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OPINION EXCHANGE | The two worlds according to David W. Noble – Star Tribune

Posted: November 5, 2019 at 12:44 am

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In the preface to his much admired biography of Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow wrote that to repudiate [Hamiltons] legacy is to repudiate the modern world.

Hamilton, of course, was Americas first treasury secretary. He created the framework for an American empire. That anyone would repudiate the modern world was inconceivable to Hamiltons biographer. Times were good in 2004, notwithstanding the lingering shock of 9/11, for which an appropriate response was underway.

And yet, there were heretics, a word the late University of Minnesota history Prof. David W. Noble (1925-2018) often applied to himself. Noble did repudiate the modern world. With painstaking diligence, he investigated cycles of despair and hope that have been repeated throughout human history. Always wary of hyper-rational wishful thinking, he believed that the free-market modernists had gone too far. Hamilton had helped create Americas system of checks and balances, but this no longer mattered, apparently. The neoliberal ideology promised eternal prosperity, the triumph of reason over nature and the end of history.

In Debating the End of History: The Marketplace, Utopia, and the Fragmentation of Intellectual Life, published in 2012, Noble explains why neoliberalism is extravagantly delusional. What the utopians are peddling, he wrote, is the American dream redux. Noble never believed in dreams of any kind. He believed in and wrote about reality.

Born in 1925, Noble grew up on a small dairy farm that failed during the Great Depression. He saw his own immigrant parents belief in the promise of a new and perfect world shattered. The family was rescued from starvation by Franklin Roosevelts New Deal. Noble learned then to be wary of American exceptionalism (any sort of exceptionalism), and as a soldier in World War II he never forgot how the German people were willing to accept their fuhrers megalomania in exchange for modest financial security and a degree of national pride. To Noble, the Third Reich was an exponentially more horrific version of what could happen anywhere, even in America.

Noble attended Princeton on the GI Bill and developed a taste for literature, in particular lost generation authors like William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nobles parents belonged to that generation. They, too, felt hoodwinked. Another influence was the historian Frederick Jackson Turner, whose theory of American exceptionalism had an outsized impact on the American ego. A prime example was Teddy Roosevelt. The 1898 Spanish-American War was not just this swaggering presidents finest hour (in his own mind) but Americas first foray into European-style imperialism. It ended with Spain handing over the Philippines, which remained a U.S. colony until 1946.

After Princeton, Noble pursued a history Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. There he befriended ecologists and learned about the redeployment of war technologies for peaceful purposes. Petroleum-based synthetic nitrogen would feed the world. The ecologists saw this as unsustainable. They predicted overpopulation and soil depletion and the greenhouse effect. They were ignored.

At the University of Minnesota, Noble helped start a department of American Studies. Now he was able to broaden and deepen his inquiry into human nature. He assigned readings on literature, art, science, philosophy and religion. He wrote 10 books. Debating the End of History is his last.

Both memoir and a summing-up of a lifes work, it begins with a critical appraisal of a metaphor known as Platos cave. The cave represents blind ignorance. Dark and suffocating, it is a kind of hell on earth where potentially reasonable people are held captive by nature, the animal nature both within and without. Liberation from Platos cave was the rallying cry of Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers. But the issue most hotly debated then and now is not scientific revelation (e.g., Isaac Newtons law of gravity) so much as methodology specifically, whether truth is mutable or if it can be arrived at through irrational intuition and imagination.

Newton put himself in the former camp. He presented his theories as provisional, fluid. Though a brilliant mathematician, he saw math as a tool, not an end, whereas Cartesian logicians (the so-called positivists) deemed a balanced equation the final arbiter.

That Adam Smith, a staunch Newtonian, also valued subjective reality is largely ignored by free-market purists. In the interests of advancing self-interest theory as seminally explained in The Wealth of Nations, they disregard Smiths call for political systems that would temper animal spirits with what he called sympathy. Noble, for his part, saw the new gospel of enlightened self-interest (unfettered capitalism) as window dressing to mask the animal appetites of a privileged few.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, a world of unfettered excess seemed plausible. Right-wing economist Francis Fukuyama made it sound like a fait accompli in The End of History and the Last Man, published in 1997. After all, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was then deregulating Wall Street, cutting welfare and expanding the military to protect U.S. investments overseas. Neoliberalism, as Clinton rebranded neoconservatism to make it sell to social liberals (as if social and economic imperatives were somehow two different things), dodged a bullet just over a decade later, when another obliging Democrat, Barack Obama, signed a taxpayer bailout that left corrupt banks bigger than ever.

Enter the Anthropocene Age. Merit meets money. They fall in love. The union is consummated. The fittest thrive in a dog-eat-dog world, while everyone else well, their demise would prove Platos point. Instead of the meek inheriting the earth, they would be replaced with fewer but higher-quality humans. The modern world is overpopulated anyway. Problem solved.

Noble wrote that historys end would spell doom for an imagination-driven, timeful and artful way of life that modern thinkers associate with primitive peoples and the Dark Ages. He thought humans were happier in a humbler condition, one that acknowledged and embraced the cycles of nature what ecologists call balanced ecosystems and didnt seek to destroy them in the name of individual freedom. His definition of freedom was closer to that of Americas founders than to Ayn Rand. Noble believed that humans would always be conflicted, God love em, because they inhabit two worlds.

To Noble, intuition and objective truth are equally valid and symbiotic. Their collaboration can create havoc, but it also fosters creativity, kindness and love.

Neoliberals argue that the private sector can do better than government at everything. This is the overarching theme of the Aspen Ideas Festival, Davos, TED, the Council on Foreign Relations, the WTO. In The World Is Flat, published in 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman declared that free-market globalization would usher in a utopia in which traditional (national) governments had a minimal role. Consumers would be the new voters in a democratic economy. The grow-or-die capitalism that Friedman implicitly condoned ignored natural limits. If resources run out, well, humans will always find a way to replace them.

Among elitist billionaires, colonizing Mars became a legitimate long-term goal, one that Noble found absurd, not to mention immoral given the plight of Mother Earth and the billions of people whom it could no longer support and who would be left stranded.

Then Friedman changed his mind, making a startling discovery: The world is Hot, Flat and Crowded. Published the same year as the bank bailout, his new book was subtitled, Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America. He admits that he had perhaps been premature in predicting historys end. After all, the first Flat, subtitled A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, was written just five years into the century in question. Now Friedman recommended, astonishingly, a return to nationalism, government-mandated rationing and reinvestment (not just carrots but sticks) in renewables.

Noble commends Friedmans conversion to two-world thinking in Debating the End of History. But in the 11 years since, little has changed in U.S. economic policy. The jury is still out: Will corporations find solutions before consumers are forced to do without such must-have modern amenities as jets, smartphones, SUVs, frosted flakes and disposable clothing?

What goes around comes around. The pendulum swings when youre a mere human with a foot in two opposite worlds. Noble writes that in FDRs world of national interest, politics involved words such as community, equality, social justice and compassion. Sadly, [t]he sacred language of the marketplace could not allow such words. They were replaced by freedom and efficiency [that] expressed the essence of independence, rationality, and objectivity.

Noble died in 2018 at age 92. He lived just long enough to witness the event that proved him right about history having no end: the election of a neofascist climate-denier, Donald Trump, as U.S. president. Market and social chaos look far more likely now than an orderly transition to utopia.

In the interests of efficiency, we must send our political leaders, not our CEOs, to Paris to forge an agreement with other nations that may or may not save the planet. Time is running out. More of the same is no longer an option. History will not end, nor markets prevail over the rule of law. We live on a finite planet, and only government can be the final arbiter of who gets which of the scarce resources left.

A progressive capitalist with experience and vision is humanitys only hope for a soft landing. In my view the likeliest candidate to bring voters to their senses is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

I wish I could sit down with Prof. Noble and ask him: Is there still time? My guess is that he would answer: Of course there is! Being both a skeptic and an optimist goes with the territory when you live in two worlds, one rational and the other timeful, artful and imaginative.

Bonnie Blodgett, of St. Paul, specializes in environmental topics. Shes at

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OPINION EXCHANGE | The two worlds according to David W. Noble - Star Tribune

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November 5th, 2019 at 12:44 am

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Why Anne Nicholas brings her husband to women’s empowerment talks – NBC News

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Anne Nicholas, NBCs vice president of affiliate marketing, has a unique approach to instilling career empowerment in young women: she invites men.

At the Ladies Get Paid event in Brooklyn on Saturday, Nicholas brought her husband, SummitMedias senior vice president and creative director Val Nicholas, to speak alongside her during a panel on personal branding.

At first when I was first doing these things, I only wanted women in the room, said Anne Nicholas in an interview with Know Your Value. And then I realized what a big mistake that was because we cannot do it without our men. We need to have the men understand, and they need to be behind us.

Anne and Val Nicholas spoke to a standing room-only crowd at the Brooklyn Expo Center. The two noted that men are brought up to fight and be confident, while women are taught to be perfect.

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We have to make everyone happy and make sure that everyone is comfortable, Anne Nicholas said to the crowd. ...For us the word courage is scary.

The couple pointed out some alarming statistics: men apply for a job if they feel 60 percent qualified, while women dont apply unless they feel 100 percent qualified.

Whats holding you back? Its nothing more than fear, said Anne Nicholas.

Val Nicholas also urged women to stop apologizing for no reason.

Stop apologizing. Youre not sorry, said Val Nicholas to the audience. [Men] dont do that. When weve done something wrong, we apologize.

The couple asked audience members to consider their career goals, acknowledge their fears and obstacles, then pivot to positive thinking. For example instead of thinking Im going to be destitute if I make this career move, think of a better thought, said Anne Nicholas, such as I will have a more fulfilling career. This can be especially tough for women, who tend to undervalue themselves.

The better thought is a thought that is going to soothe you, said Anne Nicholas during the interview. And it will allow you to think an even better thought after that. So if you have a goal and just keep practicing that courage ... it does propel you forward.

Community is also a critical part of success, according to the couple. They encouraged attendees to talk to connect to the women around them and invoke support, mentorship and sponsorship.

One of the things that we don't do enough as women, is this, said Anne Nicholas during her talk, referring to the gathering. If we can stay in touch with all the women in this room, we would have so much support its unbelievable.

Anne Nicholas noted that while #MeToo culture has brought about a new enlightenment for women, she urged women not to alienate men from the conversation altogether.

This is incredibly important transition time right now, said Anne Nicholas in the interview. And I think that women are the ones who have the knowledge and the experience and the ease with feelings to really understand it and make it happen ... We can't be man haters because they have so much to teach us. As much as we have to teach them, they have to teach us.

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Why Anne Nicholas brings her husband to women's empowerment talks - NBC News

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November 5th, 2019 at 12:44 am

Posted in Enlightenment

Look for the signs of reason, enlightenment | Lifestyle – Herald Zeitung

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 8:49 am

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A few years ago, I wrote a piece in this space all about the road signs, bumper stickers and other pieces of priceless wisdom I gathered while out of town on vacation. Similarly, I recently returned from a fall holiday after visiting our nations tiniest state Rhode Island.

While traveling to any number of historic places and centuries old seaports, I once again decided to jot down some of the sage advice both funny and profound I witnessed in old country stores and cafs, public pubs and tiny taverns as well as country inns where I stayed. Heres a sampling of the discoveries I made along the way.

In a rural restaurant somewhere between an obscure village and the city of Newport, a hand-painted poster suggested Be a pineapple. Stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside. About the same time, on an old truck that looked like it must have seen much better days bore a bumper sticker which read: I wish Morgan Freeman narrated my life.

In a downscale wine shop, a sign declared: You may call it boxed wine we call it Cardboardeaux. Cute, dont you agree? In that same store, another sign really hit home: I have a good heart, but this mouth

Browsing a charming used book store I enjoyed this bit of advice hanging above the counter: Whisper I love you to a butterfly. It will fly to Heaven and deliver your message.

Then in a decades old (my favorite kind) antique shop with an equally old proprietor I noticed this statement which was hand-written on a piece of cardboard richly expressing the owners attitude: Due to unfortunate circumstances, I am awake.

Since Halloween was rapidly approaching, I was reminded of that fact with signs such as If you cant fly with the big girls, stay off the broom. Or how about When the witches go riding and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, tis near Halloween.

Then no one could miss the massive poster decorating the front window of a candy store cleverly announcing: Trick or Treat, Bag of Sweets, Ghosts are walking down the Street. And in that same shop I laughed when I sighted this posting: Free Flying Lessons BYOB (that would be bring you own broom).

In a hotel laundry, I chuckled when I saw this bit of reasoning: Wouldnt it be great if we could place ourselves in the dryer for 10 minutes and come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?

One of the things I love most about traveling, especially to New England, is the abundance of colonial history to be found almost everywhere. Posted above the front door of a delightful 18th century tavern I noticed this quote: If not in haste, do stop and taste. You bet I did.

And speaking of history, after visiting the birthplace of American painter Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) whose famous portrait of George Washington has appeared on the dollar bill for decades, I was impressed with the iron marker on the side of the old house: He yearned to portray our greatest citizen. His portraits embody the wisdom and dignity of Washington

So, during my trip I managed to fill my notebook with so many more nuggets of inspiration as well as thoughts about how to live and to behave such as: Be the reason someone smiles today. Or In a world where you can be anything, be kind. And although I dont recall where, I liked this posting: Dream without fear, love without limits.

I suppose it goes without saying, reason and enlightenment are everywhere. All you have to do is look.

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Look for the signs of reason, enlightenment | Lifestyle - Herald Zeitung

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October 20th, 2019 at 8:49 am

Posted in Enlightenment

Camila Cabello Time-Traveled To The 18th Century In An Enlightenment-Era SNL Performance –

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Complex orchestras werethe rage during the 18th century. It would be nearly two centuries before Camila Cabello's metal beam-melting pop would become the de facto soundtrack to life for anyone with a pulse. Last night (October 12), Cabello gave theEnlightenment Age a taste of spice with her performances of "Cry For Me" and "Easy" onSaturday Night Live.Wearing two beautiful dresses, she contrasted the fashion of thenand yesterday. And it's so much better today.

Can you imagine walking into a bar on an 80-degree day and having to watch dozens of people sweat under thick layers of clothes? Even onstage, Cabello looks like she's wearing a dress that could house three people. In the midst of a crowded bar, she sings "Cry For Me" with conviction. Everyone comes together to perform an elaborate ballroom-like routine that looks hot literally. It's fun for three minutes, but just thinking about seeing this happen back in the day before house fans were a thing can give you a serious bout of anxiety.

Cabello's performance of "Easy" was much simpler. She shed the layers for a stunning white dress and stunned the crows with a vibrant performance backed by a powerful guitar. It was everything you can imagine, and more. Most importantly, it wasn't stuffy.

Check out Cabello's performances up above.

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Camila Cabello Time-Traveled To The 18th Century In An Enlightenment-Era SNL Performance -

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October 20th, 2019 at 8:49 am

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Steven Pinker, Sam Harris and the epidemic of annoying white male intellectuals – Salon

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In a recent article for Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson describes Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker as the most annoying man in the world because Pinker is the type of person who constantly insists hes Just Being Reasonable while he is actually being extremely goddamn unreasonable. Although Robinsons article was a bit harsh in tone, it gestures at something very real: were in the midst of an epidemic of intellectuals, almost entirely white men, who claim to embody Reason and Rationality while flagrantly and habitually succumbing to the same tribalistic tendencies that they identify as the Ultimate Enemy.

My own experience with Pinker and his ilk exemplifies the problem. Last January, I published an article here at Salon that summarized some extremely detailed criticisms that I wrote of Pinker's book "Enlightenment Now!" More specifically, I examined a few pages in the books Existential Threats chapter, one line or passage at a time, since my own research focuses on existential threats (that is, threats to civilization and humanity) and thus I have some knowledge of the topic.

Although Pinker is widely known, or at least was at one point, as a clear-headed, objective intellectual of the highest caliber, his chapter on existential threats was overflowing with quotes taken out of context, misrepresented ideas, false dichotomies, blatantly inaccurate claims, poor reasoning, dubious citations, condescending straw-man attacks and cockamamie ad hominems. If the chapter had been a first-year undergraduate term paper, and if the professor were an exceptionally easy grader who habitually dished out As for poorly researched papers, Pinkers chapter might have received a C.

(The popularity of poor scholarship seems to be on the rise, incidentally. Just consider the egregious mistakes made by Jared Diamond in his most recent book, "Upheaval.")

What was most telling, though, was the response to my article. For example, the founding editor of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer, tweeted this in response to my critique:

Where @RichardDawkins had his fleas (The Dawkins Delusion etc.), @sapinker has his cockroaches (the oleaginous Phil Torres desperate for attention), artfully squashed here:

Shermer then linked to a blog post by Jerry Coyne, which contained a response from Pinker. Before getting to that, though, Shermers tweet is notable for a couple of reasons. First, not only does it contain a personal attack, but the personal attack is overtly uncivil. Thats a bit humorous given that Shermer, as well as Pinker, are famous for accusing progressives, especially those who care about women and people of color, of incivility. For example, in May of this year, Pinker tweeted:

Are you concerned about the growing illiberalism, incivility, intellectual conformity, and repression of debate in today's universities? Join us at the meeting of the society set up to encourage viewpoint diversity and constructive debate on campuses. Ill be giving the keynote.

But Pinker did nothing to call out Shermer for his patently crude, puerile behavior, which has also included calling people he disagrees with (seriously) namby-pamby bedwetters and (seriously) losers. This is perhaps unsurprising when one realizes the Pinker has unwaveringly supported Shermer despite multiple women accusing Shermer of sexual harassment, assault and even rape. To my knowledge, Pinker has made no effort to contact any of Shermers purported victims. And why would he? What does truth have to do with standing by your comrades? Instead, Pinker has repeatedly de-emphasized the issue of rape in society and college campuses by tendentiously pointing to opinions that support his preferred views rather than by honestly examining the totality of evidence, which gives a quite different perspective. All of this is very worrisome, tribalistic behavior. But it gets worse.

Back to the blog that Shermer references. The particular post was published by Jerry Coyne, a biologist at the University of Chicago who has become something of Pinkers bulldog, defending him against any and all criticisms no matter what, with (almost) no questions asked. One of the most recent examples is Coyne coming to Pinkers defense after a picture emerged of Pinker with Jeffrey Epstein, the child sex-trafficker who recently killed himself in a New York jail cell.

Coyne quickly dismissed criticisms of Pinker hanging out with Epstein as mere slander and character assassination, writing that suggestions that Pinker should have known better disturbed me so much since Pinker is a friend whose character I respect. The problem is that Pinker appears in the photo with Epstein and he tweeted out an affidavit defending Epstein after Epstein was convicted of sex crimes, which happened in 2008. That is inexcusable and gross but not to Coyne, whose allegiance is rooted not in evidence but loyalty.

So it should be no surprise that Coyne tore into my critique of the existential threats chapter, inaccurately calling it a hit piece. Indeed, by any reasonable account, the article was a substantive critique of shoddy scholarship. In fact, I was in touch with four scholars or writers whose work Pinker misrepresents within just a few pages of the chapter. All of them were unhappy with the quality of Pinkers work, so its not like this was just me being a grump.

For example, the political economist Eric Zency, whom Pinker incorrectly describes as an engineer, was livid that Pinker had used a line from one of his papers to mean the exact opposite of what Zency had intended. In an email to me about Pinkers misuse of his quote, Zency remarked, How this guy managed to become a public intellectual in fields so far removed from his expertise is something to wonder at. I agree.

Pinker also wrote a response to my critique, but it only further justifies the view that Pinker is or has become, sadly an ideologue who cant acknowledge when hes wrong. Just consider that the second sentence of his response makes an ad hominem claim that Im trying to make a career out of warning people about the existential threat that AI [i.e., artificial intelligence] poses to humanity. Since ['Enlightenment Now'] evaluates and dismisses that threat, it poses an existential threat to Phil Torress career.

This is obvious nonsense. First of all, the same thing could be said about Pinker: Since his career these days is based on claiming that things have been going quite well for humanity, convincing people that AI poses an existential threat itself could be seen as an existential threat to Pinkers reputation. How Pinker and Coyne both missed this obvious flaw suggests that they werent wearing their critical-thinking hats. The aim of Pinkers comment was to discredit a critique without having to engage with its substance.

Once again, I contacted four scholars or writers who affirmed errors in a small handful of pages in Pinkers chapter. I have no doubt that if someone were to find the same problems in a chapter written by, say, Reza Aslan or Linda Sarsour, both of whom are loathed by the Pinker-Coyne crew, theyd be hailing the critique as proof that Aslan and Sarsour are intellectual frauds.

Pinker then defended one of his most flagrant mistakes: classifying a computer scientist at UC Berkeley, Stuart Russell, as someone who isnt worried about AI. The exact opposite is true! Pinker then doubled down, insisting that his description of Russell was accurate, even though Russell himself told me in an email, which I quote in my article, that hed seen this [mention in Pinker's book] and I agree its an incorrect characterization. So, you have Pinker on one side refusing to acknowledge that he incorrectly characterized a person who says he has been incorrectly characterized. This led Julia Galef, a notable effective altruist who hosts the Rationally Speaking podcast and has knowledge of the relevant issues, to tweet:

Im frustrated Steven Pinker wont admit an error in Enlightenment Now.Summary:- Pinker names Stuart Russell as an expert whos skeptical of AI risk- Someone points out that's exactly backwards; Russell is one of the main experts warning about AI risk- Pinker doubles down

She concludes that the point is its bad that Pinker got this fact wrong and wont admit it. This encapsulates the central problem: Pinker and his ilk dont acknowledge errors when they make them; they are ideologues rather than truth-seekers, willing to bend the facts, launch personal attacks and censor critics to win debates. At exactly the moment in history when we need true intellectual leadership, people who exemplify intellectual honesty and integrity, the most, we get stubborn tribespeople.

But the problem is hardly confined to those mentioned above: Shermer, Coyne and Pinker. Consider another Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) luminary, Sam Harris, one of the most famous atheists in the world because of his book "The End of Faith." Previously, I never had any reason to believe that Harris was racist but I do now. He has spent a massive amount of time and energy defending Charles Murray, author of "The Bell Curve," which argues that black people are inherently inferior to white people.

Over and over again, ad nauseam, Harris has used his large platform to suggest that Murray isnt a junk scientist peddling cowardly racist memes, but someone whos been victimized by those anti-truth progressives. Even more, Harris apparently believes Murrays claim that blacks are genetically dumber than whites. In a podcast with Josh Zepps, Harris opines the following with a wholly unjustified degree of epistemic confidence:

As bad luck would have it, but as youd absolutely predict on the basis of just sheer biology, different populations of people, different racial groups, different ethnicities, different groups of people who have been historically isolated from one another geographically, test differently in terms of their average on this measure of cognitive function. So if youre gonna give the Japanese and the Ashkenazi Jews, and African Americans, and Hawaiians youre gonna take populations who differ genetically and we know they differed genetically, thats not debatable and you give them IQ tests, it would be a miracle if every single population had the same mean IQ. And African Americans come out about a standard deviation lower than white Americans. A standard deviation for IQ is about 15 points. So, if its normed to the general population, predominantly white population for an average of 100, the average in the African American community has been around 85.

In other words: black people are dumber than white people. Why? Because of genetic evolution, meaning that IQ is in the genes and the genes of white people are, well, just plain better. What a bold stance, especially amid the ongoing rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and Europe!

In all seriousness, the irresponsibility of being a public intellectual with a large following and spouting unsupported claims with the sort of certainty you might expect from someone reciting the second law of thermodynamics is shocking. If Pinker is annoying, as Robinson claims, then Harris is intolerably obnoxious, constantly demeaning people for not being Rational and Reasonable while simultaneously making anintellectual fool of himself with claims like those above.

Other examples could be adduced, but I dont have an extra 20,000 words to spare. The point is that the entire IDW movement is annoying. Its really, really annoying its champions misrepresent positions without their (mostly white male) audience knowing, and then proceed to embarrass the opposition. They embrace unsupported claims when it suits their narrative. They facilely dismiss good critiques as hit jobs and level ad hominem attacks to undercut criticism. And they refuse they will always refuse, its what overconfident white men do to admit making mistakes when theyre obviously wrong. I am annoyed, like Robinson, mostly because I expected so much better from the most popular intellectuals of our time.

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Steven Pinker, Sam Harris and the epidemic of annoying white male intellectuals - Salon

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October 20th, 2019 at 8:49 am

Posted in Enlightenment

The Myth of Autonomy – Resilience

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Many Americans take for granted, even idealize, the ideal of personal autonomy: they call it independence, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, not being a burden, not taking hand-outs, taking care of their own, standing on their own two feet, and freedom. The American myth is that autonomy is achievable and that its the most honorable lifestyle there is. Many Americans unconsciously accept that people are by nature autonomous individuals. But autonomy is a myth, not a reality.

Autonomists think that people can live entirely by the fruits of their own efforts, not relying on outside people or society. They imagine that they can interact with people solely as they choose, entering into relationships and leaving them whenever they want to, not being a burden to them or having them be a burden in return. They believe that they are entirely in control of their thoughts and choices, that they direct their wills, and that their true moral guidance comes from their own hearts.

This mythology is not a new thing for most (though not all) Americans. To some extent our geography has shaped it. Historically weve had the sense that theres always new land out there, waiting to be subdued, where men are men and women are tired. Theres room never to have to be part of a neighborhood. When those mythic Americans, the pioneers, saw the chimney smoke of a new neighbor on the horizon, they could move farther out and wrest an independent living from the land, with no revenuers or government agents breathing down their necks. Of course this is no longer true, if it ever was, but the mythology of autonomy remains with Americans today.

Morrison Residence, Nebraska. Library of Congress.

Philosophy has also shaped our mythology. Many of the earliest and most influential European settlers arrived during the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophers held, and the common people absorbed, the ideas that there was not a personal god, that mankind was perfectible by its own efforts, and that through reason and science we could break the bonds of oppressive religious, governmental, and personal relationships. In fact, some of the philosophers believed that the interdependence of people was what created evil in the world, that perfectly detached people would be perfectly good. Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau even abandoned his own (illegitimate) child to be raised in a convent, feeling that the smothering interdependence of father and son would distort the childs psyche and prevent his growing up free. (Whose freedom was Rousseau concerned with?)

Rousseau. Library of Congress.

We tend to forget that there was always tension in America between individualistic and collective ways of thinking, between mountain men and barn raising, between lighting out for the frontier and being part of an established community. In the memory of autonomists, the American Revolution seemed to reinforce the convictions that independence and self-determination were the supreme good and were achievable by our own efforts. According to the mythology, the Civil War, too, was fought over the issue of independence of states rights or personal independence from slavery. Although the Civil War might more properly be seen as a contest of the cooperative life of the Northern towns versus the so-called autonomous life of the Southern landowner, in which the Northern way of cooperation won, nonetheless autonomists see the war as a struggle for personal freedom. And so the myth of self-reliance continues until today.

But no matter how they boast, no one is living the autonomous life that they idealize. Even the few who look like theyre self-sufficient really arent. The survivalist hunts his own meat and tans the hide, but did he smelt the ore to make his guns and traps? Homesteaders raise both food and buildings, but they didnt plant the trees that they cut down for lumber, nor did they mine the iron for the nails. In fact, they didnt give the trees the power to grow or place the raw materials in the earth. They we all rely on provisions from outside ourselves for life.

Cabin in Montana. Library of Congress.

Autonomists typically claim that theyve worked for all they have, that theyve never taken a hand-out from anyone, but they arent telling the strict truth. They may have started their own business, but they didnt make the economy or customers or infrastructure that made the business possible. They didnt create and raise and educate the human capital that keeps their business running. And ironically, not only do they rely on others for their success, but others rely on them to provide something they need and pay the autonomists money that they need to maintain their business. Even autonomists are part of a web of giving and receiving, not an isolated entity.

One barrier that autonomists erect to preserve their illusion of autonomy is money. If I pay you, I dont have an interdependent relationship with you. You arent another person, youre an employee, or a nursing home attendant, or a shopkeeper. I can pay you to look after me when I want you to and go away when I dont, and then well never be a burden to each other. But paying for food, education, care, services, and goods doesnt make people autonomous. It just moves the relationship they have with the providers of goods and services a little farther away.

Even our thoughts are not autonomous. All people are products of their culture, time, and place. Consider Ralph Waldo Emerson, an undeservedly popular American essayist and contemporary of Henry David Thoreau, the ultimate guru of autonomy. In his essay Self-Reliance, Emerson writes, Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. In other words, dont let anyone or anything affect your thinking, but rely only on yourself. The big joke is that now, 150 years later, graduate students are writing dissertations on where Emerson got his ideas, because they understand, if he didnt, that no one develops in a vacuum.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Library of Congress.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that individual independence is the mark of personal and evolutionary success. We evolved not by the Randian competition of individuals but by the development of interdependent social networks. Our most extraordinary evolved trait makes that clear: language. If we were meant to be autonomists, we would look like sabertooth tigers or sharks; instead, we are small and weak on our own, but with the means for complex cooperation and community, we have become the intelligent, flexible species we are today. Its time to debunk this mythology of autonomy and consider the nature of our true relationships with the world and each other.

Teaser photo credit: Our manifest destiny. Library of Congress.

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Korean Temple Cuisine Is Coming To NYC – Broadway World

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The International Culinary Center (ICC) is honored to announce the return of Korean Temple Food Guru and Cookbook Author, Wookwan, following her first successful cooking class in 2018 at the New York City culinary school. Wookwan will travel from Korea to introduce the techniques of temple cuisine to a global audience of ICC's current Professional Culinary and Pastry Arts students, bringing with her the first-of-its kind English-language cookbook on temple food, Wookwan's Korean Temple Food: The Road to the Taste of Enlightenment.

During this visit, Wookwan will share the techniques, beauty and benefits of temple cuisine with aspiring chefs and future leaders of the culinary industry through a 30-minute lecture and 1.5 hour hands-on cooking class. Through this class, ICC students will discover the excellence of Korea's fermentation techniques, rooted in over 1700 years of history, and understand how to apply the practice to their culinary education. After the hands-on cooking session, students will have the opportunity to enjoy the delicious cuisine through a tasting and review of the traditional dishes prepared.

Dishes prepared in the cooking class will include:

- Fermented Barley Chili Paste

- Chili Paste Pancake with Corn

- Spinach Porridge with Ginkgo Nut and Pine Nut

In addition, Wookwan will prepare four more dishes to taste:

- Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf

- Pickled Cucumber

- Kelp Crisps with Sticky Rice

- Lotus Snack

Through this partnership, the International Culinary Center and Wookwan are proud to recognize the importance of ingredients and respecting where they come from, as well as promoting global cooking techniques-key principles in the teachings of both ICC and Wookwan.

About the International Culinary Center:Founded by the late Dorothy Cann Hamilton as The French Culinary InstituteTM in 1984, the International Culinary Center (ICC) is a global leader in professional culinary, pastry and wine education in New York City with graduates from more than 90 countries. The renowned six-month Total ImmersionSM program has produced such talents as Bobby Flay, David Chang, Dan Barber, Joshua Skenes, Christina Tosi and 15,000 more under the guidance of deans including Jacques Ppin and Jacques Torres. ICC's mission is to train the next generation of culinary leaders and innovators, providing students with the credentials, confidence and connections to chart a successful career anywhere in the world.

About Wookwan, Korean Temple Food Guru and Cookbook Author:Born in Korea, Wookwan entered the Yaksusa temple in the Gwanak Mountains under the teaching of the Venerable Jeonghwa in 1988 to become a Buddhist nun. As a certified master of Korean temple food and the Director of the Mahayeon Temple Food Cultural Center in Korea, she not only shared the techniques of temple food in her home country, but has also been invited to share the beauty of temple cuisine at workshops and festivals all over the world including New York, London, Madrid, and Hong Kong. With her mindful approach to food as a spiritual practice, Wookwan believes that all of the varied flavors of nature come together to become the taste of enlightenment. To share this with the world, Wookwan continually studies and creates recipes that emphasize the nourishment of mind, body, and soul.

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Korean Temple Cuisine Is Coming To NYC - Broadway World

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SMOLDER: Independent thinking critical aspect of finding your passions – RU Daily Targum

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Column: Breaker of Chains

Stay in line. Ask questions. Raise your hand. Listen to your superiors. Follow directions. Be quiet. Keep your head down.

When I think of bad advice, this is what I think of.

Make a safe decision. Be easygoing. Get on the grind. This advice is even worse.

When you are a kid, what do you do? You play, have friends and enjoy life, but there is always one thing that every kid truly hates.

This is, of course, school. Many children, especially in the U.S., grow up knowingly hating school. Why?

Why do so many of us hate the idea of obtaining new knowledge? I believe this dread stems from a multi-rooted cause. To start, school is run very similarly to prison when you think about it.

You wake up and go to school early. The day is segmented off into periods of time in which you are told specifically what to do during each. One has to ask permission to relieve bodily functions. You are only allowed to speak when spoken to.

This regimented, strict and almost authoritarian way of educating begs the question: What kind of people does it produce? There will always be gifted and talented people who come out of school, obviously, but what about other people?

People who perhaps had gifts and talents that, if properly nurtured in a non-dictatorship like environment, might have thrived.

It is not only the schools fault. Society, as previously mentioned, both directly and indirectly, gives awful advice. We are told from a young age to always work hard so that you may get a good job in the future. A question so often asked is: What do you want to be when you grow up?

This ensures that children are looking forward to getting an acceptable and successful" job. If a child were to answer they do not know, or even worse, do not want to be anything, this would not be considered an acceptable answer.

Why are children being asked to think about what they want to be when they grow up instead of what games they like to play? How is a 6-year-old being held to that standard of success? How successful can a 6-year-old be?

Fast forward a bit, when you are in high school and college, you are encouraged to build your resume. People do not work on projects and become part of clubs for personal enlightenment, but rather, they do it to raise their score in a game called get a job.

If we keep telling and reinforcing the idea of constant kissing up, then what will America, let alone the world, be filled with?

I always used to think that in America, you can be anything. Now, I think in America you can be anything that someone else approves you to be.

I think it is more pivotal to find oneself than kiss up. Instead of asking What do you want to be when you grow up?, we should ask, What is your passion?.

I think schools should start emphasizing the idea of finding your passion rather than the idea of hall passes and building your resume.

Society should start to believe in the idea of personal enlightenment rather than rigid, robotic following. If we do not, no problems will be solved and no innovations will be created.

The stagnation of thought is something not only deep-rooted in school, but also it is ingrained in America.

Teachers need to start emphasizing unique thinking over test studying. Colleges should encourage innovation over new classes to take so that you can get hired. Parents should push their kids to read a book for fun, rather than for a class.

Perhaps we should start thinking about what we are told rather than doing what we are told.

Zachary Smolder is a School of Engineering freshman, pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. His column, "Breaker of Chains," runs on alternate Fridays.


*Columns,cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE|The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 500 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 850 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following days publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.

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SMOLDER: Independent thinking critical aspect of finding your passions - RU Daily Targum

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The magical process of creation and transformation Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA – Sonoma Valley Sun

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Posted on October 19, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Alchemy, the current exhibition at Arts Guild of Sonoma, displays art from the finalists who submitted works to the third annual National Juried Competition; the Call For Artists was open to anyone in the country. Through the subject of alchemy, artists were invited to express their dreams, desires, mysteries, symbols, creativity, and enlightenment.

The public is invited to view a wide array of the finalists art styles in the gallery at 140 E. Napa St. The show is up through November 3.

The shows juror was Jenny Gheith of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, who had the daunting task of blind-selecting 68 works from 143 submissions. The Arts Guild applauds some of its own member artists as well as other Sonoma artists who are among the finalists in this competition.

The Best of Show honor was awarded to Petaluma resident Ruby Newman for her painting Entwined Embrace, which explores the deepest meaning of alchemy, that of two souls combining in perfect harmony.

Along with being a fine arts painter, Ruby Newman has worked on several wonderful public art projects. These include murals and overseeing the restoration of the 1914 Golden Gate Park carousel, for which she personally hand-painted the 62 wooden menagerie figures, decorative panels, and masks. She also created all the decorative painting for the exterior and interior of old St. Vincents Church in Petaluma. A long-term member of the Arts Guild, she shows her art in the gallery every month.

Gallery hours are Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through November 3.

Jackie Lee | Sun Fine Arts

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The magical process of creation and transformation Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA - Sonoma Valley Sun

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Next Two ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Sets Announced For 2020 – The Mary Sue

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We knew that there were going to be a bunch of new sets for Magic: The Gathering, and in their weekly live stream, we found out from Wizards of the Coast that the two upcoming sets are Theros: Beyond Death and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.The sets will be released on January 24, 2020 and April 24, 2020, respectively. Each will also have a pre-release event a week prior to its official release date, which has become the new standard for just about every Magic: The Gathering set. Plus, itll probably be on Arena around that time.

In addition to that news, coming out November 16 there will be new Game Night decks.Game Night is an out-of-the-box multiplayer experience that has five decks playable out of the box, which includes a mix of reprints and five new cards. Its perfect for new players in a group who want to have competitive, evenly powered decks out of the box.

Those new cards coming out withGames Night are:

Calculating Lich (4){B}{B}

CreatureZombie Wizard


Whenever a creature attacks one of your opponents, that player loses 1 life.

We share a common enemy. Does that not make us friends?


Illustrated by Antonio Jos Manzanedo

Sphinx of Enlightenment(4){U}{U}



When Sphinx of Enlightenment enters the battlefield, target opponent draws a card you draw three cards.

I would be a fool if I taught you everything I know.


Illustrated by: Johan Grenier

Highcliff Felidar (5){W}{W}

CreatureCat Beast


When Highcliff Felidar enters the battlefield for each opponent, choose a creature with the greatest power among creatures that plater controls. Destroy those creatures.

Once the felidar has marked you as prey, theres no point in running.


Illustrated by Kimonas Theodossiou

Fiendish Duo(4){R}{R}{R}


First strike

If a source would deal damage to an opponent, it deals double that damage to that player instead.

Half the size, double the mayhem


Illustrated by Lucas Graceland

Earthshaker Giant (4){G}{G}

CreatureGiant Druid


When Earthshaker Giant enters the battlefield, other creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn.

Come, my wild children. Lets give the interlopers a woodland welcome.


Illustrated by Milivoj eran

Other sets that will release in 2020, such as Core 2021 and Zendikar Rising, do not currently have release dates attached, but we do know that soon emerging from the Magic world will be the upcoming War of the Spark: Forsaken book. Its the follow up to the New York Times bestseller War of Spark: Ravnica, publishing on November 12 and written by Greg Weisman ofGargoyles andYoung Justicefame.

(via, image: Wizards of the Coast)

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Next Two 'Magic: The Gathering' Sets Announced For 2020 - The Mary Sue

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