Is race a social construct?

During a recent 1A episode, they were talking about Kamala’s experience at the majority black Howard University. What are your thoughts on schools that are predominantly black or predominately white?

Certainly de jure segregation (segregation that is enforced by law) is wrong. However, de facto segregation (segregation that occurs without laws but because of other factors) is only wrong in some circumstances?

In my view, even if all schools are equally and adequately funded, there are still reasons that our public school policies should encourage diversity. And by public school policies, I mean the public funding of education.

One value of diversity is that stereotypes are broken down when we interact with people that are different from us. Or at least that’s the hypothesis. Another value in diversity is that more perspectives are brought to light.

If neighborhoods aren’t integrated then it’s difficult for the neighborhood schools to be integrated. Magnet schools were created (at least in Jacksonville, Florida) to stop the court ordered forced busing. The idea was that people would voluntarily bus themselves to attend the magnet school in a de facto segregated neighborhood. In my view, magnet, charter, and voucher funded private schools should all be required to be at least 20% black and at least 20% white. I also question the value of schools segregated by gender so I am opposed to publicly funded same-sex schools.

How do we achieve diversity? How do we eliminate laws and customs that use skin color as a reason to deprive people of benefits that others receive? If we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t proactive in reducing racism, will it continue?

Pluralism is represented by the ideal of the United States as a “salad bowl”: a great mixture of different cultures where each culture retains its own identity and yet adds to the flavor of the whole. Assimilation describes the process by which a minority individual or group gives up its own identity by taking on the characteristics of the dominant culture. But can’t there be a little of both? 

One non-liberal commentator, Dinesh D’Souza, appeared on Fox News to question whether Kamala Harris could truly claim she was African-American (or perhaps Dinesh said Black).

23 and Me tells me I’m 1% African. What percentage would you need to be in order to label yourself African-American? What does it mean to label yourself African-American or Black if it has nothing to do with your DNA?

I posted this question in a Facebook group: “How dark does your skin need to be to be considered Black?” One person responded: “Please do not introduce ‘colorism’ into the conversation of who is and is not Black.” I was confused by the comment. Obviously there is a deficit in my understanding of the meaning of the word “Black.”

I have read that race is a social construct and that no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists. But people are different colors.

People should be allowed to label themselves. That’s one of the reasons I was fascinated by Rachel Dolezal. I read her book and watched a movie about her. I still don’t understand why people were critical of her for labeling herself Black (or was it African-American?). If they liked the way she was running the local chapter of the NAACP, why did it matter that both her parents were white?

I just finished reading “How to be an Antiracist.” He talks about the problem with assimilation. However, I’m still thinking that some assimilation is a good thing. If we want to be successful, then don’t we need to speak the language of the dominant culture in the community where we live?


Is race a social construct?

During a recent 1A episode, they were talking about Kamala’s experience at the majority black Howard University. What are your thoughts on schools that are predominantly black or predominately white?

Certainly de jure segregation (segregation that is enforced by law) is wrong. However, de facto segregation (segregation that occurs without laws but because of other factors) is only wrong in some circumstances.

Even if all schools are equally and adequately funded, there are still reasons that our public school policies should encourage diversity. And by public school policies, I mean the public funding of education.

One value of diversity is that stereotypes are broken down when we interact with people that are different from us. Or at least that’s the hypothesis. Another value in diversity is that more perspectives are brought to light.

If neighborhoods aren’t integrated then it’s difficult for the neighborhood schools to be integrated. Magnet schools were created (at least in Jacksonville, Florida) to stop the court ordered forced busing. The idea was that people would voluntarily bus themselves to attend the magnet school in a de facto segregated neighborhood. In my view, magnet, charter, and voucher funded private schools should all be required to be at least 20% black and at least 20% white.


How do we achieve diversity and not use skin color to deprive people of benefits that others receive? Why does something like skin color have any meaning at all? And if we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t pro-active in reducing racism, will it continue? Or are we making it worse by continually talking about it?

How do we achieve diversity and not use skin color to deprive people of benefits that others receive? Why does something like skin color have any meaning at all? And if we make laws based on the color of someone’s skin, are we perpetuating the myth of race? If we aren’t pro-active in reducing racism, will it continue? Or are we making it worse by continually talking about it?

I’d like to learn more about the concepts of assimilation vs pluralism. Pluralism is represented by the ideal of the United States as a “salad bowl”: a great mixture of different cultures where each culture retains its own identity and yet adds to the flavor of the whole. Assimilation describes the process by which a minority individual or group gives up its own identity by taking on the characteristics of the dominant culture.  But can’t there be a little of both?



Topic questions for the discussion of: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

1. Can we agree on the definition of racist?

Location: 307 A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way
Page 9: A racist endorses the racial hierarchy.
page 13: Racist is one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea
Location: 274 A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.
Page 10: A racist is manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems…. This is the consistent function of racist ideas—and of any kind of bigotry more broadly: to manipulate us into seeing people as the problem, instead of the policies that ensnare them.
Location: 284 When someone discriminates against a person in a racial group, they are carrying out a policy or taking advantage of the lack of a protective policy.

2. If racial discrimination is defined as considering race when making a decision, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. Do you agree?

Location: 290 (page 18-19) The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.

3. If people feel the word “racist” is an insult, is it better to say “that idea is racist” rather than calling someone a racist?

Kindle location 148 (page 9) : The White Supremacist Richard Spencer said “‘Racist’ isn’t a descriptive word. It’s a pejorative word. It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ”
Kindle Location: 159 The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to freeze us into inaction.
Page 10 We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next.

4. Can we agree on the definition of an antiracist

Page 9: An antiracist endorses racial equality. An antiracist locates the roots of problems in power and policies. An antiracist confronts racial inequities.
Location: 175 (page 10) The movement from racist to antiracist requires understanding and snubbing racism based on biology, ethnicity, body, culture, behavior, color, space, and class.
Page 13 An antiracist is one who is supporting an antiracist policy through actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
Location: 842 To be antiracist is to focus on ending the racism that shapes the mirages, not to ignore the mirages that shape peoples’ lives.

5. Was his big message that we need to focus on changing racist policy?

Location: 285 (page 18) Only an exclusive few have the power to make policy. Focusing on “racial discrimination” takes our eyes off the central agents of racism: racist policy and racist policymakers, or what I call racist power.

6. Is it important to have clearly defined words? Is the conversation harmed when people use the words socialism and capitalism but mean different things?

Regulated capitalism
Democratic Socialism
Socialism (all means of production owned by government, sometimes called Communism)

Location: 2,529 In doing so, these conservative defenders are defining capitalism. They define capitalism as the freedom to exploit people into economic ruin; the freedom to assassinate unions; the freedom to prey on unprotected consumers,
Location: 2,535 Liberals who are “capitalist to the bone,” as U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren identifies herself, present a different definition of capitalism. … When Senator Warren and others define capitalism in this way—as markets and market rules and competition and benefits from winning—they are disentangling capitalism from theft and racism and sexism and imperialism. If that’s their capitalism, I can see how they can remain capitalist to the bone.
Location: 2,551 Humanity needs honest definitions of capitalism and racism based in the actual living history

7. What is your understanding of intersectionality based on this book or other readings?

Location: 176 And beyond that, it means standing ready to fight at racism’s intersections with other bigotries.
Location: 3,016 My journey to being an antiracist first recognized the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racism, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and, when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.

8. Do you agree that it’s important that we define the kind of people we want to be?

Location: 261 (page 17) Definitions anchor us in principles. This is not a light point: If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable, consistent goals.

9. What should be the punishment for running from the police?

Location: 882 they knew the criminal-justice system was guilty, too. Guilty for freeing the White cops who beat Rodney King in 1991

10. What if he phrased it “we could have prevented the assault if we had _____ but why should we?”

Location: 1,191 Black people are apparently responsible for calming the fears of violent cops in the way women are supposedly responsible for calming the sexual desires of male rapists. If we don’t, then we are blamed for our own assaults, our own deaths

11. Slavery is wrong whether you’re enslaving your own people or not. What was his point in this quote?

Location: 922 Africans involved in the slave trade did not believe they were selling their own people—they were usually selling people as different to them as the Europeans waiting on the coast.

12. Does it bother you when someone asks you “Where are you from?’

Location: 978 The face of ethnic racism bares itself in the form of a persistent question: “Where are you from?”

13. Is it because of the lack of money or the abundance of time and energy that unemployed people commit more crimes than employed people?

Location: 1,231 “Communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.”

14. He makes a distinction between segregation and voluntarily separating based on common goals or gender or race or religion. He made a point that all groups need to be adequately funded. But isn’t there a value in diversity?

Freedom of association.
Power dynamics

Location: 1,358 I just loved being surrounded by all those Black people—or was it all that culture?—
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.

15. There are advantages to assimilating or at least being able to appear more like the dominate group at least on occasion, yes?

Page 81 Cultural Racist: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups
Location: 1,315 We did not care if older or richer or Whiter Americans despised our nonstandard dress like our nonstandard Ebonics.
Location: 1,877 Paradoxically, some tanning White people look down on bleaching Black people,
Location: 1,873 In India, “fairness” creams topped $200 million in 2014.
Page 83: Myrdal standardized the general (White) culture, then judged African American culture as distorted or pathological from that standard. Whoever makes the culture standard makes the cultural hierarchy. The act of making a cultural standard and hierarchy is what creates cultural racism.

16. He inserts this quote by John McWhorter and then also quotes the chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women as saying “You can’t listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you.” BUT he seems to be saying that they are dishonoring a certain type of culture. And he doesn’t like it. Is that how you read it?

Location: 1,374 “By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly ‘authentic’ response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success,” linguist John McWhorter once claimed.
Location: 1,398 AT FIFTEEN, I was an intuitive believer in multiculturalism…I opposed racist ideas that belittled the cultures of urban Black people, of hip-hop…
Location: 1,423 To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals

17. Has the book made you more aware of policies that might be considered racist?

Location: 1,464 But policies determine the success of groups. And it is racist power that creates the policies that cause racial inequities.

18. How else can we test student’s success without tests?

Location: 1,567 She wasn’t making us smarter so we’d ace the test—she was teaching us how to take the test.

19. This book has me thinking a lot about racial diversity and if we should require charter, magnet, and voucher funded private schools to have a certain level of diversity.

Location: 1,613 Through these initiatives and many, many others, education reformers banged the drum of the “achievement gap” to get attention and funding for their equalizing efforts.
Location: 1,615 What if different environments lead to different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement?
Location: 1,669 The truth is, I wanted to flee misbehaving Black folk.
Location: 2,690 The reality: A large percentage of—perhaps most—Black Americans live in majority-Black neighborhoods,
Location: 2,745 They desired to separate, not from Whites but from White racism.
Location: 2,752 When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.
Location: 2,755 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Separate but equal covered up the segregationist policies that diverted resources toward exclusively White spaces.
Location: 2,772 What really made the schools unequal were the dramatically unequal resources provided to them, not the mere fact of racial separation.
Location: 2,807 what if the scoring gap closed because, as Black students integrated White schools, more students received the same education and test prep?

20. How much do you think voter suppression is based on racism?

Location: 1,938 Palm Beach County used confusing ballots that caused about nineteen thousand spoiled ballots and perhaps three thousand Gore voters to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan.

21. Were you impressed by Malcolm X’s transformation?

Location: 2,003 On September 22, 1964, Malcolm made no mistake about his conversion. “I totally reject Elijah Muhammad’s racist philosophy, which he has labeled ‘Islam’ only to fool and misuse gullible people,
Location: 2,007 Black people can be racist toward White people. The NOI’s White-devil idea is a classic example. Whenever someone classifies people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior, whenever someone says there is something wrong with White people as a group, someone is articulating a racist idea.
Location: 2,017 To be antiracist is to never mistake the antiracist hate of White racism for the racist hate of White people.

22. Do you think anyone that wants to glorify Confederate soldiers is a racist?

Location: 2,069 They wave Confederate flags and defend Confederate monuments, even though the Confederacy started a civil war that ended with more than five hundred thousand White American lives lost—more than every other American war combined.

23. Do you agree that saying Black people don’t have power encourages Black people with power to not work to eliminate racist policies? Or is that not how you understood him?

Page 130- When Black people…concentrate their hatred on everyday White people, they are not fighting racist power or racist policymakers. In losing focus on racist power, they fail to challenge racist policies.
Location: 2,194 Black voices critical of White racism defended themselves from these charges by saying, “Black people can’t be racist, because Black people don’t have power.”

24. How do you feel about inheritance tax? Is it a fair way to level the playing field for the new generation?

Location: 2,418 Goldwater and his ideological descendants said little to nothing about rich White people who depended on the welfare of inheritances, tax cuts, government contracts,

25. We’ve talked about people protesting Murray’s talks when we’ve discussed other books.

Location: 2,909 In 1994 political scientist Charles Murray made sure Americans knew the percentage of Black children born into single-parent households “has now reached 68 percent.” Murray blamed the “welfare system.”
This article from the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses this even further:

26. I was curious about Gunnar Myrdal, who was mentioned on page 83, so I googled him. Here is a quote from an article I found:

Seventy years later, the public conversation on race continues to rely on an approach grounded more in wishful thinking than in hard fact. Myrdal’s assertion that black Americans’ inferior status was principally caused by whites’ discrimination; and that if Americans wanted to correct this problem, they simply needed to cease discriminating… Americans were a morally conscious people who sought to correct their discrimination against black Americans to meet their egalitarian ideals. Americans, the couple explained, welcomed criticism of their race problem because they aspired to be a better people.

Link to article:

27. Are these things good to do sometimes?

Location: 68 He rarely if ever put on a happy mask, faked a calmer voice, hid his opinion, or avoided making a scene.


Are magnet, charter, and vouchers accomplishing the goals that they were created to achieve?

Here is a quote from How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi:

When integrationists use segregation and separation interchangeably, they are using the vocabulary of Jim Crow.

In 1896 The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Plessy v. Ferguson said separate but equal was OK. ¹ I think Ibram X Kendi would say that they actually meant segregated since the separation was mandated.  However, the Supreme Court and the policy makers did not do anything to make sure racially segregated public schools were equal to one another. That led to the Supreme Court ruling, in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, that said segregated public schools were now illegal.

However, the problem was that the Supreme Court and the policy makers made no effort to make sure all publicly funded schools were equal.  In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, SCOTUS ruled that busing was an appropriate remedy for the problem of racial imbalance in schools, even when the imbalance resulted from the selection of students based on geographic proximity to the school rather than from deliberate assignment based on race.

Another blow to equal schools came in 1973 with the SCOTUS opinion in Antonio Independent School district v. Rodriquez. ² The court had the opportunity to rule that all schools won’t be equal if they aren’t properly funded, but they didn’t rule that way. They allowed schools in poorer neighborhoods to receive less funding than schools in richer neighborhoods. They concluded that busing was the answer not adequately funding each neighborhood school.

No one liked forced busing so the hybrid method of voluntary busing (magnet and charters and vouchers) was created. But we need to require that those publicly funded schools outside one’s neighborhood are racially diverse.

Magnet schools were formed to allow Jacksonville to get out of the Federal rules requiring busing to achieve racial diversity. ³ Quote from this article:

The CSA established “a desegregative goal of at least 20% black students and 45% white students” … The Board was required, with community input, to implement and aggressively promote magnet programs as incentives to attract white students to these schools. … The Board was also required to commit $60,000,000 for the “renovation, substantial rehabilitation, or replacement of core city schools.”

Another excerpt from How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi:

The courts have reinforced the legitimacy of integrated White spaces that hoard public resources … To be an antiracist is to champion resource equity by challenging the racist policies that produce resource inequity. … What really made the schools unequal were the dramatically unequal resources provided to them.

Kendi goes on to say that one of the goals of desegregation should be to help the different races get along, to overcome any innate bias against one another, to try to eradicate the hate embedded in the White Supremacists rhetoric.

This was one of the questions JPEF asked the candidates running for a school board position during the forum/debate (Ref 4) :

Do you think magnet and charter schools should be required to have a certain level of racial diversity? If yes, how can that be accomplished?

This is how I would answer but I’m not running:

Magnet schools were formed to allow Jacksonville to get out of the Federal rules requiring busing to achieve racial diversity.  We need to require all charter schools, magnet schools, and private schools that receive voucher money to reflect the racial diversity of the city. Each of those schools (charter, magnet, and voucher funded private schools) need to aggressively recruit students so they can achieve a certain level of racial diversity. Each school should be at least 20% black and at least 20% white. If the school has a magnet program but is predominately attracting kids from the neighborhood, then it isn’t a magnet school.

The law that once required kids to only go to schools in their neighborhood has been abandoned.  Kids can go to any school in the district if they can provide their own transportation but priority is given to the kids in the neighborhood.

Every neighborhood school should have programs in the arts, music, debate, etc. Every neighborhood school should be great! And every neighborhood school should be adequately funded. And every neighborhood school and magnet school should make it a priority to teach what it means to be “a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values” per Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g). (Ref 5)

I  hope the Florida legislature will pass something similar to SB 184 (Ref 6) next legislative session so that charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money will also have to teach the course required by 1003.42 (2)(g). (Ref 5)

There should be an exception to the racial diversity requirement for magnet schools for kids with special needs since those schools accept kids based on a disability.

If magnet schools and charter schools and vouchers were created to address the desire to ban segregation, then don’t we need guidelines to make sure those schools are racially diverse? If the goal of those “choices” has changed, what are the new goals? How do we determine if they are meeting those new goals?

Quote from a powerful speech by Martin Luther King, Jr (Ref 7):

All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.

Neighborhood schools can’t be considered equal if neighborhood schools in poorer neighborhoods aren’t adequately funded. As we are trying to learn how to correct the long term negative ramifications of segregation, I hope we don’t destroy the neighborhood school as the privatization movement seems determined to do. (Ref 9) . We need to be clear about our goals so that our actions work to achieve that goal.

Because most public schools are the hubs of their communities, not only for educational engagement but also for civic activity, they are a sacred public trust where Americans become socialized and develop their sense of belonging, identity and purpose. In essence, public schools hold immense symbolic capital. (Ref 8)

It’s difficult to achieve racial diversity in a neighborhood school unless the boundaries are drawn to create racial diversity. The TU Editorial Board opinion piece about scatter housing offers an idea, but would that truly achieve racial diversity? (Ref 10) Or would that just create another avenue for the rich to use taxpayer money to fund their private investments as the charter school movement has done? (Ref 11) What about having zoning restrictions requiring each school zone to have a combination of expensive, moderate, and low income housing?

Ref 1. Link to article about the case:

Ref 2. Link to article about Antonio Independent School district v. Rodriquez:

Ref 3. Link to lawsuit creating magnet schools in Duval County:

Reference 14 in that article reads:
“Magnet schools, as generally understood, are public schools designed to promote integration by voluntarily drawing students away from their neighborhoods and private schools …”

Ref 4. Link to Duval County School Board Candidate debates sponsored by JPEF:

Ref 5. Link to Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g)

Ref 6. Link to 2020-SB 184

Ref 7. Link to Martin Luther King, Jr speech:

Ref 8. Link to the quote:

Ref 9.

Ref 10.

Ref 11.



Nonsense on Stilts

Topic questions:
1. Is there a fight between religion and science for power in this country?
2. How much is someone’s credibility harmed when they get something wrong?
3. How do you define science?
4. Based on this quote, do you think there is a battle between philosophy and religion?
5. Does it make you mad when people try to use science to advocate for racist or sexist policies?
6. How do you deal with your own bias and the bias of the researchers when evaluating an article?
7. Let’s discuss this quote.
Kindle Location: 1,461 (page 74)
Everyone has a right to be irrational, but rampant irrationality in a society can be highly wasteful and destructive…
8. How much does this bother you? Someone makes a weird claim and then asks you to dispute it?
9. Should you bother debating people that believe in weird things like the flat earth?
10. Let’s discuss this quote.
Kindle Location: 2,588 (page 131)
I argue that it is still a moral duty of all citizens, and of intellectuals in particular, to intervene in public discourse. In this I am squarely on Chomsky’s side. Be that as it may, Richard Posner’s points [academics being swayed by monetary reward and the push to entertainment] well taken.
11. Let’s discuss free speech and what should be done about the news media, the government, twitter, facebook spreading lies.
12. Should the taxpayers fund research?
13. How much does it pain you when you find out someone you held in high esteem has a blemish?
14. Let’s talk about scientism
15. Did you like the handy checklist to help you toward a path of being a virtuous skeptic?

The  above questions, for discussion for the book group meeting the first Sunday in July 2020 to discuss Nonsense on Stilts by Massimo Pigliucci, were motivated by the below quotes.

****Kindle Location: 58 (page 1)
“The foundation of morality is to . . . give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about this beyond the possibilities of knowledge”  said Thomas Henry Huxley

**Kindle Location: 82 (page 2)
[Popper said] theories that are “unfalsifiable” are unscientific

*Kindle Location: 508  (page 26)
The idea is that when some physicists tell us that “in principle” all knowledge of the world is reducible to physics, one is within one’s rights to ask what principle, exactly, they are referring to. Fodor contends that if one were to call the epistemic bluff, the physicists would have no idea where to begin to provide a reduction of sociology, economics, psychology, biology, and other sciences to fundamental physics. There is, it seems, no known “principle” that would guide anyone in pursuing such a quest—a far more fundamental issue than the one imposed by merely practical limits of time and calculation.

***Kindle Location: 523 to 529 (page 26-27)
Cartwright suggests that theories are statements about how things (or particles, or fields) would behave according to idealized models of reality. … Cartwright distinguishes between two ways of thinking about laws: “fundamental” laws are meant to describe the true, deep structure of the universe. “Phenomenological” laws, by contrast, are useful for making empirical predictions, and work well enough for that purpose, but strictly speaking are false.

*Kindle Location: 555 (page 28)
[Is] comparing different sciences even a meaningful enterprise

****Kindle Location: 603 (page 30)
But the point remains: even the queen of the sciences [particle physics] sometimes gets things wrong over a period of many years,

***Kindle Location: 651(page 33)
Psychology and evolutionary biology—unlike particle physics—deal with complex layers of causality.

****Kindle Location: 677 (page 34)
Does this mean that we shouldn’t trust psychology, medicine, and possibly other sciences? No, because of three considerations: [1. We are aware of the limitations of the experiments 2. Science in the long run is self-correcting 3. There is no other alternative]

****Kindle Location: 709 (page 36)
[Science is] systematic observations and the construction and testing of hypotheses. Kindle Location: 736 (page 37)
intelligent use of observational evidence can be science … there is more than one way to do science, depending on the nature of the questions and the methods typical of the field.

***Kindle Location: 764  (page 38)
… while it is relatively straightforward to figure out what happened after the fact, it is mightily difficult to predict what will happen and when. … asymmetry of causal determination

*Kindle Location: 880-886 (page 45)
Photons behave as particles if you use one slit, but switch to a wavelike behavior if you use two slits … Physicists typically say that the double-slit experiment is a demonstration of the dual nature of light: wave and particle, depending on the circumstances. … Photons are characterized by a “wave function,” a mathematical construct that tells you what the probability of finding the photon in a particular location is. When you actually make the measurement…this action collapses the wave function to a single value…

*Kindle Location: 914 (page 47 and 48)
string theory, supported by Brian Greene at the NYU event and beautifully explained in his book The Elegant Universe. … Kindle Location 938:  at the moment at least, string theory does not seem to make any empirically testable predictions that both differ from those of other competing theories

*Kindle Location: 921 (page 47)
Quantum mechanics does a beautiful job predicting how matter will behave in the very microscopic world, at the scale of quarks, electrons, photons, and the like. Relativity, on the other hand, works very nicely when it is a question of describing the very macroscopic world—the behavior of systems like planets, galaxies, and so forth. …

****Kindle Location: 968 (page 49)
Philosophy has often been the placeholder for areas of intellectual inquiry that have subsequently moved to the domain of science

***Kindle Location: 981(page 50)
Just because we are curious animals, there is no assurance that nature behaves in a way that will allow us to get answers to every mystery that happens to intrigue us.

***Kindle Location: 988 (page 50)
Paraphrased:  Unicorns are logically possible, empirically possible, but not empirically realized. String theory is logically possible but we don’t know if they are empirically possible. Extraterrestrial intelligence is logically possible and empirically possible, but not empirically realized.

*Kindle Location: 990
Strings and multiple universes are certainly logical possibilities, since they are features of mathematical theories (assuming that the math doesn’t contain mistakes). What we don’t know is whether they are also empirically possible

**Kindle Location: 1,026 (page 52)
This means that we need to ask about the conceptual underpinning of the SETI program: what makes it more than the simple hope that we will find someone

****Kindle Location: 1,165 (page 59)
is evolutionary psychology a legitimate branch of evolutionary biology, or is it more nearly a pseudoscience,… [He says that it is uncontroversial that behaviors and cognitive traits can evolve over time BUT is there sufficient evidence that natural selection has shaped any particular human behavioral pattern?]

***Kindle Location: 1,174 (page 59)
Telltale signs of pseudoscience:
                the glorification of mysteries, the appeal to myths, a cavalier approach to evidence, an appeal to irrefutable hypotheses, an emphasis on probably spurious similarities, explanation by scenario (“story-telling”), “literary” rather than empirically based interpretations of facts, extreme resistance to revising one’s positions, a tendency to shift the burden of proof, and sympathy for a theory just because it’s new or daring.

***Kindle Location: 1,255 and 1296 (page 63-65)
As biologist Jaren Diamond puts it…evolutionary biology is in fact a historical science…
Diamond says that if one sees the same general pattern occurring in different places and times in human history, one can examine the similarities and differences among these natural experiments to infer something about the underlying causes.

**Kindle Location: 1,328  (page 67)
As a biologist, Diamond knows very well that many human diseases evolve in parallel with the domestication of animals and with the development of large populations, especially when grouped in small areas

****Kindle Location: 1,343 (page 68)
A colleague of mine teaches introductory philosophy courses in which she tries to get across the consequences of inequality of resources—a small version of the same sort of causal factors Diamond is after at a much larger scale.

**Kindle Location: 1,407 (page 71)
Peter Turchin, a theoretical ecologist complains that there are more than two hundred explanations proposed for the collapse of the Roman empire … A central concept advanced by Turchin is that history is characterized by regular and predictable patterns, from which we can learn and that we can predict.

****Kindle Location: 1,461 (page 74)
Everyone has a right to be irrational, but rampant irrationality in a society can be highly wasteful and destructive… [Massimo offers this as one example:]  Their attitude was that antiretroviral drugs, which have been medically tested and shown to be effective against HIV, are poisons deliberately marketed by Western pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, according to the pair—and contrary to almost the entire medical-research profession—there is no evidence that HIV causes AIDS;

****Kindle Location: 1,507 (page 77)
Science is a human activity, and human beings can legitimately hold different opinions about empirical evidence.

****Kindle Location: 1,518 (page 77)
Big Pharma is indeed far from spotless, and the practices of international pharmaceutical companies have been under fire for years even in the West. The search for profit at all costs often translates into literally inventing medical “conditions” out of thin air

*Kindle Location: 1,557 (page 79)
Science and religion are rather fuzzy concepts. …. this book is in great part devoted to exploring how “science” itself is a family of loosely related practices, not a monolithic thing.

*Kindle Location: 1,748 (page 89)
Philosophers have long since abandoned the idea that knowledge about the world can be gathered by just thinking about it,

****Kindle Location: 1,836 (page 93)
It is a logical fallacy to shift the burden of proof from the person who makes the extraordinary claim (to whom such burden logically belongs) to the person who simply asks for the evidence before accepting the belief.

***Page 98—A few logical fallacies:
Appeals to authority
Affirming the consequence (such as the universe is so large that there must be other civilizations out there)
Bandwagon appeal
Conspiratorial appeal (the government knows, but they will not tell us)
Salvational appeal (wishful thinking?)

****Kindle Location: 1,950 (page 99)
[Regarding conspiratorial appeal]: Unfortunately, governments all over the world, including that of the United States, do have a poor record in leveling with their people, despite much talk about democracy and freedom. But again, while this is reasonable ground for skepticism about what a government says (or does not say), one needs positive evidence before scientists can seriously consider a new phenomenon.

****Kindle Location: 2,145 (page 109)
Colleagues like Richard Dawkins are adamant that one should not “lower” oneself to that level, because this legitimizes and gives a platform to pseudoscientists [this was in response to debating flat earthers, etc]

****Kindle Location: 2,235 (page 113)
… it should be obvious that not all alternative positions are equally deserving of public attention; by presenting all opinions as equivalent and saying, “you decide,” reporters may mislead their audiences. … If the news media are to truly inform the public, they cannot simply present competing ideas as equally valid but must do the hard work of investigating them, to help the public filter the few golden nuggets from the ocean of nonsense that will otherwise overwhelm intelligent social discourse.

****Kindle Location: 2,267 (page 115)
[He discusses think tanks that let their bias mar their opinions] The Cato Institute, it should be added, is funded in part by the Exxon-Mobil Corporation, not exactly a neutral player in discussions about energy production and use. … Of course, the suspicion of bias is not enough to condemn but the alert level on one’s baloney detector should go up …

****Kindle Location: 2,313 (page 117)
But evidence of bias, as we will see when talking more in depth about “think tanks,” is a useful warning sign

*Kindle Location: 2,322 (page 118)
What the Bleep Do We Know?, released in 2004 and, at almost $11 million and counting, one of the highest grossing “documentaries”

***Kindle Location: 2,524 (page 128)
political activist Noam Chomsky in his classic article “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” wrote “Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments…It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies”

**Kindle Location: 2,546
[Of course, public intellectuals might not get it right. Chomsky offers Martin Heidegger as an example.] Heidegger was elected rector of the University of Freiburg in Germany in 1933 under the auspices of Hitler’s regime. … Heidegger in his inaugural address went on to say that “German students are seeking leaders through whom they want to elevate their own purpose so that it becomes a grounded, knowing truth … The much-lauded ‘academic freedom’ will be expelled from the German university.”

****Kindle Location: 2,588 (page 131)
I argue that it is still a moral duty of all citizens, and of intellectuals in particular, to intervene in public discourse. In this I am squarely on Chomsky’s side. Be that as it may, Richard Posner’s points [academics being swayed by monetary reward and the push to entertainment] well taken.

****Kindle Location: 2,607 (page 132)
We come next to Posner’s concept of “solidarity value.” …The idea is that many, perhaps most, people don’t actually want to be informed, and even less so challenged in their beliefs and worldview. Rather, they want to see a champion defending their preconceived view of the world, a sort of ideological knight in shining armor. Blatantly partisan outlets such as Fox News (on the right), MSNBC (on the left), and the countless evangelical Christian radio stations are obvious examples…

****Kindle Location: 2,637 (page 134)
The phrase originated with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote the dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States, an infamous case argued before the Supreme Court in 1919. The case was a test of a law passed the year before, which made criticism of the US government a criminal offense. The law was upheld, and the statute not invalidated until Brandenburg v. Ohio, during the Vietnam War.

****Kindle Location: 2,646 (page 134)
You see, for the best ideas to win the competition the judges must be, well, competent. But the judges here are a public that is generally badly informed and undereducated with respect to the relevant issues.

****Kindle Location: 2,725 (page 138)
Paraphrased: Just because someone is born with different abilities, it doesn’t mean they should be assigned different status as human beings.

***Kindle Location: 2,727 (page 138)
Instrumentalism is the idea that learning is to be encouraged if it is aimed at addressing practical concerns … Instrumentalism makes less and less sense the more a society develops above the level of direct struggle for life.

*Kindle Location: 2,757 (page 140)
The other current pits absolutism against relativism, particularly when it comes to moral problems. The fear here is that if, as postmodernist Michel Foucault put it, there is no truly universal truth…

*Kindle Location: 2,860 (page 145)
“Punctuated equilibria” ….long periods of time during which organisms do not appear to change punctuated by relatively sudden spikes of morphological change …This tension between stasis and fast change, according to Eldredge and Gould, is a real feature of evolution, not an artifact of missing data, and ought to be considered in expanding the classical theory of evolution—which has often been described instead as a theory of gradual change.

****Kindle Location: 2,870 (page 146)
While Sagan took on global warming and nuclear war, Gould concentrated on racism and the relationship between science and religion. … Gould and Richard Lewontin were very critical of what he perceived as attempts to give scientific credence to racist ideologies.

****Kindle Location: 2,891 (page 147)
We are different from each other for a variety of reasons …but all of us should be treated the same when it comes to the law.

****Kindle Location: 2,908 (page 147-148)
people who understand religious texts to be taken metaphorically, and therefore not to be read as science textbooks, are not the ones who are fueling the science-religion cultural war to begin with.

****Kindle Location: 2,959 (page 150)
“advocacy think thanks” … often (though not always) to blatantly blur the lines between research and advocacy.

****Kindle Location: 2,993 (page 152)
Science progresses; ideologies tend to linger unchanged (and often unquestioned).

*Kindle Location: 3,000 (page 152)
Remarkably, even the Cato Institute finally had to admit, with predictable reservations, that climate change is real. In 2016 it published Lukewarming: The New Climate Science That Changes Everything by P. J. Michaels and P. C. Knappenberger. Wait another decade or two and they’ll finally get on board with real science. . . .

*Kindle Location: 3,019 (page 153-154)
In 2002 CEI won a lawsuit against the FDA [which then allowed drug companies to do less testing]. Congress responded by writing the Pediatric Rule into law. … Finally, though the list could be much, much longer, in 2017 the CEI boasted of having influenced President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, potentially one of the most disastrous political choices by a US administration in recent memory.

***Kindle Location: 3,209
Deduction allows one to arrive at guaranteed conclusions if the premises are true and the structure of the argument is valid.

***Kindle Location: 3,219 (Page 164)
Induction is the process of generalizing from a number of observations (more sense data) to broader instances. …The idea is that induction is always fallible, and its conclusions are at best probabilistic. Deduction yields foolproof conclusions if the premises are true.

****Kindle Location: 3,226 (page 165)
This is why scientific theories are always tentative: because they are based on a combination of deduction and induction (and a few other ingredients), and the inductive component is always open to revision.

*Kindle Location: 3,418
The tone was set by Augustine (354–430 CE), who argued that philosophy (including natural philosophy, i.e., science) should be encouraged only as a handmaiden to religion. … The burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, in the 1600’s, was a stark reminder of this.

****Kindle Location: 3,538 (page 181)
Francis Bacon was done with the model of science as handmaiden to either philosophy or religion and wrote that the new science was relevant to humankind mostly because “knowledge is power.”

****Kindle Location: 3,543 (page 182)
Bacon tells us that before one can do serious science, one must overcome a series of “idols” affecting the mind (the word derives from the Greek for “phantoms,” i.e., sources of deception):
1. Prejudices associated with living in a given time and place in history 2. Language can set its own traps against clear thinking 3.  Grand views of the universe 4. Overreliance on faulty sensorial experience and wishful thinking

***Kindle Location: 3,616 (page 185)
the more probable the scientific statement is considered to be (because of evidence in its favor), the higher the burden of proof on the skeptics who doubt it.

****Kindle Location: 3,635 (page 186)
The fourth item on Descartes’s list of his “method” to establish scientific knowledge:  the constant reexamination of the current status of the puzzle to make sure we are still on the right trajectory. … Scientific knowledge is more like a web than an edifice built on foundations.

****Kindle Location: 3,713 (page 190)
all of this simply goes to exemplify the general point that personal character has little to do with scientific (or, for that matter, artistic) genius.
[He is talking about Newton but might we want to discuss it as it relates to all geniuses we admire or hate?]

***Kindle Location: 3,862 (page 197)
David Hume was among the first to take this approach, wondering, for example, about our concept of causality (his analysis, still surprisingly challenging today, was not very encouraging, as he concluded that we do not really know what we mean when we talk about “causes”).

****Kindle Location: 3,948 (page 202)
“Postmodernism” and “deconstructionism” are the most common terms (and the two are not exactly equivalent), although for the purposes of this chapter I will refer to them under the umbrella of “constructivism,” in reference to the basic idea they all share: that scientific knowledge (or any knowledge, for that matter) is socially constructed, with little or no input from outside of human conventions.

***Kindle Location: 3,988 (page 204)
Occam’s razor, the epistemological rule (named after the fourteenth-century philosopher William of Occam) that one should not invoke more explanatory principles than are strictly required by the evidence.

***Kindle Location: 3,994 (page 204)
Epistemology is the field of philosophy that deals with how we acquire (or fail to acquire) knowledge and thereby arrive at truth.

****Kindle Location: 4,024 (page 206)
That is why scientific findings should always be considered tentative, open to revision if new evidence comes about. … “Epistemic limitations” are the limits imposed on human knowledge by our biological characteristics. While philosophers since Kant have understood that such a view is forever inaccessible to human beings, many scientists continue to behave as if science somehow, magically, allows us to transcend the problem and gain access to the Truth. That is what a scientistic attitude is all about. The ancient Greek philosophers called it hubris.

***Kindle Location: 4,102 (page 210)
It is painfully clear that science depends on an assumption of honesty on the part of its practitioners.

***Kindle Location: 4,151 (page 213-215)
The eugenic movement reached its peak in the USA during the 1920s, when its ideas got the ear of politicians at the local and national level (including, for example, Presidents Coolidge and Hoover), as well as the financial support of magnates like George Eastman (founder of Kodak) and John D. Rockefeller Jr. … For instance, the intellectual and progressive magazine the Nation invited prominent eugenicist Herbert Jennings to write an article for its “What I Believe” series, meant to showcase highly respectable intellectuals’ views on issues of the day. … Eugenics eventually met its demise largely, it can be argued, because of the atrocities of Nazism…

**Kindle Location: 4,212 (page 215)
Although we know how to splice foreign DNA into a cell, we are a long way from being able to effectively and reliably fix human genetic diseases by repairing mutant genes or replacing them with functional parts off the shelf, as if we were in an auto mechanic’s shop.

***Kindle Location: 4,242 (page 217)
Every new technology does pose risks, sometimes unknown ones (until they occur). Moreover, there are good, rational reasons to maintain at least a moderate level of distrust of large biotechnology firms, especially when it comes to labor practices, if not environmental impact, given both their past record and their obvious profit motives.

***Kindle Location: 4,302 (page 220)
Science remains by far the most effective way of gaining knowledge (and power, as Francis Bacon famously pointed out) over the natural world and improving the human condition.

****Kindle Location: 4,608 (page 236)
Scientific knowledge (in the objective sense discussed above) is provisional, and each successive theory, each newly established conceptual framework (or paradigm) represents our best understanding of some aspects of nature at a given point in time.

****Kindle Location: 4,634 (page 237)
Accordingly, when science blunders as it did while flirting with eugenics, both scientists and science critics play a legitimate role in correcting it…

****Kindle Location: 4,643 (page 238)
There cannot be such a thing as a lone scientist ….  unless they communicate their findings to a larger group of other scientists (and science critics) and expose their work to both technical and ideological peer review, they are not actually doing science, according to Longino.

***Kindle Location: 4,676 (page 239)
Ronald Giere calls “perspectivism.” … Giere begins by acknowledging that it is true both that science objectively expands our knowledge of the world and that science is a subjective activity because scientists cannot escape their limited access to the world as human beings—that is, they do not have access to a detached, all-encompassing, God’s-eye view

****Kindle Location: 4,821 (page 246)
Susan Haack said “What I meant by ‘scientism’ [is] a kind of over-enthusiastic and uncritically deferential attitude towards science, an inability to see or an unwillingness to acknowledge its fallibility, its limitations, and its potential dangers.”

*Kindle Location: 4,839 (page 247)
obvious examples of this troublesome attitude:  Sam Harris argues that science can determine human values, with no help from moral philosophy,

***Kindle Location: 4,871 (page 249)
Susan Haack’s “six signs,” which represent an excellent framework for understanding the phenomenon of scientism.
Paraphrased (only 1, 2, 5 and 6 made sense to me)

  1. Using the words science, scientific, etc honorifically as epistemic praise
  2. Adopting the terminology of the sciences when not doing real science
  3. A preoccupation with demarcation (Massimo takes issue with this one on page 250 but still concludes: That said, I do not endorse a strict demarcation between science and nonscience, or science and pseudoscience either.
  4. A corresponding preoccupation with identifying the scientific method (Massimo takes issue with the one on page 251 as he concludes: there is a recognizable scientific methodology that is clearly superior to any other way of acquiring knowledge or understanding )
  5. Looking to the sciences for answers to questions beyond their scope
  6. Denying or denigrating the legitimacy or the worth of other kinds of inquiry besides the scientific or the value of other human activities

***Kindle Location: 4,981 (page 254)
The science versus scientism discussion, then, is an exercise in demarcation, similar to the science-pseudoscience debate that has concerned us for much of this journey.

**Kindle Location: 5,015 (page 256)
yes, science is crucial in order to further our understanding of the world in which we live,

****Kindle Location: 5,050 (page 258)
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge and provides the criteria for evidential warrant—it tells us when it is in fact rational to believe or disbelieve a given notion.

****Kindle Location: 5,186 (page 264)
Turns out that a good number of “skeptics” are actually committed to specific political causes, including, but not limited to, libertarianism. …it becomes a problem when it is used as a filter to inform one’s allegedly critical thinking.

***Kindle Location: 5,205 (page 265)
Peer review … is a first step toward improving the quality of what we publish

****Kindle Location: 5,206 (page 265)
handy checklist for aspiring virtuous skeptics

  1. Did I carefully consider my opponent’s arguments and not dismiss them out of hand?
  2. Did I interpret what my opponent said in the most charitable way possible before mounting a response?
  3. Did I seriously entertain the possibility that I may be wrong? Or am I too blinded by my own preconceptions?
  4. Am I an expert on this matter? If not, did I consult experts, or did I just conjure my own unfounded opinion out of thin air?
  5. Did I check the reliability of my sources, or just google whatever was convenient to throw at my opponent?
  6. Having done my research, do I actually know what I’m talking about, or am I simply repeating someone else’s opinion?

**Kindle Location: 5,438 (page 277)
reason and emotions are both essential components of being human and that they need to be brought into balance for a human being to function properly.

***Kindle Location: 5,497 (page 280)
The five kinds of evidence that a novice can use to determine whether someone is a trustworthy expert are

  1. an examination of the arguments presented by the expert and his rival(s);
  2. evidence of agreement by other experts;
  3. independent evidence that the expert is, indeed, an expert;
  4. an investigation into what biases the expert may have concerning the question at hand; and
  5. the track record of the expert

****Kindle Location: 5,564 (page 283)
The question is not whether there is bias (there always is), but how much, where it comes from, and how one can become aware of and correct it.

City Council needs to pass an ordinance requiring a nose/mouth covering

The city council needs to pass an ordinance requiring a nose/mouth covering when entering any enclosed place open to the public similar to what President Trump required of the West Wing White House staff in May after some of the staff tested positive for Covid-19.

The ordinance would make the word “should” mean “must” when it comes to the CDC guidelines for Jacksonville regarding face masks. People are interpreting “should” to mean “not required.” Strong people should care about their neighbors.
CDC guidelines:

  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

“We continue to caution that reducing the likelihood of additional outbreaks will require individuals and business owners to be vigilant with personal protection, wearing masks and practicing proper hygiene, and instituting strong workplace safety measures,” Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at CHOP and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said.

Health professionals, including Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for 18 HCA hospitals in west Florida, pushed for a mask requirement. Feinman said he is more “terrified” to walk through a Publix grocery store than through any of the 15 COVID-19 units in the chain’s hospitals.

“I’m begging you to mandate masking,” Feinmann said. “It is effective.”

Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health, said recent studies are “showing the masks are effective” in fighting the virus.

Most people (even Mayor Curry) now agree that if everyone wears a mask in public buildings, then the spread of the novel coronavirus will be lowered.

What about this compromise?

Ask the city council to pass an ordinance requiring masks (until a safe and effective vaccine is available) while inside an enclosed building open to the public with the below caveat.

The following establishments could be exempted if they agree to post the following warning at all entrances

“Covid-19 can cause hospitalization and death. It is highly contagious. The CDC has advised that if everyone would wear a mask, then the risk of contracting Covid-19 would be reduced. We do *not* require masks so enter at your own risk. We assume no liability if you contract Covid-19 from being exposed to the virus in our building.”

These types of businesses can be exempt from mandatory masks if they’ll post the sign in huge letters at every entry point:

Restaurants, Bars, Churches, Political Rallies, Concerts, Theaters

Under this compromise, the people who don’t feel they are vulnerable to a severe case can go to restaurants, etc. And those of us who fear having a severe reaction if exposed to the virus can go to grocery stores being assured that everyone will be wearing a mask.

It seems like a great compromise, yes?

Link to article about West Wing requirements in May:
Link to article with David Rubin quote:
Link to article with Doctors Feinmann and Choe quotes:

Link to CDC :

What does Bodily Autonomy mean?

One of my values is: My body. My choice.

When I saw the photo in the TU of the protester at the recent “Reopen Florida” rally with a sign about bodily autonomy, it got me to thinking.

What is the difference–as it relates to bodily autonomy–between gay rights, consent to being touched, abortion, and vaccines?

The difference is that vaccines and other requirements around Covid-19 are designed to protect my body and those of my loved ones especially those with compromised immune systems. If people don’t adhere to the guidelines and suggestions, then MY body might be harmed.

I’m a freedom loving individual so I tend not to favor authoritarian laws. I would hope that everyone could be convinced to do the things that would protect the lives of others. But what should we do if people don’t voluntarily keep six feet away from us and if they refuse to take the vaccine once it’s available?

The guy, who was carrying the sign about bodily autonomy and about his desire that the vaccine not be mandated, was also carrying a sign about V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Shiva wrote that a national lockdown was unnecessary and advocated that large doses of vitamins could prevent and cure the disease.

Are people that haven’t seen the polio or measles epidemic the only ones that think vaccines are not necessary? We need to learn from history even if we haven’t personally lived it.

I do find it odd that Trump seems to be egging on these anti-vaxxers while at the same time pushing for vaccines and medications that aren’t properly tested. I don’t want to take a vaccine that isn’t properly tested. It might do more harm than good. However, I do hope everyone wants to take the vaccine that is proven safe once it is available if they don’t already have the antibody against this new virus that is infectious even when the carrier is asymptomatic.

Questions of fairness and bodily autonomy and freedom of conscience are important for our country.  It is my belief that the First Amendment to our Constitution was trying to balance the competing rights of people within a community.  It is my belief that the First Amendment should not give special privileges to certain groups but it should be used as a tool to see if a regulation or rule is too egregious. If one group can arbitrarily be exempt from the law, then perhaps the law isn’t actually needed.  And if the law is needed, then why would one group be allowed to arbitrarily be exempt?

This is being brought to light in a recent court case in Kansas. Some churches want to be exempt from some of the laws which aim to protect the community from covid-19. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization whose mission statement includes protecting religious liberty,  submitted an amicus brief about the case.  My understanding of their brief: groups can’t use religious liberty as a reason to harm others. The First Amendment should be used as a shield to protect an individual and not as a sword to harm others.


Link to photo of the guy carrying the Dr. Shiva and bodily autonomy sign:

Link to wikipedia where I got the quote about Dr. Shiva:

Article about Trump and vaccines:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued press releases regarding churches that want to be exempt from the laws aimed to reduce the spread of covid-19:

I used the phrase authoritarian laws but maybe paternalist laws would have been a better term.  Quote from this article:

It is paternalism for the government to tell you that you cannot imbibe noxious substances that will rot your brain. It is paternalism to tell you that you cannot indulge your hedonistic desires to the detriment of your productivity or your everlasting soul.   …

If the only consequence of reckless behavior is that engaging in it will cause YOU harm, that is one thing. You might underestimate your risk or the baneful consequences, but those are risks for you to take and you can suffer the consequences of those risks.

But in the case of COVID-19, self-harm is not the only or even the primary consequence of ignoring the recommended guidelines. The consequence of engaging in reckless behavior is that you dramatically heighten the risk of spreading the disease to others and as a consequence of significantly harming or even killing them.

November 2020 Referendum

I will vote yes on the referendum in November 2020 because the neighborhood schools need the renovations. 

I am still angry at the city council members who didn’t let us vote on this referendum in 2019. If we had voted on this in 2019, then the renovations could be happening now (2020) while the kids are out of school due to Covid-19 pandemic. (ref 1)

I am voting yes on the sales tax referendum because

  •  Most of the sales tax money generated by the referendum will go towards renovating old neighborhood school buildings and building new facilities up to code to replace temporary structures housing overflow. (ref 3)
  • The state legislature has decreased funding for many years which has prevented the school board from doing these renovations. This dedicated revenue source is needed
  • The increase in the sales tax is small.  If I spend $3,000 on taxable items per year, then I will pay into the fund $15 per year.  $3,000 times .005 equals $15.

I do have questions about the effect of HB 7097 (which was signed into law by the Governor and requires part of the discretionary sales tax to be given to charter schools). I have written (but have not heard back) my state representatives asking these questions:

1. What claw back provisions are part of Florida statutes that will allow the school district to get the money back in the event the charter school should close?
2. Does the sales tax collected have to be given to a charter school every year based on its prior year enrollment? What are the rules on how that charter school can spend the money?
3. If  the state legislature rescinds the bad part of HB 7097 in a future legislative session, will Duval County still be bound by the sharing rule since that’s what we’ll be voting on?

I am angry at the state representatives who voted yes on HB 7097 because that bill included wording which forces us to give part of our sales tax money to private investors who own buildings housing charter schools.

If we had been allowed to vote on the referendum in 2019, we would not have to adhere to the sharing rule forced on us by HB 7097 which only applies to referendums approved in November 2020 and after. Everyone knew that was coming based on the make up of our current state legislature so most of us think that is why the city council wouldn’t let us vote on the referendum in 2019. I am mad about that also.

What exactly will be on our Jacksonville November 2020 ballot? (ref 5)

I hope that something similar to this will be included in the referendum that appears on our ballot:

The school board intends that the public interest be protected by preventing the financial enrichment of owners, operators, managers, and other affiliated parties of charter schools receiving capital outlay funding. Therefore, a charter school additionally is not eligible for a funding allocation unless the chair of the governing board and the chief administrative officer of the charter school annually certify under oath that the funds will be used solely and exclusively for constructing, renovating, or improving charter school facilities that are owned by a school district, a political subdivision of the state, a municipality, a Florida College System institution, or a state university.

I assume the sales tax money can’t be used to build new charter schools since only charter schools with enrollment get a percentage but I haven’t been able to confirm that.

Ref 1 You can find the names of the city council members who stopped us from being able to vote on the referendum at this link:

Ref 2 I read this article but it didn’t answer my questions:

Ref 3  Article about portable class rooms:

Ref 4 Information about HB 7097 including who voted yes

Ref 5 Duval County School District website about the referendum

Ref 6 This is what will be on our  November 3, 2020 ballot:
School Capital Outlay Sales Surtax to Improve Safety and the Learning Environment
​To upgrade aging schools through repairs and modernization, to keep schools safe and to continue to promote a conducive learning environment, to improve technology, and to replace existing or build new schools, and share with charter schools for their allowable uses, shall the Duval County School Board be authorized to levy a 15-year half-cent sales surtax, with expenditures based upon the Surtax Capital Outlay Plan, and monitored by an independent citizens committee?
____ For the Half-Cent Tax
____ Against the Half-Cent Tax
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Thoughts on Covid-19

What are the rules for quarantine once someone tests positive? Are there any fines if someone violates the quarantine orders?  (ref 1)

South Korea is being praised for their efforts in combating the virus. However (if I am reading the news article correctly), they didn’t shut down their beaches.  They put strict quarantine rules on people that tested positive. They fined people that broke the quarantine rules.  Why aren’t we fining people that break the quarantine rules while they are awaiting their test results or after testing positive for the novel coronavirus? (ref 5)  How many cities are providing quarantine hotel rooms to people while they await their test results? (ref 11)

South Korea is fining people that break quarantine orders. Governor DeSantis has ordered people coming for NY to quarantine. What’s the fine if they don’t? What steps are being taken to quarantine people that came in contact with someone that tested positive? What use is the testing if we don’t follow up with quarantines?

What questions do they ask people that are getting tests for the virus? How is the data being accumulated  to try to understand how this is spreading?. Are researchers getting information so they can determine how people are getting the virus?

People getting tested for the novel coronavirus should be asked:

1.  Have you stood within six feet of anyone in the last 14 days? If yes, where?

2. If you haven’t stood within six feet of anyone in the last 14 days, have you attended an event where more than 10 people were in attendance? If yes, where?”

How different would things be now if everyone had been required to wear a mask out in public starting back in January? A call for tests and quarantines and masks should have been happening starting in December.(ref 6) If the office dedicated to pandemics had not been disbanded in 2018, would that office have helped coordinate activities so we would have been better prepared? (ref 10)

Will future elected officials remember the lessons we learn? Will they start the production of tests and protective gear as soon as we hear of a new virus that could possibly lead to a pandemic? (ref 9)

Are the people in power making suggestions based on current available information?Their suggestions seem inconsistent.

It feels inconsistent to allow exemptions for golf courses and churches but no effort to let us walk and surf at the beach. I don’t begrudge people being allowed to golf as long as they stay six feet from each other.  But why can’t those of us that love walking on the beach be given the same privilege?

Are the beaches closed where Senator Thompson fled after testing positive for the novel coronavirus? It certainly seems the powerful get more privileges than the rest of us. Because the senator has the money to own a home on the beach, he gets to enjoy the beach that has been closed to the rest of us. (ref 1)

I have written the ACLU asking their opinion about Governor DeSantis giving special assembling privileges to some groups that he isn’t giving to other groups. I’ll let you know if I hear back.  The fact that the church in the Tampa area is a bastion of the local Republican party makes this look especially egregious. Why are churches getting exemptions that other groups are not getting? This favoritism must surely be unconstitutional. (ref 2)

Can the people in power prevent one group from being a church? That would be contrary to the religious freedom laws, yes? Who gets to define a “church”? It shouldn’t be the GOP that is in power that gets to decide who can assemble in a way that privileges certain people over others. Doesn’t it smell of a Theocracy to let churches meet but not other groups? The First Amendment demands freedom of assembly in addition to freedom of religion.(ref 4).  Why can’t a surfing club be a religion?  And part of their religious beliefs is to surf.

Make the same rules for everyone. Keep six feet apart.  And no more than 10 people in an enclosed area measuring 1400 square feet.

(1) Quote from article:
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thompson was symptomatic and hospitalized on March 19 while he waited for testing results. Three days later Thompson confirmed he’d contracted the virus. … Sen. Bruce Thompson’s arrived at his beach house on the island late Tuesday night in a caravan of three cars.

(2) Quote from this article:
Warren said. “It looks like the governor is putting his own political ambitions above the lives of health care workers, law enforcement officers and the entire state of Florida.”

(3) Quote from article:
The North Florida PGA Section obtained the clarification from the Governor’s office with the requirement that all courses must either allow golfers the option of walking, or have one person per electric or gas-powered cart, with no exceptions.

(4) Quote from article:
Can I go to church?
Although many churches in the Jacksonville area have switched over to streaming services online, religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship are considered “essential activities.” According to a spokesperson for Mayor Curry’s office, congregations can be 50 people or less, and people must stay 6-feet apart.

(5) Quote from article:
In this way, governments around the world are facing a hard choice between these two violations of individual rights (information exposure and movement restriction). South Korea has chosen the former, but France and Italy had to choose the latter. The former requires the necessary infrastructure and a culture that tolerates a certain level of surveillance, neither of which can be created overnight.

(6) Quote from link :
Simple cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose can prevent virus transmission from such individuals when they are out buying groceries or seeking medical care, according to the memos obtained by The Washington Post.

(7) Quote from link:
Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts.

(8) Why aren’t they telling us if these people followed the keep six feet away rules? This link tells us how many people have tested positive but not much else: Florida Health Covid-19

(9) Excerpt from this article: … the US has been extremely slow to roll out diagnostic testing for the Covid-19 disease. It’s unclear if there’s a specific policy or decision to blame for the current situation. It arose from a combination of manufacturing problems, chronic underfunding, and an apparent lack of foresight. But no matter the specific reason, the testing challenges, scientists tell us, make us less prepared to deal with this unfolding public health crisis that will probably get worse before it gets better.

(10) Excerpt from article:
The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded
“It seems to actively unlearn the lessons we learned through very hard experience over the last 15 years,” said Konyndyk, now a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “These moves make us materially less safe. It’s inexplicable.

(11) Quote from article:
Hillsborough County on Monday announced it had signed six-month renewable leases with two hotels to provide up to 360 beds for residents who either need to isolate or quarantine because of the virus.

Charter Schools

Why is the current state legislature passing unfunded mandates that the district run schools must follow but other publicly funded schools don’t have to follow?

1002.33 Charter schools

(a) A charter school shall operate in accordance with its charter and shall be exempt from all statutes in chapters 1000-1013. However, a charter school shall be in compliance with the following statutes in chapters 1000-1013:

1003.42 seems to indicate that charter schools don’t have to follow these rules:

(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following: