Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Major Pet-Peeve: 'Machiavelli' is Not a Synonym for Evil

Isn't it annoying that in our cultural imagination, Niccolo Machiavelli is the devil? Well, it is to me. As countless authors have pointed out, the actual Machiavelli was not any worse morally than anyone else in his day. Besides, the adjective 'Machiavellian' ought to be a compliment! Having read The Prince, I can tell you that he was, at the very least, not a naive moron in foreign affairs. We could use a few more like him. And consider the context: Machiavelli was an out-of-work starving diplomat looking to also help his native Florence. The best avenue at that moment was the authoritarian Lorenzo d' Medici, if memory serves; it was dedicated to him. Other works (from Wikipedia entry) would strongly indicate a preference for some form of democracy (republicanism) besides. I hate how we call people and things we hate politically Machiavellian. He doesn't deserve that. Consider this example: "Suppose someone picked you up, carried you into a voting booth and forced your hand to push a button indicating a vote for the notorious politician Mack E. Velley." (Walls and Dongell, Why I Am Not A Calvinist, p.108) C'mon, Jerry! Give the man some love! (Side note: If you want to convince Jason Kettinger to abandon Calvinism, don't be sloppy with an important historical figure, using him as a punching bag and synonym for evil. With what else are you being sloppy? Hmmmm...) I just had to get that off my chest.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

[Disclaimer: The following political views are mine; you may choose or not to agree with them. No claim will be made that such views represent the majority of evangelical American Christians, or that they have any standing as 'THE evangelical position' on any issue. Thus, you in the media can now refrain from portraying us as a monolithic block of unthinking Bushbots or GOP lackeys, if we ever were. Thank you.]

I must confess: I am a global-warming denier. That's really not cool to say. (Or maybe it is, who knows?) And it's not because A) I hate the earth (I most certainly love it) or B) I'm greedy (I'd like to think not, anyway) and I should say that C) to the best of my knowledge, I have not received funds from any oil/other energy company ever. Nor is my position on this issue conditioned by any, shall we say, sudden eschatological views (like, "Jesus is coming tomorrow, so who cares?" etc). This earth, once fully repaired, will be our home. If you cut down a tree--I fully agree with the hippies here--put it back. Adam was a gardener; it's a fair point. Now that the qualifying is out of the way, let me proceed.
Where is this massive scientific consensus that global warming is real? Am I the only one who notices that our national conversation just assumes this to be true? Granted, I don't have the time to investigate climatology on my own, and neither do you; we've got to trust somebody. And for all I know, it's there, they're right, and we have work to do. But I'm a little uncomfortable automatically trusting even a vast majority of scientists (or other 'experts') about anything. Don't most scientific advances seem to occur when some lone wolf, as it were, passionately fights for a crazy-wacko idea all alone, intuitively sensing that the paradigm is in error? (Paging Polanyi!) Isn't this 'consensus' a little scary in that sense?
What got me thinking about this was a rather glib story in Newsweek about 'the global-warming denial machine.' I've heard of Fred Singer (a noted skeptic) and others. We might want to know (as the article says) who funds their research, what their slant is on this. By all means. But let's not simply dismiss anyone. Have we really done this for the other side? I might point out, for example, that liberal Democrats have a natural hostility toward capitalism and industry unrelated to this issue. Is it at least possible that a perceived calamity could lead to the kind of economic regulation (and forced economic equality) that some Democrats have always desired, but frankly, have been unable to achieve with a willing populace? If we point out these possibilities for skeptics, we must do the same for proponents. Not to dismiss, necessarily, but let us be aware. Is the Kyoto Protocol the best way to deal with our problems on this issue? Why? What do the signatories/proponents have to gain besides a better environment? Why does the treaty ignore the developing world's CO2 contribution to focus on the US predominately? If America weren't the lone superpower, would this treaty have been proposed?
"Words of a true denier," you sniff, and maybe so. But we should be openly discussing all these things, on every side. Let's lay all the cards on the table. Al Gore, and Fred Singer, and James Hansen, and Bjorn Lomborg, and your bio teacher from high school should sit down and talk these things out. It'll get nasty maybe; Al will get accused of being a data-falsifying commie, someone will point out for the millionth time that Lomborg is a statistician, not a climatologist, and he'll give that skeptical work not one second of attention. Fine; we'll sling all the slanderous brickbats we can think of. But I figure if we listen long enough, instead of running back to our "camps," maybe we'll catch something we all like. Is there an environmentalist out there who's ever said, "You know, John Stossel has a point; these 'advocacy' groups really harm the case." Or, hey Republicans: I'm not really against alternate fuels. Even if the whole thing's exaggerrated, is anybody against zero-emission vehicles, or planting trees? BTW, you don't have to be a 'moderate' or a 'maverick' to build bridges. Stinkin' find a friend you routinely disagree with, but one you can't help but respect. That'll be how we get out of this (pardon the pun) poisonous atmosphere we're in, man. Kenny Loggins might be the biggest (left-wing) hippie ever, but you can't tell me you didn't like "Conviction of the Heart." And maybe that song funded some dodgy, alarmist climate science. But I'll bet they planted some trees, too. Praise the Lord!