Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

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Healthy Living Gone Too Far: The Absurdity of Cleanses

12.10.10

Living in Southern California – where some people literally become obsessed with eating healthy – it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about the various different cleanses that they do to rid their body of toxins and essentially control-alt-delete their homeostasis.  For the most part, I think that these are infomercial gimmicks at best that do very little at actually achieving their stated goals.

The most common for a while around here was the Master Cleanse.  (With a name like that, how could you go wrong?) For those venturing down this road of alternative detoxification, here’s what you do: do not eat anything for the duration of the cleanse except 6-to-12 glasses daily of a truly noxious-sounding elixir of fresh lemons, grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

Yes, you heard it right: lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper will scour clean your insides of those harmful toxins (not exactly which ones, though) and you’ll even lose weight — obviously, since all you’re ingesting is essentially a thick, spicy glass of fruit juice for 10 straight days and taking a daily laxative to make sure all those toxins get truly flushed out.

There will always be disputed evidence as to the effectiveness of these cleanses, but there is nothing truly conclusive that they do anything other than starve you and over-prepare you for a colonoscopy (for those of you trying this soon, do schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist so you can at least assure yourself of one benefit of this starvation trial).

I’ve heard many different outcomes from this regiment and they all fall into two categories:

I Feel Better

Okay, this is just a value statement that I can’t argue against.  If you feel better, that’s great.  But feeling fine doesn’t mean that your internal organs are in magical alignment or that there’s nothing wrong with you. You might still have high blood pressure, dangerous levels of cholesterol, and undigested meat in your gut even if you feel like you could jog up Everest without a jacket.  Since there’s no specific goal other than getting rid of toxins (now being called “free radicals” to make it sound more scientifically valid despite being especially vague) and also losing weight, which brings me to the second item:

I Lost Weight

Of course you lost weight!  You’re subsisting solely on fruit juice for a week and a half — you’re lucky you’re not in a coma. It doesn’t take a dietician to know that starving yourself triggers your body to slow down its metabolism, not speed it up; meaning that while you might be losing some weight, it’s probably just water weight and, if gone on for too long, it might include your own muscle as your body eats itself in order to survive.  Solid!

It turns out that the body is extremely competent at cleansing itself of toxins and harmful substances — your liver, lungs, and kidneys all include this in their daily job description.  And unless you’re overloading it with pure garbage like trans fats, heavily processed sugars, caffeine, alcohol, and other stuff that we know is bad for us but we tend to eat anyway, they’re going to continue to rid you of most of those toxins.

I sense that those organs will do a better job than 10 days of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup.  (Nothing quite like subsisting on large amounts of sugar to clean out that pancreas.)


The Reality

If you want to cleanse yourself, just start eating healthy. Eat greens, raw fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and limit your intake of processed foods and products — trust me: you don’t need a laxative if you eat the right natural foods (see: prunes).

That’s it.  That’s the secret.

Most likely if you’re feeling good during/after the Master Cleanse, it’s not because of what you’re putting into your body; it’s what you’re not.

Photo courtesy of fo.ol’s Flickr Photostream and ahockley’s Flickr Photostream.

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Obama’s ‘State Secrets’ a Bigger Threat to Our Free Society than Health Care Ever Will

09.26.10

Those in the Tea Parties like to rally against government getting too big and usually cite the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, and the health care reform as tell-tale signs that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into socialism.

It seems that the size of government, regardless of what those programs intend to do or why they were enacted in the first place, trumps the content of the policy.  It’s a simple numbers game for them.  In their mind, the government has peaked that curve that tips us from capitalism into socialism in their own view of the world and that’s that.

But what about the real issue of government getting too big: the deprivation of American civil liberties. And it’s already been happening.  First under Bush with the warrantless wiretapping and torture of terror suspects and now with Obama’s declared execution of an American citizen without any formal charges or due process:

Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.

What’s a more egregious act of a too-powerful government: making everyone have health insurance or the ability for the president to kill Americans with total impunity?  Why aren’t more people on all sides of the political divide beyond outraged at this?!

Is it because Anwar Awlaki – an American citizen – is an alleged (not even accused, because there haven’t been formal charges even) terrorist and traitor?  Unfortunately it seems that a large swath of Americans – including most, if not all, of the GOP – feel that once someone is deemed a terror suspect, they lose all human rights — as evidenced by the support of torture, rendition, and imprisonment for indefinite amounts of time without trial, even for American citizens.

How anyone could be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government yet support any of these powers that the President has given to the executive branch lacks any and all intellectual honesty.  It’s downright baffling and oxymoronic.

It must be problematic for those on the right because their fostered hatred for all things Islam has them believing that all Muslims are “the other,” they’re not truly American – even if they are U.S. citizens – which lets them be okay with this because, after all, it’s not like Obama is attempting to assassinate Bubba Joe Thompson from South Carolina or something.  It’s Anwar Awlaki from New Mexico.  With a name like that and the government saying that he’s a terrorist, well, that’s all the evidence I need!

Sigh.

It’s all good when the President is using those extra-constitutional powers to get the bad guys when the bad guys aren’t you.  But what happens when some radical in your social, ethnic, or religious group ends up doing something awful and all of a sudden you’re lumped in with them and targeted by the government?  What then?  By then it’ll be too far gone to stop.

This is why it’s so dangerous to conflate Islamic, murderous radicals with all Muslims, of which they constitute a tiny minority.  We get these knee-jerk reactions that toss away our civil liberties that we fought so hard to gain centuries ago, all under the guise of security and safety and protecting the American way of life.

Unfortunately, it seems that by having Obama – who was elected to clean up government and end these atrocious violations of the Constitution – continue and expand them, it may be too late to change already.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele.

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Why We Shouldn’t Stop Rev. Jones’ Quran Burning Party

09.08.10

Rising from the still-smoldering debate over the legitimacy of the Park51 community center is the Rev. Terry Jones’ proposed “Burn A Quran Day,” scheduled for this Saturday, September 11th.  Just like the name implies, from six to nine in the evening, people will gather to set copies of the Islamic holy text ablaze to show their opposition to the faith held by the radicals who attacked New York City nine years ago.

Jones’ plans have been met with considerable opposition of their own by just about everyone in the State Department and even from the military — General Petraeus warned that this very act could harm our efforts to control Afghanistan, even endangering our troops.

This hasn’t deterred Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center church.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church declaring “Islam is of the Devil.” But his Quran-burning scheme attracted wider attention… The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Religious freedom sure is an odd thing, isn’t it?  People want it when it suits them, but want ways around it when it doesn’t.  It’s part of the freedom’s brilliance and why it’s so vital to our Constitution.  Just like the Muslims have the right to build their mosque near Ground Zero, Jones and his own crew radicals have the right to burn some books.  Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion, however you want to slice it: they have the right to do this.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it an effective, worthwhile use of time.  Combating extremism with more extremism isn’t going to work.  Not to get all squishy, but you can’t beat hate with more hate.  You can’t beat ignorance with more ignorance.  You beat brutality with civility.  You overcome oppression with freedom.  You trump prejudice with acceptance.

What people don’t want to realize is that conflating all Muslims into radical terrorists is the same fallacy as Muslims condemning all Americans as infidels.  So, by blaming the entire religion of Islam for the terror attacks, Rev. Jones and his followers are responding to the mentality with which they disagree by adopting that exact mentality themselves. There’s very little in the way of logic going on here — it’s simply an “I’m right, they’re wrong” line of thinking.  No rationality required.

Another paradox is that these 50-odd people and their inflammatory plans for Saturday really could’ve just come and gone without much notice from anyone, except the media exploded this thing to the point where all levels of government voiced their opinions, it’s all over the news, all over the blogosphere.  It’s everywhere.  We could’ve all ignored Jones and his followers’ sad, unfortunate response to tragedy and they would’ve faded away without much of a whimper — no television stories for people abroad to see and misinterpret.

Although, that’s never going to happen — nor should it necessarily.  It is a news story, after all.  But does it require the amount of national exposure that it’s receiving?

People wonder why others hate Americans and then when snippets of news of Americans burning Qurans flood the airwaves, it’s not hard to see why they might be too fond of us.  Because just like how we only catch glimpses and read certain stories about what kind of people they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Palestine, you have to figure that people in those countries only catch glimpses and read certain stories about us, too.  And who knows what is being passed off to them as representative of Americans as a whole. Odds are that if there’s video footage of a bunch of Floridians burning Qurans gleefully, claiming that the entire faith is of the devil (remind you much of Ahmadinejad calling America the “Great Satan” at all?), that will make it over to those Islamic nations with which we’re firmly entrenched overseas.

While we can’t stop the Dove World Outreach Center from their Quran-burning plans, we can do our part to embrace our diversity and focus on remaining rational in the face of these highly emotional times.  Let them burn their books.  Because when has that ever changed people’s minds?  The beliefs aren’t in the books; they’re in people’s minds and hearts. They won’t accomplish anything good with their pointless, crude event, so why give them a soapbox any bigger than they already have?  Our efforts are best served doing something else, something productive, something positive.

If we continue to do more and more things that promote tolerance, acceptance, rationality, and – ultimately – positivity, we can outshine any blaze by the loud, radical outliers.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele — All Rights Reserved.  And no, it has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.  And we need more of that in the world, right now especially.

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Religion: Anachronistic Perhaps, Yet Still Valuable

08.25.10

Andrew Sullivan:

If you see the world as something to be understood, you will seek to understand it through many voices, idioms and perspectives. To dismiss all religion as mere anachronistic bunk is a closure of the mind, not an opening.

While I agree, I don’t know that I agree in the same way that Sullivan means it.  I haven’t used that precise term – anachronistic – to describe religion before, but it’s relatively close to my feelings toward it.  I don’t know that my issue with it is that it’s old-fashioned so much as that the rigid structures of religion are itself closed-minded, ignoring new evidence and thousands of years of human development, ingenuity, and discovery in favor of some ancient texts.

At least, that’s the case for the Abrahamic religions.  One could argue that since their texts are so old, that they must be relevant and worthy if people are still worshiping them after all these centuries of new ideas and new religions have come to pass.

The same can’t be said for new faiths like Mormonism or Scientology.  Those followers intrigue me the most, especially the latter.  To think that people subscribe to a set of beliefs that include some pretty out-there sci-fi babble in an age where we have so much scientific evidence showing that there’s no way the universe is trillions of trillions of trillions of years old stuns me.

So where do I agree with Sullivan?

It’s precisely because those people stun and baffle me that these religions are worthy of studying and investigating.  We’re all so different yet we all have so many traits in common.  Why am I not religious while others are extremely devout?  Why do certain cultures tend to embrace such different faiths?  Or is it their faiths that determine different cultures? These religions, and the human race’s constant desire to believe, offers all kinds of information that we can dissect and study from sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives in order to learn how our minds and cultures evolve and function.

Just about everything involves religion.  Just glance at the news and try not to incorporate Islam, Judaism, and Christianity t0 understand what’s going on.  From the two wars we’re fighting in the Middle East to the already-existing mosque near Ground Zero in NYC to award speeches, it’s impossible to separate humans from religion.

And even for those like myself who follows no religious institution, my doing so is notable because of my lack of religious desire.  I admit that I frequently dismiss the concept of religion as anachronistic bunk, as Sullivan says, but I don’t dismiss its impact or its intellectual worth when it comes to understanding our world.   In that sense, I don’t see my beliefs as being a closure of the mind at all because one doesn’t need to give credence to religious faith in order to investigate our world so much as accept religion’s existence and how it affects people, places, and things.

I just keep it in its place along with other myths, legends, and fables that speak volumes about ourselves as self-conscious beings and human nature than they do anything related to defining our existence or explaining the afterlife.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Booyabazooka

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What Do Canada and Mexico Have that the United States Doesn’t? Equality

08.13.10

For being the self-proclaimed “land of the free,” the United States sure has gone out of its way to deny freedoms to a minority group of Americans with so many states pushing legislation to ban same sex marriages.

I understand that a lot of that comes from traditional values associated with religious beliefs; but, being founded on religious freedom and purposefully not having any state-endorsed faith, it seems that of the countries legalizing gay marriage, the U.S. would be one of those few.

Quite the contrary.  And much of the reason that we’re not comes from those religious beliefs being favored over civil freedoms — see the Mormon Church spending millions to help pass Prop 8.

The reality is that religious belief and civil marriage equality can co-exist.  One doesn’t negate the other.  Case in point:

Our neighbor to the south: Mexico legalized gay marriage.

Mexico? Really?  A country whose population is over three quarters Roman Catholic — a faith whose leader has assailed against gay marriage as even being a threat to creation.  A country that has more Catholics than any other country in the world, except for Brazil?  That’s fascinating.

So how did this happen?  Opponents can’t argue that it was purely judicial activism — it was legalized in Mexico City by the legislature.  Only this week did the Supreme Court uphold the law and also required all states to recognize the marriages that are only currently performed in the capital city. And the vote wasn’t even close, either : 9 – 2, in favor.

So, what’s our excuse?

Sure we’re not so liberal as Canada, who also has legalized marriage equality.  But we’re also not so homogeneous in our beliefs as Mexico, either.  (Although if all you do is listen to the current vitriol from the conservative groups, one might forget that America has no official religion.)  Why have we instead gone the completely opposite direction in creating laws that ban same sex marriage?

If Mexico, with it’s overwhelming number of Roman Catholics can elect a legislature that rules in favor of equality, then why in the world can’t we?

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele

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Girls Gone Wild Uses “She Was Asking For It” Defense, Wins

07.24.10

In the latest legal woes for Joe Francis and his “Girls Gone Wild” pornglomerate franchise, he’s actually gotten off scot-free.

There’s been quite the backlash for the St. Louis, MO jury that ruled against a 26-year-old woman – known only as Jane Doe – who was filmed topless at a bar back in 2004.  I have not seen the video, but apparently Doe can be heard saying “no, no” when asked if she would take off her top; she only bares her breasts when someone comes up from behind her and pulls down her top.  The jury argued that she gave implicit consent by being in the bar during the taping.

Jury foreman Patrick O’Brien:

“Through her actions, she gave implied consent. She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing.”

Perverts, gropers, and rapists around the country rejoice!  All you have to do to get away with what would normally find you arrested for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or even attempted rape — all kinds of stigmatized offenses that could haunt you forever  — is to just bring a camcorder with you.  Yeah, that seems fair.

Looks like the whole “she was asking for it” defense still works after all.  Unreal.

(H/T Jezebel)

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5 Ways to Deal with Facebook’s Privacy Policy

05.13.10

Many people are up in arms about the new Facebook privacy policy that defaults to making your information public.  This puts the onus on you to go through the dozens of options and select for yourself the level of transparency you want for your different personal info.

I do not understand this public outcry.  Look: social media is about transparency.  It’s about putting it all out there, letting it hang loose, and saying, “Hey, this is me.  Deal with it.”  It stems from a push against traditional media and advertising that forced people to fit into some sort of predetermined box of expectations.  This move toward transparency is liberating, not stifling. And if you don’t want to participate, no one is forcing you to post potentially embarrassing photos from last night’s party on your Facebook Wall when you know full well that you’re friends with your boss and other colleagues from work.

It comes down again – like so many current hot-button topics in American life right now – to personal responsibility.  We’ve become a society that is unhappy with virtually everything yet rarely accepting the fact that we are to blame for, if not the issue itself, then with not doing something about it ourselves to fix it.  Don’t like the idea of the world reading your status updates or knowing your birth date?  You have a few options:

  1. Spend fifteen laborious minutes that you’d otherwise be spending playing FarmVille and go through your privacy controls and make them fit your comfort level;
  2. Don’t put up anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want the world to see;
  3. Bitch and moan;
  4. Design your own non-evil Facebook clone called Diaspora*.

Or just pull the plug altogether and go off the grid, John Connor-T3-style — which I don’t recommend unless you want to be one of those people who complain about “those damned kids and their Internets” and get laughed at by those damned kids for being completely out of touch.

I’d say choose either #1 or #2.  If you’re programmingly inclined, give those guys at Diaspora* a call and get on that bandwagon.  Please, though, stop with #3.  Seriously.  You give far more sensitive information to companies around the world every single day and there’s no outrage.  You give your phone number to the local grocery store to get those in-store discounts.  You punch in your secret code every time you grab money out of your ATM.  You hand over your Social Security Number to apply for a credit card so you can afford to buy things from Amazon.com which stores all of your billing and shipping information and keeps track of all of your recent purchases so that it can suggest to you what you might end up liking to buy on your next visit.  And let’s not even start with Google’s GMail…

The truth is, you want people to comment with an “LOL!!!OMG!!” next to that photo of yourself doing a kegstand on Spring Break.  You want people to flood your Wall with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” on your special day and send you little digital gifts.  You want people to chime in on your latest genius observation of the world that you posted as your status update.  That’s the whole point of Facebook and social media in general.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t even have an account; you’d just have a big tackboard at home on your wall where you’d keep all of these gems to yourself for your own amusement.

And it looks like that’s option number five.

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The Senate Immigration Reform and My Case for Humanities and the Arts

04.30.10

Apparently amid all of this Arizona immigration law controversy, Senate Democrats in Washington have actually released an immigration reform plan.  It seems extraordinarily unlikely that this will go anywhere in 2010 since this is an election year and nothing is more polarizing than tackling immigration.  (Except maybe health care reform.)

You can download the REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) proposal here.  (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that acronym and I wonder how excited they were when they finally made it work.)

I haven’t had a chance to study this 26-page document but I stumbled upon this excerpt that caught my eye, which shot me off into a completely different topic entirely but one still worth talking about:

This proposal will reform America’s high-skilled immigration system to permanently attract the world’s best and brightest while preventing the loss of American jobs to temporary foreign labor contractors. At the moment, high-skilled workers are prevented from emigrating to the Unites States due to restrictive caps on their entry. In order to accomplish this goal, a green card will be immediately available to foreign students with an advanced degree from a United States institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and who possess an offer of employment from a United States employer in a field related to their degree. Foreign students will be permitted to enter the United States with immigrant intent if they are a bona fide student so long as they pursue a full course of study at an institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. To address the fact that workers from some countries face unreasonably long backlogs that have no responsiveness to America’s economic needs, this proposal eliminates the per-country employment immigration caps.

My emphasis.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the real-world necessity of having the best and brightest minds in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics here in the States working for American companies.  Our ability to compete with China, Russia, and India depends on it.  But, I have to say that the total lack of respect and throwaway mentality that is associated with the arts is appalling and depressing.

Upon telling inquirers that I was studying film in college, I couldn’t count how many times they would respond disdainfully with: “Well, what are you gonna do with that?”  As if learning about dozens of cultures all over the world through over one hundred years of celluloid art was a preposterous waste of time, money, and energy.  The change from excitedly curious to holier-than-thou tones in their voice still hasn’t escaped me to this day.  And I know that I still feel slightly ashamed that I haven’t become a successful filmmaker only because it would truly spite those people and their ignorant disapproval — and another part of me is slightly ashamed to admit that.

I have to think that our society wouldn’t be dealing with some of our current woes were we not so dismissive of the studies of humanities and the arts.  We need English majors.  We need Philosophy majors.  We need Sociology majors.  We need Fine Arts majors.  We need Comparative Literature majors.  We need History majors.  We need Psychology majors.  We need Photography majors.  These studies matter.  These studies provide value.

Perhaps they’re not the sexiest of degrees, nor do they promise immediate paydays upon graduation.  Admittedly, many of them don’t even guarantee employment in their respective fields once those students enter the workforce.  But what these studies and those who study them provide to our society and culture can be measured in countless other ways.  Not everything worthwhile in this world can be calculated by how much you bring home each paycheck.

If everyone became an engineer, who would actually assemble the product?  Who would interview the designers for the newspaper article that brings them attention and acclaim?  Who would film the inaugural release of that innovative creation, showing the whole world their success?  Who would turn that amazing story into a bestselling book and subsequently (less) amazing movie?  Who then would catalog these historical documents and relics so that this feat can be remembered forever?

(H/T The Daily Dish)
Photo courtesy of MLibrary

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Dinosaurs and Humans! Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

02.18.10

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll (you know how much I love these*):

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals.

For those keeping score at home, that means that 50% of Texans don’t believe in the theory of evolution.  (It also means that they consider the theory of evolution a belief system, which means that they don’t understand the definition of scientific theory.)  And that about 30% think that Grok had a pet Triceratops and had to avoid being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex when out hunting.

If this were contained simply within the Bible Belt, it would still be intellectually depressing but somewhat understandable.  But when  the Texas Board of Education essentially determines what gets taught in history textbooks that become the standard for nearly every public school across the country, this ignorance cannot be ignored.

…the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years

(My emphasis.)  Note that these changes to the textbooks – including changing the previously established language describing the U.S. Constitution as “living” to “enduring”; requiring teachers to go over the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution; and pushing forth their main goal of establishing the U.S. as a “Christian nation” by revisionist accounts of the Founding Fathers and a unique interpretation of the First Amendment – will end up in nearly 48 million textbooks distributed to at least 46 of the 50 states to use in their public school systems.

And we wonder why so many people don’t believe in evolution.  Or in climate change.  Or who think that the earth is 6,000 years old.  Or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

* With regard to polls, I feel that the associated NY Times article lends this data some weight.  The questions asked are also much more straight forward than some polls that I’ve seen – like the ones Rasmussen conducts where they ask people “Do you like the health care bill?” or “Are you happy with the current government’s policies?” that provide no context for people’s discontent or allow them to provides reasons that might clarify just what they don’t like about policies, which is the important information to know.  This poll asks value questions on purpose rather than skewing value questions as policy questions.  Also – this isn’t the only poll that has found these kind of numbers.  According to this article by the Pew Research Center from 2009:

Opinion polls over the past two decades have found the American public deeply divided in its beliefs about the origins and development of life on earth. Surveys are fairly consistent in their estimates of how many Americans believe in evolution or creationism. Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life, while comparable or slightly larger numbers accept the idea that humans evolved over time. The wording of survey questions generally makes little systematic difference in this division of opinion, and there has been little change in the percentage of the public who reject the idea of evolution.

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Another Misleading Poll: 12% Don’t Believe Obama Cut Taxes

02.17.10

I heard about this statistic on my drive into work this morning listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, according to a CBS News poll:

12% of Americans don’t believe that the Obama Administration cut taxes last year.

Once I got to work, I did some more research on this because I found it to be extremely troubling.  The data was in fact from a CBS News/New York Times poll, the news article of which is entitled: “Poll Reveals Most Americans Don’t Know They Got a Tax Cut.” Although, if you notice, in the first paragraph of the article, there is a link to the actual poll article (I thought I was already on the page of the poll?), so I click through and I’m greeted with this headline: “Poll: Who Are the Tea Partiers?”

Well, now this changes everything.  A poll of those in the Tea Party will provide much different results than that of all Americans.  And that’s exactly what it is: “44 percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama has already raised taxes this past year, while most Americans think the president has kept them the same.” This poll was designed to figure out which people comprise the Tea Party and what they believe, which means that the figure of only 12 percent represents of the Tea Partiers who were polled, not the general population.  This makes much more sense and is also rather relieving.  To think that nearly 90% of all Americans were so completely factually incorrect and in the dark was too much for me to accept.

Although it shows, once again, just how polls can be extremely misleading.  It’s even worse in this case because CBS News made a huge error in stating that this poll of Tea Partiers is indicative of the feelings of all Americans. Perhaps if the Tea Party were a huge section of the population this could be a more reasonable supposition, but according to their own poll, only 18 percent of Americans self-identify with the Tea Party.

As our culture keeps shifting toward placing importance and validity on opinions over facts – going so far as to even discredit facts simply because one doesn’t want to believe the truth (see: climate change, evolution, the definition of torture) – and news organizations more interested in juicy headlines than reporting the new properly, more and more polls will be given way too much weight to their findings.  Remember to always take poll and survey results with very fine grains of salt or investigate them enough to really put the numbers and data in the proper perspective.  At the end of the day, they only gauge public opinion, which doesn’t always reflect reality.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but like Sen. Al Franken said, “we’re not entitled to our own facts.”