Posted by: philosodad | July 30, 2010

science based politics

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Partly because I’ve been spending almost all of my typing time typing code, and partly because I’ve been completely exhausted for weeks.

But if every parent in the world let exhaustion stop them, nothing would ever get done.

Lately, I’ve been in sort of a black mood, which I’m sure shocks everyone. Not so much on the parenting front, because things there are going pretty well. The Highlander moved to a new school, a Montessori school, and he’s doing much, much better. He’s stopped throwing fits when I drop him off. He seems happier to be there. And he’s picking up great habits, like picking up his own dishes. He’s always been a good kid, very helpful and sweet, and the new school is nurturing those qualities instead of stifling them.

He still gives his mom all kinds of trouble about going to bed if I’m not home, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t my fault.

The dark and dreary mood I’m in these days is coming from outside the family. When I was worried about the immediate emotional problems of the Highlander, it was easy not to worry about the future and the world outside. But now that he seems to be out of immediate danger, more emotionally healthy and happy, I’m starting to worry about things like the imminent collapse of western civilization. Every parent goes through this, of course, the bit where you worry about what kind of world your kids are going to grow up in.

And frankly, to me, things look bleak. I’ve always had an upbeat attitude about the resiliency of the planet, people, societies, and so forth. But lately that’s been being carved into by the pronouncements of various religious and political mouthpieces.

Normally, on this blog, we tend to keep religion and politics out of the discussion. Science-based parenting isn’t restricted to some particular political ideology or religious position, and we don’t want to alienate anyone by assaulting their political or religious opinions.

But science-based shouldn’t be limited to parenting, or medicine, or nutrition. Science–the methodical investigation of the real–is applicable to everything. And it seems to me that our politics needs more science and less religion… and that need is pressing.

Right now, there is no way I would send my kids to public school in my area. The local public schools are failing. That failure is going to have consequences for every child who goes to those schools. That means that our society is going to squander the potential of those kids to contribute. I think everyone agrees that this is a problem. But there is much disagreement on solutions.

Why? What possible reason could there be to disagree on what the best solutions to such a problem are? Wouldn’t it be incredibly simple to just develop some metrics, set up some test schools, and determine how well a particular approach works? Why is it that instead of working on something useful like that, we’re actually arguing over settled facts like the value of abstinence only sex-education?

How can a society as large and complicated as ours is expect to survive if we don’t care about reality because we care more about appearances?

I could list examples of these kinds of problems all day, in areas from the environment to science funding to taxes to space exploration. There is no party, in America, that is a friend to reality rather than ideology.

Societies collapse. The earth is littered with the remains of civilizations that didn’t see the end coming. In every one of those civilizations, there were parents. Near the end, some generations of parents had a chance, maybe, to make sure that the next generation didn’t inherit a collapsing world.

Lately, I’ve been worried that we are one of those generations, and that we’re missing that chance.



  1. I am not sure what area you are in, but I don’t see quite the epidemic of failing schools you are seeing. I do see great potential for improvement of quality across the board, and definitely there are great differences in quality between school districts, most greatly between urban and suburban districts where I live.

    I am not sure there is a huge amount of science about this but I ran into some interesting science just the other day. Here are some links:

    So these are good places to start.

  2. Hey Dave, you may be interested in our podcast where we interview Ellen Galinsky about “Mind in the Making”. You can check it out here…

    [audio src="" /]

    Thanks for your feedback.

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