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The Politics Article PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Recently, I was criticizing a ridiculous interview of John Edward by Sean Hannity. I made small fun of FoxNews, which caused a few commenters to accuse me of hypocrisy and being a “lib,” whatever that is. Some went so far as to suggest that I and the JREF had a deeply liberal agenda.

To quote Sherman T. Potter: horse hockey.

First, to be clear, the JREF has no political stance whatsoever. We will criticize those that ignore scientific inquiry and praise those who embrace it, regardless of party. As a non-profit, we’re not permitted to endorse particular candidates or parties, and we have not done so. In the past few weeks, I have been critical of many media sources, including MSNBC, ABCNews, and yes, FoxNews.

Anyone investigating my personal political contributions on the Internet, will discover that I donated money to the campaign of Hal Bidlack, a friend of mine for some years now. I gave him a donation because I know him to be a man of honor, and I feel there are far too few of them in our government. I would have donated the money to his campaign regardless of his party, though he happens to be a Democrat. When I lived in Virginia, I registered as a Republican to support the campaign of James Burton, another man I believe would improve our government.

I am a political independent, and I don’t know what party affiliations other JREF employees have, if any. I vote based on the issues of the day, and I care not for party. That disclosed, I have a more important message to convey: skepticism is not compatible with politics. What I mean is, there is no political party that “all good skeptics” should embrace. In fact, the idea is the opposite of skepticism.

I’m well aware that prominent skeptics including Michael Shermer and Penn & Teller espouse Libertarianism. I have no issue with this, however I have been told by some that all skeptics should be Libertarians. I vehemently disagree.

To choose a party may be politically expedient. It may get things done, effect change, and make things better for all. Good things… but not skeptical things. To be a skeptic is to embark on an endless quest for the truth. To be a member of a political party is to stand firm with other like-minded people, regardless of any differences you might have on specific issues.

To misapply Stephen Jay Gould, politics and skepticism are different magisteria. Politics has a social agenda.  Skepticism cannot. Skepticism must ever question, must only draw provisional conclusions, and must always be willing to change conclusions in the face of new evidence. Politics cannot and must not be practiced in the same way.

So there it is, my take on skepticism and politics. Undoubtedly you have your own, and that’s as it should be.

 

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written by daveg703, June 24, 2009
Well, Jeff, despite my approval of your general stance on politics, I must take issue with your statement that

To be a member of a political party is to stand firm with other like-minded people, regardless of any differences you might have on specific issues.


Here in Minnesota we had an excellent example of a contradiction to that "standing firm" attitude. A few months ago, on one specific piece of legislation, the Democrats stood solidly for it, the Republicans were strongly against it- but six of them "jumped the aisle", and voted for it. They did so because their integrity was more important to them than their political alliance. They did not secede from their party; they simply felt strongly enough to defy their own political hack colleagues to vote their consciences.

I wish there would be more of such actions, for I feel our political system would be better for this type of behavior, and the term "politician" might not have so much mud clinging to it.
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written by shanek, June 24, 2009
"To be a member of a political party is to stand firm with other like-minded people, regardless of any differences you might have on specific issues."

You've CLEARLY never been to any LP meetings!

I wouldn't say that skepticism necessitates any particular political party or philosophy, but I will say that I don't like the way you boiled down the idea (which I agree with) into a sound bite.

Skepticism MUST be a part of politics. Back when Dubya was beating the Iraq war drums, I and a few others (mostly Libertarians such as Harry Browne and Jim Babka) examined the evidence (all publicly available) for Iraq's alleged WMDs and found it all lacking. When we weren't ignored, we were derided as nutcases, or anti-American, or whatever. I even heard it from most of my fellow skeptics.

Turns out, we were right. Not because our political philosophy is superior (although of course I believe it is), but because we were examining the evidence to see where it led, without being blinded by loyalty or jingoism.

Skepticism is not only compatible with politics, it MUST be--and we have FAR too little of it.
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written by MadScientist, June 24, 2009
"Politics cannot and must not be practiced in the same way."

Why not? I think skeptical politicians would be far better than the typical politician; after all, I'd rather have demonstrably intelligent people making decisions which affect communities. The current political system is in dire need of reform; it has been gamed to the point where we must seriously ask ourselves if the system as it exists is not intrinsically corrupt. I certainly wouldn't advocate libertarianism though; I'm one of those people who give Mike Shermer a kick whenever he starts to preach the imaginary virtues of libertarianism (which he seems to do fairly regularly these days).
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Scepticism permeates everything
written by BillyJoe, June 25, 2009
I will just agree with the above posters and go further. Scepticism is not left outside the door labelled "politics", just as it is not left outside the door or doors labelled "ethics/morals/religion/philosophy".
For me, scepticism is a way of life and it permeates everything.
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As for Libertarianism...
written by BillyJoe, June 25, 2009
It's pretty good if you're on top of the pile, but not so good if you aren't.

In other words, it helps people who don't need help and ignores those who do.
How illogically anti-sceptical is that???

BJ
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written by Careyp74, June 25, 2009
MadScientist and BillyJoe,

Jeff isn't disagreeing with how you guys feel, he saying that it can be difficult to follow a political party and be skeptical at the same time. It is good to be skeptical, of course, we all agree on that, but in politics there are too many agendas in each party for ALL of us to follow just one of them.

Jeff- if you don't know what a Lib is, see your next sentence. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by jensfiederer, June 25, 2009
Careyp74 - you don't cite a FIRST sentence, so it's not clear what the NEXT sentence is.

I didn't spot any clearly liberal OR libertarian sentences in that post (whichever "lib" is supposed to be).
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written by Cleon, June 25, 2009

Skepticism MUST be a part of politics. Back when Dubya was beating the Iraq war drums, I and a few others (mostly Libertarians such as Harry Browne and Jim Babka) examined the evidence (all publicly available) for Iraq's alleged WMDs and found it all lacking.


Shane, if you seriously think for a second that most of the people who looked at Dubya's evidence and found it lacking were Libertarians, you have some serious myopia going on.
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..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by jamesernst, June 25, 2009
When did you register to vote in Virginia? In Virginia, you can't register as a member of a political party. It's not even on the form. There are no registered Republicans.

EDITED BY JEFFWAGG This was for a primary election, and I had to sign an "Oath of Allegiance" or some such thing in order to vote. And I did follow that oath for the rest of the day.
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written by Fry, June 25, 2009
I have often heard it said that politics is the science of BS. In my state, Wyoming, I have a hard time disagreeing. Some of the most liberal minded people I know claim to always vote Republican and try to convince me to do the same. Even though they tend to disagree with many of the major decisions made on the national scale (IE: the war in Iraq) they are trying to think more locally. They are often severely mislead and buy into black and white thinking of the better of two evils since the culture here has made the word Democrat synonymous with asshole and calling someone a lib is likely to get you into a fist fight. Many people throughout the state have no idea what most political identities are suppose to even stand for. So some critical thinking skills acquired via skepticism would be a great thing for them and the public in general. However those critical thinking skills are only a tool to help make an informed decision. These skills may cut out a lot of BS but two people can still come to opposite conclusions and still make no errors in their logic. I have to agree with Jeff that politics and skepticism are different magisteria.
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Misunderstanding Gould
written by stevekelner, June 25, 2009
Jeff wrote:
[indent]skepticism is not compatible with politics. What I mean is, there is no political party that “all good skeptics” should embrace. In fact, the idea is the opposite of skepticism. [/indent]

Jeff, you're statements don't actually line up. Your second sentence is clear enough, but I disagree sharply with the first and third. You can say that skepticism is incompatible with the two main American parties, which would fit your second sentence, but claiming that you can't be both political and a skeptic is narrowly defines both to an excessive degree. I can be active in politics explicitly to challenge beliefs based on a skeptical stance. You appear to assume that being politically active requires you to belong to a party, and therefore to somehow submerge your judgement and be a "follower." Absolutely not so.

And incidentally, I think you (and other posters) are misunderstanding Gould's term of non-overlapping magisteria. Independent magisteria are not mutually exclusive or negatively correlated, they are independent. Gould had no problem with religious scientists (or scientific religionists) per se. He just felt that one did not inform the other -- if you believed what he believed, which sadly many fundamentalists (of religion or atheism!) do not. You could be one and not the other, you could be both, or you could be neither. But first you must define both in ways that make them non-overlapping. I think the same is true of politics and skepticism. For some people, it is indeed non-overlapping; for others, they are negatively correlated.
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@stevekelner
written by JeffWagg, June 25, 2009
I never said that you can't be skeptical and political. I'm saying that to be skeptical is to NOT be political. I may join a party because I want the goals of that party so succeed, but the goals themselves have nothing to do with skepticism. Two people with different goals will join different parties and yet both can be skeptics.

Being politically active does not require you to join a party, though that's often an effective way. It's meaningless to say that the "skeptical" choice is to support candidate X because he's for Law Y. You could say that critical thought naturally leads to the conclusion that candidate X is the best choice for support of Law Y, but the desire to support Law Y in the first place does not come from anything skeptical. It can come from dogma, personal desire, revenge, caution, or many other things. It does not come from a search for unbiased truth.

As for Gould, your understanding sounds very much like my own. I'm sorry if that didn't come across in the article. Put another way (Thanks Ixion!), politics and skepticism are orthogonal.

The main point of my article, and I should have made this clearer, is that there cannot be a political party for skeptics, and skeptics shouldn't feel pressured to join a party simply because other skeptics have.
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written by Willy K, June 25, 2009
Discussing political parties is for nitwits and dingbats! smilies/wink.gif

I invite you all to join the KEG party! smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by BillyJoe, June 25, 2009
I think you ... are misunderstanding Gould's term of non-overlapping magisteria. Independent magisteria are not mutually exclusive or negatively correlated, they are independent. Gould had no problem with religious scientists ... He just felt that one did not inform the other -- if you believed what he believed ... You could be one and not the other, you could be both, or you could be neither.
And in that he was clearly wrong.

But first you must define both in ways that make them non-overlapping.
Neat trick!
Define your terms in such a way as to make your argument true! smilies/grin.gif

BJ
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written by truth6413@yahoo.com, June 25, 2009
By censoring my post I guess it proves my point. You are welcome here unless you dont tow the liberal agenda. Oh well, so much for good discussion....

I would tend to agree that a "real" skeptic would be more concerned with skepticism than politics. However, skepticism on this site is just another term for atheism. (Randi even stated on a recent post that religion was the highest source of woo in his opinion.) One's religious beliefs (or lack of) WILL influence one's view on politics, science and skepticism in general. There is no escaping that. These factors affect the "far right", they affect the "far left" (which is so obviously represented on this site)and everyone in between. Anyone who denies that their personal beliefs have any effect on their conclusions is fooling themselves- but not the rest of us.

EDITED BY JEFFWAGG: No posts have been censored, except for our odd Canadian friend. Your comment received so many down votes that it was hidden automatically by the software.
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Fox's faux facts are a fact.
written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
There is plenty of room for evidence regardless of one's political, economic, and even moral values. That tends to get forgotten as skeptics ignore their own blind spots in these areas to varying degrees.

Right winger or not, if you are a skeptic who fails to recognize the evidence that Fox News broadcasts disproportionately more false information than would occur simply by the nature of our dysfunctional 'news as a commodity', then you have a serious blind spot that really needs attention.

And the fact such an important component of a free and healthy society, the mews media, is dysfunctional specifically because it has been influenced by the free market (news as a commodity vs news as a source of information), suggests that Libertarianism is NOT the 'true skeptical position'.

There's nothing evidence based about Libertarianism. The scientific evidence on the nature of human behavior suggests some principles are valid while others are not.

The evidence of economic systems suggests a mix between social and private economic systems produce better outcomes if standard of living for the bulk of the human population is the criteria one is evaluating the economics by. Capitalism with free unfettered market forces produces the best innovations in some cases, but in others such as medicine, the free market may produce a profit but at the expense of the best medical innovations.

For example, investing in a proven market such as making a copy cat drug like Viagra has a potentially better short term return than developing a needed innovation in antibiotics which would only have an immediate return if antibiotic resistance was so widespread people were dying in large numbers already. The free market doesn't favor tying up capital in anticipation of a long term gain, even one that is certain.

And advertising is now so effective, the better sold product often wins out over the better product. So we get lots of Viagras, but not necessarily better Viagras.

One can also argue, as I believe Shermer does, that monopolies are inefficient and the free market takes care of them as well. But even if true, and I am not convinced it is, that can still mean significant inefficiencies in the short term.

My point is there is a place for evidence and the application of skeptical principles here, regardless of the values you choose to apply. Supporting your values position with false facts does not make your case stronger. Whining that Fox News is just as factual (or not) as other broadcast news programs is not supported by the evidence. Nor does pointing out that other news programs with political slants exist, address the factual errors problem Fox has.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by JeffWagg, June 25, 2009
The main point of my article, and I should have made this clearer, is that there cannot be a political party for skeptics, and skeptics shouldn't feel pressured to join a party simply because other skeptics have.

Don't visit the JREF politics forum much I take it? smilies/cheesy.gif
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If only it were true.
written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by Fry, June 25, 2009
...I have to agree with Jeff that politics and skepticism are different magisteria.
If people did not use false facts to support their political positions, you would have a point. However, that is just not the case.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by Cleon, June 25, 2009
...Shane, if you seriously think for a second that most of the people who looked at Dubya's evidence and found it lacking were Libertarians, you have some serious myopia going on.
Many of the Democrats in office in the Congress may have been afraid to confront the Bush administration's false evidence, but among the liberals themselves, more than a few had serious doubts about the evidence Saddam was a significant threat to the US.

According to the CATO Institute, Libertarians voted 59% in favor of Bush in 2004. That does not suggest they believed Bush lied us into a war. They have heavily favored Republican candidates in every election since Nixon with the exception of being evenly split in 1992.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa580.pdf
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written by shanek, June 25, 2009
Shane, if you seriously think for a second that most of the people who looked at Dubya's evidence and found it lacking were Libertarians, you have some serious myopia going on.


I'd LOVE to see a reference proving me wrong. But it has to be a reference from BEFORE the Iraq War, not some after-the-fact claim. Because I LOOKED. If there were any prominent liberals who were skeptical, they were well hidden.
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written by shanek, June 25, 2009
And the fact such an important component of a free and healthy society, the mews media, is dysfunctional specifically because it has been influenced by the free market (news as a commodity vs news as a source of information), suggests that Libertarianism is NOT the 'true skeptical position'.


Um, NO. There is NOTHING free market about our news media. It's a product of corporatism. Likewise, your comments about our health care system are problems of corporatism in a heavily-regulated environment where the free market is not allowed to act. I really wish people would learn the difference, especially before going and trashing an entire philosophy they apparently know little about...
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written by shanek, June 25, 2009
According to the CATO Institute, Libertarians voted 59% in favor of Bush in 2004. That does not suggest they believed Bush lied us into a war.


First of all, that data is very suspect; be a skeptic. Second, voting for Bush in 2004 didn't say ANYTHING about one's position on the war since Kerry was 100% in favor of the Iraq War, too.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by shanek, June 25, 2009
Um, NO. There is NOTHING free market about our news media. It's a product of corporatism. Likewise, your comments about our health care system are problems of corporatism in a heavily-regulated environment where the free market is not allowed to act. I really wish people would learn the difference, especially before going and trashing an entire philosophy they apparently know little about...
Too far off topic to debate this here. If you want to start a thread in the JREF forum I might continue the discussion. Post a link if you decide to do that.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by shanek, June 25, 2009
First of all, that data is very suspect; be a skeptic. Second, voting for Bush in 2004 didn't say ANYTHING about one's position on the war since Kerry was 100% in favor of the Iraq War, too.
Did I miss your citations supporting your claim that Libertarians knew Bush was lying about the need to go to war?

And if that were the case, what does that say about Libertarians voting for someone they knew lied the country into a war?
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written by Diverted Chrome, June 25, 2009
@shanek
"You've CLEARLY never been to any LP meetings!
Back when Dubya was beating the Iraq war drums, I and a few others (mostly Libertarians such as Harry Browne and Jim Babka) examined the evidence (all publicly available) for Iraq's alleged WMDs and found it all lacking. When we weren't ignored, we were derided as nutcases, or anti-American, or whatever. I even heard it from most of my fellow skeptics. Turns out, we were right."

Millions suspected it would be the case, not just Browne and Babka.. After a couple weeks went by millions more suspected this. After the Downing Memo, billions knew as a factual matter, no matter the party. It can't be said that those that simply suspected or, later, simply paid attention were "mostly Libertarians" because there's no evidence for this claim. It's just that certain members of one party kept insisting facts and the reasons that follow didn't matter because new ones could continually replace them.

If the DoD classified information that was considered above and beyond what the UN had was "publicly available", then this is a CT.

But I'm in agreement with you that skepicism is important, in as much as it correlates to examination, logic, and decision making amongst polticians (in Jeff's defense, that's not always the same as "politics" as an art and as opposed to the legislative, decision-making process).

As or Kerry being "100% in favor of the Iraq War", with all the unclear and conflicting statements, how do you reach that statistic? Sounds hyperbolic.
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written by Rogue Medic, June 25, 2009
@Skeptigirl,

As with other parties, Libertarians have a diversity of opinions on many issues. If you look at their views on economics, how many come close to Ayn Rand's approach?

Americans Love Government by Walter E. Williams is an article that points out the illogical faith we have in government to solve our problems. The illogical part is that Americans repeatedly state that they do not trust the members of our government. While the article does tend to drift from the initial point and oversimplify, it is something that the big government Republicans and Democrats manage to get around as if they were Three Card Monte dealers.

http://townhall.com/columnists...government

We should distrust government. The states/colonies recognized the potential for abuse of power and insisted on a Bill of Rights before they would assent to the Constitution.

While the data in Cato's numbers are calculations based on polling data collected for other purposes, the data suggest that 90% of Libertarians do not behave as Jeff Wagg suggests. They vote for one of the the two evils, feeling that there is some merit in choosing the lesser of the two evils.

Politics in current practice may not be an example of skepticism, but that does not mean that skeptics should not try to change things. Any party is capable of using skepticism. We would be much better off if skepticism were chosen over populism.
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written by shanek, June 25, 2009
Did I miss your citations supporting your claim that Libertarians knew Bush was lying about the need to go to war?


SOME Libertarians, yes. Prominent ones, like Harry Browne, Jim Babka, and Perry Willis. And I can GUARANTEE you they didn't vote for George Bush!

The website is truthaboutwar.org. It was frozen on the day the Iraq War started (verify it on Wayback if you want). There are a couple of articles written since that time (clearly marked as such), but all of the information on the site represents what was publicly known by the time the Iraq War started.
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written by shanek, June 25, 2009
As or Kerry being "100% in favor of the Iraq War", with all the unclear and conflicting statements, how do you reach that statistic?


His voting record.
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Libertarians are no more/no less unified than the other parties when it comes to the Iraq war
written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by shanek, June 25, 2009
SOME Libertarians, yes. Prominent ones, like Harry Browne, Jim Babka, and Perry Willis. And I can GUARANTEE you they didn't vote for George Bush!

The website is truthaboutwar.org. It was frozen on the day the Iraq War started (verify it on Wayback if you want). There are a couple of articles written since that time (clearly marked as such), but all of the information on the site represents what was publicly known by the time the Iraq War started.


This link has a discussion about the Libertarian traditions as they relate to the Iraq war:
Libertarians and the War - Ron Paul doesn't speak for all of us.
http://www.opinionjournal.com/...=110010344
Many libertarians, and perhaps most libertarian intellectuals, opposed the war in Iraq even before its inception. They believed Saddam's regime neither directly threatened the U.S. nor harbored or supported the terrorist network responsible for Sept. 11. They also feared the risk of harmful, unintended consequences. Some may also have believed that since the U.S. was not attacked by the government of Iraq, any such war was aggressive rather than defensive in nature.

Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.

Moreover, the pro-war libertarians believed there was "legal" cause to take military action against Saddam's regime--from its manifold violations of the ceasefire to firing on American planes legally patrolling the "no fly" zone and its persistent refusals to cooperate with weapons inspections. Saddam's regime was left in power after its unprovoked invasion of Kuwait on these and other conditions that it repeatedly had violated, thereby legally justifying its removal by force if necessary. Better to be rid of Saddam and establish an ally in the war against Islamic jihadists in the heart of the Middle East, the argument goes, and then withdraw American troops.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009
written by Rogue Medic, June 25, 2009
As with other parties, Libertarians have a diversity of opinions on many issues. If you look at their views on economics, how many come close to Ayn Rand's approach?
Preacher, meet choir. I have had at least one argument with a bunch of FWIS forum Libertarians over their own words in their party platform. They seemed quite annoyed I had assumed they took their own platform literally.

We should distrust government. The states/colonies recognized the potential for abuse of power and insisted on a Bill of Rights before they would assent to the Constitution.
Are you claiming the states/colonies were all Libertarians? Or are you presenting opinion as evidence? I happen to agree that power has a tendency to corrupt. But I'm unclear how your point is demonstrating that here.

While the data in Cato's numbers are calculations based on polling data collected for other purposes, the data suggest that 90% of Libertarians do not behave as Jeff Wagg suggests. They vote for one of the the two evils, feeling that there is some merit in choosing the lesser of the two evils.

Politics in current practice may not be an example of skepticism, but that does not mean that skeptics should not try to change things. Any party is capable of using skepticism. We would be much better off if skepticism were chosen over populism.
Again, why is this directed at me specifically? See my post above titled: Fox's faux facts are a fact; written by Skeptigirl, June 25, 2009

My debate with shanek is over his black and white view of the world with the all perfect Libertarians who oppose the all evil government.
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written by Rogue Medic, June 25, 2009
Preacher, meet choir. I have had at least one argument with a bunch of FWIS forum Libertarians over their own words in their party platform. They seemed quite annoyed I had assumed they took their own platform literally.


As with many other things, theory and reality are not the same thing. The number of instances where a free market does not lead to correction of bad business practices has to be very large. I have worked for too many ambulance companies that are run by corrupt morons. Much of the competition does not seem that much different. The choices of the patients are limited. Et cetera. A free market in even the routine transport of patients by ambulance, not just 911, is overly optimistic.

There are many regulations that affect ambulance services, so there has not been a free market, except perhaps up until the 1970s. The regulations may harm the patients as much as they help. There is no simple answer to the problems in this business.

One of the problems is that we are in a period of growth that is only accelerating. The market forces do not prevent customers from being ripped off. The government actually seems to protect the criminals by acting so slowly that there is nothing left to compensate the victims. The alternative companies, that are supposed to arise to present customers with better choices, are indistinguishable from the corrupt companies. This is one of the problems in the theory.

However, the alternative economic models have even greater problems with their theories.

There is a good discussion of some of the myths of free markets on BookTV. Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay W. Richards. He talks on this for about an hour.

http://www.booktv.org/Watch/10...oblem.aspx


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Aaarrggg,,,,,,! Not again!!!!
written by Able, June 25, 2009
How do so many of us get so far off the original subject. I believe that something written by jer on June 21st bears repeating. jer was referring to the many comments written by us that had absolutely nothing to do with Jeff’s original topic.

jer wrote “ Jeff (if you've bothered reading this far), see what tossing a meaningless jab into an otherwise good article can do? Whether this is mostly your fault or theirs, I'd think about whether it's worth it”.

Now, in this article, I really liked Jeffs message about “skepticism is not compatible with politics” and his explanation of what he meant. As an independent, I couldn’t agree more.
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written by Rogue Medic, June 25, 2009
Part II

We should distrust government. The states/colonies recognized the potential for abuse of power and insisted on a Bill of Rights before they would assent to the Constitution.


Are you claiming the states/colonies were all Libertarians? Or are you presenting opinion as evidence? I happen to agree that power has a tendency to corrupt. But I'm unclear how your point is demonstrating that here.


I do not see any way to present this as opinion. Many of the colonists were not ready to trust a powerful government after risking everything to oust the previous powerful government. Some of the colonies did ratify the Constitution, but I believe it was Massachussetts was the first to demand that there be some protections from the government before they ratify the Constitution.

There is a lot of writing on this. The Federalist Papers were The Anti-Federalist Papers arguments on the topic that were widely followed and an important part of getting the people to agree to a replacement for the Articles of Confederation. Most of the quotes that are used by Libertarians are taken directly from the people who wrote the Constitution.

Were they all Libertarians?

I never us the word all, or never. smilies/wink.gif

I would not claim that all of them were Libertarians. I would not claim that they were all anything. That would be silly.

We seem to want to abandon all of our discretion to the government. This is a ridiculous thing to do. the government will frequently make things worse, not better. Trusting the federal government to make our decisions is not a good idea.

These were people, who decided that armed uprising against the government was the right thing to do. They were not looking for government to solve their problems.

I cannot think of any good reason to believe that government is more trustworthy than business. They both have problems. The more regulation we have, the less innovation we will have. We need to innovate in order to remain competitive in the world market. I remain surprised at the recovery of the market since the exponential growth in government debt. If we do not improve the ability of the private companies to compete, and not be tariffs, we will not be able to make much of a dent in that debt. Inflation will be a problem. Worse than in the 70s-80s? I don't know, but when the market for government bonds shrinks, the interest rate does the opposite.

If the buyers of bonds do not see a profit from these low interest, high risk loans - not as high risk as the sub-prime mortgages, but much higher risk than they were two years ago, they will decrease the amount that they buy. The same thing happened in the housing market, and the effect was not subtle. The same thing happened in the commodities market, and the effect was not subtle. The same thing happened in the stock market, and the effect was not subtle. These markets tend to move in cycles that have booms followed by a bust. The boom in the price of bonds has not turned around, yet. Maybe it will not for years, but booms do not last for ever. This time it's different is the sales pitch to the suckers, who buy at the peak of the market. The questions are how high will the peak be and when will it turn around, not if it will peak.


Again, why is this directed at me specifically?


The quote of shanek was what I was responding to. I should have made it a second comment. I apologize, that was just laziness on my part. shanek wrote:

First of all, that data is very suspect; be a skeptic.


I don't know about very suspect, but the data are a secondary analysis of numbers not collected specifically for this purpose. That might cause us to use wider error bars, but not dismiss the numbers.


I agree with almost everything you write. I was just pointing out some differences, that I believe are relatively minor.
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written by shanek, June 26, 2009
My debate with shanek is over his black and white view of the world with the all perfect Libertarians who oppose the all evil government.


I NEVER SAID ANYTHING OF THE KIND!!

This is the thing that infuriates me--even among skeptics, they get into the political arena, and just turn it all off, becoming dogmatists and behaving just like the creationists. I spoke of SOME libertarians (I even capitalized the "some" for emphasis) and now someone's claiming I was talking about ALL libertarians being "perfect"!
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Great Article Jeff - Thanks
written by Dasher, June 26, 2009
Nice job Jeff, you've set the record straight.

Dan
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The day I have to be...
written by Brookston John, June 26, 2009
... a dope-smoking variety of ReTHUGlican (Libertarian) to be a skeptic is the day I give up and go "give my heart back to Jeebus" or some other form of Woo.
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Not necessary...
written by SheldonHelms, June 26, 2009
This article was unnecessary. I would have preferred that you simply ignore the allegations from those morons who think any critique of one of the Fox"News" idiots is "part of the Liberal Media attack on Conservatives." How can anyone like that call himself a Skeptic?

Frankly, I'm a bit tired of all the political talk at the Atheist/Skeptic meetings I attend. I realize that issues of war, the economy, Civil Rights, etc. can be broached within the realm of skepticism (and should be), but I'm just sick of it and want to talk about something else for a change. Here's hoping we can cover more varied topics in our private discussions at TAM this year....and if one more person tries to convert me to Libertarianism, I'm gonna take hostages!
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written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
written by Able, June 25, 2009..
Now, in this article, I really liked Jeffs message about “skepticism is not compatible with politics” and his explanation of what he meant. As an independent, I couldn’t agree more.
Why would evidence and facts not matter in politics? Do you think there is no way to get to the underlying facts? Is it that conflict bothers you and you'd prefer to avoid political conflict when involving yourself in skepticism?

I would enjoy political discussions a lot more if people could stick to the factual aspects in discussions. But as with religion, people don't. However, for me, that is no reason to abandon critical thinking. If anything, skepticism and critical thinking are even more important in politics. People are making decisions that affect large numbers of people, not just themselves. We've seen what happens when you take the science out of political decisions. And clearly the people who benefit from ignoring the science when it comes to influencing political decisions misuse science just for that reason.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
written by shanek, June 26, 2009
I NEVER SAID ANYTHING OF THE KIND!!
Of course you don't see it that way. I didn't expect you to.

This is the thing that infuriates me--even among skeptics, they get into the political arena, and just turn it all off, becoming dogmatists and behaving just like the creationists. I spoke of SOME libertarians (I even capitalized the "some" for emphasis) and now someone's claiming I was talking about ALL libertarians being "perfect"!
You left the part out about saying all liberals were in agreement with the Iraq WMD evidence as interpreted by Bush.

Here's the actual quote, it's in post #2 above (emphasis mine):
Back when Dubya was beating the Iraq war drums, I and a few others (mostly Libertarians such as Harry Browne and Jim Babka) examined the evidence (all publicly available) for Iraq's alleged WMDs and found it all lacking. When we weren't ignored, we were derided as nutcases, or anti-American, or whatever. I even heard it from most of my fellow skeptics.
Now if you wish to reword this statement, I will take your word for it the statement has been misinterpreted. And that would change my assessment you had a black and white view of the world here.

Speaking to the facts, which is the key issue here, the facts used/misused in supporting political positions, I can assure you many many liberals who are not also Libertarian, did not trust Bush or the evidence he used as an excuse to invade Iraq from the very beginning.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
written by Able, June 25, 2009
jer wrote “ Jeff (if you've bothered reading this far), see what tossing a meaningless jab into an otherwise good article can do?
Tis true. The "skeptics should be Libertarians" nonsense pushes more than a few buttons around here.
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Sorting fact from opinion in skeptical politics
written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
@Rogue Medic
"We should distrust government." Clearly opinion.
Paraphrased: "Evidence for this is the fact the colonists distrusted government."

You are saying that someone's opinion, in this case the colonists', is the evidence. I would say instances where government breached the public trust is the evidence you need to support your conclusion, not the colonists' opinion of government.

But that is a side issue. Moving on:
I think a lot of the stereotyping we do in identifying with particular political parties is a source of our failing to sort through the facts from the opinions in politics. We identify with the political brands but at the expense of the actual facts.

Liberals as I see them don't think government should run everything. Just as Libertarians in that article I quoted above had different views of military intervention yet still supported those views with Libertarian tenets, liberals too have a very wide variety of views of government involvement. Surely you can't think liberals trusted or wanted GW Bush's version of government running things.

Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats alike distrust the government if being run by the other party. And many of them feel that way even when their own party is in office. It's not particularly unique to Libertarians. Liberals, however, are often characterized as wanting government to control everything. This particular attempt to falsely brand liberals seeps into people's mindsets.

It's another reason it's important to take a skeptical approach to politics. For example, I think taking note of the fact this attempt at false branding is taking place helps immunize people against the tactics.
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Feeding the troll....
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009
Because he may go away feeling he has made a valid point. smilies/grin.gif

I would tend to agree that a "real" skeptic would be more concerned with skepticism than politics.
A "real" sceptic would use his scepticism in the political field just like any other field.

However, skepticism on this site is just another term for atheism. (Randi even stated on a recent post that religion was the highest source of woo in his opinion.)
It is really difficult not to be both a sceptic AND an atheist (defined as "not having a belief in god - because there is no evidence for the existence of god"), withouf suffering from cognitive dissonance.

One's religious beliefs (or lack of) WILL influence one's view on politics, science and skepticism in general. There is no escaping that.
You have it ass before tit. Your scepticism (scepticism is PRIMARY) will influence your views on politics and religion. Science? Science is the art of scepticism.

These factors affect the "far right", they affect the "far left" (which is so obviously represented on this site)and everyone in between.
It amazes me how often you misrepresent the views of sceptics. And it amazes me even more how you never feel the need to back up your misrepresentations when challenged.

Anyone who denies that their personal beliefs have any effect on their conclusions is fooling themselves- but not the rest of us.
What are you saying here?
A sceptics beliefs are based on scepticism, that is to say, on evidence. Sceptics are not perfect, meaning that their views may not all be the result of the proper application of scepticism. But, then, the criticism of these views will still be based on scepticism.
But I'm certain, based on past experience, that you will not be able to follow that argument.

BJ
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Automatic censorship!
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009
EDITED BY JEFFWAGG: No posts have been censored, except for our odd Canadian friend. Your comment received so many down votes that it was hidden automatically by the software.
You mean his post was AUTOMATICALLY censored.

In any case, I wonder if there is a fault in the software. I mean, his post was bearly up before it was censored, and his repeat post has only 3 negative votes.

(I think it's cute, though, how he didn't realise that his post could be viewed by clicking on the button smilies/grin.gif )

BJ
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written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
Granted these comments are written without the benefit of having seen said "hidden" post. I apologize if I am assessing the situation incorrectly.

Unless a post is spam, abusively insulting of someone else, or full of obscenities, why would it be "hidden" or censored? Using down votes to hide or censor a post only makes sense if it is to draw the attention of a moderator to a post to check for said spam, abuse or profanity.

I would like to suggest that unless the post has a good reason to be "hidden" that it be allowed to reappear. And if it indeed had a good reason, that should be clearly stated like, "Post removed because of ...."

I'm disappointed posts would be removed simply because most people didn't agree with it.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 26, 2009
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009...
(I think it's cute, though, how he didn't realise that his post could be viewed by clicking on the button smilies/grin.gif )
Well I don't know how that works either and I can't find the post to click on any button.

OK, now I'm confused. Is the post that says it was censored now the post that has the part that was censored? If so then I have to take back everything above because it would seem the post was only hidden until a mod could check it.

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written by shanek, June 26, 2009
You left the part out about saying all liberals were in agreement with the Iraq WMD evidence as interpreted by Bush.

Here's the actual quote, it's in post #2 above (emphasis mine):

Back when Dubya was beating the Iraq war drums, I and a few others (mostly Libertarians


SkeptiGirl, what is it about the word "mostly" that you fail to grasp?
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@ skeptigirl
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009
I can't find the post to click on any button.

I think that is the idea smilies/grin.gif
(that you can't find it)

It's the eighth post in this thread, between Cleon's and jamesernst's posts, written by "truth"
It has been replaced by the following:

..., Lowly rated comment [Show]

If you press on [Show] it will show you the post.
(I don't know that I'd bother though smilies/wink.gif )

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by Rogue Medic, June 26, 2009
@Skeptigirl,

@Rogue Medic
"We should distrust government." Clearly opinion.
Paraphrased: "Evidence for this is the fact the colonists distrusted government."


It is opinion, but I think that it is easy to support. Look at all the cases of governmental mistakes and abuse. Why is it wrong to take a skeptical approach to government or business? Would it be wise to trust government?

The people who authorized the The Constitution, which created the government, demonstrates distrust with a system of checks and balances. The people creating the government are telling us they do not trust the government.

You are saying that someone's opinion, in this case the colonists', is the evidence. I would say instances where government breached the public trust is the evidence you need to support your conclusion, not the colonists' opinion of government.


I don't disagree with that approach, as I mentioned above.

But that is a side issue. Moving on:
I think a lot of the stereotyping we do in identifying with particular political parties is a source of our failing to sort through the facts from the opinions in politics. We identify with the political brands but at the expense of the actual facts.


Some, too many, do.

Liberals as I see them don't think government should run everything. Just as Libertarians in that article I quoted above had different views of military intervention yet still supported those views with Libertarian tenets, liberals too have a very wide variety of views of government involvement. Surely you can't think liberals trusted or wanted GW Bush's version of government running things.


I don't think I ever stated an opinion on the war.

Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats alike distrust the government if being run by the other party. And many of them feel that way even when their own party is in office. It's not particularly unique to Libertarians. Liberals, however, are often characterized as wanting government to control everything. This particular attempt to falsely brand liberals seeps into people's mindsets.


Traditionally, haven't Liberals wanted government to solve problems?

It's another reason it's important to take a skeptical approach to politics. For example, I think taking note of the fact this attempt at false branding is taking place helps immunize people against the tactics.


I don't see a problem with a skeptical approach to politics. I would prefer to have people tell me what their politics are. They do not have to use any particular label.
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written by Rogue Medic, June 26, 2009
Skeptigirl,

It is a comment to this post. The ninth comment, counting from the top.

This is what is written:

..., Lowly rated comment [Show]


If you click on the word Show, it will expand the comment. Not that you are missing anything.

Should JREF change this way of handling comments? I think so. I am not a fan of censoring, even if it is by just requiring us to click on the post to expand it. I did not even see the comment the first time through the comments. It was only when the commenter complained about being censored that I went back and found it. It is easy to overlook this hidden comment.

Again, we are not missing anything by missing this comment, but the readers should be able to make that decision for themselves. Making some comments less noticeable makes it so that readers need to aggressively seek out the low rated comments, if we want to read all of the comments. The rating is not a bad thing, but having the rating automatically minimize some comments is not entirely fair to the readers coming later. Of course, after reading the comment, many will feel that they were better off not having read it, but we can stop reading at any point.
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@ Rogue Medic
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009
I not quite sure why you had to repeat all of what I had just said about that hidden post. smilies/grin.gif
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written by Rogue Medic, June 27, 2009
@Billy Joe,

I did not see it until after I sent my comment. My internet fu fails me sometimes.

OTOH, I may have been engaging in a subtle satirical demonstration of how easy it is to overlook comments. smilies/cool.gif

Now about that bridge you ordered. Would you like it sent to your business address or your home address?
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Politics and skepticism
written by Newcoaster, June 27, 2009
Coming late to this post, a cursory read of the 52 comments above mine suggests the usual parochial American attitude to politics, dividing people into the uniquely American political dichotomy of Dems vs Reps as if there were no shades of grey, and ignoring the reality of politics in the rest of the world.

Most democratic countries have a larger variety of political parties to affiliate with, and there is no need to be a "registered" anything. Come election time, I educate myself on the issues, and choose a candidate that best reflects my views. I've yet to find a candidate or political party that is a perfect match, though I've also yet to vote for a candidate with any party that has "conservative" in it's title. Labels can be misleading however. Here in British Columbia we have just re-elected the so called Liberal party...who are really small "c" conservatives, anti-union, free enterprise/privatization advocates...not your typical "liberal" positions. (No, I didn't vote for them)

A skeptical approach to politics is just as important as in other spheres of skeptical comment. The Libertarian bent of some of the celebrities of the skeptical movement, I find a bit distasteful and inappropriate. P&T and Michael Shermer both need to leave their politics at home when they come to TAM, and apply more of their skeptical advice to their own belief system. Because Libertarianism is a belief system the same as homeopathy or Scientology. Penn's past comments as a global warming denier sounded little different from those of the religious right who have taken over the Republican party (Yes, I know he later tried to soften and parse his comments..but that sounded a bit like BS)
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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by BillyJoe, June 26, 2009...
It's the eighth post in this thread, between Cleon's and jamesernst's posts, written by "truth"
It has been replaced by the following: ..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
Goodness, I must have looked right past that more than once. Oh those brain quirks.

Thanks.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by shanek, June 26, 2009
SkeptiGirl, what is it about the word "mostly" that you fail to grasp?
You seem to be trying to walk this back without examining why your statement was attacked. Kind of silly don't you think considering how your comment was interpreted by several people, not just me.

If "mostly Libertarians" comprise the people who were distrustful of Bush's war evidence then that doesn't leave room for many more people in the other parties in the balance. If you were paying attention to the polls at the time of the lead up to the war you would have found large numbers of people, regardless of party affiliation, were on both sides of Bush's war evidence. Why do you think the Bush admin had to work so hard to deceive the American public? Why do you suppose we had so few allies behind us when we went in? Why do you suppose only a short time later Bush only questionably won the 2004 election?

I think it might be safe to say more Republicans trusted Bush than people in other parties. But it is absurd to think most of the liberals did.

If you were smart you would have made up the excuse you were only referring to your own circle of friends and a few personal debates with skeptics rather than everyone in general. Oh well.

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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by Rogue Medic, June 26, 2009
@Skeptigirl,... I think that it is easy to support. Look at all the cases of governmental mistakes and abuse. Why is it wrong to take a skeptical approach to government or business? Would it be wise to trust government?
Here, we were in agreement. My issue was only that the Colonists' opinions was not evidence governments couldn't be trusted.

But I think the real issue you were getting at that I objected to was that the Colonists, (aka the country's founders), were all Libertarian minded. This presumes the stereotype that is very annoying to me currently, that somehow liberals are pro-government control of everything. The Democratic Party is not a socialist or a communist party. That is the brand the Republicans are trying desperately to make stick right now and it is false.

Libertarians may want as little government as possible, but that doesn't mean the other parties want more. The left wing anarchists don't want government telling them they can't smoke pot, but I would bet they be unhappy if they really got the lawless world they think they want. The right wing fanatics don't want any gun regulations, but they think abortion and gay rights laws are somehow not based on government interfering in people's lives.

It's all about the brand, but that brand image doesn't match the actual product. I'm just trying to point that out when I see it.

It would appear we have similar feelings about the trustworthiness of governments. But then you have to speak about what kind of trustworthiness you mean. What good is a Bill of Rights if you don't trust the authorities to abide by it? Or do you trust them to follow the law but not to do the right thing if no law exists to stop them?

Traditionally, haven't Liberals wanted government to solve problems?
How does that differ from a Republican wanting the government to send abortion doctors to jail? How does that differ from Libertarians wanting private property rights to prevail when there is a dispute over what one person does on their property affecting the value of someone else's property?

Here we have an interesting paradox. You cite the Bill of Rights and system of checks and balances as a solution. Is that not "the government"? I want government to regulate guns and business. How are those regulations 'government solving problems' while the laws you cite not?


See, it's all in how you frame things. Skeptics can use their skills to spot the framing and reveal the actual underlying facts. We'd all be so much better off if the debates were about the actual facts and not about the distortions and stereotypes.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by Rogue Medic, June 26, 2009
Should JREF change this way of handling comments? I think so. I am not a fan of censoring, even if it is by just requiring us to click on the post to expand it. I did not even see the comment the first time through the comments. It was only when the commenter complained about being censored that I went back and found it. It is easy to overlook this hidden comment.
I think it is fine to have such a system only if it is temporary until someone can check to see if the comment is abusive, overly profane (though personally I could care less), or spam. Either that or somehow make the hidden comment just a little more prominent. It's kind of a nice idea letting people skip the comments most people find unworthy. But it is worrisome to see censorship. Now that I know about this, however, I'll probably notice the hidden posts the next time I see them.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by Newcoaster, June 27, 2009...
A skeptical approach to politics is just as important as in other spheres of skeptical comment. The Libertarian bent of some of the celebrities of the skeptical movement, I find a bit distasteful and inappropriate. P&T and Michael Shermer both need to leave their politics at home when they come to TAM, and apply more of their skeptical advice to their own belief system. Because Libertarianism is a belief system the same as homeopathy or Scientology. Penn's past comments as a global warming denier sounded little different from those of the religious right who have taken over the Republican party (Yes, I know he later tried to soften and parse his comments..but that sounded a bit like BS)
I agree. And you might add our dear Dr Plait to that list. Though he is a tad less vocal about it, he has said at least once that he supports the same views.
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A quick political quiz...
written by BillyJoe, June 27, 2009
http://www.theadvocates.org/quizp/index.html

They classed me as a Liberal:
(far left of graph at the intersection between Liberal and Libertarian)



LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.


That sounds about right.

Strangely, although we have a "Liberal Party" in Australia, the above definition applies more accurately to our other main political party "The Australian Labor Party"

BillyJoe
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written by BillyJoe, June 27, 2009
I think that graph should be rotated 45% anticlockwise.
(It was probably drawn up by a Libertarian! smilies/grin.gif)
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written by shanek, June 27, 2009
If "mostly Libertarians" comprise the people who were distrustful of Bush's war evidence then that doesn't leave room for many more people in the other parties in the balance.


As I said, I LOOKED. I did Google searches. I found libertarians. I did Google News searches. What few I found were libertarians. Many, many, MANY posts ago, I asked for references to liberals being skeptical of the WMDs dating before the start of the Iraq War. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON has provided any. You yourself have written several paragraphs in response to me. Would it have really been too much to include a name or two?

Now, given all of that, what would you conclude if you were me?
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written by shanek, June 27, 2009
I think that graph should be rotated 45% anticlockwise.
(It was probably drawn up by a Libertarian! smilies/grin.gif)


Actually it was--by David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party. I don't know, however, if he's the one who started rotating it 45 degrees (his first ones were properly level), but the reason for doing so is to put liberals on the left and conservatives on the right, as Americans are used to placing them.
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written by BillyJoe, June 27, 2009
Still, it looks strange to have a graph with its axes rotated 45% to the horizontal and vertical.

(BTW, did it get you more or less right?)
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Not a very skeptical link
written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
So, BillyJoe, did you think to look for anything validating the conclusions drawn by that 'quiz'? Or did you post it in jest?

Here again we see the false framing of 'liberals':
LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy.
The rest of the paragraph may be true. However, claiming that such measures control the economy is not.

How does a safety net control the economy? Does massive government investment in military expenditures control the economy?

Some of those environmental regulations force companies to pay the full cost of their products. When disposal and pollution costs are forced on others, the products resulting in pollution are not really priced at their market value. That is being ignored by the supposed free market advocates.

It's all in how you frame it. Selective attention to only some of the actions which impact the economy is something skeptics should be paying attention to.
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@ Skeptigirl
written by BillyJoe, June 27, 2009
So, BillyJoe, did you think to look for anything validating the conclusions drawn by that 'quiz'? Or did you post it in jest?
I posted it out of interest. And because their conclusion about my stance based on my answers that quiz seemed to be fairly accurate. But, no, I haven't bothered to put in other answers to see if they are accurate, or to analyse the questions to see if could do so.

claiming that such measures control the economy is not.
The graph has two axes. One is "economic issues", and the other is "personal issues". So it's not all just about the economy. If you don't think the definition given fits in with your idea of what "liberalism" is, I am not about to argue with you. As I said in that post, the definition does not fit with the ideas of the "Liberal Party" in Australia.

BJ

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written by shanek, June 27, 2009
(BTW, did it get you more or less right?)


100/100. I'd say that's right.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 27, 2009
written by shanek, June 27, 2009
As I said, I LOOKED. I did Google searches. I found libertarians. I did Google News searches. What few I found were libertarians. Many, many, MANY posts ago, I asked for references to liberals being skeptical of the WMDs dating before the start of the Iraq War. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON has provided any. You yourself have written several paragraphs in response to me. Would it have really been too much to include a name or two?
Just an FYI: I've replied to this but I had so many links in the post it has gone to the auto-hold-to-be-reviewed file. I expect it to clear that hurdle when someone has time to check it.
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I don't think that word means what you think it means...
written by HiEv, June 28, 2009
JeffWagg wrote:
I never said that you can't be skeptical and political. I'm saying that to be skeptical is to NOT be political.

I think you mean, "to be skeptical is to NOT be partisan." "Political" doesn't really mean to be biased towards your group and against any others, but "partisan" basically does. Being partisan is more of an emotional decision than a logical one.

FWIW, I'm an Independent in the US too. Heck, I even voted for Ross Perot. (Feel free to laugh now. smilies/grin.gif ) It makes more sense to me to pick the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation, than to just blindly vote the party line.

That being said, the past few years the best candidates in the US have mostly been Democrats, IMHO. I say this because it seems that the fundamental flaws of the current Republican platform (such as the absurd amounts of deregulation they have pushed, the poor environmental record, and their aggressively militaristic stance) are worse than the flaws of other parties. Recent political history (such as the economic collapse, failing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, and the debacle in Iraq) seems to agree with my assessment. However, if other parties field better candidates than the Democrats, I'll be happy to vote for them instead.

I also refuse to take the Pledge Allegiance, because I think we should think about the whole world as a higher priority over just our little corner of it.

I've drifted a bit, but my point is that your political decisions should be made based on their own merit, not by your own personal biases. Even if you don't personally like something, if it doesn't harm others (note: "harm", not "offend") you should still vote to allow other people to do it. Supporting or not supporting a bill should be based on the soundness of the bill, not which party produced it. Etc...
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written by Stanfr, June 29, 2009
I agree with Jeff. The reality of most politics (more evident on the national scale) in America is that it is a two party sytem, where power is given not to those who have demonstrated leadership ability or intellect, but to those who are the most effective ass-kissers. The very antithesis of skepticism. All the sidetracking in the post aboves is off-topic if you ask me.
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written by thearmchairskeptic, June 30, 2009
I hadn't seen Jeff's post when it first came out, but recently posted an entry in my blog on this very topic, making a plea for more skepticism when it comes to political and social issues:

http://www.thearmchairskeptic....ssues.html

The nature of politics is such that it discourages skepticism and critical thinking, but rather than just say they don't mix, I agree with the other commenters that call for more critical thinking in the political arena.

Good post, Jeff.
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Thanks for the posting Jeff
written by pkohlmil, June 30, 2009
Dr. Steve Novella of the SGU made a similar point at TAM 6 - egalitarianism is a value, some have it and some don't (I'm simplifying; maybe someone will bring this up with him at TAM 7). I think there was a big uptick in the libertarian philosophy starting at TAM 5 and I think I get it, they want more money (less taxes) and they think they have a way to get it. But this split in values is a very real threat to skepticism and that's why I think Jeff's post is very valuable. No one is going to change their mind but where can we keep skepticism alive if this split in our community continues.
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written by shanek, July 01, 2009
I'm sorry, but when I read the phrase, "No one is going to change their mind" on a skeptic board, a little piece of me dies inside. This is the one place that should be above that.

(By the way, I'm still waiting for all the references to liberals who wrote or broadcast debunkings of the WMDs pre-war...)
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Censored ?????
written by Skeptigirl, July 02, 2009
It's been a while now. What happened to my reply to shanek's post?

EDITED BY JEFF WAGG Well, have no idea. We don't have moderation in place. I guess it just didn't post. No one except Dennis Markuze has been censored.
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written by shanek, July 02, 2009
Feel free to email it to me.
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written by Skeptigirl, July 02, 2009
Do you have a forum name I can PM it to you?
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Sent you a PM
written by Skeptigirl, July 02, 2009
@shanek:

Assuming you use the same name on the forum, I PMed the post to you.
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written by Skeptigirl, July 02, 2009
EDITED BY JEFF WAGG Well, have no idea. We don't have moderation in place. I guess it just didn't post. No one except Dennis Markuze has been censored.


That's weird because it said "your post is waiting moderation" or something like that. I'll repost it.
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To be exact it says:
written by Skeptigirl, July 02, 2009
"Message added, your post will be reviewed by admin"

EDITED BY JEFFWAGG: We don't even have a way to look at unposted messages. This appears to be a bug that happens if you post a message when you're no longer logged into the site. I made a change that might prevent that in the future, but I won't know until it happens again. Sorry about that.
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I was definitely logged in.
written by Skeptigirl, July 03, 2009
The only thing unique about the post was it had numerous citations.
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