Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Morally Acceptable" May Still Mean "But a Bad Idea"

There is an interesting comparison of actions that a majority of Americans now find "morally acceptable" which most Americans used to reject.

I think that this question is misleading, and is becoming more so.  My students are very reluctant to pronounce anything morally unacceptable, or always wrong.  Yet I do not think their underlying position has actually changed that much.  It is not that they find formerly abhorrent actions to now be acceptable.  It is that they don't want to pronounce moral absolutes in case someone comes up with some wild desert-island counter-case.

I think an additional question wording would be revealing.  We should ask, "Do you think doing X is almost always a bad idea?"

I believe on that standard we would see that there has been less change in American morality than some fear.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The British Public is Just as Fearfully Ill-Informed as the U.S. Public

A nifty poll found that British people think the world is scarier than it really is on welfare fraud, immigration, race, crime, teen pregnancy, unemployment benefits, and foreign aid. These are the same issues that most Americans are way off about.  

For example, "On the issue of ethnicity, black and Asian people are thought to make up 30 per cent of the population, when the figure is closer to 11 per cent."  My own surveys that most Americans think the black proportion of the U.S. population is about 1/3, whereas the real fraction is 13%.

I think the root of the problem is not poor education or reasoning ability.  It is not really a media problem, though the media makes it worse.

It is a fear problem. When we address the majority’s fear, they will be more open to facts.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Hamilton" is Extraordinary

Mrs. G. and I were on a long road trip today, so we listened to the soundtrack to the new musical, "Hamilton."  It has been all the rage in my extended family.  We were not disappointed.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the whole show (and stars in the title role on Broadway) has done an excellent job of portraying the Founding Fathers as ambitious young men.  This invigorates the portrait that I have of them all from later, at the height of their powers, and in old age.

"Hamilton" will mostly appeal to the nerdy minority who already know their Founding Fathers and early Federalist history.  I hope some people stumble onto the musical because it is a hot ticket, and then become Revolution nerds.  But I expect that real enthusiasm will come from people who already are attached to the story of the founding of the Republic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love Conquers Fear at an Ohio Islamic Center

Of all the good news coming out today - and there is, as usual, quite a bit - I have to go with this small "love overcoming fear" story.

Lured by a Facebook campaign to protest at Islamic centers, a woman named Annie was the only one to show up, with homemade signs about "Sharia Law" and a crying Middle East.  The nice people of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, Ohio, came out to welcome Annie.  They greeted her with conversation and offers of hospitality.  Finally, one of the women spontaneously gave Annie a hug. Annie was visibly afraid - and then the hug won.

Annie toured the Center, was fed and welcomed, learned more about Islam, and left with smiles.  And without her signs.

The fight against fear chalks up another small victory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Conservative Revolution" is an Oxymoron

David Brooks' excellent column, "The Republicans' Incompetence Caucus," raises an interesting question:  is "conservative revolution" an oxymoron?

Burkeans, like Brooks, and me, think so.  He wrote:

"conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible."
The "Reagan Revolution" was not for any of those things, but focused on preventing government.  While the Reagan administration talked this talk, while actually growing the government, they planted the seed.  That seed has now bloomed into the Tea Party, which really does want to destroy government.  That is not conservatism by any definition.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Celebrating the Nerd Awards: Macarthur and Nobel Roundup

Heading the list of Macarthur “genius” awards was a very gratifying choice for the Gruntled household: Ta-Nehesi Coates, the most thoughtful on the young generation of black public intellectuals.

The biggest "find”: Lin-Manuel Miranda and his musical "Hamilton," which has become an obsession among my relatives.  

In the Nobels, I particular liked the story of Youyou Tu, who found a way to do science under Maoist anti-intellectual tyranny by finding cures within the annals of Chinese traditional medicine.

The peace prize lifts up the brightest achievement of the Arab Spring by honoring the "Tunisian quartet" of civil society organizations. They are building a functioning civil democracy after removing a long-running tyranny.

Today rounds out the Nerd Awards with the Nobel Prize in economics to Angus Deaton, a Scot working at Princeton who studies well-being, one of my favorite topics.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Christians Are Best Protected by a Neutral State - So Take Down the Wilmore Cross

Our neighboring city of Wilmore, KY, owns a water tower with "Wilmore" painted on it in big letters.  And a cross on top.  The tower sits on the property of Asbury Theological Seminary, which sold the tower to the city years ago with the provision that the cross remain.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin secularist group, has asked the city to remove the cross from the city-owned water tower.  Sentiment in Wilmore is not supportive of this move.

Nonetheless, as a Christian and an elder of the church, I believe we would all be better off if the cross were removed from the city's tower.  Our religious freedom - everyone's religious freedom - is best protected by a neutral state.  Moreover, Christian hospitality urges us to make sure that non-Christians are also welcome in any town in America.