Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Fifth Skeptics' Circle

Welcome to the Skeptic’s Circle! With my recent com puter troubles I only got to read the entries today and am still incapable of loading images, so I cannot do what I originally intended to do: something really fancy and creative and walk in the footsteps of some of the most original carnival presentation s, e.g., something involving eating, drinking, singing, laughing or watching bad TV shows. So, I will ju st jump into it and present to you this week’s edition.

First out of the starting stalls, PZ Myers of Pharyngula, usually focusing on Creationists, has recently had quite a series of posts on other, related (OK, they are all related) un-scientific ideas and strange people who peddle them, including one on Psychic Energy (a revenge for getting spammed by friends of Victor Zammit), one on the resurrection of Therapeutic Touch and one on the Demons’ Devious Use Of Hypnosis. He has, politely, submitted only one entry, but I could not resist including the other two. As usual, the comments threads on Pharyngula are almost as good reads as the posts themselves, so don’t skip them either.

Skeptico is a blog devoted to skepticism so there is a wealth to chose from. One post was entered by the author, one by another person, and one by both. I know, I know, I could have stomped my editorial foot here, but I thought all three were cool posts and, hey, more the merrier. So here they are. First, How do you prove photography to a blind man (a parable of the excuses believers give for why "psi" is so difficult to demonstrate), then one on Loyd Auerbach - A Big So What (parapsychologist Auerbach thinks he has debunked Randi's million dollar challenge, but Skep tic o says he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about), and the third, on what Can Your Psi Do.

With Orac, Who Really Truly Knows (on Re spectful Insolence), I also had three choices and again decided to include all three: Response to Herbinator, a Sunday Afternoon History Lesson, and Galileo Gambit.

In the examining room of dr. charles , Dr.Charles e xamines some real Monkey Business. The good doctor says: “this is a light-hearted skeptical piece about Big Pharma getting too intimate with our lives and my medical office in particular. “ Sounds juicy!

Steve of Socratic Gadfly, examines in great depth a new book: Race: Is it Bell Curve light. Steve starts: “I jotted down more than 200 words of notes on just the first10 pages of this book, so egregious are its wrongs.” Doesn’t that just whet your appetite for reading on?

Litmus Tests is an excellent post, a must read, from Evolutionblog. You will have a new “appreciation” for Creationist writings.

A two-part post from the Stoat: Myths of Near Future, and
More Myths of Near Future. Perhaps in the near fut ure, he will write Even More Myths of Near Future. Just wait a week and the next Skeptic’s Circle. ..though the weather may get too hot by then, and we will have to read it on water-proof computers.

Lambic of Be Lambic or Green takes a needle-stab at Acupuncture. The way these guys did the study ANYTHING can have a healing power.

Anne from Anne's Anti-Quakery and Science Blog sent Astrology and Horrorscope. Anne thinks “the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Mike's Skepticism was a “brief-lived blog from before there were blogs”, covering a large number of skeptica l topics. It is a great repository of skeptical writing for the new readers who may have not seen Mike’s blog before. Will Mike continue to blog there in the near future? I don’t know, but let’s hope so.

Finally, with very limited Internet access the se past two weeks and no way to do some research on topics I wanted to cover, I’ll just offer a quick glimpse at the atrocities of he said/she said journalism, that do not leave alone even straightforward and uncontroversial scientific areas such as Sleep, from my other blog,

I hope you enjoyed the Circle. You can check out the archives of previous e ditions, as well as see the “rules” at the homepage. In two weeks (April 14, 2005), the Skeptic’s Circle will be hosted by Socratic Gadfly so check it out in a couple of days for information on submissions. Thanks.

Update: Anne's post link is now fixed! Sorry for the error and delay. Also, due to my computer woes I may have lost/missed some entries, so if your submission is not on, please e-mail me at Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com and I will add it in.

Update 2: Ah, what a horrible, horrible omission. The death of my computer obliterated the existence of the entry by the founder of the Skeptic's Circle, Saint Nate himself. With huge apologies, here is his entry.

Update 3: Welcome readers from Randi's webpage. The next issue of Skeptic's circle is now online, so you can have a double helping today. Once you read this edition on Science And Politics, you can go over to Socratic Gadfly and get the second helping..

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:02 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

I was just on the NPR radio...

...well, not personally. But Mike Munger was (here: He, on his blog The Mungovitz End (see Blogroll) and I have repeatedly linked to each other's posts about liberals in academia, very respectfully indicating that the other guy's view is bogus.

I heard a line from my blog (repeated in two posts actually) coming from Mike's mouth. Well, he put it up as an example of unreasonable thinking. I still think it is exactly correct:

"Hiring a conservative in a Department of History is just like hiring a Creationist in a Department of Biology."

Actually, I did not narrow it down to History or any particular department, but to the academia as a whole. Check my Education Category Archives. What I would have changed today is using the term Regressive instead of Conservative because the term Conservative is confusing: free-markets, small government, individual freedom, individual responsibility, fiscal responsibility, non-aggressive foreign policy are LIBERAL values. People think they are conservative because these values were the LIBERAL elements of the conservative party (GOP) in the 1950s or so. True conservatives values are social hierarchy, discipline, top-down government, and aggression. But Mike is libertarian so he is way off in the la-la land no matter how you look at it.

I am glad, in the context, the he did not make the correct attribution to the quote - I did not need my name on NPR when I was not there myself...which may happen soon if everything goes right as I was contacted by the staff (of the same show - Mike recommended me see, we actually LIKE each other no matter how much we disagree) to talk about writing an expert blog (Circadiana, not this one for sure). We'll see what happens and I'll let you know.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:30 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Superstition-Based Community

Call it as it is:


BTW, and speaking of superstition, Terry Schiavo died. Let's see what MSM says who killed her: God or Democrats?Æ

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:34 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Hey, I like this one!

A new blog carnival:

The Carnival Of NBA

I had no idea that this many bloggers wrote so much about basketball!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:15 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Comparative Wingnuttery

From the very first post on this blog ( Moral Politics In The Context Of History Of Marriage), and several times since ( e.g.,: Lakoff In Space And Time), I have bemoaned the lack of comparative studies of ideological and political poles. While I can watch what is happening in the USA, and so can George Lakoff, without comparative analysis it is difficult to know if Lakoff's model is correct, where it comes from historically, and in what important ways it differs from political/ideological environments in other countries today and historically. It may also require an objective "outside observer" to see the picture more clearly (I am half-objective and half-outside, though I think I am an observer). The same applies also when one mixes in Ducat, Parenti, Graff and others with Lakoff's core scheme.

My recent post Regressives, for instance, originated in the comments section of this post on Pharyngula (and continued on some more recent threads there). The main point of the post is that the Right is unified in many ways: politically, financially and emotionally, and that fighting it in piecemeal fashion is a dangerous strategy. Creationists, anti-abortionists, neocons, Horrowitz, white supremacists, mainstream media, CEOs of big business, etc. are all integral pieces of a unified and very well-coordinated movement. I sure wish it could all be traced to Rove, but a limited number of second-tier GOP operatives are probably most responsible for the coordination.

I grew up in a wonderful country, an environmental (and tourist) paradise, with a long democratic tradition, with by far the lowest crime rate in Europe, etc., etc. I watched it, in a matter of less than two years, fall apart into several small economically unviable (thus quickly colonized by Western megacompanies) mini-countries, each falling into a fascist dictatorship, going through a series of civil wars, a huge economic crisis, and frankly, an emotional/existential/moral crisis.

Unlike the USA, that country has a deep intellectual history. If you go to a dim smoky bar and sit next to a local drunk, he is likely to have a book with him, and though his political (and other) ideas may be nutty, he is happy to argue and LISTEN to you. If you are discussing evolution, nobody mentions Creationism - you are more likely trying to explain to him why Desmond Morris' "The Naked Ape" (the book he is reading) is bad science. When a Christian person in power tried to kick evolution out of schools last year, she was forced to resign by POPULAR outrage (for a day-by-day blogging on that, check my "Creationism" Archives By Category). If a quick slide into fascism and civil war could happen in such a country, it can happen even more quickly in an anti-intellectual and grandly miseducated country like the USA.

Born and raised Americans do not want to believe this. They go to Orcinus blog and cannot believe it. They read my posts and think I am panicking and exaggerating. They cannot make themselves open their eyes and see that yes, this kind of stuff can happen in America, and long history of democracy is not a sufficient guard against it. They refuse to see that exactly the same steps that Yugoslavia went through (with the same outward symptoms) 15 years ago are now happening here. I am watching it, step-by-step, scene-by-scene, go through the same scenario. More than a year ago I wrote a post entitled Bush Is Milosevic. Now I think that Bush (and Co.) is worse - much worse.

Interestingly, some people in other countries (thus the non-myopic "outside observers") can see it better, and have liked my post. For instance, there was one in England and one in Croatia. It is interesting that they are drawing parallels between the political poles in the USA and the political poles in their countries and notice some similarities and some differences. I really hope that they will both continue writing LONG DETAILED THOUGHTFUL posts about the ways conservatives and liberals differ between the USA and other countries. This will provide material for comparative studies that we so sorely need.t

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:55 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Blawg Review

There is a new carnival in town. Blawg Review is a carnival of legal scholarship. I am wondering if they just missed being aware of the existence of Belly Up To The Bar or if they want to do something different. Unlike BUTTB, this carnival is going to be peer-reviewed, almost like an online scientific journal - that's a first with blog carnivals as far as I am aware. On the other hand, unfortunately just like BUTTB, this one also appears to be leaning to the conservative side. Where, oh where are the Progressive lawyers and legal scholars?!!!! They need to be seen and heard on both of these carnivals (or form a new one) and not let the Wingnuts take over that piece of blogospace, too.

By the same token, where are the social scientists: anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists...? Here and there one sees something like that sneaking into Philosopher's Carnival, Carnival of History, or Tangled Bank. Aren't enough of them to make their own carnival?{

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:52 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, March 28, 2005

Skeptic's Circle etc.

I am hosting the next Skeptic's Circle. Please send you entries to
Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com
by March 31th at 10am EST. I will have it posted by the end of the day.

Also, don't forget the next Tangled Bank, The Tar Heel Tavern, Carnival of the Godless, Carnival of Uncapitalists (, Grand Rounds, Carnival of the Balkans etc. They are all coming up soon so write somewthing and submit your URLs.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:40 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Tar Heel Tavern #5

The early rough draft of the new Tar Heel Tavern is now up (you need to go back later for the full version) at Dirty Greek:

With all my computer woes, I never got to writing or submitting anything appropriate this week, but I will make sure I do so next week.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:22 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink



First, who is "them"? Second, why should they be "called"? Third, who are "we"? Fourth, why "should" we call them anything? Finally, "what" is the appropriate name? These are all interconnected questions, dealing with the current US political environment, and the notion of "framing".

In his book Moral Politics (MP) and later, more explicitely, in "Don't Think Of An Elephant" (DTOAE), George Lakoff struggles with the nomenclature. He is not entirely happy with words "Conservatism" and "Liberalism", but cannot think of anything better. Thus he has to explain, every time, what he means by those terms.

I have used, for the same reasons, these two words, and also found I needed to define them in every post. Whenever I did not, I invariably got a response from somebody who considers him/her-self a "conservative" or "liberal" but does not recognize him/her-self in my descriptions.

What Lakoff does in his books (and I follow his lead) is describe POLITICAL (thus here-and-now-realistic assesment of) conservatism and liberalism, NOT the historical, theoretical or philosophical versions. He shows, early in MP, why he does not agree with Rawl's description of liberalism, for instance, as it is a misleading and unrealistic description of liberalism as it is understood and practiced in America today.

Over time, in order to draw the distinctions, I started using clumsy terms "core liberalism" and "core conservatism" to describe what I am talking about. Still not good enough, though, and for the same reasons.

Some people use the term "neo-conservative", but that has a very specific meaning inside the Beltline and describes only a small subset of politically powerful individuals, not the conservative movement as a whole. Additionaly, neo-conservatism is almost entirely defined by its foreign policy agenda and ignores other elements of current American conservatism.

Likewise,terms like "Rapturists", or "Millenarianists" also describe only the extremes of Religious Right, not the conservative movement as a whole. "Reactionaries" will invoke a positive frame in some people, as in "reaction to action" (the action, for instance, coming from so-called "activist judges"). If they are "reactionaries" what are we? Actionaries? Activists? No, that is a bad frame for us.

I suggest we should use "regressives" for them and "progressives" for us, with some caveats (that I will get to in the end). I have already seen around the blogs that the term "progressive", to a conservative, means something even loonier and crazier than "liberal" - and we all know that the L-word is badly damaged already. To these conservative bloggers, "progressives" are wild-eyed Deaniac anti-war pinko-commie America-hating terrorist crowd, compared to which the good old liberals are almost palatable.

Still, the two terms (progressive and regressive) have an inherent frame, i.e., a frame that does not require knowledge of Greek or Latin etymology of the word to be grasped, or a full understanding of political history of the two ideologies. Both denote a movement through time: one implies that the world improves in time, the other that the world is getting worse over time.

Additionally, the word Regressive may invoke the idea of developmental regression (i.e., something like a potty-trained child pooping in his pants again), or even retardation.


Different views of time are inherent components of the worldviews. Progressives think in terms of "time's arrow": human activity, locally and for the time being, organizes chaotic matter into complex structure - humans are seen as anti-enthropy agents of history, making the world better and better. One glance at history of human civilization is sufficient to demonstrate that this view is correct: you are not going to die of plague, will not be thrown to the lions in the Colliseum, will not be sold into slavery, will not have to buy your future wife, will not expect to live to a ripe old age of thirty, will not get slaughtered with a halebarde on a cold foggy morning during some battle over a few acres of land in Lower Saxony.

The Regressive view of time is that of "time's cycle" but with an interesting spin to it. It is not just a recurring history. No, the world starts in its most complex and perfect state and it SPIRALS down into decay and chaos. It is enthropy in motion. No surprise they tend to not understand The Second Law of Thermodynamics and try to use it against evolution - they are incapable of fathoming a build-up of complexity. Also, they love to point out cases of excesses (e.g., in TV entertainment), or negative by-products of progress (e.g., "diseases of civilization"), as "proofs" of their worldview, and willfully ignore all the evidence of real progress.

They are often found spinning some elements of progress as something that is negative, e.g., increase in secularism, gay rights, gender equality, decreased interest in joining the military, affirmative action, etc. But they are honest about it - they truly believe that these advances are actually bad for the society, because they contradict their Strict Father moral code. They really think that these societal advances are immoral.

Opposition to evolution is another aspect of their view of time: they cannot see how complexity can arise over time. To add insult to injury, they erroneously envision evolution in terms of "progress", i.e., in terms of appearance of perfection (meaning us) at the end - it is just a temporalized Great Chain Of Being. They are just mentally incapable of understanding that a blind iterative process can result in greater complexity out of its less complex precursors - witness endless debates on Panda's Thumb, Pharyngula and other sites devoted to fighting Creationists.

Although real Regressives actually think that the world is slowly going to hell and that a mystical Golden Age was a reality at some point in the past (50, 120, 350, or 2000 years ago, depending on the particular person and particular question) and seriously doubt that humans are capable of altering this trend, the term "progress" still denotes hopefulness - and it is all-so-human to hope for a better future, even if one does not believe it is possible. We need to capitalize on this. Even if they keep believing that the world as a whole is decaying, they may still like the idea of temporary improvements of their OWN PERSONAL lives. Once they die, the world is free to go to hell, but until then, why not enjoy some progress? Remember: what they see is not a straight downward arrow but a spiral. It allows for occasional recurrence of "good" on its way towards the final "bad".


I have seen progressives make distinction between the Religious Right (i.e., social conservatives) on one hand and the Neocons (i.e., economic conservatives) on the other. They think that these two groups are separate. I say that these two groups (actually three: political, business and religious conservatives) are parts of one bigger whole, with individuals differing only in emphasis and strategy, bur not in their core moral beliefs.

All Regressives are, at their core, adherents of the Strict Father model of morality. All their beliefs and actions come from that same core. They only look and sound different on the surface, and fight their fights in different arenas. Ideologically and politically they are monolithic, as evidenced by the connections between them that one uncovers when one starts following the money: who is financing whom. It may seem hard to swallow, but your sweet Bush-voting Limbaugh-listening uncle is the part of the same organization as Tom DeLay, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and David Horrowitz. Either convert your uncle or be prepared to fight him - do not make excuses for him just because he is your uncle or because he is sweet. He is NOT BETTER than the other members of the organization.

So, where does the error of dividing Regressives into separate groups come from? It comes from history. The social, business and political "conservatives" did not agree on much in the 1950s. How come, if I stated above is correct? Because only the religious/social conservatives were true adherents of the core conservative moral system. The business world and the GOP leaders have departed far away from it and the Religious Right did not like that at all.

Often when you ask a self-professed conservative, someone you know and like (perhaps a family member) why is (s)he a conservative and what defines conservatism you will get an answer in a form of a list of ideals that the person considers to be defining of conservative ideology. This list usually includes stuff like individual freedom, individual responsibility, fiscal responsibility, non-aggression in foreign affairs, freedom of religion, adherence to free market, small government, and rule of law. The notion that these ideals are defining conservatism is an error of historical contigency. Those are the LIBERAL planks of the GOP platform from the mid-20th century.

At the time, the GOP was a mix of liberal and conservative positions, but it was nominally a conservative party. Thus, many people who remember those times believe, erroneously, that EVERYTHING that GOP stood for at that time is conservative. In fact, what they usually pick as defining conservative ideas are the liberal elements of the GOP program. They tend not to like the truly conservative ideals: ruthless competition, theocracy, packed courts, racism, anti-immigration, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, aggresive foreign policy, fusion of business and government, fusion of church and state, rule by fear, bloated military, top-down control of citizens by snooping, etc.

When you look at that last list, doesn't it remind you of something? How about modern US history circa 2000-2005? Yes, you are right. Starting in about 1965., with big steps occuring in 1980 (Reagan election), 1994 (Gingrich revolution), and 2000 (Bush election), the GOP has, one by one, got rid of all its liberal planks and replaced them with conservative ones.

That is why the Religious Right likes the GOP now and drives the votes for it. That is why the whole conservative movement (religious, business and political) steps in unison today. That is why they are so dangerous. And, looking at their platform, the proper name to call them is "Regressives". They are not interested in rolling back just the latest court decisions on abortion, gay rights or teaching of evolution. Their true goal is to roll back last 150 years of progress AT LEAST! Their goal is to destroy modernity, and eradicate all traces of The Enlightement. They'll be perfectly happy with re-instituting slavery - just dig deeper into their "private" writings and ignore the overt platforms they announce publicly when one of them runs for office, for instance. Just go and read the stuff on the Orcinus blog for a few hours - you'll scream in horror. It is THAT serious.

It is of paramount importance for defense of civilization - this is not hyperbole - to understand that this is now a unified monolithic organization. It is a grave error to tackle them in isolation, each group one at a time. Creationists, anti-choice doctor-killers, oil-company CEOs, GOP senators, KKK, gun-lobby, gay-bashers, Christian home-schoolers, Horowitz's assault on academia, Dobson's childrearing manuals, white-supremacist militias...those are not separate organizations. They are just parts of a bigger whole. And so is your sweet Bush-voting uncle.

Debating Creationists about fine points of evolution, debating anti-choice crowd about neural development, debating militants about the facts of no WMDs in Iraq...all those miss the point. They are drawing us into meaningless discussions on superficial details and make us not see the forest for the trees. Their strategy is to scatter our energies, while at the same time attracting different kinds of people with different lures. Stop attacking the trees. Step back and take a look at the forest and figure out how to cut down the whole thing.


Strict Father childrearing philosophy mostly does not teach or preach - instead, it provides an environment that results in the emotional and moral development of a new Regressive. The basics assumptions about the world are a) that the world is a dangerous place that cannot be made less dangerous through human agency, b) that the world is inherently competitive, and c) that one's survival is dependent on one's ability to win in the competition. For this, one needs to be "tough". To be tough, one needs to be self-disciplined.

Focus is on obedience and discipline. The system is based on the erroneous assumption that discipline leads to self-discipline. But, the real result is the development of dependence on the external source of moral authority.

The moral behavior is based on folk behaviorism: the stick and carrot approach. Thus, a Regressive will refrain from doing something for which he can get a punishment and will do stuff for which he can get a reward. The problem starts when nobody is looking... Just check the crime stats for "Red States" or Red areas of all states.

To get around this problem, Regressives try to inculcate their children into religion as God is always watching, thus the external source of moral authority will be omnipresent. The problem arises with those who get enough wordly education to stop taking God too seriously, yet are successfull in business or politics, thus feel powerful - there is nobody above them to punish them. They have lost the external focus of moral authority and are likely to do monstrous stuff with clean consciousness - stuff that no self-respecting liberal would ever dream of doing.

Here comes a big misunderstanding between Progressives and Regressives. For Regressives, individuals who have succeeded in competition, be it in business or politics or whatever, are by definition the best, most moral individuals, the pillars of the community. They can do no bad. They are rightfully revered and emulated by the lesser humans. They got to the top through hard work, goodness of the heart and highly moral behavior. When one of those people ends up in jail, the "flock" is always stunned, as this flouts one of the basic understandings of how the world works.

On the other hand, Progressives are always suspicious of people on the top. They know that nobody got rich through hard work. It is impossible to amass large amounts of money without it being taken away from other people (or the Earth). Some kind of exploitation is neccessarily involved. Thus, causes of wealth are a combination of ruthlesness and good luck (though smarts, hard work, creativity and good will may be also involved, at least initially). Progressives are never surprised when a CEO goes to jail.


Can someone raised in one ideology switch to another? A lot of people believe that as one ages, one is likely to turn from a liberal to a conservative outlook. I believe the person stays the same but becomes RELATIVELY more conservative as the world becomes more liberal through the actions of feminists, environmentalists, desegregationists and other progressive forces.

However, some people do "switch". For instance, power and money are corrupting, and if the parenting (by Nurturant Parents) was not very effective, one can go with the "wrong crowd", start loving money too much, and turn conservative, but usually only in SOME areas of life.

A large personal trauma can lead to an existential crisis. Of course, there is always a crowd of smiling, superficially nice religious freaks that come to the rescue. The person, not immunized well enough in childhood, becomes religious and accepts SOME aspects of conservative ideology.

However, the switch in other direction is much more common. Leaving one's village, going to college, and travelling the world tends to open one's eyes. Once your eyes are open, you cannot help it but accept at least SOME aspects of liberal worldview.

However, these mid-life switches are rarely complete. As a result, most people are a combination of Progressive and Regressive ideology, one applied in some areaa of life, the other in the others. There is no such animal as a Moderate. Lakoff estimates that about a third of Americans are complete Progressives, about a third are complete Regressives, and the remaining third are a combo - thus can be picked for votes by both GOP or Dems depending who is more effective in any given election year. The combo-people are those who vote split tickets - the swing voters. Thirty percent is a HUGE proportion, not a tiny sliver that pundits tend to think about when they talk about swing voters.

Full transformation from one ideology to the other is usually a two-generation process. Let's say that a Regressive goes to college, starts dating a Progressive and accepts SOME Progressive ideals. They get married and have kids. One parent is already fully Progressive, and the other is trying hard. The result should turn out to be a Progressive kid. It goes the same in other direction.

As the tide of history moves away from Regressivism and towards Progressivism, more conversions are happening in that direction than in reverse. The Regressives are aware of this and are fighting their last big fight. Their goal is not to win an election, or to stave off their inevitable extinction. They know they can survive ONLY if they completely destroy all opposition (meaning all modernity) by all means neccessary, including murder. They are working on it really fast and hard, while we complain about the Creationists or the media!

So, what if your sweet Bush-voting uncle is really in that combo third of the country? Should you call him a Regressive? I say Yes, as long as he enables Regressives, votes for Regressives and aligns himself with the Regressives. He is part of the problem, not part of the solution. His attitude is a danger to society. If he does not like the name, perhaps you can get him to think and change his ways. He will be welcome then.


The Strict Father model of childrearing has another serious developmental consequence. The child is stuck at a developmental stage in which one is capable of making connections between cause and effect. The child is incapable of developing further and understanding how a system of many inetracting parts can lead to an effect for which there is NO SINGLE cause, i.e., it results from interactions, not from one element. Thus:


A Regressive is mentally incapable of understanding a system in which A, B and C together cause D, without any one of them being the initial cause. In other words, the Regressive view is hierarchical, while the Progressive worldview is interactionist. We can rewrite the schemce above to look like this:

is superior to
is superior to
is superior to

It is completely consistent with Regressive worldview. After all, the one who is the most powerful is capable of causing that whole chain of events, thus is the most morally superior. Let's take some examples, i.e., replace the letters A, B, C,... with real words. How about this one:

is superior to
is superior to
is superior to

This is the Great Chain of Being. Evolution by Natural Selection is an interactionist system - thus beyond what Regressives are mentally capable of understanding. The Bush Of Life (or even the Tree Of Life) is not something they can understand. They only understand hierarchies.

Now, take a Regressive who is not religious:

is superior to
is superior to
is superior to
is superior to

This is genocentrism - the replacement of God with DNA. How about this one:

is superior to
is superior to
is superior to

Of course the poor are the lowly immoral scum and should be left to die - if they were any better they would have risen higher in the hierarchy....because a hierarchy is all there is. Let's move to politics:

is superior to
GOP Congressmen
are superior to
GOP Governors and local officials
are superior to
rank-and-file Republicans
are superior to
all Democrats

Bush is God. Bush is CEO. Bush is DNA. How can you possibly dare question the motives of that greatest of the greatest human beings in the history of the Universe?

Do you now see the affinity between social, business and political Regressives? Those who can succeed in business think in terms of business hierarchy: richer the better. Those who can succeed in politics think in terms of political hierarchy: the order of succession. Those who cannot do either find solace in religion. They think in terms of Great ChainOf Being. Yet all three deplore evolution because it is anti-hierarchical.

Moral Order is an essential element of Regressive worldview that stems directly out of inability to think outside of hierarchies (please click through that link for a long detailed explanation of the concept). Out of all pairs of dominance hierarchy described in that post, by far the most important is the moral order between men and women.


Regressive view of the human society is similar to the one seen in baboons. There is a linear hierarchy with the Alpha male on top. Everyone wants to get the girls, but only the top guns can. Men will do anything for sex. They see that in order to get the girls, they need to get to the top of the hierarchy. They can do that by getting rich. Or they can do that by becoming politically powerful (which also makes them rich). Or they can do it by becoming famous (which also makes them rich). If they know they don't have it in them to succeed in either of those strategies, there is solace in religion: there will be girls for everyone in Heaven, and in the meantime there are strip-bars, porn and escorts (and occasionally pretty, young nieces too afraid to call the police).

I have written at length about the importance of sex, gender and marriage on the development of male anxiety in Regressives, so scroll down to posts with titles like "Femiphobia Again", or "Hooked on Hooking Up" etc. for more. It is fear of modernity and everything it brings, particularly equality, of which equality of sexes is the key, that is driving the Regressives nuts.

Loss of male dominance (over the past century or so) is the cause of important male anxiety (femiphobia), which is, in turn, pre-cursor for all sorts of other fears: homophobia, xenophobia, racism, nationalism, i.e., the wish to go "back" to some imaginary times in the past when white American Protestant males ruled the roost.

Science is threatening, as it is fully modern, as well as the very basis on which modern liberalism is founded, including the notions of equality. Evolution is threatening, additionally, for it evokes fears of "missing links" who, translated into "fundamentalese" are "Big Black Uncles Who Are Stronger Than Poor Ole White Me And Have Bigger Dicks And Will Steal Our White Women".

Femiphobia is a complex argument and I cannot do it justice here in this small space, not even in the longer posts (quite a few of them) I have written perviously on my blog. One really has to read Stephen Ducat's "The Wimp Factor" to hear it from the horse's mouth, together with the references to actual research. What I have tried on my blog is to push people to read the book, but not in isolation.

I suggest that Ducat's book be read in the context of (or in conjunction with) Lakoff's "Moral Politics" (not "...Elephant...", which is a superficial pamphlet), Parenti's "Superpatriotism", and E.J.Graff's "What Is Marriage For?". If you take Lakoff's notion of "moral order" (see above for the link) and focus on relations between sexes following Ducat, see it through the prizm of machismo the way Parenti does, then look at the historical progression through Graff - you end up seeing a more complete picture: how different, seemingly disparate pieces of the puzzle start falling together.


In order for them to "win" a temporary repreive from the forces of history that are inexorably pushing them onto the history's
ash-heap, Regressives have to: a) pick a powerful country (USA - done), b) take over the government (done), c) take over the legal
system (almost done), d) take over the military (almost done), e) take over the media (done), and f) take over the schools (not
done - barely beginning).

If they want to survive another generation they have to do the f). Horowitz, Creationists, abstinence-only folks, Christian homeschoolers, NCLB-pushers, seminaries, Bob Jones University, Discovery Institute, anti-choice crowd...all those are prongs of their multi-pronged strategy to take over the educational system and ensure their own reproduction/replication into the next generation.

Educational system is our last bastion and the one that is most difficult for them to infiltrate, as the liberal education is, almost
by definition, anthitetical to their worldview and methodology. They do not know how to teach - they preach. We have to
understand that this is one Big Force and fight it as such, not one issue at a time (abstinence here, creationism there), but as a

Whenever you are talking about any one of their "issues" make sure to always connect it with everything else: if you are debating creationists, make sure that your audience hears, from you, repeatedly, that it is not just about Natural Selection, but also about abortion, militarism, illegal wars, snooping on US citizens (Patriot Act), Religious Right, hatred of gays, anti-choice, doctor-killers, anti-science, anti-reality, anti-modernity, anti-rationality, anti-Enlightement, anti-equality, Terry Schiavo's artificially mantained corpse, undermining of democracy, stacking the courts, destroying the environment, mis-educating the children, eliminating Social Security and Medicare, outsourcing, wasting of taxpayer's money, the new GOP love of Big Government, Fox News lies, fear and hatred of everything and everybody, etc, etc, etc. Make sure, through repetition, that your audience sees the connections over and over again.

I am sure that they are making deeper inroads into schools in some places than the other, but I believe that Education, as an institution, is inherently much more resistant to the "Strict Father" moral order than other areas (government, military, courts, etc.). To use Lakoffian metaphors, most teachers are "Nurturant Parents", most academics are liberal (for a good reason: they tend
to be rational), the way the system is set up is to nurture the sense of community, fairness, sharing, diversity, etc. Have you been to a school lately? It is all about saving the environment, not starting smoking, learning about distant countries' cultures. All that stuff is anathema to the Regressives but will be difficult to uproot.

And what do they have to put in place instead? Disciplinarian preaching. They will institute real Inquisition in the USA before they manage to force their ideas of education into real schools (apart from 'their' schools and seminaries) - the tradition of US liberal education runs too deep. What they want is so far from any definition of education that it will be almost impossible for them to push it pass the parents, teachers and officials - it's too transparent (I hope.....).


This post has gotten too long. On the other hand, I feel like it is not long enough. There are many things I only touched on briefly and superficially. If you have a question or a comment, it is likely that I have already written the response before, so please click through the various links in this post before you mount a full-blown attack. If, after searching through the bvlog you do not see the answer to your question, please ask, and I will try to answer as soon as I can and in as much detail as possible.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:15 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, March 27, 2005

What Is Personhood

Extremely important and good post and discussion (in comments) relevant to the Schiavo case, by Chris of Mixing Memory:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:26 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Time For A Change?

Warning: a boring self-referential post.

This blog is now over seven months old. Why did I start it? Because I wanted to find a way to save some stuff I wrote on the Edwards campaign blog once his campaign was over. My "job" on the blog was to write civil (no F words unless I am quoting someoene else) yet provocative posts, to force people to look at old issues from new angles and to think outside the box.

I thought that some of the posts were worth saving online and not just as Word files on my computer. My neighbor Henry Copeland (of suggested I start my own blog and, from the various types of blogging software, after hearing what I wanted to do with it, he suggested Blogger.

So I went online and found Blogger and started the wonderful two-minute process of making my own blog. At one point I was asked to pick a name for the blog. I have not thought about it until that moment, but I knew I wanted to write a lot about politics until the election, and some more about science after the election, so I typed "Science And Politics".

Most people thought it was going to be something similar to Chris Mooney's blog "The Intersection" (Chris initially though that, too), but it is completely different. As the subheading says, I am interesting in understanding American politics through the lens of various sciences: history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, law, cognitive science, linguistics, etc. I am at the same time interested in the ways American politics affects the way science is done, funded, taught and reported. And I love to apply biological metaphors to politics, even where it is not really appropriate.

But, over the past seven months, I see the blog turned into something a little different. I enjoy trying to make connections between apparently disparate pieces of information. I attempt synthesis among things as different as my personal experiences, the Balkans events, the North Carolina local issues, the anthropology of blogging, religion and atheism, science and skepticism, evolution and creationism, politics and ideology, education and environment, foreign policy and music, books and movies, marriage and sex - all in one big picture!

Even if the connections are tenuous, or even if they are non-existent, I hope my posts are provocative, in a sense that they provoke people to look at "old issues from new angles and to think outside the box". Occasionally, I was succesful in this, I hope.

The title "Science And Politics", while it, in itself, brings new readers here, is misleading. If Danah Boyd did not already take that name a few years ago, this blog should be renamed "Aphophenia" - so much of what I do here is just that: making connections where none exist (and hope for an occasional success).

Do you think I should change the name? What else can describe what this blog is all about? Who always says "Make connections!"? Well, of course, Miss Frizzle. So, perhaps I should rename it "The Magic School Bus". What do you all think? Any other suggestions? Just "Connections"? The URL will remain the same.

My computer is still broken so I cannot do anything about this yet, but once it is fixed I plan to do all sorts of things to this blog: change its look, perhaps change its title, change its sub-title, take a good long hard look at the links, expand the blogroll, place some Amazon ads, perhaps Google Adsense ads, maybe a PayPal tip-jar, perhaps even some blogads. What do you all think about that?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:41 AM | permalink | (8 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, March 26, 2005

For those of you who do not regularly read "Circadiana"

You may be interested in this article:

New York Times Gets It Right, Just To Screw Up At The End In Blind Adherence To The He Said/She Said Journalism>

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:13 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Godless #9

The newest issue of the Carnival of the Godless is up at "Yeah Whatever":

Sorry, no picture this time, no html links, find the homepage in one of my earlier meta-carnival posts for archives of earlier issues, and for the calendar of the future hosting (it has switched from weekly to bi-weekly).

Once the darned computer is fixed (I tried to find a Godless computer-repairmen happy to work over Easter weekend, but noooo...), I will add a large number of blogs to my blogroll (including Yeah Whatever who noticed this horrible omission).

I also missed linking to some other carnivals over the past few days because I could not get to them in the first place from this computer. Just scroll down and look at older posts that contain dates and links.†

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:40 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, March 25, 2005

Why The Best Leave The First?

Publius is, hopefully only temporarily, retiring his blog, Legal Fiction, the best legal/political analysis of the past year and a half. That was the blog I first commented on, the blog that inspired me (and several others, including Eric Martin, Julie Saltman and johnybutter) to start my own blog, and the first blog to check in the morning. The comments were, for the most part intelligent and polite despite the whole range of political/ideological affinities of the commenters. This is the only blog that I actually went back and read through the archives - I suggest you do the same.

Now, my #2 becomes #1 - Pharyngula!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:51 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, March 24, 2005

From The Mouths Of Babes...

The kids' spring break just started, the weather is gorgeous, and the computer is broken. What a great opportunity to spend a lot of time together (instead of timing each other's computer use)! Zoo next week? Oh, yeah!

In the last post about my kids, I concentrated on Coturnix Junior. This one is more about Coturnietta. She is eight years old. We went to Weaver Street Market for lunch (and also to get food for the rest of the family who remained at home). At one point she saw "Easter Egg Cookies" and gave me a look that meant "This look yummy - but they are about Easter - am I allowed to have one?". I said, "It's just a cookie and it looks good - go ahead". She got one and loved it.

We sat down and chatted about this and that and everything. She just finished her school Read-A-Thon. I converted her total minutes into hours - impressive 24+ hours of reading over two weeks - not bad at all. For that feat, she got a lot of prizes, including a good deal on books at a local independent bookstore. That was the first prize she wanted to cash in, so she went with her mother yesterday and bought a few books.

The book she first started reading is about Ancient Greek Myths, Gods and Creatures - a serious and thick book for her age. Every time she finishes a chapter she excitedly announces to everyone within hearing distance.

The early chapters are all about Gods. The first chapter is on Zeus, second on Hera, third on Athena, fourth on Poseidon, etc. She got about halfway through the fourth chapter when she came to me and announced that all those Gods are crazy, jealous, "spoiled brats". She gave me examples of a God who swallowed all his children, a goddess who killed a woman just because her weaving was better, etc. I agreed: "Yup, all the Gods are angry, violent, jealous, spoiled brats - that makes it fun to read about them".

I guess, as Majikthise said, that little Coturnices are indeed thriving....

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:25 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

This is NOT about academic freedom - it is about going medieval

Look at these different views on the same incident (a student expelled from Le Moyne College in upstate NY for writing a paper endorsing corporal punishment):


Problem of Academic Freedom


Academic Freedom


Most are talking about this in terms of academic freedom. But, this is NOT at the core of the issue. This is an instance in which a thoroughly Nurturant Parent organization - the US educational system - recognizes and rejects a person whose goal is to introduce Strict Father moral system into schools. It is like rejecting foreign tissue, a bad transplant, or a cancer.

The educators, quite rightly, recognized that this guy's moral system is based in 17th century, is impossible to change in his mind by any educational effort on their part, and presents a danger to the children that he may get to teach in the future.

If you read/listen to the files linked above, you will see that corporal punishment was not something that he pulled out of the blue, as an idea to mull about, but is a component of his overal worldview, obvious from other stuff he wrote in that paper (and presumably in other papers). I bet the college administrators were uneasy with him from the start and were watching him for a while. I am guessing that the writing about corporal punishment was not the real reason he got expelled - it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, the final excuse to kick out a person who is thoroughly and unchangingly ill-suited to the profession.

This is very similar to the Horowitz assault on Academia - he is trying to get Strict Father people to infiltrate a Nurturant Parent institution with a long-term goal of bringing up new generations of Strict Fathering people. The schools are one place where Regressives do not have an upper hand and it is also a key place where they need to be in order to reproduce/replicate themselves into the next generation.

Remember, the most important goal of the Strict Father system is preservation of the Strict Father system, and they will use all means, including illegal action (see Tom DeLay for example, or attack on Iraq, or the whole Schiavo debacle), ridiculous claims (see Intelligent Design Creationism, for example), fear (see Patriot Act), and disinformation (see Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and most of the rest of the MSM for examples), to attain that goal. No method is out of question. No sacrifice is too great, no violence unacceptable, in pursuit of this goal.

Thus, watch out - the assault on schools, from preschool to postdoc, is the next big thing for them - an essential goal if their medievalist worldview is to survive in the Age of Modernity.

See "Education" and "Understanding America" under "Archives by Categories" for more detailed explanations - sorry, every link I try to put here here means re-starting a frozen computer, so just go there, OK??

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:42 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Blog Of The Day

Hey, y'all, check Blog Of The Day today and tomorrow. Today is Circadiana, tomorrow is Science And Politics. I am supposed to put a cute little linking image on both blogs, but with my technical woes of the moment, that will have to wait a few days.x

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:50 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tyrannosaurus rex And Ostrich Meet At NC State

NC State Paleontologist Discovers Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Bones

Conventional wisdom among paleontologists states that when dinosaurs died and became fossilized, soft tissues didn’t preserve – the bones were essentially transformed into “rocks” through a gradual replacement of all organic material by minerals. New research by a North Carolina State University paleontologist, however, could literally turn that theory inside out.

But the team was surprised by what actually happened when they removed the minerals from the T. rex femur fragment. The removal process left behind stretchy bone matrix material that, when examined microscopically, seemed to show blood vessels, osteocytes, or bone building cells, and other recognizable organic features.

Since current data indicates that living birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than any other group, Schweitzer compared the findings from the T. rex with structures found in modern-day ostriches. In both samples, transparent branching blood vessels were present, and many of the small microstructures present in the T. rex sample displayed the same appearance as the blood and bone cells from the ostrich sample.e

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:03 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Skeptic's Circle

I will be hosting the Skeptic's Circle on March 31st. I am hoping to have my computer fixed by then, but if not, I will do it on the office computer. Due to computer problems, it will be MUCH better for me if you send your submissions to Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com (and not to the Gmail address I posted below). Also, if you have already sent me your entry, I may be able to retrieve it, but, just in case, send it again to the AOL account. Thanks for your understanding.i

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:27 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Terry Schiavo Framing II

Since I cannot see my blog, edit my posts or post comments, I have to write a new post for everything.

Considering the previous post, a good idea (credit my wife for the core idea, though I did the irreverent embelishments):

Even if you believe in the existence of the soul, it has departed the empty corporeal shell of Terry Schiavo's body about 15 years ago. The videos showing its so-called "responses" are the same as Galvani's effects in frog legs you did in your high-school biology lab. Did you see the CT scan? The brain is gone. The skull is filled with goulash-satarash-paprikash-soup. There is no brain there, thus no consciousness, and no soul. She's been playing harp on a cloud for 15 years now. Ï

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:21 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Framing Terry Schiavo

From Lakoff's Berkley lecture a few days ago (via my brother who attended it):

This is a struggle between retionality and religion. If you believe in the Soul, she is alive. If you believe that brain function is neccessary for life, she is dead.

Do not use the word


when talking about Terry Schiavo, as this word elicits the frame of "personhood", i.e., makes her a person, not a corpse.


posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:20 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Testing, Testing....

While my PC is dead, I'll try to use this aaaancient Mac. It takes 10 minutes to get into my mailbox (AOL), cannot get to Gmail, cannot load most websites and blogs (including my own), and is generally infuriatingly slow...and then freezes.

So, this is a test to see if I can post. Don't expect much, probably no links, and definitely no images for the time being.

I guess I'll have to read the latest Tangled Bank and Carnival of Education at work...

Yesterday, while I could not see it myself, this blog hit a new daily hit record: 535 (previous was 517), due to links from Majikthise and Tangled Bank. Thanks!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:15 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gateway's Kaputt

My computer died today. I will be back once it's fixed.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:32 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


I've been looking around the blogs for a good post about synaesthesia for a while now, especially as it was recently mentioned in the news, and the best, most informative, and with best links is this one, from Mind Hacks:

This can be turned into a blog-meme, e.g., what color (number, shape, taste, smell, etc.) you sense when you think of a particular blog? Pharyngula? Ocean-blue. Kos? Jet-black. Majikthise? Screaming Red. Would that be influenced by the color of the templates/skins?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 3:38 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Tar Heel Tavern - Call for submissions

Dirty Greek has posted information about submissions to the next Tar Heel Tavern, so, what are you waiting for, send him an URL:

For more information, visit the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:51 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Upcoming Blog Carnivals

Sit down and write something for one or more of the following carnivals:

Tangled Bank #25: 23 March 05 (

Carnival of Education #7: 23 March 05 (

Friday Ark: 25 March 05 (

The Tar Heel Tavern #5: 26 March 05 (

Carnival of the Godless #9: 27 March 05 (

The Carnival od Un-Capitalists #1: 28 March 2005 (

Philosopher's Carnival #12: 28 March 05 (

Carnival of Sin #17: 28 March 05 (

New Blog Carnival Showcase Extravaganza #7: 28 March 05 (

Grand Rounds #27: 29 March 05 (

Skeptic's Circle #5: 31 March 2005 (

Carnival of History #5: 1 April 05 (

Carnival of the Balkans #3: 15 April 05 (

Carnivalesque #5 early May (

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:51 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Religious Left and the Democratic Party

There is an interesting chain of posts, all very worth reading, on the role of Religious Left. It started by this article in Salon by Amy Sullivan:
arguing that Democrats should court the Religious Left.

PZ Myers of Pharyngula responded with wreath here:
listing a litany of historical events during which the Religious Left stood meekly by and watched, only to claim responsibility for the positive outcomes post facto.

Mike The Mad Biologist takes issue with both here:
and makes an important point about the difference between Christian Left and Jewish Left. He also adds:

I'll take the Christian left seriously when they deliver the goods.

Chris of Mixing Memory chips in here:
He says, among else:

We shouldn't compromise our values simply to make the members of religious
groups who agree with us on other issues happy.

To which I agree. I have argued before ( that Christian Left is lost and headless and needs to get involved in politics on the side of the Left, including the Democratic Party. It is not Democrats who need to appeal to liberal Christians - it is the other way round: liberal Christians have to do the work of joining in the fight, offering their services, and asking for help in doing so. The Democrats should embrace them and give them a guiding hand, but only if the churches show some real enthusiasm about joining in. The Democratic Party should set the agenda, the platform, and the strategy, while the churches, if they want to help, should follow the lead. No aspect of the progressive agenda should be sacrificed to appeal to the churches. It is the churches that need to decided if they want to fight, to get off their butts and ask "How may I help you?"

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:20 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Skeptic's Circle

The next issue of The Skeptic's Circle, the blog carnival devoted to debunking pseudo-science, non-science and non-sense, will be hosted by me, right here on Science And Politics on March 31st. Send your entries by 5pm EST on the 30th to Coturnix AT gmail DOT com. Put "Skeptic's Circle" in the title of your message. Send me the title and URL of your post. A brief description is appreciated, though not neccessary. For more information, check the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:36 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Godless - Call for submissions

The next Carnival of the Godless will be hosted by Yeah, Whatever ( on March 27, 2005. Send your submissions to Get more information at the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:09 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Grand Rounds #26

Grand Rounds, the carnival of medicine, nursing and health-care is now up on The Well-Timed Period:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:05 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of Sin #16

New edition of the Carnival of Sin is now online:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:32 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Philosopher's Carnival #11

The newest edition of the Philosopher's Carnival is now online:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:51 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, March 21, 2005

Where Did My Son Get His Smarts?

I have two kids: an 11-year old son (Coturnix Jr.) and an 8-year old daughter (Coturnietta). They are really smart and cool kids and I love talking with them about all sorts of things: school, science, music, computers, video games, Boy Scouts, ...wha tever they want to talk about (or the good old days when I was a kid and had to walk to school ten miles uphill both ways - to which they yawn and run away). But we never talk about politics or religion. Sure, when they ask questions, we answer, but never extend the conversation beyond that.

You may have read before how I got to be an atheist - the natural way: growing up as one (, thus not experiencing any great catharctic moments of overcoming internal cognitive dissonance. My kids are growing up the same way. They were very VERY young when we told them that Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy do not exist, but tha t they should not tell the other kids as it is the duty of their parents to break the news one day. They were also told (once they asked) that there is no God, but that many people, even including adults, believe it and it is OK, as long as they do not tr y to make other people believe it. My son once made my sister-in-law (the Republican one) really mad at us, because he laughed and mocked his cousins (her daughters) when they said their prayers before dinner for Thanksgiving. That episode taught him that some people take their religion seriously and that one should respect it.

My wife insisted that we should bring up our kids in some kind of Jewish cultural tradition, to give them "roots". I disagreed about the need for roots, but did not think that thi s would harm them (while digging my heels could have harmed my marriage), as long as we answered their questions honestly. So, we took them to services a few times at the Reform Synagogue (mostly for various holidays), they went to Jewish summer-camps for a couple of summers, and each spent a couple of years in a Jewish pre-school.

The pre-school was physically attached to the Orthodox Synagogue, but the rabbi there (a very smart and wise man whom I like the most of all the rabbis in the area) was very c areful not to preach too much. He was aware that the kids in the pre-school ranged from ultra-Orthodox to atheist families and everything in-between, so he limited his activities to teaching a little bit of Hebrew, and the stories associated with the holidays. Of course, his congregation was a different story - we went to services once and it was fascinating, from an anthropological angle, but being separated from my wife and daughter by a partition was not a pleasant idea.

My wife also insists that the kids should go through the whole Bar/Bat Mitzvah process. Since my opinion does not really count, I am guessing she will make that happen, no matter what I say, so I'll just go along, as usual.... A few years ago, we asked the kids which holiday they woul d prefer to celebrate: Christmas or Hanukkah (we did a little mix of both previously). They thought for a minute and decided that Hannukah was a better deal, present-wise, as well as less of a hassle, so that is what we do now. We also host Passover almos t every year, for which we invite a bunch of our atheist, agnostic (and occasionally Catholic) friends and use a humanist/feminist/environmentalist Haggadah which does not mention God anywhere. Oh, I love the food and we can now find some kosher wine bett er than Manishevitz! I don't even serve elephant meat,, pork (though the idea always comes up)! And the matzo-ball soup (with fresh horseradish I put in after it is served)...yummy! Anyway, kids are doing great, growing up sweet little atheists, dev eloping their own sense of morality uncostrained by the black-and-white paradoxes of religious dogma, and being, for that age, extremely sensitive to the feelings of other human (and non-human) beings.

As far as politics goes, there was no way we could h ide it from the kids. They saw all of our bumper-stickers on our cars (they are still there) and the big sign in the window (it is still there). They saw us glued to the TV for 15 months before the election, watching every debate, every event on C-span, the Conventions, news, everything related to the election. They did not watch with us, but they could not escape learning some basic facts. Who are we? - Democrats. - Correct. Who's the bad guy? - Bush. - Correct. Who's the good guy? - John Edwards (later John Kerry). - Correct.

When I once bought a t-shirt with a drawing of a creature with the body of a turkey and the head of Dubya, both kids recognized who it was and laughed. Junior pleasantly surprised me one day when we went to the bookstore and told them to pick whatever they wanted. One of his choices was an illustrated kid's introduction to John Kerry. I was even more pleasantly surprised when of the whole loot, it was this book he chose to read first, that same evening. Junior informed me, without me asking, of the results of kids' voting at his school (Kerry got 350 votes, Bush 240, and Nader 50 - this is a liberal town after all) and told me that it appears ALL of his teachers are Democrats. But we never really went into details about politics, and advised them not to talk about it around other adults, including some in our family.

All the radios we have in our home and our cars (over the years) are automatically set on NPR. Thus, from the day they were born, my kids were exposed to NPR about 9 0% of the time they rode with me in the car. Occasionally we would switch to another station, or put in a tape or CD. I never knew how much they heard, listened or understood what was going on, but was hoping that something would enter their heads, and at least that the habit of NPR-listening may get started. But they never ever commented on anything they heard on the radio. That is, until this morning.

This morning I took the kids to school. First we dropped off Coturnietta at her school, then proceeded to Junior's school. It was early morning, they were sleepy, so, as usual, they were just sitting quietly in the back. When we just started we got into the middle of a story on Morning Edition about the rights of prisoners to attend religious services. Fr ankly, I was not really paying 100% attention, but apparently this is another contentious issue between the Federal government and several State governments. From what I gathered, the Feds are against it for two reasons. First is practical: services appea r to be a great way for inmates to exchange information. Second is more principled: apparently the only services these few states (Alabama and what others?) offer is some kind of un-named blend of Protestantism, and the Feds do not think that one religion should be supported over all other religions. The States disagree - they want to offer just one religion and argue that this is within the states' rights.

A few minutes into the story, my son jumped in, agitated: "What is all this about! Religion is wha t you believe - it has nothing to do with prisons, or taxes, or government! This is an insane government! We need to move away!" I was stunned. This is the first time I have ever heard him make a political statement. And he was right on. My wise-Dad respo nse? "Oh, no, we need to stay here and fight. Even if we go to such a far-away and nice place as New Zealand, in a few years the effects of the American government will affect us there, too. Instead, we need to do whatever we can, no matter how long it ta kes, to get rid of the "insane" government. That is our duty to the country and the world." He agreed. Now, when did he get to be so smart?

More on Coturnietta here.>

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:37 PM | permalink | (4 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Forget about steroids in baseball - it's a smokescreen.

Forget about Terry Schiavo - it's a smokescreen. Not even a Bush-appointed conservative activist judge can do anything with this deeply unconstitutional bill. We should expose the Repub's hypocrisy: saving one non-existent life (Terry is for all practical purposes dead, after all) while sacrificing lives of thousands (soldiers and Iraqis) and millions (about to lose their Medicare and Medicaid coverage).

We need to focus on the stuff they are trying to hide with these smokescreens:

We need to hammer on The Hammer. Do not delay on DeLay.

We need to care about Medicare, and aid the Medicaid.

This is no time for sense of false security about Social Security.

Don't budget your time - keep asking about the budget.

Keep drilling about ANWAR Drilling.

We need to put a lot of pressure right now, on things that are really important, not get stuck on topics THEY want us to pay attention to.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:42 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Become Republican

The funniest movie-clip (because it is oh-so-true):

hat tip: AnonyMoses (

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:38 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

I May Be Just A Wabbit But I Am A DEMON Wabbit

Hare Daemon
Your HARE DAEMON represents your passive,
kindhearted, and honorable nature. Though you
are occasionally shy with new people, friends
admire your unshakable tranquility, even in the
face of chaos.

What Animal Would Your Daemon Settle As?
brought to you by Quizilla

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:16 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Robots" - The Movie

Last night I took the kids to see "Robots". The kids loved it, but I think I loved it even more. I surely laughed more than the kids did, not because of "adult" references (those were very few), but because many cultural references go way back to the movies I saw when I was a kid. And there are cultural references galore, on the order of three per second. I will have to get the DVD when it comes out in order to watch it several more times so I can catch them all.

The most obvious, and repeated, references were to "Wizard of Oz" and "Star Wars". Most were more subtle, I think, for instance "Lord of the Rings" and "Metropolis". Reviewers think that the "Singing in the Oil" scene is homage to the old "Singing in the Rain" movie, but I think they are missing the boat here. I believe that the reference is to the similar scene in Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You". Also, I have a feeling that they are also self-referencing to some recent cartoons (including their own), like "Shrek" and "Jimmy Neutron". I can't believe they missed the opportunity, using the character of Auntie Fanny, to insert at least a few notes of the "Big Butts" song - do they think that "Shrek I" appearance is enough?

Since it is in vogue these days to analyze movies through the political lens, I guess this one is squarely Progressive - it is about a revolution of the poor against the greedy Corporation after all. And, since in Robot City the Corporation is the only institution with power (i.e., Government), the decision to stop producing spare parts (expensive upgrades are the only option) is tantamount to eliminating health-care for the poor.

The most memorable scene in the movie is the long sequence, early in the movie, when the young robot travels from the train station to the headquarters of the Corporation. It is an amazing Rube Goldberg machine made up of pinball elements and scary fairgrounds rides - not something seen in movies to date: absolutely breathtaking. Oh, and I LOVE Rube Goldberg machines. I am still trying to figure out how to use a Rube Goldberg metaphor for something connected to politics, just for the fun of it.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:08 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

I Told You It Was All About Sex

What connects all these stories? Femiphobia, obsession with sex, return to the Calvinist Puritan "ethics", the negative effects of same, and the completely wrong-headed way to deal with it. First, A Repub Texas legislator gets a hard-on at a football game:

Legislation Targets Gyrating Cheerleaders

Teen cheerleaders under sex ban,10117,12610245-13762,00.html

Local Cheerleaders React to Possible Law

We knew all along that abstinence-only programs do not work and actually make things worse. Now here are some hard data, and various ways media spins them:

Teen Pledges Barely Cut STD Rates, Study Says
Teenagers who take virginity pledges -- public declarations to abstain from sex -- are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge, an eight-year study released yesterday found.

US ; Bush pushes sexual abstinence for teens despite data:

Senate Rejects Birth Control and Other Proposals to Reduce the Need for Abortion

New face of abuse: one in five girls hit by boyfriend

Relax, your kids probably aren't having sex

Concerned parents give The Talk about oral sex, too

Child-abuse bill worries critics

Montgomery Parents View Sex-Ed Video

The media: How is it influencing males?

Indecency is in the Air

Abstain From Danger

Pinch Me Films Puts Teenagers’ Reality Back into "Reality Programming"

Teens, contraception and parental consent

The right doesn't just want fewer abortions

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:14 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Big Brass Blog

Two of my favourite bloggers, Pam ( and Shakespeare's Sister ( have joined forces (with some other good bloggers) and formed a new group blog, The Big Brass Blog ( It is like one-stop shopping for some of the best political blogging around....most definitely take a look.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:21 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Balkans

The third issue of the Carnival of the Balkans will be hosted by Eric Gordy of East Ethnia( on April 15th 2005.

If you are from the Balkans, or are currently in the Balkans, or wrote a really good post about Balkans, submit your entry to Eric at: eastethnia AT gmail DOT com.

For more information, please visit the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:10 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Godless #8

The new edition of the Carnival of the Godless is now online:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:26 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Skeptic's Circle

The next issue of The Skeptic's Circle, the blog carnival devoted to debunking pseudo-science, non-science and non-sense, will be hosted by me, right here on Science And Politics on March 31st. Send your entries by 5pm EST on the 30th to Coturnix AT gmail DOT com. Put "Skeptic's Circle" in the title of your message. Send me the title and URL of your post. A brief description is appreciated, though not neccessary. For more information, check the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:09 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Tangled Bank

The Tangled Bank

There is still time to contribute for the next edition of the Tangled Bank (the science-nature-medicine-environment blog carnival). If you have a post that fits here, send it by March 22 to Syaffollee:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:08 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tar Heel Tavern - Call For Submissions

I had a couple of people offer to host the next issue of Tar Heel Tavern. Well, I thought that first come first serve basis is the fairest of all, so teh next host will be Dirty Greek (who will post specifics about the next week's issue):

For more information, see the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:46 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tennessee Waltz - Leonard Cohen version

Most of you probably know that old song, the Tennessee Waltz. It has a special emotinal meaning to me (OK, no wife reads this - no need to remind her I had a life before I met her...). I was aware for a while that Leonard Cohen (one of my favourite singers/songwriters) has penned a second verse, but I did not know if he had recorded it before. I bought a relatively recent CD of his, "Dear Heather" and I put it in and, voila, there it was, bringing chills down my spine....

I was dancin' with my darlin'
to the Tennessee Waltz
when an old friend I happened to see.
I introduced him to my darlin'
and while they were dancin'
my friend stole my sweetheart from me.

I remember the night
and the Tennessee Waltz
'cause I know just how much I have lost.
Yes, I lost my little darlin'
the night they were playing
that beautiful Tennessee Waltz

I remember the night ...

She goes dancin' with the darkness
to the Tennessee Waltz
and I feel like I'm falling apart
and it's stronger than drink
and it's deeper than sorrow
this darkness she left in my heart

I remember the night ...

That beautiful Tennessee Waltz

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:40 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Tar Heel Tavern #4

The brand new edition of the Tar Heel Tavern (the blog carnival of North Carolina bloggers) is now up on Pirate's Cove:

If you wish to host one of the future issues, please e-mail me at

Coturnix AT gmail DOT com

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:26 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Un-Capitalists

The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists has arrived! The first edition will be hosted on Monday March 28, 2005 byFreiheit und Wissen (

Please send submissions by Sunday, March 27, 4 p.m. EST to

Presenting a weekly blog digest published each Monday on the excesses of Capitalism and its alternatives. While the title for the Carnival is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the topics are not.What issues will this Carnival focus on?

- Income disparity and the increase of global poverty

- Privatization and the crisis of public ownership

- The emerging corporate threat to democracy

- Corporate malfeasance

- Workers' rights, union organizing, and transnational solidarity movements

- Free-trade vs. Fair-trade

- Neoliberalism and market deregulation

- Anti-globalist perspectives and alternatives

- Corporate environment abuse

- Sustainable development

- The IMF, the World Bank, the WTO

The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists is meant to bring attention to these issues, whether you oppose globalization, neoliberalism, etc., or not. Certainly, the Left in the United States does not share a general consensus on these issues. For example, former President Bill Clinton was an advocate of free-trade, while various Democratic members of Congress want to repeal NAFTA and trade agreements like it. To be eligible for this Carnival, we do not ask that you support one side or the other, but only that you are engaged with some of these issues on your blog. We also ask that you have a link from your blog to the Carnival of the Un-Capitalists (

The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists is a weekly digest. To keep the Carnival relevant to current events, we ask that you only submit posts from the previous week that deals with at least one of these issues. We ask that you only submit one post per Carnival. Send your weekly submissions to

For more information see the homepage:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:56 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, March 18, 2005

Last call for The Tar Heel Tavern

Pirate's Cove has posted the last call for submissions here:, if you blog from North Carolina about anything, or from somewhere else about North Carolina, send your entry today.

If you want to host one of the future carnivals, e-mail me at CoturnixATgmailDOTcom

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:34 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Animal Blogging

The new Friday Ark is up:

Check the week-by-week composition of the Ark:

What is it with cats!?#$%^&

Please post pictures of non-cat animals, preferrably invertebrates, and send the link to the Modulator! Root for the little guy. Down with Aristocats!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:36 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I Link So You Don't Have To

I decided not to do anything productive today. Instead I surfed the blogosphere, and here is the best of what I found:

The Iron Blog is over. The tasting is here:
...and the verdict here:
I am mad that Majikthise did not win, but what can I expect from biased home-turf judges! Will a challenger ever win?

A new blog carnival: Science and Christianity Showcase:
Not too impressive...and why is there nothing about evolution (one wonders)?

....and an idea for a Carnival for Un-capitalists, by Freiheit und Wissen:
to include blog posts about, for instance:
Income disparity and the increase of global poverty
Privatization and the crisis of public ownership
The emerging corporate threat to democracy
Corporate malfeasance
Workers' rights, union organizing, and transnational solidarity movements
Free-trade vs. Fair-trade
Neoliberalism and market deregulation
Anti-globalist perspectives and alternatives
Corporate environment abuse
Sustainable development

Carl Zimmer writes about dinosaurs (twice):
Growing Up With Dinosaurs
Why do we have so many questions about the most successful animals that ever lived?

Pratie Place on the turth and myths about the Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969:
...on framing:
...and on Monarch butterflies:

Billmon has fun with Horrorritz:
David Horowitz's (Losing) BattleWith the Truth
Scenes From the Cultural Revolution

PZ Myers explains evolution in the absence of selection:
Genuine controversies and the distracting nonsense of creationism
...and concludes his series on Berlinski:

Phawrongula, of course, immediately translates Pharyngula into verse:

Which version of Ten Commandments should we really hang in schools and courthouses:

Eric Martin on Iraq, Consitution etc.:

From Panda's Thumb, on a strange new robot:
...on the eye, or why IDC arguments about the eye are wrong:
...on should we teach IDC in schools:
...on the natural fraternity of IDC and astrology:

Contrary Brin on Modernism 16b: An Aside About "Human Nature"

Evolving Thoughts about "Argument From Designer To Design":

Backwards City about the real ending of Peter Pan and it is daaaaark (look around the blog for some great links):

Evolutionblog on fundamentalism and postmodernism:

Emwe's Meta-Blog on the Unity Of Science and the Completeness of Physics:

Evolgen on the Origin Of Life:
...on sequencing the genome of the NY City air:
...and on the Politically Incorrect History:

How fast is the speed of (conscious) thought?
Chris of Mixing Memory responds:

Burning Bird on blogrolls, Women-bloggers and TTLB ecosystem (good!):

MindHacks on ketamine:
...gifted children:
..brain injury:
....mental space:
...and bipolar disorder:

Red State Rabble on Republican funding of IDC:
...and some more:
...and more:
...and a flow-chart of money-flow:

Effect Measure on scientific evidence in courts:
(plus many many posts on the avian flu)

A very cool tree at the Holowatch blog:

Rhosgobel has two ongoing sereis. One is full of great pictures from the British Museum, the last entry (containing links to previous entries) is here:
The other is on California school troubles:

Blog Or Not on a blog-based locally-organized system of think-tanks:

AEBrain on the ethics of transplanting human brain cells into mouse brains:

Keat's Telescope on publishing data online:
....on the X-chromosome in human and platypus:
...and on methane on Mars:

Preposterous Universe on the division of the political blogosphere:
...and about being rich:

Mike the Mad Biologist on The God Gene:
...and on role of religion in the Democratic Party from a Jewish perspective:

The Nonist continures the series on sexual pathologies of the past:

The Between on violence vs. sex in video games (do you know they censor sex for US versions and violence for European versions of many games?):

Editors of Scientific American have their own blog:

Blog about music and the neuroscience of music:

Sleepdoctor (formerly Rebel Doctor) on war in obesity:

Thread The Needle continues the series on psychological effects of slavery:

Hedwig The Owl reports: Pale Male and Lola have eggs!
...and on flu vaccines:

Rana on Politics as a Popularity Contest:

Tony Pierce has some tips on how to blog:

...while Marketing Sherpa has advice for people who use blogs for business:

Dissecting Rightism continues to...well, dissect Rightism:

Mahablog on the invasion of She-Bloggers:
...on woman-talk:
...and many, many other good posts....

Culture Cat on changes in teen-girl literature over time (some cool covers!):
....and on her presentation about blogging culture, including female bloggers:

Daily Duck on evolution and relativity:
...on Berlinsky, part 1:
...part 2:
...and part 3:
...and on the decline of atheism:

Bitch, PhD, on argumentative women:
..on deserving men:
...and mommy-blogging:

Syaffolee on killing the males:

A blog written by a hedgehog:

Craving Progress is a new blog by a scientist, Sara the Immunology Student:

Amanda of Mouse Words on religion and women in sports:

Everything you always wanted to know about clams (from Dharma Bums):

The First Year Teacher (now in second year of teaching) gets Satan to help with classroom discipline:

Brad Plummer on the "investor class":

The Number 2 Pencil has a series of tutorials about statistics:

An Edwards supporter from NC:

Decembrist on Opportunity vs. Security (as a false dichotomy):

The Thinking Nurse on Blog Therapy:
...and here:
...on psychological differences between Left and Right (politically):

Interesting perspective from Hey City Zen:

Animal Crackers on "Eat Meat" Day (which I forgot to post about, but dutifully ate meat):
...and on PETA terrorist connections:
...and actions:

Much fun on the San Diego Zoo blog:

...likewise on the Asheboro Zoo blog:

Buridan's Ass on IDC and Probability Reasoning:
....on defending evolution:
...and on not letting IDC into schools:

Iconoclast on Anarcho-Syndicalism:

Gorgeous Italian Kendo Blogger (in Italian):

What is Life? It Looks Different From Here tries to answer:

Niches is one of the most informative science blogs:

Ilyka Damen on women in the workplace:

Bigwig on Simian Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated:
...and continues his series on birds of Iraq:
Trish Wilson on Deborah Tannen on male/female communication styles:

Aaron Swartz on fraud in science:
...and on Summers:
...and on relationship between astrology and Republicans:

World O'Crap on Hannity defending Easter (like O'Reilly defended Christmas):

Trixie Update blogs about his daughter, from the moment she was born:
Here is the sleeping chart:

For The Record on short-term vs, long-term planning:

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred is a very snarky, ironic, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek and maddening, yet smart blog:

Any Set of Characters on prostitution:
...part 2:

Nadezhda is inspired by Publius and writes a drama about Social Security:

Mick Arran has some good writing on Gannon and Social Security, and the last post promoted Blog Tower #3:

Mike Munger, my favourite nutty libertarian:

Cindy of Mousemusings on listening, critical thinking, creativity and the Nation of Clones:

Dust Devils on Mars? chattr+a-V reports:

Ron on perception of gays:

...and do not forget to send your entries for the Tar Heel tavern:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:40 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink