Links and Comments: Scientific Humanism; the Socialist Menace; Border Crisis

Michael Shermer’s final Scientific American column, in January, summarizes The Case for Scientific Humanism, a “blending of scientific naturalism and Enlightenment humanism,” echoing my own Provisional Conclusion #5:

Modern science arose in the 16th and 17th centuries following the Scientific Revolution and the adoption of scientific naturalism—the belief that the world is governed by natural laws and forces that are knowable, that all phenomena are part of nature and can be explained by natural causes, and that human cognitive, social and moral phenomena are no less a part of that comprehensible world. In the 18th century the application of scientific naturalism to the understanding and solving of human and social problems led to the widespread embrace of Enlightenment humanism, a cosmopolitan worldview that esteems science and reason, eschews magic and the supernatural, rejects dogma and authority, and seeks to understand how the world works. Much follows. Most of it good.

Human progress, which has been breathtaking over the past two centuries in nearly every realm of life, has principally been the result of the application of scientific naturalism to solving problems, from engineering bridges and eradicating diseases to extending life spans and establishing rights.


Paul Krugman on how Trump and conservatives are demonizing the idea of socialism: Trump Versus the Socialist Menace, subtitled, “The Commies are coming for your pickup trucks.”

And in case you haven’t been there, the Nordic countries are not, in fact, hellholes. They have somewhat lower G.D.P. per capita than we do, but that’s largely because they take more vacations. Compared with America, they have higher life expectancy, much less poverty and significantly higher overall life satisfaction. Oh, and they have high levels of entrepreneurship — because people are more willing to take the risk of starting a business when they know that they won’t lose their health care or plunge into abject poverty if they fail.

On the other hand, we should never discount the power of dishonesty. Right-wing media will portray whomever the Democrats nominate for president as the second coming of Leon Trotsky, and millions of people will believe them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the media report the clean little secret of American socialism, which is that it isn’t radical at all.


And Thomas L. Friedman on why “Building a border wall won’t solve our immigration problem”: What if Trump Could Explain as Well as He Inflames?

He explains how a real president would explain how the so-called border crisis is the result of numerous historical forces, among them corruption and gang warfare in Central American countries, and…

That’s why, among other things, a smart U.S. immigration policy would promote family planning in rural areas in Central America. Letting America’s religious right limit U.S. family planning assistance abroad is stupid.

The only thing more stupid is not working to mitigate climate change, which Trump refuses to do. Extreme weather has been disrupting small-scale farming in Central America. And when small-scale farming weakens or collapses, people leave the countryside and flock to the city. And if they find high unemployment and high crime rates there, they head to America.

But of course demagogues like Trump reduce everything to simplistic talking points: build wall because scary brown people. Appealing to fear, and tribalism.

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