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Authority, Power And Responsibility

(Trigger warning: long, rambly blog post ahead!)

I blogged earlier about how I think Donald Trump and Pope Francis both play fast and loose with the awesome responsibilities of their respective positions [1] (or, in Trump’s case, the position to which he has been elected). They wear the weight of their roles too lightly, in my view, and show too little respect for custom and tradition. Similarly, I blogged about a professor who, in my view, betrayed her scholarly duties by turning her creative writing classroom into a griping session about Donald Trump [2], and by saying that college professors must start breaking the rules of convention to speak out against Trump in their classrooms.

My sense is that a lot of readers think I’m just grinding my ideological axes here. I’ve been struggling to articulate what I mean, and I got closer to it in this piece from this afternoon saying that I can’t figure out precisely what to think about Professor Watchlist. [3] It makes me queasy, but at the same time, if my kids were students at these colleges, I would want to know this information about their professors. In the update to the piece, I conceded that Jon Haidt and the Heterodox Academy editors are basically right to say that Professor Watchlist is not helping things (and if anybody has earned the moral status to make that kind of critique, it’s the Heterodox Academy folks) … yet my mind is still not settled on the matter. So let me try again.

The core of these problems is the loss of trust and confidence in our institutions. This is not something particular to Donald Trump, or Pope Francis, or arrogant left-wing college professors. It’s something we all live with, and struggle with — and if we don’t struggle with it, we aren’t really paying attention.

I was talking with a clergyman recently, a man late in his career, and who has seen a lot of trouble in his days. He is deeply disillusioned with the church, though not the faith. His decades in the priesthood have in some ways been an education in the difference between the church and the faith. Similarly, if you could hear experienced journalists talking shop, you might be surprised by how much despair they have over the profession. A big part of it is simply depression over the collapse of stable employment, but no small amount of it comes from despair over the profession itself, and its values. I’m thinking now of someone I once knew in the business, who is still a true believer in the nobility of journalism and the righteousness of journalists. This person, though quite experienced at the senior level, strikes you as on a perpetual Kool-Aid bender, in the Jim Jones sense — just never, ever stopping to consider whether journalists deserve the trust we want the public to put in us.

These are two worlds I either know personally or have lots of friends involved with. I would not be the least surprised if older lawyers said the same thing about the law, older politicians said the same thing about their profession, and bankers about theirs, and maybe even older teachers and professors said the same thing about their own line of work. If you, reader, are one of these people, I’d like to hear from you in the comments section, sharing your experiences. There is, it seems to me, a widespread sense of exhaustion, and an inchoate awareness that people who really believe in the integrity of institutions are either trying to position themselves to use the power remaining within them to their advantage, or are simply being played for suckers.

This is how you get a country where 20 percent of Trump voters in CNN exit polling [4]said he was not “honest and trustworthy,” but voted for him anyway — and 17 percent of Trump voters said he was not qualified to be president, and 20 percent of Trump voters said he does not have the temperament to be president, but … you know.

What Trump will have when he takes over is power without authority, or at least authority that is deeply contested by half the country. This is a dangerous thing. But Trump is not alone. Look at this Gallup poll from earlier this year [5]. Of the major institutions of American life on the list, only the military, small business, and police have the confidence of a majority of Americans. That’s astonishing. If that doesn’t worry you, you’re whistling past the graveyard.

change_me

Read this 2012 piece about the loss of trust in our national institutions [6], written by Ron Fournier and Sophie Quinton. When it was written, nobody could have predicted that Donald Trump would be the next president. It opens with the story of Johnny Whitmire, a middle-aged working class white man from Muncie, Indiana, whose life is in shambles. Excerpts:

Whitmire is an angry man. He is among a group of voters most skeptical of President Obama: non-college-educated white males. He feels betrayed — not just by Obama, who won his vote in 2008, but by the institutions that were supposed to protect him: his state, which laid off his wife; his government in Washington, which couldn’t rescue homeowners who had played by the rules; his bank, which failed to walk him through the correct paperwork or warn him about a potential mortgage hike; his city, which penalized him for somebody else’s error; and even his employer, a construction company he likes even though he got laid off. “I was middle class for 10 years, but it’s done,” Whitmire says. “I’ve lost my home. I live in a trailer now because of a mortgage company and an incompetent government.”

Whitmire is a story of Muncie, and Muncie is the story of America. In this place — dubbed “Middletown” by early 20th-century sociologists — people have lost faith in their institutions. Government, politics, corporations, the media, organized religion, organized labor, banks, businesses, and other mainstays of a healthy society are failing. It’s not just that the institutions are corrupt or broken; those clichés oversimplify an existential problem: With few notable exceptions, the nation’s onetime social pillars are ill-equipped for the 21st century. Most critically, they are failing to adapt quickly enough for a population buffeted by wrenching economic, technological, and demographic change.

More:

Muncie is a microcosm of a nation whose motto could be, “In Nothing We Trust.” Seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. Only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses “a great deal” of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion.

“We have lost our gods,” says Laura Hansen, an assistant professor of sociology at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. “We lost [faith] in the media: Remember Walter Cronkite? We lost it in our culture: You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us, because we know too much about them. We lost it in politics, because we know too much about politicians’ lives. We’ve lost it — that basic sense of trust and confidence — in everything.”

The authors say that 90 or so years ago, sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd documented the transition away from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. There was a widespread loss of trust back then, but we pulled through:

Perhaps the problem is merely cyclical. “To a degree unlike any time since the Lynds’ time, we’ve lost trust in one another and the institutions that are supposed to hold us together,” says James Connolly, director of the Center for Middletown Studies at Ball State University here. Yet unlike that earlier era, vibrant new institutions are not generally springing up to replace the old ones. And even when they do, they don’t always restore Americans’ faith in institutions and each other. Schools are worsening (especially relative to competitors abroad); politicians are limited to small-bore, partisan measures; and corporations’ power over people like Johnny Whitmire is rising. What if, this time, institutions don’t recover — and our faith dies with them?

Yes, frustrated citizens have tried to fill the vacuum. Like-minded “followers” and “friends” feed us news online; people sometimes barter on eBay rather than bow to big corporations; and parents increasingly homeschool their children rather than expose them to failing public schools and unsafe streets. But this is coping, not institutional adaptation. And sociologists say we need the control that institutions provide: It’s how things get done.

When people trust their institutions, they’re better able to solve common problems. Research shows that school principals are much more likely to turn around struggling schools in places where people have a history of working together and getting involved in their children’s education. Communities bonded by friendships formed at church are more likely to vote, volunteer, and perform everyday good deeds like helping someone find a job. And governments find it easier to persuade the public to make sacrifices for the common good when people trust that their political leaders have the community’s best interests at heart. “Institutions — even dysfunctional ones — are why we don’t run amok in the woods,” Hansen says.

Still, no metrics exist to measure life without institutions, because they’ve been around as long as humankind. The first institution was the first family. The tribe was the first community. The first tribe’s leader was the first politician, and its elders were the first legislature. Its guards, the first police force. Its storyteller, a teacher. Humans are coded to create communities, and communities beget institutions.

If you read the whole thing, and think about Johnny Whitmire of Muncie, Indiana, you think: Yep, that’s why we have Trump. #MAGA is for people like him, but also for people who haven’t been suffering like he has, but who just don’t believe in the system anymore.

Here’s something from that piece to chew on. In the words of a sociology professor: “You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us, because we know too much about them. We lost it in politics, because we know too much about politicians’ lives.”

Is it possible that knowledge is not power, but actually, in a sense, weakness? Is social media making us lose trust in our leaders and institutions before we ever trusted them in the first place?

If you know anything said by the 19th century English writer Walter Bagehot, it is almost certainly his remark about why it is so important for the monarch to stay above politics:

We must not let in daylight upon magic. We must not bring the Queen into the combat of politics, or she will cease to be reverenced by all combatants; she will become one combatant among many.

What do you think Bagehot would make of Trump? Of course the US president is a politician by definition. We don’t have a neutral head of state, like the British monarch. But the American presidency has always had some real magic attending the office. It would be difficult for any president today to retain the magic of the American presidency. Trump will not be ennobled by the office, but will instead make it common. But then, if the office itself had not already lost its magic, a man like Donald Trump would never have been elected.

I wish Donald Trump — and Pope Francis, and bankers, generals, judges, professors, bishops, editors, and all other powerful men and women who hold positions that customarily come with authority — would have the opportunity to watch the new Netflix series The Crown, which deals with young Elizabeth II learning what it means to be sovereign. Here is the beginning of a great scene in which Elizabeth (Claire Foy) speaks with her grandmother (Queen Mary, the widow of her grandfather George V), discussing the role of the sovereign with regard to politics. Elizabeth had been pressured to lean on the aged and failing Prime Minister Churchill to resign for the good of the country when he was failing to lead. In the series’ telling, the young Queen was barely able to avoid making a decision to do so (or not) because circumstances changed:

In the series, Queen Mary serves as a reminder to the new monarch of the weight of the position she carries. In the second episode, after Elizabeth’s father dies, Queen Mary writes to the new queen:

Dearest Lilibet,

I know how you loved your papa, my son. And I know you will be as devastated as I am by this loss. But you must put those sentiments to one side now, for duty calls.

The grief for your father’s death will be felt far and wide. Your people will need your strength and leadership.

I have seen three great monarchies brought down through their failure to separate personal indulgences from duty. You must not allow yourself to make similar mistakes.

And while you mourn your father, you must also mourn someone else: Elizabeth Mountbatten. For she has now been replaced by another person, Elizabeth Regina.
The two Elizabeths will frequently be in conflict with one another. The fact is, the Crown must win. Must always win.

Queen Mary is formidable and archaic. Her views are starchy for her time, and positively fossilized now. But the great wisdom she bestows on her granddaughter, at least for as long as she is alive (the actual Queen Mary died shortly into Elizabeth’s reign), is relevant to anyone in a position of authority: you have a duty to your calling that is more important than yourself. By doing your duty, you serve the people whose interests have been entrusted to you. This is true whether you are the monarch of Britain, the monarch of the Roman Catholic Church, or manager of the small-town savings & loan. As we see in the series, young Elizabeth rebels against the constraints of her new role, and there are figures who are slavishly traditionalist, and who fail to grasp the difference between upholding Tradition and being bound too tightly by traditionalism. Still, Queen Mary’s words about duty in that episode, as well as in the clip above, ought to speak to all of us.

If more of our institutional leaders regarded their leadership roles in terms of doing their duty, upholding traditions, and comporting themselves with the dignity that befits their station, I wonder if we might begin to find our way back.

66 Comments (Open | Close)

66 Comments To "Authority, Power And Responsibility"

#1 Comment By dfb On December 5, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

“KING LEAR

O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your
head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in
a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how this world goes.

GLOUCESTER

I see it feelingly.

KING LEAR

What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes
with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond
justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen
a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?

GLOUCESTER

Ay, sir.

KING LEAR

And the creature run from the cur? There thou
mightst behold the great image of authority: a
dog’s obeyed in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.
None does offend, none, I say, none; I’ll able ’em:
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser’s lips. Get thee glass eyes;
And like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now:
Pull off my boots: harder, harder: so.

EDGAR

O, matter and impertinency mix’d! Reason in madness!”

– William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear, Act IV, scene vi

#2 Comment By Elaine On December 5, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

Rod, for the love of God, please don’t romanticize a (largely) fictional account of the un-elected, billionaire, ruling family of Great Britain. You’re just replacing one billionaire for another.

You might as well quote the dutiful nature of Samwise Gamgee in ‘Lord of the Rings’, as quote the historical accuracy in ‘The Crown’.

Buckingham Palace has just accounced a $460 million dollar renovation. The taxpayers will foot the bill. The trick? The Palace has, for 60 years, been given a yearly stipend to maintain and repair Buck House. They just mismanaged the money.

Here are a few key quotes:

“The House of Commons Select committee, headed up by Margaret Hodge MP (Member of Parliament, like a Senator), was set up to review royal funding in light of the perpetual lack of funds despite an annual stipend.

They concluded that the *Queen is ill-served by the royal household and the treasury.

*let’s pretend that The Queen has no agency in these matters.

The committee said that on the one hand the royal household mismanaged funds and on the other hand the treasury didn’t necessarily examine royal accounts thoroughly.

The treasury is supposed to be actively involved in all financial planning decisions as well as active financial management which was found not to be the reality.

The Royal household frequently over-spends in all areas, but uses monies from the Reserve fund to top up the overspend. The Reserve fund is now almost deplete hence headlines ‘Queen down to her last million’

The Royal household has never looked after national important heritage sites to extent that repairs are ignored. Further, no one has ever bothered to review and cost the annual maintenance of any of the sites, nevermind any visible or invisible repairs. Yet the royal household continues to receive and spend a stipend for buildings repair and maintenance. The committee found 39% of the heritage sites to be below standard set by the national trust.

There is no incentive to the royal household to be more effective with regards financial planning, management nor is there incentive to repair or maintain any of the royal properties despite recommendations to employ more commercially minded people who might take better care of the royal household. A recommendation was made for the royal household to drive down costs and generate income, but no direct plan was laid out.

Another recommendation was made to generate income by extending visitor days when the Palaces are publicly open, but this suggestion was turned down by the household.

One of the recommendations nee conditions of the Sovereign Grant switch from civil list was that a programme of repairs was to be insituted from within the extra monies granted by the Sovereign fund. That extra money wasn’t supposed to be used to fund a more lavish lifestyle like Prince William’s helicopter habit as has transpired.”

And more:

“As an example, the *£6M+ monies that went into refurbishing Prince William’s multiple homes and kitchens came directly from money that had been earmarked for repairs to Buckingham Palace.

We know this because the Palace told us and justified it by saying Prince William needed official residences because they were about to start official duties. As we know, they decamped to Norfolk instead and William became a part-time co-pilot.”

tl; dr

No need to admire the Queen.

The honest shopkeeper on the corner, who saves leftover, unsold bread and donates it to the homeless is just as worthy of admiration.

#3 Comment By Anonne On December 5, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

[NFR: You really think that this comes from the “fear of socialism”? I think the phenomenon you identify is real, but that “fear of socialism” is not the main cause. In order to do something for the “common good,” you have to identify what it is. We are less and less capable of doing so. — RD]

Well, maybe I didn’t drill down deep enough. That fear of Socialism reflects the extreme individualistic tendency of Americans, the meritocracy that we think we are. Some people complain about programs designed to help all of us – Social Security, Medicare – because they are “too expensive” or because they “limit freedom.” That freedom argument is such a sick joke; millions of people are more free because they have a measure of economic security in their twilight years, that they would not otherwise have. When I see comments about FDR being a Socialist, I can scarcely believe it. People take it for granted that the economic security that many of our elders have is because of their own hard work, versus the shared burden that is Social Security. Oh, how Americans love to think that we earned everything and made ourselves instead of pulling together to build something that helps everyone.

I think it’s more than a bit myopic that we cannot recognize the times when we do need to share burdens – such as single payer healthcare. Maybe it’s just greed and pride writ large.

#4 Comment By grumpy realist On December 5, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

So we’ve got fiduciary duty. Jones above offers the term noblesse oblige. Any other “civic virtues” we think should be emphasized as possible bases for a “good society”??

(I humbly suggest we stop saying that the only duty companies have is to maximize profit for their stockholders.)

#5 Comment By AMD On December 5, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

Time to add Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to your list of those who “play fast and loose with the awesome responsibilities of their respective positions.” In commenting on Amoris Laetitia, the patriarch sillily complained that “What has undoubtedly smothered and hampered people in the past is the fear that a ‘heavenly father’somehow dictates human conduct and prescribes human custom.” Ridiculing the idea that God tells us what to do? What was the patriarch thinking?

[NFR: I agree with you that this is silly, but “sillily”? Reallily? — RD]

#6 Comment By JonF On December 5, 2016 @ 6:46 pm

Re: But even STEM is caught in the fallout, as evidenced by psychologists getting the wrong end of the transgender movements wrath, or geneticists shying away from investigating race.

There’s a huge amount of work out there on population genetics. However none of it vindicates old-fashioned racialist theories: the story is both much more complicated (there are lots and lots of genetics strains in humanity, not just three or four) and simpler (there are no modern human subspecies). For geneticists to investigate race would be as silly as chemists investigating phlogiston or astronomers measuring epicycles.

#7 Comment By Tony On December 5, 2016 @ 6:48 pm

Thanks for this. I have been thinking about the decline of faith in institutions.

I am a professor, so I know this institution best. I am a social psychologist (and fan of Jon Haidt’s work—tried to sign up for Heterodox Academy but had a computer glitch. Will try again after the term. Multiple friends are members.), and so want to draw on this background for a second. When people attribute causes, their choices depend on where their attention is drawn. For instance, if you watch a video of an interaction and the camera is focused on person A you will say that A is the main causal agent. If it is focused on person B you will say that B is the main agent. All sorts of things direct our attention. If we work hard we can adjust for this. We can say “hey, I know more is going on. Let me think about what else might matter.” But this takes effort. And often people just want *an* explanation so they can quit working on the problem (or feed their favorite ideology). So I’m skeptical that there’s a single factor that’s responsible for the decline in institutional faith. Here are a few of my favorite candidates.

1) To some degree we have failed to self-police. I’ll get this out of the way because I get the sense this is the most in keeping with your blog. While I know some smart, interesting trustworthy people in departments of literature and sociology I am more likely to find faculty colleagues who strike me as not being intellectually disciplined. Instances of faculty who are not intellectually disciplined undermine faith in the institution.

2) Pressures to produce metrics that show we are doing good work. Parents need metrics to be convinced to send their kids to a particular university. Boards of trustees need metrics to show the university is making progress. Outside groups demand metrics from universities to prove that their tuition is really worth it.

What do I really love about my job? As a teacher I take joy in people whose lives have been transformed. Good luck showing that in an easily digestible metric! As a researcher I am proud of doing a little bit to help along a much larger enterprise that in my lifetime has made my field much better and that has contributed, as best I can tell, to some real improvements in treatment of mental health, among other things. Again, good luck measuring that. I can spend time on these things because I’m single, tenured, and possessed of a mortgage under control. But my junior colleagues spend lots of time playing “guess what the Provost wants” and obsessing about every student evaluation of teaching and curriculum vitae item. Student evaluations can sometimes tell an important story, but not all that often, I think. Similarly, I’d rather have a colleague with fewer but wiser publications. But try telling that to the provost who will be hard pressed to understand the wisdom of work in a discipline outside the provost’s purview! (I should hasten to say that I like and respect my provost. But it’s harder to do those thigns when you are young and your future is on the line.) When I was a junior faculty member I was arrogant enough that I didn’t worry about my student evals or publication counts. I could just show that I was smart, honest, and hardworking and that would be enough.

This shift toward metrics that are trivial shifts faculty to chase after these metrics at the expense of the more important and that undermines the institution as faculty get cynical and do small but measureable things instead of large and impactful things.

3) Administrators who are not, at heart, faculty undermine higher ed. If you’ve been a faculty member and loved it you understand in a particular way what is great and what is flawed about a university. And your behavior will be driven by those great loves and regrets. In contrast, if you focus on being an administrator your daily goals are shaped by pushing paper and that reduces your vision of what a university can be. And institutions fail in part when we lose our dreams for what they can be.

4) Stereotyping of universities. Liberal arts colleges are different from state universities which are, in turn different from private universities with a research mission. And that’s simplifying. But folks outside of universities tend not to think about these distinctions. As a result, problems at state universities (“they don’t attend closely to the students!”) are extended to other places like liberal arts colleges (where attention seems not to be a problem from what I’ve been able to glean). Administrators have to worry about this stereotyping and as a result have to get faculty to spend time solving problems that do not actually apply to that university. This, in turn, promotes cynicism, which undermines the institution.

5) Stereotyping of faculty. If I only read about universities at your site I would never, ever, ever want one of my kids (if I had them!) to go to a university. I talked to my elderly mother a week or two ago and she was worried about violence on campus in the wake of the election. I gather her media sources suggested there was a lot of this going on. I’ve yet to see anything, though I know there were 30 or 40 students who did a protest one day, a tiny proportion of our student body. My uncle routinely asks what I do with my time since I only spend a tiny number of hours in the classroom. I’ve given up explaining to him what my typical 55 to 60-hour week looks like during the school year. Judging by the cases that are advertised, nearly all faculty are either liberal activists who do not think very clearly or grifters who only work 6 or so hours a week. But I know very few of either on my campus. In my own department I can think of only 1 tenure-line faculty member (of about 20) who is really deadwood. Some are probably doing 40 hour weeks during the school year, but my sense is that most are doing more. I know I routinely see 3 of my colleagues when I’m in the office on weekends. For a variety of purposes some like to publicize the really awful cases in universities. These are then seen as the norm. And fighting these stereotypes takes a toll on universities. And is to some degree a losing battle. And as a result, trust in the institution is undermined.

6) We have made the life of administrators miserable and so it is much more difficult to draw in good administrators. See the above for that which makes things more miserable. I know that much as I love the life of the mind, and much as I love my university, I want to never be a dean or any administrator at a higher level. It would suck the life and soul out of me. If administrators do not love their institutions they will not care for those institutions and that will undermine them.

I suspect that these ideas could be applied to institutions in general. But I’m hungry so that’s for another time.

Hope this is helpful.

[NFR: What a great post. Thank you. — RD]

#8 Comment By Heartright On December 5, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

I agree with Grumpy Realist.

Several suggestions for additional civic virtues.
-put yourself last
-altruism is a moral duty.
-the 11th law of Jante: you shall not believe you are something.

Or actually, put the lot together and go with Prussian Virtues.

#9 Comment By AMD On December 5, 2016 @ 7:15 pm

At the risk of being pedantic, my copy of the Oxford Dictionary lists “sillily” as an adverb.

#10 Comment By known as 332 On December 5, 2016 @ 8:54 pm

Liam @ 3:51p

Yes, your precise definition of fiduciary is correct. I was stretching the concept to organizations and guiding theories, to try to show that even for-profit company officers (especially of HR and Public Affairs) seem to have their focus on their state-religion beliefs ahead of even corporate value. Perhaps I overstretched.

And I suppose we will agree to disagree re: President Obama, regarding the level of scandal, and decorum (even if I suspect President-elect Trump may not even reach the level of decorum for Obama). I just don’t remember the level of celebrity (sports, pop entertainment, etc.) featured under President George W. Bush (although in fairness the media may have emphasized this for Obama and hid it for Bush thinking that would enhance elect-ability etc.)

Perhaps some of what you perceive may be Obama=introvert vs. Bush=extrovert, but that is merely a guess on my part.

Thank you for your response.

#11 Comment By Eliavy On December 5, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

In talking about tradition, I often think of Chesterton’s fence:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'”

I like this blog post as it gives an interesting example of the concept of Chesterton’s fence: [7]

#12 Comment By Eliavy On December 5, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

To add to my previous comment on Chesterton’s fence: I recently encountered a news item from last year about an ancient remedy for styes that is a powerful antibacterial. The scientists who tested it weren’t entirely sure how it works. We’ve lost more than we know from the disrespected dead.

[8]

Also, a World War 1 antiseptic may be a hope for us as antibiotic resistant infections become more common: [9]

#13 Comment By Ike On December 6, 2016 @ 12:15 am

I actually don’t think you could name a person who is more the opposite of Trump and the Pope than Queen Elizabeth. The former are both dead set on reform even if they have to tear up the institution in the process while the queen is entirely about defending her institution. both Francis and trump make wild statements that threaten to cause chaos where as the Queen NEVER make such statements and most never has an opinion. As in the clip she is mostly viewed as too cold, uninterested and uninterested. Yet no one says she is a danger to her institution or stability. I forget the number but the Queen has an over 60% approval rating in the UK.

#14 Comment By Michael Guarino On December 6, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

There’s a huge amount of work out there on population genetics. However none of it vindicates old-fashioned racialist theories: the story is both much more complicated (there are lots and lots of genetics strains in humanity, not just three or four) and simpler (there are no modern human subspecies). For geneticists to investigate race would be as silly as chemists investigating phlogiston or astronomers measuring epicycles.

This is not a good argument at all. No one would expect modern genetics to confirm “old-fashioned” racialist theories. That is a garbage standard; the old-fashioned theories were obviously going to be poorly informed. What I have seen is very reliable ways of inferring racial classifications from genetic data, using clustering algorithms mainly, which has pretty strong implications elsewhere.

But everytime I have heard you discuss this topic you have failed to make a sound argument so I’m just not going to try.

#15 Comment By JonF On December 7, 2016 @ 6:44 am

Re: No one would expect modern genetics to confirm “old-fashioned” racialist theories. That is a garbage standard; the old-fashioned theories were obviously going to be poorly informed.

Then why dredge all that dreck back up?

What I have seen is very reliable ways of inferring racial classifications from genetic data, using clustering algorithms mainly, which has pretty strong implications elsewhere.

I’d get rid of the word “race” altogether precisely because it is associated with old, falsified theories. Medicine does not talk about “humours” after all; we talk about hormones, neurotransmitters and the like. As I posted above, genetics shows that human genetic diversity is more complex than nay of the old theories posited– check out how many haplogroups there are. Another insight is that among many populations the maternal line genes and paternal line genes show very different patterns: as a generalization they indicate that women often stayed put and the maternal line can stretch back millennia while the paternal line shows string evidence of multiple migrations across considerable distances (something that linguistics also points to)

#16 Comment By Mia On December 7, 2016 @ 9:43 pm

“You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us, because we know too much about them. We lost it in politics, because we know too much about politicians’ lives.”

If people were living anything remotely like they should, it wouldn’t matter if you “knew too much” about any of these people, but oftentimes, too many in modern society think keeping up appearances is enough and that they can be as bad as they want to be in private. If your private face is your public face, in the sense that you live your values to at least a decent level, then there should be no loss of trust if the public finds out about the “real” you.