April 23, 2017

The March for Science

Science-girl-with-ponytailThe March for Science took place in Washington DC yesterday, with other marches happening in many other cities around the world. It generated some controversy because - well, what isn't these days? It generated controversy primarily because some were worried that it would become politicized and turn into more of an anti-Trump demonstration than a pro-science demonstration. I can understand that concern. Some scientists and supporters of science undoubtedly voted for Trump. Some of those who did so probably still support him. I imagine they might not have felt particularly welcome at the march.

While I can understand the concerns about an overly politicized march and even empathize with those expressing them, that does not mean I agree with them. I really don't. As far as I'm concerned, any administration that denies climate science, puts creationists in positions of power, and proposes deep cuts to the budgets of federal agencies that fund scientific research is already politicizing science. I see nothing wrong with scientists, supporters of science, and members of the reality-based community at large pointing this out and demanding change. The march took place, at least in part, because many people believe that the scientific enterprise is being threatened by the Trump administration. They have a right to express their concerns and to rally public support for science. And frankly, I'm glad they are doing so.

April 22, 2017

A Brief Review of The Witch

The WitchSince I was not at all impressed with It Follows, I was eager to take a chance on a film that made practically every "Best Horror of 2016" list, so I watched The Witch. In a word, wow! Even though I thought it was a bit of a stretch to classify it as horror or to suggest that it was even mildly scary, it managed to be one of the better films in any genre I've seen in quite awhile. But how can a horror film that wasn't scary be any good? Great acting, amazing set, creepy atmosphere, and one of the most unsettling scores I can recall certainly helped. But what put it over the edge was how original the entire concept seemed compared to most of the crap coming out these days. Scary or not, it was just a damn good flick.

Contrary to what I was expecting, the film does not center on the witch trials. They are part of the context, and witch hysteria is relevant here; however, this is not one of those films where the centerpiece of the story is a trial interspersed with flashbacks. Instead, it deals with a family of devoutly religious Puritans coping with unimaginable hardship and a rapidly deteriorating conflict while their "god" is as uninvolved as ever. Most of all, it shows the terror with which the early Puritans regarded witches. I found it a powerful reminder that many people used to sincerely believe in witches (unfortunately, some still do).

April 20, 2017

Respecting Those With Whom We Disagree

We can respect those with whom we disagree.

I respect many people with whom I rarely agree on matters of religion, politics, or practically anything else. I can recognize their intelligence, kindness, and other positive attributes even though I disagree with them on many issues. I read their work and watch their videos, regularly finding something of value. I enjoy spending time with some of them in my daily life. The fact that I do not share their god belief or have different political views rarely prevents me from respecting them.

April 18, 2017

What Should Democrats Learn From the 2016 Election?

Hillary Clinton
Photo by Gage Skidmore [CC by-SA 2.0]
What has the Democratic party learned in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election that might help them in the future? What should the Democratic party have learned from the 2016 election that might help next time? I don't have an answer to either question, but I suppose it would be fair to say that I find the first one a bit more troubling than the second. Although I'm still a bit fuzzy on the sort of lessons the party should have learned, I have the sense that they haven't learned them just yet. I'm still seeing too much finger-pointing, suggesting a reluctance to take responsibility for what seemed to be their election to lose.

So what should the Democrats learn from the 2016 election that might help them do better next time? One potential lesson that occurs to me is that decades of overlooking and even mocking entire demographic and geographic segments of the U.S. can turn off voters. It seems to me that some changes are going to be required to repair this damage. The day may come when changing demographics permit the Democratic party to write off White working-class voters entirely, but we aren't there yet. And as long as we stick with the electoral college, I think it is important for Democrats to realize that there are quite a few Americans who have zero interest in living in California or New York.

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