5 Best Tuesday Columns

David Brooks on majoring in humanities, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway on science denialism and more

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  • The New York Times Editorial Board on Doctors Who Aid Torture  In an editorial today, the New York Times comments on a report that was recently released by the Physicians for Human Rights, which "found that the Bush administration used medical personnel — including doctors, psychologists and physician’s assistants — to help justify acts that had long been classified by law and treaty as illegal or unethical and to redefine them as safe, legal and effective when used on terrorism suspects." The report also outlines particular incidents in which medical professionals were "conducting research and experimentation on human subjects." Considering the findings, the Times editors say the report "rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished." 
  • David Brooks on Majoring In Humanities "When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting, quips Brooks about the propensity of students who, when faced with a volatile job market, abandon the humanities for more remunerative disciplines. But the New York Times columnist remains convinced that the humanities can lead to something that the social sciences and systemic modeling cannot: an inner rapport with "The Big Shaggy," or  "the yearnings and fears that reside in an inner beast." "Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion," implores Brooks. "Technical knowledge stops at the outer edge. If you spend your life riding the links of the Internet, you probably won’t get too far into The Big Shaggy either, because the fast, effortless prose of blogging (and journalism) lacks the heft to get you deep below."
  • Anne Applebaum on Germany's Dangerous Code of Silence The Washington Post columnist uses the recent resignation of German president Horst Koehler as an indicator of other issuers running deep in modern Germany. Applebaum expresses concern that Germany's important role in contemporary geopolitics will remain unrealized so long as the German people continue to live in the shadow of World War II:
By declaring that Germany is a large country with a large export sector and economic interests around the world, Koehler broke the even more powerful taboo forbidding German politicians to speak of any use of the military in any foreign engagement. Germany's passivity is a matter of national pride, German pacifism is written into its constitution, and Germans don't talk about themselves as "a country of our size." In polite company, Germans never, ever talk about using the military "in an emergency to protect our interests."
  • Arianna Huffington on Technology, Government, and the People  At the Huffington Post, Huffington makes the case for "Government 2.0" to bridge the gap between the federal government and the American polity. "Watching the news, it's easy to conclude that "Yes We Can" has been replaced with, "Actually, On Second Thought... We Probably Can't," admits Huffington. "Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism -- even when it comes to the way our government is being run." A government that increasingly makes use of cutting edge information technologies will become an innovator, laying the foundation for self-governance. "We can't expect a government hobbled by centuries-old tools to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. That's why Government 2.0 needs to be taken out of beta and put into practice across the nation."
  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway on Science Denialism  In a column for the Los Angeles Times, the authors--Oreskes is a professor at UC San Diego, Conway is a historian of science--provide a capsule history of insincere skepticism drummed up by free-market proponents against everything from the harmful effects of cigarettes to the severity of global warming. "As science found more and more evidence of the environmental and health effects of industrial activity, which suggested the need for regulation, market fundamentalists increasingly turned against that science," the authors write. "In the name of 'freedom,' the American public has been deliberately misinformed about important issues of human health and environmental protection. But it remains difficult to imagine how lies can set us free."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.