Rahul Mahajan rahul at peaches.ph.utexas.edu
Thu Apr 11 01:03:01 MDT 1996


>The real way to deal with the information that I am posting is not to
>cast doubt on its sources, but to evaluate them on their own merit. There
>is not much in the way of "interpretation" in what I am presenting. The
>basic fact that I am working with is that cattle ranching has occupied a
>dominant role in the agricultural development of much of the Americas.
>This is borne out by material also presented by "Food First's" Frances Ford
>Lappe and a number of other social critics and environmentalists. Unlike
>Rifkin's highly speculative investigations on "entropy" or "the end of
>work", his attitudes toward beef are accepted by a wide range of folks,
>including Alex Cockburn. His column in the latest Nation takes a look at
>cattle ranching from basically the same perspective I have been presenting.

This is not the point, Lou. I'm perfectly happy to believe some of what
you've been saying, but, since the source is Rifkin, plausibility is not
enough. You really need to see the kinds of things he'll stoop to in order
to read him critically. I don't think any fact of his is reliable unless
corroborated by some other source.

Here's an example from Gould's review. Rifkin is trying to show that the
theory of evolution is just a crock. One way is to resurrect the old
argument about incipient stages of complex structures. Something as
complicated as an eye cannot be expected to evolve all in one step, but
what possible use could part of an eye be? Darwin recognized this objection
and developed an argument about alternative uses of intermediate stages,
with copious examples. One of Darwin's passages on the subject begins with
the statement,

"To suppose that the eye, with all of its inimitable contrivances,...could
have been formed by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd in
the highest possible degree."

Darwin then goes on to argue for why it is in fact not absurd. When Rifkin
reproduces this quote, however, he prefaces it with "Darwin himself
couldn't believe it, even though it was his own theory that advanced the
proposition." And then he doesn't bother to mention that Darwin resolved
this problem, he just lets the reader believe that it is a fundamental
objection. This is complete mendacity; the use of quotation out of context
to convey exactly the opposite of what was intended.

Rifkin plays fast and loose with whatever facts he needs to to support his
arguments. Using him as an uncorroborated source for anything is dangerous.

>There is an implication to my treatment of this material that Doug might
>be feeling resistant to. That implication is that consumer demand,
>whether in a capitalist state or a socialist state, for automobiles and
>beef may be have to be LIMITED for the greater good. The goal of
>socialism is not to turn out beef and sedans at a faster pace than
>capitalism. It is to enable humanity to live free and fulfilled lives.

I've already indicated that I agree. I would still prefer to see an honest
and rational case made for this rather than the dishonest, hysterical, and
anti-intellectual garbage that Rifkin and his ilk purvey.


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