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Eine andere Welt

Nov. 14, 2014 by | Comments (44)
INSIGHT is not a political blog. However, the travelogue format Dr. Prothero has used here is inherently personal, and certain scientific topics discussed in the post (such the understanding and communication of climate science) are intertwined with political and social trends. I’ve decided to post this opinion/travel piece as written, with the note that the author’s political views are his own.—Editor.

I’ve written again and again on the old SkepticBlog site and in my book Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future about the problems of science deniers in the United States. The U.S. is unique among the developed nations in the world in having a significant percentage of the population that embraces such anti-scientific ideas, despite our huge amount of money spent on education and science literacy. Indeed, we are the only developed nation in the world which has an entire major political party advocating scientific nonsense like this.

Thus, I was fortunate in the first week of November to find myself spending 7 days in Berlin, away from the political maelstrom occurring the U.S. Officially, I was presenting my research at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, my main professional meeting (and my 37th SVP meeting in a row). But instead of being isolated from the host country in a hotel, and relying on English-speaking tour guides (as most Americans do), I spent the week as a guest of my buddy from grad school, Dr. David Lazarus, a Curator at the Museum für Naturkunde (natural history museum), and his wife, Dr. Barbara Kohl. David is still a U.S. citizen, raised in Minneapolis but he has lived in many parts of the U.S.; for the past 30 years he has lived in Germany and Switzerland. Thus, he has an interesting perspective on life in the U.S. and in Europe, which I found valuable. I also immersed myself in the German lifestyle, taking public transit to my destinations, exploring the neighborhoods of Berlin, and doing it entirely with my rusty Deutsch from college. When you immerse yourself in another culture, you get a very different perspective on your own—and it’s not just better command of the language, and learning how customs are different. It can be a truly eye-opening experience.

First of all, Germany and nearly all the developed nations in Europe have absolutely no significant influence of creationists or climate deniers or other types of pseudoscientists. In fact, they are shocked and incredulous that one of the two political parties in the U.S. has been captured by anti-scientists, and that it  has so much power and influence (especially after the last election). Instead of our polarized and dysfunctional politics, the Germans  have a right-center party, the CDU (about as liberal as the U.S. Democratic Party), and a left-center party, the SPD, plus a strong Green Party and a number of smaller parties. These parties often cannot get a majority of seats in the Bundestag by themselves, so they must form coalitions and compromise to keep the country going—something inconceivable in our polarized system in the U.S. with almost no moderates left. The current Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a member of the CDU, but she was trained as a scientist (Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Leipzig, and also fluent in Russian and English). Having an advanced degree as a scholar is a mark of great achievement in Europe, and Europeans hold their scholars and scientists in highest respect. Merkel is not the only leader to earn an advanced degree, and in fact Europeans tend to vote for intellectuals and scholars and scientists, so much so that a few have claimed fraudulent credentials to enhance their election chances. There is none of this stubborn anti-intellectual streak that the U.S. so shamefully exhibits, where the ignorant scorn the people with education and it’s actually a liability in American politics to seem too smart. Instead of the respect they deserve, American climate scientists who become public figures in the climate change debate have been attacked by members of Congress, had their funding and research scrutinized by political hacks, and suffered through death threats.

As a consequence of the political events of the 1960s and later, most of these northern European countries have invested in the welfare of their citizens. They have universal health care that is excellent, generous medical disability, maternity, and other leaves, paid vacations, excellent free education (including college education), generous retirements, and cradle-to-grave security. Germany and most of the northern European countries (along with Canada and developed Asian countries like Japan and South Korea) dominate the Human Development Index, and the top 15 of the PISA rankings of math, science, and reading. By contrast, the U.S. is down about 28th to 30th on this ranking. In almost every measure of the health, opportunity, and well-being of its citizens (such as the Social Progress Index), Germany ranks near the top, while the U.S. is much lower in ranking. Germany does not have the huge extremes between the rich and poor that the U.S. does, ranking among the best countries in the world in income inequality, where the U.S. is below average. Yet this “evil socialism” has not hampered Germany at all. It remains the economic giant of the EU, and one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. As always, the trains run on time. Heck, they even had a transit strike while I was there—but it was a very civilized strike that only struck a few lines. It ended up being just a mild inconvenience, not the kind of strike that paralyzes the whole country.

In particular, Germany (like much of northern Europe) has responded to the oil embargoes of the 1970s by investing heavily in solar, wind, and other forms of green energy and technology, putting it in the top 5 countries of the world in the Climate Change Performance Index in 2013, and the top 6 in the Environmental Performance Index. The U.S., by contrast, is one of the world’s worst polluters per capita and and one of the biggest energy hogs per capita.  Germany leads the world in having almost 75% of its electricity produced by renewable sources, with one of the highest percentages of usage of wind power in the world, and also significant solar and hydroelectric power as well. Thanks to the horrors of the acid rain that nearly destroyed the Black Forest, Germany has moved away from mining its extensive reserves of dirty “brown coal” in the western regions, and no longer pollutes its atmosphere as it once did. My hosts reflected this transformation. They have one car (a Prius hybrid) which they rarely use, because public transit gets them to work and nearly everywhere else they need to go. A high percentage of Berliners need no car at all. They have energy-efficient heating in their well-insulated home (which was warm and cozy even though cold weather was already there), and of course recycling is everywhere.

Taken together, these things explain a lot of the reasons why climate denialism has no place in Germany, or indeed in any other developed country other than the U.S. (and, sadly, Australia at the moment). But the lack of a strong creationist influence on the culture is probably due to the low religiosity of the country. As Phil Zuckerman found out when he lived in Denmark, and others (such as Greg Paul) have noticed, nearly all the northern European countries (especially the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and the U.K.) have become almost entirely non-religious and secular, even if they have a nominal state religion (such as Anglicanism in England). Germany and the Scandinavian countries are at the top of most lists in terms of their lack of religion (especially fundamentalist religion). Zuckerman, Paul, and many others have hypothesized that the stable secure lifestyles engendered by cradle-to-grave protection makes people less religious, but whatever the reason, there is no influence of fundamentalism or creationism in any of the developed countries of Europe (or Asia, either). As Amanda Marcotte wrote in Salon online:

There’s a strong correlation between the happiest countries in the world and the least religious countries in the world, and along with Sweden and Denmark, Norway rates at the top of both lists. The two measurements have a complex relationship with each other. People likely look to religion less when they want for less, for one thing, but it also may be that atheism flourishes in nations where people demonstrate high levels of commitment towards a socially just government and shared economic benefits. If you have faith in your nation and your fellow citizens, putting faith in religion as well might just seem rather pointless.

Sadly, as the battles over health care showed, most Americans are not only completely unaware of how people in other countries live, but completely uninterested in learning anything from them as well. To most of the world with universal health care, it seemed truly bizarre that Americans were fighting over something which nearly all the rest of the developed world already has. Americans are now becoming notorious for their naive jingoism and insularity, and not knowing or caring about what the rest of the world is like. We hear pundits bragging about American exceptionalism and supremacy, while the statistics and polls I cited above show the opposite is true. (We are #1 in military spending and in a lot of things we should not be proud of, such as income inequality and poverty for a nation as rich as ours). I see this in my own students, who hear the word “Germany” and immediately think of Nazi stereotypes from movies and TV. Whenever I mention a geologic term that comes from German or French or some other foreign language, I find that none of my college students has taken French or German (or sometimes ANY foreign language). How can we conduct informed debates about policy, and understand our place in the world, when we live with stereotypes or ignorance of most of the rest of the world’s people?

Standing at Checkpoint Charlie, the gateway through the Berlin Wall, 25 years after the Wall came down

Standing at Checkpoint Charlie, the gateway through the Berlin Wall, 25 years after the Wall came down

Meanwhile, I was grateful to be in Eine andere Welt (“another world”) for a week, having an eye-opening experience. I first visited Berlin as a high-school student in 1971 on a summer tour of Europe, and saw much of West Germany as well as passing through Checkpoint Charlie in a tour bus to see Communist East Berlin up close. This time, I had the good fortune to be there on November 8-9, 2014, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I walked from Checkpoint Charlie along the now open streets where the Wall used to be, eventually reaching the Brandenburg Gate and the heart of the city. Later that evening, they had grand ceremonies commemorating that momentous event, with fireworks, laser shows, and speeches by their leaders. There was also a grand concert of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Berlin Opera Orchestra and Chorus, singing Schiller’s immortal words that Beethoven used in his last great work:

Alle Menschen werden Brüder

All men become brothers.

Donald Prothero

Dr. Donald Prothero taught college geology and paleontology for 35 years, at Caltech, Columbia, and Occidental, Knox, Vassar, Glendale, Mt. San Antonio, and Pierce Colleges. He earned his B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa, College Award) from University of California Riverside in 1976, and his M.A. (1978), M.Phil. (1979), and Ph.D. (1982) in geological sciences from Columbia University. He is the author of over 35 books. Read Donald’s full bio or his other posts on this blog.

44 responses to “Eine andere Welt”

  1. Jim says:

    If you love Germany as much as you hate the United States, why don’t you just move there and be with your euro-trash friends.

  2. DJK says:

    I read “Germany and most of the northern European countries (along with Canada and developed Asian countries like Japan and South Korea) dominate the Human Development Index. . . ” and yet when I click on that link the US is ranked above Germany. Can someone help me here?

  3. Doby says:

    And yet Europe is not some Oasis of logical thought. Every country damn near has a ton of science deniers when it come to GMOs.

  4. you must be joking says:

    Love the conflation of forced purchase of (inflated in price while offering sub par coverage )a health insurance plan with universal health CARE….

    I hope the EUropeans are enjoying their brief moment of being freed from the bonds of religion. Within one century , atheism will once again be what it was in EUrope for so many centuries : A capital offense. Or at least, an offense punishable by the lash and who knows how many years in a squalid prison.

    The people imported to work to pay for all these “free” goodies* are showing no sign of throwing off their religious beliefs (more’s the pity :-( ); rather, their young folks are MORE radical than the initial immigrants. Demographics will take it from there.

    *Many prefer to go on the dole, which they regard as jizya to which they are morally entitled. It’s a recognized form of jihad .

  5. Vince says:

    Thanks for the great post Don.

  6. Nero the Fish says:

    Fortunately, statements about nature’s workings are true or false independently of the political views of the people stating them. So I don’t see how pictures of socialist groups attending a climate-change rally demonstrate either that our climate has not changed or that its changes are not due to our activity. Nor do they even imply that instating a socialist government is the only way to address climate change.

    As a skeptic, you are no doubt able to search out evidence for and against explanations that are proffered to you. Based on your comment I surmise (perhaps incorrectly) that you would claim that people who believe climate change to be human-caused are some brand of socialist fanatics. If rally signs are your idea of evidence (and you could certainly do better than that), then I suggest that you look at a representative sample (which would likely include far more than a couple dozen signs, based on the size of the event) and decide impartially what they indicate, perhaps by counting the frequency of individual words. Someone may have done this analysis already and it’s worth a cursory Google search to find out, but if so you probably won’t find it at Consider your sources.


  7. John Boals says:

    Firstly, I am an atheist and a skeptic, and I agree with Don on everything but CAGW.

    Here is why people are skeptical of “climate change”, look at these photos and read the captions, it explains a lot.

    Moreover, climate always changes, that is how the glaciers melted, and BTW there has been no warming in over 18 years. It is obvious now that money was behind it all from the beginning.

  8. Ericsson says:

    Max, you do.

    He doesn’t need to since his societal comparisons have been widely know for a long time now. Be it measures of subjective happiness or the key social indicators (health, education, crime, freedom of press). Even the American dream: social mobility is much larger in Scandinavia (i.e. a persons income i statistically much less explained by the parents income).

    I think you might be experiencing the hostile-media-effect due to ideological bias.

  9. daniel says:

    Well,Sweden is the rape capital of europe and the capital Malmo is a muslim enclave.
    The government have capitulated to the immigrants and soon the country will be run by the islamic caliphate of europe.You will only see the blue eyes of the Sveska flika to know her nationality cause she will be wearing a burka.

  10. Ericsson says:

    if you expect to get away with cherry picking and red herrings i bet this is the wrong place.

  11. Vincent says:

    > Ein andere Welt

    Still NOK :-p

    Die Welt -> Eine andere Welt

    The adjective takes the last letter of the article:
    Das Wort -> Ein anderes Wort
    Der Tag -> Ein anderer Tag

  12. Steven Dondlinger says:

    You may want to correct the title because the German grammar is incorrect. “Ein anderen Welt” should read “eine andere Welt”.

    • Donald Prothero says:

      Sorry! I forgot to have a native speaker check it, and my Deutsch was back in college almost 40 years ago…

  13. Gad Zooks says:

    This year I moved back to the US and, prior to that, I had spent nearly 5 years in Germany.

    I share nearly all of the same observations that Professor Prothero has discussed in this article. It wasn’t always this way — rather, when I first moved to Germany I was very naive and fairly conservative in my thinking. I had thought, erroneously so, that the US was superior, the taxes in Europe were exceedingly high, and that European style socialism was certainly unsustainable and potentially a morally corrupting economic structure.

    Slowly, after living there for some time, my perspective started to change and I saw things in an increasingly clear light. All of the things that Professor Prothero discusses here, I noticed. And you cannot help but notice how seriously the Germans take green energy (windmills are practically ubiquitous).

    Honestly, though, the thing I admired most, and really the only thing I would add to this discussion, was the nearly complete lack of violent crime, even in major cities. The nearly absolute feeling of being secure and safe even late at night and on mass transit was quite different from what I had felt in the US. Rarely would I walk down streets at night and feel unsafe or insecure.

    One might chalk this up to more stringent gun laws, which is probably a factor, but I think that the greater amount of social welfare spending is a dominant factor as well. To be sure, in some areas frequented by tourists, especially in the Mediterranean countries, you could find beggars and what appeared to be African migrants selling wares (probably exploited by handlers).

    So yes, Max, you can rest easy knowing that no place is absolutely perfect, and if you try you can certainly find flaws with just about anything. Europe does seem to be more suspicious of GMO (whether that’s a healthy suspicion or an unhealthy one is anyone’s guess at this point), and they do seem to have a lot of medical woo (sometimes funded with their socialized medicine).

    But the important thing, if one cares to notice, is that, once we are aware of problems, we can and we should work as a society to improve them. The biggest one at this juncture, and the one with the greatest potential cost for life on earth, is global warming, so we should move forward on that issue in a deliberate way.

  14. Max says:

    Some good news out of Europe.
    “Italian Appeals Court Clears Panel in Quake Trial”

    “An appeals court on Monday cleared experts who had been convicted of failing to adequately warn residents of the risk before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.
    The court in L’Aquila, the city struck by the 6.3-magnitude quake, overturned guilty verdicts, saying no crime had been committed. The decision was met by cries of “shame” in the courtroom, packed with quake survivors.
    While it cleared the so-called great risks commission of experts, which had issued statements assuring residents after meeting days before the deadly quake, the court upheld a guilty verdict against a civil protection agency official regarding statements he made, and issued a suspended two-year sentence.

  15. Canman says:

    INSIGHT is not a political blog.

    A lot of issues covered by skepticism are going to involve politics, especially climate change. I hope Insight is not going to shy away from them.

    • Daniel Loxton says:

      Science topics such as climate change are emphatically in scope here, as is (with caution) discussion of the social and political trends that may bear on the practice of science or the public understanding of science. Our internal guidelines spell this out in explicit terms:

      Rigorous, evidence-based scholarship and science may always be discussed in a serious, scholarly, fair-minded, objective manner, even when that research could be interpreted as having important or even upsetting theological or political implications. Demonstrable, verifiable scientific facts are always in scope.

      But politics qua politics is not our focus here, by design. We’re a science and skepticism blog. All of the INSIGHT bloggers have committed to make a reasonable effort to set our personal political values and religious commitments to one side when we blog here, and to attempt to deliver reliable, evidence-based content to a broad audience. For more on this, please see my introductory post:

      The skeptical literature offers (if I may) insights that are of use to people across all kinds of political and ideological divides in their day to day lives. The process of seeking reliable evidence-based assessments of controversial claims is not and should not be limited to any particular class of people.

      Skepticism is broader than (for example) the atheism, humanism, and liberalism that I happen share with Don. The tone and editorial approach of this blog is intended to reflect that breadth.

  16. Max says:

    Watch out, the cowards blocked me for posting facts, as did Skeptoid by the way. This may be the last you’ll be hearing from me, at least under this name.

    • Max says:

      Two more facts for you.
      1. “16% of French Citizens Support ISIS, Poll Finds”, Newsweek
      “This percentage increases among younger respondents, spiking at 27% for those aged 18-24.”
      – Newsweek’s France Correspondent, Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, was unsurprised by the news. “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” she said, “unemployed to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.” She pointed to a correlation between support for ISIS and rising anti-Semitism in France, adding that “these are the same people who torch synagogues.”

      2. “National Front leads Europe to the right”, Deutsche Welle
      “After the success of the French National Front and other rightwing nationalist or populist parties in the European elections, the composition of the parliament in Strasbourg will change significantly…
      While it was expected, it’s still a sensation: the rightwing extremist National Front (FN) got more than 25 percent of the vote in the European parliamentary elections in France. That makes Marine Le Pen’s party France’s strongest political force in the EU legislature.”

  17. Canman says:

    Germany leads the world in having almost 75% of its electricity produced by renewable sources, …

    This statement is very misleading if not outright false!
    From the Climate Progress post:

    On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday.

    In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather.

  18. Lurdes Fonseca says:

    Opsss… Sorry for the spelling mistakes. Had no time to proofread myself :)

  19. Lurdes Fonseca says:

    Hi Donald. Great post. Germany isn’t all of Europe but the traits you underlined are very distinctive of Europe as a whole.
    About what you’ve written here’s some of my thoughts.

    In Europe we have to continuously explain to our students that YES, creationism, anti-science and climate change denialists are not a joke. They are not only for real but are gaining place in society and politics. They are mesmerized by that and they find it sometimes so hard to believe some of the arguments that we have to produce solid proofs, hard evidence. To us, it looks like a frightening return to the Middle Ages. Science is our paradigm for approaching life but it doesn’t mean we are anti-religion. Not at all. The central and south part of Europe particularly.
    Yes, we put science at the center of our interpretation of the world (since Illuminism…) and we see no contradiction between science and religion as we don’t take the Bible literally but (as Church states) a metaphor and a record that must be read in its historical and cultural context. Lots of European countries are deeply religious but that is not a problem for the fostering of scientific minds. But, yes, religion are losing stance, not gaining.

    But I have to say something: I’ve grown to be shocked both at creationists and anti-creationists because the latter are replying in a deep intolerant way too. Our focus is on respect. People’s beliefs and consciences are their own and should not be ridiculed or attacked. They have no place in politics or public life either, in our view. I dislike creationists bashing science as much as I dislike evolutionists bashing religion. We need to respect one another and to build our societies on that, not battle everyone’s right to ideological freedom. Science and religion are not football clubs. We think both can live together peacefully: some subjects are religious, some are scientific. Who’s to say there isn’t a God. Who knows? And who’s to say that we are not still in the infancy of our scientific knowledge? We must be tolerant and humble. That’s the only way to justice, peace and quality of life.

    The thing is: respect comes from knowledge and education. Americans, I believe, are doing a poor job on that. And they will feel the consequences for generations to come. Our students go abroad, learn other languages, experience the world. What do they gain? Culture, for sure. But with culture come something that is infinetly more important as a base of our well-being: tolerance. Uneaven societies, intolerant societies dig their own graves. We’ve seen it through history. The world today concerns me a great deal because of intolerance. And before pointing fingers, we should look at ourselves.

    That being sad, I love America, I’ve been enriched by American culture in infinite ways and have a bunch of incredible American friends :) America wonders me and frightens me, I have to say. But I like being european, speaking 5 languages and being able to learn others and having a world view so much more wider than my backyard.

    Take care :)

    • David McCarthy says:

      I’ve come a bit late to this but I feel compelled to say that unconditional respect and tolerance are not desirable attributes. Too much goes unquestioned. How can creationists be respected? Lack of belief is not an ideology and attempting to correct the foolishness of religion is a worthy task. Toleration is a mediocre cop-out. Who’s to say there’s no god? No-one. Who’s to say it is pointless and ultimately destructive to worship an unknown supernatural deity, to live in awe and fear of such an alleged being, possibly devote your life to them, let them inform your actions, renounce your family for them, kill for them? Most rational thinking people. Respect and tolerance are hugely overrated.

  20. Greg Laden says:

    First, let me say, great essay, Don, this is an important perspective to understand, especially by Americans who think the “debate” about climate change might be for real.

    Second, I have to day that I object to Ed’s preface. It really isn’t true that stating that climate change (and evolution) denial is pseudo-science, and pointing out that this is a worse problem in the US than in many European countries, is “political.” If that is “political” than everything else you do on this blog is political. And, in a sense, it is. But putting a disclaimer on this particular post that mainly addresses climate change is an endorsement of science denialism and that is not appropriate. I hope Ed give this some further thought and removes that disclaimer because it detracts from the value of an excellent and important blog post.

    Third, Max, I think you are posting on the wrong post. This is not about measles.

    Anyway, great post.

    • Max says:

      Riiight, it’s about climate change and evolution and universal healthcare and “free” taxpayer-funded education and socialism and greener grass and how Europe is superior to the U.S. in every way. It’s not about anti-vaxxers and homeopathy and rising antisemitism and France selling warships to Russia and things that Europe should not be proud of. My mistake.

      • Gad Zooks says:

        Max seems to take things personally, as though Professor Prothero should not dare to point out any perceived differences between Europe and the US and imply that there are ways that the US can improve.

        His response smacks of a “I know you are but what am I” approach to dialogue, with a gish gallop of “see, the EU has flaws, too!”

        Just concede that the US has flaws and we’ll move on.

        • Max says:

          I didn’t censor Prothero; he or some moderator censored me.
          I made the mistake of trying to post two links to articles. That comment was flagged for moderation, and was never posted, and afterwards I couldn’t post anything else using the same name and email.
          So don’t you dare to counter one-sided rants on Skeptic Insight.
          I must’ve already been on thin ice for daring to point out advantages of eBooks under Prothero’s post on the superiority of paper books.

        • Gad Zooks says:

          You did not counter anything contained in the Insight post, rather you seem to have taken offense that Professor Prothero pointed out that Europe seems to do certain things better than the US. I’m guessing that you cannot accept criticism of the US because you identify very deeply with the country or something (as though a criticism of the US is a criticism of you?)? Do you go to the same lengths to dismiss or overlook any criticism of yourself, your group, your team, or your state?

          By the way, in response, you merely attempted to pull up instances where the EU is perhaps imperfect or needs work, too. That does nothing to genuinely deflect any criticism of the US, if that was your intent. Yes, no place is perfect … got it.

  21. Max says:

    “Alternative Medicine or Witchcraft? Europeans Cast Critical Eye on Homeopathy”

    “While many medical experts dismiss the theories behind homeopathy as pure hocus pocus, it has long since become a mass movement in Germany. It is championed by a number of celebrities in the country, too. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, for example, claims to have lost 42 kilograms with the help of homeopathy. Doris Schröder-Kopf, wife of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, served as the honarary patron of the Homeopathic World Medical Congress this year. Renate Künast, who heads the Green Party in the German parliament, promotes the treatments. And even philosopher Peter Sloterdijk praises homeopathy as “plausible and unbelievable in how mysterious and effective it is.”
    A recent survey by pollster Allensbach found that 57 percent of Germans have taken homeopathic remedies at some time or other, and 25 percent consider themselves to be “convinced users.””
    But contemporary Germany has become a lot less esoteric than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when the New Age movement gained ground with academics. Nevertheless, homeopathy is well-established, and many attribute it to the coldness and technological obsession that permeates traditional medicine. Many doctors spend as little as five minutes with their patients, thinking they have done their job once they have placed a prescription in their hands. A June survey by the German medical magazine Deutschen Ärtzeblatt found that only 34 percent of people in the country described health care here as “very good” or “excellent.”

  22. Max says:

    “Measles rise sparks vaccine debate in Germany”

    “While measles infections are virtually non-existent in the United States, for example, there have been of late from 122 to 2,308 each year in Germany – some resulting in fatalities. Currently, the virus is spreading primarily in Berlin and Bavaria, with Germany’s Ministry of Health reporting more than 900 cases in the first half of 2013…
    In the United States, proof of the double-MMR vaccine must be shown before a child enters school. Vaccinations in Scandinavian countries are voluntary; there, explained Mankertz, so-called health nurses discuss the subject with families and encourage vaccinations.”

  23. Max says:

    “We are #1 in military spending and in a lot of things we should not be proud of”
    Let’s be clear. Is that one of those things we should not be proud of? You’d rather be below China and Russia? Do you miss the Berlin Wall?

    • Max says:

      That said, the U.S. is also #1 in annual expenditures per student for postsecondary education and #1 in healthcare spending per person, but that doesn’t say much.

    • Max says:

      “White House Hopes NATO Allies Will Boost Defense Spending”, National Journal

      – For two decades, American officials have been nagging allies to stop cutting their defense budgets and despairing that European leaders would ever again pay their share of NATO costs. President Obama is taking the same message to the NATO summit that opens Thursday in Wales….
      A similar message was delivered Saturday by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s outgoing secretary general. In an interview with CBC Radio in Canada, Rasmussen said Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has ended the “relatively calm weather” enjoyed by Europe over the 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell. “We have lived in a relatively quiet security environment,” he said. “But the crisis in Ukraine as well as what we’re now seeing in Iraq [and] North Africa is a wake-up call.”

    • Randy Grein says:

      ‘ “We are #1 in military spending and in a lot of things we should not be proud of”
      Let’s be clear. Is that one of those things we should not be proud of? You’d rather be below China and Russia? Do you miss the Berlin Wall?’

      There is a HUGE gap between the first statement and the second Max. Are we spending enough to ensure our safety, or have we ignored Ike (President Eisenhower) and his warnings of the Military Industrial Complex? We spend more than #2-26 PUT TOGETHER! What the heck are we so afraid of?

      Why this level of spending might be bad:

      1. The USSR. It didn’t fall because Reagan asked it to, it collapsed because it became clear internally that they had become, like us an Imperial power in an immoral conflict. Well, there’s the little fact that they spent themselves to oblivion trying to keep up with US military spending

      2. It’s keeping our poor poor. Military spending is the least effective economic spending available, when it comes to economic stimulation. More guns do not equal more wealth, unless you’re a pirate.

      3. It keeps us entangled in wars we have little business dealing with. We got dragged into 2 world wars, but the real problem is the endless little ‘police actions’ where we prop up yet another tin-plated dictator because he makes the right noises about communism and supporting America.

      4. The death toll. Sure, don’t pay attention to the people dying over there – how about the ones that come back in body bags? Those who lose limbs, eyes or sanity? Are we really fighting for ‘our freedoms’? Or are we fighting to take them away from others?

      We could go on, but tally up the military budget and ask yourself what lost opportunities that money represents, and just maybe would it matter to shave a billion or three off that.

  24. Max says:

    “I find that none of my college students has taken French or German”
    Did they take Spanish? It’s more useful in California.

  25. Max says:

    Swedes are ignorant about the world

    TED Talk by Hans Rosling, “How not to be ignorant about the world”

    “How long did women 30 years old in the world go to school: seven years, five years or three years? A, B or C? Please answer…
    Let’s look at the answer here: women in school. Here, you can see men went eight years. How long did women go to school? Well, we asked the Swedes like this, and that gives you a hint, doesn’t it? The right answer is probably the one the fewest Swedes picked, isn’t it? (Laughter) Let’s see, let’s see. Here we come. Yes, yes, yes, women have almost caught up. This is the U.S. public. And this is you. Here you come. Ooh. Well, congratulations, you’re twice as good as the Swedes.”

    “We asked, what is the percentage of the world’s one-year-old children who have got those basic vaccines against measles and other things that we have had for many years: 20, 50 or 80 percent? Now, this is what the U.S. public and the Swedish answered. Look at the Swedish result: you know what the right answer is. (Laughter) Who the heck is a professor of global health in that country? Well, it’s me. It’s me. (Laughter) It’s very difficult, this. It’s very difficult. (Applause)”

    “So Ola told me, “Take these devices. You are invited to media conferences. Give it to them and measure what the media know.” And ladies and gentlemen, for the first time, the informal results from a conference with U.S. media. And then, lately, from the European Union media. (Laughter) You see, the problem is not that people don’t read and listen to the media. The problem is that the media doesn’t know themselves.”

    “An excellent journalist knows how to pick the story that will make headlines, and people will read it because it’s sensational. Unusual events are more interesting, no? And they are exaggerated, and especially things we’re afraid of. A shark attack on a Swedish person will get headlines for weeks in Sweden.”

    • Tobias says:

      You are comparing trivia questions to an overall knowledge of the scientific method, and using a TED talk as a reference to boot (pause for laughter).

      You little rascal you!

      • Max says:

        This was about ignorance about the world, not the scientific method. Hans Rosling was using the enlightened Sweden as a prime example of ignorance about the world: “The right answer is probably the one the fewest Swedes picked.” Basically, Swedes think that things like vaccination rates and women’s education around the world are much worse than they really are. You are comparing that with trivia questions?

        • Tobias says:

          So, you don’t think that Hans (you) is extrapolating rather frivolously from a small set of questions to emphasize his argument in the TED talk then? An alternative interpretation would be that it was more of a tongue-in-cheek statement, not to be taken literally. Wouldn’t you agree?So, you don’t think that Hans is extrapolating

  26. Steve Newton says:

    sehr interessant! it is indeed shocking how little Americans know–or want to know–about how other people live. it’s hard to fathom this myopic insistence that our way is always the best, and we don’t even want to acknowledge there are other ways

  27. Karen says:

    I have cousins in Norway who visit the U.S. regularly and keep a weather eye on our politics, and they pretty much share the same observations. They’re baffled by U.S. anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and opposition to universal health care. I frankly admit that I am, too, but I have many relatives and acquaintances who fall into that camp.

  28. Mark Eller says:

    Great essay, Don. I’m glad the editors let it run. After recently making my first trip to Germany and spending a month there, I find myself in complete agreement with your commentary. It was depressing to return to the U.S.

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