Big History

I’ve just recently become aware of the concept, and term, “Big History”. It happened when I saw a coffee table book, shown here, at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago, and glanced through it, noticing two names I recognized: Bill Gates, who provides a front cover blurb; and David Christian, author of a book called Maps of Time, which uses the term in its subtitle. Christian provides an introduction to this coffee table book called Big History, though the balance of the book is apparently more of an encyclopedia, with many contributors on diverse topics, than a book written by one person, as Christian was of the earlier book.

I bought Maps of Time a couple years ago, for its timelines and its scope, starting from the origin of the universe and proceeding, stepwise, through the formation of the stars, the planets, Earth, the history of life on Earth, through the dinosaurs and mammals and primates and eventually to us. Each section being a subset of the previous, in a sense, like a series of Russian dolls, moving from timescales of billions of years to millions to thousands and then to the last hundred or so.

Big History has much the same hierarchical arrangement, but with lots of diagrams and photos and maps (and timelines) to supplement the text.

I was never much for conventional ‘history’ in school, because that was all about kings and warriors and which nation conquered which, all very contingent stuff, going back as far as the Greeks and Romans at most (or in American history, a mere 500 years) with the subtext of explaining how our own wonderful country came to be. (I’ve always wondered, but have never investigated, how differently national and even world history textbooks read in other countries, e.g. England. Or China.)

Big history, now, this is much more interesting. In fact I’ve been playing with arranging my nonfiction bibliography in some kind of roughly sequential arrangement — cosmology to astronomy to evolution, to evolution of the mind and how the human mind operates on psychological principles very different from the accurate perception of reality — and here come a couple books that outline this context for me. It’s a “multidisciplined” subject and, like science itself, ideally has no particular national or ethnic focus or bias.

Now Amazon points out, via its clever “you may also like” ads, that David Christian and two coauthors have written a textbook version called Big History: Between Nothing and Everything that appeared in 2013. It looks fascinating too, but as a textbook, it’s expensive ($92) so I think I’ll peruse these first two books before I consider that one.

— Oh and wait! Just as I’m posting this, I come across a site called Big History Project, with lots of videos and outlines and free online courses. I’ll be exploring it.

Posted in Cosmology, Evolution, Human Progress | Comments Off on Big History

Elizabeth Kolbert on books about the limitations of human reason

In last week’s New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert (author of foundational, Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction The Sixth Extinction; my review) reviews three books about the limitations of human reason.

Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

The review/essay describes various psychological experiments — which are never actually about what the psychologists tell you they are about, that’s the point — and then addresses the books, which attempt to explore why human psychology is like it is, including the now commonly-known “confirmation bias”.

Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.

(This, of course, explains very much about the current US political climate.)

Another issue is how we all rely on the understanding of everyday devices through our culture; we assume others understand how things work, so we’re comfortable without not knowing, exactly, ourselves:

Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.

Fascinating essay. Kolbert concludes, citing the three book titles:

“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring.

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The Enlightenment and This Moment in American Culture

From Washington Post, a week or so ago: Harvard scientist worries we’re ‘reverting to a pre-Enlightenment form of thinking’

Prompted by how some presidents — Bush 43, and now Trump — are actively pushing back against scientific findings and research. An interview with George Q. Daley, head of Harvard Medical School.

Right now, there’s uneasiness in the scientific and medical communities over how evidence and research will be treated, ranging from vaccines to climate change. Having lived through a time when your work was directly politicized and targeted, what are your thoughts about how to approach a situation like that?

I think that the lessons that I learned in the early challenges and policy debates around embryonic stem cells have a lot to teach us for how to advocate forcefully in today’s world. We have to, as scientists, stick to our message, which is that science and evidence is the way to make informed decisions whether those decisions are about advancing human health and wellness, or about advancing the environment and maintaining not only healthy air quality, but reducing risks to catastrophic climate change. These are all fundamentally, at some level, challenges and risks to human health.

If I had one worry, as we see the cacophony of confusion and alternative facts, it’s that we’re reverting to a pre-Enlightenment form of thinking, which will take us back to the days of blood-letting and faith-healing. And this is wrong. This is not the way to advance health and wellness for the greatest number, not a way to face our challenges. We are facing some of the greatest global challenges today not just with global warming, but with threats to emerging pathogens, whether it’s Ebola or Zika. And if we start to question the nature and value of things like vaccines in human health, how are we going to be able to confront the challenges of new pathogens?

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Then there’s NYT columnist David Brooks, whose Tuesday column resonated with me more than his columns usually do.

The Enlightenment Project.

He describes Locke and Kant, “who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.”, America’s founders, de Tocqueville. Then Brooks says,

The Enlightenment project gave us the modern world, but it has always had weaknesses. First, Enlightenment figures perpetually tell themselves that religion is dead (it isn’t) and that race is dead (it isn’t), and so they are always surprised by events. Second, it is thin on meaning. It treats people as bland rational egoists and tends to produce governments run by soulless technocrats. Third, Enlightenment governance fails from time to time.

He refers to one of his Yale colleagues:

Hill didn’t say it, but I’d add that anti-Enlightenment thinking is also back in the form of Donald Trump, racial separatists and the world’s other populist ethnic nationalist movements.

Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements don’t think truth is to be found through skeptical inquiry and debate. They think wisdom and virtue are found in the instincts of the plain people, deep in the mystical core of the nation’s or race’s group consciousness.

They don’t see history as a gradual march toward cooperation. They see history as cataclysmic cycles — a zero-sum endeavor marked by conflict. Nations trying to screw other nations, races inherently trying to oppress other races.

Enightenment forces have won out over anti-Enlightenment forces in the past, but Brooks wonders how, if, it will happen this time.

I’m wondering how much truth there is to the statements in the first quote. True, religion and race aren’t dead; the former is built into human nature, as is tribalism. But there has been social progress over the centuries, in part by channeling those tendencies into relatively harmless pursuits, e.g. tribalism into sporting contests and awards competitions of all sorts (in which I am playing a part in one very small corner of our culture). Meaning? I think a form of meaning is possible through deep understanding of human nature and our race’s place in the grand, big history, scheme of things — but this appreciation requires some study and attention to nonquotian matters and is not available, or of interest, to most people. (E.g., Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existencemy review.) Rather, most people find meaning in their cultural tribes, their religions, and whatnot, which carry on despite the progress that enlightenment values result in; religions, sports, and awards are relatively harmless, except in cases of the first (not limited to ‘radical Islamic terrorism’) that seek to impose their values on others, through violence or political maneuvering.

The swing in political persuasion of the majority and social progress is part of human nature too, a shift back and forth between alternate modes of interaction — or among several relatively stable points among multidimensional spectra of interacting social, emotional, and political persuasions — with other people and the real world. Under our current president we’re in a reactive mode, suspicious of strangers, demonizing outsiders, treating all foreigners as antagonists or competitors, in Trump’s zero-sum world view. It’s not true, and history will overtake him and leave him behind. And maybe the US will recover. (The best book on this subject is Robert Wright’s Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.)

Posted in Conservative Resistance, Culture, Human Progress | Comments Off on The Enlightenment and This Moment in American Culture

Is Trump the problem, or also his voters?

I have a link saved from a few days ago of a column by Nicholas Kristof called Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy, which he tweeted a cautionary note about not demonizing the people who voted for Trump.

It’s a nice thought, but his column is about the blowback he got, e.g.

“Sorry,” Jason tweeted back, “but if someone is supporting a racist ignoramus who wants to round up brown ppl and steal my money, I’m gonna patronize.”

Kristof goes on to defend his position, exploring reasons people might have voted for Trump that did not involve racism and nationalism, e.g. victims of changing economic circumstances. (Not that those coal jobs will ever come back.)

But I have some further, indirect, experience with Trump voters that does not support Kristof’s case. On the local NPR station in the Bay Area, KQED, a Forum program last week specifically sought out four Trump voters in the region, and had them come in to evaluate how they thought Trump was doing. You can listen to the whole thing yourself.

Bay Area Trump Voters Weigh In On the President’s Progress

What struck me most especially was the tone of one of the women — not the student, I’m guessing, so Carol Hehmeyer, I suppose — whose tone was one of unremitting outrage at the state of the nation and the sins of the opposition. She’s a caricature of my go-to stereotype of conservatives as being perpetually outraged (with an element of fear underneath) of one thing or another, angry at the enemy liberals — while, again in my general impression, liberals are merely bemused, if not a bit horrified, by people like her. She defended Trump’s comment about the immigration tragedy in Sweden by saying, look, go Google “Sweden rapes”, there are lots of stories out there!

Indeed, I did so, and all the results are to right-wing media sites that reflect the conservative outrage echo chamber. Other, more sober sites have reported that Sweden disavows these reports and has no idea who the person Fox News interviewed about this is, certainly no government official with any kind of authority.

That woman’s attitude aside, any sympathy I might have felt for the panel completely disappeared when, at the end, the host asked if there were anything about Trump that has given them pause. His stiffing contractors? His demonization of Mexicans? His crude treatment of women? His vindictiveness toward the media, his short attention span, his fourth-grade vocabulary? [I don’t know if every one of these were suggested by the host, but they are all legitimate charges.]

No, they said; no. Not one. None of those issued troubled them at all.

There are people like this in the world. And I don’t have to respect them, or ‘try to work with them’, at all.

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Steven Pinker on the future under Trump

An interview, conducted by Phil Torres, of Pinker: The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, Explains Steven Pinker.

Pinker is well-known for his book The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) arguing (with copious references to sources of evidence) that violence has greatly declined over human history, despite the panic greeted in current everyday life to every report of current crimes and attacks.

Sample question and response:

Trump’s presidential campaign was successful in part because of the “alt-right” movement. At the heart of this movement is a rejection of globalism, which has fueled opposition to diversity, multiculturalism, and immigration. Do you think such opposition is in the end a losing cause? Is globalization inevitable?

Yes, globalization is inevitable, for a number of reasons. Many of our severest problems are inherently global, particularly climate, epidemics, migrants, and terrorism. Pretending they don’t exist is not tenable, at least not forever, and they can be solved only through international cooperation.

Also, globalization has massive benefits—more affordable goods, larger markets for exports, a huge reduction in global poverty—which also can’t be denied indefinitely. While globalization doesn’t benefit everyone equally—it has increased unemployment in domestic lower-skilled occupations—most of those job losses would have happened anyway because of automation, and have to be addressed, globalization or no.

Third, with the internet and inexpensive travel, there will be no stopping the flow of people and ideas. This is particularly true among younger people, who partake of a global youth culture, and as we saw in the UK following Brexit, resent their elders’ attempts to restrict their opportunities.

And

As for collective moral progress, I see it as pushed and pulled by two sides of human nature. Dragging us back are atavistic mindsets like zero-sum thinking, authoritarianism, tribalism, dominance, and vengeance, which operate pretty much by default. Pulling us forward are the better angels of our nature like empathy, self-control, and reason, which are energized by the Enlightenment institutions of democracy, science, education, open economies, and a global community.

This push and pull echoes E.O. Wilson’s depiction of human nature as a conflict between group values and individual values.

The interview ends:

…if the world continues to get richer, better educated, and more connected—all steady trends—it will also tend to get more liberal and cosmopolitan. As you are forced to deal with other people who are not like yourself, you are automatically driven to universal values like reason, science, and human flourishing, and away from parochial ones like “My holy books are true” or “Make American great again.”

(via David Brin on Fb)

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Quotes on American Anti-Intellectualism

Isaac Asimov, 1980:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

This theme was famously expounded in Richard Hofstadter’s 1966 books Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

This Wikiquote page includes the Asimov quote and couple by Hofstadter — and also, surprisingly, one from Gene Wolfe (who’s a devout Catholic, not there’s anything wrong with that) which I will also reproduce here.

This, then, is the new illiteracy, the illiteracy of those who can read but don’t. […] This new illiteracy is more pernicious than the old, because unlike the old illiteracy it does not debar its victims from power and influence, although like the old illiteracy it disqualifies them for it. Those long-dead men and women who learned to read so that they might read the Bible and John Bunyan would tell us that pride is the greatest of all sins, the father of sin. And the victims of the new illiteracy are proud of it. If you don’t believe me, talk to them and see with what pride they trumpet their utter ignorance of any book you care to name.

From a 1987 short story, “From a House on the Borderland” [which I don’t recall having ever read].

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Two Big Science Stories

Two big science stories this week.

Highlighted in New York Times weekly Science section on Tuesday, this piece by Dennis Overbye: Cosmos Controversy: The Universe Is Expanding, but How Fast?.

It’s about some discrepancies in data that should align and that don’t, about the Hubble constant, a factor that describes the rate of the expansion of the universe.

I won’t pretend to be conversant with the details of the issue, though I do understand that the broad program of science moves forward through thousands of scientists around the world working multiple strands of evidence and expanding them bit by bit, seeing virtually all of them converge and support a bigger story. And when something like this — a 9% discrepancy! — shows up, it’s very serious business. Is there an error somewhere, in some very long chain of evidence? Or is it a sign of new, as-yet-not-understood, physics?

They calculated that the odds of this mismatch being a statistical fluke were less than one part in a hundred — which might sound good in poker but not in physics, which requires odds of less than one in a million to cement a claim of a discovery.

The latter possibility is especially intriguing. Every scientist would love to be the one to confirm something truly new. It would cement their reputation forever, never mind incidentals like Nobel Prizes. And it undermines the right-wing myth that scientists (for example, climate scientists) are somehow in cahoots to cook the data or sustain a crisis that would guarantee them employment. That’s not how science works at all.

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In fact, just this past week, some incidental interoffice dispute about data interpretation was blown up, in the right-wing media, into an attack on the entire enterprise. The more level-headed investigated and described it thus–

New York Times: How an Interoffice Spat Erupted Into a Climate-Change Furor

But in what seems like a remarkable example of office politics gone horribly wrong, within days the accusations were amplified and sensationalized — in the pages of the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday — inciting a global furor among climate-change deniers.

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And the news, everywhere today, even on TV-!, about no fewer than seven planets detected around a small star 40 light years away.

Space.com: Exoplanet Tour: Meet the 7 Earth-Size Planets of TRAPPIST-1

New York Times: 7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say

Planet detection around distant stars has been going on for a couple decades or so, with the ‘holy grail’ goal of finding Earth-like planets in so-called ‘Goldilocks’ zones around their suns, i.e. not too close and not too far, at a distance that might support liquid water and the potential for carbon-based life as we know it.

What’s fascinating is to see the struggle, especially on TV, of what this means in any kind of perspective. “Only” 40 light years — close by galactic or universal scales, but still so immensely far from us that we have no conception of a method to reach such distances in any meaningful frame of time.

Science fiction, it must be said, has not done a very good job about clarifying this vast scale — certainly not popular, media SF. Wars and Trek whip around the galaxy, from one star system to another, in however long it takes the plot to take them there — a few hours at most. Yet much science fiction literature also presumes a kind of hyperlight drive (warp drive in Trek) which has scant support in even the most speculative current physics. The more mature, realistic SF, a very few writers — Kim Stanley Robinson and Alastair Reynolds come to mind — have written novels in which, in Reynolds’ case, human populations in other solar systems manage to interact in relativistic time-frames, but only because in his far future, they live so long. This will be a key theme in my book… if I survive to write it.

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Krugman and Republican Tax Policy

Paul Krugman is one of my go-to pundits, relentlessly pointing out the evidence of history as undermining conservative goals, even though his scope, politics focusing on economics issues, results in his rehashing certain themes over and over.

Here’s one: On Economic Arrogance, from last Monday’s paper.

The essay is in reference to Trump’s budget projections as forecasting rapid economic growth. And how Republican administrations always think this, despite the evidence, and always think cutting taxes for the wealthy will result in ‘trickle-down’ benefits, which they never do. For conservatives, it’s been my impression, ideology always trumps (er) facts and evidence.

As I said, belief that tax cuts and deregulation will reliably produce awesome growth isn’t unique to the Trump-Putin administration. We heard the same thing from Jeb Bush (who?); we hear it from congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan. The question is why. After all, there is nothing — nothing at all — in the historical record to justify this arrogance.

Meanwhile, the growing polarization of American politics has given us what amount to economic policy experiments at the state level. Kansas, dominated by conservative true believers, implemented sharp tax cuts with the promise that these cuts would jump-start rapid growth; they didn’t, and caused a budget crisis instead. Last week Kansas legislators threw in the towel and passed a big tax hike.

At the same time Kansas was turning hard right, California’s newly dominant Democratic majority raised taxes. Conservatives declared it “economic suicide” — but the state is in fact doing fine.

The evidence, then, is totally at odds with claims that tax-cutting and deregulation are economic wonder drugs. So why does a whole political party continue to insist that they are the answer to all problems?

The answer…

It would be nice to pretend that we’re still having a serious, honest discussion here, but we aren’t. At this point we have to get real and talk about whose interests are being served.

Never mind whether slashing taxes on billionaires while giving scammers and polluters the freedom to scam and pollute is good for the economy as a whole; it’s clearly good for billionaires, scammers, and polluters. Campaign finance being what it is, this creates a clear incentive for politicians to keep espousing a failed doctrine, for think tanks to keep inventing new excuses for that doctrine, and more.

Which is to say, as I’ve noticed for decades: for Republicans, the answer, no matter what the state of the economy, is always to cut taxes, especially for the wealthy. It comes across as a popular issue–who doesn’t want lower taxes?–no matter how irresponsible it would be for keeping the government running, and all that it does. The rationale is, if the economy is doing well, the people need to keep more of their money. If the economy is doing poorly, it needs to be stimulated by cutting taxes for the wealthy, so they’ll hire more people and grow the economy. Except the evidence doesn’t show that that ever works. What is working, is that the wealthy support the Republican party, who supports cutting *their* taxes at every opportunity. So they can buy another yacht.

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Anthropocene and Harari

From last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Is the ‘Anthropocene’ Epoch a Condemnation of Human Interference — or a Call for More?, by Wesley Yang.

Noticed firstly as continued evidence of the currency of the term ‘anthropocene’ to refer to the influence of humanity on the planet as defining a new geological era. The essay speaks to the human tendency to dismiss evidence of any trends that don’t affect day to day life, or at worst the lives of the next generation or so.

Our inability to connect the day’s ephemera with the geological time scale has summoned a striking neologism: the Anthropocene — the “Age of Man.” Its meteoric rise is a case study in the stubbornness of the problem that the word was designed to master. Coined by the atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen around the year 2000, the word expressed his intuition that humanity had become tantamount to the great forces of nature and that our activities now shaped the state of the systems that regulate the conditions of life. Human-induced impact on the world had become so great, he believed, that we had pushed the planet into a whole new stage of the geological time scale, leaving behind the Holocene epoch, which began 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

With reference to a Diane Ackerman book I haven’t yet read, and the new Yuri Noah Harari book, Homo Deus, which I just got delivered from Amazon; a sequel to his bestselling Sapiens, which I’ve read and still need to post comments about.

The essayist here as read the new Harari and describes it thusly:

Harari’s book is the closest thing we have to a single-volume account of the techno-futurist vision favored by our Silicon Valley elites — his work has been cited by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg — and it is as uneasily poised at the conjuncture of standard history and science fiction, of sober analysis and mad prophecy, of nightmare and utopia, as we ourselves have come to be.

I will read it in due time and comment.

I note the new book has a blurb about Sapiens from President Barack Obama, a reader. Can you imagine… never mind.

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Also, Time Magazine published a last-page interview with Harari a week or two ago: How Humankind Could Become Totally Useless.

You write that humanity, after eradicating plague, war and famine, will use technology to seek bliss, immortality and divinity. What goal would you add to that list?

I would add truth, and in particular understanding ourselves, our minds. …

Posted in Evolution, Human Progress | Comments Off on Anthropocene and Harari

Links and Comments: Reason; Christian victimhood; dead progressives; dystopias; Republican blondes; the fight for reason; fake history

From an Elizabeth Kolbert essay in next weekend’s New York Times Magazine: Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, subtitled “New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.”

One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias; the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.

A familiar point, but one worth repeating.

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Sean McElwee at Salon: Trump’s supporters believe a false narrative of white victimhood — and the data proves it

Subtitled: “Trump voters believe that whites and Christians face discrimination — but they call the left sensitive snowflakes”

To paraphrase a popular idiom, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like discrimination. These data suggest that this feeling of loss and victimization, and the need for racial solidarity to protect what remains, is core to understanding Trump’s appeal. As I’ve noted before, beliefs in the importance of white racial solidarity are powerful predictors of Trump support. Whites who believe their race is “very important” to their identity had warmer feelings toward Trump. Trump’s rhetoric reflects this reality: He has described a world in which his white supporters are the victims of bad trade deals, elites and rampant crime. They feel they are living through rapid demographic change that will leave them as a minority of the population — and they know how minorities have been treated for so long in American populations.

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And Amanda Marcotte: Conservatives sure love progressives and radicals — at least after they’re dead

Subtitled: “The right loves to lay claim to legends like Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony. Historians beg to differ”

Call it the “dead progressive” problem. Conservatives love a dead progressive hero because they can claim that person as one of their own without having any bother that the person will fight back. In some cases, the right has tried to weaponize these dead progressives, claiming that they would simply be appalled at how far the still-breathing have supposedly gone off the rails and become too radical. Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta are just two prominent victims of this rhetorical gambit.

I’m thinking this is also revealing of the human tendency to revere ancestors as having more wisdom than anyone alive can possibly provide.

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Guardian: Forget Nineteen Eighty-Four. These five dystopias better reflect Trump’s US, by Alex Hearn.

via a Fb post by Dale Bailey, who commented,

A little Yeats seems appropriate to the day and hour: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

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Alternet, via The Guardian: Why Do All the Women on Fox News Look and Dress Alike? Republicans Prefer Blondes, by Hadley Freeman.

Why do so many rightwing American women have bottle-blond hair, often worn girlishly long? I’m thinking of Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter and almost any woman on Fox News.

The uniformity of this style suggests a political statement which, indeed, it is. Theirs is a look that defiantly embraces the most conservative notions of femininity and firmly rejects any idea of modernity, let alone feminism. The idea of dressing for themselves – to have fun, to experiment with different styles – is as anathema to them as questioning the political, social and moral beliefs they have absorbed since they were 14 years old.

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Alternet, via BillMoyers.com: Neal Gabler: With Trump, We Are in a Fight for Reason Itself

Subtitled: “We are now engaged not only in a political war, but also in a battle over the very concepts of reason and fact that the Enlightenment brought forth.”

The Enlightenment of the late 17th and early 18th centuries is one of the great intellectual and cultural transformations of humankind. The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, emphasized reason over faith, science over superstition, methodology over received wisdom, individualism over the mass, the secular over the religious, psychology over original sin and, in politics, a social contract among citizens over a social order supposedly laid down by God. In Trumpian terms, you might say that it challenged “alternative facts” with verifiable facts, subjectivity with objectivity, authoritarianism with democracy.

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Salon: Paul Rosenberg: Bigger than fake news: Trump’s rise was fueled by a deeper narrative of fake history

And, Heather Digby Parton: Building the realm of alternative facts: Trump’s lies are enabled by years of right-wing media.

Which brings us back to my previous post.

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