Commentary

Limits of science

scientists

The mad scientist/Nikola Smolenski, Wikimedai Commons

 

The nature of human kind is that the more we learn the less we know.

Once we knew the earth was flat, and we were wrong. Once we knew the universe revolved around our little planet, and we were wrong. Once we knew that an airplane that flew too fast would hit the sound barrier and break apart, and we were wrong. 

Once we knew that the atom was the smallest form of matter, and we were wrong.

If this makes you skeptical of what we know today, it should. Skepticism is the beating heart of science.

As the late Carl Sagan once observed, “science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions. It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything — new ideas and established wisdom. We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It works.”

It most certainly does. Science played a big role in making possible the very comfortable lives lived by those in the developed world today. Over the long-term, as Sagan argued, science works to advance human knowledge, but it is far from perfect.

In the short-term, science has helped contribute to some of humanity’s worst.

Scientists led a demented Adolph Hitler to his ideas of a “master race,” and the master race led to the Holocaust. Though that nightmare materialized in Germany, the seeds were planted elsewhere.

“The English scientist Franic Galton coined the term ‘eugenics,’ meaning ‘good birth’ in 1883,” the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum observes. “German biologist August Weissman’s theory of ‘immutable germ plasm,’ published in 1892, fostered growing international support for eugenics, as did the rediscovery in 1900 of Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel’s theory that the biological makeup of organisms was determined by certain ‘factors’ that were later identified as genes.” 

The eugenicists, as the Museum notes, “offered biological solutions to social problems common to societies experiencing urbanization and industrialization. After classifying individuals into labeled groups using the scientific methods of the day—observation, family genealogies, physical measurements, and intelligence tests—they ranked the groupings from ‘superior’ to ‘inferior.’ When perfected, surgical sterilization became the most common proposal for preventing unproductive ‘inferiors’ from reproducing and for saving on costs of special care and education.”

Eugenics was a worldwide, science-driven good idea at the start of the Twentieth Century.

“Beginning in 1909 and continuing for 70 years, California led the country in the number of sterilization procedures performed on men and women, often without their full knowledge and consent,’ writes Andrea Estrada in “The Current” at the University of California Santa Barbara. “Approximately 20,000 sterilizations took place in state institutions, comprising one-third of the total number performed in the 32 states where such action was legal.

“….The practice was a commonly accepted means of protecting society from the offspring (and therefore equally suspect) of those individuals deemed inferior or dangerous — the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, criminals and people of color.”

Scientists eventually figured out that poverty, disability, mental illness and criminality sprang from roots even more complicated than genetics, and that race had nothing to do with any of the behaviors.

Problem solving

Science comes up here and now because so many intelligent people these days cite science as the answer to so many problems, and all too often they do  with the same unquestioning faith as the eugenicists.

Science is not, however, the answer to all of our problems. It can help with some by, for instance, pioneering the technological advances that improve the efficiency with which we use energy. It can shed light on others by, for instance, tracking the global spread of plastic pollution.

But science can’t tell us how to fairly split the allowable catch of Cook Inlet salmon between sport or commercial fishermen, or develop a national policy for controlling CO2 emissions that doesn’t push the economy into a depression, or lower the costs of prescriptive drugs while still ensuring enough of a profit margin on said drugs to keep manufacturers engaged in the expensive search for new, life-saving chemical combinations, or solve dozens of other issues.

Many of the problems involve not just science but economics, culture and politics as well. Sometimes science can enlighten discussions of these other elements of public policy, and sometimes science can hijacked for use as a weapon to try to stifle discussions.

It is strange to see those who argue for science as the ultimate arbiter attack skepticism, the cornerstone of science, as the playground of heretics on many fronts: genetically modified organisms (GMO), vaccines, climate change, gun control, and more.

One could actually put together a pretty long list of topics on which skepticism has been declared wrongheaded by the right or the left in a world where the scientific winds of popular culture blow gales in both directions. I have more than once bit my tongue and shut my mouth around people ranting about the dangers of GMO foods.

The prevailing, popular view among the health conscious seems to be that GMOs are dangerous, though the science – or at least the science of the moment – doesn’t support that conclusion. On a personal level, it’s not something worth arguing about either.

If people want to avoid GMO foods, more power to them and good luck.  They don’t need a skeptic trying to educate them on the issue, and it’s doubtful a skeptic’s comments would alter their thinking anway.

“There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you,” Julie Beck wrote in a March 2017 article in The Atlantic that makes for a more interesting read today than it did then.

Two years on, Beck’s story is almost creepy in it’s prescience. She was writing about cults, an extreme example of group think, and the alarming similarities they shared with the evolving partisan politics of the country.

The politics are even more polarized today than they were then as I was reminded upon writing a story suggesting that climate change sometimes might not look all that bad to Alaskans. This somehow transformed  me into an uncaring, climate-change denier who didn’t recognize that people in sub-Sahara Africa stood to be literally cooked to death by rising global temperatures.

OK, I admit to being a skeptic of climate change to the extent that I don’t wholly believe in the apocalypse some others see coming. “End time” thinking as to the future feels a lot more like religion than science though there is no doubt the climate is warming.

That will bring change. It already has. So far, Alaska has been a winner to the tune of billions of dollars worth of salmon. Scientists are in agreement the regional warming of the North Pacific ocean is the main reason annual salmon harvests have doubled from a previous, short-term peak of 100 million per year in the 1930s and 1940s to near 200 million per year now.

The increase in North Pacific salmon – they are now at record numbers – is a sign of warming. So, too, the glaciers generally shrinking, and the forests generally moving northward and higher everywhere on the globe.

It seems only logical as well that the steady increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) since the start of the Industrial Revolution has been driven by the internal combustion engine, a marvelous machine for CO2 production, and an exploding human population which discovered hydrocarbons are a highly efficient way to heat homes and power increasingly comfortable lifestyles.

Continued warming is no doubt going to create problems in this state. Some villages poorly located to begin with are either going to have to be moved or abandoned. Roads underlain with permafrost could become even more difficult to maintain than in the past, and the same for some buildings sitting above soils filled with ice.

None of that, however, renders inherently wrongheaded those who believe the benefits of Alaska warming might outweigh the costs

Idiots, right?

People aren’t automatically idiots for questioning whether all of the CO2 in the atmosphere now is human-caused or doubting the accuracy of future temperature (T) predictions based on rising CO2.

Though T and CO2 seem nicely coupled in the current age of glaciers, that doesn’t appear to have been the case in the ice-free Cretaceous period. As the glaciers continue to melt, nobody knows what could happen.

The climatologists predicting a 3.5 to 9 degree temperature increase over the course of the next century could be spot on. Then again, they could be way too low with their highest estimate, and humans could, indeed, face a catastrophe of Al Gore proportions. Or the experts could be way too high with their lowest estimate and the changes could be small.

It’s hard not to be a little skeptical of the accuracy of climate predictions as one who has watched the predictions of meteorologists and fisheries scientists in Alaska for decades. They have better tools for forecasting the future then do climatologists, and yet they are often way off.

Why? Because predicting the future is hard.

Thus it is difficult to chastise those who think everything is going to work out OK or who, God forbid, see more pressing global problems than climate change in the short-term. They are as entitled to their views as are those who think we’re all going to be flooded or dying of hyperthermia if we don’t act immediately.

The great thing about American democracy is that people are free to believe what they want to believe. That we have in recent times becomes less tolerant of these differences of opinion only makes problems like those linked to C02 emissions harder to solve.

Telling people they are idiots, or trying to frighten them with catastrophes that appear farfetched in the here and now are not particularly good sales tactics. Maybe climate warriors should consider alternative talking points both technically and scientifically.

A good, American technocrat might be interested in pioneering artificial leaves that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, as natural leaves do, and use photosynthesis to break that CO2 down into oxygen and carbon monoxide which we can, in turn, use as a fuel. There are already scientists experimenting with that technology.

Maybe more discussion about how to fix the problem with new technologies might help more people recognize there is a problem. Humans do produce a lot of CO2. It’s not natural. And though it is invisible, it is a form of human waste and, in that context, as much a pollutant as human excrement.

But if people can’t get anymore worried about the chemical in the air than the stream of Anchorage shit right now flowing into Cook Inlet, it’s not their fault. Maybe they’re just not doom-and-gloom people, or maybe they’re just put off by people who don’t even know how to spell science lecturing on the climate change hypothesis as something destined to bring the world to an end in a dozen years.

Team Trump

The climate-change ranters do make it easier understand how President Donald Trump, possibly the most flawed president in our history, maintains a rock-solid, 40 percent of the population that backs him no matter what bizarre statements he Tweets.

Sagan again; this time warning of “polarization: Us vs. Them – the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe all these stupid doctrines are morons.”

Most of the people supporting Trump are not morons. Most of people skeptical of climate change predictions, or at least the worst of climate change predictions, are not morons. Just because people happen to disagree with you doesn’t make them morons.

It’s time to accept the fact that some very smart people sometimes support very strange positions wholly unsupported by data. Look no further than this country’s long-running debate over gun control. The data on that issue is clear.

As number cruncher B.J. Campbell reports on his data-heavy website, “there is really no difference in the firearm homicide rate of a state regardless of how much or how few gun laws they have.”

The gun control debate might be this country’s biggest waste of time given there is no real evidence to indicate gun laws make any difference. Despite that, there are a lot of people who want to believe it would make the country better because the idea of more gun laws makes them feel safer.

Some would ban so-called “assault rifles” even though it is almost impossible to define what is and is not an assault rifle,  and even though such a ban is likely to prove near  meaningless if not outright meaningless.

All rifles combined, as Campbell points out in another story, accounted for 403 deaths in 2017, a year in which 467 people were killed with blunt objects (hammers, clubs, etc.); 696 people were beaten to death; and 1,591 people were stabbed or hacked to death.

“Also note, that the 403 murders in this chart are by all rifles, not specifically ‘assault rifles,’ and ‘assault rifles’ are a vast minority of all rifles,” Campbell writes. “The Republican Congressional Baseball Field Shooter, for instance, used a rifle that wouldn’t even be considered an ‘assault rifle.’ It also bears mention that magically evaporating all the rifles would likely just push most of these numbers into the ‘handgun’ umbrella, saving very few livesPresuming magical gun evaporation were possible of course, which it isn’t.”

Somewhat ironically, there are people who wholly believe the climate change estimates but refuse to believe the hard data on guns. Some of them are even scientists or were trained as scientists.

Scientists, like the rest of us, are human. And as humans, we have a bad habit of seeing what we want to see. Sometimes it agrees with reality; sometimes it doesn’t.

This has always been a problem. It has become a national nightmare in this age of overwhelmingly partisan politics.

Left versus right

“…In modern America,” Beck observed two years ago, “one of the groups that people have most intensely hitched their identities to is their political party. Americans are more politically polarized than they’ve been in decades, possibly ever. There isn’t public-opinion data going back to the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans, of course. But political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal look at the polarization in Congress. And the most recent data shows that 2015 had the highest rates of polarization since 1879, the earliest year for which there’s data. And that was even before well, you know.”

The “you know” would be Trump who since 2017 seems to have met his doppelgänger in the form of Democrat extremists in the House of Representatives. See Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and her call to war because “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change…this is our World War II.”

No scientist has made that claim. There is no scientist that would support that claim because there is no scientist who believes “the world is going to end” because of climate change.

Climate change is not a world-ending event. It could be a human-ending event, although that seems unlikely as well. Our species has proven as adaptable as the insects. Some humans are likely to survive no matter how hot the planet gets.

But climate change in the possible worst case scenarios could be a chaotic event leading to changes that could devastate the lives of hundreds of millions of people and kill untold numbers.

That alone makes the end-of-the-world pitch saleable, and there are surely some who now believe it because Ocasio-Cortez said it.

“While some studies suggest that conservatives are more susceptible to fake news—one fake news creator told NPR that stories he’d written targeting liberals never gained as much traction—after the election, the tables seem to have turned,” Beck wrote. “As my colleague Robinson Meyer reported, in recent months there’s been an uptick in progressive fake news, stories that claim Trump is about to be arrested or that his administration is preparing for a coup.”

The latter thinking has only spread since then. MSNBC was busy speculating on a Trump impeachment on Sunday although the country is only a year and a half away from an election that would give voters a chance to toss him out if they wish.

Despite that, there are many on the left hanging on the edges of their seats hoping the Mueller Report to be released Thursday will implicate Trump in an obstruction of justice and  impeachment can begin. Here’s a concise summary of all of that from NPR:

“Mueller was appointed in the spring of 2017 to investigate whether President Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“The fact of the interference itself had been long established, and last month Attorney General William Barr told Congress that Mueller did not find that Trump’s campaign was involved with it.

“Barr also told Congress that Mueller didn’t establish that Trump broke the law in trying to frustrate the investigation — but neither did Mueller’s office “exonerate” the president.

“Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded for themselves, based on the special counsel’s findings, that Trump would not face obstruction-of-justice charges.”

Impeachment discussions hinge on the idea that even if Trump didn’t illegally engage in an obstruction of justice, he might have interfered with the investigation of Russian influence enough to be guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the Constitutional standard for impeachment. 

The law here has a lot in common with science. Both are open to broad differences of interpretation, and that is where things get messy in a country split into warring tribes.

Science can’t save us from this, though it might offer some insight into why we are the way we are. Beck again:

“As Pascal Boyer, an anthropologist and psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis points out in his forthcoming book The Most Natural Thing: How Evolution Explains Human Societies: ‘The natural environment of human beings, like the sea for dolphins or the ice for polar bears, is information provided by others, without which they could not forage, hunt, choose mates, or build tools. Without communication, no survival for humans.’

“If you can get people to believe you’re a good source without actually being one, you get the benefits (of being a knowledgable expert) without having to put in the work. Liars prosper, in other words, if people believe them.

“Spreading a tall tale also gives people something even more important than false expertise—it lets them know who’s on their side. If you accuse someone of being a witch, or explain why you think the contrails left by airplanes are actually spraying harmful chemicals, the people who take you at your word are clearly people you can trust, and who trust you. The people who dismiss your claims, or even those who just ask how you know, are not people you can count on to automatically side with you no matter what.”

Those three sentences just about perfectly sum how things are going in the United States today. We have become intensely tribal,  but maybe this was always there only in not such obvious ways.

Whichever the case, no amount of science can save us from ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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46 replies »

  1. I disagree with the final statement of the article “science can’t save us from ourselves” the ethical concerns on our rapidly advancing scientific capabilities are overwhelming yet I have faith science will prevail as a force for good . The bottom line is eventually far in the future our sun goes out – global cooling -al gore and AOC prophecy comes true end of the earth 😉 For our survival as humans we need science to find new habitats or ways to adapt us to our future habitat. ? Perhaps we become liquid s gasses or electricity – who knows. Maybe computer s and robots replicate our dna billions of years later bringing us back to existence . I know there will be many terrible mistakes but I have faith science will save us and the wonderful elements of life that inhabit this planet.

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    • Life will go on as it always has.. wars, famine, bitching, whining, and elitism to grow rich off the backs of the ignorant masses.

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    • Science isn’t the problem, people are the problem. Since people aren’t perfect and allow their own bias to distort their view of science, we end up with an imperfect result. Concluding that “no amount of science can save us from ourselves” is proven on a daily basis. Science is only a tool, who wields the tool and how they wield it is a different conversation altogether…

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  2. Science no longer has any respect, or often, any validity. Because science has been too often twisted to serve the agenda of radical religious groups. Like the climate change cult. We’ve gone back to the 1500’s.

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  3. Anyone who has American values and respects our forefathers sacrifices should sign a petition to pardon and free Assange . He is being smeared and discredited by Msm . The pen is being used against him . Lies propaganda twisted writing and a push to affect public opinion against him coloring him as a freak or abnormal misfit is in full force. Discredit him as a person. He is one of greatest heroes of our time and should be treated as such . Instead this physically fragile man is locked in British max sequirity prison with violent terroists rapists and criminals of worst order . Endangering his life when he is guilty of only one thing – bringing forth truth and light to share with his fellow men. He fights worldwide tyranny and corruption for us yet is now in a prison cell .

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    • How do you feel about Trump’s lies on how he claims:
      “I know nothing about Wikileaks…it’s not my thing…it’s not my deal in life”
      Funny how Wikileaks was Trump’s favorite campaign topic just a few years ago?
      Seems like another contradiction from POTUS these days?

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      • No I don’t think so. You keep clinging to conspiracy theories. None of this crap matters.

        We are releasing 100,000 “illegal immigrants” into the country every month with no plan to abate or deal with the consequences. That, my friend, is the real scandal.
        The D party has basically admitted it is using the flood of immigrants to overthrow the elected government of the United States.
        This is what any neutral party would call a “crisis”.

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      • Chris, it is textbook Democrat Saul Alinsky tactics out of “Rules for Radicals”. Overwhelm the courts, hospitals, government services, school system, Border Patrol, Social Services, etc.. until they cannot absorb or function to address the issue. You have to understand how these anti-American Democrats function. 70 Congressional Democrats vote consistantly with that Freshman stooge AOC. Think about it, 6 months ago AOC was a bartender. Pelosi even admitted a rock could get elected in AOC’s district.

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      • Let’s keep our eye on the prize here. We are seeking success – not political retribution.
        All that crap in the media is just a giant distraction
        Our country is being systematically attacked by a never-ending wave of people from countries they have given up on. By admitting such large numbers, we are diluting the pool of low-wage citizen workers. It is most unfair to those at the low-wage spectrum. It does create efficiencies in production costs, like how it works in China.

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      • Most human labor will soon be replaced by robotic machines anyway. The profits from the robot efficiency can then be utilized to support its human organism parasite.

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      • Chris probably so as to dilution of wages by mass immigration. They need to realize when they come in illegally they put themselves at a disadvantage for earning a viable wage and they also compromise other low wage earners basically empowering their employers as the illegal immigrants have no recourse against poor treatment by employers. Also it’s basic economics. They flood the labor pool. This puts a strain all the way up the chain.

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      • As to trumps lack of fighting for Wikileaks/ assange . We have no idea what kind of legal bind he could get himself into if he supports an alleged Russia accomplice. It’s very possible he is in bind . Thus he probably has no Choice but to distance himself and trust Barr to follow laws and deal with assange in appropriate manner . There is obviously missing information. All same it’s shocking and standard all once . It’s a tough spot as possibly there is links between stone – Wikileaks and trump though vague and distant. Democrats will use anything they find to waste our nations time and attack trump . In a perfect world trump would stand for assange . At least he didn’t condemn him . We know trump has opinions on the situation as he always has an opinion on anything. As leader of a free world I would have expected trump to turn assange into a recognized hero . I guess things don’t always turn out perfect. Hopefully stone will be vindicated and assange will get honors he deserves.

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      • Chris,
        What is the conspiracy in how the Guardian showed us that Trump is an obvious liar (and knows plenty about Wikileaks)…
        Recording him on the campaign trail speaking about Wikileaks for years, then now that Assange is arrested, he (Trump) claims:
        “I know nothing about Wikileaks…it’s not my thing…it’s not my deal in life”
        What do you think people around the globe think when they watch this video?
        Americans are ruled by a fool?
        He could have just said “I have no comment on Julian Assange’s arrest” but we all know that he is having plenty to say behind the scenes as well as working together with Pompeo and Bolton to get Assange extradited to the U.S. mostly for working with Chelsea Manning to release this video in 2010 which shows a U.S. military helicopter gunning down civilians (including two Reuters reporters whose camera straps were mistaken for weapons)…
        Fittingly this video opens with an Orwell quote:
        “Political language is designed to makes lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind”.

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      • Steve, what your video shows is US Troops being actively engaged by islamic terrorists. It also shows camera crews endangering themselves by mixing with terrorists while trying to get close to the “action”.. What? Are we surprised morons running around the “battlefield” carrying camera equipment, tripods, etc.. in civilian clothes are mistaken for terrorists in civilian clothes?

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      • Bryan,
        That is your opinion.
        What would U do if say Russian Warships were flying around your neighborhood spraying 50 cal bullets everyday?
        You might “engage” foreign invaders in your homeland?
        It does not justify shooting up the van (with unarmed men) who came in to rescue the wounded…plus there were children in the van who were fired upon and wounded.
        This video shows us Americans and the International community the type of “assaults” on the Muslim community in the Middle East.
        As for Julian Assange….
        It does not make sense that he is to blame for “uploading” this material from Manning.
        The U.S. administration is just out for more “heads”.
        Funny how Trump was all for Wikileaks when Assange was releasing Clinton’s emails and other damming info on her activities like $650,000 from Goldman Sachs to the Clinton Foundation?
        This attack on Assange is more of an attack on American’s first Amendment rights than anything else.
        How can the U.S. force extradition of an Australian citizen who was a “nationalized” Ecuadorean and living on Ecuadorean “soil” at their embassy?
        The Brits did not even have jurisdiction to enter the building based on U.N. treatise and international law….this ALL sets bad precedent for the authoritarian world to come.

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      • Steve, you bring up several points grouped as one. Without going into too much detail, and, I hope you take my word for it when I say I know from first hand, personal experience what was going on in that video. It was unfortunate several “civilians” on the ground, who by the way, most likely were not “clean” got killed. It happens. This was classic suppression by apaches when US Troops are engaged. There were several variables that led to this justified engagement. Now, will Democrats and their looney base defend the terrorists and blame US Troops? Of course….Typical.
        Yes, I would take up arms against tue Russians spraying .50mm but, tuat isn’t what happened and never did. As for Assange, well, we have seen this same thing played out under Obama’s DOJ. How many political “prisoners” fell under that dirtballs admin?

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      • Brian the logic you use to defend the killing in the video is horriblely flawed . “ It Happens is not a valid defense” Lets say it like it is . first what is seen in this video is blatant mismanagement of our military forces. 2 Nd there is clearly something wrong with protocol and mental state of the kill team . One of the trigger men is clearly blood thirsty and ready to kill . He needs removal from the team period. He disrupts the mission by getting innocents killed which defeated our purpose. 3rd any professional does adequate research and recon before taking action . There was no verification of weapons. A moderately trained eye could see multiple people carrying cameras and equipment. In this era of interstellar optics there is no excuse for poor visual confirmation. We also have facial recognition technologies that easily can be applied to war equipment to identify weapons. This kill team then clearly made the decision to dispatch non threatening wounded people and then murder an unarmed rescue team . The ethics of this kill team is clearly in question. Let’s be real Americans and say it like it is . This situation was messed up . No excuses . Investigation is needed to determine who trained these foul mouthed messy unethical killers . Fire them all . Then consider prosecuting the crimes of murder . Revamp training and equipment procedures and guarantee it never happens again . This total mess up was so unprofessional and un American it’s hard to say where to start . Bottom line is good people died that day and Americans honor was tarnished. Two wrongs do not make a right . As to you saying the reporters shouldn’t mix with alleged unproven terrorists – did you forget that’s part of their job ? The military job is to only kill the enemy, keep allies and innocents safe and honor clean. That was not accomplished. Sure there is danger in reporting that’s why most of us won’t do it . Therefore the rest of us need to respect reporters and their sacrifices and treat them in the field and at home like the heroes they are . Like Assange and the two laying in the dust murdered by trigger happy blood thirsty kill team. Part of being a soldier is being a professional and representing your country with honor. Their actions were neither professional nor honorable. It’s quite different in a firefight where your life is in immediate danger. This was not the case . To my vision not one weapon was aimed in their direction.

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      • Opinion, I value your opinion but, you are wrong in this case. The apache crew stated from the begining that they observed weapons which makes them combatants. And that a US convoy was engaged nearby adds to the urgency to dispatch those combatants. We are talking Baghdad where “civilians” actively engage US troops before going to work because “Allah” wills it. Vans, trucks, etc.. are common vehicles used to transport arms and militants around town. They do not use Hummers. They wear civilian clothes and vehicles when attacking US Forces. This camera crew embeded themselves with militant forces at their own risk. Why do you think this camera crew was there in the first place? They wanted some juicy shots of American Forces being engaged. Also, picking up their “wounded” doesnt absolve them from engagement. Also, the video admits that some of those “civilians” were armed. I’ll have to go back as I didnt look closely enough but, I assume apache is 1,000+ meters away. Those insurgents hide amongsts “civilians” all the time. I admit to someone back here the optics look bad but, the engagement was sound. America goes to great, GREAT pains to avoid civilian casualties.. So, no, I feel very little sympathy for those Iraqis. AGAIN, THEY WERE GOING TO ENGAGE AND FILM INSURGENTS KILLING AMERICANS. Cry me a river.

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      • Brian I also respect your opinion. As you always have America in mind . In this case you need to look with a broader lense so to speak . What was our goal there ? It sure wasn’t to stoop to our enimies level . Where in history was it ethical for soldiers that have the massive upper hand to finish off the wounded and kill the unarmed rescuers? Answer me that then we might have a viable discussion. Otherwise you are only pushing unthinking propaganda. Was what was done acceptable under the Geneva convention? You appear to have massive knowledge resources ,fill me in . Sure what we did to Japan could be argued as ethical . The statistics said we had little Choice. Do you know the marines battle hymn? Read it and decide if it fits for what was done in this video .

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      • Opinion, please dont take this wrong but you are looking at this from a very narrow perspective from the comforts of your home while Monday morning quaterbacking. What you are witnessing is a 40 degree field of view of a very FLUID battlespace. These were/are not traditional wars like WW2 where the enemy wears uniforms and drives tanks and military vehicles. Baghdad was a very hostile city. My hat is off to the American Soldiers/Marines for the restraint and adaption to the guerilla street fighting in cities like Baghdad of 8 million. We tried to do good. Did we fail on occassion? Sure. There were numerous enemy contacts daily – Snipers, rockets, VBIED, IED/EFP’s, suicide bombers, etc. All from guys and girls in civilian clothes while driving civilian vehicles.
        Ok, let me answer your questions:
        1. “I need to look through a broader lens” – Opinion, this scenario is like a cop on a call of shots fired and a bad guy with a gun. Those apaches were part of QRF (Quick Reaction Force) that goes airborn whenever there are troops in contact. Their primary job is to protect American lives. There is no “broader lense”, there is no “what is our goal there” at that time. Those questions are better left to politicians. Like the cop, his first goal is to protect himself and his partner. He will deal with Internal Affairs later whether his call to shoot the bad guy was the right one or not. Those pilots were there for a purpose and that was to suppress enemy fire and suppress the insurgents will to continue to fight along with send a message to the community. Nothing more.
        2. “Stoop to our enemies level”. I am not sure what this means. Are we cutting heads off? Blowing up mosques full of civilians while trying to incite civil war? Are we wearing suicide vests or suicide vehicles? This question escapes me and I take it as a liberal “catch-phrase” but, I dont take you as liberal.
        3. “Ethical to have the upperhand and kill unarmed rescuers” – well, I dont know whether it is ethical but, I am certainly glad we had/have the upperhand, superior firepower, and technology on our side. We spend billions of dollars to maintain an upperhand..For this I can sleep securely at night.
        As for killing wounded or killing unarmed rescuers, well, many and many wounded insurgents have killed American Soldiers with grenades or suicide vests/belts. We played this game at great costs for years before becoming more cautious. Who says those guys were “unarmed rescuers”? Assange himself says they were armed. We know they were armed, they, along with the camera crew were running to ambush an American unit that was already taking fire. I have seen the flip side where we let numerous armed insurgents walk because we do not want to endanger civilians. So, it is war, shit happens, people get killed, some good, most bad, but, all-in-all America does its best to be a beacon of hope for the oppressed. This engagement all fell within bounds of the Geneva Convention. Trust me when I tell you all these gun tapes are reviewed by JAG and no, they are not a soldier or marines best friend. There was a lot of scrutiny of this tape from the military along with Democrats and the media just dying to label these Americans Bush’s “baby killers”, which puts a lot of pressure on JAG to supply heads. So, my point is that this isn’t a free-fire zone of “American’s gone wild”. This tape was reviewed, reviewed, and reviewed more. Some parts of it may have been unfortunate AFTER the fact.
        Yes, we killed a helluva lot of civilians during WW2. Bombed civilian sectors of Berlin nightly. Fire bombed Tokyo. Of course Nag and Hiro. This isn’t Anchorage. These are ruthless dudes and there are no 2nd chances and there is no Monday morning quaterbacking. But, I politely have to say I appreciate your noble intentions but, they are typically “Americanized” and naive in this particular instance.

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      • Brian you bring a few good points as to war situations. I still disagree about this specific instance on most fronts . I think a better more ethical job could have been done . That said I will respect your point of veiw as very viable. It’s even possible your point of veiw is more applicable in this instance. Like you said unless you are in that specific situation it’s hard to say. Soldiers over there have it overly tough due to style of combat in city . That begs the question was it nessasary to put our soldiers there in first place in a compromised almost unwinable situation. For now let’s say you are right about the soldiers. We will give them a pass . That said it doesn’t reduce the respect you should give the reporters and assange . Freedom and respect for those people are nessasary to a free republic.

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      • Opinion, I appreciate you giving the soldiers a pass. Not all of them but, the majority of them. They are young kids in tough situations. Think of cruising Sadr City in 3 to 4 Humvees as one of 12 to 16 soldiers max with 3.5 million unfriendly people. You have a million dollar price tag on your head dead or alive. They just have to get ahold of you some way, somehow. Your buddies get killed, you get shot at or rocketted daily. Watch on Netflix a documentary called “Only the Dead”. Please watch it. It was put together by a journalist and it is perfect for this conversation. I think it will enlighten you a bit. I know offhand there is one part you will not approve of and I am not even sure I do. But, it is as real as it gets.
        But, I agree with you how that video could be precieved and sadly preception becomes reality.

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      • Well Bryan,
        I respect your service and time spent in “the sandbox” but I feel your biased view of the video is extremely “one sided”.
        As for JAG…give me a break….like that crew would find the killing of civilians offensive or a war crime is a joke.
        That is like when the police do an internal investigation after they kill an unarmed man…no violations found.
        As for your talk of “bad guys” and battlefield, well that is bullshit.
        We both know many muslims need weapons to defend themselves from ISIS and other “terrorists” in their country.
        These people cannot just leave “the battlefield” when Americans invade with airships and tanks….they live there and have their homes to protect.
        Think about your life turned on end if a forgein force was flying overhead every day and you never know when a ship will shoot at your mom, dad, wife, brother or child?
        These Iraqis had it bad and every comment you make shows me that most veterans have No Empathy for those they invade.
        The comments by the gunners made me sick…
        Right to the end when they said “looks like we are out of targets here”.
        Sadly that is how they felt for the human lives they just ended and they did not even feel remorseful when the ground crew went in and said there are injured children.
        Sick men our country has made in this era of constant War!

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      • Fair enough Steve. I generally always welcome your opinion. I disagree with most.. as is the case here as well. You have made your bias on this topic clear in the past. As usual I blame the politicians and political generals. As for the aircrews, well, the apache is a GUNSHIP whose only misson is to kill and blow-up things. These are not daycare providers. As far as the people that live there, all they had to was go about their business, wave when American troops drove-by (since local police patrols were limited), play in the park with their families, go shopping, etc.. instead they chose to align themselves with Al-Sadr and shoot at American forces, plant IED’s, run an underground insurgency. They wake-up, put their loafers and tie on, grab the mortar tube, stuff it in the van, fire off a few towards the Americans, put it back in the van, go to work. Grab the AK-47, play hide and seek shooting at the American convoys, run, duck, and cover amongst homes and mosques. Walk back to work, finish the day, remove mortar tube, fire off a few more shots, remove tie, grab prayer rug, go to bed, repeat. Frustration is all around.

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      • Brian yes I agree . many of our current media outlets abuse their constitutional rights by often being misleading versus trying to just report facts . Not a good precedent as that turns them into propaganda outlets versus what was traditionally considered news. They quickly loose our respect that way . Assange/ Wikileaks was primarily a fact releasing corporation. Thus a fairly pure news or media outlet. Thus deserving of public respect. His outlet wasn’t technically American so I have no idea how international law is expected to treat him . Haven’t researched freedom of press under international law or under his home country laws Australia. It’s possible his alleged crimes if committed in America or against America , our constitutional protection may apply ? I don’t know how that works. That’s for top courts to determine. Regardless assange only released factual information and I think he should be treated as a hero and president trump should pardon him if assange was by some quirk of law convicted. I think constitution respecting Americans should call for trump to pardon assange in this case .

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      • Opinion, after all, Obama pardoned the tranny “Chelsea” Manning, a real criminal who deserved jail time. Now he is a hero of the Left.

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      • Actually Bryan ,Chelsea manning is not a hero of the left . He is a hero of people who respect factual information and believe in a transparent government. Of the people by the people for the people. Anything less creates the environment for the corrupt deep state to flourish and grow . Transparency and facts are imperative for a long lasting republic or democracy. So manning is a hero to constitution respecting Americans . He sacrificed his career for you , for me and for future Americans. That classified him as a hero . Information/ knowledge gives voters power which makes our nation strong and all past Americans sacrifices worth while. Military and otherwise. Why you referred to him as a tranny I don’t know . How about using his chosen name or citizen manning or whatever his military title was . His status as hero has nothing to do with left or right and everything to do with his personal sacrifice. Did he put Americans lives in danger? I don’t know . The people ( deep state) who were hiding war crimes by creating and enforceing excessive secrecy laws were the ones who caused the problem that manning so valiantly tried to help fix . They were the ones who put our republic in danger and therefore put our nations soldiers in danger . Blame the right group . The ones who started and caused the problem. That was not manning. That was corrupt arm of government.

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      • Opinion, Manning leaked nearly 750,000 Classified and “Secret” military files and cables to WikiLeaks during wartime. You are saying the military/government shouldnt have Classified information because “We the People, for the People” stuff? Say what? He deseved the 35 years. Could have been shot, so I’d say he got off pretty light with 35 years.
        Also, I paid for the guy to cut off his penis and label himself a girl. Since that is the case I’ll call him whatever I want and then some. I am supposed to admire this twisted individual? I think not.

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      • Brian you are right . Manning got off light . That was risk he knowingly took . He wasn’t a foreign spy and took that risk for you and me to keep citizens informed,whether it was warranted is another question. As to you paying for his surgery I want to see the direct check or payment. Otherwise your payment was pretty fractional or non existent. Yes due to free speech you obviously have right to call him whatever but being as you and I have never been trans we have no idea what it’s like . Therefore it’s stooping pretty low to try and smear or use derogatory terms for him . Let’s have a little respect for a fellow citizen who paid his taxes, served in military and sacrificed his career for what he believed in . Be it right or wrong the choice he made . Let’s take the high ground and leave name calling to children.

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      • I dont think “tranny” is deragatory. I was just too lazy on the cell to write transexual. The fact that I paid 1/100th of a cent for a traitor to remove his penis appals me. I’d preferred my meager share went to the 30.06 rounds. The guys a traitor plain and simple. If he wanted to be a civilian, scream on a street corner about how corrupt the military was then he should have stayed out of the military. Figures Obama would have commutted his sentence.

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      • “The half a million internal documents leaked by Manning from the Pentagon and the State Department, along with the 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians, including children, and two Reuters journalists, provided copious evidence of the hypocrisy, indiscriminate violence, and routine use of torture, lies, bribery and crude tactics of intimidation by the U.S. government in its foreign relations and wars in the Middle East. Assange and WikiLeaks allowed us to see the inner workings of empire—the most important role of a press—and for this they became empire’s prey.”

        https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-martyrdom-of-julian-assange/

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      • Bryan fair enough. I don’t see mannings situation the way you do but your opinion is certainly valid as it’s an extreme military loyalists point of veiw so it’s valid . I look at it more from veiw of what’s honorable for our republic and the foundation our nations freedoms are built on and its reputation. They are both important. So there needs to be a balance. That said I certainly understand why you feel the way you do . Protect your bud point of veiw. That’s a very important loyalty that holds the fabric of our culture together.

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  4. Craig thanks for putting so much work into important issues of our time . I wish other news organizations would follow suit . The propaganda news outlets like ADN / Fox / cnn ect are not helping Americans at all . The way they attempt to guide thought into one specific channel is truly frustrating. I prefer your reliance on verifiable information combined with thought stimulating writing. Even when I don’t agree with your opinions I appreciate you don’t hide that it’s an opinion and turn it into propaganda/ misleading writing. Kudos to your style.

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  5. “Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If therefore, we wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our own power and means.”
    (Einstein)

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    • Oh, and just for the record, millions of years ago the sea was 100 feet higher and temps 11 degrees hotter. The planet still lives……

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      • Bryan, go ahead and keep watching Fox News, Fox & Friends and reading Breibart, which is exactly what Rushbo and his supporters want you to do. Kudos to you!

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      • While we’re spinning antidotes, I have it on good authority that there were dinosaurs around 6000 years ago until a giant flood destroyed the earth… Which is also disc shaped… I don’t need your ‘scientists’ to show me that water is flat… duh.
        Cheers!

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      • Jack, both Chavez and Bernie will tell you that socialism leads to prosperity. For some the world still seems flat I guess. Haha.

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      • Jack Smothers, you might want to look up “antidote” in the dictionary to see if it’s something actually relevant to the point of Bryan’s you’re sarcastically attempting to shoot down:)

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    • Obviously a 3 or 4 th gender bathroom is needed in schools and other places . So unbelievably irresponsible that our educators forced these children into this divisive abusive situation. Then they had the nerve to expel a girl from school when she protected what she felt was her personal space . The Adults in charge need expelled. They created / allowed the situation. It’s a no brainer . Build more bathrooms . So boys or girls who only want certain ones can have that option.

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