Links and Comments: Haidt, Krugman, Cruz and Swanson, Evolution v Creationism and Iowa Home-Schoolers

I am 3/4 of the way through that Jonathan Haidt book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, which is almost revelatory in the sense that it provides a vocabulary and a theoretical framework for how different people think about morality, and how those differences inform debates about politics and religion. More when I finish the book.

But here’s an example, better understood given the theorectical framework Haidt provides. (More prominent examples, include, frankly, the ISIS attacks on France.) Today’s Paul Krugman column: The Farce Awakens. About how conservative panic over Syrian refugees fits a familiar pattern.

What explains the modern right’s propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it’s also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.

Think about it. From the day Mr. Obama took office, his political foes have warned about imminent catastrophe. Fiscal crisis! Hyperinflation! Economic collapse, brought on by the scourge of health insurance! And nobody on the right dares point out the failure of the promised disasters to materialize, or suggest a more nuanced approach.


The point is that at this point panic is what the right is all about, and the Republican nomination will go to whoever can most effectively channel that panic. Will the same hold true in the general election? Stay tuned.


I missed this yesterday — a rare example of coverage in major media of the several Republican candidates who appeared at a rally a couple weeks ago led by one Kevin Swanson, who literally advocates deaths for gays (because Bible).

NY Times, Katherine Stewart, Ted Cruz and the Anti-Gay Pastor

When they hail religious liberty, they do not mean the right to pray and worship with other believers. Instead, the phrase has become a catchall for tactical goals of seeking exemptions from the law on religious grounds. To claim exception from the law as a right of “religious refusal” is, of course, the same as claiming the power to take the law into one’s own hands.
The leaders of this movement are breathtakingly radical. Like Mr. Swanson, they feel persecuted and encircled in a hostile world. Like him, they believe that America will find peace only when all submit to the one true religion.


Right Wing Watch has followed up: GOP Candidates Really Don’t Want To Talk About ‘Kill The Gays’ Conference

A spokesperson for Huckabee, who at the event deflected a question about Swanson’s extremism, told Basu after viewing video of some of Swanson’s remarks that Huckabee “appreciated the opportunity” to speak at the conference. The Cruz and Jindal campaigns didn’t bother to reply at all. (Before the conference, Cruz had been asked about his participation by CNN’s Jake Tapper, but brushed off the question.)


On another topic, there is this, at Slate: Evolution Is Finally Winning Out Over Creationism: A majority of young people endorse the scientific explanation of how humans evolved.

There are many reasons for this shift. One is improving science education (more on that later). But another is that, in some ways, they don’t have a choice, argues Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and co-author of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind. He credits the rise of the Internet and the fact that today’s young people are more interconnected than ever before. “What is particularly corrosive to religion isn’t just the newly available information that can be unearthed by the curious,” Dennett wrote in April, in an op-ed entitled “Why the Future of Religion is Bleak” in the Wall Street Journal, “but the ambient knowledge that is shared by the general populace.”

Which is one reason why conservatives home-school – to shield children from the ambient knowledge of the general population. To preserve the myths, shield them from the reality that would shatter them.

On the other hand, Salon has this essay by Robert Leonard, I went to church with Ted Cruz. He is building an army of young Christian voters in Iowa, which demonstrates how small town communities and home schooling helps righteous evangelical parents shield their kids from such “ambient knowledge”.

While many say the members of the Republican party is aging, I see a youth movement in Iowa. The homeschool movement is growing here and in much of the nation, and many homeschoolers are devout Christians. Christian schools are thriving as well. Much of this is at the expense of public schools. … In a remarkably ignored yet transparent self-fulfilling prophecy, Republicans claim austerity, cut public funding to schools, and then say the schools are failing. Rinse and repeat.
The goal ultimately is to legislate that public money not to go to public schools directly, but to follow the child into the home if home schooled, or into charter, or Christian schools. The destruction of public schools is therefore a “good” thing.

See also the dialogue with a local, a young woman at a coffee shop, near the end of this piece.

“Who do you like for president?” I asked.

“Cruz,” she replied, sitting down at the table with me, putting her coffee down. “He’s the only true conservative, and a godly man. A true leader.”

“But he hasn’t done anything,” I said.

“Of course he has,” she replied. “Lots of proposed reforms the RINOs and Democrats wouldn’t accept, and he nearly brought the government down.”

“And almost bringing the government down is good?”

She looked puzzled. “Of course it is. And he’s the only one without a big ego.”

“Cruz? No ego?”

“No, it’s not about him,” she said. “He’s doing the Lord’s work.”

Yup. Iowa.

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