Bluestem Associates wrote:
> Apology not necessary. Anbody else see the close similarity to the
> "natural vs. synthetic" discussion in organic agriculture?
Only partially, although your analogies are interesting. The analogy
does not hold in several ways.
> Focusing on materials instead of healthy system management gets us in
> trouble, as in---
There is continually posed this either/or frame of reference, as if one
cannot exclude synthetic materials AND focus on healthy system
management. This has not been demonstrated, either in fact or by
> a) Ban all drugs in school because it is easier than actually thinking
> about differences of degree.
One important difference is that this kind of decision is made one
district at a time, and it can be UN-made one district at a time, if and
when the people in that local district discover that a rule which they
thought would be helpful was being applied in ways they never intended
when they agreed to the policy. Local people know each other and know
the affected parties, and can see first-hand the unintended and perverse
consequences of the policy. This is markedly different from the organic
standards being nationalized or globalized.
> b) Ban nearly all synthetics in organic agriculture for the same
Organic agriculture differs substantially from the school drug policy in
another major respect. O.A. is (was? should be?) a voluntary
relationship between producer and purchaser, wherein management and
practices deemed "uneconomic" by certain measures are nevertheless
agreed to as better by both parties. Both parties ideally understand
the poor accounting habits of the "conventional" and agree to bypass
that system entirely by not being bound to its economic dictates. The
voluntary nature of the purchase is key. The purchaser is willing to
pay often more for a product called "the same," or "substantially
equivalent" by Science filtered heavily through policy. This is not
evidence that the purchaser does not understand the analytical
techniques of Science, no matter how often that idea is endlessly
repeated. The purchaser simply finds that Science is analyzing far too
little and drawing conclusions from an inappropriately narrow band of
data. What the purchasers are and are not willing to support must be
considered somewhat relevant.
Attendance in public school, by contrast, is mandatory, and the school
system, including its policies both good and bad must be paid for
irrespective of whether one agrees with its policies or highly esteems
the educational output. Non-participation in some policy is a
punishable transgression with legal consequences, not simply an
expression of considered indifference to the frame of reference of
Anyway, wasn't the synthetic/natural dichotomy part of the OFPA?
> c) Encourage RU-486 instead of teaching healthy management (meaning
> restraint) of one's sexuality.
Well here's a really different realm altogether. I don't get the
analogy. Nobody encourages RU-486, although plenty of people think it
should be as legal as any other medication. And of course you can teach
all the healthy management of sexuality you want to your own kids and
strive to associate yourself with a community which supports your values
in that respect. And that's what people do. It is also smart to back up
this teaching with plenty of supervision of young people, which involves
not just policing them but giving them something useful to do so their
lives are not so empty. Plenty of people are working on all of these
things, but there is a serious dilemma involved:
I can and do personally think that many people would be better off if
they shut off their TVs and read more books and spent their time
generally doing things other than what they do. My opinion does not
affect the actions of others one bit. I can largely control such things
only within my own household domain. If some legal or social mechanism
were in place which would allow me to impose my brilliant ideas upon
others who do not share them, it occurs to me that the same mechanism
could just as easily be used to allow others to impose their ideas upon
me and my family. For this reason, such policies are not acceptable. I
doubt that there is a way out of the dilemma, but I would be very
interested in hearing about any you can think of.
> d) Try to control guns instead of facing the social problems that arise
> when you live based on *feelings.* [did you know, BTW, that a 5-yr old
> was recently murdered (ie, not accidentally) by a 6-yr old using a BB
It is unsurprising. I assume that anyone who will strike another person
in anger will also commit homicide, given the tools. Are you
recommending that 6 year old kids SHOULD have access to loaded weapons?
I assume you are not, but I am missing the similarity here.
> e) Ban all GMOs instead of learning to apply wisdom.
Of all issues, this is the one where focusing only on the narrow science
will cause the point of the controversy to be missed entirely. One
"side" of the controversy really wants to avoid any honest confrontation
of the real issues, and so is heavily invested in saying "sound science,
sound science, sound science" in an attempt to exclude the public from
the dialogue. There is nothing in any science curriculum I have ever
seen which approximates "Wisdom 101" and the claim of Science as the
portal to wisdom is a false one. It serves only to make the
nonscientist more suspicious of Science.
> f) Push for campaign finance "reform" instead of addressing the problem
> of pervasive bias in most media.
Do you have an alternative suggestion for removing money and power as a
source of media bias? Choking off its food supply may not be the only
way to effect change in this respect, but anybody who wants to argue
that there is another way ought to give a few details. Here your
analogy is somewhat relevant. Favoring natural over synthetic materials
probably does have the effect of choking off the food supply to some
interests and freeing up those resources to flow in other directions.
And maybe that is entirely intended.
> g) Take the cap off farm subsidies and "emergency" aid, rather than
> raise questions about the persistently sloppy management of many farms,
> to say nothing of externalised costs.
Now here's a realm where the public is really not invited.
Can somebody summarize the goal of farm policy? Or is the truth really
that there are many competing and mutually exclusive goals, and some
interests are being well served by the confusion? Your anaology does
not work here.
> we are confronted
> by a contemporary cultural ethos that embodies three elemental
> Feelings over-ride reason
> There are no absolutes (which of course is an absolute, in itself, and
> a classic example of self-contradictory thinking)
> Focus on treating symptoms, instead of trying to understand the
> underlying problem (because we want to *feel* like we're doing
> something, right away)
Interesting, since I find it easy enough to identify all of these things
as problems in many situations, but still reach conclusions different
from your own.
One thing about reason and feelings. Reason and feelings are not
mutually exclusive. Each may be misapplied, and frequently each is.
It would be very hard to argue that reason can ever lead us to conclude
that human beings matter to the universe. If our species and only our
species were wiped off the face of the earth, it would not be an
ecological catastrophe. Many of our domesticated plants and animals
would not survive in their present forms, but the species richness of
the planet would not be adversely affected. Ditto with any of the
day-to-day concerns of human society. The biosphere does not depend on
Any argument which rests on reason, where reason is used to argue about
benefits to humans, must therefore also rest on the feeling that humans
matter. The fact that this UNREASONABLE assumption is seldom
articulated does not speak highly of the ability of reason to examine
itself. So those who acknowledge feelings as part of their
decision-making tool kit are one up on those who pretend (and probably
believe!) that reason alone drives them. Having feelings does not
prevent one's reasoning processes from functioning any more than liking
brussels sprouts prevents one from using a spreadsheet. Just don't try
to type the brussels sprout into a cell in your spreadsheet.
When I face a "feeler" who goes so far as complete denial of physical
reality because the facts are disagreeable (format "I don't like hot
weather, therefore the sun isn't shining today") then I think I am
seeing serious mental illness, not simply contemporary culture.
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