Author Archives: Roger Schriner

Update: Some Thoughts for Those Who Voted for Donald Trump – and Those Who Didn’t

This is an update of an entry from 11/23/16. Items that are unimportant or no longer relevant have been deleted and marked with […]. Updates are colored purple. Everything else is from the 2016 text:

My reaction to the election of Donald Trump is intensely negative, but some people I respect did vote for him. I want to explain to Trump voters why many of us are appalled by this fellow. […] I don’t expect to convince people that I am right. I just want to explain why I feel so strongly. […] I’ll start with a short list of issues, followed by more details in the “footnotes.”

  1. Donald Trump loves to brutally humiliate people. “She had blood coming out of her wherever.” “Look at that face.”*1
  2. He brags almost nonstop.*2
  3. He changes policy stands repeatedly and erratically.*3
  4. He speaks impulsively without considering the consequences.*4
  5. He has encouraged violence against protesters.*5
  6. He has no experience in government, and it shows.*6
  7. He is prejudiced against people due to their race or religion.*7
  8. He was taped bragging about being a serial sex offender, and he has been taped many times saying things about women – including those in his own family – that are absolutely creepy. […]*8
  9. He has accomplished a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. It looks as if the party will keep its name and lose its principles.*9 […] (Update: During his term I have seen three additional problems:)
  10. Contempt for expertise. This has damaged America in innumerable ways, most of which are invisible to the general public. But in the pandemic the results are obvious. Many medical professionals are astounded and appalled. The highly respected New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time since its founding in 1812, has taken a stand in the presidential election: “This crisis has produced a test of leadership. … Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy. … although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands … our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.” https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812 *10
  11. Authoritarian ambitions. Trump makes admiring comments about strong-man leaders like Putin, and despises our constitutional checks and balances. He even thinks he should be allowed to pardon himself for crimes! His current Supreme Court nominee refused to rule that out. That would mean the president is utterly above the law. *11 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-barrett/trumps-court-pick-barrett-calls-presidential-self-pardon-an-open-question-idUSKBN26Z1BP
  12. Encouraging insurrection. Many Americans who are armed to the teeth seriously contemplate attacking political leaders, police, soldiers, or members of some ethnic, political or religious group they despise. For years Trump has hinted that he could use their help.*12

(Back to 2016 text:) Because he is so unpredictable, I have no doubt that Donald Trump will surprise us in some positive ways. Play roulette fifty rounds and sometimes you’ll win big. But overall, what are the odds?

Update: I haven’t seen the dazzling flashes of brilliance I hoped we would occasionally witness. What seems to impress people the most about his presidency is the pre-pandemic economy and the stock market. But the economy was juiced up by cutting taxes without cutting spending, passing on a big national debt increase to our children. Nothing brilliant here. As Trump knows well, you can make yourself look rich by going into debt.

And now, the gory details:

#1. See:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/09/10/trump-fiorina-look-face/71992454/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2015/aug/08/donald-trump-menstruation-fox-news-megyn-kelly-audio

Do we really want a sadistic bully as President? Here’s an example of verbal sadism and erotic aggression. In front of a big audience Trump calls Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins on stage and makes a bizarre reference to an orgasm, implying that he’s talking about her. She is obviously and understandably uncomfortable:

http://www.vox.com/identities/2016/10/28/13459750/trump-video-miss-universe-grab-kiss-jennifer-hawkins

I’m amazed that he often publically humiliates his own appointees. For instance, when he thought Fed Chair Jay Powell wasn’t stimulating the economy enough he tweeted, “Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!” Ironically, in 2016 presidential candidate Trump criticized Fed Chair Janet Yellen, saying she should be “ashamed of herself” for keeping interest rates low! (He feared that would help the economy and make Obama look good.) But when he became Pres, he wanted rates cut to zero to make him look good. He knows most people won’t notice the flaming contradiction.

https://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/12/trump-says-fed-chief-yellen-should-be-ashamed.html

Trump evidently thinks it’s fine to make his subordinates hate him as long as they’re also terrified of his wrath. No doubt some future politicians will imitate his example.

[…]

#2. Here’s part of Garry Trudeau’s list of boasts by Trump.

“No one is more conservative than me!” “No one respects women more than me!” “No one reads the Bible more than me!” “There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have!” “There’s nobody who feels more strongly about women’s health issues!” “Nobody knows more about taxes than me, maybe in the history of the world!” “I have studied the Iran deal in great detail, greater by far than anyone else!” “Nobody’s ever been more successful than me!” “I’m the least racist person you’ll ever meet!” […]

In the Presidential Debate, October 22, 2020, Trump said confidently that he was the “least racist person” in the room, acknowledging that he could not actually see who was out there in the audience. He makes lots of these absurdly grandiose comments, which should tip people off that there’s something wrong upstairs.

#3. For a truly astonishing number of policy flip-flops: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/full-list-donald-trump-s-rapidly-changing-policy-positions-n547801

#4. (Moved from above): Example: saying the US might not fully repay those who hold US government bonds! An unbelievably irresponsible comment. […]

#5. For many examples of encouragement to violence: http://mashable.com/2016/03/12/trump-rally-incite-violence/#mFJu282Aciqq I did some checking on these quotes encouraging violence, because internet articles can just make things up. Unfortunately it looks as if Trump really did make these statements.

#6. Just one example: North Korea’s nukes are a gigantic problem. Chinese cooperation in pressuring that country to give up these weapons is incredibly important. […] China props up North Korea’s economy and could force them to disarm if they felt like helping us out, but Trump is busy insulting them about all sorts of things (and some of his gripes are valid). His communications with Kim Jong-un have been peculiar, mocking “little rocket man” and then saying they had fallen in love.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-45696420

Kim now has many more bombs than four years ago and he unveiled a huge new intercontinental missile a few days ago. It would be awkward if they launched one of these toward us by accident.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54500550

#7. Evidence of his prejudice is so widespread and well-known that I won’t bother to repeat it.

#8. For Donald Trump’s sex-abuse admissions see http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/08/politics/trump-on-howard-stern/. Read and listen carefully, because some of these charges against him may be debatable. But there’s plenty of damning evidence in recordings of Trump’s own words. […]

#9. Republicans have emphasized being tough with our adversaries, but now Trump is cuddling up with Russian oligarchs. And Trump tells CEOs how to run their businesses – commanding them, for example, to make their products in the US. In the past Republicans have at least given lip service to free-market capitalism, opposing the idea of a managed economy where government dictates business decisions. If Obama had tried to push CEOs around like Trump does, that would have been “proof” that he’s a Communist. http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/19/if-obama-did-what-trump-is-doing-hes-be-called-a-communist-nouriel-roubini.html

Although I’m not a Republican, I appreciate intelligent conservatives such as George F. Will, who sometimes correct my biases. Will has long protested Trump’s anti-conservative policies, and finally left the Republican Party to protest Donald Trump’s racism. When Trump tweeted insults in response, Will wrote: “He has an advantage on me, because he can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters and I can’t.”

Snarky, but we get the point. Trumpism is not conservativism and his authoritarian style is the OPPOSITE of libertarianism. For a conservative critique of Trumpism, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/opinion/budget-deficit-republicans.html?searchResultPosition=1

#10. Contempt for expertise. There’s too much ghastly information to include here on politicization of the Pandemic. One analysis of the administration’s interference with the Center for Disease Control concludes:

Some longtime senior scientists at the CDC are grappling with whether they are too tainted to lead the rebuilding of trust.
“Many of us who might be viewed as complicit need to decide whether we need to leave,” one of them said, “Or can we be part of the ‘never again’ so that the agency never gets this kind of political interference again?”

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/939231

#11. Authoritarian ambitions. Trump is pushing Attorney General Barr to conclude his investigation into Biden, Obama, and others before the election — just one of many examples of bending the power of government to serve his needs. His rhetoric about this issue is astonishing, even for him, accusing them of “the greatest political crime in the history of our country.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-urges-barr-to-initiate-investigation-into-joe-biden-and-son-11603220876

#12. Encouraging insurrection. On August 9, 2015, Trump told a North Carolina rally that “Second Amendment people” could take action if Hillary Clinton were elected. He later said he was referring to their voting power. Sure he was. In a recent presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace implored him to tell violent racists to stand down but the president very clearly and pointedly told them to stand back and stand by.

[…] Back to the original post:

Many voted for Trump so he’d appoint justices who will kill Roe v. Wade. But even if you see this as a high priority, would you vote for absolutely anyone for that reason? Of course not. You wouldn’t vote for Hitler, right? So where do you draw the line? How about a sadistic, impulsive, hostile braggart with no experience in government who makes bizarre policy proposals, encourages violence and bigotry, throws away traditional Republican principles, and brags about being a serial molester? […]

Obviously Trump supporters could disagree with some of these points and add arguments of their own. But I hope I’ve made it a little easier to understand why many us are dreading the next four years.

It’s incredibly dangerous to be led by a demagogic genius with a twisted personality. And there’s a boatload of evidence that this is exactly what we’ve got.

Reflections on Earth Day, 2018

This post is based on a talk I gave recently at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos: Learning from Our Losses, to Better Love Our World:

Kermit the frog was right. “It’s not easy being green.” Not on Earth Day, 2018, after all the setbacks suffered by the interdependent web of existence. And on this Earth Day I’m going to focus on the overall political and human context within which Unitarian Universalists try to better love our world. I want to talk about politics because environmental concerns have been swept away in an astonishing political hurricane. And all of this directly ties into our great human journey.

I myself tend to be politically progressive, but I also appreciate moderates and conservatives who support humanitarian values. Sometimes our country has made good progress from a creative tension between liberals and conservatives, as when liberals suggest new programs for helping disadvantaged Americans and conservatives warn us about ways that these programs are poorly designed or even counterproductive. But instead of a creative tension today, we have “my way or the highway.”

And even though I’ll be talking about party politics, I don’t presume to say how you should vote. For one thing, someone I criticize quite sharply might run against someone you think is even worse. But before we turn to that pleasant topic, let’s reflect upon the very big picture, our unique and challenging human condition.

In April of 2013 I preached a sermon here called Graduates of Eden, and it was about human nature. I stated that our mental and physical nature fitted us well for living in small bands of hunter-gatherers. When food was plentiful this was at times a sort of Eden. And we didn’t get kicked out of this Garden of Eden because we were naughty. We did so well in our prehistoric “Eden” that we graduated. We grew into larger, more complicated societies. Our human accomplishments transformed the human world, but human nature is still fitted to the old world that we lost. And I mentioned three crucial mismatches between human nature and the new world we have created. First, we are easily confused by complexity, and our lives are more and more complex. Second, we are tribal creatures, who love those who are on “our team,” but often ignore or attack outsiders. And third, we are generally oblivious to problems that develop slowly – such as climate change.

Today I’ll add one more item to this list: our obsession with dominance. One day while reading about dominance hierarchies among monkeys I had one of those AHA moments like a lightbulb over my head. I suddenly realized that a huge amount of human behavior is strongly shaped by our love of dominance. Dominance involves who wins and who loses, who’s “right” and who’s “wrong,” who’s “good” and who’s “bad.” Have you noticed how often people argue about issues that could be resolved without acrimony? But without an argument, how are we going to jockey for position on the ladder of domination?

So we try to oversimplify complexity, we divide ourselves into tribes, we ignore problems that develop slowly, and we make domination a great big deal. In all of these ways, we are being faithful to inner biological imperatives. We humans are not evil or stupid, by and large. But we are dangerously successful.

No wonder it’s not easy being green. No wonder, in 2018, we’re such a long way from Eden. But many of us are trying to correct the mismatch between our biological programming and today’s planetary crises. And we can carry out this good work with positive attitudes, so we don’t get discouraged and give up.

My first suggestion is that we should just assume that humans have huge challenges that we’re not good at solving. Let’s stop being so shocked that people are often clueless and destructive – sometimes including ourselves. OF COURSE we have big troubles. The modern world is too complicated for us. Of course we love it when our leaders feed us solutions that are charmingly simple and ridiculously wrong. And some leaders actually believe there are simple solutions. As one of them said in dismay, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Recently I received an email mentioning a web site that advocates action to reduce global warming and climate change (https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php). The site lists 197 arguments by those who deny that the climate is changing catastrophically, and refutes each of them with factual information. I appreciate this information, but let’s be careful here. Getting into detailed discussions of issues like whether cosmic rays are warming the Earth may be the wrong approach – because most people either cannot or will not deal with complicated details.

It’s often possible to tell the truth by saying something that’s simple but significant. For example, if you were driving and came to a blind intersection, where buildings blocked your view to the right and to the left, would you zip through at 30 mph or would you slow down and look both ways? Obviously you’d slow down, even if you thought there wasn’t much cross traffic. Even if it’s a small risk, the cost of being wrong is too high. And with issues like global warming and rising sea levels, it takes a long time to “put on the brakes” and stop putting so massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So even if there was only a small chance of disastrous warming, we should reduce these emissions just in case. And since most climate scientists say it is very likely that the Earth is warming, we’d be as foolish to ignore them as we would be to zoom through a blind intersection without slowing down.

By the way, people on both sides of the debate still argue with each other about whether climate change is mainly caused by human activity. That seems completely irrelevant. It’s another example of the way we frame things in terms of dominance. If we caused global warming that implies that we are bad. That brings up feelings we had when we were naughty children and some grownup scolded us. That makes us feel as if our status has gone down a few notches. That sets off our dominance alarms. Therefore we don’t want to face the possibility that we are to blame for climate change – so we deny that it’s happening. But I don’t much care if humans are the main cause. I mostly care about whether we can do something about it, whether human action can make a positive difference. And I’m sure it can.

I also want to suggest that we could stop being shocked that humans are so tribal. They are, they will always tend to be, and we will always have to help our children cope with this natural but often-counterproductive biological programming. Conservative columnist David Brooks recently reported a remarkable example: “As late as 2015, Republican voters overwhelmingly supported free trade.” Just three years later “they overwhelmingly oppose it. The shift didn’t happen because of some mass reappraisal of the evidence; it’s just that tribal orthodoxy shifted and everyone followed.” And no doubt this happens with Democrats too.

Cartoonist Dan Piraro lampooned our tribal tendencies in a Bizarro comic strip, in which a pollster asks: “OK last question: If you disagreed with all of your candidate’s positions, he spoke no known language, and he set fire to everything he touched, would you still vote for him?” Well, if he or she is on “our side,” maybe so.

So we can help ourselves stay positive by just assuming that people in general do not deal well with complicated modern problems, and stop being shocked at their ineptitude. I also want to explain how we can stay positive by welcoming painful truths that we have been avoiding. I want to explain how to do that, but I’m not sure I can. It’s tough to welcome disturbing realities, difficult to embrace disillusionment. It may help if we remember that we’ve all had to do that with various life issues, and we became stronger after losing illusions. And in politics, in the past couple of years, some veils of illusion have been ripped away. Certainly anyone who thought we have mostly overcome racism should lose that illusion now that we have elected a chief executive who makes statements that many people interpret as bigoted.

We have also become dis-illusioned about human gullibility. Political leaders have long known that they can get away with lying to the public, but now we see that a brash, confident candidate can lie a hundred times as much as we once thought possible and get away with it. Aleister Crowley:

Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudices, fears or passions – he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word.” I think this is also true of people who are far above “average.”

But here’s something hopeful. When the veil of illusion is ripped away so violently, people wake up and mobilize. Think of those bright, passionate, resourceful young people who led the March for Our Lives. Yes, humanitarian and environmental causes have suffered alarming losses, but that can be our alarm clock. It’s time to wake up, and “stay woke.”

We human beings are not inherently evil, but we are perilously successful. We are so good at creating complexity and so clueless about taming ancient tribal impulses and the drive toward domination. It’s not easy being green, but step by step we can become more skillful in loving Mother Earth. After all, there is no Planet B. I have no doubt that we have what it takes to move forward. Whether we will depends on each of us.

Trump Lives in a Western Nation – So Is He an Oxy-Moron?

Secretary of State Tillerson reportedly called the President a moron, but he recently passed a cognitive exam with flying colors. So why does he keep making what a sportscaster would call “unforced errors?”

I am frankly surprised to hear that his frequent signs of stupidity are not due to cognitive decline. It certainly seems as if his blunders are getting worse. But by comparison, it may seem as if a pain I’m having now is worse than the pain I had yesterday – because I’m having it, not remembering it.

Trump’s recent insults to Haiti and Africa seemed like a new low, but he has a longstanding reputation for crude gutter language. And of course insulting people, and groups of people, is one of his personal hobbies. Even so, it was clearly stupid to speak of “shithole” or “shithouse” countries when Dick Durbin, a Democrat, was in the room. Did he forget who Durbin was, or not realize the consequences of someone reporting his vicious remarks?

As far as I know Trump has not had his head examined, with an X-ray or MRI. So he could have a brain tumor. But it may just be that deeply rooted personality defects distort his thinking – impulsiveness, arrogance, hostility, cruelty, a short attention span, and a love of risk-taking. Something is clouding his judgment. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Our Eight-Year-Old President

I recently read a wonderful column by the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto CA. She compares the behavior of DT, age 71, to the way her daughter acted at age 8. At 10, she’s outgrown it, but it seems very unlikely that DT ever will:

Unreality-based leadership

Roger Christan Schriner

The Fine-Tuning Argument for God’s Existence

I have recently posted a four-part series on the “fine-tuning” controversy on my theological blog, Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground. Some scientists claim that if the basic physical laws of the universe had been just slightly different, intelligent life could never have existed. Is this true? And if it is, does that show that the universe was designed by God as a home for humans?

The series includes some comments from the Closet Atheist blog and some passages from my book, Bridging the God Gap: Finding Common Ground Among Believers, Atheist and Agnostics. Click here if you’d like to check it out.

Roger Christan Schriner

Abortion and the Bible

One of my web sites deals with “Biblical inerrancy,” the idea that a supernatural being essentially dictated the entire Christian Bible so that every word is true. To some of you this may seem like a silly idea. But at least in the United States, Biblical inerrancy or literalism has a big impact on the way people live, think, feel, and vote. Continue reading

The Bible — God’s Word? A New Post on my “Bible blog”

I’ve just added this post to my blog about the Bible —

Why Read “Did God Really Say THAT!?”

This poat explains the purpose of that blog, and uses The Heartblink as an example: Continue reading

An Atheist Daughter Talks to Her Mother

I’ve recently run across a poignant communication from a college-age atheist to her Christian mother. It’s well-expressed and heartfelt, and it ties in with my blog on Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground. See:

An Open Letter to My Mother

Roger Christan Schriner

My Upcoming Talk in Shanghai

I’ve just been notified that my proposal for a presentation on consciousness has been accepted by organizers of The Science of Consciousness, Shanghai, China, June 5-10, 2017. [Update: The conference has been moved to San Diego, California.]

https://mysteryofconsciousness.wordpress.com

Here’s the abstract of my paper, Dueling Skepticisms: Strong Fallibilism Versus Illusionism. Continue reading

Some Thoughts for Those Who Voted for Donald Trump – and Those Who Didn’t

My reaction to the election of Donald Trump is intensely negative, but some people I respect did vote for him. I want to explain to Trump voters why many of us are appalled by this fellow, and I hope these comments will also be helpful to those who voted against him. Please forward this post if you find it valuable.

I don’t expect to convince people that I am right. I just want to explain why I feel so strongly.

Some of what I’ll say will be blunt, but if you voted for Trump you probably feel OK about blunt language. I’ll start with a short list of issues, followed by more details in the “footnotes.”

  1. Donald Trump loves to brutally humiliate people. “She had blood coming out of her wherever.” “Look at that face.”*1

Continue reading