Salman Rushdie on “9/11 Liberals” – And My Commentary on Anti-American Nutjobs, Human Rights, Violence, and Religion

Salman Rushdie

It’s an odd term, “9/11 Liberal”, but it seems to have some truth to it: a Liberal on nearly all things, save for their pro-war stance concerning the issue of Islamist terrorism.

Here’s a little video of Salman Rushdie on Bill Maher discussing this issue:

I ceased being a “Liberal” long ago and took the aggressive step of uncapitalizing the term, becoming simply a “liberal”.

But many of my affinities still lie with these old Progressives, hippies, bohemians, and communist sympathizers (I was once a died-in-the-wool Marxist) — and against the whackos that populate the far right who are genuinely (often supremely) racist, sexist, homophobic — assholes first, politically interested second — and who either have, or are deeply sympathetic to, fundamentalist Christian tendencies.

I may have settled into a kind of liberal-libertarianism, but my “peeps” have always been those on the Left — especially those on the furthest end of it.

That said, my own view on the terror-war is much harsher than any “9/11 Liberal” precisely because I’m against the Liberal cult of Tolerance — that get-along tendency that white-washes the crimes of any subgroup that can claim oppression.

I am not pro-tolerance when it comes to ANY religion. I am pro-free-speech. Pro-laws-against-violence. Pro-reason. Pro Science. And above all: Pro-Secular-Government.

I’m against all forms of theocracy, dictatorship, and totalitarianism. Period.

Putting religion in bed with politics breeds evil of the most virulent variety. It makes religion the worst of itself. This is true not only of formal governments, but of political movements. The best thing that ever happened to Christianity was its divorce from government — one of many contributions our American founders made that makes their triumph one of the most important (if not THE most important) event in the history of human rights: the Creation of our Constitution-based, anti-theocratic, pro-humanist, Government.

I am Pro-America in a way that makes me cringe every time I hear a member of the Tea Party (those co-destroyers of the word “libertarian”), or the Christian Right, say the same thing. They seem to believe in a very different country than I do. (Not to mention, they seem to have no understanding of the history of the founders they pretend to admire, who fought a war to prevent the very madness these nut-jobs promote.)

I have ZERO tolerance for Muslim-based governments and political-action groups for the EXACT reasons I have zero tolerance for Religious-based governments of any kind. Or, for that matter, zero tolerance for Creationist nut-jobs trying to force religion into state-funded schools; or that idiotic “Brain Gym” group promoting a culture of pseudoscience and irrationality in our schools, as if our education system didn’t have enough of that already; or cultist diet fanatics; or the anti-vaccination crowd… the list is long.

I’m pro-Enlightenment.

I am for those nearly perfect words of Thomas Jefferson (from his original rough draft):

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …”

In short, you simple DO NOT have the right to take the life of another human being because you believe that some magic book told you it was OK.

Fuck Moses. You have to obey our secular laws. No stoning allowed.

That’s not simply a “Muslim” problem, that’s a HUMAN problem: humans are morons who will believe all kinds of bullshit — they will then use that bullshit to justify their totalitarian violence. It is the purpose of secular government to keep the right-to-violence out of the hands of nutjobs — all else is secondary.

I don’t “respect” religion any more than I “respect” astrology or tradition or dogma or authority or any of those things humans have used throughout history to justify their violence.

I respect the sanctity of human rights. Everything else is subservient to that.

Now… Here’s the step Liberals won’t take with me: it is the job of the United States (and the rest of the powerful democracies of the world) to protect and defend the human rights of the people who are being oppressed by totalitarian governments of all kinds (this certainly includes theocracies). It should be our expressed goal to FREE the world of these kinds of horrible governments and violently oppressive regimes, bandits, terrorist organizations, and psychopaths.

I am no moral relativist. I am an absolutist. I am no pacifist. I believe in defending those who cannot defend themselves.

America was born to make the Rights of Man a reality.1


  1. it’s worth noting that when it comes to the promotion of freedom and human rights, I believe that we should all be taking both Paine AND Burke seriously — I’ve always found it a sign of idiocy when a person rejects either out of hand. Be a revolutionary with a conservative soul. No zealots allowed. 

Ayn Rand (Goddess of Pseudo-Intellectuals) gets Hitch-Slapped & Her Cult gets Swindled by Reality

Hitchens comments on the “transcendently awful” novels of Ayn Rand:

And a collection of her cult-followers get slapped by reality. From Solon:

Rand’s heroes aren’t just rapists, woman-beaters, and thieves. They’re also terrorists who freely blow up or burn properties for ideological reasons, or simply because things didn’t turn out as they might have liked. (Fun exercise: Imagine how conservatives would react to Rand’s storylines if all the protagonists were black. Or Muslim.)

Then there’s the fraud. It’s praiseworthy in Rand’s eyes – if it’s practiced by the right sort of people. Francisco, the rapist/hero, even boasts about defrauding investors from the “looters’” parasitical economy. In an ironic foreshadowing of Galt’s Gulch in Chile, he brags about building defective housing for Mexican workers as part of a government contract.

“Wait for one good mountain slide” – with those workers’ families inside, of course. Comedy gold, amirite?

Is it any wonder that a venture inspired by this book eventually defrauded its customers? And yet, despite the allegations against them, Gawker’s Adam Weinstein tells us that, “GGC developers will still sell you a 1,200-acre “Master Estate” for a mere $500,000. As long as you’re also willing to extend GGC developers a $2 million ‘Founders Club’ loan along with that $500,000, which they’ll totally pay back, they swear.”

Weinstein snarks, “That silence you hear? That’s the sound of Atlas shrugging.”

We may as well end with The Colbert Report:

Does Birth Order Change Personality? OR – Your Mom Really DID Love Your Sister More!

stork

Did birth-order affect your personality? No.

“Reluctant to give up their belief in birth order, some theorists have instead given up their faith in standard self-report personality tests (see “Why Did Sulloway’s Results Differ From Those of Ernst and Angst?” forthcoming on this website). They’ve claimed that these tests are invalid — that they are inaccurate or insensitive measures of personality (Kagan, 1998; Sulloway, 1998, 1999). This is like blaming the yardstick when one’s theory of why some kids are taller than others fails to be confirmed. Standard self-report personality tests are the yardstick that produced the results we are trying to account for!”

From a post by psychologist, Judith Rich Harris.

While she was at it, she blasted another taboo: Whether parents love one child MORE than another. Yes.

“As everybody knows, parents don’t treat their kids all alike. And one of the things that makes parents treat their children differently — this is something that Lois Hoffman and Dunn and Plomin agreed on — is birth order. Firstborns and laterborns have different experiences in the home, right from the start. Firstborns are born to inexperienced and anxious parents, laterborns to veterans. Firstborns have their parents all to themselves for a while and then are abruptly dethroned by a rival; laterborns always have to compete for their parents’ attention. Parents give firstborns more responsibility; they give laterborns more affection.

That’s right: it’s the younger child who gets more affection. Two studies (Dunn & Plomin, 1990; McHale et al., 1995) have shown that at least half of parents with two children admit to loving one better than the other, and a large majority of these parents — more than 80 percent — say they love their younger child best. These are big differences in parental affection. If being loved more by their parents made children less aggressive (or more aggressive), then we should see birth order effects on aggressiveness. But the teachers in Deater-Deckard and Plomin’s (1999) study did not judge younger siblings to be any less aggressive (or more aggressive) than older siblings.”

I’m an oldest child of three, so I laughed pretty loud at this one. It also reminded me why I prefer dogs…

Leonard Susskind Lecture – Why is Time a 1-Way Street?

Leonard Susskind

Brilliant lecture by Leonard Susskind. He begins by complaining that Power Point presentations are ruining his culture! I agree.

I got into mathematics, in part, because of an excessive love of chalk and chalkboards. And I had to go into weightlifting because it is one of the only bastions left where being covered in chalk is still considered a good thing.

Oh, and he also discusses the nature of Time and space ;-)

Leave Einstein Alone, He Was Not Religious [Quote of the Day]

einstein

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

— Albert Einstein, letter to an atheist (1954), quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman”

Then another:

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere…. Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

— Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930″

It’s ridiculous how often religious people seek to claim Einstein as one of their own, most especially the fundamentalists who are extremely hostile to deistic beliefs like his.

If you’re goal is to bolster the claims of fundamentalist religious belief, Einstein’s Star-Wars-style faith in “the force” is hardly helping your case.

He’s best left out of the whole deal.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Atheism, Religion, Einstein, Evolution, etc [Video]

neil-deGrasse-tyson

Neil DeGrasse Tyson sent this letter to the Editor of the New York Times in 2006:

“To the Editor:

People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah’s ark carried dinosaurs.

This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it’s about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
New York, Dec. 19, 2006″

Isaac Asimov Interview with Bill Moyers (1988)

Isaac-Asimov

A wonderful interview with the great Isaac Asimov by Bill Moyers in 1988.

Like so many others who chose to study math and science, Asimov was a wonderful influence on that side of my personality. But, in addition to that, as a writer, he never ceases of inspire me to put pen to paper and keep going with my own projects.

Here is the interview in 3 parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Quantum Decision Making & The Brain

brain-net

“…our main hypothesis is that the brain makes decisions through a procedure that is similar to quantum measurements. This does not require the brain to be a quantum object, but merely takes into account the dual nature of the decision process, involving both conscious logical evaluations as well as subconscious intuitive feelings”

From the paper “How Brains Make Decisions”, by V.I. Yukalov and D. Sornette.

I’m perpetually surprised at how rare it is to find this kind of sensible approach to the application of the mathematics of quantum theory to non-literal quantum phenomena.

The history of science should have taught us by now that the math that was developed for one application… often will have its greatest applications to subjects far afield from the original one.

In science, literalism is akin to death. The ability to abstract out the principles is key. There is great symmetry between how quantum processes work, and how many processes in biology, ecology, economics, and behaviour work.

They continue (bold text is mine):

“We have presented the Quantum Decision Theory that we have developed in the last four years, which is based on combining utility-like calculations with emotional influences in the representation of the decision making processes. We have emphasized that decision making by humans is principally different from the direct calculations by, even the most powerful, computers. This basic difference is in the duality of the human decision-making procedure. The brain makes decisions by a parallel processing of two different jobs: by consciously estimating the utility of the available prospects and by subconsciously evaluating their attractiveness.

We have shown how the duality of the brain functioning can be adequately represented by the techniques of quantum theory. The process of decision making has been described as mathematically similar to the procedure of quantum measurement. The self-consistent mathematical theory of human decision making that we have been developed contains noparadoxes typical of classical decision making. It is important to stress that this theory is the first theory allowing for it quantitative predictions taking into account behavioral biases.

We stress that the description of the functioning of the human brain by means of quantum techniques does not require that the brain be a quantum object, but this approach serves as an appropriate mathematical tool for characterizing the conscious-subconscious duality of the brain processes. This duality must be taken into account when one attempts to create an artificial intelligence imitating the human brain. Such an artificial intelligence has to be quantum in the sense explained above.”

And that’s the key: a process can be “quantum” in the literal sense of quantum particles, or quantum in the sense of how it acts.

I think that the application of the mathematics of quantum theory will have a profound effect on a great many seemingly intractable problems all over biology and social science research (certainly in economics), in much the same counter-intuitive sense that complexity theory has proven to be unreasonably accurate in its predictions in fields never dreamed of at the beginning.

We don’t need to wait for Quantum Computers to make great strides in applying Quantum Games and Quantum Decision Theory to the descriptive side of science. We can get started now.

Now go lift something heavy,
Nick Horton