Unsettled Science


The New York Times has a post up titled E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide. That headline is somewhat misleading. EPA Administrator Pruitt killed the regulation because its scientific basis had been challenged by outsiders, including scientists at the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The ban would have eliminated chlorpyrifos, one of the most commonly used classes of insecticides. Pruitt has sent the agency staff back to resolve the questions raised by the USDA and others. So, for now, chlorpyrifos will still be used by farmers to protect their crops.

“It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation,” Sheryl Kunickis, director of the U.S.D.A. Office of Pest Management Policy, said in a statement Wednesday.

Read the whole thing. It give a glimpse into a turf war between two of the embedded bureaucracies and how pitting one against the other might be a useful strategy to reign in overregulation.

Don’t Know Much About History


If you don’t know where you came from and whether it was a good place to be, you could wind up choosing to go back there—whether it’s in your best interest or not. There’s a post up over at Acculturated that deals with the problem of historical illiteracy among college graduates and the effect that could have on civic discourse.

To make sense of contemporary policy debates, you need a certain amount of perspective. If you lack that perspective, you can be more susceptible to overreaction and partisan hysteria.

Take the issue of executive power and national security. If you don’t know what Lincoln did during the Civil War (suspend habeas corpus), what Woodrow Wilson did during World War I (severely restrict civil liberties), or what Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II (put Japanese Americans in internment camps), it’s hard to have any real perspective on the actions that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump have taken in the war against Islamic terrorism.

Read the whole thing.

Defending the Humanities


There’s a thought-provoking post over at Acculturated that asks the question: Do the Humanities Deserve Defending? (H/T, Sarah Hoyt)

Apologists for the study of philosophy, history, literature and art usually claim that the humanities train us to be: creative, logical and nimble thinkers (this is the pragmatic, skill-set thesis). The humanities do this, in part, by imparting the kind of knowledge about culture that makes us more empathetic and, thus, ethically minded global citizens (the altruistic, good human being thesis).

These arguments rely on unsound reasoning and are unsubstantiated by any acknowledgement of contradictory examples. In other words, they fail to employ the very same wisdom that literature, philosophy and history supposedly provide when they teach us rhetoric, logic and our pasts.

Read the whole thing. If you do, you’ll see my comment: “Yes. We should defend the humanities—from the humanists!”