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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ignorance on Parade

Before I could even form the outline of a post based upon a fine column, Jonah Goldberg is on it:

Kevin Williamson’s piece on “Rationalia” may be the best thing he’s written in a while — which is quite a high bar. But I may be biased because it is so in my wheelhouse. For those of you who read the Tyranny of Clichés or any of my extended rants on philosophical Pragmatism and “science,” this should be no surprise.

Kevin is right that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s brain fart fantasy of a virtual country where “All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence” is “school boy nonsense.” We all knew kids in high school — some of us may even have been that kid before we matured — who pompously argued that this or that law or controversy was stupid because the right answer is obvious. The problem is that such thinking isn’t educated out of kids, it is pounded into them. Worse, as Kevin notes, it has been routinely and consistently elevated to a level of intellectual and philosophical profundity.
The Pragmatists gave philosophical heft to the Progressive crusade for “disinterestedness.” Progressive officials and journalists weren’t pursuing their own interests or privileging their own agendas, they were simply charting the course for the best outcomes based on “science.” This habit of mind, which Hayek dubbed “scientism,” has poisoned the liberal blood stream ever since. Woodrow Wilson suffered from it, as did FDR and JFK. Paul Krugman insists he has no liberal biases, it’s just that facts have a liberal bias. Confidence that planners, armed with reason alone, could outthink markets in particular and reality in general, has been the most reliable midwife of unintended outcomes for the last two centuries.
The epistemological problems with this kind of confirmation bias are obviously bad enough. But the more important point is that this line of thinking is fundamentally undemocratic. The whole point of this line of argument is to take decisions away from the people and put it in the hands of experts who know better.
Politics in the most basic Aristotelian and democratic senses rests on the idea that people can disagree about what the right course of action is.
Indeed, most meaningful political disputes are fundamentally disputes over competing values. That means people of good will can disagree on what the evidence shows or, more importantly, on which evidence should win out. Tyson thinks that all good and right people will see the “evidence” the same way. I honestly believe only arrogant or naive fools and oblivious dogmatists can think that is right.

There are many disputes that arise from differing  preferences.  When those differences are about values, negotiating a peaceful resolution in the political realm are a bit tricky.  Refusal by either side to engage in open and honest discussion of such matters is just asking for heightened conflict.  Given the behavior I frequently encounter, it's hard to know if the ignorance is willful or if it derives from a will to power.  I try to give the benefit of the doubt but sometimes it's real hard.


I highly recommend the video at the end of the column linked to  - for those who don't do videos, if you follow the video to youtube, the "more" drop-down menu has a very accurate transcript.

Also, another column reminds me of a recent observation.  In the last year or two many of my progressive friends have exhibited not just difference of preferences, but a growing intolerance to the mere expression of difference of opinion.  Friends who are not progressives have confirmed that same experience.  It's getting even more difficult to have fruitful discussions.
I don’t think people appreciate how pernicious and widespread this crowdsourced totalitarianism really is. Routine lies in the service of left-wing narratives are justified in the name of “larger truths,” while actual truth-telling in the other direction is denounced as hate speech or “triggering.” 

Even when liberals call for an “honest conversation” about this, that, or the other thing, what they really mean is they want everyone who disagrees with the prevailing progressive view to fall in line. Almost invariably, when I hear calls for “frank talk,” “honest dialogue,” or a new “national conversation,” I immediately translate it as, “Let the next chapter of indoctrination begin.” It’s a way of luring dissenters from political correctness out into the open so they can be smashed over the head with a rock.
But when someone on the other side of the ideological chasm questions the official narrative, they must be demonized or otherwise silenced. Why? Because the last thing progressives want is to start an honest conversation. They want to have their conversations — and only their conversations.


erp said...

... Bret and this is why libertarianism is more negative than positive. It takes votes away from conservatives and helps the progs.

This pictures says it all. The candidate is wearing a PEACE SIGN for G*d's sake -- was CHE t-shirt in the laundry and is mouthing nonsensical platitudes about Hillary. Does he even know any of the issues?

My head may burst before November!

Bret said...

Several pundits think that Johnson will take more votes from Clinton than Trump. Johnson is trying to pick up the Sanders vote.

erp said...

I know that's what the punditry says, but I don't think so.

It's so bizarre that anyone would think Johnson would appeal to Sanders' voters since on paper the two are polar opposites politically. On second thought though, maybe that's why he wore that chicken claw t-shirt.

erp said...

This is the change progs hoped for and they got their wish.

erp said...


Howard said...


Fixed link here.

Since we are unlikely to avoid such ridiculous behavior, I will view it as entertainment. Hopefully, it will burn out quickly.

Hey Skipper said...

There are many disputes that arise from differing preferences.

No one is at all confused about the evidence surrounding abortion.

So what's the correct answer Dr. Tyson?

After all, it is really quite a simple question.

Also, another column reminds me of a recent observation. In the last year or two many of my progressive friends have exhibited not just difference of preferences, but a growing intolerance to the mere expression of difference of opinion.

Facebook is a perfect example of this. After the Orlando horror show, some progressive friends of mine posted things along the lines of "If you aren't evil or stupid, you would agree with us to eliminate guns." I commented to the effect that there are reasons that more than 100 million Americans aren't necessarily evil or stupid.

In response, I was called a retard by one, and my cousin regretfully informed me that he used to like me.

My outro, to each: Oh, I get it. Shut up you explained.

I occasionally think Harry is an extreme example of prog thought, and almost immediately reality bites.

Hey Skipper said...

BTW, Kevin Williamson at NRO completely rubbishes Rationalia.

I can't begin to fathom why Tyson thinks it is even remotely a good idea.

erp said...

Skipper, Harry is an example of retro-prog. Even he hasn't expressed solidarity with the snowflakes who require pre-school daycare conditions in our formerly formidable institutions of higher learner. Although, I don't know if you or he are aware that in the Big Apple there are now luxurious living arrangements at a staggering cost that simulate college dormitories for chronologically adult persons commanding very high salaries.

In my day, we couldn't wait be reach 18 and officially become a non-child.

Tyson is an AA baby installed at the planetarium to shake money loose from ultra-rich lefty matrons and guilt-ridden aristos. Every time I think of the new "Cosmos," I shudder -- and I remember everybody laughing at Sagan when the original series came out.

Tyson would do well to keep his mouth shut publicly and stick to the beautiful-people-cocktail-party circuit where nobody knows or cares about astronomy and only cares about condescending to a colored person.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "I occasionally think Harry is an extreme example..."

Yeah, Harry isn't even vaguely extreme and is quite reasonable and rational compared to most. Of course, compared to most conservatives, we're fairly rational as well.

Hey Skipper said...

Of course, compared to most conservatives, we're fairly rational as well.

That's as may be, but there is a real distinction between most conservatives, and most liberals.

Try reading, say, the comments thread on an NYT item, and that on a similar item in the WSJ.

One of them is rote vituperation.

erp said...

... Skipper, I haven't read the WSJ in years. Has it returned to a conservative editorial policy?

Hey Skipper said...

I didn't start subscribing until a couple years ago, so I really can't say.

The range of reporting is much narrower than the NYT. However, almost none the news stories the WSJ runs are guilty of agenda journalism. The Op Ed section is a quarter the size of the NYT's, but that could be because they don't run rubbish, or the completely unhinged steaming piles of word-effluvium that the unsigned op-eds have become.

erp said...

Sorry, but I couldn't stop myself -- The Orion Nebula is racist.

FTA ... It's made up of brown dwarfs, massive objects that are bigger than gas giants but not massive enough to sustain nuclear fusion and become a star.

Apparently there is no AA for nebulae.

Harry Eagar said...

Harry isn't a progressive; he's a New Dealer.

Is Wretched a conservative? I believe he thinks he is (not for me to say). His topic July 12 (not sure how he archives his stuff, it may have taken a while to reach us out in the boonies) was bigoted, scornful and threatening. I mention it because he's gotten good notices here in the past.

That lecture may have been more bigoted, scornful and threatening than most, but I don't think so. It was also, by any measure, anti-intellectual.

erp said...

... Did I miss something? What does the South China Sea have to do with this string?

Bret said...

Harry wrote: "Harry isn't a progressive; he's a New Dealer."

Good point. And given that the New Deal is starting to approach 100 years old, I guess that would make Harry extremely retrogressive. :-)

Harry wrote: "[Wretchard's] topic July 12 ... was bigoted, scornful and threatening."

Say what? What's the title of the thing you looked at?

Harry Eagar said...

I caught it in the middle, but it was a brutal takedown of a semi-articulate christian college boy who did NOT think god was going to roast in hell everybody who does not share Wretched's interpretation of what some terminal cynic labeled the 'good book.'

The other day I was trying to explain to a Jewish friend how some cults preach that only 144,000 will be of the elect. "In all history?" he asked.

"You got it."

I defy you to find any progressive, liberal, leftist or -- indeed -- any civilized human with as nasty an outlook on life as that.

Bret said...

Link please Harry. Without that I can't figure out what you're talking about. The July 12th article is about the south china sea and then has an excerpt from a novel.

Harry Eagar said...

Like I said, the broadcast out here may have been delayed, so I don't know when it originated. It isn't among those on the website, and no index. But it was an attack on a Christian college boy for being infected with postmodernism.

However, Wretched repeats his oieas; you cannot inspect much of his output without figuring out what an intolerant, violent bully he is.

erp said...

Harry, you must have Richard Fernandez and the Belmont Club aka Wretched confused with someone else. He's one of the most reasonable people writing today and I don't know that he does videos? A quick search brings up quite a few other Richard Fernandez's.

erp said...

Mystery solved.

Bret said...


If that's what Harry's referring to, that's definitely NOT who the rest of us were talking about. I assumed that when Harry wrote "Wretched" is was just a spelling error. The pundit we like is "Wretchard."

erp said...

Bret, you're right!! I was wondering why Google didn't make the connection.

Harry Eagar said...

Same dude. My spelling error, at first.

His website is replete with examples of his hectoring and contempt, although I was not able to find the same broadcast I heard. (A logical or chronological array apparently is too much to ask.)