Saturday, August 22, 2015

Can we discuss complex issues without our ‘identify politics’? Science within Communities


“The Arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice…Let us bend it toward justice faster. Science, ethical reason, courage and love are the best tools to do this. The odds may seem overwhelming, but love drives people to try, no matter the odds. Many before us had an unbridled love for our Republic. For humanity, for justice, and for science and truth. We must ask ourselves, each of us: do we have that love?”

 Video: - "A Science of Social Justice: Reason Revival"

My other blog on this topic, Social Science Warrior

There is a marvelous intersection between the need (1) to empower people with science and rational thinking, and (2) the need to give many of our marginalized communities a voice at the table to discuss their most pressing issues of poverty and justice. It is perhaps one of the most beautifully interwoven pairings of different human aspirations – that of seeking knowledge and new ways of thinking, as well as the dignity and recognition of one’s basic humanity and right to be heard amidst injustice.

For generations, our communities have been subject to a kind of social subordination in how they are treated, neglected, or shoved aside by the status quo. Environmental discrimination by waste disposal efforts, economic pressures of affluent developers, financial discrimination by a staunchly unequal justice system, and targeting by aggressive police policies, these communities have undergone decades upon decades of treatment by a crushing neglect that elicits the most fundamental cry of human yearning for an equal place a the table of civilizational co-existence, an innate, unquestionable desire present in our species since the earliest days of humankind. 

The Need for a Voice of Justice meets a Need for Science


There seems to be the world of the elites, the policy makers, the ones who listen ‘from the top down’. Then there is the world of ‘the community’, who often tries to be heard, from the ground up. While this is certainly a simplistic way of stating things, it is how it feels to countless people in these communities, and has for generations. And for Generations, there has been a translational divide between these two worlds. Perhaps the language for transcending this divide is that of science.

This ‘language’ of scientia, which should be noted to include or exist alongside logic and moral philosophy, not only allows for conversations about the reality around us, which transcend race, social and economic status…it brings great value to the community itself, from individuals and families to wider discussions and education across the wider neighborhood. Yes, indeed, it gives these communities the tools to identify problems, understand data, and communicate coherently to the outside world in a language that overcomes all divide. At the same time, this ‘language’ brings with it an enriching closeness to reality and universe around us, from the early astronomers gazing at the stars during the Scientific Revolution to the modern science-driven experiments in alternative justice systems or the ‘living universities’ held between poor neighborhoods and the institutions of business and social enterprise, to the use of information technology brought to the more remote corners of communities and villages seen increasingly around the world. The fabric of all of this is that of free inquiry, analysis, openness to new experience, and scientific thinking 

 Bringing  issues of crime, drugs, poverty, policing, and community justice back to the domain of science and logic

The issue of crime and poverty tends to be discussed and decided around political fault lines of our ’liberal’ and ‘conservative’ tribes, organizing our media outlets and inner circles of discussion and friendship made up of like-minded people. 'Left' vs 'Right'. The more partisan people in both groups will often see this from only their side, and divide it into two ‘sides’ of opposites rather than something that is indeed more complex, layered and in need of abstract thinking and the humility to admit we should listen others.

However, popular discussion on the issue of crime and poverty – and of policing and local justice systems – need not be confined to the political soundbites of GOP candidates on our TV screens viewed  by college students during presidential debate drinking games. It can be a question of science, moral philosophy, and of a wiki-informed citizenry. 

Unfortunately, this issue is still thought of as a mainly partisan political matter, subject to the whims of voter bias, election cycles, and ideology. This need no longer be the case. This is an issue which can lie in the domain of facts, evidence, and rational argument, based on the Socratic method of discussion and the scientific method of testing , proving and disproving ideas. Of ruling out bad theories and confirming or invalidating good and bad hypotheses. The idea that ‘we need to get tough on smaller crimes through an aggressive police posture and a system of incarceration; is a hypothesis. It can be tested. It can be observed. It can be held to the light of empirical scrutiny and examined for its merits and its efficacy. Average people can be a main part of this observation -it need not be confined to experts and technocrats. It is not a process of elites and people with lab coats doing our science for us – rather, this is a discussion capable of being had in very informative and empowering ways, by entire communities, from the halls of community boards, meetings, discussions, and panels on community justice.

A social policy can be a testable hypothesis, and communities can be the voice of reason

The academic and professional elite need not do all of our thinking and science for us; we, as a society, as a culture can be a part of this scientific process. We can observe the reality of this hypothesis and clearly see – through decades of anecdotal evidence, and mountains of credible fact-based studies such as the Center for Court Innovation, that it is a bad hypothesis A failed hypotheses. We can see – through the eyes of millions, or even the scrutiny of hundreds within the community who are involved with their local justice centers, nonprofits, and a simple Google search – that it is not an effective way to respond to many of our smaller crimes. We can also observe that better ways have been tried, tested and proven. We see that local justice centers, youth programs, and drug courts, tend to work much better. They lead to less crime over time, less conflict and rifts within the community, less damage to the family struggle, less fatherless children, less incarceration, and even less cost to the taxpayer.

The burden of argument should not be on those advancing a need for serious reform, but on anyone who defends the status quo. Still, advancing this is itself an important burden for any Free Thinker and American patriot, and one we should take on with honor and unwavering diligence.

The Drug War and Justice Reform as a Starting Point for Rationality


This culture of irrationality will have to change. It must change if we are to flourish - the costs have simply gotten too high and the disillusionment too deep and too broad. It will eventually happen. Partisan rhetoric and emotional sound bites will collapse as the foundational pillars of decades of irrational stupidity give way to reason and logic. Bad ideas and hurtful policies will no longer be enshrined by our traditions nor protected by social correctness or a bias for the status quo. “We’ve always done it this way” will no longer be acceptable, as more and more of us stand up to it as a dangerous and hurtful meme of irrational thinking. As we converge on this kind of nation-wide discussion, fostering conversations and debates between people from diverse walks of life, both famous and common alike, we will start to see a beautiful emergence of commonalities and a love of knowledge and thirst for common sense, even in ‘political tribes’ we thought we’d never interact with…”

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