from the world's big
Big Think Interview With John Aldrich
John H. Aldrich is the Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science at Duke University. His research specialties include American politics and political parties, formal theory, and metholodogy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received grants from both the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Aldrich is the author of "Why Parties?: The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America" (1995) and the coauthor of "Change and Continuity in the 2004 and 2006 Elections" (2007). He is also the coauthor of a new installment in the series, "Change and Continuity in the 2008 Election," due out in December 2009.
Big Think Interview With John Aldrich
Question: Will the Republican Party always be conservative?
John Aldrich: Well, even a very long perspective, all things fell in, but in any foreseeable future, I think that, you know, conservative thinking is a very important part of Republican Party and the Republican Party is very important to the conservative movement. Indeed, since the 1960's, the polarization of the two parties and their alignment with essentially liberal and progressive and conservative thinking respectively is one of the big changes and it's made it really hard to separate those two out and so party and ideology are much more intertwined today than they were even 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago.
Question: Was the GOP's 2008 defeat a typical pendulum swing or a watershed?
John Aldrich: It's, yes, it's both. It's typical in that the party that loses always has to try to figure out a way to right the ship and in essence, is a standard, normal part of it. But there are two things that make this more complicated. One is that there is a substantial loss, it wasn't just a small loss, but a substantial loss. And so figuring out the best way to come back is more difficult when your party has been narrowed. The second thing in this is going to be a problem in sort of selecting which way to come back, which sort of branch of conservative thinking is going to be the best for building for the future is the crises we're in right now. This is not, you know, ordinary circumstances, you know, we still are in two hot wars and if you count the sort of general war on terror we in effect have three wars simultaneously. We have the economic crises, we have these huge budget deficits, those attract attention and necessarily so and so it's very difficult. For example, for the evangelicals' right to be very interested, as they always are, in social issues, it's just hard to get that attention and it's hard to make that a voting issue, certainly, in the short term. And so that's a disadvantage for their agenda. And it's obviously stronger for the fiscal conservatives' agenda, but they actually also have to figure out a way to make that substantial enough to actually try to take the House or the Senate or someday the presidency.
Question: Do you see a leader currently emerging in the Republican Party?
John Aldrich: Not at present. There's nobody who is, you know, sort of poised, to take, there are a number of people who you could imagine, but I'll come back to that in a second, but I'd like to say is it's not really even since the '60's, there's actually three strains and those go back to the turn of the 20th century. So it was the long-running division in the Republican Party was between what was known as Wall Street and Main Street Republicans. And sort of different expectations about the use of the federal government. And then you add the religious right, which, while it's concentrated in the south, was a part of the Goldwater coalition before he was able to break through in the south, in the actual 1964 election. So even outside the south, there's, you know, a base for that, so you have three different streams. Which is one of the reasons it's hard to get one leader to emerge out of the rest. The second reason that it's hard for a leader is because, you know, the Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the presidency. When the Republicans first took the House in 1994, they had an opportunity for Newt Gingrich to emerge as a national leader who can stand on the same stage as Bill Clinton as a national leader. Right now, there's no such platform and we won't see one until at least the 2012 presidential nomination campaign. So it's really early to know who is going to emerge in that regard. There are a large number of potential individuals, but there's so many of them that no one is looking like a, you know, a strong candidate going in. Indeed, George W. Bush, at this point in, you know, before the 2000 campaign, was just a, you know, a sort of relatively unknown governor of Texas.
Question: Do you foresee any party realignment?
John Aldrich: There's always that potential and in some ways, it's a little bit brighter now than it has been since the early 1990's with the Reform party. Just to draw the analogy to that, while Ross Perot set off the motivation for the Reform party to form it, many of the members of the Reform party were not particularly interested in Perot, when were interested in running and trying to establish their own party and indeed, it was the internecene warfare between the Peronistas, if you will, and the anti-Peronistas, that led to the decline of the Reform Party. You know, our laws make it hard for a third party to get any traction, but they don't make it impossible. The electoral laws are just sort of stacked against it, but not impossibly so and what you need is somebody who has his, or in this case, her own appeal and sort of charismatic appeal that can attract attention and thereby mobilize a set of people who feel they have been most cut out of the two parties and have a home neither in the Democrat or the Republican party. A fair amount of that would be the Libertarians, the Libertarian move, and so I would imagine if she was able to establish a party that had any kind of credibility, that would be one sort of additional allies as she tried to build the party. It's a very long shot, it's almost certain that it wouldn't work, but it certainly could affect how it is the Republican party tries to move back into a position of serious competitiveness for the presidency and control of Congress.
Question: Will Libertarianism be a breakout movement?
John Aldrich: My particular position is it's very likely to have a small impact on both sides and not be able to have any break out kind of role. You know, that's why they may actually be imaginably movable toward a new third party, because they would be a more significant force in a small, but growing third party to add to their sort of constant base. There's this constant Libertarian base that's a clear appeal, but it's very difficult to be a Libertarian who says the government should not intervene in individual's lives any more than necessity and try to build a coalition that is both against gun control and against the stopping of gay marriage. Right? Those are, that breadth of appeal is very, most people are Libertarians for one reason or another, but not for both those reasons. And it's a very long stretch of the set of issues that make up a sort of coherent Libertarian position. And so there's a real tendency for it to be a small side, small but perhaps, but I think larger side on the Republican conservative, you know, sort of, that's serving as sort of a thorn in the side of the regular Republican party and a very small sort of liberal Libertarian, progressive Libertarian side in the Democratic Party.
Question: How does America's party system compare to other democracies'?
John Aldrich: Okay, sure. So, broadly, there are two kinds of systems in the world. There are many-party systems and there are two-party systems. And our English cousins, both England, Canada, Australia, India, tend to have majority rule elections, rather than proportional elections and that tends to lead them to have two sort of competing parties. So in England, you know, it's been, you know, since the '20's, that anybody other than Labor or the Conservatives have formed a government and gotten a Prime Minister in the Cabinet, and so on. And so in that way, it's very much like ours. They have problems very much like ours as well. There's one lesson to learn from them, and that is that the two parties at various times in history, recent history, were criticized for being too extreme. The conservatives under Thatcher, the Labor Party until the coming of, what's his name, Gordon Brown and his predecessor, I'm blanking on his name right now, and what they did was they moved, they took a much more moderate stance within the range of opinion within the Labor Party, took a much more moderate stance, and that's what's happening now in the Conservative Party, a more moderate leadership, even within the same range, a less extreme and a more moderate leadership has softened some of the edges. Otherwise, it's a system in many ways very similar to ours and the degree of differences are really quite similar between the two parties. If you go to other systems in which there are multiple parties, it's odd but it still tends to break down that two parties generate most of the leadership of the system, even though there are multiple parties around. For example, in Israel, which has election laws that should lead to the largest number of parties and indeed there are quite a large number of parties in that system, for many years, Labor and Conservative were the only source of prime ministers, leaders, of the country and they took opposite positions and it looked kind of like a two-party system embedded in a multi-party system in which there were, many people had voices in the - their congress, but only two were effectively governing the country.
Question: Can our system ever be reformed?
John Aldrich: Yeah, no. Not easily, right, and not in the short run. So, the principal problem is that, so we had two things that happened, one of them was just a sorting, I talked about southern Democrats essentially, you know, gained the Republican Party. In some sense, that's just taking, you know, members of Congress who were painted blue and we re-painted them red. And in New England, you could say the reverse, you know, red you painted blue. But, and that's just a resorting and that's fine, and everything would be, you know, much easier, if that was the only thing that happened. The thing that got more problematic was that it became harder and harder for moderates to win elections. And so not only did you sort people differently into reds and blues, but you moved them apart. And so you took out a range for moderates and there's very few moderates now, that's why people are so focused on, for example, people like Olympia Snow, she's one of the few, you know, Republicans from a basically Democratic area and thus has the kind of appeal that can go, you know, she can win elections as a Republican in what would otherwise be a Democrat area because she's one of the few people there in the center. And there are just so few of them. That's been the difficult part. The question is how would we get a viable center back and that's a very difficult question to figure out. The difference between the '60's and now, another difference between the '60's and now was that Republicans and Democrats divided on some issues, other issues, they were all intermingled and, you know, Republicans and Democrats were on the same side, opposite sides, all mixed up and they were not partisan issues. Now, virtually every issue is partisan. And that extends to virtually everything that comes up has a partisan twist to it, is very difficult. And we can't, you know, also forget the presentation of issues and that's, you know, if you think back to the '60's and '70's, news was Walter Cronkite and he talked to everybody. Now, the network news is a much less significant factor, it's not summarized by a Walter Cronkite kind of figure and people have their own news to listen to and it's as polarized as the rest of the world. It's a very difficult thing and it's very difficult to see how to unwind it, except of new issues come up that do cut across party lines that would break open some of the, the sort of rigidities we currently have and allow for some movement to come up that provides for the possibility of at least some degree of overlap between the two parties, some common ground between the two parties. Some way in which you could begin to see the value of bipartisan as well as purely partisan politics.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>