"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jacques Derrida, Pat Robertson, and Frosty Hardison Join Forces

It wasn't so long ago that skeptics of the postmodern turn lay claim to the paradoxical argument that all knowledge claims are relative, a strong statement that could obviously be true only if it were false. Such a glaring logical contradiction was not enough, however, to keep dogmatists of all brands from becoming apoplectic that there could be a challenge to the notion of Absolute Truth, even though those claiming to be in charge of the Truth often attacked or were attacked by others equally sure of having quite a different version of what, otherwise, remained Unchangeable and Unvarying. You might say that if truth can set you free, then t absolute truth can get you killed.

Since Truth is dependent upon values and beliefs that function to direct our moral conduct, facts often become unpopular among Truth holders, particularly when facts offer evidence that challenge the Truth of those who have confused or conflated their Truth (based on values and beliefs) with the empirical certainty of facts. Since those who harbor the Truth cannot use their belief alone to counter the facts that they find dangerous to the underpinning of their Truth, they convert their values, their beliefs, into false facts and then insist that they be given equal weight to the true facts that are derived from observation and experimentation, rather than being derived from a desperate cobbling together of pieces of broken faith.

This is, indeed, the situation we find ourselves in today, where Believers' facts, which are extrapolated from beliefs, vie for postion next to the facts derived from 500 years of modern science. Witness the re-emergence of the controversy surrounding the science of evolution.

With the help of right-wing political ideologues, however, we have gone one step further than the religious fundamentalists have taken us, so that now facts are now not challenged by a faith-to-fact transformation of the standard creationist variety, but, rather, facts, themselves, the ones based on observation and experimentation, are given the same previously-privileged place of faith. This gift, if you will, has less advantage for the empirically-grounded than it does for the holders of Truth, whether that Truth be religious, moral, or political--or all three. For when facts become a belief, then Truthholders are no longer required to go through the cumbersome and often-embarrassing machinations of fact manufacture. They simply have to disagree with what has been converted to another version of the Truth and then insist that their real Truth be given equal time with the one held by those who happen to believe in the facts.

Thus, the fundamentalists and the uniculturalists and the advocates of the one-Party system have come much closer in just a few short years to the ultimate relativism than ages of committed solipcists, angry anarchists, and posturing postmodernists: the Karl Roves of the world stand to inherit an epistemological relativism that will make those who control power the ultimate keepers of Truth--where propaganda is given the same stage as facts, all in the name of free speech. And the consolidation of media continues.

Here is an example from today's news that shows the current denigration of fact through its elevation to truth for political purposes--perhaps Gore should have chosen a better title--something like An Inconvenient Fact:

This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert "An Inconvenient Truth."

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

Hardison's e-mail to the School Board prompted board member David Larson to propose the moratorium Tuesday night.

"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," said Larson, a lawyer. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate."

School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."

The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.

"What is purported in this movie is, 'This is what is happening. Period. That is fact,' " Barney said.

Students should hear the perspective of global-warming skeptics and then make up their minds, he said. After they do, "if they think driving around in cars is going to kill us all, that's fine, that's their choice."

Asked whether an alternative explanation for evolution should be presented by teachers, Barney said it would be appropriate to tell students that other beliefs exist. "It's only a theory," he said.

While the question of climate change has provoked intense argument in political circles in recent years, among scientists its basic tenets have become the subject of an increasingly stronger consensus.

"In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," states a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises policymakers.

"Furthermore, it is very likely that the 20th-century warming has contributed significantly to the observed sea level rise, through thermal expansion of seawater and widespread loss of land ice."

The basics of that position are backed by the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences.

Laurie David, a co-producer of the movie, said that this is the first incident of its kind relating to the film.

"I am shocked that a school district would come to this decision," David said in a prepared statement. "There is no opposing view to science, which is fact, and the facts are clear that global warming is here, now."

The Federal Way incident started when Hardison learned that his daughter would see the movie in class. He objected.

Hardison and his wife, Gayla, said they would prefer that the movie not be shown at all in schools.

"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all," Gayle Hardison said. "If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown."

Scientists say that Americans, with about 5 percent of the world's population, emit about 25 percent of the globe-warming gases.

Larson, the School Board member, said a pre-existing policy should have alerted teachers and principals that the movie must be counterbalanced.

The policy, titled "Controversial Issues, Teaching of," says in part, "It is the teacher's responsibility to present controversial issues that are free from prejudice and encourage students to form, hold and express their own opinions without personal prejudice or discrimination."

"The principal reason for that is to make sure that the public schools are not used for indoctrination," Larson said.

Students contacted Wednesday said they favor allowing the movie to be shown.

"I think that a movie like that is a really great way to open people's eyes up about what you can do and what you are doing to the planet and how that's going to affect the human race," said Kenna Patrick, a senior at Jefferson High School.

When it comes to the idea of presenting global warming skeptics, Patrick wasn't sure how necessary that would be. She hadn't seen the movie but had read about it and would like to see it.

"Watching a movie doesn't mean that you have to believe everything you see in it," she said.

Joan Patrick, Kenna's mother, thought it would be a good idea for students to see the movie. They are the ones who will be dealing with the effects of a warmer planet.

"It's their job," she said. "They're the next generation."


  1. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Hello all. Frosty E Hardison here. Yeah it’s really ME!

    On something as simple as faith? You either have it or you don’t.

    On something as simple as having a testimony that Jesus Christ has taken an active part in your life? You either have one or you don’t. If you don’t have it, you walk around in life an empty shell – often times you don’t even know it. Once you are filled with HIM and the unconditional love that He is? You KNOW what it was to be empty and you want to help others discover the truth too.

    On something as simple as the age of the earth? I can do the math, the lineage provided in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 that give the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew recorded Joseph's lineage, while Luke gave the family tree of Mary) places us at what right about 12,000 years today?

    As far as science goes? Observational science and speculation of new ideas? Oh yeah, what we see is what we get. Or is it an optical illusion? I have no problems keeping an open mind for new ideas, perspectives and sources of information… the thing is, even under strict circumstances can we as fallible humans be mis-interpreting the data that is being read? As a data and systems analyst I have to ask that question all the time. Same goes for the carbon 14 factor. Where do the calculations come from that the world is several billions of years old when carbon 14 data is only good for a few thousand years? Then when you look at the methodology of HOW carbon 14 itself is produced you come into several variances to consider as well. Under what circumstances are there fewer occurrences of C14 being produced – what increases and what decreases it? Is it steady? Is it stable? What factors produce the absorption rates into tissues, fossils and specimens we are looking at? Do they differ or vary by diet, climate, solar variances? As a hobbyist in science myself, I at least still ask those questions.

    I would rather have a human witness to cross examine than a machine of any kind – any day. Neither are infallible, but at least one of them can reason, think and extrapolate a conclusion weighing ALL the evidence rather than a preprogrammed set of line codes that can be out of calibration at any given time.

    And if you want a spokes person for global warming – I would have chosen Ben Stein! Not AL Gore. Have a wonderful day.

  2. Anonymous8:32 AM

    Frosty, you're an ass.

  3. Anonymous10:14 AM

    I cannot believe the lengths you and others will go to, to avoid responsibility. It's not un-Christian to believe in global warming. But, I would highly doubt God would be happy about how the human race has treated the earth He created. Instead of worrying about skewing facts to fit your perspective, why don't you try to open your eyes and ears and realize WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR TAKING CARE OF THE EARTH. So, even if you don't believe Al Gore's movie, there is no reason not to start conserving, recycling and planting more trees. It's the most Christian thing you could do!!!!!

  4. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Not once have I claimed at any time or anywhere that "Global Warming" is not happening. NEVER. What I HAVE said is: This earth was once a global paradise, it was once tropical everywhere. What we lose in beach front property we will gain in more habitat for humanity in places like Alaska, Canada, Siberia, Antarctica. What we gain in temperature - we all lose in costs of keeping our homes warm during winter - saving billions of people the hardships of cold winters and misery of cold and flu season. Most importantly, with a warmer world, we grow food world wide and all year long, instead of seasonally. What the control freaks don't want you to hear is that we can end world hunger with a world producing food year around. With higher water tables, more fresh water will be available in the evaporation cycle, creating more clouds, blocking out HARMFUL rays from the sun and lowering skin cancer.

    I have also said: It is the sun that is causing the erosion of the Ozone layer - the Bible predicted this would happen 3500 years ago. Burning of fossil fuels is NOT creating some unknown contaminant and introducing these into the environment - these same chemicals and gases were on the face of the planet before in the forms of sea creatures and plant matter, it just so happens that what we call fossil fuels were covered by mud and sediment from the global flood during the days of Noah. There is NOTHING humans as a world population can do to stop global warming, because the one solution to the problem is the acceptance of an Almighty God - no one seems to want to acknowledge - because that would mean mankind would be held accountable for all of the lies of evolution, the murders of Islam and the expulsion of God and Bible in the classrooms.

    The real challenge we face is from the fools that log on to blogs like this one - call ME an idiot for everyone to see but can't generate enough brain power for themselves to see the forest for the trees... they can't think long term for themselves and reason ALL of the sciences together to paint a global paradise. Instead they want to scare the hell out of you and charge you every dime they can to fix a problem there is no human solution for.

    Yes we should wean our nations off of oil, if for any other reason to rid ourselves of funding the Islamic tyranny that has been spreading since oil was found in Arabia. We should use our technologies to make our lives better, cleaner and more healthy. We should fly electric vehicles to work and stop thinking 2 dimensionally by creating more concrete highways. Think intelligently, think for yourself and think of real solutions - not stupid carbon credits!