Political Debates, Unsupported Rhetoric, and Scientific Censorship

“Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government… can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppressive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people.”  — Gen. George Washington

I just got home from traveling and haven’t had much time to work on a new post. But, I did come across a few interesting/helpful items in recent news that I thought my readers might appreciate — assuming you haven’t already read them, of course.

Marco_Rubio_Donald_Trump_Ted_Cruz_GOP_Debate_Detroit_MI1) First up is the matter of recent GOP debates. Frankly, I’m glad I missed them. I hear enough of the questionable claims and promises, accusations & counter-accusations between candidates via the news, so I can’t really get excited about listening to them bash each other in person. (And that Trump guy really annoys me!) On the other hand, I want to stay informed, plus I find it satisfying when Cruz (and sometimes Rubio) does really well and/or Trump does really badly. So, I was somewhat encouraged to read that that is what happened in Detroit, and I am glad that Cruz and Rubio concentrated their efforts on exposing the sham that Trump is.

In her article “5 Takeaways From Last Night’s GOP Debate In Detroit”, The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway bemoaned the state of the system, while making it clear that — in this debate in particular — the blame lies in the petulance, crassness, hypocrisy, and empty rhetoric of ‘The Donald’:

“The debate was a low-point not just in the history of American democracy, but democracy itself. We’re talking end-of-Rome-levels of bad….

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio calmly and consistently made the case that Trump had tons of bluster, but not the policies, temperament, consistency, or trustworthiness needed in a president. They showed how he regularly contradicted himself and that he personally engaged in business practices at odds with his proposals on immigration. They discussed, the few times it came up, their own policy proposals and records on taxes, immigration, religious liberty, and other important issues.

Trump, for his part, protested that his penis wasn’t as small as had been alleged. When asked to provide substance to policy questions, he gratuitously insulted the nearest person. When pressed to give an answer, he acted out and called everyone else liars.”

Classy. (/sarc) The rest of Hemingway’s commentary about the candidates and moderators was good, too.

Hillary Rodham Clinton2) On a related note, Thomas Sowell wrote a column called “Paranoid Politics” a couple weeks ago that I found to be right on the mark. Sowell expresses concern that in the media coverage, the actual impact of the policies that the various candidates are arguing for have taken a backseat to analysis of the candidates’ respective prospects. Using Hillary Clinton as a prime example, Sowell demonstrates how the rhetoric used to obtain votes can be very misleading:

“[For instance, Clinton’s] basic pitch to black voters is that they have all sorts of enemies, and that blacks need her to protect them, which she is ready to do if they vote for her. In short, Hillary’s political fate depends on spreading fear and, if possible, paranoia.

Similar attempts to get the votes of women are based on conjuring up enemies who are waging a ‘war on women,’ with Hillary again cast in the role of someone ready to come to their rescue, if they will give her their votes.

In both cases, rhetoric and repetition take the place of hard evidence. The closest thing to evidence being offered is that the average income of blacks is not the same as the average income of whites, and the average income of women is not the same as the average income of men.

But the average incomes of people in their twenties is usually lower than the average income of people in their forties — and by a greater amount than the income difference between women and men, or the income difference between blacks and whites. Does that mean that middle-aged people are enemies of young adults?”

Sowell goes on to use relevant information and probing questions to show that Clinton’s “arguments” on these issues fall woefully short of supporting facts.

“But that will not stop [these] same bogus claim[s] from being made repeatedly this election year.

What about blacks, women or others who believe the political hype? Will that help them improve their lives, or will it be anther [sic] counterproductive distraction for them and another polarization of society that helps nobody, except those who seeking votes?”

Sadly, most people will accept what they want to hear without thinking it through critically or searching for additional, objective data. Speaking of objective data, critical thinking, and presuppositional bias, what do you think of this one…?

journal.pone.0146193.g0013) Earlier this year, the respected scientific journal PLoS ONE published an article titled, “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living”. However, the researchers had the temerity to not only imply intelligent design but referred to the “Creator” on multiple occasions. True to form, certain members of the scientific community (including a few who do editing work for the journal in question) have reacted with anger and disgust, demanding that PLoS ONE retract the article immediately and that those responsible be flogged with wet noodles. (OK, I made that last bit up. FSM forgive me!)

The paper’s Chinese authors have appealed to translation errors, saying,

“What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendi[n]ous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper “design” by the Nature (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks. We will change the “Creator” to “nature” in the revised manuscript. We apologize for any troubles may have caused by this misunderstanding.”

The journal’s staff have apologized for not addressing the “Creator” issue during evaluation, and on 3/4/2016 they announced that a retraction is imminent.

“The PLOS ONE editors have followed up on the concerns raised about this publication. We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board. Our internal review and the advice we have received have confirmed the concerns about the article and revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work….

In light of the concerns identified, the PLOS ONE editors have decided to retract the article, the retraction is being processed and will be posted as soon as possible. We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper.”

As far as I can tell, the researchers’ methodology and results have not been questioned — only the apparently non-naturalistic (aka “pseudoscientific”) statements and implications. Even anti-theist P.Z. Myers admitted,

“There’s nothing wrong with the data that I can see, but the authors do make a surprising leap in the abstract and conclusion.”

While any theistic interpretations may have been accidental in this case, we can once again see the taboo (at least, in the West) manifest against a scientist even implying that his research may support the idea of Intelligent Design (let alone some form of creationism, with which ID Theory is often unfairly conflated), lest his findings be relegated to the trash heap as “unscientific” and his own professional integrity questioned. Yet, those who are, shall we say, less than convinced of purely naturalistic theories are slammed for not having papers supporting their views published in peer-reviewed journals. See how that works?

As DLH summed up at “Uncommon Descent”,

“How are these actions by evolutionists, Bolton, Nature, and PLOSOne any different from book burning, anti-scientific inquisition, and Lysenkoism? Why not follow the scientific method, clearly lay out the null hypothesis and proposed model and quantitatively test both?”

Why not, indeed, except that anything that questions or puts at risk their favored theories is an affront to the high priests of scientism and tantamount to heresy. It must be ridiculed and/or expunged from the public record!


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