A step in the right direction… but there are many more steps to go

By Phil Plait | November 6, 2012 11:44 pm

Well, it was quite a night.

I’m trying to parse it all, and there’s a whole lot to parse. The big news, duh, is that President Obama won, and yes, I’m happy about that. Despite a lot of smoke and mirrors from pundits and campaign managers during this unending election cycle, the President has done a lot of good for this country, and has been a net positive in many ways. I think a lot more can improve in the next four years, and I’ll be curious to see just how he rolls up his sleeves and gets to it.

Having said that, I’m not all rainbows and unicorns with him, which I’ll get to in a sec.

I’m thrilled Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost. I have to think that their, ah, extremely poorly thought-out comments about rape had something to do with that. I saw a lot of tweets along the lines of "Hey Republicans, if you want to win next time you’d better not talk about rape!", which I think is wrongheaded. I think politicians should be talking about it, but they should be getting it right. It’s one thing to score a political zinger, but another to actually change the hearts and minds of those same politicians. I want real change, not change in rhetoric.

I’ll note that it looks like in January there will be 18 women Senators, an all-time high. That’s a bit short of the 50 or 52 needed to reflect the true composition of our population, but it’s better than it ever has been. This seems to me to be pretty good evidence that women listen, and they vote. As do men who are concerned over women’s issues. That’s a fine thing, and a really good sign.

Tammy Baldwin is one of those women. She’s the first openly gay Senator in our nation’s history. And four states – Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland – approved marriage equality acts. I’m OK with that. I’m more than OK with that. For why, see here and here and here and here and here.

But the news isn’t all good. I poked around a bit, and saw that a lot of the antiscience Congresscritters were re-elected. Climate change deniers Ralph Hall (head of the House Science Committee) and John Sensenbrenner, and many others will still retain their seats (but not Akin, yay!). [UPDATE: Turns out Hall is term-limited as chairman and will give up the gavel. That link also discusses the changes in the Committee]. Relatively moderate Republican Roscoe Bartlett lost, and he acknowledged the reality of climate change. He’ll have to be replaced by the Republican majority, and sadly, there’s a long list of global warming deniers to choose from. Don’t forget Paul Broun ran unopposed, and he’s a full-blooded antiscience Big-Bang-denying antievolution creationist.

On a better note, I’ll add that Bill Foster, a moderate Illinois Republican Democrat, won a seat. He’s a high-energy physicist! Man oh man, I’d love to see him get on the Science Committee. Boulder’s own Jared Polis retained his seat in Congress, too, and he’s pro-science as well.

Now, having said all that…

I am still unhappy about President Obama gutting NASA’s space exploration funding, and I am unhappy he still hasn’t talked much about climate change… and those are just science topics. And it’s important to note that it’s still a Republican house, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic White House, just as it’s been for two years now. These same two years where almost no legislation has been passed, and a whole lot of science has been ridiculed or simply ignored.

The takeaway here? Overall, I’m pleased. Some things got better, and not much got worse. A lot is still the same, so we have to be ready for more of what we’ve already been through. And while this is a time of celebration for many of us, we must acknowledge that the forces against reality and science are still out there and still have a lot of power. We must not flag, not give up, and never tire.

Ever onward!

MORE ABOUT: Election 2012

Comments (120)

  1. Morrigan

    President Obama acknowledged global warming in his speech, at least.

  2. james

    It was subtle, but it was there

  3. Niveker14

    Obama said in his speech that we don’t want our children to grow up “threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet”. That’s pretty explicit. Hopefully he follows up on this, now that his election is secured.

  4. Wzrd1

    Any time one is climbing a mountain, one is happy when one has moved forward and not slipped massively back to climb again.

  5. Eric Shumard

    Nice summary. BTW, Bill Foster is a Democrat. He was in congress in 2008 – 2010 and was on the Financial Services Committee.

  6. Starry Sky

    As far as I’m aware, there isn’t any confirmation on whether we’ve approved Referendum 74 in Washington yet. It’s certainly looking like the chances are good but I think about half the vote remains uncounted.

  7. Kreg Schlosser

    Also 2 States (including my state of WA) passed laws to legalize Marijuana!

  8. Thanny

    Now that he has no election in front of him, Obama can be more forceful with House Republicans. Hopefully he will.

    And he mentioned global warming in his victory speech. He can also address that more directly, which that mention suggests to me he will.

  9. Keith Bowden

    I’m hopeful. Broun was unopposed, but it seems (though we won’t have real numbers for hours) that “Darwn” got a> lot of votes and I read that voter abstention for his office was pretty high, too.

    I’ve read some analyses that suggest that this was probably a last hurrah for many of the republican hijinx (notably blantant racist platforms on immigration) as we’re at a tipping point

  10. Keith Bowden

    (sorry, phone) where minorities will, by 2016, be on equal footing with the current majorities. Food for thought.

    Dems and other political animals have made their stubborn/crazy plays too, I’m not blaming everything on the republican party. Maybe we can start moving back to an atmosphere of working together for the common good.

    Or not….

  11. Entropy

    I was encouraged to see the explicit climate change mention in his speech. It said to me that he hadn’t touched it yet to avoid providing free attack ad material and perhaps because addressing it during an economic crisis is unwise. We’ll see how he handles it, now that he has no need to worry about reelection and the economy is on the rebound.

  12. Kevin

    I think the problem with global warming as a political issue and the trigger for all the deniers comes down to what can be done about it.
    Even the best case scenarios with freezing CO2 output at the levels at the time of the studies showed a pretty bad future. The only way to stabilize warming at current levels would probably take a complete worldwide ban on all fossil fuels. That’s just something that’s inconceivable. It would require a complete restructuring of the world economy and energy structure.
    What politicians looked at at the time was probably “Any limits on use for example agreed upon by the US would likely be made up for by other countries, like China as an example, as well as India, most of Africa, and anywhere else moving or trying to move from being a 3rd world country to 1st world.”
    The only way out I can see is more and more expansion of solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and moving to space based solar. Get far enough into space based solar, and make energy cheap enough to bankrupt oil, and finally we’d stop increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, even with a proper fully invested race for space based solar, it would probably be at least 20+ years before plants started coming online, and even longer before they made a big enough dent in oil to slow consumption before the oil becomes too hard to drill to be economical anyway.

  13. John

    I noticed the commentators on CNN at least, kept referring to “Republican DNA” or “Democrat DNA” in their analysis of voting patterns.

    Is this really how it’s perceived? That the way you Americans vote is something you can’t consciously change, and that it’s passed on from one generation to the next?

  14. Eddie

    Welcome back to The Rest of The World brother. Sigh of relied from out here. Eddie UK.

  15. Phil said: “I’ll note that it looks like in January there will be 18 women Senators…”

    In Australia’s Federal Parliament, 29 of 76 Senators are female (38%), as are 37 of 150 Members of the House of Representatives (25%). Not up to 50% either, but at least we have a female Governor General and female Prime Minister.

  16. Brian

    @Starry Sky: True, but a decent chunk of those uncounted votes are from the most populous district of King County. Given how well 74 is doing so far without that, I think it’s looking pretty good.

    And coming from the state with two female senators AND a marriage equality act, it’s good to be reminded not to be tempted to rest on our laurels. Tomorrow I will return to complaining about all the ways that Obama and the Democratic party has failed me …

    but tonight, I celebrate.

  17. Rick Johnson

    I can’t speak to the other three states but in Minnesota the constitutional amendment about marriage is to DENY gays the right to marry making it part of the constitution, not just the law it is now. So far it is failing which is good. Assuming it is defeated, the next step is to get the hateful law repealed as well so gays can marry.

  18. bad Jim

    I hate to say it, but as politics goes, this may be as good as it gets. It’s “a strong and slow boring of hard boards”, after all. The bad guys lost. The guys who won may not be that good, but at least there’s a chance that next time they’ll be better. The victories for marriage equality and drug law sanity are pure, uncut good.

    As a white baby boomer – a member of the last generation to grow up with legal segregation – I’m absolutely thrilled by the re-election of a black man by a nation “conceived in liberty” but built on slavery. Old as I am, I don’t expect to see the end of the Civil War, but I have reason to hope that within another generation or two we’ll all eventually wind up on the same side.

  19. VinceRN

    With you 100%, though I’ll add that besides how Obama has pillaged NASA we still seem to be at war when one of his main promises was to put a stop to that his first year in office. And now we have a couple more potentials on the horizon. I suspect we wills till be at war when he leaves office, but I hope I’m wrong. Except for science and war he’s not all that bad, and there is no indication the other guy would have been any better on those.

    These state gay marriage laws are kind of feel good legislation that doesn’t actually mean much. This needs to be addressed at the federal level, until then the whole thing is in limbo.

    My favorite outcome here in Washington was that we passed charter schools. Our public schools are almost uniformly atrocious. In the district I live in some of the schools brag about having gotten up to the 30th percentile nationally – and that only in grade school, after which it is all down hill. Hopefully we will get a decent charter school in this area some time not too far off, hopefully one focused on math and science.

    (I know some here are probably teachers union members or supporters and therefore probably very against charter schools, if so flame away. As a parent I want what’s best for my girls, not what’s best for the union or the bureaucracy.)

    About the only real complaint is our gubernatorial election. Otherwise the election went about as expected.

    Now I can unsquelch about twenty facebook friends that were posting multiple daily rants about Romney or Obama.

    @Bad Jim – Picking a President based on what he looks like?

  20. Radwaste

    If you voted for the President, you not only endorsed his policies – among them the worst of the Bush years, merely carried forward and excused – but you aligned yourself with every mouth who wants to be fed by your tax dollars. Look at the President’s record. You can cherry-pick if you want, but look at all of it.

    From the Augusta Chronicle:
    “If a hurricane had produced 23 million unemployed Americans, a record 47 million on food stamps, nearly 50 million in poverty, almost $6 trillion in new debt, a nearly no-growth national economy and dark clouds of tax increases and recession on the horizon, it would be considered perhaps the biggest disaster to ever hit the U.S. mainland.”

    That this happened because of the actions of Congress as well as a President is ignored. That we chose a man with only the Presidency as executive experience and ignored his apathy should not be. We would never choose a CEO like this.

    I’m going to get buried in taxes next year, and health care, courtesy of this man, is being reduced, as detailed in legally-required documents provided by my employer. That’s only reasonable, as government intervention does NOT make anything cheaper as it redistributes things.

    Congratulations. See you in the soup line. It’s Chinese, so at least that’ll be good.

  21. Ray

    Yes, Obama has done so much good for this country. $5 trillion in additional debt, an unconstitutional war against Libya, an unending and unwinnable war in Afghanistan and lots of corruption. Yay.

  22. David C. in Canada

    Phil, you missed one important victory for women:

    Elizabeth Warren is an American bankruptcy law expert, Harvard Law School professor, and the United States Senator-elect for the state of Massachusetts, having defeated incumbent Senator Scott Brown

    my message to her campaign headquarters:

    YES!!! WELL DONE!!! YAAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! BWG!!!
    Hey, and I ain’t even eligible to vote, ;) can only guess how you bunch are feeling this morning ;D

    Cheers, Mindy, Elizabeth and everyone who had a hand in this victory….

  23. ErrantMoniker

    It’s always fascinating to me to see how the people who elect these officials don’t take into account the long-term effect of what the official can make happen. I know a couple of creationists and even they didn’t really like the antiscience candidates (not that I’m equating creationism with straight-up antisciencism. That’d be a gross overstatement). I suppose what I’m getting at is that Neil Tyson was right: one of the biggest dangers to this country is an uneducated populace. Because really, how else would antiscience candidates make it into office?
    I think a lot of people are just scared of the word “science” and don’t bother to look any further.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    Peter B (13) said:

    In Australia’s Federal Parliament, 29 of 76 Senators are female (38%), as are 37 of 150 Members of the House of Representatives (25%). Not up to 50% either, but at least we have a female Governor General and female Prime Minister.

    Interesting stuff. I’m not sure what the proportions in the UK’s House of Commons are, but (IIUC) we had our first female head of state in 1553 (Lady Jane Grey, immediately followed by two other women, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I). Of the three, these last two were full-on ruling monarchs. Of course, we didn’t have our first female prime minister until 1979, but that was shortly before the USA went and elected Reagan. And the US still has never had a female head of state.

  25. Nigel Depledge

    Ray (19) said:

    . . . an unending and unwinnable war in Afghanistan and lots of corruption.

    What you mean this war?
    [http colon slash slash]en[dot]wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghanistan_War_(2001-Present)

    This war that started in 2001 under GW Bush?

    As for corruption, it has been a part of the DC scene for at least five decades. How do you blame that on Obama specifically?

  26. MaDeR

    So USA will rot a little slower. W00t. Hallelujach etc. I am out of sarcastic remarks.

    Results don’t surprise me. If people have choice between ineffectual weenie (Democrats) and someone that put us all in whole mess in first place (Republicans), it is rather obvious who will be voted. Lesser evil and all of that. Sad.

    Obligatory Onion article from previous election: http://www.theonion.com/articles/black-man-given-nations-worst-job,6439/

    @Nigel Depledge: “This war that started in 2001 under GW Bush? … How do you blame [corruption] on Obama specifically?”
    Everything is Obama’s fault. Duh. Economic crisis, Sandy and ADIS too.

    @Radwaste: “We would never choose a CEO like this.”
    Protip: USA is, at least theoretically, democracy, not corporate fascism.

  27. ds

    Great, 4 more years of “hope”, “change”, and the perpetration of the abuses that Bush created.

    It’s not to say that Romney would be any better, but why should or would we tell someone “Hey, keep doing that awful crap for another 4 years”?

    How will any political party understand that we don’t like what they are doing unless we get at least 75% turnover in every election?

  28. ds

    22. Nigel Depledge Says:

    “This war that started in 2001 under GW Bush?”

    No, I think he means the war that was not ended by Obama… last I checked, GW Bush hasn’t been in office for a while, nor was he running for president.

  29. Chris

    Correction about Minnesota approving a marriage equality act. We did not. All that was done was to decline to add a definition of marriage to the state’s constitution. Nothing was approved, so with regards to marriage, Minnesota is exactly where it was on Monday.

  30. STANLEY H. TWEEDLE
  31. Interesting that the same people who blamed Clinton for eight years of Bush screw-ups don’t like it when Bush gets blamed for his screw-ups that will haunt us for a generation. Last I checked Clinton wasn’t in office in 2008 when Buch/Cheney were still blaming him for everything they were responsible for screwing up.

    And how exactly did President Obama “Pillage” NASA, Vince?

  32. Chris

    Yay, we now know the end of the world won’t be caused because Romney won the election! Unfortunately with so many Republicans left, who will undoubtedly be just as large a pain in the a$$, they could still cause it. Can’t wait to see Fox News blame Obama for the entropy increase of the next four years. Although I do love the fact that Nate Silver has been proven right and all those pundits who were ripping on his math look like idiots now, although most will forget that and we’ll have the same folks spouting nonsense in 2016.

  33. Ray – Why does $5 trillion bother you when the $10+ Trillion Bush borrowed and wasted was fully supported by the right wing? How is it that Obama having to pay bills created by the previous administration is Obama’s fault?

    You do realize that under President Obama federal spending has increased at the lowest rate since President Eisenhower, right? So suddenly all the right wing “fiscal conservatives” are worried about the money but didn’t care at all up to January 2009.

    The fact is the right wing doesn’t care. If they actually were true to this “principle” they’d stop blaming Obama and point at Republicans who did most of the spending.

    What the right wing really wants is to make such a big deal out of spending that they hamstring President Obama. You can bet if Romney was elected that whole “fiscal conservative” thing would go out the window as it did under Bush. But then when Romney is busy trashing the country you folks would blame Obama even when it clearly had nothing to do with him.

    Frankly the right wing has no credibility when it comes to fiscal issue or “blaming”. They’ve never taken responsibility for any of the disaster Bush inflicted on the USA. Even though it’s long proven he lied about WMDs they won’t even man up and admit that he lied and that they were wrong to support him. And yes, I know a lot of democrats did too. They’re wrong as well as anyone doing an hours worth of research BEFORE Bush invaded Iraq would have known that there were no WMDs.

  34. Chris (28) – I’m already hearing a novel excuse from the right to again make it as if Obama is not the legitimate POTUS. Get this…. apparently a lot of right wing Romney supporters went ahead and voted for Obama because if Obama lost there would be mass rioting. I’m on vacation this week and I’ll be tuning into the Yahoo site on and off all day. Right wing poo-slinging today is going to be very amusing. :)

  35. Astrofiend

    As an Australian, I found the highlight of my week was watching the Fox news presenters literally having meltdowns on-air. A tone point one of them stopped presenting and marched over to an analyst’s desk to repeatedly demand why they had called Ohio for Obama! It was comedy gold!

  36. Phil, you said “the President has done a lot of good for this country, and has been a net positive in many ways”. Could you give a couple of examples of specific things Obama has done that has been good for the country?

  37. Fiona Z.

    Phil, thank you for being an outspoken advocate for change, science and rationality. I know you get a lot of criticism and outright hate, but it’s folks like you who help turn the tide of public discourse, and that helps the rest of us get heard, too.

    Thank you. Please don’t ever stop speaking up for your beliefs. You speak for many of us.

  38. Carter

    Again, to reiterate what Rick Johnson mentioned, the ballot question regarding marriage in Minnesota (if passed) would have defined marriage to be only between one man and one woman in the Minnesota state constitution. It failed (HOORAY!), but there still exists a law in Minnesota specifically prohibiting same-sex marriage. Equality won last night’s battle by a narrow margin, possibly because many decided to leave the ballot question unanswered. We have a long way to go yet.

    I agree. This and many other civil liberties issues are best addressed at the federal level. Leaving such issues to state governments allows discordance and confusion to exist between states.

  39. Chris

    @32 Jeffery Ellis
    Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
    DREAM Act
    Ending War in Iraq
    Affordable Care Act
    Saving the Auto industry
    Being in favor of marriage equality
    Increase fuel efficiency standards for cars
    Lowering the student loan rates for college students
    and those were just the things off the top of my head

    Romney was against these things, or maybe he was for them, you’d have to see which day of the week it was.

  40. Art Powell

    The political statements you just made now make me understand this site better. Why is it that if anyone disagrees with Global Warming or with ‘neo-darwinism’ then they are ant-science? I thought this was science; Observe, Hypothesis (reason), Test, Debate. Apparently today science is a faith based institution and if your data or hypothesis disagrees with the High Priest then your branded a heretic.

  41. Thanks, Chris. I disagree that many of those things are good for our country. And my question is really for Phil, because it was his assertion, not yours.

  42. Lawrence

    Republicans call President Obama a “liberal” because they’ve forgotten what a “moderate” looks like.

    Of course, their solution to this “problem” will be to nominate an even more conservative candidate next time that will continue the current trend of alienating Minorities (especially Hispanics, the fastest growing voting bloc – which handed Obama victories in New Mexico and Nevada), Women, and moderates who don’t support a socially-conservative agenda.

    I don’t think the current crop of Republican Tea-Baggers ever really want to win a National Election – since they seem perfectly fine with writing-off 50+% of the national electorate…..then they wonder why they keep losing.

  43. Amer B

    Phil,

    Love your level-headed approach to politics. Great post.

  44. Chris

    @34 Jeffery Ellis
    What do you think is bad for the country?
    Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – Women should not get equal pay for equal work?
    DREAM Act – Children who are becoming productive members of society should be deported to countries where they haven’t lived since being a toddler?
    Ending War in Iraq – War is good?
    Affordable Care Act – If you lose a job, you lose your health insurance, there are limits to how much they cover, if you have a pre-existing condition you’re screwed? They have it in Massachusetts and the vast majority is happy with it
    Saving the Auto industry – Millions more unemployed. There was no private financing available at the time, it was either the government or bust.
    Being in favor of marriage equality – Love is not all you need?
    Increase fuel efficiency standards for cars – We should spew even more CO2 into the atmosphere?

  45. Daniel J. Andrews

    Congratulations folks from a Canuck. The majority of people up here are breathing a sigh of relief (and around the world according to polls).

    Speaking of polls, I’m having fun seeing the egg on the faces of all those political pundits who used their “gut hunch” and numbers pulled out of their nether regions to predict victories, especially those who disparaged mathematically based (i.e. reality based) to predict (accurately as it turns out) victories.

    Seemed fairly typical though–when Repub supporters were confronted with evidence they didn’t like, they attacked the messanger (e.g. Nate Silvers), denied the evidence, and then cherry-picked, twisted, and fabricated their own numbers/evidence to show Romney was leading: Just like they do/did with evolution, geology, cosmology, climate science, stem cell research, acid rain, asbestos, smoking, second-hand smoke, the Star Wars initiative, etc etc etc.

    Anyway, a victory for math and reality over the gut (yet again).

  46. Daniel J. Andrews

    Jeffrey…Writers of blogs often don’t have time to run around addressing every question asked directly of them. They rely on their knowledgeable commenters to field those, especially when they’re relatively simple questions easily located with Google. You said you disagree that many of those things are good for your country, so that means there are some you do agree are good for the country—hence, you now have an answer to your question even if Phil didn’t answer it himself. Do you think you’d get a different answer from Phil, or were you just interested in a ‘gotcha’-type leading question?

  47. Grand Lunar

    I’m fairly pleased with the results.
    I’m most pleased that Akin is out! Would’ve been nice if ALL the ones that made the rape comments were out . The possibility with Broun scares me.

    I’m not very pleased with some results in my sate (AZ).

    Isn’t it really up to Congress to settle what NASA’s budget is? And then for the president to either allow it to pass or to change it?
    If that’s the case, NASA may still not exactly be a winner, with most going into the SLS.
    I’d hope for Congress to read a recent article on “The Space Review”. Has a good one on how it can be better on the existing budget.

    Best part of all this is, of course, that now we don’t have to put up with political ads every other commercial!

    Of course, the bad news is now conspiracy theorists will make up more stories about this election. And fans of “2016″ will moan and cry for the next four years…

  48. Daniel J. Andrews

    Heh…quote from Mashable.

    “Statistics, big data, neutral mathematical models — this, it turns out, is what people want. Who knew?

    Well, we geeks knew, but we’re starting to get used to having the rest of the world follow our lead. We had the smartphones first, we read the fantasy books before they became blockbuster movies and TV shows, and now we can boast that we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Nate Silver’s data before it was popular.”

  49. @36 Chris:

    Lilly Ledbetter Act — This act really has to do with the timeframe during which one can file a lawsuit for unequal pay, and not with equal pay itself. I have no problem with this particular bill. But the subject of unequal pay has been inflated by statistics that conflate together large groups of men and women’s salaries, rather than showing what the difference is between men and women with equal levels of experience and education, in equivalent jobs. When one does that (as many economists have done, e.g., google for Steve Horwitz), the difference in pay turns out to be more like 5 %, not 25%. Still a problem, but not as big of one.

    DREAM Act — I have no problem with this one either.

    Ending war in Iraq — No problem with this, and would like to see the same with Afghanistan.

    Affordable Care Act — This was not a good way to address the nation’s health care problems. Although it does address some problems, it will make other problems worse. It addresses the symptoms (too many people uninsured) rather than root causes (third party payer system removes market incentives to keep costs down), in a way that makes the root causes (costs) worse and will introduce new problems (shortages of medical services, uncertainty of future taxes and expenses making many companies cautious about hiring and expanding, etc.). So yeah, I have a huge problem with this one.

    Saving the auto industry — It is not, nor should it be, the government’s job to save any particular company or industry.

    Marriage equality — I am hugely in favor of marriage equality. Obama gives lip service to it but has not done much else.

    Increase fuel efficiency standards — am on the fence here. A good idea on the surface but it will result in unintended consequences (e.g., cars will be more expensive; will the poor and lower middle class be hurt the worst by this?) have probably not been thought through.

  50. Wzrd1

    @ Lawrence, I’m not so sure. Long before Romney got around to writing his concession speech (took a bit over an hour after the sour grapes bit over 20000 votes remaining (and forgetting how many electoral votes are in California)), a GOP strategist was interviewed and he was calmly discussing re-examination of the party stance and direction. The general trend of his comments suggested a move AWAY from the heavy conservative, far right position that has hijacked the party away from its majority of moderates.
    I was a republican right until I redeployed home and changed party affiliation, purely to disassociate myself from the Tea Party lunatics who actually threatened the nation with “second amendment remedies”, a lot of other returning service members did the same, as none of us can EVER forgive them for the angst caused to deployed personnel who honestly feared their nation and homes would be in flames due to a Tea Party insurrection.

    @Chris, I’d go one further with the Affordable Care Act. Out of the ENTIRE industrialized world, there is one industrialized nation, only one, that does not have national health care.
    The US. And it shows in our infant survival rate, general health trends and survival age.
    Of course, the far right call it socialism. But enjoy their “socialist” superhighways, as to them, ANYTHING that is operated by the government is socialist.
    Of course, those same people cannot even DEFINE what socialism it. Instead, they define it as, “I know it when I see it” and utilize their “feared weapon”, denouncement.
    Worked when Joe McCarthy ran un-American Activities, but we’ve learned to not fear one politician and his antics in a committee that lived quite well to its name. So, it doesn’t work today.

  51. @38 Daniel:

    It was not a “gotcha” type question. I have been reading Phil’s blog for several years now and have come to respect his thinking on most topics. I disagree with some of his politics, though.

    As a critical thinker, and I know Phil is too, I believe that if you express an opinion you should be prepared to offer the evidence and reasoning on which you based that opinion, when asked to do so. I was asking Phil to do so (recognizing that he would probably be too busy, given the hundreds of comments he gets). My intent was not to argue with him or prove him wrong, although I may point out where I disagree, but to see if he has anything to help me improve my own opinions, which is the whole point of critical thinking.

  52. theoncomingstorm

    Right now I think Phil is either recovering from celebrating last night with or without sout some new legalized help. But for future reference I think the democrats need to work on getting mores voters in thr rural parts of the states.

  53. $3BILLION spent on the campaign, and we’re stil basically where we were… Although, it’s nice to see that there are some more and more gradual changes away from polar extremes.

  54. Timothy from Boulder

    @Radwaste (18)

    Just as with climate change, individual isolated events are not as important as the overall trend averaged globally. While you personally may face an increase in taxes and health care cost, I on the other hand have just completed calculating my taxes according to several proposed obama and Romney administration scenarios and I would have taken a huge hit under a Romney administration. I’m sorry that your situation is such that you will face higher costs. If the entire country was in your situation, the election would doubtless have had a different outcome. But much of the result is because the majority of people are not in your financial situation.

    And many do not simply vote by the bottom line on their bank statements. Many Americans are willing to pay for equality, fairness, compassion,and a promise of decent healthcare because they don’t have an employer like you or me.

    Your taxes are going up. Mine are going down. In four years you’ll get a chance to run at this again. It’s not the end of the world.

    Now if the anti-science, climate-change-denying, second-coming-of-Jesus-Christ Republican had gotten into office … but that’s another argument.

  55. Calli Arcale

    Glad to see others have already posted corrections to the bit about Minnesota approving a marriage equality act. Phil, you should probably correct it in your post as well, as it’s a fairly significant error. Minnesota had no marriage equality measure on the ballot. It was a proposal to ban gay marriage, in a state where gay marriage has never been recognized anyway. (In other words, it was an attempt to head off legislative action that may legalize gay marriage in the future.) The measure was defeated. Gay marriage remains unrecognized in Minnesota, but the door remains as open as it was towards changing that at some point in the future.

    Personally, I’d like to see gay marriage recognized in Minnesota. But it did not happen last night, and is not likely in the near future.

  56. Calli Arcale

    BTW, Michelle Bachman narrowly won re-election.

  57. Timothy from Boulder

    @ Larian LaQuella (45)

    So the presidential campaign cost a little less ($2.5B) than the money paid out by people to see a movie that was a cross between Pocahontas and The Smurfs ($2.7B). Not a big deal.

  58. psweet

    Phil, if anyone beat me to this then I apologize for piling on, but….

    Bill Foster’s a Democrat.

  59. Willy

    Meh, what really matters right now is coming to an agreement on taxes and the fiscal cliff.
    Without that, the economy will be so far in the toilet that almost no one will care about anything else. That must come first. The science issues are important but long term.

    If they fail to fix the tax and fiscal issues, they all deserve recall and impeachment. Every single one, democrat, republican, and independent. They would have failed the country utterly.

  60. @ Jeffrey, re: Marriage Equality

    “Marriage” is regulated by the states. To the degree the feds get involved, Obama’s administration has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Other than personally declaring his support for same-sex marriage, which he did, there’s not much more he can do on that issue. As much as conservatives will fault him for not being King of the World, bending people to his will, there are limits on the power of his office.

  61. kat wagner

    Well, I was over the moon when Elizabeth Warren was the projected winner in Mass over Scott Brown. But I just looked up Florida and it looks like Allen West was voted out too. West needs to bury himself under a rock. As for Idaho – it’s always Red. I’m sorry. Not my fault.

  62. CafeenMan: Ray – Why does $5 trillion bother you when the $10+ Trillion Bush borrowed and wasted was fully supported by the right wing? How is it that Obama having to pay bills created by the previous administration is Obama’s fault?
    You do realize that under President Obama federal spending has increased at the lowest rate since President Eisenhower, right? So suddenly all the right wing “fiscal conservatives” are worried about the money but didn’t care at all up to January 2009.

    This ^
    A lot of people don’t seem to realize that war (hell, just about any government endeavor) is not a one-time purchase, it’s a yearly expenditure. Short of immediately pulling the armed forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan (leading to [even more] chaotic power vacuums, loss of confidence in the USA by our allies, accusations of treason by the right wing, etc) there was never going to be a way to immediately stop the deficit spending. It’s not out of line at all to place the responsibility for this squarely on Bush (at least for Iraq, though if the Iraq war hadn’t opened, we might have finished up in Afghanistan much earlier). And that doesn’t even include TARP and the first round of bailouts that were planned when Bush was still in office.
    That’s a bit different from blaming Bush for the economic crisis, which is more open for debate, considering its global scope.

    I would also note that in the last four years, across the pond, unemployment across Europe has increased over 4 percent amid widespread austerity measures, while in the same period of time unemployment has dropped more than 2 percent here in the states. So maybe eliminating excess spending isn’t the best course to take during an economic crisis.

  63. Reality Checker

    I hope you guys realize that this country’s divisions are growing ever wider, and that half the country wants no part of your liberal dystopia. Scientism is not a replacement for religion, and never will be. Your entire progressive narrative is really a collection of fantasies, a “religion of progress” which will continue to lose converts as your Star Trek future fails to materialize.

  64. @61 Trevor from Chicago: I for one am all rainbows and unicorns about Obama

    Hahaha, sweet! The flapping tie is a nice touch.

  65. Reality Checker (70): Thank you for reminding me why we must continue onward and fight ignorance.

  66. Jonathan Levine

    I love your column, and am becoming a regular. Just a note that Bill Foster is a Democrat; I think you mis-affiliated him in your column above.

  67. CafeenMan: I’m already hearing a novel excuse from the right to again make it as if Obama is not the legitimate POTUS. Get this…. apparently a lot of right wing Romney supporters went ahead and voted for Obama because if Obama lost there would be mass rioting. I’m on vacation this week and I’ll be tuning into the Yahoo site on and off all day. Right wing poo-slinging today is going to be very amusing.

    Bahahahahaha! Good sweet spaghetti monster, that’s hilarious. So they were really just doing their civic duty, right?

    37. Astrofiend Says: As an Australian, I found the highlight of my week was watching the Fox news presenters literally having meltdowns on-air. A tone point one of them stopped presenting and marched over to an analyst’s desk to repeatedly demand why they had called Ohio for Obama! It was comedy gold!

    Oh man I wish I’d seen that. I only tuned in for a few minutes, and was surprised by the relative absence of garment-rending and teeth-gnashing. I wonder if there are highlights on youtube….

    @70 Reality Chucker: On what planet does a world where people solve actual problems constitute a “dystopia”? Historically speaking, dystopias are almost exclusively the domain of nations in which a dominant political party tries to bend fact before its own ideals (see Nazi Germany and their racial pseudoscience, or the former Soviet Union and Lysenkoism, or just Communism and Stalinism in general ). When ideology takes precedence over empirically testable reality, people always suffer.

  68. Steve Metzler

    Nice. Phil gave Reality Checker a reality check so the rest of us don’t have to. Er, wait. One must do one’s civic duty, especially in light of yesterday, and in the spirit of this thread.

    So… I think it’s really peachy how the religious/anti-science/right wing authoritarian nut jobs are the most likely to have a nym that runs exactly contrary to how they comport themselves on discussion forums. Which nearly always involves some form of projection.

    ETA: though Reality Check is most likely a drive-by, off to sprinkle his little droppings on as many sites as possible without staying to defend them.

  69. Reality Checker

    OK Phil and friends, good luck evangelizing for Scientism. Just out of curiosity though: From where in the laws of physics or evolutionary biology do you derive your zeal for this particular cause? Don’t you see that in the end your worldview is absurd, that science itself is a self-defeating enterprise? The Enlightenment was rooted in a theistic worldview, and by abandoning that you are abandoning the very reason to care about science. Science? Progress? Knowledge? Who cares? It all ends in nothingness and serves no purpose. In a materialistic universe, I see no rational way to refute Lovecraft and Schopenhauer’s conclusion that life itself is a mistake, and should not exist. Perhaps this explains why so many thoughtful atheists end up as nihilists and anti-natalists (or become theists). I’m curious how you guys avoid that particular philosophical cul-de-sac, other than by not thinking about it.

  70. Kryptik

    Reality Checker @76 – Huh. So…empiricism and observable study is part of a liberal dystopia? I was not aware of that.

    You know, maybe people just want to know about the actual world around them and the best observable reality possible, rather that try and create a new religion. And I’m not sure you should be bearing your current pseudonym if you’re citing Lovecraft as a philosophical idol.

  71. Lawrence

    Watching Karl Rove have his meltdown last night was priceless. The guy has been drinking his own Kool-Aid, I’m afraid.

    CNN did an excellent job of letting people know why they were calling particular states & where the votes were coming from. Large swathes of Ohio were Red, but they were very small population centers – it was Cleveland & the Industrial North where the votes really mattered & those were the only votes left to the counted.

    The same thing in Florida, where most of the Republican votes had already been counted, but more Democratic votes were coming out of Broward & Miami-Dade counties at the end.

    Reality-Checker & his ilk are finding themselves more and more isolated from a multi-cultural mainstream that they cannot & will not engage. Republicans, unless they change their current path, will become demographically isolated & not be able to even think about competing on a national level – that was true in 2008, true today & will only become worse for them in the future.

    As long as they keep attacking minorities & women, they have no hope of putting a candidate in the Oval Office.

  72. Cindy

    I helped re-elect Rush Holt in NJ who is also a Ph.D. physicist. He worked at the Princeton Plasma Labs before running for office. His big emphasis is on education, particularly science. So he’s not on the House Science committee, but he’s on the Education committee.

  73. Doug Little

    Cindy,

    Good news. Maybe if the education standards can be increased we will see less and less of the ignorance espoused by good ole Reality Checker there.

    Another triumph of the rational over the punditry was Nate Silver’s spot on predictions, which I thought was an absolutely great win for the reality based community.

    Kryptik

    Reality Checker @76 – Huh. So…empiricism and observable study is part of a liberal dystopia? I was not aware of that.

    Everybody knows that reality has a liberal bias.

  74. Reality Checker

    @78 Right, because reducing politics to tribalism, attacking people’s religion and threatening them with demographic disempowerment is not a divisive strategy, but promises a more civil and united nation. Sorry guys, but you’re in the grip of a fanatical ideology called the Religion of Progress, and it seems that no amount of debate will change your minds. I guess I’ll see you on the battlefield…

  75. Sam H

    @76: Science? Progress? Knowledge? Who cares? It all ends in nothingness and serves no purpose. In a materialistic universe, I see no rational way to refute Lovecraft and Schopenhauer’s conclusion that life itself is a mistake, and should not exist. Perhaps this explains why so many thoughtful atheists end up as nihilists and anti-natalists (or become theists). I’m curious how you guys avoid that particular philosophical cul-de-sac, other than by not thinking about it.

    You’re right: life is a mistake, by the looks of it. A seemingly improbable miracle, perhaps. The Earth is a lonely planet in a uncaring void, our species is but a mere blip in its history, and may soon be gone. But beyond endless philosophical speculation, what does it matter? I don’t think it should.
    Because humans are meaning making machines.

    We avoid this philosophical non-de-sac simply by finding things in life that we believe are rational, but from which we also attain meaning. Most of the crowd that reads this blog (presumably) take meaning from the fact that the scientific method has uncovered more about the real universe than any religion or mysticism could ever imagine. Others may find meaning in the interconnectedness of life and human nature, or the virtues of love, justice, hope and peace. Some may also find meaning in things less rational which is their right, unless it harms others or greatly harms themselves. The best thing to do, I believe, is respect this, but open their mind to what science has done, and especially – for those like you – show them that there is no, and never was, any one supreme source of meaning for all. Because meaning is something humans create.
    /rant.
    Also: I know you still have that other guy (Croun I think?) to deal with but BON VOYAGE AKIN/MOURDOCK/WALSH YOU SONS OF B****ES!!

  76. Bebop

    @81: How would you explain the large number (50+) of highly-religious, rational, PhD chemists, physicists (astro, experimental, and theoretical) computer scientists, biologists, etc, that I see every Sunday? I don’t see – I have never seen – how belief in a God that endowed us with curiosity and intelligence contradicts a love for science and rational thinking.

    Being on the short end of demographic and ideological change, on the other hand, is just sad. Really. Now that I’ve said that, go put on your big-boy pants and try to understand why the rest of us are rejecting your particularly backwards and narrowminded approach to life (and yes, this advice is coming from a dedicated Christian).

  77. Astrofiend

    @Reality Checker

    “From where in the laws of physics or evolutionary biology do you derive your zeal for this particular cause? Don’t you see that in the end your worldview is absurd, that science itself is a self-defeating enterprise?”

    The sheer beauty of the universe uncovered by science is truly beyond words for those who study it. If you’d ever experienced the wonder and awe of doing science, then questions on the ‘meaning’ of life become contemptibly stupid and trivial. Life IS essentially meaningless if you want to think about it in such crude terms. But desperately trying to pull meaning out of the collected mythology of illiterate tribesmen when the beauty of the universe beckons to us? That is truly crass. It is like turning down marriage to your ‘soul mate’ so you can look at internet porn for the rest of your life. It is a stop-gap measure. It is something for those too fearful to venture further because they are afraid of what it might lead to.

    Our word view is absurd? Maybe; so what? ‘Absurdity’ is a meaningless concept all by itself. Our world view is meaningless? Perhaps, objectively, it is – so what? I derive meaning from many aspects of my life, and none of them involve gods. Nihilists? No. Nihilism connotes negativity at such a state of affairs, whereas I’ve never experienced a more profound joy that when contemplating the magnificence of what I have in front of me, and the short but rich time that I have to do it for. Sadly, most people brought up in the religious tradition find it impossible that anyone could think this way. That anyone could experience meaning unless they are screaming “save me lord Jesus!” to the sky. Such a meaningless, human thing to want to do.

  78. bob

    As a religious person, nothing annoys me more than someone who takes something I consider sacred and twists it into something obviously and provably false, and then insists on believing it.

  79. James Evans

    @RealityChecker:

    Your entire progressive narrative is really a collection of fantasies…

    Since we are to believe the entire progressive narrative is fantasy, I’m sure, RC, it will be child’s play for you to list a few specific ideals from this supposed religion that you consider the most fanciful and nonsensical. Also, I’m certain it’s equally painless for you to briefly explain why you feel these tenets are patently absurd.

    We don’t need a rambling, War and Peace-length, Gish Gallop-style manifesto, RC. Just two or three clear and concise criticisms to start. If these first few examples have merit, we can pursue your…colorful opinion further. Do not flood this thread with nonsense. Keep it short and sweet.

    You should be able to indulge us without effort, complaint, or caveat, unless of course the only collection of fantasies to be found anywhere near this discussion is the one swirling around inside your head.

  80. Radwaste

    Oh, gee, another “reality” something handle. Dude, you use the term, “scientism”, and you identify yourself as one who simply abandons reason. Science is only the careful observation and documentation of cause and effect. If you want magic, go watch Harry Potter.

    Meanwhile, here’s the cold, hard evidence of what your new President is worth: a 300-plus-point hit on Wall Street. Yes, the companies who make everything you use are worth less today.

    And somebody doesn’t have any idea what a corporate charter is if they call one “fascist”. Drama. Enjoy it.

  81. bbmcrae

    @RealityChecker:

    “I see no rational way to refute Lovecraft and Schopenhauer’s conclusion that life itself is a mistake, and should not exist. ”

    Don’t you even care that science is working hard to predict when Clthulu might arise?

  82. Theobroma Cacao

    Have folks not learned the art of not feeding the trolls?

  83. Nigel Depledge

    Ds (28) said:

    No, I think he means the war that was not ended by Obama… last I checked, GW Bush hasn’t been in office for a while, nor was he running for president.

    Maybe. But the previous poster seemed to be blaming Obama for the war’s existence, not merely for not having ended it. And I think the war’s existence can be placed far more squarely on Bush’s shoulders than on Obama’s.

  84. Nigel Depledge

    Art Powell (42) regurgitated some typical (and very old) anti-science rhetoric thus:

    Why is it that if anyone disagrees with Global Warming or with ‘neo-darwinism’ then they are ant-science?

    First off, I have no idea what you mean by “neo-Darwinism”. No scientist uses this word in any technical sense. I shall assume you mean modern evolutionary theory (MET) when you say “neo-Darwinism”.

    Second, the scientific cases for both AGW and evolution are as close to closed as they can possibly get. The cutting edge of research has moved on, and the scientific debates are over. No educated and informed scientist or commentator seriously doubts the basic science behind either the conclusion of AGW or MET.

    Third, the “arguments” presented by the “doubters” are not scientific arguments – they are rhetorical tricks. They do not withstand critical scrutiny, either in terms of evidentiary support or in terms of logic. A good example here is “intelligent design” – when it was scrutinised in detail, it was found that every aspect of its “theory” was just empty words. It had no logic, it had no evidence, it had no rigour; it was a mere rhetorical re-dressing of the same tired old creationist arguments that had been thoroughly refuted 20, 30 or 40 years earlier.

    Therefore, there is no genuine scientific case against either of these phenomena.

    I thought this was science; Observe, Hypothesis (reason), Test, Debate.

    Er, no. In reality science is not that clear-cut. Sure, you make observations, and you formulate hypotheses, and you conduct experiments or further observations to test hypotheses, but these are all part of a continuous process. Also, that last part – Debate – not so much. No scientific argument is ever concluded with a debate – either the evidence is persuasive or it is not.

    (And here I use the term “persuasive” in its real scientific sense, i.e. that it persuades a genuine sceptic who is open to both unexpected results and rational argument.)

    Apparently today science is a faith based institution and if your data or hypothesis disagrees with the High Priest then your branded a heretic.

    This just sounds like rubbish.

    For instance, can you come up with some recent examples (a round half-dozen should do nicely to illustrate your point) where evidence has contradicted a “high priest” and its author has then been cast out? What was the evidence, why and how did it contradict the “high priest”, who was the “high priest”, and who was cast out?

    If you cannot support your claim with actual examples (i.e. evidence!), then we can all safely assume that you are regurgitating the old “science is as much a religion as religion” chestnut that has been debunked and refuted a thousand times already.

  85. Lawrence

    Amazing that someone calling themselves “Reality-Checker” can ignore the demographic change…..explain to us how you intend to change the fact that voter demographics are changing & not in the Republican’s favor?

  86. I’m SO GLAD I checked Phil’s take before sharing this (linked below) article on Facebook!

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/science_environment_medical_election_2012_what_the_votes_mean_for_the_future.html

    It sounds so good to those of us on the side of science, but not involved enough to know the nuances!

  87. Nigel Depledge

    Hooboy, sometimes they just hand it to you on a plate . . .

    Reality Checker (76) said:

    OK Phil and friends, good luck evangelizing for Scientism.

    Eh?

    First, point out at least some evidence that “scientism” exists in the real world, and is not just a product of your fevered imagination.

    Second, what part of what Phil wrote is “evangelising”? Why is it thus, and why is that – as you imply – a bad thing?

    Just out of curiosity though: From where in the laws of physics or evolutionary biology do you derive your zeal for this particular cause?

    Eh?

    Reality is what it is, irrespective of how much wishful thinking you indulge in. Science is the only endeavour that has sloughed off our past preconceptions and brought us close to understanding reality as it is.

    Where does zeal enter into it? Who needs zeal – as opposed to good old, healthy passion – to support humanity furthering its understanding of the universe in which it lives?

    Don’t you see that in the end your worldview is absurd,

    Er, no. But, if you’d care to have a stab at explaining precisely why it is so, this should be good. Hold on a sec while I stick some popcorn in the microwave.

    that science itself is a self-defeating enterprise?

    How?

    It’s certainly got a better track record than every other attempt humans have made at explaining the world in which we live.

    The Enlightenment was rooted in a theistic worldview,

    So what?

    The Enlightenment was just the beginning of humans starting to understand their world rather than belief in fairy tales. It may have started in a theistic world view, but after a couple of centuries of progress, we increasingly find that god – and the magical thinking inherent to every religion – is unnecessary for the universe to exist, for physics to happen, and for biological diversity to propagate.

    Astronomy is rooted in astrology, and that doesn’t mean that astrology has got anything right.

    and by abandoning that you are abandoning the very reason to care about science.

    What, so without god there’s no reason to care about stuff?

    What kind of tiny, restricted world do you live in, anyhow?

    Science? Progress? Knowledge? Who cares?

    Why care about anything?

    Why care, for example, about the poetry of Coleridge, Keats, Wordsworth or Byron? Or Shakespeare? After all, all these guys ever did was play around with words to make patterns, right?

    It all ends in nothingness and serves no purpose.

    Nonsense!

    The purpose of acquiring knowledge is, to some, an end in itself. Not for everyone, obviously. The purpose of, for example, curing a disease and hence relieving much human suffering is, to some, a truly noble purpose. Clearly you don’t care about that, so you must not care much for any of your fellow humans, unless your argument is purely specious.

    And so on. There are plenty of reasons to care about furthering human understanding of the world. For some, I expect, even the purported involvement of god is a reason to pursue science. Even though god – assuming its existence for the sake of argument, natch – is not manifest in anything material, the very concept of divine creation is enough to drive some to explore the universe.

    In a materialistic universe, I see no rational way to refute Lovecraft and Schopenhauer’s conclusion that life itself is a mistake, and should not exist.

    Really?

    Perhaps the mere fact that calling it a mistake is an irrelevant judgement will suffice, hmmm?

    The scientific take on life : Life is. Deal with it.

    Perhaps this explains why so many thoughtful atheists end up as nihilists and anti-natalists (or become theists).

    Such as who, for example?

    And what kind of proportion of atheists does this represent?

    Or are you talking out of your fundament?

    I’m curious how you guys avoid that particular philosophical cul-de-sac, other than by not thinking about it.

    What, nihilism? Your postulate (that atheism leads to nihilism, assuming it is this to which you refer) depends on the assumption that god supplies purpose. And it is a baseless assumption. People supply purpose. That is enough. For perhaps 3000 physicists in Geneva, my guess is that the very fact of having a machine that can help them tease apart the fundamental structure of the universe is purpose enough.

    For me and many of my colleagues, the fact of improving other people’s health and wellbeing is enough. Although I kinda hope – rather childishly, sure – that you never benefit from any of the medical treatments I am helping to develop.

  88. James Evans

    Lawrence, don’t you understand that RealityChecker has evolved well beyond the insignificant mental tethers with which we mere, cerebrally-underprovisioned mortals must grapple? It is from the wispy upper levels of some unknowable, grandiose, philosophical ionosphere we measly humans have yet to discover, let alone ponder, that RealityChecker assesses our puny, distressed lives down below on petty terra firma. Do not attempt to burden so tremendous and far-sighted an intellect with voter demographics and other de minimis details, when it is clearly struggling to come to grips with the very meaningless of life itself, so that you may free yourself from the quandary of ultimately pointless daily concerns the universe has erroneously foisted upon you! Is it not enough for you that someone is solving problems you did not know you had, or have deliberately ignored because you obviously lack the capacity to understand them?

    Be at peace. RealityChecker has arrived.

  89. Marcum Martz

    Yeah, more bad news…Jim Sennsenbrenner is officially running for chair of the committee. He’s not only a climate-denier, he’s the idiot who wanted to halt USADA’s investigation of Lance Armstrong: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/11/its-official-sensenbrenner-seeks.html

  90. MaDeR

    @Reality Checker:
    Your nick is so ironic that is broke my ironymeter.

    [cut(e) rant about "scientism", whatever it is, and other insane troll logic]

    You know that you write this drivel on computer connected to net, right? Writing anti-science rants with help of tools that was created by technology and science to make our life safer and easier than ever… uggh.

    You, sir, are hypocrite and person detached from reality. In other word, deluded fool.

    Oh, one more point from your kind:
    “evangelizing for Scientism”
    “Apparently today science is a faith based institution”
    “fanatical ideology called the Religion of Progress”
    Projecting much? It seems that is impossible to comprehend by your sort that something opposed (in case of science – by it’s very nature) to religion do not have to be religion itself.

    @Theobroma Cacao: “Have folks not learned the art of not feeding the trolls?”
    But… but… it is so fun! I really have to bring cyanide-laden breadcrumbs next time.

  91. James Evans

    *Meaninglessness

    Ahem.

  92. Jenn D.

    “[F]orces against reality”, have a problem, because “reality” is, ya’ know, “real.” It tends to win out in the end. That, said, pushing against reality can do a lot of damage. Acting “against reality,” must mean acting as if reality wasn’t real: handling a live wire as if it was safe, or running a nuclear reactor in a sloppy way.

    A market is a real thing. Those who push against it lose out in a measurable, detectable way. In a sense, our political system is a sort of market for ideas. The parties are like corporations choosing to market arrays of products. If people aren’t buying, the party doesn’t get enough votes. If it is a healthy and agile organization, it pulls the unsuccessful products.

  93. Timothy from Boulder

    @ Radwaste (87)

    “Meanwhile, here’s the cold, hard evidence of what your new President is worth: a 300-plus-point hit on Wall Street. Yes, the companies who make everything you use are worth less today.”

    You really like to cherry-pick data, using single examples to make your points.

    Like those who confuse weather with climate, and single instances with trends, it can be awfully tempting — and awfully incorrect — to look over such a short time span. Let’s take a look at the Dow Jones for the last two decades:

    President Bill Clinton
    1/20/1993 – 1/20/2001 DJIA 3242 – 10578, an INCREASE of 226%

    President George W. Bush
    1/20/2001 – 1/20/2009 DJIA 10578 – 8122, a DECREASE of 23%

    President Barack Obama
    1/20/2009 – 11/7/2012 (the day that is so terrifyingly bad in your opinion) DJIA 8122 – 12932, an INCREASE of 59%

    Besides, anyone who understands politics and economics knows that yes, the drop is a result of the election. The stock market is jittery because with a Democratic President and a Republican House, the resolution of the looming fiscal cliff will be difficult, especially since the House will dig in its heels and do anything to stall and roadblock the process. If the President and Congress had all gone to one party, the stock market would have shot up. I can just as legitimately rail at you about what your new Republican House of Representatives is worth, and you for failing to elect a cohesive legislative branch in line with the President and Senate.

    Cold, hard evidence? Nah.

  94. Wzrd1

    @Radwaste, “Meanwhile, here’s the cold, hard evidence of what your new President is worth: a 300-plus-point hit on Wall Street.”
    So, you also imbue the President of the United States of America with Godlike powers to influence European stocks, which then cause US markets to fluctuate!
    For, that WAS THE CAUSE of the market drop. Lack of confidence in the European market, which doesn’t really care about who the US president is.
    “Europe’s debt crisis reared its ugly head once again, with Draghi warning that the region’s debt problems are starting to take their toll on the economy in Germany, which has so far been relatively insulated.

    Separately, the European Commission forecast a 0.3% decline in economic activity in the European Union this year, and subdued growth in 2013. The eurozone economy is expected to contract 0.4% this year, and be stagnate in 2013. ”

    Or did you forget about globalization of finances in the modern world? Our market tanks, their market tanks. Their market tanks, our market tanks.

  95. @90 Nigel DePledge: Er, no. In reality science is not that clear-cut. Sure, you make observations, and you formulate hypotheses, and you conduct experiments or further observations to test hypotheses, but these are all part of a continuous process. Also, that last part – Debate – not so much. No scientific argument is ever concluded with a debate – either the evidence is persuasive or it is not.

    (And here I use the term “persuasive” in its real scientific sense, i.e. that it persuades a genuine sceptic who is open to both unexpected results and rational argument.)

    Of course you know me well enough to know that I agree with you, but this argument has always troubled me when debating self-described science skeptics. It seems a bit circular; that is “Skeptics are those who are persuaded by convincing evidence,” and “convincing evidence is that which will sway a true skeptic”. Is there any marker or signpost we can use to establish whether evidence is convincing without resorting to an argument from popularity? Humans have a history of believing dumb things in large numbers, so I can see why the simple fact that a majority of scientists believe something won’t necessarily convince someone who doesn’t have a very firm grasp of the scientific method (and the resulting competitive atmosphere among publishing scientists).

  96. Levi in NY

    Phil: there will be 20 female Senators in January, not 18!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/113th_United_States_Congress
    Lisa Murkowsky (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

  97. Chris Winter

    Kevin wrote (#12): “Even the best case scenarios with freezing CO2 output at the levels at the time of the studies showed a pretty bad future. The only way to stabilize warming at current levels would probably take a complete worldwide ban on all fossil fuels. That’s just something that’s inconceivable. It would require a complete restructuring of the world economy and energy structure.”

    Less drastic ways to address this problem are conceivable. For example, several nuclear plants could be dedicated to powering devices that pull CO2 out of the air. Of course, that CO2 still has to be stored somewhere. I seem to recall a study that found pumping it into the deep ocean was a possible solution, but I may be misremembering that. Putting in in pressurized tanks is always an option. Of course, all this would be expensive, but less disruptive than banning fossil fuels.

    The only way out I can see is more and more expansion of solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and moving to space based solar. Get far enough into space based solar, and make energy cheap enough to bankrupt oil, and finally we’d stop increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, even with a proper fully invested race for space based solar, it would probably be at least 20+ years before plants started coming online, and even longer before they made a big enough dent in oil to slow consumption before the oil becomes too hard to drill to be economical anyway.”

    We do need all those renewable sources, and (except nuclear) they just may ramp up faster than most people think they will. But space solar power is way off IMO: 60 years or more.

  98. @104 Chris Winter: But space solar power is way off IMO: 60 years or more.

    There’s a company called Solaren that signed a contract with Pacific Gas and Electric (the power company here in California) to generate power from solar satellites starting in 2016.
    We’ll see, it may just be a pipe dream, but PG&E has abandoned other more down-to-earth renewable power projects at earlier stages than this. They’re not going to invest in something they don’t think will make money.

  99. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (102) said:

    Of course you know me well enough to know that I agree with you, but this argument has always troubled me when debating self-described science skeptics. It seems a bit circular; that is “Skeptics are those who are persuaded by convincing evidence,” and “convincing evidence is that which will sway a true skeptic”. Is there any marker or signpost we can use to establish whether evidence is convincing without resorting to an argument from popularity? Humans have a history of believing dumb things in large numbers, so I can see why the simple fact that a majority of scientists believe something won’t necessarily convince someone who doesn’t have a very firm grasp of the scientific method (and the resulting competitive atmosphere among publishing scientists).

    Hmmm, interesting point.

    I’m not sure I can answer your question. Personally, I don’t actually define the term “sceptic” by what evidence it takes to persuade them of something, but I can see that some of my comments might be interpreted that way. A sceptic is – by definition – open to persuasion by evidence, but this doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the quality of the evidence required. I guess, at least to some extent, it’s got to be judged on a case by case basis (considering factors such as what the claim is, how that claim fits in with stuff that is already known with high confidence, and so on).

    Persuasive evidence, to my mind, is more than simply “evidence that will persuade an open-minded sceptic”, even if I was using this simplified definition in the above comment. For evidence to be persuasive, it must fit into a logical framework, it must be coherent and it must be cohesive (internally consistent). For instance, a year or two ago, it was claimed that some scientists had found an organism that incorporated arsenic in its DNA. Although I initially got all excited about this claim, the evidence was not up to the job. Partly because the claim itself is extraordinary – arsenic is known to be toxic to a wide range of organisms – and partly because the team did not directly detect arsenic in DNA. Instead they inferred its presence from a couple of proxy measures, without rigorous consideration of confounding factors.

    I don’t know how much this helps, but it’s the best I can do for now.

  100. VinceRN

    @33 Cafeenman – Have you paid attention to how much NASA’s budget has been cut the last few years? Science, and especially space science, are not looked at as anything close to a priority by this administration and they have cut huge amounts from the budget, ending important programs. It has been blogged about here a time or two. Obama ain’t all bad, but on this he most certainly is. Hopefully come 2016 some one will get elected that is better on the issue.

  101. Lawrence

    @VinceRN – overcoming my original objections to the privatization of NEO Space Travel, I’ve been impressed with the way that private enterprise has been able to step up to the plate and deliver solid (initial) results in a compressed time-frame.

    If there is a way to make NEO missions economically viable operations (including things like asteroid mining, etc) I can see NASA split into two organizations – one to oversee the commercial development of NEO & the other to conduct lunar / trans-lunar orbit scientific missions. That way, they can dedicate the appropriate level of resources to each specific area.

    I don’t know if that makes total sense, but it would seem to be a bigger bang for our buck – at least at the moment. Leave science to the scientists & everything else to the guys that can make money off of it.

  102. @Nigel Depledge: I don’t know how much this helps, but it’s the best I can do for now.

    Not at all, that’s pretty much the best possible answer I could hope for. I know I’m asking both a semantic question and an epistemological question here.
    I just wish that when arguing with “science skeptics,” I had a more concrete answer to the question of “How do I know you’re a denier and not a real skeptic?” than “Because you’re not persuaded by substantial evidence. How do I know the evidence is substantial? Well, all these other skeptics are convinced by it.”
    Even though that WILL get you the right answer on a scientific issue 99.9 percent of the time, it’s still not an argument based directly on the soundness (or lack thereof) of the “skeptic’s” standard of evidence. I think you’re right that there’s no easy razor you can apply to all situations; the Potter Stewart Porn Principle arguably applies here (“I’ll know it when I see it”): as you say, on a case-by-case basis.

  103. @Nigel Depledge: Sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore the latter half of your post. I was just going to say that it takes a certain amount of knowledge and experience to fit certain evidence (such as the arsenic organism study) into that consistent framework you speak of. If it weren’t for other scientists repeating the experiment, it’d all look perfectly legit to even somewhat educated laypeople. Of course, I suppose that’s the whole point of the scientific method. :) I know there’s more to evidence then “what convinces skeptics,” but I was thinking in terms of the whole AGW argument (to call it a debate would give the denialists too much legitimacy) that rolls on in whenever Phil posts something climate-related. I guess I’m asking how you convince someone who isn’t equipped to properly evaluate claims that they’re not properly equipped to evaluate claims. Which is obviously an uphill slog, to say the least :)

  104. Radwaste

    For the naysayers, I ask just what part of a President’s term must be examined? As I have pointed out before, Congress has 100% of the financial duties in the Federal government; this is ignored by the public.
    The fact remains: Obama elected, 300-plus-point drop.
    If you have any other explanation as to why markets dropped THAT DAY, I’d love to hear it. It is possible for markets to rise and fall without Presidential impetus, but just take a look. The graph I’ve linked to shows it dropping on the opening bell.

    It also makes sense. Why would anyone think a person with zero business experience, and who has actually stated in public that business owners did not build their business, and whose community organizations have failed…
    …and who didn’t even write his own book… would be good for business?

    If you support this man, do the same things you would do to support Mr. Bush when he was in office. Lead with the actual actions this President has taken to make things better. Be sure to count the costs.

  105. Unsettled Scientist

    > ” who has actually stated in public that business owners did not build their business”

    Find me the quote where Obama said that above. “You didn’t build that” was saying that business owners didn’t build the Eisenhower Interstate System upon which their businesses rely and he was right. We have socialized roads and they greatly benefit the American economy.

  106. mikel

    …and who has actually stated in public that business owners did not build their business…

    Wow, like many conservatives you like to praise virtues – in this case honesty – more than you like to practice them. Obama flat out never said that or anything that could be honestly interpreted to mean that. And I would be surprised to find out you didn’t know that when you posted your comment.

  107. James Evans

    @Radwaste:

    The fact remains: Obama elected, 300-plus-point drop.
    If you have any other explanation as to why markets dropped THAT DAY, I’d love to hear it.

    No, you wouldn’t. Timothy from Boulder gave you a very reasonable and different explanation that you chose to ignore, so spare us the load of crap that you’re all ears.

    …and who didn’t even write his own book…

    More awful CRAP. Since Romney just got TORCHED, I mean, SOUNDLY THRASHED—there are convicted felons who could muster more electoral votes—dontchya think it’s a wee bit late in the game for the lying smear routine? How many months of campaigning was there to get all this weak, hopeless nonsense in? Hmmm? No one was listening then, and it’s gonna do even LESS good now, in case you haven’t noticed. Here’s a radical idea: maybe try the truth for once, and see where that gets you.

    Also, get this, Radwaste, Obama actually reads books, unlike a certain self-styled “decider” who nearly destroyed our country.

    If you support this man, do the same things you would do to support Mr. Bush when he was in office. Lead with the actual actions this President has taken to make things better. Be sure to count the costs.

    Come see us in four years. If the nation is about to THOROUGHLY TANK like in 2008 after 8 years of Bush’s retrograde devastation, then you can blah-blah us to death with your smug lectures. Till then, save your lukewarm bluster for the obstructionist GOP-dominated House, kthxbai.

  108. Becon

    None of this post spoke to the US economy. Life is pretty comfortable for the Bad Astronomer. You have the luxury of thinking about science. Most Americans are worried about their livelihoods.

  109. Nigel Depledge

    VinceRN (107) said:

    @33 Cafeenman – Have you paid attention to how much NASA’s budget has been cut the last few years? Science, and especially space science, are not looked at as anything close to a priority by this administration and they have cut huge amounts from the budget, ending important programs. It has been blogged about here a time or two. Obama ain’t all bad, but on this he most certainly is. Hopefully come 2016 some one will get elected that is better on the issue.

    Wait a sec, I thought it was Congress that decided NASA’s budget, not the President.

  110. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (109) said:

    Even though that WILL get you the right answer on a scientific issue 99.9 percent of the time, it’s still not an argument based directly on the soundness (or lack thereof) of the “skeptic’s” standard of evidence. I think you’re right that there’s no easy razor you can apply to all situations; the Potter Stewart Porn Principle arguably applies here (“I’ll know it when I see it”): as you say, on a case-by-case basis.

    Yes, the definitions of sceptic and persuasive evidence that I have used for convenience do indeed look like a circular argument.

    My word, it’s a semantic (and metaphorical) minefield!

  111. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (110) said:

    I guess I’m asking how you convince someone who isn’t equipped to properly evaluate claims that they’re not properly equipped to evaluate claims. Which is obviously an uphill slog, to say the least

    Indeed it is!

    The only tack I have found to be successful is only available when the AGW “Skeptic” claims that natural cycles or occurrences are responsible for the current warming trend. In this case, one can poiont out that the climate scientists have already thought of that (duh!) and have looked into it, and have found that natural phenomena cannot account for either the warming we see or the increase in atmospheric CO2 and methane. I guess also, there are a whole slew of GHGs that are wholly artificial (pretty much all of the CFCs are also GHGs).

  112. Brian Too

    @76. Reality Checker,

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Hamlet, by W.M. Shakespeare

    A little modesty is in order, I think.

    And I’ll further thank you to refrain from telling me what my philosophy of life is. It was, I thought, a thoroughly right wing notion that adults could determine how and why to live their life. It’s also my absolute right to decline to discuss the matter with you. Your opinion is of no import to me and your conclusions are so faulty as to not even be wrong.

  113. realta fuar

    typical VBA post, at least three major errors: a) screwing up the referendum in MN, BADLY, b) getting a congress critter’s bloody PARTY affiliation wrong, and c) blaming the POTUS for NASA’s budget woes when what should be blamed are 1) the recession and 2) NASA (see JWST boondogle). Don’t let the door hit you in the a** on the way out…..

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