Saturday, July 18, 2009

No WMD in Iraqi Sociology

Sociologists are ever vigilant for WMD - Weber, Marx, and Durkheim. A recent search of Iraqi sociology departments has revealed that they have no WMD.

Only Allah.

[Note to the humor impaired: this is a joke.]

Friday, July 17, 2009

C Street House is a Bad Frat

Centre College is favored with many fraternities for such a small school. There are good frats and bad frats.

A good frat lifts the brothers up to a higher standard. The weaker students are helped by the stronger ones. The less moral are helped by the more moral. The philanthropic work of the whole chapter helps each member develop the habits of being civic minded. All fraternities profess high ideals. When the organization actually works to help each other live up to those ideals, the result is very good for the men and for society.

A bad frat comes to think that "brotherhood" means that you back the play of the biggest fool in the house. If the Bluto of the house yells "Hey, y'all, let's go ... [do something stupid]" they all rise as one to do it to. If Otter sneaks his latest conquest back into the house, the other guys don't try to talk him out of it - they organize the cover-up.

The C Street House in Washington was born as a remarkable experiment in organizing poweful Christian men. Several members of Congress share a house, which also serves as their pastoral counseling and mutual accountability group. It has been in the news lately because several sex scandals by its members have been exposed all at once.

An example of C Street functioning as a good fraternity was when Sen. Coburn forced Sen. Ensign to write a letter to his mistress apologizing for using her for his [Ensign's] own pleasure. Coburn did not also see the sin in the political corruption of that affair - putting his mistress' son on the payroll, and the later payoffs and hush money to the mistress and her husband after Ensign fired them. Nonetheless, it was a start. The fact that Ensign resumed the affair immediately is not Coburn's fault, or C Street's. Some people are too corrupt to be helped even by their chosen accountability group.

It is hard to know whether C Street was being good or bad in Gov. Mark Sanford's sex scandal. Sanford said he "sought counsel" from C Street, which clearly didn't work. Sanford lived in the C Street house when he was in Congress.

Now another family-values Republican Congressman has been caught in a sex scandal. Chip Pickering, when he was a Congressman from Mississippi and living in the C Street house, had an affair that is now at the heart of his wife's divorce suit. The accountability group was obviously ineffective in stopping that affair. Worse, some of "wrongful conduct" between Pickering and his mistress supposedly took place in the C Street house. Pickering's mistress then put him on the company payroll to lobby his old buddies in Congress. This is more than just a failure of the C Streeters to be good Christian men of power. This is complicity in wickedness, corruption, and stupidity.

C Street House has become a bad frat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Time Mostly Right on Marriage

Caitlin Flanagan has a sensible cover story in Time magazine about marriage. The moral pivot of her argument is this:
America's obsession with high-profile marriage flameouts — the Gosselins and the Sanfords and the Edwardses — reflects a collective ambivalence toward the institution: our wish that we could land ourselves in a lasting union, mixed with our feeling of vindication, or even relief, when a standard bearer for the "traditional family" fails to pull it off.
She goes on to argue, rightly, that marriage is not primarily about the adults' happiness, but about raising children.

I believe that Flanagan is right about the ambivalence that many people feel about marriage. I don't want to agree with her, but I have to admit that she is right. I don't want to agree because ambivalence kills.

So I see an additional conclusion to draw: people who promote marriage, like me, should school ourselves against feeling any sense of vindication when the marriages of family values hypocrites fail. It is just sad. These failures hurt the good cause. Feelings of Schadenfruede may be unavoidable, but we should not revel in it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Most Centre Alumni Think of Themselves as Professionals

From the Centre College Alumni Survey.

I ended the survey with some experimental questions. Here is the first.

Sociologists try to come up with names for the different social status groups that most people fall in to. No one set of groups or names covers everyone equally well. These names are often based on your occupation. Based on your understanding of what you do and where you fit in American society, which names best describe your social group? Check those that apply best. 1200 out of 1400 alumni answered, often with overlapping answers.

63% Professional
18% Knowledge industry
14% Upper management
13% Middle management
13% Small business
12% Creative class
11% Entrepreneur
9% Home parent
3% Artisan
3% Skilled trade
3% Leisure class
2% Worker

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Centre Alumni Help Out in Their Communities

From the Centre College Alumni Survey.

Half the alumni "regularly participate in local organizations, such as Rotary, garden club, community theater, Boy Scouts, recreational sports." About a third of those participating listed formal service organizations first, with youth support close behind, and religious organizations third.

In answer to the "third place" question - that is, "Is there a place, besides home or work, where you regularly spend time socializing?" two-thirds named at least one place. Among the most popular locations, with many overlaps, were: restaurants, named by 32%; athletic fields and gyms, 19%; parks 12%; coffee houses 12%; and country clubs 10%.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Centre Alumni Lean Democratic

From the Centre College Alumni Survey.

95% said they vote every election, or nearly. Only 9 individuals said they never vote.

About a third of the alumni said that their experience at Centre made their political views more liberal, while about an eighth said they were made more conservative by their college experience. Today, the alumni describe their political views this way:

30% Strong Democrat
20% Lean Democratic
14% Independent (including libertarian)
20% Lean Republican
16% Strong Republican

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Young Earth Creationism as Innumeracy

Almost half of Americans believe that the entire universe was created within the past 10,000 years.

I am a centrist on creationism, as on most issues. I am with the 38% who believe that God has superintended evolution over millions of years. I think the "young earth" view is completely implausible.

So why do so many people believe in young earth creation? I believe it is because most people have no sense of history beyond their own grandparents, or perhaps their great-grandparents. Beyond that, all time seems equally distant. 1 thousand years, 10 thousand years, 10 million years, 10 billion years -- to a huge plurality of people, these are all just different ways of saying "a long time ago."

To be sure, there are some well-educated people who believe in young earth creationism. For them, their primary commitment is to the Bible; moreover, they are committed to a particular theory of Biblical interpretation. Young earth theories are a loyalty test to their more important intellectual commitment to their view of Scripture.

For the mass of people, the other 44.99 of the 45% of Americans who profess a young earth view, the important thing is that God is in charge. How many years God has been in charge is a quibble. What matters is that God has been in charge for all of the years that there have been. How many that is doesn't matter in any way that affects them.

When most people check the box on the poll marked "God created the world pretty much in its present form within the last 10,000 years" they don't really mean 10,000 years as opposed to 10 million or 10 billion. They mean "God created the world and I don't care what number you use."

Young earth creationism reflects innumeracy. But it reflects a deeper commitment to God's sovereignty.