Uncommon Knowledge
David Kennedy, Andrew Roberts, and Stephen Kotkin Discuss the Big Three of the 20th Century: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin

David Kennedy, Andrew Roberts, and Stephen Kotkin Discuss the Big Three of the 20th Century: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin

August 5, 2019

Recorded on July 18, 2019

What did Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin want at the beginning of the Second World War? Peter Robinson starts the discussion by why the “big three” came together as allies in response to Operation Barbarossa during the war. What did the leaders of the “grand alliance” of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union want? What were their national interests?

Robinson asks Roberts if Churchill aimed to preserve the British Empire. Roberts explains that Churchill’s interests were just in national survival. As Britain was under the threat of massive invasion from Germany, he wanted to make sure that the Russians stayed in the war until the Germans were wiped out completely. Roberts also notes that Churchill wanted Russia to ensure that the Americans, when they did finally enter the war in December 1941, were guided toward a Mediterranean strategy.

Kennedy discusses Roosevelt’s motive for joining into an alliance in the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa, before officially entering the war. Kennedy says that Roosevelt wanted to make the world safe for the democratic practices and institutions that had already been established, but he did not seek to expand democracy throughout the world. Next, Robinson asks Kotkin about Stalin’s aim for allying with Britain and United States as well as why Stalin did not quickly respond to Hitler’s actions in Soviet Union despite having one of the biggest armies in the world. Kotkin replies that there was misinformation that made Stalin think that Hitler would not actually attack, that Hitler was only amassing the troops to blackmail Stalin into giving up Ukraine and other territories without actually having to fight. Lastly, Kotkin explains, Stalin also joined the grand alliance for national survival.

Robinson then continues the discussion with Roberts, Kennedy, and Kotkin by asking how things turned out for the three allies after the war. They examine who won and who lost over both the short term and the long term, as well as how the postwar world set the stage for the emergence of new strong powers, particularly China.

This event addresses these and many other important lessons and questions:

  • What happens when an international system that is supposed to keep the peace among nations breaks down?
  • How do nations deal with the breakdown and rebuilding of international order?
  • How can Western civilization remain strong?
  • What are the defense resources required to protect free countries from unpleasant predators in the world?
Mathematical Challenges To Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution, With David Berlinski, Stephen Meyer, And David Gelernter

Mathematical Challenges To Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution, With David Berlinski, Stephen Meyer, And David Gelernter

July 22, 2019

Recorded on June 6, 2019 in Italy.

Based on new evidence and knowledge that functioning proteins are extremely rare, should Darwin’s theory of evolution be dismissed, dissected, developed or replaced with a theory of intelligent design?

Has Darwinism really failed? Peter Robinson discusses it with David Berlinski, David Gelernter, and Stephen Meyer, who have raised doubts about Darwin’s theory in their two books and essay, respectively The Deniable DarwinDarwin’s Doubt, and “Giving Up Darwin” (published in the Claremont Review of Books).

Robinson asks them to convince him that the term “species” has not been defined by the authors to Darwin’s disadvantage. Gelernter replies to this and explains, as he expressed in his essay, that he sees Darwin’s theory as beautiful (which made it difficult for him to give it up): “Beauty is often a telltale sign of truth. Beauty is our guide to the intellectual universe—walking beside us through the uncharted wilderness, pointing us in the right direction, keeping us on track—most of the time.” Gelernter notes that there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether Darwin can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. Meyer explains Darwinism as a comprehensive synthesis, which gained popularity for its appeal. Meyer also mentions that one cannot disregard that Darwin’s book was based on the facts present in the 19th century.

Robinson then asks the panel whether Darwin’s theory of gradual evolution is contradicted by the explosion of fossil records in the Cambrian period, when there was a sudden occurrence of many species over the span of approximately seventy million years (Meyer’s noted that the date range for the Cambrian period is actually narrowing). Meyer replies that even population genetics, the mathematical branch of Darwinian theory, has not been able to support the explosion of fossil records during the Cambrian period, biologically or geologically.

Robinson than asks about Darwin’s main problem, molecular biology, to which Meyer explains, comparing it to digital world, that building a new biological function is similar to building a new code, which Darwin could not understand in his era. Berlinski does not second this and states that the cell represents very complex machinery, with complexities increasing over time, which is difficult to explain by a theory. Gelernter throws light on this by giving an example of a necklace on which the positioning of different beads can lead to different permutations and combinations; it is really tough to choose the best possible combination, more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack. He seconds Meyer’s statement that it was impossible for Darwin to understand that in his era, since the math is easy but he did not have the facts. Meyer further explains how difficult it is to know what a protein can do to a cell, the vast combinations it can produce, and how rare is the possibility of finding a functional protein. He then talks about the formation of brand-new organisms, for which mutation must affect genes early in the life form’s development in order to control the expression of other genes as the organism grows.

“Intelligent design” is something only Meyer agrees with, but Berlinski replies that as a scientific approach, one can agree or disagree with it, but should not reject it. Meyer talks about the major discovery in the 1950s and ’60s concerning the DNA molecule, which encodes information in a somewhat digital format, providing researchers with the opportunity to trace the information back to its source. Gelernter argues that if there was/is an intelligent designer then why is the design not the most efficient, rather than prone to all sorts of problems, including the mental and emotional.

Robinson quotes Gelernter: “Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but a basis of a worldview, and an emergency . . . religion for the many troubled souls who need one.” Gelernter further adds that it’s a fantastically challenging problem that Darwin chose to address. How difficult will it be for scientists to move on from Darwin’s theory of evolution? Will each scientist need to examine the evidence for his or herself? These are some of most important questions facing science in the 21st century.

Uncommon Knowledge with David Berlinski on “The Deniable Darwin”

Uncommon Knowledge with David Berlinski on “The Deniable Darwin”

July 8, 2019

David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a contributing editor at Inference: International Review of Science, and author of many books. Berlinski discusses his book The Deniable Darwin and lays out how Charles Darwin has failed to explain the origin of species through his theory of evolution.

Berlinski explains that change in biology is not continuous—it’s radical, something which Darwinian theory fails to explain. He discusses how Darwinian evolution is blind to the future as there is no fidelity to the facts. He gives examples of amino acids and dogs and explains why there cannot be just one species. He further strengthens his statement by saying that everything cannot be accounted for as being random: there should be some scientific evidence to support it.

Berlinski responds to Peter Robinson’s question about Razib Khan’s statement to the effect that, “The seeds of both tyranny and democracy were sown by the evolutionary pressures that shaped humans over millions of years.” He argues that the deepest aspects of our nature are not formed by evolutionary pressures because evolution is relatively neutral. He also replies to Robinson’s question about a remark of Pope Benedict XVI to the effect that Western thought, by its very nature, “excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question.” He explains that it is not right to argue that physical theories imply that the conclusion is antitheist, as mere exclusion in these theories does not imply that.

Robinson further asks Berlinski’s views about the growing population of Islam and decreasing population of Europeans in Europe. Berlinski explains that Muslims take religion seriously, but theology/religion has more or less disappeared from the Western habit of thought. He states that faith and religion should come together.

Berlinski further talks about how Albert Einstein’s comments disprove God, not because he is an antitheist, but because Einstein wanted to push quantum theory and his belief in the rational universe.

Finally, Robinson asks about Europe’s survival in terms of economy, population, and growth, and Berlinski says that the nation-state is an idea that is no longer there and that patriotism is disappearing.

David Davenport on How Public Policy Became War

David Davenport on How Public Policy Became War

June 24, 2019

Recorded: Recorded on May 15, 2019

David Davenport, Hoover fellow and coauthor of How Public Policy Became War, analyzes how presidents have too readily declared war (on terror, drugs, poverty, you name it) and called the nation into crisis, partly to tackle the problem and partly to increase their own power.

Davenport explains how policy options have been left behind because the war metaphor reduces the constraints and expands the power of what a president can do. Davenport discusses how Franklin Roosevelt used the declaration of war to expand government and shift the balance of power in the United States in a new direction, away from Congress and the states and toward a strong executive branch. Davenport notes that Roosevelt exchanged the founders’ vision of deliberation and moderation in the federal government for war and action.

Davenport explains how, through the course of time, Congress has lost its ability to deliberate, negotiate, compromise, and draft bills, which results in giving more power to the executive branch. Davenport says that members of Congress are sent to Washington to represent us, and they need to be statesmen rather than party loyalists and step up to their proper constitutional role.

Davenport also discusses executive orders that permit the president to issue an order on his own without any congressional legislation. He talks about the number of executive orders that have been used by presidents throughout history and how they have impacted the nation.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers.

Finally, Davenport says he believes that President Trump is on the right track when he takes measures to limit the administrative state.

Empowering Students through School Choice, with Betsy DeVos

Empowering Students through School Choice, with Betsy DeVos

June 3, 2019

Recorded on May 15, 2019.

What’s wrong with public education in the United States? Betsy DeVos, US secretary of education, analyzes the role of government in the US education system and the changes she’s making to the Department of Education. She discusses her proposal to overhaul the federal education system by rolling back government overreach from the previous administration. She argues that states and parents need to be empowered to make better informed and flexible decisions for where students attend schools. Her plan is to offer states the opportunity to enroll in an optional tax-credit program that would enable more parents to choose where their children go to school, including charter schools.

Secretary DeVos briefly touches on Title IX. She argues that, even though one sexual assault on a college campus is too many, better protections need to be put into place for the accused to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Peter Robinson and Secretary DeVos also discuss the trials of working in her current position and her dedication to serving the parents and students of the United States.

Thomas Sowell on the Origins of Economic Disparities

Thomas Sowell on the Origins of Economic Disparities

May 17, 2019

Recorded on April 1, 2019

Is discrimination the reason behind economic inequality in the United States? Thomas Sowell dismisses that     question with a newly revised edition of his book Discrimination and Disparities. He sits down with Peter Robinson to discuss the long history of disparities among humans around the world and throughout time. He argues that discrimination has significantly less of a role to play in inequality than contemporary politicians give it credit for, and that something as incontrovertible as birth order of children has a more significant and statistically higher impact on success than discrimination. He discusses why parental attention is the most important aspect of a child’s intellectual development.

Sowell goes on to break down different minority groups around the world who went on to have more economic and political success than their majority counterparts, such as the Indians in East Africa, Jewish people in Eastern Europe, Cubans in the United States, and the Chinese in Malaysia. He argues that there is an underlying assumption that if discrimination was absent equality would prevail, which historically has been proven wrong.

Sowell goes on to discuss changes in crime rates and poverty since the expansion of US welfare programs in the 1960s and how this has had a huge impact on the success of African Americans. He talks about his own experience growing up in New York, how housing projects used to be considered a positive place to live, and his experience as the first member of his family to enter the seventh grade. Robinson asks Sowell his thoughts on the case for reparations currently being made in Congress, and Sowell presents an argument about why a plan for reparations is not only illogical but also impossible to implement, with so many US citizens’ ancestors arriving long after the Civil War. He also explains that slavery was common throughout the known world for thousands of years and that abolition movements didn’t begin anywhere in the world until the late 18th century. He reminds us that the United States was not the only country guilty of participating in slavery and yet is the only country debating reparations.

Victor Davis Hanson on “The Case For Trump”

Victor Davis Hanson on “The Case For Trump”

May 6, 2019

Recorded on April 1, 2019.

How did blue-collar voters connect with a millionaire from Queens in the 2016 election? Martin and Illie Anderson Senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson addresses that question and more in his newly released book, The Case for Trump. He sits down with Peter Robinson to chat about his motivation to write a book making a rational case for those voters who chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

Hanson and Robinson, the Murdoch Distinguished Policy Fellow, discuss how voters connected with Trump’s “personal authenticity” during the campaign and how the media has a “historical amnesia” of the bad behavior of past presidents when talking about President Trump. The president, Hanson argues, was always an outsider from elite society in Manhattan, which helped him to better to connect with voters who felt like outsiders. He analyzes President Trump’s platform agenda, which was composed 80% of traditionally conservative views with the remaining 20% being radical ideas that fit with many of the views of the midwestern states. He breaks down why, in the end, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich didn’t appeal to voters in the way that Trump managed to.

Hanson turns to talk about his background and life growing up in California’s Central Valley and how different the area feels now compared to when he was younger. He talks about seeing the majority of the family-run farms being steadily replaced with large commercial operations and how that’s drastically impacted the workforce and economics of the region. He goes on to discuss issues of water protection and water quality in the Central Valley and how Bay Area elites prioritize their water quality over that of the rural farmers.

For further information:

https://www.hoover.org/profiles/victor-davis-hanson
https://www.hoover.org/research/diversity-illegal-immigration

Heather Mac Donald on How the Delusion of Diversity Destroys Our Common Humanity and Open-Minded Curiosity

Heather Mac Donald on How the Delusion of Diversity Destroys Our Common Humanity and Open-Minded Curiosity

April 22, 2019

Recorded on February 25, 2019.

Is the dedication to diversity undermining American culture? In her book The Diversity Delusion, Heather Mac Donald argues that the focus on race and gender diversity is harming society. Mac Donald and Peter Robinson discuss how she was protested off of school campuses by students because of her ideas. They discuss the collapse of free-speech ideals on college campuses in the United States and how the dedication to diversity doesn’t extend to a diversity of thought.

Mac Donald also breaks down issues of gender and racial equality. She talks about how affirmative action has not had the impact that was intended and has in fact made attending college more difficult for minorities who are accepted to schools they are not ready for. She also goes on to analyze rape culture on college campuses and posits her theories as to why discussions of sexual violence have become more prevalent now than in the past.

Getting Work Done in Congress, with Josh Hawley and Michael Waltz

Getting Work Done in Congress, with Josh Hawley and Michael Waltz

April 8, 2019

Recorded on March 5, 2019.

Freshman members of Congress senator Josh Hawley and representative Michael Waltz talk about their recent experiences working in Congress and their desire to push for less politics and more accomplishments that will help strengthen the United States. The two congressmen discuss why they chose to dedicate their lives to serving the American people and how they are asking tough questions and bringing fresh ideas to jump-start a stagnant government.

Hawley and Waltz discuss their goals for their first terms in Congress and how they want to streamline the federal budget, fight for the working people, and serve their constituents by honoring the ideas and ideals in the US Constitution. Peter Robinson leads their discussion of addressing and resolving problems with special interest groups, an inefficient polarized Congress, President Trump’s national-emergency declaration regarding the border wall, and his goal to pull the troops out of Syria and Afghanistan.

Jason Riley On “False Black Power?”

Jason Riley On “False Black Power?”

March 18, 2019

Recorded on February 21, 2019.

What is “false black power?” According to Jason Riley, author of False Black Power?, it is political clout, whereas true black power is human capital and culture. Riley and Peter Robinson dive into the arguments in Riley’s new book, the history of African Americans in the United States, and welfare inequality in black communities. 

Riley discusses the Moynihan report of 1965, which documented the rise of black families headed by single women in inner cities and how this report was something black sociologists had already been writing about for several years. He argues that there was clearly a breakdown of the nuclear family and that this is a result of the “Great Society” welfare programs of the 1960s rather than the legacy of slavery or Jim Crow laws.

In the 1960s, Riley posits that the black activist community’s shift towards political engagement was misguided. He argues that the idea of black political clout leading to black economic advancement was misplaced. Other impoverished communities (i.e. Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrant communities) at various times in American history focused on economic advancement first before trying to achieve political clout, and they were successful. Instead, the black community focused first on electing black politicians, which ended up doing very little for the economic advancement of the community as politicians typically put their own interests first, above their communities’. Riley points out that the economic data shows that black communities became more impoverished under black leadership.

Riley proposes a solution of advocating for more school-choice vouchers, which allow black parents to take better control of their children’s futures and place them in the best schools for them. He also argues for reducing social safety nets, making them a more temporary form of welfare rather than the multigenerational welfare system currently in place.

Other resources

https://www.amazon.com/Please-Stop-Helping-Us-Liberals/dp/1594038414/ref=pd_bxgy_14_2/147-2230119-8429907 Please Stop Helping Us, by Jason Riley

https://www.hoover.org/research/discrimination-and-disparities-thomas-sowell - Discrimination and Disparities, with Thomas Sowell

https://californiaglobe.com/fr/stanford-hoover-institution-economist-targets-socialism-fears-we-may-not-make-it/ Stanford Hoover Institution economist targets socialism, fears ‘we may not make it’

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUvQxcVYQlY - Sowell: Politicians using race as their ticket to whatever racket they're running