Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want," the team writes. "The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."


"The scientific community is not infallible, which is why disagreements over data and its interpretation should be robust and thoughtfully engaged. While claiming that 'No true scientist believes X' or 'No true scientist doubts Y' may be the easiest way to dismiss dissenters, it is often counterproductive. The slow-witted and simple-minded may be dazzled by academic credentials and institutional affiliations but most thoughtful people are harder to fool. They recognize that No True Scientist should fear honest inquiry and solid arguments—even when their colleagues disagree."


"A good president is not obsessed with detail at the expense of the big picture. A president cannot master all the details needed to make rational decisions about the issues that cross his desk. He will need a well thought out political philosophy and experts he trusts in order to make good calls. As a result, he need not be a philosopher, Reagan certainly was not, but the president needs a carefully worked out governing philosophy that can guide his decision making. A good president also needs the ability to attract the loyalty of details people, the famed policy wonks, to help frame the issue.

"A good president does not ignore detail and can change his mind in changing conditions. Lincoln and Reagan both had to jettison advisers and generals under changing circumstances. If Lincoln had not been political sensitive to his conduct, he would not have won reelection and the Union would have been lost. He was able to see when a strategy had failed and change....

"A good president can make decisions in a crisis. A James Buchanan tries to wait out his time and does nothing. A Harry Truman acts and saves Greece from a communist revolution.

"A good president understands the complex, but can explain it to the rest of us. We no more want our president to be “like we are” intellectually than we want our heart surgeon to be like we are medically. We hope he has deep and sophisticated knowledge of the political system and of a philosophy of governance. As voters we are picking our representative in Washington and our hope is that he will represent our views better than we could.

"We want someone better at the job than we would be, but who can explain to us what he is doing.

"There are two kinds of bad leader: a bad leader who wonks out on everything and a bad leader who cannot wonk out on anything. The first is a tragic failure of the virtue of prudence and the second of either intellect or diligence.

"Given this, a sound conservative has reasons to worry about Sarah Palin."