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Was Jesus a Conservative or a Liberal?

by Michael Shermer, Aug 17 2010

The ancient art of cherry picking passages from the Bible to support this or that argument has found new life in recent decades as conservatives claim Jesus as their political ally and in the past year with the Tea Party movement invoking Christ’s conservativism. What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?) has morphed into Who Would Jesus Vote For? (WWJVF?) Was Jesus a conservative? I don’t think so, but the entire enterprise of politicizing historical figures with modern labels is fraught with fallacy.

Employing modern political terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” to someone who live 2,000 years ago is an absurd game to play because those terms as they are used today do not even apply to people who lived a scant few centuries ago. The original meaning of “liberal,” for example, was what we would today call a “classical liberal,” or someone who believes in laissez faire capitalism and small government. Followers of Adam Smith were liberals, but today are called classical liberals, or conservatives, because they want to conserve the political and economic principles of classical Enlightenment thought. Those who are vehemently opposed to these conservative principles are sometimes today called progressives, who want to progress beyond—instead of conserving—classical liberalism, and their type specimen is Franklin D. Roosevelt, who originally had the support of pro-laissez faire capitalists until he launched the New Deal. One of FDR’s ideological descendents was Bill Clinton, who turned out to be one of the strongest Democratic proponents of free markets in history, which makes him, what? A conservatively classical progressive liberal? You can see how odious such label making becomes even for modern figures. Continue reading…

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What I Believe —
Science & the Power of Humanity

by Michael Shermer, Sep 08 2009

I believe in the power of science and humanity. Specifically, I believe that biodiversity is a good thing and that we have been rapacious in our treatment of the environment, although I think the environmental movement has greatly exaggerated our condition and that the environment is a lot more resilient than most environmentalists give it credit for. I don’t mind eating cows and fish, but dolphins and whales have big brains and they’re cool, so I don’t think we should kill them. I drive an SUV because I haul around bicycles, books, and dogs, but as soon as there is a bigger hybrid, I’ll buy it. And although I am a libertarian heterosexual who is about as unpink (in both meanings) as you can get, I believe people should have an equal opportunity to be unequal. As for evolution, it happened. Deal with it. Continue reading…

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Mixing Science and Politics (and Economics)

by Michael Shermer, Jul 28 2009

So many of you have taken the time to respond to my blogs thoughtfully that I feel I should comment in kind. In looking through the many comments, however, I see that most of what I would say has already been said by people who responded to my critics. Nevertheless…

First of all, why is it okay to mix science and religion (with atheists eagerly do in debunking religious claims) but not okay to mix science and politics/economics? Why is it okay for liberal atheists to stick it to religious believers and twist the knife slowly, but when it comes to getting your own (political/economic) beliefs challenged, that’s off limits — NOMA (nonoverlapping magisterial) for science and politics? I don’t see how they are different in principle. Skeptic is a science magazine, not an “atheist” magazine; nevertheless, we routinely deal with religious claims and no one ever complains about that. The closest we have come to political/economic issues is environmentalism (Vol. 9, No. 2 — sold out), overpopulation (Vol. 5, No. 1), and global warming Vol. 14, No. 1). For all three we published several articles; in Vol. 14, No. 1, for example, we published articles both skeptical of global warming and accepting of global warming. So I don’t see what would be wrong with publishing articles pro, con, and neutral on political and economic claims. Continue reading…

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There’s still so much to do

by Phil Plait, Jan 21 2009

I’m so proud and happy right now. What a moment we had this week! The peaceful transition of power always fills me with wonder that such a thing can occur. And then to hear a President specifically mention the words "data" and "statistics" shortly after saying "We will restore science to its rightful place…" Well. By an amazing coincidence, something got in my eye just at that moment…

I can hope that with this new Administration, much of what critical thinkers have fought for these past few years will now only need our support, and not our defense. Of course, the forces against us all still exist; there’s just been a shift of power. And that’s only been in one place.

Creationists still are trying to force their agenda on children in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and other states. Antivaxxers still fold, spindle, and mutilate reality in the media. Homeopathic medicine salesmen still make claims that are demonstrably false. Fraud via antiscience is still rampant in every one of these fifty states.

Because of that, unfortunately, there will always be a need for those who support reality, those who will fight for critical thinking, and those who will make their voices heard when some try to impose their narrow view on others.

And so, as always, it’s time to look ahead and continue to fight the good fight.

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