Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jonah Goldberg, Conservative Relativist

He writes:

“That’s why Al Gore says things: ‘The time for argument is over, the time for discussion is over,’” Goldberg said. “Well, this is a democracy and democracy, the time for discussion is supposed to never be over. If you take out the idea, if you champion the idea that unity is good in of itself, that the collective is a good in of itself regardless of what it is doing, then you are buying into a fundamentally fascist political aesthetic.”

Nonsense, obviously.

Lets look at a few issues where the time for discussion really is "never over". These issues include the great Metaphysical debates: free will vs. determinism, tastes great vs. less filling, are the Beatles better than the Stones (and can either hold a cande to Led Zep?), and so on. Discussion continues because such questions can never be answered.

On the other hand, some questions can be and have been effectively answered. Nobody, outside of the Pope , maybe, argues these days that the Sun orbits the Earth. Nobody argues that the Earth is flat. And that is because the assertion that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun has been determined to be true, has been determined to be a fact. Once this determination has been made, it is both futile and anti-democratic to continue arguing. Anti-democratic because it is in the nature of democratic debate that, once we have determined via discussion what the facts are, the discussion then moves on to what we should/should not do about these facts.

Because even in a Democracy it is sometimes necessary to make fact-based choices.

The debate over Intelligent Design, and the debate over AGW, joined the latter variety of discussion a long, long time ago. And if Mr. Goldberg does not see this, or worse if he considers all discussion to be of the first kind, this frankly suggests that he has abandoned the notion of fact and truth, which is an alarming notion, especially from a Conservative.

27 comments:

Fred - said...

thank god you have found a religion to believe in.

Anonymous said...

"Jonah Goldberg, Conservative Relativist"

He's not a conservative. He has a mouth mullet for heaven's sake!

Anonymous said...

"Nobody, outside of the Pope , maybe, argues these days that the Sun orbits the Earth."

Actually Khoisan bushmen and North American Natives hold similar beliefs. Chinese believe in ancestor worship and Caribbeans have their Rastafarian and Voodoo believers.

These are countries that are the main sources of immigration to Canada and they are chock-full of goofy beliefs; if you were on an anti-religion kick instead of an anti-old white people kick you'd mention that once in a while. But Christianity is just a code word for old white people, right?

Anonymous said...

Well dickhead, you're the one refusing to open your mind to differing scientific opinions, like 'the earth revolves around the sun'. Science is NEVER settled, it is a dynamic field. Theories are changed and altered and revised all the time based on new data or new interpretations. Get out of the Dark Ages.

Ti-Guy said...

I love how the anonymii just prove your point...if you think that simply asserting something without providing any evidence that other people might find persuasive or compelling is enough for other people to conclude that what your saying has meaning or value, then you are quite frankly, irrational. The real world just doesn't work that way.

It's frightening to witness just how many conservatives, from Jonah Goldberg to the lowest of anonymous trolls suffer from an impenetrable solipsism that convinces them that their beliefs, all on their own, have any objective worth for anyone else.

Frightening, that is, if you are unwilling to conclude that they're just liars and scam-artists. I used to believe that, but as Jonah Goldberg spirals downward into increasingly baffling absurdity, I have doubts about that. I'm convinced a lot of them are manifesting the personality disorder known as psychopathy, a condition that's probably genetic and seems to be not only irremediable, but an adaptive trait.

lenny said...

"Actually Khoisan bushmen and North American Natives hold similar beliefs. Chinese believe in ancestor worship and Caribbeans have their Rastafarian and Voodoo believers.

These are countries that are the main sources of immigration to Canada and they are chock-full of goofy beliefs; "

That was a fascinating lie. Take two cultures that allegedly "hold similar beliefs" but provide almost no immigrants to Canada, and combine them with groups that don't hold those beliefs but contribute large numbers of immigrants. Voila! A large number of Canadian immigrants, some of whom hold similar beliefs. You then extrapolate the dig at the Pope as being an attack on Catholics, which is an attack on Christians, which is then an attack on "old white people", and you've demonstrated that immigration is bad and liberals are hypocrites that love brown people and hate old white people?
This from a post regarding whether or not the basics of AGW are debatable any longer.
Ti-guy is right - totally psychotic.

Ti-Guy said...

Well, to pick nits...psychosis is a manifestation of usually-treatable mental illness or of some emotional disorder; the consensus around psychopathy is that it is untreatable...that treatment (psycho-analysis, etc.) in fact only aggravates the problem and makes the psychopath more sophisticated and skilled.

lenny said...

Well, I wasn't suggesting that anony is psychopathic. I assumed you meant "psychotic". Psychopaths aren't generally irrational, are they?

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, TiGuy and co.'s vaunted rhetorical two-punch:

1. You're crazy!
2. You're stupid!

The elusive 'third Liberal argument', rumoured to involve pig fucking, remains to be discovered.

Yeah, you guys are fucking geniuses.

Ti-Guy said...

I assumed you meant "psychotic". Psychopaths aren't generally irrational, are they?

They're generally not delusional in that they don't hallucinate, but they manifest irrationality when they are confronted with evidence that exposes the manipulation they've been engaging in (such as lying to people who know they're telling lies and knowing that as well). Whether they're just doing that as part of their psychopathy or whether it's truly irrational, is something no one can know.

agent orange said...

BCL: with respect to your general point, I think you should distinguish between the concepts of
a) feeling confident enough on any given issue to act on your beliefs
b) shutting down debate altogether

Newton's laws are a case in point. They were gospel for 200 years, until Einstein proved them wrong. Had Einstein been told to shut up because the discussion is over, well for one computers as we know them would not exist (on the bright side, neither would the a-bomb).

With respect to global warming, well a lot of people tend to think that we should act now, and that's perfectly fine. But shutting down debate seems to me like a form of weakness.

On ID/evolution, same thing, why shut down debate, in particular if you feel your position is overwhelmingly superior? I'd say let the debate go on, and if people on one side say ridiculous things while on the other people have evidence and logic to back them up, well the debate will fizzle out on its own and the stronger position will come out even stronger.

I think Goldberg, from the quote you provided anyways, is merely trying to describe what fascism is. And I agree with him on the following point: shutting down debate is a fascist strategy, regardless of the position you espouse.

I believe it is much better to argue why you think others are wrong than to shut them up. If they say ridiculous things, expose the ridicule. That will reinforce your position - shutting down debate weakens it.

bigcitylib said...

AO,

D'you really think then that we should re-open the debate over whether the Earth orbits the Sun or vice versa?

Holly Stick said...

It's necessary to distinguish between an issue which has more than one side to be debated and a reality which is not debatable although a group of people tell lies about it because they will not accept reality.

agent orange said...

D'you really think then that we should re-open the debate over whether the Earth orbits the Sun or vice versa?

obviously not, but if some tool wants to, I wont go around saying the debate is over and trying to shut him up. rather I will sit back, relax, and watch the idiot make a fool of himself.

agent orange said...

It's necessary to distinguish between an issue which has more than one side to be debated and a reality which is not debatable although a group of people tell lies about it because they will not accept reality.

Is it really necessary, and if so why?

Who makes the determination?

bigcitylib said...

AO wrote:

"obviously not, but if some tool wants to, I wont go around saying the debate is over and trying to shut him up. rather I will sit back, relax, and watch the idiot make a fool of himself."

In a scientific debate, typically there is neither time nor money for such luxories. Imagine if he were taking up part of the physics class that you had paid tuition fees to take.

If astrologers want to print horoscopes in the back of the newspaper, that's fine, I'm not interested in "shutting them down" in that sense. If they are interfering with scientific progress, and demanding equal time by arguing that they too are doing science, than that is an entirely different story.

Its also how science works. You don't let Phlogiston theorists hog pages in your chemistry journal. Science is meritocratic first, democratic second. Hence you also don't really allow AGW deniers into the room when you are discussing the science or policy options in response to the science. If they want to blather away on a website, that's fine.

lenny said...

"I wont go around saying the debate is over and trying to shut him up."

And neither is BCL, who allows the benighted nuts free reign in the comments, trying to shut anybody up.

agent orange said...

If astrologers want to print horoscopes in the back of the newspaper, that's fine, I'm not interested in "shutting them down" in that sense. If they are interfering with scientific progress, and demanding equal time by arguing that they too are doing science, than that is an entirely different story.

Absolutely. I never suggested that allowing someone to debate something means giving them resources or a forum to disseminate their views. There is a difference between allowing something and positively enabling something (something the 4 osgoode hall students ought to understand but dont).

When AGW proponents suggest that the "debate is over", what they mean is that they're thoroughly convinced and no new evidence can change their mind whatsoever. That is not a scientific mindset, as far as Im concerned. As mentioned earlier, something as fundamental as Newton's laws had to be revised after 200 years no less and AGW is orders of magnitude more complicated than newton's laws.

Besides its ridiculous to claim the debate is over while there still is a debate. Being ambivalent myself on the issue of AGW, I sense the existence of a debate.

As far as I can tell, there are prominent scientists on both sides, more on the alarmist side, but as you stated yourself, science is not about democracy. And the alarmist side is still doing research and publishing papers to establish the ever increasing certainty of AGW. This is not the case with respect to whether the earth is round.

Besides its really dangerous to set a hard truth today that is suppposed to stand forever. That is what religions do.

History is replete with people who wish to shut down debate because they have "determined the facts". Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're wrong.

Science is meritocratic first, democratic second.

I would go even further and say that science is not at all democratic, and shouldnt be. Science is not a popularity contest.

Ti-Guy said...

History is replete with people who wish to shut down debate because they have "determined the facts".

Maybe, but there are far more people who simply refuse to consider something a "debate" when no facts related to credible evidence are introduced at all.

You're not committing any grave injustice by shutting down such a discussion, which amounts basically to insisting that that particular distraction occur somewhere else.

bigcitylib said...

"When AGW proponents suggest that the "debate is over", what they mean is that they're thoroughly convinced and no new evidence can change their mind whatsoever. That is not a scientific mindset, as far as Im concerned. As mentioned earlier, something as fundamental as Newton's laws had to be revised after 200 years no less and AGW is orders of magnitude more complicated than newton's laws."

Revised, not abandoned. More like folded into a more encompassing theoretical system. That IS what's happening as the climate science progresses. What is NOT happening is that as part of this more advanced system, scientists are incorporating slogans like "its solar cycles" or "its all a commie hoax", which is essentially the Denialist line. An entirely different situation from Newton.

"Besides its ridiculous to claim the debate is over while there still is a debate. Being ambivalent myself on the issue of AGW, I sense the existence of a debate."

There is only a debate in that there are people on the Denier side of the argument still handing out press releases. There are also still people arguing that phrenology is a real science, that smoking doesn't cause cancer, that HIV doesn't cause aids. Those arguments are over too.

"Besides its really dangerous to set a hard truth today that is suppposed to stand forever. That is what religions do."

That is also what has been done with the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Again, you think that's wrong, undemocratic?

agent orange said...

You're not committing any grave injustice by shutting down such a discussion, which amounts basically to insisting that that particular distraction occur somewhere else.

In some cases you're right, in others, such as in my opinion the AGW debate, this posturing actually undermines the position.

agent orange said...

That is also what has been done with the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Again, you think that's wrong, undemocratic?

no i agree that science is by nature undemocratic, its the pursuit of truth, not consensus or majority.

but setting hard truth in stone, which is what I think you were referring to, has nothing to do with democracy, but only to do with having an open mind and understanding the limits of our knowledge.

Ti-Guy said...

In some cases you're right, in others, such as in my opinion the AGW debate, this posturing actually undermines the position.

I think BCL just explained why that concern is wildly exaggerated, so I won't repeat it.

Anonymous said...

Attention Liberal Fascist Overlord:

Thank you for being so gracious to include topics in which discussion is permitted. While I do appreciate your gift of granting me free thought on the topics you've mentioned, may I request (not a demand mind you - for it is within your and other liberals' perview to determined acceptable discourse) to expand the list.


Humbly yours,

your mindless proletariate servant
yours truly

Anonymous said...

The reason BCL wants to shut down debate on such things as AGW is precisely because of the weakness of those arguments and their importance to his belief systems.

Fascist to the core.

Ti-Guy said...

KKKate's minions really are stupid.

Nonbeliever said...

"Nobody, outside of the Pope , maybe, argues these days that the Sun orbits the Earth. Nobody argues that the Earth is flat. And that is because the assertion that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun has been determined to be true, has been determined to be a fact."

Absolutely correct. But not in the case of AGW. Here the hypothesis is that doubled CO2 is going to cause catastophic climate change.
Show me the math. that dobled CO2 can result in more than 1.5 degrees C increase in mean Global temperature, WITHOUT invoking speculate "feedback mechanisms"