Culture Darwinism

When even the best education can’t help you…

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Congressman Pete Stark is an MIT and Berkeley graduate as well as a former banker. He regards himself as an expert on economics and is one of the main guiding forces behind ObamaCare. This interview demonstrates the perverse effect on one’s thinking of residing too long in a fevered swamp, in this case, Washington DC. His unbridled contempt for Jan Helfeld reminds me of the Darwinists’ contempt for lay people when they ask simple probing questions about their theory. Darwinism has a similar addling effect on even the best-educated minds. It too is a fevered swamp.

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28 Replies to “When even the best education can’t help you…

  1. 1
    kibitzer says:

    What is it about politicians calling others “stupid”? It never seems to work to their credit. Obama said the Cambridge police “acted stupidly,” and look what it did for his credibility. Pete Stark’s shameful performance goes way beyond that. And yes, it is reminiscent of the more choleric Darwinistas.

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    This is scary funny. This bozo is running the country, suggests that he is an economic expert, and he has no fear of increasing the national debt.

    BTW, the deficit was 4.5 billion, the deficit is now about 1.75 trillion, but the debt is about 12 trillion dollars, and if you factor in promises made etc., its nearer to 50 trillion.

    Its this kind of ignorance that causes me to keep a significant nest egg in gold.

    Dr. Dembski, your comparison between this blather and the blather from the evolutionary community is well taken.

  3. 3
    Lenoxus says:

    I’m pretty sure Stark’s original point — that what matters is the national debt as a percentage of GDP, and not as an absolute value — is considered a mainstream economic view. (Come to think of it, I guess that’s another parallel to evolution…) This percentage has been rising since the mid-seventies, so it is nonetheless worrisome.

    One point of Stark’s that I believe the interviewer missed is that when Stark said that the large debt was a sign of a healthy economy, he didn’t mean that the former caused the latter (so we should increase the debt by a trillion dollars for the heck of it), but rather vice versa (I think) — a bigger economy means bigger debt. Stark could have explained that a lot better.

  4. 4
    NZer says:

    Wow, what an arrogant jerk. We have the same arrogance in New Zealand where our prime minister John Key has rejected reversing a stooopid law that now makes it illegal for parents to smack their kids, even though 88% of people who voted in a recent referendum want it changed.

    Under the thin veneer of polished suits and ties, these people are pretty close to evil. Scary eh.

  5. 5
    Gods iPod says:

    Wow, this vid is really making the rounds this week…

  6. 6
    IRQ Conflict says:

    “He regards himself as an expert”

    Don’t they all.

  7. 7
    uoflcard says:

    3 – Lenoxus

    a mainstream economic view. (Come to think of it, I guess that’s another parallel to evolution…)

    And…concensus = fact? I’ve never understood why people bring up the fact that most of the scientifc community believes the Darwinian theory of evolution to be true. What is the point?

    First of all, I would be willing to bet that most of the scientific community could not give a true statement of the theory of intelligent design (especially since the people who devote their lives to fighting it rarely put forth an accurate statement of it), nor have they really questioned the validity of evolution. That’s just how they were taught, and to most it doesn’t mean anything for their discipline.

    And secondly, if concensus = fact, then scientific revolutions are completely impossible to ever happen. How can you overturn a fact? Einstein was a heretic, then

  8. 8
    Learned Hand says:

    I think Lenoxus has identified the point Stark assumed his interviewer should have understood. It’s a shame he reacted so peevishly, rather than having the presence of mind to explain it. This seems like an ambush interview, though, in which the interviewer was trying to score points rather than elicit a coherent perspective. Why on earth would the interviewer assume that Stark was proposing a direct causal connection between borrowing money and economic development? Stark did a poor job explaining the concepts at hand, but he’s not wrong to complain that the interviewer was–honestly or not–asking silly questions.

  9. 9
    tragic mishap says:

    Well you sound like you know what he’s talking about. Why don’t you explain it for us? What are the right questions to ask, and what would the right answers be?

  10. 10
    JGuy says:

    PETE STARK to Interviewer:

    “You get the FU$K out of here, or I’ll throw you out the window.”

    I wonder if the interviewer has a gift in brining people’s real character forward.

    Hopefully, this ends Pete Stark’s chances of ‘working for the people’ again.

  11. 11
    Barb says:

    Lenoxus: just because it’s a mainstream view doesn’t make it right. Science used to have mainstream views that heat is a fluid called caloric and that washing your hands after touching a dead body wasn’t worthwhile.

  12. 12
    Oatmeal Stout says:

    First, let me say that I’ve advocated a balanced-budget amendment for almost 30 years, and that I believe, along with Newt Gingrich, that the “spend and don’t tax” policy of the W administration was an awful embarrassment to conservatism.

    I have to say also that I have never seen a one-on-one interviewer as execrable in his conduct as Jan Helfeld. Anyone who has perused the website of the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation or watched the documentary IOUSA can ask more incisive questions about the federal debt and federal obligation than Helfeld did. But what is worse, from a journalistic perspective, is that Helfeld repeatedly talked over Stark when Stark had just begun responding.

    This is indeed relevant to the way anti-evolutionists challenge evolutionists. Since the 1970’s, I have watched Christians (in my personal experience, they were all Christians) pretend to ask about evolution when they believed that they knew all the answers, and that they would cleverly lead the advocate of evolution into traps. There’s not a thing Christian or clever about this sort of behavior.

  13. 13
    Learned Hand says:

    Well you sound like you know what he’s talking about. Why don’t you explain it for us? What are the right questions to ask, and what would the right answers be?

    I think Lenoxus explained the basic point fairly well – if you want a more complicated discussion of the national debt, I really recommend that you start somewhere other than YouTube and blogs!

    As for the right questions to ask, it was ridiculous to ask Stark if he thought we should borrow a trillion dollars to increase prosperity. It assumes that Stark believes in a directly causal connection between debt and prosperity, or that he denies that debt service is potentially detrimental obligation. A better interview would have been to ask Stark to explain his position, then give him time to do so, rather than asking silly questions over and over and over again in hopes of getting a useful soundbite (which he did).

  14. 14
    IRQ Conflict says:

    Oatmeal Stout @12

    “I have to say also that I have never seen a one-on-one interviewer as execrable in his conduct as Jan Helfeld.”

    “But what is worse, from a journalistic perspective, is that Helfeld repeatedly talked over Stark when Stark had just begun responding.”

    Ya mean something like this?:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFhMxAsMDvk

  15. 15
    Lenoxus says:

    Consensus is by no means equal to fact — but it’s generally the best we’ve got at any given time. To argue that consensus is pretty much always wrong, as (for example) Michael Crichton has, is just silly — among other things, it means that one should pray that one’s own non-mainstream ideas never become consensus! Consensus is a decent initial gauge for the probability that something is true, after which further tests, discussions, and explanations are needed.

    Stark’s F-bomb and threat were uncalled for (though I really doubt he would have carried it out), but I think I, too, would have asked Helfeld to leave my house, given the manner of the interview.

  16. 16
    tragic mishap says:

    Mr. Learned Hand, I was not asking youtube and blogs, I was asking you. You are a person with an opinion and apparently some knowledge. If all you can do is refuse to answer the question and obfuscate than it just adds to the impression Stark gave that there isn’t an answer.

    Helfeld did ask how interest payments have grown as a percentage of the federal budget, which is a fair question that Stark didn’t answer. After all, if the economy is growing I certainly think it’s reasonable to expect the deficit to grow, but it’s also reasonable to expect government revenue to grow and the federal budget to grow with it. They should all be growing no? I mean maybe you haven’t noticed this, but the economy hasn’t exactly been growing recently while the deficit has. Are you guys really trying to say that the ratio of debt to GDP is not growing?

  17. 17
    Learned Hand says:

    Mr. Learned Hand, I was not asking youtube and blogs, I was asking you. You are a person with an opinion and apparently some knowledge.

    Thank you! But I’m still just a commenter on a blog. I’m happy to discuss the issue, but I can only give you my opinion. If you want to study the meat of the matter, you should look elsewhere.

    Helfeld did ask how interest payments have grown as a percentage of the federal budget, which is a fair question that Stark didn’t answer.

    I don’t recall that exchange, and can’t watch the video at the moment, but I assume you’re correct. Debt service as a percentage of the budget is a useful indicator, as I understand it, and that’s not a bad question. Did he give Stark time to give a complicated answer, or did he badger Stark?

    After all, if the economy is growing I certainly think it’s reasonable to expect the deficit to grow, but it’s also reasonable to expect government revenue to grow and the federal budget to grow with it. They should all be growing no?

    “Should” is a tricky word. They are all likely to grow in absolute terms, but may shrink. Their relative sizes may grow or shrink. As you noted, the relative sizes are more important than the absolute sizes.

    I mean maybe you haven’t noticed this, but the economy hasn’t exactly been growing recently while the deficit has.

    The economy has been shrinking, in fact. There is an enormous – I mean really huge – body of economic work and literature regarding the utility of deficit spending in a recession. Good thing? Bad thing? Depends on the context, your perspective, and who your professors were.

    Are you guys really trying to say that the ratio of debt to GDP is not growing?

    No. How did you get that idea?

  18. 18
    Clive Hayden says:

    Consensus— defined as those who agree with me, those who don’t agree with me, well, they’re not part of the consensus.

    Wait, you mean, there’s not a consensus because some disagree?

    No, there’s a consensus, because I define it as those who agree.

    Wait, doesn’t the word “consensus” mean that there are none who disagree?

    No, it just means that some agree, and we exclude those who disagree.

  19. 19
    IRQ Conflict says:

    Clive, would that include myself and I? 🙂

  20. 20
    tragic mishap says:

    Ok well thanks for nothing LH!

  21. 21
    Learned Hand says:

    Ok well thanks for nothing LH!

    I’m sorry to have disappointed you. Did you have a particular question you wanted to ask, or a topic you wanted to discuss?

  22. 22
    tragic mishap says:

    Well maybe start by answering the question Stark didn’t. This interview was from a year ago so a lot has changed since then.

    1) What percentage of the federal budget are the interest payments we make every year? I’ve heard the raw number is around $800 billion now, which is comparable to what the feds spend on defense every year.

    2) Also how about the question you suggested. What’s the percentage of debt to GDP? I heard Republicans citing that very number as comparable to “banana republics” a few months ago. How does our number compare to other governments?

  23. 23
    tragic mishap says:

    I just did a Google search and found a couple different perspectives. The first shows I guess national debt, which I assume means government owned debt. The second is total debt, debt owned by everyone.

    http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

    http://www.chrismartenson.com/.....-gdp/11570

    Here’s a graphic from June that shows percent debt to GDP by country:

    http://www.visualeconomics.com.....y-country/

    Although it appears the comments are right to suggest that the figure for the U.S. should be 85%, since the number cited as debt is a third lower than the real value of $12 trillion. And I seem to remember now the number cited by Republicans was around %80.

  24. 24
    Learned Hand says:

    1) What percentage of the federal budget are the interest payments we make every year?

    Wikipedia says about nine percent. Looks like Google answered your other questions; I don’t know if the comments to that chart are right or not. The question remains what it means to have a debt that’s X% of the GDP. The map you linked to, for example, shows a number of countries with absolutely horrible economies that are “in the black” with their national debts. Even now, for instance, I wouldn’t trade our economy for Russia’s in a million years.

  25. 25
    tragic mishap says:

    Well I certainly don’t know what it means to have X% as you say, but it’s obvious that more debt is bad. And I don’t want to find out what it means to have too much of it. How can you know how bad it is until you actually hit a wall? Why not steer clear of the wall in the first place?

  26. 26
    Learned Hand says:

    Well I certainly don’t know what it means to have X% as you say, but it’s obvious that more debt is bad.

    Yes, it is obvious. But, as ID advocates should bear in mind more often, things that seem obvious are not always true. More debt is not inherently bad. To determine whether marginal debt is beneficial or not, you have to consider what the debt was used for. Taking out a $1,000 loan to buy 1,000 lottery tickets is a very bad idea. Taking out that same loan to buy a machine that doubles your business’s productivity would be a net gain, and worth the “cost” of the loan (essentially the interest).

    That principal applies to nations as well as businesses. It’s obviously much harder to determine whether what we’re buying with our debt is worth the cost of that debt.

  27. 27
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Learned Hand,

    “It’s obviously much harder to determine whether what we’re buying with our debt is worth the cost of that debt.”

    Good point. I think the main point of Dr. Dembski’s demonstration is a comparison with Congressman Stark’s distain for honest questions from those who question his economics, as if they are ignorant, with the same disdain some Darwinists show towards those who question Darwinism.

    In light of the content of what Stark was attempting to convey, perhaps the video is not really an accurate example of a good comparison. However, given his behavior, and (given the possibility that he may have been dead wrong on the issue), it would have been a more accurate comparison.

  28. 28
    Learned Hand says:

    I think the main point of Dr. Dembski’s demonstration is a comparison with Congressman Stark’s distain for honest questions from those who question his economics, as if they are ignorant, with the same disdain some Darwinists show towards those who question Darwinism.

    Sure, I didn’t think that Dembski was trying to make a point about economics here. But I don’t think that the interviewer was actually trying to learn anything, or even to educate his audience. I think it was an ambush interview, and he was trying to score points. Google the interviewer’s name, and see what his MO is. Then watch the video, and watch him ask repetitive, goofy questions without giving Stark time to respond. It’s called badgering, and in a courtroom, it’s considered improper.

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