Sunday, June 16, 2013

Last Call For Science Lite

The nutjobs on the right don't believe in climate change or evolution, but when the latest pop psychology theory shows up to explain the "mental illness of liberalism" suddenly they're all about the white lab coats and rigorous scientific methods.  James Taranto thinks he has us all sussed out with a paper from Oakland University's Professor Barbara Oakley's theory of "pathological altruism":

Oakley defines pathological altruism as "altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in unanticipated harm." A crucial qualification is that while the altruistic actor fails to anticipate the harm, "an external observer would conclude [that it] was reasonably foreseeable." Thus, she explains, if you offer to help a friend move, then accidentally break an expensive item, your altruism probably isn't pathological; whereas if your brother is addicted to painkillers and you help him obtain them, it is.
As the latter example suggests, the idea of "codependency" is a subset of pathological altruism. "Feelings of empathic caring . . . appear to lie at the core of . . . codependent behavior," Oakley notes. People in codependent relationships genuinely care for each other, but that empathy leads them to do destructive things.
Yet according to Oakley, "the vital topic of codependency has received almost no hard-science research focus, leaving 'research' to those with limited or no scientific research qualifications." That is to say, it is largely the domain of pop psychology. "It is reasonable to wonder if the lack of scientific research involving codependency may relate to the fact that there is a strong academic bias against studying possible negative outcomes of empathy."

In other words, not only is the road to Hell paved with good intentions, it's enabled by evil liberals who are too twisted to see what they are doing (or too emotionally cauterized to care) whereas brave, noble conservatives believe in personal choice and FREEDOM and stuff.

In other words, the theory becomes an awesome justification for Randian selfishness by allowing the less fortunate to crash and burn in their attempts to better themselves.  Even worse, helping people is actively evil, enabling them to fail and waste your time and resources.

Pretty cynical worldview, even for wingers.

Pathological altruism is at the root of the liberal left's crisis of authority, which we discussed in our May 20 column. The left derives its sense of moral authority from the supposition that its intentions are altruistic and its opponents' are selfish. That sense of moral superiority makes it easy to justify immoral behavior, like slandering critics of President Obama as racist--or using the power of the Internal Revenue Service to suppress them. It seems entirely plausible that the Internal Revenue Service officials who targeted and harassed conservative groups thought they were doing their patriotic duty. If so, what a perfect example of pathological altruism. 
Oakley concludes by noting that "during the twentieth century, tens of millions [of] individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism." An understanding that altruism can produce great evil as well as good is crucial to the defense of human freedom and dignity.

And with such a binary worldview, you can't lose.  Just dismiss your critics as despotic murderers whose good intentions are really genocidal fascism, and you can't lose.  Of course this applies to Obama and his supporters, and it hits all the lizard-brain pleasure centers of the right.  They'll love this, it's the new Bell Curve or Liberal Fascism of the decade: altruism is really the most evil force on Earth.

Ayn Rand beat all these fools to the punch decades ago, but who's counting?

Living Up To Both Your Father's Expectations

This Father's Day, it's important to remember just how much we were shaped by our dad.  Or in the case of Kal-El, dads.

Man of Steel brings us Christopher Nolan's take helming DC Comics' other franchise (after three Batman films, Nolan hands over the directing work to Zack Snyder of 300 fame and produces the film) and the film definitely revolves around fathers.  Specifically, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), the fathers who raised Kal-El (a brilliantly cast Henry Cavill, as perfect a choice as Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark in Iron Man.)

We get the full origin story here, as young Kal-El is launched into space as a newborn, the last hope of dying planet Krypton, as the planet's highest military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts a coup over the planet's high council.  Zod, furious that Kal-El has sent the child and the repository of Krypton's 100,000-year civilization, the Codex, into space, kills Jor-El and is finally caught and sentenced to a very long term in the extra-dimensional Phantom Zone.  Freed once Krypton finally implodes, he searches for his rival's son.

And that brings us to Clark Kent, seen at various stages in his life realizing that he has Powers And Abilities Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men.  His father Jonathan and mother Martha (Diane Lane) want nothing more than for Clark to remain safe.  Jonathan knows that humanity is not ready for Clark's powers, the opposite advice Clark eventually receives from his other father, whose downloaded consciousness wants him to be a beacon of hope for all of Earth.

The struggle between the expectations of his fathers keeps Clark helping people whenever he can, and then doing everything to cover his tracks as he drifts across the planet.  His story eventually comes to the attention of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams, easily the best Lois Lane since Margot Kidder) who attempts to uncover his story in the present day.

All of that gets complicated very quickly when Zod and his crew show up looking for the Codex, and Clark has to decide what kind of man he is, and how to heed the advice of both of his fathers.  Not an easy task for anyone, but if there's someone who can do it...well.

Like Clark himself, the movie has the imprints of both fathers, Nolan and Snyder, upon it.  Nolan's smart writing along with partner David S. Goyer is a sharp contrast to director Zack Snyder's kinetic, unapologetic, and brutal action in the final third of the film, but it does leave enough room for humor and Lois Lane's intelligence moving the film along.

This is definitely a popcorn flick of the highest order, and you should do yourself a favor and catch it.  And it's Father's Day.  Go call your dad.

Let It All Burn

Have a Republican Congressman?  Thinking about calling them up for information on how Obamacare works?  Save your breath, they don't care.

Republican lawmakers say they anticipate a flood of questions in the coming months from constituents on the implementation of ObamaCare, which will pose a dilemma for the GOP.

People regularly call their representatives for help with Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Yet, Republicans believe healthcare reform spells doom for the federal budget, private businesses and the U.S. healthcare system. They're also enormously frustrated that the law has persevered through two elections and a Supreme Court challenge and believe a botched implementation could help build momentum for the repeal movement.

Some Republicans indicated to The Hill they will not assist constituents in navigating the law and obtaining benefits. Others said they would tell people to call the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"Given that we come from Kansas, it's much easier to say, 'Call your former governor,'" said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R), referring to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"You say, 'She's the one. She's responsible. She was your governor, elected twice, and now you reelected the president, but he picked her.'" Huelskamp said.

The more people who don't know how Obamacare works or who are in possession of false information, the more the GOP can turn people against the plan.  Because why should Americans get affordable health care?
Related Posts with Thumbnails