer is uncertain. And some “experts claim that the evidence for global warming is incomplete and can be doubted.  So in the United States — nowhere else, I hear — many people believe that the issue of global warming is highly contested. People seem unaware that those “experts” who contest that claim are funded by the industries whose operations are most at risk if anything is done to reduce the causes of global warming — most notably, of course, the energy industry.

To neglect to act on what is broadly believed among the real experts and accept the claims of those who have funding from the fossil fuel industry, for instance, is folly.  If the true experts are correct the day will come when it will be too late to save the earth from a crisis, when all hope of avoiding calamity will have evaporated.

A personal grief of this for me is that some of my dear friends, who share a belief in God, nevertheless reject the claim that the earth is warming, convinced that they cannot trust science.  Will our generation reproduce the folly of King Canute, who according to legend tried to hold back the tides?  In our case the price of such folly could be the collapse of modern civilization.

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