May 26, 2016

The Polls Showing Sanders Beating Trump

Bernie Sanders

You've seen the polls or at least heard about them from many a supporter of Bernie Sanders on social media. Some national polls show Donald Trump either tied with or slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton, and these same polls tend to show Sanders beating Trump by a wider margin. I don't doubt that these polls are real, but I do question their predictive value this far ahead of the general election.

Clinton is a known commodity, and this is both her primary strength and her primary weakness. It is a strength because she's already been vetted, and the Republicans have been attacking her for decades. We know what to expect in a nasty general election race. At the same time, this is a significant weakness because it has translated into her high negative ratings. The voters have had ample opportunity to get to know Clinton over the years and a significant number of them have decided that they aren't particularly excited at the prospect of her becoming president (even though I suspect that many will vote for her in the general election).

May 25, 2016

How We Think About Racism

Stamp Out Racism, Belfast, August 2010We often talk about racism as if it was a dichotomy. We hastily label others as racist or not racist, acknowledging no gradations. This is misleading because most human characteristics, including racial prejudice, do not work this way.

Consider intelligence as an example. It would make little sense to lump every person we met into the categories of "dumb" and "smart" because we know that intelligence is a continuous variable (i.e., we vary along a wide range of intelligence). We are far more interested in knowing someone's level of intelligence (e.g., the infamous IQ score) than in forcing them into only one of two arbitrary categories. Height provides us with a similar example. If we force everyone into the categories of "short" and "tall," we create something that bears little resemblance to reality, losing valuable information in the process. Racism is like intelligence and height in that racist beliefs exist on a continuum where it is meaningful to consider degrees of racism.

Treating racism as a dichotomy is a problem not only because it does not match up to reality and omits valuable information; it is also detrimental because it tends to shut down the possibility of meaningful dialogue with others. Classifying others as "racist" is linked to moral outrage and can make it harder to fairly consider their point of view. Moreover, when we slap these labels on others, it makes it much more difficult to do the one thing almost says we should be doing more of: talking about racism and attempting to find solutions.

May 24, 2016

Political Correctness, Identity Politics, SJWs, and the Regressive Left: Resources on Reddit and Voat

Rocks at Otley Chevin
Rocks at Otley Chevin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With more and more people on both the political left and the political right tiring of political correctness, identity politics, social justice warriors, authoritarianism, and the regressive left, online communities are forming. People with similar opinions on these issues have been finding one another, sharing information, and discovering that they are not alone. Some communities have developed around outspoken personalities (e.g., Dave Rubin, Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos), but many others have seemed to form more organically. Some people are mostly just curious and want to learn more about these topics; others are fed up and want to find effective ways to defend the free expression of ideas.

Reddit and Voat are popular link aggregator sites where communities develop in the form of subreddits and subverses, respectively. Users share relevant links with others, and everyone benefits from discovering content they might have otherwise missed. Not surprisingly, both sites now have some areas where interested users can find and share links related to the topics mentioned above and discuss them.

May 22, 2016

Segregation in Church and in Humanism

American Humanist Association
When I hear the word "segregation," I immediately think of the sort of racial segregation that could be found throughout much of the southern U.S. prior to the Civil Rights movement. I think of racially segregated schools, drinking fountains, restaurants, and so on. This sort of racial segregation was not simply a matter of local custom or preference; it was enforced through the application of police power. A Black person who entered a "Whites only" area could be arrested and charged with a criminal offense. Remember the violence? Remember the images of police dogs and fire hoses?

As we looked at this sad state of affairs, we sought change. We imagined a future without "Whites only" signs, a future where Blacks would be free to use the same facilities as Whites. And as we did so, I'm not sure it ever occurred to us that institutionalized segregation might someday be replaced with the various forms of self-segregation that seem so prevalent today.

To be clear, one can still find institutionalized segregation enforced by police power today, although it tends to be more about income (e.g., police driving homeless people out of various areas) or gender (e.g., gender segregated restrooms) than race. It is also easy to find examples of racial segregation that look a lot like what was in place prior to the Civil Rights movement even though they are not enforced by police power.

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