Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush's faith-based reality: Stop the insanity!

In a roundtable interview yesterday with a group of Texas journalists, as reported by the Post's Dan Froomkin, President Bush addressed Rove, Palmeiro, and intelligent design. (You might want to sit down for this.) In the interview, Bush:
  1. Expressed "complete confidence" in top aide Karl Rove -- while stubbornly refusing to say anything more about what he knows about the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity;
  2. Said he still believes his friend, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, has never used steroids -- in spite of the player's suspension Monday for violating baseball's anti-drug policy; [and]
  3. Endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to include the teaching of "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.

The complete transcript of the interview is here.

Essentially, Bush believes in Rove, believes in Palmeiro, and believes in something other than Darwinian evolution. Does the evidence even matter? No, of course not. Rove and Palmeiro are friends, each of a sort, and that's all that matters. Bush likely hasn't taken the time to study evolution, nor to weigh the cases for and against so-called intelligent design, and that's all that matters. It's enough to believe that something is true, or at least that something else may or may not be true. And this from the president of the United States! This from the most powerful man in the world!

Okay, it's the second one that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Bush may still have "complete confidence" in Rove even if the latter has committed a crime or otherwise acted unethically. Similarly, he may believe in some sort of divine (which is what "intelligent" means in this context -- it's just a way for creationists to skirt around the issue) order to the universe even if the available scientific evidence would seem to support Darwin. But how can Bush possibly believe that Palmeiro has never used steroids even after the latter tested positive and had his appeal rejected by Major League Baseball? Or is this just a case of Palmeiro's tricky rhetoric coming to mirror Bush's? You know, WMDs become WMD-related programs, the war on terror becomes the struggle against violent extremism, and Palmeiro conveniently inserts the word "intentionally" into his denial.

(No wonder they're friends.)

In Bush's White House, reality stops at the door to the Oval Office. (Is it possible the Bush presidency isn't real? Maybe if I believe hard enough...)

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  • I had meant to comment on this in the Palmeiro post, but didn't.
    First question: is it possible to test positive for steroids without taking steroids? I almost want to say yes, or rather, that it is also possible to test positive for steroids, but not be taking them for perfomance enhancing reasons (such as illness?). Anyway, I am sure someone can weign in on this with more authority.
    Secondly, should performance enhancing drugs be outlawed anyway? Isn't diet, extreme training, and weight machines a means to enhance performance? Is the implication that anyone with enough dedication can become a great athlete? I am curious what other people think about the legalization of perfomance-enahncers in sport....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:37 PM  

  • I doubt that you have much of a problem with false positives. And in this case, Palmeiro doesn't seem to be denying that he took them, just that he took them unintentionally. It is conceivable that some over the counter supplements contain steroids, so I guess it is theoretically possible for someone to ingest steroids inadvertently. But apparently, what Palmeiro took is a "serious" steroid that wouldn't likely be found in a supplement. It sounds to me like he is just out and out lying. And, yes, there are steroids used for medicinal purposes; I was prescribed steroids for a condition a couple of years ago. But if that was the case, he certainly should have notified the Commissioner's office.

    As for why steroids are and should be illegal, the point is that steroids are dangerous and have potentially devastating side effects. You could say, well it's his body, but if you allow steroids, you are essentially forcing anyone that wants to compete at the highest level to take them. I might want to be a baseball player and might not want to take steroids, but if everyone else is taking them, I would pretty much have to. I don't think that's fair and I don't think it's something we should be encouraging people to do.

    Other types of "performance enhancing" activities in general don't have the kind of effects that steroids do. Moreover, from an aesthetic standpoint, I think there is a difference between improving your performance by hard work (ie, practice, weight training, etc.) and sticking a needle in your arm. And no, no one is saying that steroids alone will make you a great athlete. Steroids isn't going to help a guy hit if he can't hit now--it's not going to improve his hand-eye coordination. But it does give you an advantage obviously.

    I think you have a point that, as technology advances, we will have to address what are legitimate and non-legitimate ways to improve performance. For example, what if you can surgically improve your heart's performance or something like that? I think these will be increasingly difficult questions. But it seems to me that, at a minimum, anything that creates an incentive for someone to risk their health should not be legal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:25 PM  

  • I think Bush's comments don't mean anything. It's sort of like when someone asks how you are; you say fine even if things are terrible. Bush does a lot of that. His comments about intelligent design show a typical lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn't really care about the issue; he just knows what he sort of feels and, more importantly, he knows what his supporters feel.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:28 PM  

  • the kinds of tests for steroids used in professional athletics are pretty definitive for the steroid subclass of "performance-enhancing" drugs (I guess this depends on what kind of performance) - there really aren't many medical uses I can think of for what was identified - a similar drug is sometimes used to treat endometriosis... not likely to be a problem for Mr. Palmeiro.

    But on to the Bush thing. Every day I am more stunned at the statements that guy makes. Truly, he is a laughing stock - which says a lot about my country. It seems there isn't a muzzle large enough to reign him in. What the hell is "intelligent design" other than fancy wording for religion in the classroom, where it has no place whatsoever outside of a course in anthropology.

    The noise my head makes when I bang it into the wall gets evermore resonant.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:06 PM  

  • Erica,

    Just realize that when you bang your head into the wall, God designed both. It's scientifically proven!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:54 AM  

  • You know, guys, I understand your frustration on this issue. But I find that our knee-jerk reactions of disbelief are perhaps unduly harsh.

    I am not religious, and I ultimately don't think it possible to ever truly prove the existence or non-existence of God. But God plays an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans, and for many their religion is the organizing principle of their lives. Is it not understandable that people might feel under attack as traditional modes of their core belief are challenged? Is it not unreasonable that these people might make an attempt to defend their beliefs?

    I'm not saying we should lay back and accept intelligent design in the curriculum in the name of tolerance of all views. I am saying we should lose the rather dismissive attitude towards the legitimate crisis experienced "strict biblists", and try to understand why they cling so fiercely to traditional views.

    The enlightenment faith in reason and the scientific method, while handy in creating the high standard of living enjoyed by those of us in the first world (and increasingly spreading to all corners of the globe), does not address certain needs of the human spirit- namely, the need to acknowledge an entity that is that is larger and more important than me as an individual. This need is the very foundation for a meaningful existence. It is what distinguishes humans from animals.

    For millenium this need for a larger spiritual source was provided by traditional institutions: the church, the tribe, the family. These traditional institutions have largely stayed intact into the modern era, though of course the church has waned, and the tribe has become diffused into country, region, ethnic group, neighborhood, etc. And yet the bonds that tie us to these larger concepts are undoubtedly fraying.

    This is a good thing is some ways- too strong a tie to your country leads to a hostile nationalism, and too strong a tie to your ethnic group becomes racism. But as families fragment and connection to a particular community or country becomes more distant in the consumer-driven, individual-oriented culture we live in, we lose the ability to go beyond ourselves, both in thought and action. We lose what makes us go beyond our basic material needs, and what makes us most fully human.

    The fight to put intellectual design in the science classroom stems from this very need to reassert a source of larger spirituality. I would agree that God doesn't have a place in the science curriculum. Put I don't think we should treat this in sum as a bullying act by clueless bible-thumpers. It is an outgrowth of what is at root an existentialist crisis in our modern culture, and the best way to address the underpinnings of this crisis is to have a dialogue about how to meet these essential human needs in the year 2005.

    I suppose what I am saying is that if we are going to put God in his proper place in the curriculum and culture, we need an alternative form of faith, and must not keep God out merely because of fossils and geology. Is this a radical concept? It might be, but it is strikes as essential at this point in history.

    By Blogger N. Lowe, at 1:30 PM  

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