New topic on liberalism

This is actually an old discussion, but a fun one!

Should liberals try to be more in touch with the American mainstream?

No.  They voted based on ethics (according to a gallup (sp?) poll, which I am convinced are actually nonsense, but are useful as pseudoevidence in a discusion).  If I were to add any news source, although between NPR and trade journals I have almost no free reading/listening time as it is, I would add the BBC.  As a result, I suspect I would become more intune with the rest of the planet, and therefore even more disconnected from the American mainstream.  More later.  Maybe I’ll write something balanced and insightful, but I sort of doubt it :).

[Edited by admin to move topic below the cut]

7 Responses to “New topic on liberalism”

I’m not sure that I understand your point, ion. Being aware of mainstream culture is not the same as agreeing with and/or being influenced by it.

I firmly believe that “liberals”, and all the other groups we have vying for attention, should at least acknowledge the position they occupy in our society, and the points of their opponents.

Looking back at the cause of all this– Educated people and NASA scientists should definitely pay attention to people who think of the Space Shuttle as a souped-up 727. Why do they think that? Is there any truth to it? How can we influence that opinion? All of these are important questions that shouldn’t be ignored, just because they’re “mainstream” or “uneducated” or whatever else.

Paradoxdruid - August 12th, 2005 at 11:38 am

I’m going to try to take this one piece at a time so it might be more insightful and less tangental:

“Should liberals try to be more in touch with the American mainstream? … No. They voted based on ethics.”

I don’t see how the American mainstream voting based on ethics would be a reason for a liberal to decide not to be more in touch with the American mainstream — if anything, this should imspire the opposite. The stated mentality implies many things that are not necessarily true: either liberals do not have ethics or, if liberals do, these ethics are completely different from the mainstream. *This is a mentality that the conservatives use to attack the liberals!* The conservatives want the mainstream to believe that us dangerous liberals are completely devoid of ethics, or “normal” ethics — it’s all about controlling the language. The idea of “ethics” doesn’t come from nowhere — the conservatives have simply latched onto it, claiming it as their own, and we’ve let them have it because we know that we’re a lot more ethical than they could ever be. However, the mainstream doesn’t recognize this. How could you not be supportive of being “pro-life” or having “tax relief”?

So, in summary, saying that the mainstream isn’t worth our time because “they voted based on ethics” is very revealing of an area the liberals need to, in fact, spend a lot of time in — winning back the words.

Teisha - August 12th, 2005 at 1:35 pm

I’m not sure it matters if people think the shuttle is a souped-up 727. That’s why I don’t have a problem with not hearing about them. I think what these people believe is indicative of the fact that we live in a culture of ignorance.

Clearly, liberals/progressives cannot simply ignore millions upon millions of votes. I do not think that progressives need to spend all that much time figuring out what the American mainstream thinks though. I do not think it requires being “in touch” with the American mainstream to change what they think.

ion - August 13th, 2005 at 11:09 am

Discussions concerning the left/right spectrum and ethics always remind me of the inadequacy a linear spectrum for describing the political consciousness of the country. Especially with an electoral system that forces two (or at least few) political parties, we of course get some odd bedfellows.

Some want to save unborn children but block adequate funding to help born children here and around the world, while promoting the proliferation of child-killing guns. And some point to Christianity to support anti-gay rhetoric, etc., yet (to me) seem to miss the more obvious ‘thou shalt not kill’ (willingness to go to war, execute people). I think there are also some odd combos on the left, but they’re less apparent. And I could write pages and pages on splits and politics within Christianity.

There was a somewhat related editorial cartoon this morning that I won’t link b/c you have to sign in, but it’s by Signe Wilkinson. A man walks up to his son’s door, bearing signs: ‘Turn the other cheek,” “*Heart* your enemies,” and “Give your shirt to the poor.” The man has steam coming out of his ears, but the son says, “You’re the one who wanted the Bible taught in school.”

Hope everyone is doing well.

laura - August 14th, 2005 at 10:14 am

I think Teisha right that it’s necessary to show how the more liberal views are compatible with the “mainstream” views. It’s bad that the Republicans seem to have taken control of the terminology associated with “morality” though I think in some areas people are realizing that’s a mistake (ie stem cells, the Schivo case). Also if the poll ion was talking about is the one I’m thinking of it was mostly bs that got talked up more than it should have. They were asking people what they based their vote on and gave a list of topics, that were pretty vague and had some resonable overlap, like saying Iraq and defense as seperate categories. Ethics got more of a response than the other options but not by much.

As for the origin of this discussion I don’t think that is as much of a liberal view as much as it’s more a general lack of science knowledge in the general public. Liberals can be just as ignorant at times, like most of their response to GMOs. I think part of this is that it’s hard to explain why we should do some kinds of research when it’s being presented by people who find the knowledge itself to be a benefit. I’m thinking of how it seems like I get asked a lot what my research is good for. I get stuck since for me it’s enough to be trying to figure the structure of a protein, what else do we need it to be good for. To some extent I think this is a result of not having really good science education in this country, but us scientists also aren’t good communicating with the general public at times.

mcmillan - August 14th, 2005 at 1:56 pm

I did mention that gallup polls are pretty much nonsense. One could use other examples that point to an overt concern for ethics in political decisions in some parts of the country.

I agree with mcmillan. We live in a culture of ignorance. I think a lack of good education in every subject drives the societal flaws pointed out by laura and mcmillan. Imagine if all high schoolers were forced to take a religion class every year, and actually learned about it, rather than simply believing what their parents/spiritual leaders told them.

ion - August 15th, 2005 at 7:25 am

Interesting, a professor of one of my EBIO classes sent the whole class an article from August 30, 2005 called “Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much” by Cornelia Dean. I thought I’d post some here, since it pertains exactly to this discussion, and later try to find the whole thing to link to:

“Dr. Miller, 63, a political scientist who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at the medical school, studies how much Americans know about science and what they think about it. His findings are not encouraging.

While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are scientifically savvy and alert,” he said in an interview. Most of the rest “don’t have a clue.” At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people’s inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.

Dr. Miller’s data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.”

Teisha - August 30th, 2005 at 5:38 am

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