A Senator Agrees to Appear by Video at the Reason Rally but His ‘Reason’ Credentials Are In Doubt March 10, 2012

A Senator Agrees to Appear by Video at the Reason Rally but His ‘Reason’ Credentials Are In Doubt

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has agreed to appear in a videotaped message that will play during the Reason Rally.

He and Representative Pete Stark (D-California) represent the only politicians courageous enough to “speak” at the large gathering of atheists:

Said a Harkin spokesperson, “Just like the rest of his colleagues in Congress, Senator Harkin, a lifelong Catholic, strongly endorses the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. It was out of this conviction that he agreed to the invitation to send a video welcome to those exercising their Constitutional right on the national mall.”

Senator Harkin has served in the United States Senate for 27 years, serving an additional 10 years in the House of Representatives before that. The Secular Coalition for America, a sponsor of the Reason Rally, gave Harkin an “A” on their 2009 Senate Scorecard, a mark of how well his legislative votes defended secular values.

Based on the quotation from the spokesperson, Harkin isn’t really interested in our message. He supports our right to hold a rally and speak out, but that’s about the extent of his support.

Harkin doesn’t appear without some controversy, though. The Buffalo Beast‘s Josh Bunting explains:

[Harkin] tried to get alternative medicine covered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka OBAMMERCARE. Harkin’s amendment ultimately failed, so fortunately none of us are going to be compelled to subsidize the quackery industry. But if Harkin had his way, we would.

Remember, this is the Reason Rally. I thought the point was to advocate for reason-based policy in our government. That’s why it’s taking place in Washington, DC.

The Center For Inquiry even issued a press release against Harkin’s bill in 2009:

[Sen. Harkin and others] are sponsoring an amendment to the health care reform bill which would support funding for alternative medicine, and also require all insurance companies to cover state-licensed alternative medicine providers, under the guise of prohibiting “discrimination” against such providers.

“Our report seeks to sound some alarm bells: we are coming dangerously close to having lawmakers legitimize quackery by putting the government stamp of approval on these unproven treatments,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We call upon the legislative branch to follow President Obama’s lead and insist that public policy be informed by sound scientific evidence.”

In other words, Harkin isn’t exactly a strong proponent of critical thinking and relying on scientific evidence.

That brings us to the salient question: Would you rather have more politicians pander to us like Harkin is doing or would you rather they ignore us altogether?

Considering that most people are unaware of Harkin’s views on alternative medicine, I think most atheists would be thrilled to even get lip service from a sitting senator.

Before you start organizing protests against Harkin’s video appearance, though, keep in mind that a *lot* of atheists wanted Bill Maher to speak at the rally, despite his speaking out against western medicine and questioning the efficacy of vaccinations. It seems like Maher’s outspoken atheism outweighed his sillier/more harmful views. But Maher’s a performer and Harkin’s a politician. We have a number of atheist celebrities. We don’t a lot of atheist politicians.

So do you give Harkin the benefit of the doubt and say, “Cool, we appreciate your willingness to send us a message at the Rally; that takes a lot of political courage” or “Thanks, but no thanks; your views are antithetical to ours and we don’t want your support”?

One more thing to keep in mind: President Obama has said things about the importance of religion in our country that many atheists have problems with. He has attended prayer breakfasts. He expanded the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Many atheists oppose all of those things.

Still, I think everyone would *love* it if Obama agreed to send along a message saying essentially the same things Harkin plans to say.

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  • Myatheistlife

    Get real. If a sitting senator or anyone in government wants to address the Reason Rally or any group of critical thinkers… let them. It’s an opportunity afterwards to review their statements and the value of same. A set of talking points so to speak. Such not only gives everyone a chance to speak (as the constitution encourages) but gives all critical thinkers a chance to review and think about the value of such a speaker. Discuss and dissect it much the way that MSM does. Cover it with a situation room scenario. Cover it in a way that makes certain that future speakers will endeavour to be meaningful and useful the next time around.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, being pandered to is much better than being ignored.  We shouldn’t be burning bridges. I’d much rather Harkin (who is brave to publish even a recorded message considering that Iowa is a swing state and this could hurt him in reelection campaigns.) support part of our message rather than none at all. Bring Bill Maher, bring anyone who supports any part of our message because we need all the allies we can get. As long as they don’t advocate for pseudo-science at the rally, I’m willing to let them stand up for the more rational views that they hold.

  • Allison

    Personally, I would find Bill Maher being a main speaker a big disincentive for attending the rally. Not only is he into pseudoscience, he’s on the board of PETA and is a misogynistic jerk. As mentioned, there are quite a few atheist celebrities out there. Why not choose a different one?

  • westley

    I’m all for Harkin addressing the rally.  I think by pointing out some of the problems/dangers with alternative medicine, we can pull him away from supporting it in the future.  Don’t write people off.

  • I say take the pandering and run. Let’s leave orthodoxy to others. (That doesn’t mean we should be unwilling to discuss and critique views we find questionable, though!) 

  • I think it’s cool that he supports secular government, but if he’s not an atheist himself, then why would he speak?  I suppose I was under the impression that the rally would be for those of us attending to hear people who share our views speak, not just those who support us.  

    I think a more effective approach would be for him to write an article or speak to his fellow congresspersons about us and how important it is that they keep our country from the theocracy it is turning into.

  • Sanguine Apparatus

    As long as someone is there to praise the movement or offer their support, I don’t see the problem. 

    IMO Harkin being Catholic is a plus, kinda. While I am an atheist and love when others are openly atheist, I also feel it’s very important for atheists and the religious to get along. A religious politician very publicly announcing his support for the non religious is a great way to get a better name for us. Just think of all the people who like or voted for Harkin who now might rethink their negative views of the non religious. Maybe it would encourage other politicians to try to pander to the nones as well. I’m obviously being extremely hopeful. 

    I would not agree to his video appearance if he was going to use that time to discuss his views on those other matters that clearly don’t belong at a Reason Rally.

  • Anonymous

    Politicians willing to support the cause are far and few.  I say let the man speak.

  • Plasticpony365

    You really think Bill hates women?

  • Annie

    What are we?  The Reason police?  Of course let him make his video!  I doubt there will ever be any politician that I agree with 100%, so I won’t expect that from Harkin.  It sounds as if he fully supports the separation of church and state, and has the record to back him up.  As long as he doesn’t close with, “God bless America!” I’d be interested in what he has to say.

    We need allies.  Lots of allies.  I think Harkin very well may be one. 

  • Anonymous


    Based on the quotation from the spokesperson, Harkin isn’t really
    interested in our message. He supports our right to hold a rally and
    speak out, but that’s about the extent of his support.

    is at odds with this:

    The Secular Coalition for America, a sponsor of the Reason
    Rally, gave Harkin an “A” on their 2009 Senate Scorecard, a mark of how
    well his legislative votes defended secular values.

    Sounds like he supports secularists just fine. If we have to wait around
    for a politician who ticks every single one of the boxes we can forget
    about being a power player in policy and fall into utter irrelevance
    while fantasizing about President Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

    I’m utterly thrilled to hear that a sitting senator is willing to take
    the step to lend his name to an event. This by itself raises the profile
    of the rally and lends it legitimacy. Senator Harkin deserves to be
    praised for what is a brave stand, considering how he must know he’s
    served up his Republican opponent a ready-made attack ad.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    From the Buffalo Beast link:

    [UPDATE] I forgot to also point out that Harkin was instrumental in creating the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992

    (i.e. NCCAM)
    Harkin’s support of alternative medicine is not a one-shot deal.
    Still, that’s one issue, and his stand on separation of church and state is certainly welcome. If someone wants to wave a protest sign during his talk, fine. But i hope no one tries to shout down his video.

  • Melody Hensley

    Hemant, given that you were one of the people that worked on confirming Harkin to speak at the Reason Rally, I can see why you have a vested interest in defending his presence. I think his invitation is appalling given that Harkin’s views on alternative medicine are in direct opposition to two of the main sponsor’s missions. This rally is not only for the non-religious, but for those who call themselves skeptics. He may be pandering to the nonreligious, but certainly not to the skeptic community. JREF largely stays away from the god-question, but they are a sponsor. What does this say to JREF and CFI and their supporters?

  • Michael Appleman

    Its the reason rally, not the atheist rally.

  • Melody — It’s unfair to suggest I have anything to do with picking speakers. I don’t. I have nothing to do with selecting or even suggesting any of the speakers. I’m not a part of those discussions. I offered to help the RR with social media stuff and my major role with the RR is posting information on their website when needed.

    I have no vested interest in defending Harkin. For what it’s worth, I only found out about the Harkin thing yesterday, a little while before the post went up on the RR website.

  • Pseudonym

    The question, as I see it, is whether would you rather keep the lines of communication open or closed. Phrased that way, it’s obvious.

    Given that there are so few atheist congresscritters, it only makes sense to engage respectully with those who are willing to engage respectfully with you. You might even change his mind on some things. Probably not Catholicism, but there might be some teachable moments on the whole woo-woo thing.

  • Keulan

    I may disagree with Harkin’s views on alternative medicine, but if he’s not going to be pushing for us to support that sort of quackery in his video, then I say let him speak. We need more politicians speaking out in support of separation of church and state.

  • Khemadipa3@gmail.com

    as far as ‘alternative’ medicine goes, please don’t confuse lack in the belief of a creator deity with a distorted grasp of unscientific materialism.  i am an atheist and an acupuncturist and herbalist, and even though it works according to consistent principles, i always hear ‘scientists’ say it couldn’t possibly work, based on the fact that they have no interest in understanding it.  some people find intriguing rationalizations for being irrational! 

  • I tend to think that medical and health woo is at least as dangerous as religion.  Having said that I think a support for secularism from a Senator is a hugely important step so of course he should speak.  As someone else said, we’re not the Reason Police.

  • Melody Hensley

    It seems that some are unclear about the mission of the rally. This is not just about church and state issues. One of the main sponsors of the event has nothing to do with church/state separation. JREF is a skeptic group, opposing alternative medicine and junk science. CFI deals with both secularism and scientific skepticism. This is a real problem for a so called “Reason Rally.” Otherwise, just call it the Atheist Rally.  

    Hemant, I apologize for saying that you confirmed him as a speaker. You were asked to publicize his appearance. It’s reassuring that you did not know about his stance on alternative medicine. However, I’m disappointed that you are now defending the decision. This isn’t the American Atheists or the Secular Coalition for America Rally, it’s the Reason Rally, where organizations that strongly oppose alternative medicine have put a great amount of resources in to the event. 

    I think this is going to be a great event. However, I will not endorse Harkin’s greeting. I will also criticize the decision to invite him. 

  • Melody Hensley

    I wrote a response and it did not show up. I’ll try to remember what I said. If my comment happens to show up later, I apologize for the double post.

    It seems that some people are unaware of the mission of the rally. This is not just about separation of church and state. One of the main sponsors of the event, JREF, has nothing to do with church/state separation. They promote critical thinking and oppose alternative medicine and junk science. CFI deals with both secularism and scientific skepticism. Having an invited speaker in direct opposition to two of the rally sponsors is a big problem in my opinion. This is not the American Atheists or Secular Coalition for American Rally, it’s the Reason Rally. If this was just a gathering of atheists, I would have no problem with Harkin being involved. 

    Hemant, I apologize for saying you confirmed Harkin’s video appearance. You were asked to promote his appearance. It would have been reassuring that you did not know his stance on alternative medicine if you did not defend his place at the rally now. 

    I think this is going to be a great event. I’m excited to be a part of it. However, I will not endorse Harkin’s video greeting and I will continue to criticize the decision to have him. 

  • Pcranny

    Yes, let him join in, but remember – there is no such thing as “alternative medicine.”
    If something cures an illness or relieves the symptoms then it’s medicine, anything else is snake oil.

  • Annie

    This is from the Reason Rally’s website:  “The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest send of the word) in society. ”

    You are absolutely right… this event is not just about church and state issues, but if you look at the list of sponsors (20, in total), you will see that they do represent a very broad and diverse group.   If we truly want to advance secularism in our country, we are going to need politicians who are willing to speak out in favor and support of us. 

  • Melody Hensley

    It’s rather odd that one of the sponsors has very little or nothing to do with secularism. 

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I do think Maher does as much of a disservice to atheists as he does attract attention to the harmfulness of religion due to his foul, harsh attitudes and rather ignorant beliefs about medicine. My question is, what have you got against PETA and his support for the organization?

  • Anonymous

    Which sponsor is that? All of the sponsors I saw listed promote secularism, atheism, and/or free thought…just wondering if I missed something.

  • Melody Hensley
  • Allison

    PETA takes “animal protection” to an extreme that actually harms animals – they rescue companion animals under false pretenses and then kill them. They engage in some pretty slimy campaigns as well. Just for one example, they posted a series of little video game knock-offs online meant to appeal to kids that were pretty scary. Here’s another example of a fun, fun PETA ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=m0vQOnHW0Kc Apparently after you go vegan, you become so virile that your girl friend is all bruised and needs a neck brace, and that’s a good thing.

  • Dan

    I don’t have a problem with Sen. Harkin giving general support for the rally, but I do hope everyone understands how pseudo-scientific he is on alternative medicine. Not only did he try to force health insures to pay for  homeopathy and naturopaths, he and Rep. Joe Barton have been the two biggest supporters of the NIH diverting valuable research money into pseudo-scientific claims, and then criticizing the scientists for not coming to the conclusion that alt med works. He has been very influential in increasing the funding for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the NIH, with very low funding standards that has wasted over a billion dollars in taxpayer money without showing conclusively that any real alternative medicine works. Harkin believes that the goal of alternative medicine research should be to prove it works, not to see if it does or not. If you want more details just go to the Science-based Medicine blog or the blog Respectful Insolence and search for Tom Harkin.

    Also, the A rating from the Secular Coalition for America isn’t that impressive when you look at the scorecard. It is based on just 5 votes, and every single Democrat except for Ben Neslon and Mark Warner recieved either an A or a B. In fact 46 other Senators recieved an A rating on secular issues! That seems more than a little generous….

  • Dan

    Melody, I looked through the sponsors, and am confused by your statement too. Which of them do you think has little to do with secularism?

  • Allison

     Yes, I do. I did before this most recent fuss with Limbaugh (who’s always been much worse than Maher about this issue), and I don’t say this because I heard, say, his attacks on Palin. I stopped being able to stomach his show long ago.

  • Dan

     If you look at the scorecard the Secular Coalition for America gave 46 other Senators besides Harkin an A rating (based on only 5 votes in 2010), so an A rating doesn’t necessarily mean a very high level of support for secular causes.

  • Dan

    I’m sorry that you aren’t familiar with their work, the JREF is one of the absolute best groups around in advancing the secular values of reason, quality education, and open-minded inquiry, and exposing religious charlatans. I hope you’ll take the time to read some of James Randi’s work, look at their blog and podcast, the Million Dollar Challenge, and maybe look at the background of their president DJ Grothe. If you do I guarantee that you’ll appreciate their contribution to reason and secular values.

  • Plasticpony365

    Really I don’t see how being a critic of miss palin makes him deserve an accusation of hating all women.

  • Allison

    I only mentioned Palin as his insulting of Palin was what I’ve heard most conservatives complain about. I’ll repeat that the things he said about Palin were NOT what led me to this conclusion. It’s from earlier than that. It’s the more generalized insults toward women that bother me.

  • Anonymous

    I see. I didn’t realize they had become so extremist… thanks for the info 🙂

  • Ltramiel

    Comparing Harkin to Obama is not reasonable. The objections to Harkin, at least my objections, are based around his rejection of the science regarding alt-med. Obama may have said things about the importance of religion in his life and the lives of others but I know of no case where he has been explicitly anti-science.

  • Heintje

    The last time I checked, it is still called Reason Rally. The keyword is ‘reason’, and not ‘atheism’. Advocating for alternative medicine is a failure to exercise reason. I don’t see how anyone guilty of that deserves to be a speaker in that rally. This may sound simplistic, but I’d rather not let any corrupting influence seeps into our movement. Not to mention that JREF and CFI are sponsors, as mentioned above.

  • Anonymous

     His insults toward women aren’t any different than his insults toward men, but a lot of people like yourself think that every time he insults a man he must be only talking about that man, but every time he insults a woman he must be talking about all women. It seems like you take offense at a joke when it is about a woman when you wouldn’t if it is about a man and seems more like sexism on your part than his.

  • I see you being very vague about what it is that lead to your conclusion. All you’ve said is it was before the recent Limbaugh comments and before Palin comments. What general derogatory comments about women in general lead to your conclusion?

  • ffs, we’re not vetting him for presidential office. It’s ridiculous the level of scrutiny that has come this. I’m betting there’s many other speakers at this event that have supported irrational things. That’s inevitable when you try to gather a diverse group of people as secularists are.

  •  Okay… then if he is not one representing “reason” then why address the crowd?   Let’s just play a semantics game.  That makes things wonderful!

  • So your issue is with Harkin’s belief in pseudo-science, but not his belief in an all-powerful man in the sky? He’s a politician, he isn’t going to agree with up 100%, but it is important that he is willing to speak at our rally when most other politicians are afraid. Chase him off at all of our peril.  

  •  We should take what we can get. We can still be critical of his positions on various issues, but we should be happy that he is willing to speak (in a positive way) to us.

  • Anonymous

    Obama is anti economic science, but he shares that trait with most politicians.

  •  I think the broader scope of things has been stated fairly clearly here in the comments. This is a politician that is willing to publicly support secularism, despite personal beliefs and such.

    Any elected official that believes in superstitions and myths as life-guides has already placed themself outside of the boundaries of “reason.” But so far, that’s about 99% of all elected officials (i’ve done no homework. If my number is off by .001% or so, I apologize).

    It’s already been suggested above that if we wait for some sort of political “Atheist Messiah” that will embody each of our individual particular beliefs, we’ll be waiting until the “real” one comes. Nobody is going to perfectly fit the bill for each of us.

    By accepting the statement in the spirit in which it was given, we are showing that there is a body of voters that appreciates the gesture. We’re showing that even though we don’t all agree on every single thing, we definitely agree on this one thing (separation). And once this one thing starts to become more prevalent, we can start picking off the other things that hang tenaciously on and also have no business in politics or a first-world county.

    Baby steps. This is a good thing.

  • Anonymous-Sam

     They’ve had some absolutely disgusting forms of attack in the past, too. Two big ones I remember were collecting euthanized animals from shelters and depositing the corpses on the front door of various buildings, and passing around comics like these at elementary schools.

  • Allison

     Well, first of all, you have to understand that I am not a fan of insult humor. Some other people like it, I know. I just don’t. Very frequently he runs to sexual innuendo when talking about particular women, even when they’re not in sexual situations.

    For Larry’s comments as well, do you want when he compared breastfeeding in public to masturbating in public? How about when he said the nation’s fundamental problem was that it was too feminized? Do you want the time he characterized women in general as wanting diamonds at any price?

    I got really tired of him well before Politically Incorrect finished its run, so I usually don’t follow his ramblings.

  • Annie

    Here’s the episode where Bill mentions breastfeeding and masturbating.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA7gNAqO8yU

  • Donaving

    And if he did close with “God bless America” you’d discount everything that he’d said before?

  • Donaving

    ALL medicine was, once upon a time, considered “alternative” medicine. Just as every philosophy, no matter how commonly it’s now accepted, was once considered radical or even “heretical”. Selah.

  • It is true that once upon a time there was no difference between medicine and alternative medicine. 

    We need to make sure that we get rid of the current treatments that are not based on evidence of improved outcomes. This makes up too much of medicine, but wishful thinking-based treatments make up all of alternative medicine.

    I am sometimes very critical of Sen. Harkin. He and I disagree on far more than we agree. However, I do not expect to find any politician who completely agrees with me.

    Maybe Sen. Harkin will be more likely to listen to reason from a group of people he takes the time to address at the risk of losing votes.


  • While I do not agree with President Obama’s economic policies, there is no reason to refer to economics as science. Economics needs to be much more predictive to be in any way seen as a science.


  • I agree, except that I hope we would discuss and dissect better than the MSM. 

    The MSM coverage of science and rationality are usually a good opportunity to educate people about the misunderstandings and faulty conclusions of the journalists.


  • T-Rex

    37 years “serving”? That’s way too long for an elected official. Vote him out!

  • This is really a question of how big we want our tent to be.  We can have people that support some of our views talk about those views, and stay quiet on issues that we disagree with, or we can only limit ourselves to those people who march in lock-step with us on all of our issues.

    Is alternative medicine mostly just silly?  Yes.  Is being Catholic silly?  Yep.  But if he stands with us on everything else, or if he is just willing to stand with us on issues he also supports, shouldn’t we be thankful for that?

    If your tent is too small, you can just be ignored.  If it is too big, you can be hijacked or simply not have a cohesive message.  If Harkin wants to support our  exercising of our rights, I say great.  If he wants  to talk to us about reflexology, then he can talk to someone else at a different event.

  • Melody Hensley

    But he’s not speaking to “us” if we are secularists and skeptics. 

  • Melody Hensley

    I’m quite familiar with JREF and DJ. He used to be my boss. JREF is not a secular organization. In fact, they would like more religious people to join their organization. They don’t want to touch the god-question, as it may offend some of their religious members. Yes, they will investigate claims like miracles, which can be scientifically tested. That’s not the same thing as secularism. 

  • Celeste

    I think we definitely want politicians supporting us, faults and all.  What I feel is most important is that we have politicians willing to stand up and support our rights as Americans,  because we obviously have so many more of them out there that would take those rights away in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

    Also, all of us use faulty reasoning from time to time. Asking Harkin not to speak would hypocritical of us, as none of us are perfect.

  • BlairScott

    I can’t stand non-skeptics and their pseudoscience nonsense. Their ignorance, cognitive dissonance, avoidance of facts, etc. drive me absolutely bonkers.
    That being said, the Reason Rally, according to its own web page, has nothing to do with skepticism, and everything to do with “The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!”
    The Senator, while certainly a pseudoscience proponent of alternative medicine, supports the Separation of Church and State and has voted consistently with secular values, hence his high grade from the Secular Coalition of America. He is also a huge proponent of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion.

  • Annie

    I wrote that half as a joke, as most politicians like to close with that phrase.  Jokes aside, I think it would be incredibly insensitive of him to end his video address with “God Bless America”, considering the audience and the event.

  •  Yes, Harkin is willing to support secularism, but I think it’s a valid point about the name of the event.

    Calling it the *Reason* Rally implies that Sagan-style skepticism is important to the creators of the event and plays a part in their vision for it. It’s not called the “Secularism Rally”, nor the “SoCaS Rally”

    As such it is understandable why many people might think it baffling and a pseudoscience supporter like Senator Harkin be asked to participate.

    a lot of Atheists came to it by way of Skepticism (I did), but Skepticism is not a necessary cause. Look at Bill Maher. Nothing says
    that an Atheist has to base their atheism on reason and evidence – they
    can be pro-altmed, anti-vaxer, UFO believing 9/11 Truthers and still be
    valid atheists just as concerned with separation of church and state as someone like myself who self-identifies as a Skeptic
    who merely happens to be an Atheist.

    I guess this is just another example of the all too common conflation in our ranks of “Atheist” and “Skeptic”, eh?

  • Anonymous

    Predictive of what? There are different schools of economics and they disagree even on what can be predicted. Your claim is more about you ignorance of economics than economics itself. The major economic schools that have politicians ears are in fact pseudoscientific in nature. Then reason these schools are both listened to and funded by the government is because they claim there is a large role for government in managing the economy.

    An example of a prediction of good economics would be that the Cash for Clunkers program would a) Waste resources b) Pull sales forward c) Harm the poor by increasing. Used car prices d) Subsidize the more well to do. e) Harm future sales.

    All those predictions have come to pass.

    Economic laws are as real as any law of physics and any attempt to flout economic law is doomed to failure.

    Would you reject the Theory of Natural Selection if someone claimed it was not science because we cannot what future species will evolve? Perhaps the kinds of predictions you expect are in fact proven impossible to make by certain schools of economists. Austrians predict that central planning will always fail to achieve its goals in the long run. This is because prices serve several purposes in the economy which a single person or committee cannot achieve. One such purpose is plan coordination.

    That the Euro would eventually fail was predicted and I can explain precisely why one wouldn’t expect it to work. I can show you a quote from a book written 65 years ago that completely predicts the housing bubble as an effect of the policies our government followed starting with even before Clinton and aggravated by many policies set in place by the Clinton administration, and by Alan Greenspan. Bubble policies that also resulted in the Internet bubble were one aggravating factor. We were living in a sham economy for about 20-30 years now.

  • There is a consensus among scientists about evolution.

    Please provide some evidence of some similar consensus about economics.

  •  If former President George W. Bush wanted to record a message to us (and it was positive and supportive) I wouldn’t have a problem with it. We don’t have to agree with everyone who speaks at the Rally 100%. If we did, we wouldn’t have any speakers at all.

  • Anonymous

    There are several implicit errors in your comment. 
    1) “Evolution” is more properly know as “The Theory of Natural Selection”  so I can’t tell if you are referring to the fact of evolution or the theory.
    2) You compare “Evolution” to “Economics” this is a category error.   It would be more proper to compare biology to economics.  Just as it makes no sense to say “There is a consensus among scientiests about biology” it make no sense to say it about economics.
    3) There are hundreds of theories in both biology and economics with varying degrees of consensus.   
    4) Consensus is NOT a criteria that you can use to tell if a theory is or is not scientific, nor whether a field of inquiry is scientific.  Do you think Darwin used consensus as an argument for his theory?
    5) Many theories that have had scientific “consensus” have turned out to be wrong.
    6) Creationist have argued against the Theory of Natural Selection specifically on the basis that there is no consensus on exactly how it operates.  See for example Gould vs. Dawkins.
    Biological consensus 40 years ago was that evolution proceeded by a strict mendialian process.   That is no longer the case.
    7) Using consensus as a criteria is committing the fallacy of “argumentum ad populum”
    8) There are disagreements in all the major branches of science on various theories and topics, using your criteria then none of them are sciences.
    9) Using your criteria many cults would be considered as sciences.

    … and even if you think wrongly that consensus is a criteria for telling whether a theory is or is not scientific …

    There is consensus in economics on many economic theories.

    You are way to ignorant to be making claims about whether economics is a science or not.   You don’t even understand what the criteria are for deciding what is and is not science.  Consensus isn’t one of them.

  • Perhaps you could provide some examples of predictions of actions that would work, rather than criticism of things that nobody with an understanding of unintended consequences thought would not work.

    On the topic of logical fallacies, your straw man arguments are wonderful examples.

    You brought up evolution. Perhaps you would like to explain the difference between the fact of evolution and the theory of natural selection.

    You mention that there are many different schools of economics. You make it seem as if it is just a philosophy. Please explain.


  • Anonymous

    I refer you to my comment two levels up.    

  • In other words, you don’t know.

    You rant about individual policies and about consensus, but when it comes to any kind of demonstration of scientific credibility, you claim that the answer is in an earlier comment that is not relevant. 

    Is economics really that barren a field of philosophy?


  • Anonymous

    Actually, no. I assessed that you are not a good learner and decided you were not worth the effort. You obviously are ignorant nd have a chip on your shoulder, and seem to think I owe you my time to straighten out your ignorant challenges. Challenging on the basis of “consensus” means that you don’t even know how to assess whether something is science.

    You claimed that predictions are not possible and I proved your assertion false with the example of Cash For Clunkers. I can use innumerable other examples but, of course, I only needed one. You showed no humility and instead diverted to “consensus” because I just got done telling you there was much disagreement and political distortion in the field of economics. The problem is, that consensus is not a measure of whether any particular individual is doing science or not. If the government were subsidizing biology classes atthe universities that teach creationism, plus handing out jobs preferentially to biologists that believed in creationism that would not make other schools of thought on biology nonscientific.

    Also you could still find areas of biology that are science where creationists agree with the other people trained as biologists.

    In economics there is wide agreement of the effects of price controls. There is widespread belief in Gresham’s law. There is widespread belief in marginal price theory. So on and so forth. Every single time some politician attempts to violate these laws we end up in trouble.

    Your ability to assess where an argument is or even has been is really bad. You are completely unaware of your own ignorance. You came in here announcing that economics is not science with zero information to make any assessment with regards to economics in particular and the philosophy of science in general.

    You made a claim, how about you support it instead of post hoc trying to manufacture something. Your hypothesis was that economics was not science because it cannot predict. That’s been falsified. Now instead of accepting the defeat of your claim, you do ad hoc fishing for some other criteria to reassertion your claim. That is not a sign of someone who is intellectually honest with themselves.

  • I will start a new comment thread, because the narrow column is awkward.


  • You took a question about consensus to the extreme (reductio as absurdam).
    There is consensus in science on many things, but the government has nothing to do with that consensus. Outside of extreme examples, such as Lysenkoism, the government has little to do with consensus. Yes, the government does fund science, but the alternative is to depend on economic theories of private funding. 

    You seem to view consensus as some sort of blasphemy. Consensus also means that people are able to come to similar conclusions when presented with the same evidence.

    There are some areas of science that are significantly politicized, but that is only by the creation of a false controversies. 

    I asked for an example of economics predicting something that would work, but in all of your comment, you failed to provide any.

    I am just stating that I do not believe that your god is real. You are the one trying to convince others that economics is a true science. You are not persuasive.

    You wrote – “You claimed that predictions are not possible . . . ”

    What I actually wrote was – “Economics needs to be much more predictive to be in any way seen as a science.”

    You need to stick to what I actually write.

    Please, stop with the logical fallacies and switch to some evidence.


  • Anonymous

    Sorry for the harsh accusation, but if you were going to make it against Maher, so I had to show you the flip side of what you were doing.

    Maher is wrong about breastfeeding in public, but some people (both men and women) are prudish about such things (though admittedly, it is hard to imagine Maher as one of them)

    It was wrong of him to criticize society for being too feminine or to say that women only want diamonds. But we hear people talking about “testosterone poisoning” and saying that “men only want sex” and they never get criticized for that. If we are going to criticize Maher, we should be criticizing the people who talk the same way about men. Whatever the standard is, that it be the same for both genders.

  • Cornwall_5

    The great thing about Bill Maher is that he supports animal rights and PETA.  Sure, I hate his show “politically correct”, but, for that matter, ALL talk shows are nauseating garbage.  We need a Mathematical Modeling Party – NOT a party who weakens itselfs with this self-delusion of nonviolence.  The law IS violence. Hence, supporting or advocating for any law IS violence. Face those facts. Can’t figure out why Maher would oppose vaccines. That’s dumb. But, then, I don’t agree with the Green Party’s anti-war stance, since I support war for leftwing causes (free prisoners, both human and non-human, from factory farms and fur farms, equal pay for equal work – that means CEOs don’t get corporate welfare, they get paid the same as all other workers). Yet, I am a registered Green. Also, Maher knows nothing about the UFO phenomena. *I* know little about it, but I know enough to know it is worthy of serious attention.

    I fully plan to hold up my “Vegan Atheists” sign at the rally.

  • Cornwall_5

    Why not create an algorithm, whereby everyone who plans to attend the rally submits a checklists of which things the believe/don’t believe, and then use a Borda Count?
    First, we have an “is” list: belief about what is/is-not.

    Some UFOs are aliens. (true)
    Bigfoot exists. (true)
    Homeopathy works. (false)
    911 was caused by X. (haven’t filled in X yet!)
    Psychics are real. (false)
    Anthropogenic global warming is real. (true)

    Then make a “should” list: belief about what should be.

    USA should go to war against Iran.
    USA should go to war against China.
    China should go to war against Iran.
    Anti-abortionists should go to war against muslims.

    After all, this IS the reason rally. This IS the reasonable way of doing this: choosing an algorithm first, BEFORE the data comes in, in a double blind sampling, so one can’t go change the algorithm AFTER the data has come in.

    Then, decide, based on a score, who is allowed at the rally and who isn’t.

  • Anarhija Je Sloboda

    The issue i see with whole “alternative medicine” is quackery bit is that it really wasn’t that long ago that leeches and lobotomies were the “real medicine” and everything else was “quackery”. I’d agree that faith healing is quackery unless they get it to work nearly 100% of the time on steadfast atheists tho. Still new or controversial doesn’t equate to quackery.

  • Justin Jacoby,

    The lack of valid evidence that much of conventional medicine works is a big problem.

    The solution is not to pretend that alternative medicine should be exempt from providing evidence of safety and efficacy.

    We need better evidence before we approve any medicines.

    Alternative medicine is as much self-deception as any other anti-science scam.


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