July 07, 2006

Yet Another Wound from Iraq

The headline from the NYT story says it all: Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military. The article reports that the Southern Poverty Law Center (granted, a left-of-center group, but one that has a good track record for research in this area) argues that because of problems with recruiting quotas, the military is lowering standards, and taking people they wouldn't otherwise take, including a large number of Aryan Nation and affiliated/related people (who use the Army as free training for the upcoming "race war").

This isn't good on many, many fronts. And I'm sure that "Private Hitler Jr." is doing a bang up job winning hearts and minds in Iraq.

Posted by baltar at July 7, 2006 10:08 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Architecture | Iraq | Military Affairs


it could be worse. they could be admitting Teh Gays.

Posted by: moon at July 7, 2006 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

It's almost as scary as members of hate groups getting into Yale. At least some people still have standards, right?

Posted by: Morris at July 7, 2006 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

Like, totally. Especially since they started doing weapons training and handing out guns at Yale.

Posted by: binky at July 7, 2006 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

Morris, nice to see you again.

Now, what the hell is wrong with sending the Taliban to Yale? If the guy hasn't committed any crime (in Afghanistan, here, or anywhere), and we've clearly already let him into the country, what's wrong with allowing him to attend a school where he might actually learn something about why the Taliban is/was so fucked up. You know, heart & minds? What better way to get to their hearts and minds than by sending their people to our schools?

Posted by: baltar at July 7, 2006 08:57 PM | PERMALINK

I like the way Pam Spaulding said it: tossing the homos out, letting the skinheads in.

Posted by: binky at July 8, 2006 09:02 AM | PERMALINK

I guess I'm confused as to how taking classes in chemistry or learning how to change political structures or identifying the critical points within political economies is any less dangerous than joining the military. Binky may be surprised to learn that some of the most dangerous skills taught by the military and also at Yale never involve picking up a gun. Baltar, it's nice to hear from you as well. Change of heart is a mysterious process that remains so very rare unless the person himself is motivated to change. We see this all the time in treatment with people under external pressure to be there. Even in a situation with highly skilled counselors, persuading someone to make a change or even alerting them that there may be problems stemming from a certain behavior doesn't happen often unless they face in their own life something to confirm that problem. And because this guy's family and friends will probably continue to be from the Taliban value set, I have great doubts about this, because the people he trusts to tell him about what the world is really like are going to be basing that on a different point of departure. This is of course also a problem with those Binky talks about, and if memory serves I thought some such organizations had been declared terrorists and should accordingly be prosecuted if we become aware of their plots via those nasty little wiretaps.

Posted by: Morris at July 8, 2006 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Morris, you make the assumption that because this guy worked for the Taliban, he thus is a fully committed ideologue. I know of no facts that prove that position. Remember, the Taliban was initiatlly recieved in Afghanistan with almost-open arms (as they provided security/relief from random robbery/murder that was widespread in the warlord-ruled post-Soviet Afghanistan), and were the only game in town in terms of employment and economic advancement. Joining the Taliban could be considered akin to joining the Communist Party in the Soviet Union - a necessary set to getting ahead, but not clear evidence of any ideological conviction.

Thus, getting ex-Taliban people over here to be educated (and not just in a classroom - a great deal of education happens just walking around America) is a key component of turning around Afghanistan (and arguably the entire Middle East). Thus, assuming that teaching him political economy is creating a more dangerous person is an assumption not backed by facts.

Posted by: baltar at July 8, 2006 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

guy's family and friends will probably continue to be from the Taliban

Ooh, the sins of the father. That's always a good way to make decisions.

So, how much do we know about this guy, and his real commitment to continuing the "mission" of the Taliban? First of all, in authoritarian and repressive societies, shockingly enough, even those who may not have 100% agreement participate, as it is the only game in town. For a long time, the only intellectual outlet for men in Europe was the Church, likewise a career for those who were not first born. In authoritarian countries I've visited, I met priests who were not particularly religious, but the Church was the only sector that had some degree of autonomy from the dictatorship. Looking at the history of US foreign policy toward former "bad" regimes, it's clear that we have historically made a distinction between those who participate in the regime, and those who are architects of heinous policies. (or not, actually, when the architects are our allies, but that's another point). As I cited above, the US government does not see fit to imprison, deport, etc this guy at Yale. That seems to be a signal as to which category he falls in, at least to the US government. What, Morris, you disagree with the Bush administration about whether this guy is still working on "terra"?

And while we're enjoying this little diversion into talking about whether ex-Taliban are free to study at Yale, it veers away from the central point of the Armand's original post: the US military (that is, the organization tasked with defending the nation-state, unlike Yale) is recruiting people who actively support (through money, organizational activity, and paramilitary training) the overthrow of the US government. Similarly, they are willing to recruit and retain unfortunate individuals whose mental stability is not secure enough for warfare (see the Steve Gilliard post I linked to today). Both of these categories are a threat not only to unit cohesion, but also to the overall mission. Now, the nice, mentally stable, well-trained gays? OUTTA THERE.

Makes perfect sense.

Posted by: binky at July 8, 2006 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Moreover, the US Military is training people who have shown a propensity to use violence against the US Government (and it's citizens). Me thinks that in a few years, this might be a medium-sized problem.

Posted by: baltar at July 8, 2006 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm far from making an assumption about this guy's ideological commitment to a repressive regime so opposed to the rights of women. What I am uncertain about is this guy's commitment to that regime. I am uncertain who is talking in his ear, the voices that he listens to. I am uncertain, just as I am uncertain that Usama woke up today still hating us, that a bomb will go off at Yale, in the Holland Tunnel, on the Brooklyn Bridge, in Canada, Bali or Cali. I am uncertain. But I'm not going to assume that anyone in America here to learn how to fly an airplane, how to enrich uranium, to clean water of toxins or fill water with toxins, is here to benefit themselves and humanity as a whole. We made that mistake before, so let's not repeat it. We don't know who he's listening to, but we have reason to suspect this particular little Eichman may not be concerned about human rights because he was in an organization committed to the abolition of religious freedom for all and political freedom for women. The fact is as you admit, you don't know whose voices he was listening to. And we don't know if those people joining the military who recently had similar views on political freedoms across a racial rather than a religious or a gender divide, we don't know if they woke up today with nothing but tolerance in their hearts. You assume they didn't, as you assume the Talibani may have. Why give one the benefit of the doubt, unless it is more bias against the military? That's the only difference here, that you have faith in academia to change the heart of a sexist, religiously intolerant Talibani, but you have no faith in our military's ability to change the heart of racists. They both have had successes, and they both have had failures. Or is your bias that sexism and religious intolerance are capable of being change, but racial intolerance isn't? Or maybe it's something else?

Posted by: Morris at July 8, 2006 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

OK Morris - so can you give us a full list of the types of individuals who should be kicked out of US schools? I imagine our colleges and universities educate all sorts of unsavory people. We certainly educate a lot of rapists, for example. So if you are so eager to kick people who MIGHT do something dangerous out (and, say, not teach them critical thinking skills or history that might, perhaps, help pull one away from the Taliban's ideology) - who should be on that list?

Posted by: Armand at July 8, 2006 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Where did you miss the part about the Aryan Nations being about more than just "having views?" It's not like the philosphy club or something.

I'm assuming nothing about the Taliban guy, much though you're trying to put assumptions in my mouth. I am assuming something about the US government's (lack of) action, and also using that assumption to reach the conclusion that the administration does not find this particular individual to be actively working to undermine the sovereignty of the US.

And you are right that I have no faith in the "military's ability to change the heart of racists." First, last time I checked, that wasn't part of their core mission. And second, if I am behind on the mission creep, it's not working since they are finding Aryan Nation graffiti in Iraq.

Posted by: binky at July 8, 2006 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

You're centering-othering. The military's mission isn't to change the hearts of racists any more than a university's mission is to change the hearts of those who are sexist and religiously intolerant. It's true that a professor may hope for that to happen, just as a drill sargeant may hope to open the mind of a racist. Many universities do incorporate diversity into their values just as the military incorporates a philosophy of being adaptive into their training. Essentially, being adaptive is valuing diversity because I can only be adaptive to the degree I'm willing to be flexible and incorporate other ways of accomplishing a mission. If I stick only to a certain set of beliefs regarding sex, then I'm less effective because I can't send women to do certain missions. If I do the same with religious beliefs, I may not be able to attack at certain times of day when I should be praying. If I do the same with racist beliefs, I'm limiting the resources I can draw upon the same as above with women (according to racist/sexist logic, women and certain races are not capable of doing accomplishing certain missions because they are either inherently weaker/flawed, or their prescribed role is limited). The military is also bound to protect the US Constitution which as ammended does value diversity, and protecting the US Constitution is not a requirement imposed on university professors. And since federal law prohibits discrimination in any religious, sexist, or racist way, both organizations are bound to this legally. The only difference is that you like universities, generally, and you don't like the military, generally. Close minded people get in the way of both such organizations accomplishing what they set out to do. I can't help but wonder if you're not also othering-centering regarding the redneck racists from America versus the sophisticated, worldly Afghan, member of that wonderful group of nations known as Not American. But of course that's speculation, and I'd hate to make that assumption.
It's all about perception, about confirmatory hypotheses, about these people putting crystalized knowledge into a prefabricated congnitive schema, tossing out what they don't agree with, and taking in what they can use to defend their belief system. When are we going to learn that the most beneficial and dangerous commodity in our world is what we come to know? We put restrictions on motor vehicles and medications, but none on who can learn to make and disperse toxic chemicals. At some point, we may want to reconsider who can take upper level courses in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Is it really ethical to teach these skills to people with a recent history of using the skills and power they do have to hurt others and take away their rights?

Posted by: Morris at July 8, 2006 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose it's flattering that you'd bother to type 4 lines in response to my question - but you didn't answer it. Who are "these people" that we should kick out of the country's schools?

Posted by: Armand at July 8, 2006 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

"These people" could be anyone, purple, brown, off white, pale faced, even cyan if their tanning bed goes awry. These are absolutely decisions to be made at an individual level, taking into account who stands up for them, what they've done to show their commitment to changing their ways, etc. Even David Bohm was kept out of the Manhattan project after his ideas formed much of its basis because our government was worried about his loyalties (but of course FDR was like that, obsessed with loyalty). Yet we teach the skills used to make chemicals (even toxic ones) today without doing so much as a background check on our students. But academia doesn't want to admit that knowledge is a dangerous thing in the hands of someone desperate and destructive, and make according restrictions on its distribution, despite so many of them saying that guns are dangerous of themselves because of their potential consequences, and should be restricted. They're right. That's what we do with guns, but not with knowledge, which makes even less sense.

Posted by: Morris at July 8, 2006 01:36 PM | PERMALINK

No matter how much you want to talk about beliefs and education, Morris, this is not what is on the table here. It's whether including, in the US military, and training in the art of war (pick your description), people who actively work to undermine the sovereignty of the US government, is such a smart idea. In addition, we could be discussing whether the continution of actions in the field of conflict, on the part of these people, could additionally be undermining the mission at hand.

Although, with you flipping around between individualistic and social explanations for behavior, it's hard to keep track of exactly what it is we aren't talking about.

Posted by: binky at July 8, 2006 02:09 PM | PERMALINK

Some day you must introduce me to this "academia" you speak of. Your willingness to assert that it thinks in one united way (and to the degree it does, it most certainly doesn't think what you are asserting it thinks) is rather mind-blowing. Maybe even more than your statement that "these people" could be ANYONE!!! Well, if that's the case we better shut down schools, libraries, newspapers etc. - all of them - all across the country. I mean we wouldn't want a little knowledge to fall into the wrong hands, and since ANYONE could have the wrong hands ...

As to what's exclusively the subject of this post (not the Taliban student post), I think Binky and Spaulding are right here - our soldiers should be people who don't undermine the government - and I think on that front this is extraordinarily troubling.

Posted by: Armand at July 8, 2006 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

My argument is that what needs to happen is what we have reason to believe did happen. People from the university got together and looked at whether it was a good idea to let this guy in, like they would with anyone else who applied. They have standards, and cases can be made for special exceptions to those standards. We have no reason to assume they got together and said they didn't want the media fallout any more than we have reason to believe they got together and said letting this guy become more powerful is not wise considering the organization he's been a part of in the past. I recall a similar case being made against someone from Mississippi lauding Strom Thurmond, and special circumstances forgiving the past involvement a certain someone from West Virginia. We don't know their reason for not letting this Talibani into Yale, we only know the outcome, and if their reason is this guy's dangerous, I don't think their response is out of proportion to what this Talibani's shown us.
Whether you want to go by the old adage the pen is mightier than the sword or by reasoning that giving a person a weapon gives them one weapon, but teaching them how to make weapons gives weapons to everyone they know, as well as everyone those who they teach will meet, I think it's obvious that going to Yale makes a person more powerful than going into the army. If it were the other way around, then why is it Yale's standards are so much more selective than the army's? The idea that somehow learning how to shoot or learning squad tactics is deadlier than learning chemistry or physics denies the reality that we prefer to do our fighting with jets and bombs because it kills less of us and more of them. Someone graduating from Yale has options on how they use their skills, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out how to apply their knowldege in destructive ways. I doubt Al Masri ever took a class in how to make bombs, but of course he did have to learn chemistry somewhere along the line to do what he does. And if as Binky suggests we should be selective about who we let into the army, then we should be far more selective about who we let into universities like Yale.

Posted by: Morris at July 9, 2006 02:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm in a rush and can't respond to all of this - so I'll simply note that your final sentence either makes no sense or is ridiculous or maybe both. Students at Yale are not representing the US government. They are not given weapons. They are not place in incendiary situations in which their actions could lead to dozens of Iraqis suddenly becoming mortal enemies of the US (in terms of the bad stuff bad people in the army do that we don't hear about - in terms of the stuff that gets publicized, obiviously those soldiers are breeding a lot more than a few dozen enemies of the USA).

So in terms of their implications for national security, I think it's bizarre to equate the admission standards of the US military with those of Yale University.

And I'm at a loss as to what any of this has to do with Trent Lott or Robert C. Byrd.

Posted by: Armand at July 9, 2006 06:05 PM | PERMALINK

Morris, do you really not understand that the power to formulate ideas is welcomed in a democracy, but the power to shoot politicians isn't?

Posted by: jacflash at July 9, 2006 06:45 PM | PERMALINK

To be clear, the power and intent to shoot politicians isn't welcomed.

Posted by: jacflash at July 9, 2006 07:22 PM | PERMALINK

excellent point, jacflash. although in case you hadn't noticed, evidently talking about blowing up a tunnel, without demonstrating either the power or the intent to do so in any tangible way recognizable from criminal law (i.e., an attempt crime for conviction requires a "substantial step" in most jurisdictions, which does not require getting to the point of having a gun in someone's face but does require, you know, a gun, leaving the apartment with the idea of killing the guy fixed firmly in mind, and that sort of thing) is enough to get you arrested these days.

i'm with one of morris's points on the yale story: best i can tell, the government didn't tell yale they couldn't admit this guy, and yale has been closed-mouthed about why it didn't admit this guy. my grandfather was a yalie, a war hero, and a generous contributor, and my credentials on their own merits were damned close to yale law level. and i wrote a hell of an essay. and you know what? i didn't get in -- neither legacy nor my numbers were quite enough.

lots of people get declined from the ivy league for lots of reasons. as i think i said either on this site or in private correspondence with armand, as far as i'm concerned this is a non-story. a private school so selective that basically getting in even with good qualifications is like winning the lottery declines to admit someone to full undergraduate status for reasons non-forthcoming. i'm going to go with occam's razor here, and say the kid just didn't make it, like lots of other worthy kids. until i hear something to the contrary, i think this is a huge non-story.

letting the timothy mcveighs of the world into the military, however, now that's a story.

Posted by: moon at July 10, 2006 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

and btw, while the taliban might have been the only game in town, this guy was more than just some functionary on minimum wage -- he was, in effect, a PR / diplomacy flack with the specific mandate to serve as a smiling apologist for all of the taliban's abuses. i think a school that counts the best after-school-activities money can buy in favor of the rich attendees who are its bread and butter can easily defend using that sort of background (an adult, engaging in an adult activity, that involves sympathizing with, among other things, precisely the sort of abuse of women that gets us all so riled up (but none more than binky)) as a proxy for why it might want to give the rare slot in its class to someone else.

Posted by: moon at July 10, 2006 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

lots of people get declined from the ivy league for lots of reasons. as i think i said either on this site or in private correspondence with armand, as far as i'm concerned this is a non-story. a private school so selective that basically getting in even with good qualifications is like winning the lottery declines to admit someone to full undergraduate status for reasons non-forthcoming. i'm going to go with occam's razor here, and say the kid just didn't make it, like lots of other worthy kids. until i hear something to the contrary, i think this is a huge non-story.

I'm not concerned that he wasn't admitted because he lacked merit. I'm not arguing for Taliban affirmative action. He was de-admitted, or not renewed after a political shit storm. That is what concerns me.

And clearly, Moon, I have not been writing enough about my opinions on liberty and national sovereignty, given your comment about women's rights.

Posted by: binky at July 10, 2006 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

if you have a good source on what happened to the guy, i'd like to see it. my understanding was that he was in a non-degree-granting program that's there for folks like him, and that they opted not to admit him to the degree-granting program even though many others have made that transition. again, i think it's absurd to believe that one can take anything for granted about admissions at a place like yale. and as for "a political shit storm," be that as it may, all i see right now is correlation, not causation, yale being predictably closed-lipped about its admissions decisisions.

and you haven't responded to the fact that he wasn't just a good son to avoid the firing squad, but rather rose to a position of prominence within the taliban. lots of people acquiesced to the nazi regime, but not everyone was goehring.

Posted by: moon at July 10, 2006 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

And I return, once again, to the point I have been making for days: if he was a Goering, the US goverment wouldn't be letting him run around and attend Yale, now, would they?

Posted by: binky at July 10, 2006 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

nothing regarding correlation and causation? there's no point in fighting about the most draconian among myriad reasons this might have turned out the way it did. when it's equally plausible they just didn't like him, the whole thing is purely academic (pun intended).

i used goehring as a hyperbolic example. the fact remains, he wasn't just any member of the taliban, now was he.

Posted by: moon at July 10, 2006 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

Look, I could give a shit about the academic requirements. Here is the quote (shitstorm and academic stuff in bold):

The debate over whether Hashemi should have been admitted to Yale in the first place played out on editorial pages and Web logs and in letters to the editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine.

One small group of alumni urged people to mail press-on nails to Yale officials, a reference to the Taliban's threat to pull out the fingernails of women who wore nail polish.

"This was a major victory," said Clint Taylor, a 1996 Yale graduate whose Web log originated the nail campaign. "I think Yale made the right decision. It's a shame they had to do it under so much pressure."

Fahad Khan, an incoming Yale senior who knows Hashemi, said he was unaware of the decision but said it was a shame if he was not admitted. He said having Hashemi at Yale is important "at a time when bridges need to be built."

"If true, it is clearly because of the controversy," Khan said in an e-mail. "His academic performance, which was supposed to be the only determinant, has been better than most students at Yale."

And for the last time:

Taliban not arrested, free to move about country = not a threat in the opinion of the US government. All it takes is a visa refusal. It doesn't matter what kind of member of the Taliban he was. None of us have to like the idea of playing patty-cakes with him over tea and a philosophical discussion of women's rights. The question isn't whether his ideas are reprehensible, it's whether holding reprehensible ideas alone is a good way to make admissions decisions. Contrast this to the point of this post, Armand's post, which is not about the Taliban but about Aryan nations soldiers, who are actually doing things.

Posted by: binky at July 10, 2006 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

binky, you said: "He was de-admitted, or not renewed after a political shit storm."

the times reports:

In its statement yesterday, the university said that only 2 of 29 people who applied for the degree-granting program, or 6.9 percent, had been admitted. In previous years, nearly 30 percent of those who applied to the program were accepted, Mr. Levin had noted in a prepared statement in April. He also said 8 to 12 people had been admitted to the program each year.

Mr. Levin said at the time that Yale would review both the nondegree and degree-granting programs for untraditional students. He also directed that the standard for admission to the Eli Whitney Program this year be as rigorous as the standard used for admitting regular Yale undergraduates.

Yale announced in April that it had accepted 8.6 percent of the more than 21,000 high school students who applied for admission to the freshman class at Yale College, the lowest rate in its history.

there's no cause to believe, or even find all that terribly probable, that the shitstorm had anything to do with anything, except the instantiation of much hand-wringing in the blogosphere. i don't disagree that educating the taliban is better than arming and training the aryan nation in combat (or sending them on a mission of peace to a country full of people in various shades of brown with beliefs that tend away from the "christian"), so if that's all we've been talking about i think we're fine. but as the quote above suggests, you seem to be moving back and forth from addressing the ongoing debate, which may be worth engaging but is not anchored in much more than conjecture, to imputing motives to yale for not placing this guy in the 6.9% of candidates who were admitted, which is what i've been challenging you on (and is all i've intended to challenge anyone on, really).

especially when it comes to organizations as strong and tradition-bound as yale, i think they tend to be far less susceptible to public outcry, especially when public outcry is a few dozen or a few hundred alumni, which i suspect is the case here.

and just to get back on the right side of things, morris, you write: "I'm not going to assume that anyone in America here to learn how to fly an airplane, how to enrich uranium, to clean water of toxins or fill water with toxins, is here to benefit themselves and humanity as a whole."

so being here to benefit him- or herself (which presumably would include terrorists who are looking for martyrdom in service of jihad, but we'll just skip that part) and "humanity as a whole" is a criterion for admission to elite schools?

if that's how schools should play the game, i suspect the number of foreign students will increase rather than decrease. and not, to be clear, because i fit your absurdist, FOXNews tinged view of liberal as loving all things un-American. rather, there are only 300 million people here, another 6 billion people everywhere else, and i really don't think, among the hoi polloi that make up 99.9% of the world, nationality correlates much with intrinsic goodness (nor do i find that this fact makes it harder to love my country, which i do; i find it interesting that moral superiority seems to be at the heart of the more breast-beating America-firster types). thus, the law of averages says americans should make up about 5% of college admissions classes, if we're going on betterment of humanity as the primary admissions criterion. and even liberal old me thinks that would be a bit excessive.

Posted by: moon at July 10, 2006 05:18 PM | PERMALINK

Moon, I hope you are having fun. Really.

A thousand times I have said, or at least it feels like it, I don't care if they denied him admission because of academic reasons. Great. Good. Wonderful. Universities do that. Fantastic.

See above, etc about de-admission, non-admission after shitstorm being concerning. Not, as in making me 100% guaranteed convinced of causality, I have Oliver Stone level thoughts about it, but concerning. Concerning why? Because the originators of the protest are claiming credit that they derailed his admission. That's a shitty way to make admissions decisions, and it concerns me.

On the heels of the neo-con smear campaign against Juan Cole getting hired at Yale, I am doubly concerned about the influence of self-appointed witch hunters (and I don't know about you, but Cole is no witch... the jury is out on Taliban-boy, but as stated above, if the US goverment doesn't see fit yadda yadda yadda...) policing the hiring and admissions as Yale. You said "fine" because they're elite, and all private institutions have the power to make these kinds of decisions. Sure.

However if this pattern holds, it's quite a telling glimpse of the kind of institution Yale is.

Posted by: binky at July 10, 2006 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

i guess i just don't see the pattern. and i always have fun. :-)

Posted by: moon at July 11, 2006 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

When does the power to formulate ideas creep into the proliferation of technology to build nuclear bombs? Essentially, that technology is an extension of formulated ideas, but somewhere along the line it becomes dangerous to teach someone not the skill of fluid intelligence but the system of thought which completed can burn millions of people's faces off in an instant, and leave whatever city is struck by one uninhabitable for the length of our mortal existence on our planet. It's dangerous to teach people chemistry which enables them to produce sarin, killing people in ways most people would run ten thousand miles in the summer to escape. It's dangerous to teach them these skills, because many of the people I love are Americans, are women, or believe in some conception of spirituality besides the particular brand of Islam these guys worship. If the Taliban had their way, these people would get beaten, raped, or killed for being who they are. So it's dangerous to give people who spearhead that organization skills which can be turned into pain for to those I love. If what he wants is to learn how to think, there are plenty of ways to learn that, and they don't require learning skills which can be used to harm others. If he wants to learn how to think and grow, he could pursue art or metaphysics, but unless you're prepared to argue we should share nuclear weapons technology with anyone who wants it, there must be a line somewhere beyond which we admit that knowledge and skills are dangerous. If you give a child a bat, and the child hits someone, to gain power over them, then you take away their bat, why do you let them pick up a stick? Why don't we let this guy prove he can be responsible to the rights of others before we let him grow more skilled?
Bring 'em on. If they can handle the courseload and they want to serve humanity, bring 'em on.

Posted by: Morris at July 12, 2006 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Morris: I regularly laugh at people who believe that the knowledge involved in building an atomic weapon is a secret that can be guarded. This is fifty-year-old technology. Sarin is almost sixty years old. I'm quite sure that Baltar and I, or any other small group of smart and reasonably worldly people, left alone in a sufficiently-equipped lab for a sufficient amount of time, could produce crude but working examples of both, given the motivation to do so. The information is not hard to find, especially in the internet era. Or is it the ability to think critically that you believe is only available at US universities, and should be kept from those you designate as wrong-headed? Is it arrogance or stupidity that leads you to believe that only those educated in the west can think?

Oh, and your "serve humanity" comment is so unbelievably fatuous as to defy my ability to give you an answer beyond ridicule. Is that what it's all about? Is that the only legitimate reason for being? How does that square with the rest of your political philosophy, to the extent that you have one? Would you like to be served medium-rare, or well-done?

Posted by: jacflash at July 13, 2006 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

Why don't we let this guy prove he can be responsible to the rights of others before we let him grow more skilled?

Yes, and why don't we let the President and his coterie prove the same, and deny them access to the nuclear codes until they have done so.

Posted by: moon at July 13, 2006 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Just one problem: who's "we"?

Posted by: jacflash at July 13, 2006 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

There's a distinction you're not making between fluid and crystalized ideas. Crystalized knowledge becomes crystalized via fluid intelligence designing a paradigm that better explains something by seeing it from another perspective, but then it is crystalized, becomes a format a to b to c that is replicable. Fluid intelligence can be learned anywhere, by studying art as I suggested above. It is true that the crystalized formula for how to design a nuclear device is a product of many leaps via fluid intelligence, but those leaps took mankind thousands of years to make. As the Tao Te Ching says, great weapons of war auger evil, and as such I believe we should be wary of giving people formulas to these weapons by teaching them the mechanics of chemistry and physics. It is a risk that if we teach them (or they learn on their own) how to think fluidly that they will learn better how to destroy, but within that is the hope they will learn not to.
They want to serve a higher power without any belief that a higher power wants them to do anything but destroy all this world that doesn't agree with them. I wonder how it is that preserving humanity is such a foreign concept to you?
I like rare enough so I can smell blood.

Posted by: Morris at July 13, 2006 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

Morris, I have no dog in this fight, but it sounds to me like you are arguing that we shouldn't teach science to "some people" (who these ignorant people are is undefined) because they will use their knowledge to do bad things. Isn't that a recipe for complete technological stasis? How are we supposed to make better/faster/more things (including food and energy, which are necessary to sustain life for the 6.3 billion people on Earth today) if we don't pursue science?

More importantly: we're a democracy - how do you propose to constitutionally/legally disenfranchise a bunch of people from "knowledge"?

Posted by: baltar at July 13, 2006 03:32 PM | PERMALINK

Morris: Have you met Mister Internet? Mister Internet offers the sincere seeker lots of "crystallized knowledge", available instantly from nearly anywhere in the world. You don't really think that there's substantive information that's only available via an (undergrad!) education at an elite American university, do you? Certainly formal education speeds the learning process and helps ensure that important points aren't missed, but there's nothing in terms of material scientific information at Yale you can't get elsewhere.

I second Baltar's query: who's the "we" that should be placing limits -- conditioned on the religious (or other) views of the student -- on basic scientific knowledge?

Oh, and which verse of your Tao is it that says "great weapons of war auger evil"? Translations differ, and I don't want to address that point until I'm sure we're both on the same page, as it were.

Posted by: jacflash at July 13, 2006 03:55 PM | PERMALINK

a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, eh morris? i assume you realize that this endeavor you've sketched out to deny information to the unworthy (in an information economy) echoes only people to whom any comparison would provoke outrage on your part. nonetheless, you've invited the comparison. and though i'm sure you can figure out the various people to whom i'd compare this latest ridiculousness, i'd just as soon not spell it out for you, because i'm not convinced you wouldn't twist the information to your own advantage in ways that disserve humanity.

Posted by: moon at July 14, 2006 11:37 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?