Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obama on Mythbusters?

From various Twitter updates from the likes of Adam Savage and whatnot I have learned that Obama is going to be on an upcoming episode of Mythbusters. I do not know yet for what his purpose is for being on that show, but I have to admit that already I am disappointed.

Mythbusters is a show I've only gotten into particularly recently, like in the last year or so, because I disliked it as a kid. What intrigues me so much about it is the demonstration of how theoretical science is to be applied to actual, concrete reality. Formal education today usually makes the horrendous error of teaching abstractions detached from physical reality, which prevents objective learning since abstractions can only be derived from physical reality at its root, and Mythbusters has done well to remedy that by not only teaching concepts but also showing what they amount to in physical demonstration. I do admit to having some qualms with the show -- I don't like how the newer episodes tend to concentrate on physical results in neglect of explaining theory, and I sometimes get a dizzying sense of ADD when they keep switching back and forth between myths without completing one fully before moving on -- but the appearance of Obama has got to be the biggest disappointment to date. Sure, it's likely not to be the case that Obama will say anything objectionable even though I oppose his politics, but my main peeve is that he's appearing on the show period.

Looking at it from the broadest possible perspective, it's the juxtaposition that's detestable: A man of mystical, dictatorial philosophical premises is to appear on a show that, at base, holds a good, rational epistemology regarding how man should explore the world. Contradictory. Obama's philosophical premises are in conflict with the kind of philosophy a show like Mythbusters would presuppose, and in addition with his statist politics I think it's rather insulting that they would allow air time for such a man.

Probably the worst aspect of this matter is how children might interpret Obama's appearance separate from whatever he says or does. While it would be consistent for Obama's behavior, I have to confess that I don't expect him to say anything political on the show, but it could still lead to children drawing political conclusions. It is obvious that the show will introduce Obama as the President of the United States, and children could perhaps integrate the premise that it's alright for politicians to be involved with formal education institutions. Adam Savage has advocated such a position several months ago on his Twitter profile when he explicitly expressed approval of a political initiative of Obama regarding federal funding of science education. It's possible that someone may explicitly express such on that particular episode and thereby make more transparent the political implication.

It couldn't be further from the truth that it's appropriate for politicians to be involved in educational matters, except for the protection of individual rights. When politicians get involved any further than that, it involves the violation of property rights via regulations as to how the owners "may" and must use their property, and could even involve theft if the educational endeavor is funded by taxation, by which funds are expropriated from individuals and given to others. At worst, a politician's involvement could even corrupt the very curriculum. This last point is the most important epistemologically.

Simply put, if a person is going to involve himself and fund a particular endeavor, he's logically going to ensure that he approves of its specifics, right? No one, except for maybe unprincipled Peter Keatings, would involve themselves with something they explicitly oppose. If a politician is going to involve himself in funding and directing educational endeavors, especially if he holds statist premises, he's logically going to want to have at least some influence over the educational process. To expect otherwise is foolish, as it would be equivalent to a man supporting an endeavor he believes is destructive to his values: While many people today may be acting towards their own destruction on bad philosophical premises, if a person were to reach the explicit conclusion that something is destructive to his values, then he's logically going to alter his actions accordingly. Take, for example, the ongoing controversy of whether or not evolution should be taught in schools. That should be completely demonstrative of the essential flaw of funding education with taxes. The people who believe the theory of evolution is false logically don't want it to be taught, while the people who believe it's true do. Politicians with views on this issue have undertaken to force their beliefs to be taught. Some have even been successful in integrating their religious doctrine into school curricula. In short, if you elect a bunch of religious politicians to head educational endeavors, then don't be surprised when curricula start becoming religious.

Since Obama blatantly holds statist premises, then it's obvious he's going to want to dictate to some extent any educational endeavor he funds with tax money. At root, what right does he have to decide what may or may not be taught? It's irrelevant whether or not what he endorses is actually the truth. He has no right to be taking the property of others via taxation, to be deciding what it's used for, and therefore how educational institutes must use those funds. Besides, the fundamental problem with today's educational institutes is a matter of epistemology, not of funding, so throwing more money at the problem and intensifying the problematic methodology is only going to exacerbate the problem. (For a good discussion on proper educational methods, consider reading Lisa VanDamme's articles over at The Objective Standard, especially the one about hierarchy.)

I may be reading too much into this since Obama is merely a guest on this show and will likely not say anything objectionable, but there is the potential that bad philosophical premises could be disseminated. Most importantly, I simply don't like the juxtaposition of something I value with a man I view as a huge source of anti-values. However, it's also possible that any potential bad influence could be rendered inert by the fact Obama is facing continuously declining popularity. The episode was probably filmed during a time of greater popularity.

Mythbusters may be somewhat of a mixed show, but I'll continue watching it with the optimism that they'll strive to improve themselves. The recent new episodes seem to have recaptured somewhat the value of the old shows, where they would concentrate significantly on theory applied to practice and stay on one myth longer without frequently switching to another. It is nonetheless disappointing that the Mythbusters would invite the President on like this, as it seems to be nothing more than a second-handed banking on the popularity among youth of a celebrity president.        

Update: It's funny that mtnrunner2 below suggested that they might be testing the infamous Xylophone weapon from Atlas Shrugged, because according to this article the President did actually request a weapon-related myth to be tested.


  1. They're probably going to test Project Xylophone on Buster.

  2. The message Obama is trying to send out with his appearance is clear: He has a rational epistemology - the same epistemology as a scientist. That is what led to him being a socialist. Socialism is scientifically valid - why else would he accept it?


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