What Orson Scott Card Actually Thinks

I’ve enjoyed reading Mahonri’s pieces on Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, and homosexuality. I’ve actually been hard at work for the past few months working on an article about Ender’s Game to coincide with the release of the movie. Although my article doesn’t address the topic of homosexuality itself (it’s a more general look at how Mormon themes are exhibited in Ender’s Game), I’ve recently re-read several of of Card’s works. I’ve also observed for years that he, like Robert Heinlein, has gradually been adding more and more overt politics to his works as he gets older. On the one hand it’s easy to mock the tendency of older, successful men rambling on about their pet politics, but on the other hand I think the world generally needs more straight talk and not less. And, as I pointed out with Heinlein, this is sort of a tradition for the sci fi genre.

In any case, the first comment on Mahonri’s most recent post finally provoked a response from me on the topic of Card and homosexuality. I started to write it out in the comment section, but when I realized I was closing in on 500 words and still not finished, I decided to just write an independent post. Here’s the part about Danny’s comment that I’m responding to:

Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’rielly etc., all started off as main stream conservatives, as soon as they allowed their hate/prejudism to take control of their programs their Rhetoric has become a hateful propaganda that only hurts political dialogue in the US! Sadly, OSC has allowed his prejudism of “gays” to effect his beliefs on racism and sexism. OSC has put himself on the same path as the previously mentioned conservative talk show hosts.

2013-09-02 Janis IanThis analysis is deeply flawed in OSC’s case in particular, and I suspect that it’s deeply flawed in relation to Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly as well. But let’s start with OSC. Although he was a friend of my grandfather’s, I’ve only exchanged a single email with him and we didn’t talk about any of these issues. Instead, I’m relying on the testimony of American songwriter, singer, musician, columnist and science fiction author Janis Ian who A – does know OSC personally and B – is openly a lesbian and has been since 1993. Here is what she has to say about OSC in her own words and on her own website. Here’s a selection: 

Read moreWhat Orson Scott Card Actually Thinks

Orson Scott Card and His Imitation of Fox News: Paranoia? Hyperbole? Satire?

After reading novelist and political commentator Orson Scott Card’s bizarre “thought experiment,” titled “Unlikely Events,” I really am quite mystified. In the article he plays a “game” in which he imagines President Obama becoming a fascist overlord ruling with an iron fist over America and being a figure akin to Hitler. Although he tries to reassure his readers that, of course, he doesn’t believe this stuff, and that he’s just wearing his hat as a “fiction” writer, yet he still also insists that “it sure sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Because, like a good fiction writer, I made sure this scenario fit the facts we already have — the way Obama already acts, the way his supporters act, and the way dictators have come to power in republics in the past.” He says that “the writer’s made-up characters and events must seem truthful. We must pass the plausibility test.”

But then Card shovels in comparisons to Hitler and every other dictator he can think of. When people start comparing their ideological rivals to Hitler, they have shown their refusal to speak with nuance and distinction. They have immediately lost the argument, in my mind. He then throws in a huge number of broad generalizations and hyperbolic statements such as this:

Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. He hates the very idea of compromise; he demonizes his critics and despises even his own toadies in the liberal press. He circumvented Congress as soon as he got into office by appointing “czars” who didn’t need Senate approval. His own party hasn’t passed a budget ever in the Senate.

In other words, Obama already acts as if the Constitution were just for show. Like Augustus, he pretends to govern within its framework, but in fact he treats it with contempt.

Read moreOrson Scott Card and His Imitation of Fox News: Paranoia? Hyperbole? Satire?

Every Sport Except Long-Distance Running Is Absurd

2013-08-31 Marathon

Inflammatory headline? Of course. But David Stipp makes a compelling case at Slate:

There’s no denying it—our kind started substituting brains for brawn long ago, and it shows: We can’t begin to compete with animals when it comes to the raw ingredients of athletic prowess. Yet being the absurdly self-enthralled species we are, we crowd into arenas and stadiums to marvel at our pathetic physical abilities as if they were something special. But there is one exception to our general paltriness: We’re the right honorable kings and queens of the planet when it comes to long-distance running.

Stipp cites a couple of man-vs-horse marathons where humans actually win. There’s one in Wales and another in Arizona. He also gets into the biophysical mechanics of human long-distance running (everything from counter-rotating torsos to advanced heat dissipation) that enable us to maintain much higher speeds over long distances (especially in warm and temperate climates) than the closest competitors.

This whole idea that humans are evolved runners really resonates with me, and it’s actually reinforced my own desire to run longer and longer. I’m not very good yet (10 miles is my longest run), but the longer I go the more I feel like “Yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be.” It just feels right.

Don’t mess with us

The Guardian reports that the UK government is using anti-terrorism laws to intimidate citizens with no evidence that they are in any way connected to terrorism. Officers at Heathrow recently stopped an individual, David Miranda, whose domestic partner happens to be Glenn Greenwald, the man who interviewed whistleblower Edward Snowden and published articles about the NSA’s spying programs. The officers held Miranda for nine hours (the maximum allowable time period) and confiscated thousands of dollars of his personal affects. “Suspects” detained under this provision of the UK’s Terrorism Act (called “Schedule 7”) are compelled to cooperate with questioning or risk being arrested for “obstruction.”

Make no mistake, this is not diplomacy. This particular law has been on the books in the UK since 2000. It’s been suggested, with good reason, that most of its victims are racially profiled–that they “look” like terrorists. The detention of David Miranda was not naive racism by ignorant cops who should know better, it was intimidation, pure and simple. It was abuse of power for the purposes of cowing those who might dare threaten the very power being abused. We have every reason to be gravely concerned.

The Dismal Science

The picture to the left was the cover of Ruskin on Himself and Things in General, a late 1800s collection of essay extracts by John Ruskin. The white, bearded, thin-faced Ruskin tramples his dark, broad-faced and flat-nosed enemy. In the slain man’s hand is a bag that reads “Wealth of Nations” and “L.S.D.” (not the drug, but the abbreviation for “pounds, shillings, and pence”). Next to him is a book titled “The Dismal Science.” How does the “dismal science” connect with this obvious racism? Most know that economics got its unfortunate nickname from Thomas Carlyle, who coined the phrase based on Malthus’ population doomsdaying. However, this well-known story is simply not true. As economists David Levy and Sandra Peart explain,

[Thomas] Carlyle’s target was not Malthus, but economists such as John Stuart Mill, who argued that it was institutions, not race, that explained why some nations were rich and others poor. Carlyle attacked Mill, not for supporting Malthus’s predictions about the dire consequences of population growth, but for supporting the emancipation of slaves. It was this fact—that economics assumed that people were basically all the same, and thus all entitled to liberty—that led Carlyle to label economics “the dismal science.”

Carlyle was not alone in denouncing economics for making its radical claims about the equality of all men. Others who joined him included Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. The connection was so well known throughout the 19th century, that even cartoonists could refer to it, knowing that their audience would get the reference.

 

Perhaps capitalism has more to do with emancipation than exploitation.

 

Mormons…the new Jew?: Exploring the Jewish-Mormon Connection

https://i2.wp.com/ce.byu.edu/jc/img/sidebar1.jpg?resize=396%2C253&ssl=1
BYU’s Jerusalem Center

Rabbi Perry Tirschwell wrote an interesting comparison of Mormons and Jews in the Jewish Press yesterday. Ever since Orson Hyde dedicated the Holy Land and prophesied about the Zionist movement, Mormons have had a vested interest in witnessing the restoration of the Jews’ place in the world. It should be clear, though, that Latter-day Saint Church leaders are on record in expressing love for towards both Jews and Muslims, lest people think we’re taking a side in certain Middle-East conflict. The late Mormon president/prophet Howard  W. Hunter said in his excellent 1979 address “All Are Alike Unto God”:

Read moreMormons…the new Jew?: Exploring the Jewish-Mormon Connection

Why Vote? Society as Emergent Property, Part 1

2013-08-29 The Ethics of Voting

When economists look at voting, they usually say that the benefit from voting is the probability that your vote will be the deciding vote in an election. Since no major political election in American history has been decided by one vote–or even by anything close to one vote–this means that the effective benefit of voting is basically zero.

And yet people vote. What’s more, we have an idea that people ought to vote, and that they probably should try to be moderately informed about it, too.

Jason Brennan is one philosopher who feels quite differently. His argument, in The Ethics of Voting, is that there’s no real civic duty to vote. If you’re uninformed, he argues, then your vote does more harm than good. And instead of spending the effort to become informed, why not spend the effort on some other socially beneficial activity? Start a business, found a charity, volunteer somewhere: but skip the voting.

Here’s the problem with that analysis, however. The term “more informed” is, by definition, relative. So if we say that only the most informed 50% of the electorate should vote (morally speaking, I’m not suggesting any kind of law or policy to disenfranchise ignorant people here), why stop there? Now instead of 200,000,000 voters you have 100,000,000 voters, but 50% of them are smarter than the other 50%, so shouldn’t we reduce the number again, to 50,000,000? The point is that there’s no good reason to ever stop this winnowing process until we end up with a world where only a handful of super-geniuses are voting and the rest of us are just sitting on the sidelines. 

Read moreWhy Vote? Society as Emergent Property, Part 1

Five Economic Game Changers

The following comes from a new report out of the McKinsey Global Institute (McKinsey & Co.):

 

As shown above, the report identifies five major catalysts for economic growth:

  • Shale-gas and oil production
  • US trade competitiveness in knowledge-intensive goods
  • Big data analytics as a productivity tool
  • Increased investment in infrastructure, with a new emphasis on productivity
  • A more effective US system of talent development

Perhaps the US does not need to “get used to slower growth.” Perhaps we just need to know our options.

92% Down Syndrome Babies Aborted

extra-chromosome

Ok, this isn’t a new statistic.  In fact, the video I watched (below) that sparked this post is almost a year old.  But it’s something I think about a lot because it just makes me so sad.  Eugenics is horrifying, and we need to talk about it, and we need to give women support who get these diagnoses.

I particularly loved this comment on a LifeSiteNews article about the video:

it’s so odd that people want “perfect” children, I was briefly pregnant at age 46 (had a miscarriage) and had refused pre-natal testing because by then my other children were teenagers and I had learned there is no pre-natal test for tantrums, bed-wetting, climbing out on the roof, jumping out of 2nd story windows, driving 89 mph in a 40 zone, driving a car 15 miles without oil, failing math or physics, losing a brand new Starter jacket, or pooping on the sidewalk after church. There is no prenatal test for any of that, so why bother?  No child is perfect!

Watch the ESPN video below about a marathon runner who wanted his wife to choose abortion when their second daughter was diagnosed with Down and instead learned a lesson about perfection.