Humanist Thought of the Week: Sept 1 2009
On Being Virtuous
Ben Franklin once said that only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.
So, during the current health care debate – I was asked why I assumed that people opposed to it because they were afraid it would require euthanasia for the elder got their information from Fox News. I was told it was insulting to assume that. And then, of course, I was told by the very people that I suspected got their misinformation from Fox, that they were indeed Fox viewers. Leaving aside the fact I was right, they did get their mis-information from Fox, I do want to answer the question as to why I suspect people to be Fox viewers whenever I hear a bit of fear mongered nonsense in an otherwise sane political debate.
I can understand why a lot of people don’t understand how broken our health insurance system is yet. After all – most old people get their health care through the government – which despite conservatives being sure can’t run anything – has the highest satisfaction rates of any health care provider. Another large majority get their health insurance through their companies and let’s face it – unless you have to use it because of major injury or catastrophic illness – you have no idea how reliable your insurance is – and you probably haven’t given much thought to what you would do should you loose your job and as a consequence your health insurance. But for me and my family – we know.
Today – I was involved in a bit of a debate on facebook about the Health Care Reform Bill currently making its way through Congress. One of my facebook friends, a Humanist, has concerns about the bill. She is obviously from the libertarian wing of the Humanist movement. A lot of Humanists are libertarians. Just as many are progressive and liberal. And occasionally, you get a true conservative, but they are rather rare. Anyway – when she stated “nobody should be even implying that our 65+ should be opting out of treatment to reduce expenses on the rest of the population!” and that “none of them deserved to have "REQUIRED" end of life couseling.” I was a bit concerned that she had fallen prey to some right wing fear mongering. After all – NO ONE would be for rationing care for our elderly or encouraging them to die to save the rest of us money. You would have to be evil or insane to even suggest it. So I asked her to provide the citations of which exact sections of the bill stated that elderly people would be encouraged to kill themselves or that their care would be rationed. She provided several citations (but did not provide any that spoke to her concerns about the elderly). I then went online and looked at the bill myself (available at www.thomas.gov front page link). What I found was that very few of her concerns had any basis in fact. There were no citations that address elder care at all. And while a few of her concerns had some grain of truth in them, most of those were taken out of context. In short, there was only one concern that was based in fact but it was not nearly as scary as she had made it out to be when I read the offending section for myself (Sec 401.59B). In other words, I couldn’t find any of the horrible things she was concerned about in this bill. I decided to list all her concerns verbatim and what I found when I actually looked at the bill as I thought it might help others trying to make sense of this debate. I have labelled her concerns Myths because, to me, they did not stand up as true upon reading the actual bill. The Facts listed are my responses verbatim (with the exception of the occasional parathesis – which I added here. To provide some clarity – I am only listing my opinions as facts because – that was the format this fell into. What they really are is my interpretation of what the bill says – and I encourage you to read the actual text for yourself). And again – she did not provide any citations that included rationing care for the elderly or mandated end of life counseling – so at the moment – I am going to assume this bill does not contain anything remotely similar to that and will label that as a myth as well. And by the way – I was reviewing HR 3200.
Ok – so recently I had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I really liked it. I wrote about it and about how much I liked the version of Christianity promoted in the book. That prompted a nice woman named Becky to write me to encourage me to convert to that form of Christianity. Here is why that isn’t going to happen.
It comes down to certitude. I happen to truly believe that certitude, and specifically religious certitude, is one of the most dangerous habits of the mind anyone can hold.
At last, someone has quantified what I have been saying for the last few years (see my first article from 2006 and again in 2007). There is apparently a significant portion of our population (~10%) that cannot discern between reality and fantasy. I am talking of course about the “birthers.” I think we should look at this as an opportunity. With this issue we can clearly see that there is a reality deficit problem with about 10% of our population. This isn’t an issue that you can have different opinions on. There is reality and there is fantasy. I really think that someone needs to do a formal study to see what exactly is wrong with these people. I have posited that they have problems with memory function. But it could be anything.