Green Room

ADVENTURES IN EPISTEMIC OPENING: Mark Levin vs Jim Manzi on Global Warming

posted at 1:46 am on April 26, 2010 by

The fancy phrase “epistemic closure” may be a bad one, and not just because it may be too fancy by half, but when Julian Sanchez applied it to the great body of American conservatism, he touched a nerve.  The claim that conservatives are caught in a kind of feedback loop of ideological closed-mindedness was discussed and debated in several high profile blogs – giving every blogger and many a commenter a chance to show off his or her own epistemological infirmities.

Karl at HotAir did a fine job establishing the lack of any empirical basis for judging conservatives unaware of alternative viewpoints and information, but there is and was something else going on here, something not directly susceptible to survey data and a mapping of linking habits and reading lists. It was the scientifically oriented Jim Manzi at NRO/The Corner who drove the discussion furthest, not by either attacking or supporting Sanchez, but by conducting a demonstration, almost in the manner of an experiment. After analyzing a chapter from Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny on global warming, Manzi summed up his verdict with a word that’s easier to process than “epistemically closed,” but that one suspects he wishes he hadn’t used:  “wingnuttery.”

You can see why Levin would feel sand-bagged.  But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf.  Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right!  I said it!” Rather than further escalate, Manzi wisely stepped back without giving in, inviting readers to compare the two posts  (Manzi’s, Levin’s) and reach their own conclusions.

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise – if fun in a kind of inside conservative baseball way – but such exchanges sometimes lead to unexpected places.  Eventually involving an expanded cast of regular Corner-ites, the proceedings finally inspired Manzi to lay out the basis for a truly conservative response to global warming – one that begins with the intellectual humility that those committed to denial or alarm conspicuously lack.  He eventually linked to an easy to miss post from earlier in the week that he self-deprecatingly referred to as “excruciating” in its detail.  Its conclusion happens to offer a succinct formulation of a potential “grand strategy” on ecological crisis:

We can be confident that humanity will face many difficulties in the upcoming century, as it has in every century. We just don’t know which ones they will be. This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is to maximize total technical capabilities in the context of a market-oriented economy that can integrate highly unstructured information, and, most importantly, to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

In addition to being constructive and refreshingly “open,” this “grand strategy” offers the key benefit of resilience in the face of tomorrow’s headlines, next year’s hurricane season, the scientific measurements and re-measurements of the next decade, and the considered opinions of eminent men and women who are relatively invulnerable to charges of self-dealing and self-interest.  It might even withstand the eventual resurgence of a global ecology movement that may appear today on the political defensive, but that still commands broad support, and may be revived much sooner and more powerfully than post-Climategate triumphalists on the far right want to believe.

A side-benefit of such a strategy might bear on some disturbing polling numbers that at least deserve a place in the great epistemological ruction of 2010.  For instance:

That’s from a Pew Poll of last July.  Or how about this less widely remarked synthesis of polling results, compiled by Charles Murray (a sometime contributor to the Corner), on ideological affinities among American population groups over time:

These numbers may also help explain the perceived vulnerability of the right to the charge of closed-mindedness.  The only positive thing about the situation for conservatives is that it suggests a growth opportunity: Corrective movement back to near equality would be a tremendous accomplishment, and a major blow to the liberal coalition. Otherwise, a choice before the public that comes down to “the highly intelligent, well-educated, and well-informed” vs. “conservatives” might at best work for an election or two, but you can’t like the looks of it over the longer term.

There may be explanations for such results that go beyond the obvious. Many scientists and intellectuals may be reacting self-interestedly to their own dependency on state support, for instance, and, especially in the wake of Climategate, they face an urgent need to to confront this issue squarely.  Yet it’s still sad to think that this sector of society, representing people whose commitments and ethos are in many ways at least as “conservative” as “liberal,” have been moving to the left for 40 years.  Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Conservative efforts to alter this situation – American society with its head twisted ever further around at its neck – might begin with the understanding that belief or disbelief in the greenhouse effect, global warming, and other properly scientific matters cannot be a political issue in a free society:  Only how we go about addressing scientific questions can ever be.  There may also be times when no decision is more important to any society than one requiring scientific input.  At that point – at any moment, really – we may need skeptical but non-denialist scientists like Richard Lindzen, and people who can take them at their actual word like Jim Manzi, much more than many conservatives seem to believe – or, under conditions of ideological and emotional closed-mindedness, are capable of admitting or possibly even of conceiving.

And we’ll probably need excitable and entertaining, fiercely dedicated polemicists, too.  That’s right.  I said it.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

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The problem with the statement: “belief or disbelief in the greenhouse effect, global warming, and other properly scientific matters cannot be a political issue in a free society” is that it presupposes that the evaluation of fact and fiction will be conducted in a manner that is “free and fair”, and that all those concerned will stipulate to the same set of facts.

Unfortunately, as Orwell so brilliantly described, and as further illustrated by the shenanigans surrounding Climategate, this is nowhere near the case.

We cannot stipulate “facts” such as “the icecaps are melting”, “the earth is getting warmer”, “the earth is warmer than it has ever been”, or “central control increases efficiency”. First and foremost, they have not received proper scientific scrutiny and validation — but have been advanced through politically contaminated means. When — as is proper through intellectual inquiry — the models and data were questioned, the questioners were stonewalled, subjected to vitriolic personal attacks, lied to, blackballed, and became targets of political force. To allow such activities to be used to create “facts” makes a mockery of Western Civilization.

That is not to say that the opposite of each “fact” is proved — indeed, to make this finding because of the political maneuverings intended to enshrine these statements as factual would be just as great a perversion of the concept.

The sad fact is that these currently are “a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” Unless and until valid science is performed — not a political count of noses among scientists — not statements made that gain the most grant money — not a reliance on authority….then it is necessary that “belief or disbelief in the greenhouse effect, global warming, and other properly scientific matters” be “a political issue in a free society”.

cthulhu on April 26, 2010 at 3:03 AM

I’ve gotta go to bed now, but want to say this loud and clear to the “epistemic closure” boosters: How come with all the bitching and moaning you do about the dearth of conservative ideas, the only idea you ever want to talk about is how you would like to shut other conservatives up?

L.N. Smithee on April 26, 2010 at 5:08 AM

the proceedings finally inspired Manzi to lay out the basis for a truly conservative response to global warming – one that begins with the intellectual humility that those committed to denial or alarm conspicuously lack.

Why do so many otherwise sane and intelligent people insist that both sides of a contradiction can be right? I don’t have a fancy college degree like you do, and I definitely don’t want to nit-pick or anything, but isn’t the law of non-contradiction sort of a pretty good axiom?

The theory that there has been a qualitative shift in climate patterns, caused by man, is either true or false. It is not both true and false.

I’m sorry if my dogmatic adherence to the law of non-contradiction offends you, Highlander.

If you’re saying “hey let’s be civil,” fine. But I detect in your comment something more sinister: an irrational appeal to a very unscientific principle that if one side says A and the other side says B then the truth MUST be somewhere in between A and B.

The history of science refutes you.

jeff_from_mpls on April 26, 2010 at 9:17 AM

We cannot stipulate “facts” such as “the icecaps are melting”, “the earth is getting warmer”, “the earth is warmer than it has ever been”, or “central control increases efficiency”.

cthulhu on April 26, 2010 at 3:03 AM

Nice work, my Lovecraftian friend.

As Thomas Kuhn and many others have pointed out, facts are inseparable from theory. The theory determines what is relevant to observe. This is grade school stuff.

But the worst part is, when one is engaging in junk science, such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, certain strands of evolutionary theory, and global-warming, EVERY fact is made to confirm the theory. I would go so far as to say the hyper-confirmation of facts under the umbrella of theory is a tell-tale sign of junk science.

And I might even push things further by pointing out that the umbrella of delusion isn’t even a theory: it’s a political ideology. Which brings us right back to your good point.

jeff_from_mpls on April 26, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right! I said it!”

Levin is no stranger to calling out political opponents in harsh terms. This is true.

….I’m not seeing this “saturation of derision” you refer to in his response.

If by “derision,” you mean that he strongly refutes Manzi’s points, I suppose you could make such a claim.

…It was not Mark Levin who dismissed someone who disagreed with him as a wingnut.

Hawkins1701 on April 26, 2010 at 9:39 AM

Excellent post = excellent comments. Don’t dismiss moral equivalency in this argument. We haven’t heard much about it recently, but it’s still out there.

erp on April 26, 2010 at 10:19 AM

cthulhu on April 26, 2010 at 3:03 AM
jeff_from_mpls on April 26, 2010 at 9:17 AM

It is beyond the political system to decide the truth of GW or the origin of the universe or evolution or anything else, and even trying corrupts and deforms both politics and science. The best that the political system can do is put in place a process for hearing and addressing the concerns of citizens. If a large and powerful enough segment demands action, then action will be taken, or the political system will be imperiled. If a durable majority is persuaded of the truth of a fiction or set of fictions (GW is an emergency, specific emergency measures will address it), or persuaded that addressing that fiction will lend meaning to their lives, then they’ll get their way.

Preventing that from occurring is a political project. It will involve getting authoritative opinion on scientific matters, but the GW alarmist position is much more vulnerable, politically and otherwise, to defeat where its proposals impose burdens greater than the public has any good reason to believe GW itself will impose, where those proposals show no reasonable or scientifically supportable chance of meeting their own purported objectives, and where they in fact imperil our ability to handle GW or any other crisis. Why should the right plant its flag on radical denial when politically the coalition of denialists + unsure + believing realists is much bigger, and can unify around a more prudent, resilient, constructive, and fair process?

CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM

“Epistemic Opening?” I didn’t get past the title of the post.

ep·i·ste·mic (p-stmk)
adj.
$0.50 word meaning relating to, or involving knowledge; cognitive.

What goes on in the Green Room, anyway?

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM

This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is…….to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

His advice is to move to never, never land?

DFCtomm on April 26, 2010 at 1:15 PM

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Congratulations, Exhibit A, and thank you for your cameo. May you remain forever untroubled and untouched by unfamiliar words and concepts.

CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf.

I listen to Mark’s show as often as I can because he allows me to. Levin the only radio talk show host I know of that has his entire program, sans commericals, posted everyday for free. Yeah, it’s free.

I also read Liberty and Tyranny in one sitting. As a former liberal, and still atheist pro-abortion person, I found it a remarkable book that will still be talked about for years to come.

I love Mark Levin.

Your derision of him is predictable.

Jaynie59 on April 26, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Congratulations, Exhibit A, and thank you for your cameo. May you remain forever untroubled and untouched by unfamiliar words and concepts.

CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

I’ve found that being an arrogant prick always help me get my message across.

Blarg the Destroyer on April 26, 2010 at 1:32 PM

I used to love to listen to Levin, but when he started slapping other conservatives around, he lost me. I feel like he is tough enough to take what goes around, comes around.

mobydutch on April 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Congratulations, Exhibit A, and thank you for your cameo. May you remain forever untroubled and untouched by unfamiliar words and concepts.
CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Are you talking to yourself? I figure you owe me some money because I just wasted my time reading your ridiculous essay. Are you sen. graham? I ask because the whole basis of your essay and your source is,”Shut up, stupid people, bend over and be compliant.” This is more evidence of what I have suspected; Michelle left not just because of a great financial offer or because she was too busy to deal with ha but likely because the content has passed the tipping point and is dominated by intellectually limited squishys with overly exaggerated perceptions of themselves.

peacenprosperity on April 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM

“Congratulations, Exhibit A, and thank you for your cameo. May you remain forever untroubled and untouched by unfamiliar words and concepts.”

Brilliant CK, maybe you should call him out on his close minded wingnuttery. I am sure a great many people will remain untroubled by the jibba jabba people like Manzi spew forth attempting to make a name for themselves. Manzi drove his argument into the ditch and got no further than that!

Africanus on April 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise

You probably should have stopped right there and spared HA readers the pseudo-intellectual spouting off. Of course if you had, the rest of us would have missed out on mind expanding gems such as this:

This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is to maximize total technical capabilities in the context of a market-oriented economy that can integrate highly unstructured information, and, most importantly, to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

and this

In addition to being constructive and refreshingly “open,” this “grand strategy” offers the key benefit of resilience in the face of tomorrow’s headlines, next year’s hurricane season, the scientific measurements and re-measurements of the next decade, and the considered opinions of eminent men and women who are relatively invulnerable to charges of self-dealing and self-interest.

The “considered opinions of eminent men and women.” Good Lord, Cecil Vyse is blogging in the Green Room!

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Unfortunately, the more physics and applied physics (re engineering) you know, the more you know that AWG is hackery… Manzi falls into the classic trap of working with the left’s failed premises…

phreshone on April 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Brilliant CK, maybe you should call him out on his close minded wingnuttery.

Africanus on April 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM

I believe I did. And he continues to produce, apparently under the impression that he’s actually making arguments.

CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM

CK, I love how your posts must use the most erudite of language so as to alienate the layman who may peruse this site from coming to a full understanding of your points. Academia’s ever growing crusade to isolate knowledge from the people through verbosity aside, I put to you a question. Were Galileo and Columbus correct because they were part of a large consensus in their time? I would remind you that democracy was abandoned in favor of a republic for a reason.

To say it in layman’s terms: “Quit trying to disguise your argument with big words.” and “Wasn’t saying ‘More people agree with me, so we are right! Truth be damned!’ the reason why the GW people are in hot water in the first place?” and “We live in a republic because our founding fathers realized that just because you have more people agreeing with you doesn’t mean you are right.”

Why should the right plant its flag on radical denial when politically the coalition of denialists + unsure + believing realists is much bigger, and can unify around a more prudent, resilient, constructive, and fair process?

To translate: “Why should we demand fact-based evidence when we can appease those who would rather regulate your freedoms away gradually instead of quickly?”

Yes, it would be best for everyone if we didn’t demand truth, but rather settled for something (proven or not) that we can all feel comfortable with. /sarc

Pattosensei on April 26, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Academia’s ever growing crusade to isolate knowledge from the people through verbosity aside,

Academia? Oh, no! Don’t tell me he/she gets paid to teach others how to write?

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 2:20 PM

phreshone on April 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Heck, you can even do it with Stats 101 level knowledge. Representative samples anyone? Correlation vs Causality? Independant Reproduction of Results?

trubble on April 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM

Was this post satire?

It starts by claiming that this:

We can be confident that humanity will face many difficulties in the upcoming century, as it has in every century. We just don’t know which ones they will be. This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is to maximize total technical capabilities in the context of a market-oriented economy that can integrate highly unstructured information, and, most importantly, to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

Is some kind of great thinking and coherent strategy. That paragraph says absolutely nothing. We should be ready to do something when something happens using technology? How insightful. Manzi must be a true scientist.

The idea that conservatives ignore science is idiotic. Maybe some do. Plenty of liberals do as well. they keep talking about the “scientific consensus” as if that means anything scientific. Consensus is not science.

The skeptics have, if anything, been more scientific than anyone, including Manzi, is willing to give them credit for. The skeptics are the ones demanding actual data so that the conclusions of AGW can be evaluated. Were it not for the skeptics, the fraud that is AGW science would not now be in the process of being uncovered. And, people like Manzi would have happily gone along with the ‘consensus’ never actually requesting that any actual science be performed.

Indeed, Manzi’s argument is that conservatives should bow at the alter of the “elite” thinkers, such that when the Mexican Acadamy of Science tells us that they took a vote and believe in AGW, we should believe them b/c they are the experts. Again, that is not science. All it is doing is worshipping at the alter of political correctness.

Monkeytoe on April 26, 2010 at 2:26 PM

“Epistemic Opening?” I didn’t get past the title of the post.

ep·i·ste·mic (p-stmk)
adj.
$0.50 word meaning relating to, or involving knowledge; cognitive.

What goes on in the Green Room, anyway?

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Congratulations, Exhibit A, and thank you for your cameo. May you remain forever untroubled and untouched by unfamiliar words and concepts.

Brilliant CK, maybe you should call him out on his close minded wingnuttery.

Africanus on April 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM

I believe I did. And he continues to produce, apparently under the impression that he’s actually making arguments.

CK MacLeod on April 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Note that CK MacLeod isn’t proud of his astounding vocabulary or so insecure as to insult a person who points out his arrogance. /sarc

Having had the desire (and perhaps the money) to advance your education and learn pretty words does not make you any more or less intelligent than those who have not had the need, desire, or opportunity to do so.

Pattosensei on April 26, 2010 at 2:27 PM

As the left is trying to address what they claim is an environmental problem with political solutions that just “happen” to dovetail with their socialist agenda means that skepticism is warranted. That and the “science” as espoused by Gore and the IPCC has been tainted beyond belief.

How we as conservatives are supposed to respect this process I have no idea. We all know this is a scam that the purveyors of which are using fear to increase the power of government. Even if you accept the basic premise of AGW, there is nothing on the table from the left that truly addresses the problem in a way that would actually lower temperatures.

We need to keep the pressure on and defeat these socialists disguised as environmentalists, there is no middle ground. Caving to their demands (and those of the unions) in the past has already demolished our industrial base. There is nothing to talk about.

echosyst on April 26, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Also, what is a believing realist? Are they a “realist” b/c they believe? Or do they believe b/c they are “realist”?

It seems to me that someone has reached a conclusion (AGW is real) and then worked backward from there to define terms.

Why is it that conservatives merely asking the scientists to offer proof is considered so outrageous?

I think the stance the “believer realists” are taking – accept without proof and sacrafice our economy on the alter of idiocy is the outrageous stance.

Monkeytoe on April 26, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Really? Tell me more about these “continual and habitual assaults”? Because all I’ve been seeing are continual and habitual assaults by intellectuals and experts, including scientists, on common sense, good faith and the social compact. If conservatives are making a case against the sins of intellectuals and scientists, it’s because a whole lot of the latter are being revealed as lying, morally bereft opportunists willing to corrupt science (or economics, etc.) for epistemic vanity, personal aggandizement and the false idols of feel-good orthodoxy. (More widely, the masses are only now recognizing the decades-long damage produced on our society by people with advanced degrees from Harvard.) I would frame the problem not as an assault against science by backward conservatives but as the betrayal of society and the scientific method by scientists (indeed the betrayal of democracy by a papacy of experts), and the reasonable conservative (or libertarian, or classical liberal) counter-assault against arrogant and pious elitism. This is the most exhilarating and salutary social movement in my lifetime.

And there also seems to be in your essay an echo of the argument that fighting jihadists creates more jihadists. This has never been proven, and sidesteps the problem of jihadism (or junk science, in this case).

I grew up among the intellectual set. Now I’m about as avowed an anti-intellectual as you can find. Call this my own epistemic closure.

rrpjr on April 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM

Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Talk about buying into what the other side is selling. No serious conservative has questioned the usefulness of scientific or intellectual inquiry. to even write that sentance demonstrates intellectual dishonesty. challenging conclusions by scientists by asking for the actual data that led to those conclusions, and/or challenging methodology, etc., IS THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS. It is not “challenging the usefulness of scientific inquiry”. That is sophmoric tripe dressed up as intellectualism. Please. Have a serious argument to make or don’t bother.

Monkeytoe on April 26, 2010 at 3:04 PM

“I believe I did. And he continues to produce, apparently under the impression that he’s actually making arguments.”

Yes, it was quite clear, but somehow you resisted the Manzi terminology. I thought since you somewhat support his position, you should have gone all the way.

Africanus on April 26, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Levin speaks with passion and conviction. The so-called Conservatives he is said to deride are NOT conservatives, e.g., Michael Wiener.

Yep, this column was written by the bed-wetting wing of the GOP. THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT!

Bleed_thelizard on April 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” – Richard Feynman

Bleed_thelizard on April 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM

What goes on in the Green Room, anyway?

james23 on April 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Rent the film Beyond the Green Door to find out.

pseudonominus on April 26, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Why do I get the feeling that this guy shops for glasses at the same store as Janeane Garofalo?

Joe Caps on April 26, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Global warming is regarded by the sheeple as true, by those who can think for themselves as false and by the power mad and money grubbers as … … useful.
- Seneca the Younger paraphrased

The Church of Global Warming says the earth is dangerously heating up, but I know that it is not, for I have seen the snow and ice and have felt their bitter cold, and I have more faith in snow and ice than in the Church of Global Warming, and it’s High Priests.
- Ferdinand Magellan paraphrased

What would be the effect of this Global Warming fraud and coercion, if successful? To make part of the world fools and part hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth. Al Gore and the Global Warming fraudsters and fanatics have converted simple changes in the weather into an engine with which to try to enslave mankind to filch wealth and power to themselves. They, in fact, constitute the real Anti-Scientists.
- Thomas Jefferson paraphrased

MB4 on April 26, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Since not all scientists are left-leaning politically, would you ask a parallel question about the many who regard AGW/CC as “science that is far from settled,” and who explicitly oppose political agendas that assume it?

I consider it a more balanced view of the situation to acknolwedge that racing forward in a fervor of zealotry to shut down debate on AGW/CC is pretty much exactly analogous to dismissing it, in terms of being anti-scientific and anti-intellectual.

The left has no superior claim to the skeptical empiricism inherent with a truly scientific approach. It is caught on a regular basis, rather, assuming that which has yet to be proven, and proclaiming its assumptions to be “scientific” merely because they come from theories that didn’t arise from the book of Genesis.

That’s a sort of narrow, tomographic definition of “scientific” that we are under no obligation to accept. It also happens to be politically convenient for the left. True empirical skepticism, however, operates under all circumstances, including when the political urge to ignore it is insistent. The left has violated that principle often in its century of proclaiming itself to be the keeper and exemplar of it. It is no form of unfairness to point that out. It’s simple empiricism.

J.E. Dyer on April 26, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Levin destroyed Manzi

It’s dangerous when you insinuate we should set aside our convictions and ignore the truth in order to appear “less closeminded”.

Howzah on April 26, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Incidentally, having read both Manzi’s and Levin’s posts all the way through, I find nothing to choose between them when it comes to empiricism, collegiality, or goodwill. They both take derisive shots at each other’s arguments. If you agree with Manzi, you’ll think he won the point. If you agree with Levin, you’ll put a check in his “win” column.

Yee-ha.

J.E. Dyer on April 26, 2010 at 4:17 PM

I would frame the problem not as an assault against science by backward conservatives but as the betrayal of society and the scientific method by scientists

And there also seems to be in your essay an echo of the argument that fighting jihadists creates more jihadists. This has never been proven, and sidesteps the problem of jihadism (or junk science, in this case).

rrpjr on April 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM

Raucous applause!

The quacks are caught, and no amount of verbal blather can change the evidence of faked data and lies hidden in complex mathematics and software. Honest scientists and engineers decoded these for us and the Internet shows us how scientific debate is supposed to occur. It does not take a Phd. or Harvard degree to study this and understand who is lying and who is practicing science in good faith.

Mark Levin stands accused of “wingnuttery” in the liberal context, which means he won’t let go of truth. Levin commits additional crimes by yelling meany insults to idiots. Too bad. If that’s all that is needed to take the country back from Marxists and fools, then it’s a bargain.

The whole snit over Levin’s outburst demonstrates the mendacity of the left and the confusion of too many who accept relativism as a starting point of debate.

Burying us in confused literary confections is another trick that won’t work any more.

Feedie on April 26, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Since not all scientists are left-leaning politically, would you ask a parallel question about the many who regard AGW/CC as “science that is far from settled,” and who explicitly oppose political agendas that assume it?

I consider it a more balanced view of the situation to acknolwedge that racing forward in a fervor of zealotry to shut down debate on AGW/CC is pretty much exactly analogous to dismissing it, in terms of being anti-scientific and anti-intellectual.

The left has no superior claim to the skeptical empiricism inherent with a truly scientific approach. It is caught on a regular basis, rather, assuming that which has yet to be proven, and proclaiming its assumptions to be “scientific” merely because they come from theories that didn’t arise from the book of Genesis.

That’s a sort of narrow, tomographic definition of “scientific” that we are under no obligation to accept. It also happens to be politically convenient for the left. True empirical skepticism, however, operates under all circumstances, including when the political urge to ignore it is insistent. The left has violated that principle often in its century of proclaiming itself to be the keeper and exemplar of it. It is no form of unfairness to point that out. It’s simple empiricism.

J.E. Dyer on April 26, 2010 at 3:50 PM

See, this is what’s known as sense.

Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

It’s almost as if a particular group of people – perhaps the adherents of a given ideology – wanted things to go that way.

I wonder how we might refer them? I mean, it’s not like there’s a widely acknowledged label for them: one they claimed quite readily until it became synonymous with stupid, destructive policy. I’ll just have to sit and cogitate on it.

TheUnrepentantGeek on April 26, 2010 at 6:52 PM

There is no evidence of AGW. There has been no effort to study the issue scientifically at all.

No reasonable person can assign moral equivalence to both views, for or against, because the facts that the opposition uses are rooted in clearly observed data, and well, we know very well what crap the alarmists push.

So the “both sides need to be taken seriously” argument is total crap, and this is another wasted space on this blog by someone whose sympathies clearly lie with the left.

Don’t pretend to be one, CK, don’t pine for it, don’t weep for it.

Switch sides and get it over with, we all know what you really want to do.

rightwingyahooo on April 26, 2010 at 8:15 PM

There is no evidence of AGW. There has been no effort to study the issue scientifically at all.

rightwingyahooo on April 26, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Well said. There is no evidence of AGW. The watermelons conceded that quite a while ago when they tried to change the term, in an attempt to hide the fact that their predictions were wrong, to ‘Climate Change’…because it’s really, really hard to prove the climate doesn’t change…in fact, it’s impossible, since it does change. But they continually try to tie the fact that serious climate change is caused by man…by implication and hysterical diatribes and not by valid scientific research.

CK is making an obvious ‘appeal to authority’ argument with this post. It’s called Derbyshire-ism.

AUINSC on April 26, 2010 at 10:13 PM