Morning Links

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
  • Touching video of two Louisiana men who became friends in prison, were both exonerated by DNA testing, now reuniting as free men.
  • Related: Federal judge under fire for letting habeas petitions linger for years. One inmate died while waiting. The same judge was removed from another case after an appeals court questioned his impartiality.
  • New Jersey cop assaults man recording him.
  • National debt jumps $4 trillion under Obama.
  • Mother Jones has assembled a database of U.S. terrorism informants and trials of suspected terrorists.
  • Missouri teacher says new law banning online contact with students means she can’t communicate online with her own kids.
  • Obama administration encourages health care providers to organize, then sues them for doing so.
  • New Gallup poll: Hypothetical matchup puts unelectable Ron Paul within two points of Barack Obama.
  • More problems for the Fullerton, California, police department.

(CORRECTION: Both Media Matters and Cato’s Dan Mitchell say the CBS article linked above gets it wrong: The 2009 fiscal year was set by the Bush administration, not Obama.)

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71 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  sheenyglass | 

    “Hypothetical matchup puts unelectable Ron Paul within two points of Barack Obama”

    He’s not unelectable because he’s unpopular generally, he’s unelectable because he’s unpopular with the party establishment and the donor class. Everyone else likes him.

  2. #2 |  abhisaha | 

    The most interesting thing about the Gallup poll is the tab that gives the results for all national adults (as opposed to only registered voters)

    Obama 47 – Romney 46
    Obama 48 – Perry 44
    Obama 45 – Paul 44
    Obama 48 – Bachmann 43

    Paul does best again Obama. I suspect this is the young voter effect; those who are not (yet) registered but will have ample time to do so before the elections. Paul has always had a lot of support from this category.

    Yes, Paul has almost no chance of winning the primary. But he can still decide to run as an independent in the general elections . Something tells me he will (for instance his retirement from his congress seat after this term). And if he does run, he will be the only anti-war, anti surveillance state, anti drug-war, pro civil-liberties candidate. Things can then get very interesting if he picks up a good chunk of the young, Obama-disillusioned crowd.

  3. #3 |  CyniCAl | 

    Ron Paul successfully running for president will be dangerous for his health.

  4. #4 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    DARPA has already developed a cloaking device for Ron Paul.
    If that doesn’t work there’s always domestic drones.
    Anyone with the balls to try to end the drug war and the war war
    is a dead man…

    And I see criminal pamphleteer Julian Heicklen is back in jail…

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Blockquote>National debt jumps $4 trillion under Obama.

    One of the things I hate most about Judge Andrew Napolitano’s FBN show, “Freedom Watch” is his repeated claim that Bush raised the debt by $2T in his eight years while Obama has already raised it by $6T. That is so far from the truth, that I now seldom watch the show because he’s as much of a bullshitter as Fox’s conservative talk show hosts.

  6. #6 |  CyniCAl | 

    Not that I have a dog in this hunt Dave, but when did the “official” nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac occur? That’s something like $5T effectively added to the national debt. I just can’t remember if it happened pre-01/20/09 or after.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I think the Kelly Thomas case makes it pretty clear that, for cops, the primary function of a taser is to incapacitate someone so you can more easily beat the shit out of him.

  8. #8 |  Marty | 

    that the habeas corpus article is getting little mainstream reporting is pretty disturbing. Bush and Obama’s direct assault on it might be trickling down to the underlings. bad, bad, bad…

  9. #9 |  Marty | 

    #7 Dave- you hit it on the head. I don’t think tasers are being used instead of guns (the original intent)- they’re being used instead of diplomacy.

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #6 CyniCAl,

    I suppose there are a lot of ways you could slice and dice the data to make the Judge’s numbers sound reasonable, but I have yet to hear where he’s getting those numbers. Meanwhile, because of his claims, I tend to pay attention to news articles relating to the debt expansion under Bush and Obama and I have never seen anything, even from strongly libertarian outlets, that support his claim.

  11. #11 |  GinSlinger | 

    RE: Who added what to the national debt, according to

    01/19/2001: $5,727,776,738,304
    01/20/2009: $10,626,877,048,913
    08/19/2011: $14,639,239,567,874

    And of course one should bear in mind that a portion (large?) of the increase under Obama was locked in by Bush to one extent or another (war, bail outs, [some would argue] tax cuts, etc.).

  12. #12 |  CyniCAl | 

    I agree with your premise Dave — if the medium is the message, and a talking head on cable news network Fox News is the medium, then I’m pretty sure what the message is.

    2 + 2 = Message, where Message = 5.

  13. #13 |  Bob | 

    “National debt jumps $4 trillion under Obama.”

    At the first town hall meeting of his Midwestern bus trip last week, Mr. Obama told an audience in Minnesota that “the debt problem is real and the deficit problem is real.”

    But he also called in “a manageable problem.”

    No it’s not. No electable politician has the balls to manage this problem, and even if they did? They’d be voted right off the floor.

    And to clarify: It’s not ‘Bush’ or ‘Obama’ that raised the debt. It’s the entire system. It doesn’t fucking matter who you put into the White House.

    This train is going off a cliff.

  14. #14 |  dave smith | 

    So they are using a 2000 study about sexual misconduct by educators to justify laws about facebook?

  15. #15 |  Roho | 

    I love how the incriminating video never “tells the full story.” Y’know, guys…it doesn’t have to. It’s told us enough to know that the full story is a work of fiction, and you’re the authors.

  16. #16 |  Politically.Speaking | 

    Dang it, Radley! Try doing some fact checking before you post BS like “National debt jumps $4 trillion under Obama.” I mean, I half expect CBS News to be too lazy, but not you.

    Lazy lazy lazy.

  17. #17 |  Mario | 

    “They’re telling people, ‘Don’t go to Fullerton.’ Nobody here did anything wrong. Why should the retailers suffer?”

    There really needs to be public boycotts of places where the police exhibit egregious brutality. As said as that is for the business people just trying to make a living, the municipalities where these kinds of cultures exist need to be reprimanded.

    I call for a public boycott of Chicago, for starters.

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    Lazy lazy lazy.

    Apologies. From now on, I’ll be sure to verify each of my morning links with an objective, trustworthy, non-agenda driven organization like Media Matters.

  19. #19 |  DK | 

    Dave Krueger, I think I heard the Judge once say that he based his numbers on when Nancy Pelosi and the Dems took control of the House. I don’t know whether he’s consistent with this line, or how accurate it is. I tend to just go with what Bob (#13) says, “…It’s the entire system…”.

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Yeah, I think Bob sums it up pretty well. It’s almost as if the system is a train and the president is the conductor (a figurehead conductor, at that). He climbs on when he’s elected, but the track has already been laid and the momentum is going to keep the train moving exactly as it was before.

    If anything, Obama is a pretty good example of the idea that, as a candidate you can say anything you want, but once you’re once elected, the options open to you are either A or A. It would take someone willing to martyr themselves to resist that kind of intense pressure and the electoral process does not favor martyrs.

    Very depressing any way you slice it…

  21. #21 |  CyniCAl | 

    Agreed Mario. In this statist world organized by violence, it is unsurprising that the only thing people truly understand is force.

    Poor Fullerton business owners, the reality of the system was just laid bare and it is shocking to them. Poor babies, they actually deceived themselves that the world was organized by voluntary cooperation. Now they find themselves in the uncomfortable and unaccustomed position of having to consider responding with force to change their local police department and government.

    And the business owners would be in trouble too — because they’re amateurs compared to the professional goons in government — if it weren’t for the nanosecond attention span of the average American consumer who can’t possibly be inconvenienced by an “isolated incident” and be persuaded to drive the extra mile or two to Anaheim or Buena Park to shop.

    But who knows? Maybe it’ll be different this time. Anyone care to bet?

  22. #22 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I get pissed of whenever someone quibbles about whether Bush or Obama is more responsible for the debt. When it’s all over the the U.S. economy is a quivering mass of dead flesh on the floor, it won’t matter that one President (or political party) fired 40 bullets and the other fired 80.

  23. #23 |  CyniCAl | 

    Good to see that Amtrak is still the fiscal black hole it has always been:

    I just rode that line on a family visit back in February, and let me tell you, I really, really noticed that extra minute-and-a-half, much more than the graffiti and ripped seats and stale odor and decaying urban landscape.

  24. #24 |  Randy | 

    Fullerton – from the linked story

    You have to love this.

    Prosecutor Rebecca Reed, who handled Mam’s case, said her office received the tape more than a month before trial but no one reviewed it until she watched it on the first day of the misdemeanor trial in June. She relied on officers’ accounts in building her case, she said.

    The prosecutor in the Mam case didn’t even bother to review the video evidence before the trial. If she had, perhaps she would have dropped the charges. Given that the jury acquitted Mam on all counts, looks like that would have been the prudent thing to do.

    I think sometimes prosecutors go forward with charges that they know are weak or even unfounded just to stay on the good side of the boys and girls of the thin blue line.

  25. #25 |  Rick H. | 

    The Kelly Thomas story repeats the characterization of the incident as a “violent fight with police officers.” I suppose to these writers, words don’t really matter all that much.

    Sure enough, the badge-lickers in the comments section are eager to expand on this peculiar terminology: “Here’s an idea….DON”T FIGHT WITH THE COPS!”

    Weasel words and rhetorical ass-covering. It’s like when so-called journalists throw around the term “allegedly” in bizarre attempts to squirm away from the clear implications of primary evidence, such as video. They don’t dare stand behind their reporting. Cowards.

  26. #26 |  Lefty | 

    Ron Paul is an evolution denier. Magical thinking doesn’t just stay put on one topic.

  27. #27 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “I just rode that line on a family visit back in February, and let me tell you, I really, really noticed that extra minute-and-a-half, much more than the graffiti and ripped seats and stale odor and decaying urban landscape.”

    Yeah, after riding Japan trains and coming to the US, AMTRAK was
    a shock. Everything from the harsh “You got ID?” of the ticket clerk
    to the 45-minute late train to the maximum velocity of 39 mph.
    We had a computer revolution, let’s have a goddamn transportation

  28. #28 |  Bob | 


    More likely, she DID view the video, and went ahead with the trial anyway figuring that the cop testimony would be the “god of the gaps” in the video.

    And is now denying that so she doesn’t look like an idiot.

    Instead, she just sounds like a Police Owned Prosecutor.

  29. #29 |  New York Cynic | 

    But…but….but…but…Paleocons, Theocons, Neocons, Cons and leftists keep saying that Ron Paul is unelectable? Yet is tied with Innocent Man murderer Rick Perry and Socialist Medicine Romney how can the statists explain this one? Was it the super Obama Muslim illegal immigrant magic I hear about?

  30. #30 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    Fun qualified immunity case:

  31. #31 |  Kristen | 

    So, speaking of murderer Rick Perry, I was reading Grisham’s The Confession and Todd Willingham was mentioned. Broke my heart, reading a real person’s name in a fictional book. Fuck.

  32. #32 |  CyniCAl | 

    Fun indeed as advertised, Buddy:

    “About a month after she first got the Taser, Noriega mistakenly placed her sidearm and Taser in the wrong holsters, and a week later she confused the two during a call, pointing a loaded Glock at her partner’s head, the court noted. Her sergeant told her both times to practice drawing, which she did, the court noted.”

    I got a warm feeling of amusement imagining the dipshit pointing a loaded Glock at her partner’s head. It is sad that she didn’t practice drawing long or hard enough, but at least she had good intentions by practicing at all, which I have to admit is A+ work for a government-trough feeder.

  33. #33 |  Chris in AL | 

    “She found that about 10 percent of public school students in 2000 reported that they experienced unwanted sexual harassment or abuse from an educator.”

    I call bullshit. No way. No chance. Unless by ‘abuse’ they mean ‘homework assignments.’

  34. #34 |  Dana Gower | 

    #25 — It’s like when so-called journalists throw around the term “allegedly” in bizarre attempts to squirm away from the clear implications of primary evidence, such as video. They don’t dare stand behind their reporting. Cowards.

    “Allegedly” just means “reportedly,” and is used when a reporter wasn’t there and has to take the word of someone who was.
    “The Kelly Thomas story repeats the characterization of the incident as a ‘violent fight with police officers.'”
    The reporter was obviously told that by police. It should have said “allegedly.”

  35. #35 |  Ken | 

    There’s a difference between communicating coordinating care and consolidated financial interests. Shame on Reason for manipulating the facts and shame on you for not noticing the conflation.

  36. #36 |  Chris in AL | 

    “She found that about 10 percent of public school students in 2000 reported that they experienced unwanted sexual harassment or abuse from an educator.”

    10% experienced UNWANTED sexual harassment or abuse. That indicates the number was actually higher, but some of it was WANTED.

    That would mean every single teacher in my son’s high school is responsible for personally sexually harassing or abusing 2 kids a year just to make quota. Or 1 teacher has to sexually harass or abuse 155 kids a year.

  37. #37 |  JS | 

    Bob “And to clarify: It’s not ‘Bush’ or ‘Obama’ that raised the debt. It’s the entire system. It doesn’t fucking matter who you put into the White House.

    This train is going off a cliff.”

    Yea this is why I don’t want to see Ron Paul actually get elected. Whoever gets in is going to preside over a trainwreck and I’d hate to see ideas of liberty get discredited because whoever is in the white house will be blamed.

    Give red team/blue team that job, they’re the ones that fucked it all up in the first place.

  38. #38 |  Brandon | 

    Lefty: Every other candidate besides Johnson is a Keynesian believer. Which is likely to do more damage on a national scale?

  39. #39 |  Politically.Speaking | 

    “Lazy lazy lazy.

    Apologies. From now on, I’ll be sure to verify each of my morning links with an objective, trustworthy, non-agenda driven organization like Media Matters.”

    Fact – CBO: $1.2 Trillion Projection Based On Legislation Bush Passed Before Obama’s Inauguration.
    – Follow the link to the non-Media Matters data (
    Fact – The number attributed to Obama was wrong.
    Fact – Radley, you were damn lazy. It took about 15 seconds to follow the link to the CBO report.

    Another sign of laziness? Automatically declaring a piece of information bogus because of where it was found. Declare it suspect by all means, but at least take the time to check it out.

  40. #40 |  BamBam | 

    @38, Ron Paul does exist and he is far more knowledgeable about The Fed and economics than all of the candidates combined, who are all paying lip service by uttering catch phrases without any understanding of what they are saying.

  41. #41 |  BamBam | 


  42. #42 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ Ken,

    I believe the point of the reason article has to so with the fact the Federal Gov’t created certain incentives and the doc’s and hospitals responded in an unindended fashion. Instead of regulators owning up to the fact they caused this rise in medical mergers, they’re suing people for not behaving as the gov’t expected.

  43. #43 |  Rick H. | 

    #34 Dana: My rant about “allegedly” wasn’t really about this particular story, but you are correct in its application here. However, I see that in many stories dealing with powerful interest groups, reporters will say “allegedly” to refer to facts which are captured on video for all to see. Calling such events an allegation reveals a reporter who is either stupid, lazy or extraordinarily uncommitted to the truth.

  44. #44 |  JS | 

    BamBam, damnit they stole my idea and made a pretty good article out of it!

  45. #45 |  Radley Balko | 

    Radley, you were damn lazy. It took about 15 seconds to follow the link to the CBO report..

    It’s a single bullet point in a Morning Links post. The article is from a major media organization that could hardly be described as having an anti-Obama bias. Sorry, but I put up several blog posts a day, write an originally reported article or so per week, and have about a half dozen other things I’m working on at any given time. I don’t have time to wade through source documents to fact-check every article I link.

    Here’s another tip: I’m happy to get corrections or links to articles that challenge something I’ve written or linked. But you’re much more likely to get me to check out a link and/or post a correction if you make the suggestion without being an asshole in the process.

  46. #46 |  Zeb | 

    From the article on the “Facebook Law”:
    “Exclusive and private contact with your students isn’t educationally necessary,” she told the site. “In the same way that in a school we would say, ‘No, you may not lock yourself into a room with a student,’ this law effectively says, ‘No you may not lock yourself into a website where only you can get to the student.'”

    Does that statement make any sense to anyone? What are these websites that you can “lock yourself into”? I’m pretty sure getting away from unwanted online advances is a simple as closing a browser window.

  47. #47 |  JS | 

    More info just in on the national debt:

  48. #48 |  JS | 

    Zeb “Does that statement make any sense to anyone? What are these websites that you can “lock yourself into”? I’m pretty sure getting away from unwanted online advances is a simple as closing a browser window.”

    Yea but if they admitted that it would be like admitting they wouldn’t have an excuse to pass more laws or rules.

  49. #49 |  crazybab | 

    “More info just in on the national debt:”

    More stupidity from the LA times. Instead of reporting about WHY the debt is increasing at $3M/minute they just try and blame the black guy.

  50. #50 |  crazybab | 

    THe republican party is on an all out war to place the words “Obama” and “National Debt” in the same sentence as often as possible – even though the republican party is far more to blame than the democrats for the debt. Radley, buy credulously parroting these lines makes himself part of the disinformation campaign.

  51. #51 |  Michael Chaney | 

    The national debt is a little trickier than just Bush/Obama. Congress creates the budget, and the debt began growing at an astronomical rate when the Democrats retook the House two years before Obama took the Whitehouse. Yes, Bush shouldn’t have went along and bears at least some blame, but the fact is that the Dems have outspent the Reps by a huge margin.

  52. #52 |  Lefty | 


    Big difference between Keynesian economics and evolution. Economics isn’t hard science and the Keynesian variety isn’t the entire underpinning of economics. So disagree with it all you want.

    Evolution is in fact the underpinning of modern biology. If you’re going to deny 150 years of empirical data then yeah that’s nuts and your ability to interpret reality comes into question. At least it should. An evolution denier has let dogma and ideology trump evidence and data. I wouldn’t want someone like that making real world decisions.

  53. #53 |  Politically.Speaking | 

    Deal – future corrections or observations will include a much lower asshole factor. I should have included the direct link to the CBO report in that first post. Given the number of corrections needed (that was the first I’ve felt strong enough about), that is the least I can do.

    But it was a shocker to see something so wrong – even in the Morning Links section. And just because something comes from a major media organization does not give anybody carte blanche to post it with no repercussions – if you post something with no commentary the assumption is that you believe it and stand by it.

  54. #54 |  CyniCAl | 

    Nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac occurred during Bush’s watch, Sept. 2008. That was over $5T added to the government’s liabilities in one fell swoop.

    So, I think the victory goes to Team Blue, well-deserved congratulations are certainly in order, can’t wait for the sequel.

  55. #55 |  Gordon | 

    #16 | Politically.Speaking | August 23rd, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Dang it, Radley! Try doing some fact checking before you post BS like “National debt jumps $4 trillion under Obama.”

    Yet, I recall Speaker Pelosi famously declaring Bush’s FY2009 budget proposal “dead on arrival”, and then refusing to pass a budget until after Obama was sworn in. So; I’d say that spending spree fully belongs to the Democrat wing of the Boot On Your Neck Party.

    Also note that they’ve refused to pass a budget ever since.

  56. #56 |  supercat | 

    #52: // Evolution is in fact the underpinning of modern biology. //

    That depends what exactly is meant by “evolution”. It is certainly true that variations in future organisms are affected by processes of natural (and unnatural) selection. If the weakest animals of a herd are killed by predators, the offspring of the survivors will, on average, be stronger than the offspring of the previous generation. It is also certainly true that at least a substantial portion of the biodiversity one can observe today has come about from such methods. Even a biblical literalist should recognize that one must accept a certain amount of evolution in order for the ancestors of all of today’s species to fit on the ark.

    Some proponents of evolution, however, effectively claim that there is no other process by which species have come into existence. Such a claim goes far beyond anything which is scientifically supportable. Whether or not there exists evidence that other processes played a role in the creation of species, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Almost any theory which tries to explain the origin of prehistoric species (or, for that matter, explain almost anything prehistoric) must assume the existence of at least some phenomena whose only evidence for existence is that they are necessary for the theory to work. While some theories should be regarded as more probable than others, it is wrong to attach an air of certainty to theories which are, in significant measure, speculation.

  57. #57 |  Nick | 

    Is there any condition in an officer’s oath or contract that requires him or her to follow the law? In all these cases where officers demand people stop photographing or videotaping, when it is their right to do so (it is, right?), or when they violate people’s rights in other ways, I wonder whether the officers could be seen to no longer be officers, and to no longer carry the force of the law?

  58. #58 |  Mendelism | 


    I agree with all that, but I get the sense that the primary reason that people profess skepticism of “evolution” is that they’re uncomfortable specifically with the idea that humans evolved from non-human primates. Given the available data, the reluctance to accept this idea is pretty unscientific, and perhaps a little crazy.

    (I say this as someone who changed his party affiliation to R for the sole purpose of voting for Ron Paul in the 2008 primaries, and plan to do so again this cycle.)

  59. #59 |  Mendelism | 

    I should clarify briefly what I mean about the available data. Simply put, we have:

    1. A remarkable degree of structural/anatomical similarity among extant primates, including humans, coupled with
    2. Quantitative genetic distance/similarity that maps uncannily onto our structure/anatomical estimates of relatedness among species.
    3. Observed examples of speciation among organisms with life cycles short enough for us to witness evolution in action.

    This by itself doesn’t “prove” anything, but it makes human evolution from earlier primates the simplest, most parsimonious explanation for our species’ existence. Otherwise, we have to assume some kind of supernatural phenomenon that generated the human species such that it happens to have the properties of coincident phenotypic and genetic similarity with other existing species, which is a bit nutty IMHO. Unless God is trying to trick us, as He is wont to do…

  60. #60 |  JOR | 

    “Otherwise, we have to assume some kind of supernatural phenomenon . . . ”

    Or heretofore undiscovered or unanalyzed natural phenomenon. (What would really count as ‘supernatural’ anyway? If God existed and did stuff the results would be artificial, perhaps, but not supernatural, let alone ‘unnatural’, whatever whatever that would even mean).

  61. #61 |  BamBam | 

    re: evolution I heard a religious zealot once say “if monkeys had human babies a long time ago which led to evolution, then why aren’t monkeys still having human babies today?” There wasn’t much I could say other than point out his statement demonstrates that he doesn’t even have a basic understanding of evolution or what the word even means.

  62. #62 |  DocHoliday916 | 

    Keep the heat on the Fullerton PD1 Any updates on the investigation of the Allen Kephart killing in Lake Arrowhead?

  63. #63 |  Keith | 

    Unfortunate thing with the deficit is the Republicans are trying to make everyone believe it. I have written 3 different congressmen and they ALL rattle off the same lies.
    How do we the people stand a chance when our politicians lie blatantly to our faces?

  64. #64 |  JS | 

    Keith “How do we the people stand a chance when our politicians lie blatantly to our faces?”

    We don’t.

  65. #65 |  Windy | 

    @52, Regardless of how DR. Paul feels about evolution or religion, the point is he’s a Constitutionalist and would NEVER impose those beliefs on all Americans via his position as congressman or president. His understanding of economics, foreign policy and the Constitution make him the kind of man I DO want in the presidency.

  66. #66 |  Ben | 

    @65 Windy:

    “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life. The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government. This is the real reason the collectivist Left hates religion: Churches as institutions compete with the state for the people’s allegiance, and many devout people put their faith in God before putting their faith in the state. Knowing this, the secularists wage an ongoing war against religion, chipping away bit by bit at our nation’s Christian heritage. Christmas itself may soon be a casualty of that war.”

  67. #67 |  supercat | 

    #59 | Mendelism | “Otherwise, we have to assume some kind of supernatural phenomenon…”

    Which is a more reasonable statement: (1) “The evolution of consciousness most likely occurred entirely as a result of processes that are essentially understood”; or (2) “The evolution of consciousness most likely involved at least some processes which are, at least as yet, entirely beyond human understanding”? I would posit that the second is a far more reasonable and honest statement. Whether such processes included divine intervention or a space probe from Altair-VI I have no idea; nor, I strongly suspect, does any other human.

    Human beings have something that be termed a consciousness, id, soul, etc. (well, I do anyway, and I don’t think I’m alone). Human biological forms may be substantially derived from those of primate ancestors, but that in no way implies that consciousness came into existence entirely through bio-mechanical processes. If one takes the point of view that a human organism is a biological machine which is fundamentally no different from any other animal, then the destruction of surplus humans should be viewed no differently from the destruction of other kinds of surplus animals. In the Twentieth Century, a number of people took that view; some still do. I would aver that a human being is a biological machine, plus a little something ‘extra’, and I see no reason to believe that little something ‘extra’ would have come into existence absent some process or phenomenon which entirely beyond human knowledge.

  68. #68 |  Mendelism | 

    Well I’m a materialist, and believe that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. Thought = activity in the cerebral cortex. I believe this to be true of human brains, and non-human brains. Certainly humans are capable of much more complex thought than non-humans, but this is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. And I for one would be horrified to learn of the slaughter of, e.g. “surplus” chimpanzees. Not as horrified as I would be at human slaughter, but again a difference of degree. Cows would get less sympathy, and so on. I wouldn’t know how to quantify any of this, but hopefully you get the idea.

    You can argue that materialism is based in faith, and I guess I’d have to agree, but it’s the simplest explanation for a lot of natural phenomena, and has the benefit of not requiring any extra “moving parts”, e.g. an unobservable “soul” or intelligent designer.

    A lot of people don’t find this very satisfying. YMMV.

  69. #69 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    I don’t know that we’re that “special”

    I see flashes of sentience in higher animals (birds and mammals) all the time. Ever see a dolphin mourn its dead baby? Or a large primate?

  70. #70 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    I think it’s better think of consciousness as a continuum instead of as a discrete phenomenon (humans have it, animals don’t).

    Then the concept fits quite well within the framework of evolution.

  71. #71 |  supercat | 

    #68: It is probably not possible for you to determine experimentally whether I have a consciousness beyond some electrons whizzing around in my neurons, nor is it possible for me to determine experimentally whether you have such consciousness, but I know that *I* have such consciousness because I personally experience it (in a way nobody else can). I would expect that you probably do likewise.

    There are a lot of people who, all things considered, are pretty dumb and useless, and there are some animals which are smarter and more useful. If the former don’t deserve protection merely because they’re human, why should they be protected at all?