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Solar Energy. An example of how what matters most is Whose Side Are You On, not what makes the most sense.
Clean energy. GREEN energy. Energy that can solve global warming. Environmentalists are all for it. And as a direct result, no matter what the benefits, conservatives are absolutely against it. Not because of the merits of the matter, but because we live in a zero sum us-against-them Value Wars world that blinds us to thinking about things objectively…which leaves us all at much greater risk, no matter what side of the battle lines we’re on.
Not long ago word got out that ALEC – the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council reportedly heavily funded by the right wing Koch Brothers – was trying to kill renewable energy programs by getting state governments to slap a fee on any homeowner who installed solar panels. The New York Times editorial board declared The Koch Attack on Solar Energy, The Los Angeles Times reported Koch brothers, big utilities attack solar, green energy policies, and The Guardian said ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy.
There is no question that this was just one part of a comprehensive right wing attack on renewable energy. But nowhere in all the reporting and editorializing was it mentioned that, in concept, the solar fee makes sense. Appropriately set based on market costs for power, it’s fair. In fact, it even helps shift the energy system toward renewables.
I just put solar panels on my roof, encouraged by local, state and federal incentives that mean I’ll have paid off the system in five years, after which I’ll be paying practically nothing for electricity. But I’ll still need the grid when the sun isn’t shining -- like, say, at night. So I’m happy to pay the modest $10 monthly “distribution charge” that, according to my bill;
ensures that the costs of maintaining the local electrical distribution system and running Concord Light are shared fairly among all of Concord Light’s customers, including those who have reduced their financial contribution towards maintaining these services by replacing some of the electricity they had purchased from Concord Light with electricity generated by their solar PV system.
This solar surcharge -- the same one liberals claim is part of a conspiracy by the right to kill solar power -- is being charged in liberal Concord, Mass., where nearly 200 of my liberal neighbors (and my liberal Unitarian Universalist church) have recently installed solar energy systems. We are willingly paying the fee as a reasonable step in reducing fossil fuel emissions that include not only greenhouse gasses but fine particle pollution, which kills or sickens tens of thousands of people in the U.S. annually, tens of millions of people worldwide. Cleaner power means cleaner air for all of us, regardless of what side we’re on.
(Energy geeks note that there will have to be bigger and more complex shifts in how we pay for electricity if and when the system moves toward cleaner renewables, but this essay isn’t about those issues. In fact, it’s about how those important issues can't be discussed objectively in the poisoned us-against-them atmopshere of our polarized society.)
The solar surcharge is essentially the same as the fees some states are imposing on the purchase of electric or hybrid cars that use the same roads and bridges all vehicles do, but which pay less in gasoline tax, the primary funding source for maintaining those roads and bridges. Those fees are not right wing attacks on clean cars, as some on the left have charged. Like the solar distribution charge, they just make sense.
But in polarized times, anything one side says or does is automatically nefarious to the other side -- something to be attacked and rejected. The solar fee is just one example of what happens to a lot of important issues these days; gun control, climate change, immigration, universal health care coverage. The issue gets framed by one side or the other -- the left calls for big government to support clean energy, the far right calls gun ownership a matter of individual liberty -- and from then on the debate is sucked into the vortex of the Value Wars, and no matter what anyone says or does, we can only see it in that ‘whose side are you on’ context. That’s dangerous, because such myopia blinds us from considering the full merits of the issue and what might do us all the most good.
Sadly, this is a manifestation of the innate human instinct to protect ourselves by banding together into tribes when we feel troubled, and to adopt views that align with our friends and allies. That instinct helps us feel safe, but it closes our minds, overwhelms our ability to reason, and robs of us of the ability to make choices that would do us the most good: choices like cleaner energy to improve the quality of the air we all breathe, or reasonable gun control to make it harder for bad guys to get firearms and thus improve the safety of the streets we all share, choices like getting everyone insured to control health care costs we all pay, or facilitating a smarter immigration system to supply workers for the economy on which we all rely. These solutions don’t favor one side or another. They benefit everyone.
But we can’t achieve any of this unless we can rise above our instinct to see issues, like this solar surcharge, only through the narrow us-against-them lenses of our tribal affiliations. That instinct may help us feel safe, but it breeds a divisive combat that makes it harder to agree on the things that will actually protect us the most.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.