Monday, May 5, 2008

Following the Money

Howard Ahmanson, like Sun Myung Moon, has a lot of money and he's not afraid to spend it on political favors and media time. I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with this, provided the objective was, at minimum, reality-friendly.

But Ahmanson is living in a theological castle built within his own head, a rather strange place where there's nothing wrong with, say, stoning adulterers and homosexuals.

I think when you become a little too rich, people stop telling you that your breath stinks, or your joke isn't funny, or you're boring the crap out of everyone. And thus you slowly morph from something basically recognizable as human into something more like Tom Cruise.

Following the Money is a report published by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, where apparently not everyone is happy with Ahmanson.
Since the 1970s, charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views have donated billions of dollars to what the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, has called "an extraordinary effort to reshape politics and public policy priorities at the national, state and local level."
There's too much there to summarize here. But I'll mention one bit which illustrates a familiar deception: guilt by association.
CEPAD ran a network of medical clinics for the poor, as well as a successful literacy campaign, according to Fred Clark, an editor of Prism , the magazine of Evangelicals for Social Action. "That literacy work had won the admiration and support of Nicaragua 's president, Daniel Ortega, and his Sandinista regime. Ortega's praise of CEPAD gave [Diane] Knippers [ed: Ahmanson funded] what she saw as an opening," Clark wrote in a 2003 account.

Although the evangelical churches did not support the Sandinistas, Clark wrote, "Knippers portrayed CEPAD -- and therefore the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society -- as 'guilty' by association. She wrote of CEPAD as a communist front, part of a supposed Soviet beachhead in Nicaragua . No one in this country paid much attention, but the contras did. CEPAD's clinics became targets for their paramilitary terrorists."
Humans are naturally associative thinkers. Rational thought, which is rule-based, impersonal, and self-skeptical, is more difficult. So yes, it is possible to sell nonsense to people simply by associating positive or negative values with the nonsense.

That's what Expelled is all about: associate Hitler, Stalin, smugness, elitism, and black-hearted cruelty with science, and people will feel wary of scientists. Rather convenient if the scientists might challenge something you'd like to say.

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