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Self in Society Roundup 36

Leftists excuse atrocities, Integralism, 'Birchers in heels,' Daniel Dennett, crime stats, Montessori, masks, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
November 2, 2023; ported here on January 9, 2024

Some Leftists Excuse Atrocities: Ilya Somin points out that "the Western far left has a long history of excusing or minimizing massive atrocities," whether by Hamas, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, or Pol Pot. "The kinds of people who are willing to justify, minimize, or deny the slaughter of millions by the likes of Stalin and Mao are unlikely to blanch at Hamas' much smaller-scale atrocities." Hamas does not endorse the left's socialism, of course, but it definitely opposes capitalism!

Integralism: Kevin Vallier explains "Catholic Integralism," a "deeply theocentric political theory" that looks to integrate rather than separate church and state. Vallier describes the Integralists (as they describe themselves) as anti-liberal; I see them as providing fuel to theocratic fascism. See also Vallier's discussion with UnPopulist.

Moms for Lunacy: Robert Tracinski calls Moms for Liberty "Birchers in heels." The organization "has become the driving force behind a sweeping wave of book bans and politicized restrictions on teaching," he writes.

Dennett: Daniel Dennett reflects on his long career, with Michael Shermer. Dennett has out an autobiography called I've Been Thinking. He chalks up much of his success to the fact that, as he says, "I was ready to learn that I was wrong, and make mistakes, and blurt something out just to get something on the table to talk about." He also said, "I think science needs to have playrooms, where people try out half-baked ideas, dangerous ideas, and people can speak candidly, and try to turn those into baked ideas." He has a nice discussion of compatibilism, and also about the "hard problem of consciousness" (which he thinks is not a real problem).

Beware Incomplete Crime Stats: Amanda Hernández: "[T]he FBI . . . rolled out a new reporting system. The data collection system, called the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, gathered more detail on individual incidents but also required training and tech upgrades by state and local policing agencies. For the first time in two decades, the national law enforcement reporting rate fell below 70% in 2021, primarily due to the FBI's transition. In 2022, many law enforcement agencies across the country were not NIBRS-certified in time to submit their 2021 crime data, which contributed to lower reporting rates. Even before the new system launched, there was a gap in reporting nationwide. Prior to 2021, 23% of U.S. law enforcement agencies on average did not report any crime data to the FBI. In 2020, 24% of agencies did not report, and in 2021, it surged to 40%."

Rand and Montessori: Objectivist philosophers Matt Bateman and Gred Salmieri discuss the relationships between Ayn Rand's philosophic ideas and Maria Montessori's approach to education. Bateman and Salmieri are both high-level thinkers with children in (Bateman's) Montessori schools, so this is a very interesting conversation on the topic. There's too much there for me to quickly summarize; one issue they discuss is the need for active learning about reality as opposed to being a vessel into which knowledge is poured or constructing reality. Bateman also makes the important point that education arose in the context of literacy, and that learning to read and write increases the complexity with which a person can think. I continue to have questions about how much of a child's education needs to be formalized, as opposed to developed "organically" or spontaneously. Bateman discusses a school encouraging a student's individual interests, but it's unclear to me how that fits with the highly structured Montessori approach. Bateman recommends Rand's essay "Art and Moral Treason" in The Romantic Manifesto (also available in audio).

Masks for Covid: Again. Study via Eric Topol: "[E]xisting results, when outcome measures are properly analyzed, consistently point to the benefit of precautionary measures such as N95 respirators over medical masks, and masking over its absence." However, some "studies are strongly biased towards the null by infections resulting from transmission outside of the investigated environments and study participants." So . . . masks imperfectly work, but they don't work very well because people often catch Covid when they're not wearing their masks.

Arbitrary Power: Alex Tabarrok recounts how the FEC for no good reason hounded LBRY, Inc. into bankruptcy.

Flower Moon: Although I question aspects of Thomas Walker-Werth's review of Killers of the Flower Moon, it is more than sufficient to dissuade me from viewing the film. To me, a trip to the cinema ought not be an exercise in masochism. The review covers some of the relevant, gruesome history, as does a Wikipedia page.

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