Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Repealing the Enlightenment

I have said it before, but Naomi Klein says it at greater length, and maybe even a bit better. Climate change denialism is an example of thinking backwards. Since we already know that unregulated markets maximize human welfare, it is impossible for carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to cause any serious problems. That would imply a need for some sort of intervention by government to reduce those emissions, and that conclusion is logically impossible, right?

Klein goes on to show how anthropogenic climate change implies many other conclusions which are not permitted in conservative ideology, but that's the basic idea. Anyway it's worth reading so go ahead. (I get the dead trees Nation so I got to read it sitting on the sofa and then do the puzzle.)

Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice is generally taken aback, nonplussed and aghast at what appears to be a growing global rejection of science as in any way authoritative. It's antivaxers trying to get their kids infected with chickenpox that sets him off, but then he broadens out. "The tyranny of facts undermines privilege . . ." The Republican War on Science is motivated by greed -- tobacco industry greed, coal and power generation industry greed, oil company greed.

And it's not just environmental catastrophe and selling people addictive poison. Have you been wondering why the heck Newt Gingrich has suddenly called the Congressional Budget Office a "reactionary socialist institution? It's because the CBO won't agree that gigantic tax cuts for wealthy people increase government revenue. (What the heck is a reactionary socialist, anyway?) Economics isn't really a science, but if we're living in this universe we can agree that the Obama stimulus did save millions of jobs and that the reason we have these big federal deficits stretching over the horizon is because of the Bush tax cuts and wars. If we're Republicans, however, we can't agree with those propositions, because they conflict with our axioms. Adam and Eve must be real historical characters because without original sin, Christ's sacrifice couldn't redeem us. (Not that the whole thing makes any sense in the first place.)

Thinking forward means observing what is out there in the real world and then trying to explain it. Thinking backwards means deciding what we already believe and then trying to force reality to look that way, which means ignoring evidence and making stuff up. Thinking backwards is what conservatives do. We need to laugh them off the stage, but if we don't, what happens won't be funny.


Anonymous said...

Of course there are powerful lobbies that on occasion deny Science for their own interests, and do so quite effectively. That is clearly the case for Global Warming (I don’t like ‘climate change’) and the effects of Tobacco. Other topics, however, seem to spring from a popular belief or sentiment - I don’t think there are many ppl making big money from being anti-vaccine.

In both kinds of cases, Science has partly fallen off its pedestal as a supreme authority based on rational fact, and has become just any old belief, meme, part of public discourse that can be questioned, denied, attacked, debated ‘democratically’.


Robert Hagedorn said...

Saint Augustine couldn't do it. But can you explain what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the story? After thousands of years it's time to think, read, and give the real explanation based only on the facts in the story. No guesses, opinions, or beliefs. We've already had way too many of these. Treat the whole thing as a challenge. You can do it! Or can you? But first, do a quick Internet search: First Scandal.

Cervantes said...

Hmm. I believe I read somewhere that it must have been a pear.

BTW did you know that Ripple wine, beloved of winos, is perry, i.e. pear wine?