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The End of Enlightenment?

I was listening to a Science Friday podcast the other morning and a piece of the conversation buried within just won’t leave me alone. The following is from John Ashton, the former Special Representative for Climate Change from the United Kingdom.

But I don’t want you to get bogged down in all that. I want you to read and ponder this portion of what was said. The portion of the transcript below has been edited and emphasized for my purposes.

“ASHTON: … sort of big point, Ira? I mean, again, as a sort of friend of America, if you like, for me, everything that has been wonderful about America in recent generations has come from the notion that we can use reason and science to understand the human condition and to improve it. In other words, America had, for a long time, a political system which, I suppose you could call reality-based system. Let’s understand reality. Let’s use science to understand reality and improve reality. And, indeed, that’s the legacy of the Enlightenment.

We have that in Europe as well, and it’s something which, in some of the other emerging economies, is now coming into place. I… my impression is that that is coming under more strain in this country than it’s come under for a very long time, because there are people who say, actually, you know, building upon reality is not the only way to make the choices that we face. And that fills me with alarm, because I think it means that the only way to come out in the right place on climate change in America is to win that deeper struggle, which, in the…is really not a political struggle. It’s a cultural struggle. And that means that the forces of the Enlightenment have to rally around and defend the reality-based approach to making the choices that we face.”

In case you haven’t brushed up on the Enlightenment lately, here’s a link for you.

Age of Enlightenment

“The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted science, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and some abuses by church and state.”

The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are considered products of the Enlightenment.

With this background in mind, I think you should read today’s column from Paul Krugman.

“Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise.””

The choice is simple; do you want public policy formed using reason, evidence and facts or do you want it to be “faith based”? Do you want our laws based on what we understand is the truth or do you want us to ignore “an inconvenient truth”?  This decision goes beyond, “Obamacare” or “Global Warming” or any other slogan, slur or slight. It touches everything. It defines us as a people; as a nation.

If you choose facts — if you choose reality — we want you to join us. We are the Democratic Party of Pike County.

Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
February 11, 2013

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