Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A War Against Expertise

== The real war is against reality ==

WAR-EXPERTISEAll right, I keep returning to this recurring theme, but it needs to be hammered... it's about the War on Science… and against all smartypants professions

Forty-three years ago, when Richard Nixon was president, almost forty percent of scientists and twenty-six percent of U.S. journalists (the people in society who interview and question the widest samplings of Americans) called themselves Republicans, only slightly fewer than called themselves Democrats.

scientist-republicansToday, just 7% of U.S. journalists so identify and less than 6% of U.S. scientists. (The latter figure is in free fall and includes folks like me, who have kept their GOP registration for tactical reasons.)

What's changed? Similar steep declines are seen in nearly all of the professions that require extensive knowledge and skill, from teaching and medicine to economics, law, law-enforcement and civil service to university professors in almost every field, even to the U.S. military officer corps.

When I ask my GOP friends (and I remain a registered Republican) to explain this, they reply with blanket condemnation of each of these professions, calling them rife with pointy-headed drones and herd-following myopics, betraying their fields by plunging into political bias. Science, they declare, has been betrayed by the scientists themselves! (When dissing the U.S. military officer corps, they are careful to only condemn "the damn politician generals.")

Okay, then. So... every major skill and knowledge profession... is being betrayed by the folks who chose to devote themselves and their lives to it.  That's... an interesting assertion, argued generally by that most-persuasive modern device, the mass-forwarded facebook jpeg! Today’s postage-free equivalent of a crazy-uncle chain letter! 

How much more convincing that is, than actually talking to the people who -- for example -- while investigating climate change, can actually tell the Bernoulli and Navier-Stokes equations from a cellular automata gas-balance model… from a hole in the ground.

otherculturewar(Name a single exception to this demonization -- mostly by the right, but also perpetrated by some elements of the radical left -- of folks who actually know a lot! Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science

After asking this question publicly for a decade, I have seen just three professions listed as exceptions, that are of high intellectual attainment and skill, yet have escaped regular attack by the central cathedral of know-nothingness — Fox News. Can you name those three?)

The mass-desertion of the GOP -- and the crazy, anti-vaxxer far-left -- by all the smart people does not discredit Smart People. It discredits radical "sides" that have gone gibbering loony, by waging war on smart people. 

== The narrative ==

They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced, who produced the cornucopia of technological wealth upon which we all rely.  How can the Murdochians justify their campaign of hatred against scientists and nearly all other knowledge castes?

SUSPICION-OF-AUTHORITYFirst, you must start with the inherent American cultural tradition of Suspicion of Authority (SoA), which we suckle from every Hollywood film and almost every novel or song.  Liberals express SoA by seeing Big Brother emerging as tyrants did in 99% of human societies, from the entrenched owner-oligarchic caste... and the faceless corporations they now control, instead of armies.  

A decent person of the right is no less afraid of Big Brother! He worries about other elites -- snooty academics and faceless government bureaucrats. And fair enough!  I am an Adam-Smithian Libertarian and I remember the USSR, so I can turn my head and fret about that threat!  By all means stay wary of civil servants! Just because they did less harm than aristocratic cheaters have, across 6000 years, that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous!

But the rigidity of both sides, ignoring how their own, favorite elites might be dangerous too, is depressing. In is political fused-spine disease... an inability to turn your head and see that cheaters and would be tyrants loom from all directions.  

Moreover, when one side goes into full-tilt rage-war against scientists and teachers and every other caste of folks who know stuff... WTF is going on?

It is Distraction of SoA. Americans need to fret over some cheating elite. And the last thing the Murdochians want is for poor whites to turn their ire toward the ancient enemies of freedom, who were dealt with firmly, by our parents and grandparents in the Greatest Generation.

 So Fox must find some other elite (or several) to divert attention to.  Just as the plantation lords diverted a million poor white southerners into marching to fight and die for their own feudal lords, against "yankee factory men."  

How are they doing it?  Trace the narrative.  

We all know that being smart and knowing a lot does not automatically make you wise.  Indeed, we all have known smart people who were ninnies. I know some top scientists who I would never hire as a babysitter.  It happens. Even folks who know a field thoroughly must still bear burdens of proof. And they will always be wrong about something.

truthinessOnly notice how that truth has been twisted into a new "truthy" truism.  

If you are smart and know a lot, that automatically makes you unwise.

That transformed and warped message is the essence of the narrative.  And it is deeply, deeply sick.  

In fact, being smart and knowing a lot correlates moderately with being a somewhat wiser person.  Not perfectly. Not reliably in any particular case. Always with a sense of contingency and burden-of-proof...

... but still... are you honestly gonna make a bet with me over the relative levels of wisdom and common sense displayed by - say - the folks in our research centers vs. those living in trailer parks? On average? Seriously?

Start with a truth.  Twist it into a "truthy" lie. It is the methodology of the mad anti-vaxxers of the far-left... and it is the method of the puppeteers controlling today's loony entire-right.

 If you have fallen for this scam, shame on you.


== These fellows must have read Adam Smith ==

James-Madison-corporations"I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” — George Washington

"The power of all corporations ought to be limited, [...] the growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.”
– James Madison


== More Political Miscellany ==

If true, this is very disturbing: Google Is Removing Negative Coverage Of Powerful People from its search results.

This world survey of racial tolerance may surprise you and shatter your close-held impressions.

== And Finally ==

All right, this is just terrific. A generic why I am right and you are wrong” anthem for our (insanely self-righteous) times.

66 comments:

Alex Tolley said...

If true, this is very disturbing: Google Is Removing Negative Coverage Of Powerful People from its search results.

It isn't as they are doing this proactively. Because of the EU court ruling, Google has been flooded with requests for removal. The EU court definitely made a mistake. However, something that should delight a transparency person, at least one person has created a site to monitor the burying and to provide links to the offending stories, thus overturning the hopes of burial. There are certainly some legitimate reasons for allowing stories to die, but it seems that even public interest stories are being requested to be buried, quite contrary to the EU ruling. The hope, I'm sure, is that burial will be as easy as DCMA takedown requests.

Alex Tolley said...

Those smartypants in investment banks didn't prove so smart, although they were smart enough to be bailed out and avoid criminal justice.

Or the majority of economists who managed to make teh global meltdown even worse.

We have also had quite a procession of military leaders who proved not so smart. At what point can we no longer separate them from the rest of the hierarchy.

I think one has to separate out the true experts from the wannabees. I also think one needs to be careful about implying that expertise is only assigned to the highly educated. There is a lot of expertise at all levels of society. Where it often goes wrong is the presumption that one's area of expertise allows one to pontificate outside it.

I also recommend What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought as a introduction on irrational thinking that is not strongly IQ correlated.





Robert said...

So what you're saying, Dr. Brin, is that the intellectuals, scientists, and other experts are the Jews of the Republican Politician/Fox News Reich? (Note, I did not say Republican party, as in the people who vote. They are being forced along for the ride while being filled with fear against everything and everyone - a tactic that works quite well as history has shown.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

The three knowledge castes not attacked by Fox: Divinity school graduates, Wall Street guys, and the Military Officer Corps.

The last of those three actually despised George Bush and are veering away from the GOP. But Murdoch would never dare attack them openly.

High IQ White Nationalist said...

I think the global poll about race reflects the power of the social conditioning the Western world has been subjected to over the past several decades more than any deep cultural shift. You know as well as I how adept the Anglosphere's media controllers are at "manufacturing consent" and re-engineering cultures, ever since the days of Bernays and Lippmann, and radically accelerating ever since the 1960s.

Notice that the most racist countries are almost precisely the countries where our most effective cultural programmers (that would be liberal Jews) have the least influence (primarily Muslim countries).

And it's this racial engineering that is behind a lot of the animus being directed at our Western elites -- the perception is that the native populations are under a sustained propaganda, demographic and economic attack, with support from the elites I'm talking about. This is the key issue driving the populist revolt throughout the West today: middle and lower-class whites are tired of being undermined and manipulated in their own lands by elites who show little loyalty to us. This applies equally to leftist academics, media tycoons, and globalist plutocrats -- we are increasingly a people without representation.

What we want and need is a Putin of our own -- a proud, smart, unapologetic white leader who doesn't bow to anyone. Have you ever noticed that such people are always ridiculed and marginalized by our controlled media? This is a huge problem, and a big reason why our "nation" is at risk of disintegrating. Science is a side issue; racial and cultural animus is what will bring things to a violent head, as it has throughout American history.

I say all this as an educated, high IQ atheist (who lives near a deep blue city being invaded by immigrants from places like Somalia), not a tea party fundamentalist. And yet, this issue of race is so powerful and important, that I find myself siding with the latter over people like you. That should trouble you, greatly...

RS said...

My very short take is that it is also a war against success. That is, success defined as doing anything that creates wealth. It's the have-nots getting back at that haves.

Golden goose on the table. Are they having light meat or dark?

Daniel Duffy said...

My response to a Tea Party solicitation:

To Whom It May Concern,

Though I am still a registered Republican I will soon be switching to the Democratic Party. There are three reasons for this switch:

A. I’m not a racist (and I don’t hate Gays, Muslims , Hispanics or women who work outside the home).

B. I’m not stupid enough to believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old (however I do know that evolution and climate change are both scientific facts)

C. And I believe in representative Democracy (as in “We the People”) instead of corrupt, oppressive oligarchic rule by the uber-rich.

As you can see, my old GOP is dead and I no longer belong in the new GOP - I will soon be leaving.

So please stop contacting me.
Have a nice day.

David Brin said...

Daniel Duffy... Arizona draws 14.7 % of its electricity from the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

Guys, it appears that we have been visited by a very articulate and grammatically well-spoken white supremacist. His paragraphs are filled with lunacy but I will give him cred for spelling and punctuating well and expressing his unpleasant opinions in a calm and even tone.

The capper is the Putin-loving screed in praise of the caudillo-strongman, which is the latest narrative to emerge from an american right that has gone insane.

My sole response is to point to the Greatest Generation. My parents... maybe his grandparents... who overcame the depression and Hitler and contained communism and built the most vibrant middle class and flat-fair capitalism the world has ever seen...

...and then went on to tackle ancient, filthy habits like racism and sexism while supporting science that dazzled the world, cured diseases, spread tsunamis of wealth and left footprints on the moon.

That generation would have loathed every single thing that you stand for, sir. They fought to make us by far the richest, happiest, most productive and most energetically self-improving nation in the history of the world. And today there is very little wrong with America. It is a spectacular success, despite having lost trillions in insane middle east adventures.

You hate the country? Fine, go to Russia. We are problem solvers and we will get back to problem solving, and head for the stars! Just as soon as we end the Confederacy's latest betrayal of our Great Experiment and get back to the endless self-improvement program that is America.

trent shipley said...

I think there are some very obvious cultural reasons for the Fox expertise exceptions.

1) Divinity school graduates.

Republicans probably tend to be more religious than Democrats. In the far right of Fox and the Tea Party many adherents actively believe that the early Republic was theocratic, and that the Republic should definitely have an element of Evangelical theocracy today. Certain kinds of conservative theological education are going to be highly respected.

Other kinds of theological education will be anathema. I doubt Fox respects Reform Jews (except in defense of Israel), Hindus, Buddhists, mainline Protestants, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, and under no circumstances Muslim clerics and theologians. Indeed, many otherwise conservative Catholic and Evangelical religious leaders are to the left of their congregations on social justice issues.

2) Businessmen. (Wallstreet)

The GOP love affair with business is effectively foundational. Conservatives see businessmen as having a superior, more practical, world view than so called intellectual experts who waste time and money on impractical aesthetics, pure science (as opposed to applied and marketable science), and pointless intellectual elitism.

3) Military Officer Corps.

First, the officer corps have historically been conservative. Second, the officer corps have historically been respected by conservatives. As in the case of religious professionals, this respect need not be well placed. Third, attacking the officer corps, without overt signs of political bias on the part of the officer corps, would be political suicide.

LarryHart said...

Remember the 1980s tv miniseries (and inferior series which followed) called "V" (not the ridicoulsly anti-Obama remake of a few years ago--I mean the original).

Watching that miniseries, I thought it was chilling how the Visitors created a climate where scientists fell under suspicion. After all, scientists would be the first ones to uncover the alien's secret nature and motives.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Guys, it appears that we have been visited by a very articulate and grammatically well-spoken white supremacist. His paragraphs are filled with lunacy but I will give him cred for spelling and punctuating well and expressing his unpleasant opinions in a calm and even tone.

The capper is the Putin-loving screed in praise of the caudillo-strongman, which is the latest narrative to emerge from an american right that has gone insane.


Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was worth responding to the Hi-IQ Nazi, but as long as you went there...the capper for me is the gratuitous assertion that the world is run by liberal Jews, when liberals can't even hold onto Canada.

Robert said...

What's worse is the hatred of immigrants. It's a common hatred. But it ignores a fundamental fact: immigrants often bring money and ideas into the United States, start businesses here, and then hire American citizens to work for them!

So rather than immigrants being job stealers... they can easily be job creators. But by blindly refusing to allow any immigrant in, you lose those opportunities along with the people who are seeking a better life.

Or to put it another way... SpaceX? Tesla Motors? They were companies started by Elon Musk... who is an immigrant.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I have said it often and recently. Illegal immigration is a problem, but it is largely the fault of Republicans ... and the amount of illegal immigration is too small to change much about America.

What is changing the face of America is LEGAL immigration, vastly larger and those floodgates were opened by Democrats. And the legal immigration laws are both screwy and unfair. We should be favoring employable and creatives because they can add to the wealth we then use to help the world. The re-uniting families criterion that goes beyond parents/children is especially immoral.

Ironically, the racists ONLY focus on the illegal component... and blame democrats for THAT! When the illegal component is the work of the GOP.

Oh, re our supremacist visitor: Yeah, den Hollywoods and Jews have been pushing their propaganda on us. What are the messages in almost every film? Tolerance of diversity and eccentricity. And Suspicion of Authority.

How DARE they preach such stuff! Obviously they are trying to... trying to... trying to.... um?

Tony Fisk said...

Well I, for one, welcome our high IQ white overlords.

Tim H. said...

"Obviously they are trying to...trying to...um?"
"Hey! You thralls! Stop rattling your chains at the Overlords, look at those different thralls, with their annoying culture!"
If you rely on assumptions about human gender, variety & culture, you WILL MISS IMPORTANT THINGS. Superior intelligence can happen inside of any shade of skin, or either gender (As does stupidity & ignorance).

Tony Fisk said...

...and also welcome our highly social Hindi overlords.

occam's comic said...


Anti Vaxers and the Left

Once again David tells an untruth in order to try to create a False Equivalency between the Right and the Left. It has been pointed out previously there is no correlation between thinking that vaccines are dangerous and political belief. People across the political spectrum have approximately the same view of vaccines. Almost everyone agrees that vaccines are low risk. Only ~1% of parents don’t get their kids vaccinated.

I am sure some day David will come into the light on this issue.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/01/liberals-finally-cleared-anti-vaccine-madness

Gator said...

@Occam's Comic:
The trouble is that Dr. Brin wants to make a rhetorical equivalence so that he himself won't be accused of being a liberal. So he has to find something to balance the mainstream GOP destruction of America... it is telling that his go-to-guy of "left wing wack jobs: is just the anti-vax people, a completely sidelined single-topic group with no mainstream pull.

There is no left wing equivalent of the mainstream Tea Party and GOP.

Daniel Duffy said...

If you don't mind a quick follow up to anon's comment in the last thread about using bacteria found in ocean floor vents to biologically terraform Venus:

Photosynthesis requires 6 atoms of H2O (molecular weight of 18) to convert 6 atoms of CO2 (molecular weight of 44) into carbohydrates and 6 additonal O2 molecules. With a required mass of water being 41% (18/44) of the existing mass of CO2 in Venus' atmosphere (4.63E+20 kg) you would need 1.9E+20 kg of water.

This is equivalent to 1.9E+17 M^3 of water, or 1.9E+8 kM^3, or about 15% of the Earth's oceans.

Agin, only a rain of comets could do this. But you would need far fewer comets than required for extracting hydrogen for the Bosch process - about 0.0015% of their estimated mass of water ice.

But you are still left with a massive almost pure oxygen atmosphere that would crush any visitor to the surface.

And no smoking allowed!

Hanfeizi said...

"There is no left wing equivalent of the mainstream Tea Party and GOP."

In terms of actual power, I'm not sure that's even relevant. As Curtis Yarvin put it:

"I'd rather have two thirds of the attendees of Burning Man on my side than all of 'Red America'."

He knows who holds the real power.

occam's comic said...

Gator,
The strange thing is that David is a liberal. Sometimes I wish he would just come out and be a proud liberal.
But i can see the importance of showing a fair amount of respect for honest conservatives. And making sure that they feel welcome to come and discuss issues. And to be completely honest if the Republican Party was like the conservatives who comment here the US would be at least 10 times better off.

Jonathan S. said...

"Only ~1% of parents don’t get their kids vaccinated."

This page gives immunization rates for children in the city of Seattle, WA:

http://www.schooldigger.com/go/WA/city/Seattle/search.aspx?vax=1

You'll note those numbers are considerably lower than 99%. The links at the top will let you compare other cities in the region.

Yeah, your claim of "circa 1%" is clearly a load. And the antivax folks seem to concentrate on the ends of the political spectrum - the far-right loons who fear the contamination of our bodies by filthy [insert boogieman of the moment here], and the far-left loons who fear the demon Autism will steal their children and replace them with changelings.

Robert said...

I'm not sure it's proper to call people like Dr. Brin and myself "liberal" as it's not our fault that we didn't move to the right with the Republicans. My beliefs have not really changed much (social libertarian) so I'm no liberal. But I'm no longer a conservative according to the Right.

Bullshit. Just because you marched away from formerly-conservative viewpoints and further to the Right, this does not make those of us who still hold those points to be conservative "liberal."

Rob H.

locumranch said...

The title of David’s post is a misnomer because, in actuality, there is no ‘War on Expertise’.

What David appears to be commenting on … what really twists his panties… is a perceived political imbalance (an inequality??) in matters of power, authority and obedience: He argues that the ‘expert’ (most specifically the ‘scientific expert’) should possess and exercise disproportional power and political authority over those social issues which fall within their purview, proposing (in a most undemocratic fashion) that the expert and/or scientist should rule the general (non-specialist) population as paternalistic lords & masters because those general population people are little more than mentally-deficient children as evidenced by their lack of expertise.

David proposes tyranny -- an enlightened tyranny & most 'scientific' tyranny, perhaps -- but tyranny just the same. Oligarchs, aristocrats, theocrats, slave owners & similar 'experts' have used this same argument for years to support their right to rule over other non-specialists, so why should we believe that David's proposal will turn out any different??

Best
____

Q: How much water (h2o) exists in the Venusian atmosphere as a gaseous suspension ?

A: Lots & lots

occam's comic said...

Jonathan S,
You are correct, I misspoke.
What I should have said is this:

Coverage for MMR, for pertussis (“whooping cough”), for polio, for hepatitis-b—all have been over 90%, the national public health target, for over a decade. The percentage of children whose parents refuse to permit them to receive any of the recommended childhood vaccines has remained under 1% during this time.

Apparently lack of insurance makes up the difference.

http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/3/4/a-nice-empirical-study-of-vaccine-risk-communication-and-an.html

occam's comic said...

locumranch, you are so feaking funny.
Example:
A woman is experiencing a breach birth what should we do?
pay no attention to the tyranny of the doctors, we should take a survey instead.

Is it safe mix ammonia and Clorox bleach? Survey says "hey why not?"
Chemists say if you do that you will make a poisonous gas. Those bloody tyrannical chemist are trying to restrict my FREEDOM!!

Hans said...

I consider members of our police to be experts, or as you say, a "knowledge caste". They often have college degrees and are above average intelligence. Increasingly they have complex technologies to contend with. They are rarely attacked by conservatives.

H

Gator said...

@Hanfeizi:
"In terms of actual power, I'm not sure that's even relevant. As Curtis Yarvin put it..."

I think you just made my point. Burning Man attendees run the world? Get real.

@Occam's comic:
" if the Republican Party was like the conservatives who comment here..."
Exactly the point. It's not. The GOP is currently crazy. Like it or not, that is the conservative mainstream.

As an example see Locumranch again... Is climate change real as scientists say -- or is it a UN plot for world domination as the GOP politicians say? Is this a question of expertise or just a post-modern example of culture clash? Reality has a liberal bias eh?

And @Hans:
You need to hang out on some conservative gun-related websites. Police are conservative friendly when they're arresting brown people and druggies; police are jack-booted thugs when they are taking your guns.

LarryHart said...

RS:

My very short take is that it is also a war against success. That is, success defined as doing anything that creates wealth. It's the have-nots getting back at that haves.


Except that the war on science (I'd call it a war on competence) is being waged by the haves.

Maybe the have-nots are being duped into fighting on behalf of the haves, but in that case, your take is quite ironic. It means the impoverished classes are taking up arms against (for example) mitigation of climate change or regulation of Wall Street in order to get back at the wealthy. The net result of that taking up of arms, of course, is that the haves are free to profit from despoiling the rest of us even more.

LarryHart said...

High IQ White Nationalist:


Oh, it does, but not the way you meant it.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

The title of David’s post is a misnomer because, in actuality, there is no ‘War on Expertise’.

What David appears to be commenting on … what really twists his panties… is a perceived political imbalance (an inequality??) in matters of power, authority and obedience: He argues that the ‘expert’ (most specifically the ‘scientific expert’) should possess and exercise disproportional power and political authority over those social issues which fall within their purview, proposing (in a most undemocratic fashion) that the expert and/or scientist should rule the general (non-specialist) population as paternalistic lords & masters because those general population people are little more than mentally-deficient children as evidenced by their lack of expertise.


Funny, that's not how I read Dr Brin's comments at all.

Rather, in a rational civilization, you would expect the population via democratic means to decide to--if not "follow" then at least "take seriously" the recommendations of acknowledged experts. Otherwise, what exactly is expertise?

You, on the other hand, sound much like Ayn Rand's "Ellsworth M Toohey" character, who poisons discourse by insisting that democracy and equality mean that you are obliged to do whatever anyone else wants, and if that sort of lifestyle leaves you unsatisfied and miserable, it only signifies that you are too hung up on your own selfish notions of "satisfaction" and "happiness."

The same character, who is a newspaper columnist by profession, makes a point of prasing incredibly mediocre poets and writers as "geniuses", because, as he acknowledges when pressed, "Calling Gus Webb a genius doesn't so much elevate Gus Webb as it undermines the concept of 'genius'." That's a paraphrase, but a pretty close one.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

David proposes no such tyranny. There is a huge difference between groups supressing expert opinion and expert opinion suppressing those who would go against it.

LarryHart said...

Ok, somehow, the quote disappeared. Or it's invisible or something. Anyway, this is what I meant to type:

High IQ White Nationalist:

I say all this as an educated, high IQ atheist (who lives near a deep blue city being invaded by immigrants from places like Somalia), not a tea party fundamentalist. And yet, this issue of race is so powerful and important, that I find myself siding with the latter over people like you. That should trouble you, greatly...


Oh, it does, but not the way you meant it.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

David proposes no such tyranny. There is a huge difference between groups supressing expert opinion and expert opinion suppressing those who would go against it.


As usual, you describe my thoughts exactly, and in many fewer sentences.

It's the huge difference between taking you car to an expert mechanic for repairs, vs the mechanic having thugs point guns at you to forcibly prevent you from having your idiot brother-in-law work on the car instead.

LarryHart said...

occom's comic:

Is it safe mix ammonia and Clorox bleach? Survey says "hey why not?"
Chemists say if you do that you will make a poisonous gas. Those bloody tyrannical chemist are trying to restrict my FREEDOM!!


Good satire is no longer possible. That's exactly what Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, heck--most Tea Partiers--and locumranch are trying to argue. With a straight face yet. They're up in arms against the "tyrrany of reality".

It's like that bit from Monty Python's "Life of Brian" in which they agree to fight for Eric Idle's right to have babies, even though he can't have babies.

While we're at it, HI-IQ Nazi is also like a "Life of Brian" character. That old guy haging upside down in the dungeon going "What a great race, the Romans!"

LarryHart said...

Hans:

I consider members of our police to be experts, or as you say, a "knowledge caste". They often have college degrees and are above average intelligence. Increasingly they have complex technologies to contend with. They are rarely attacked by conservatives.


They are not openly attacked by conservatives, who are authoritarians at heart. But they are routinely underfunded by conservatives, who can't abide public services of any sort.

The relationship between police and conservatism is a tricky one. When I was growing up in the 1960s, it was the left who hated the "pigs", and the right who thought busting a few hippie heads was good clean fun. I think of the right as standing for "Law and Order" and the left for "Do your own thing, man!" Today, the two sides present themselves and their opponents in almost the diametric opposite terms.

LarryHart said...

Gator:

Reality has a liberal bias eh?


I take that assertion (which I agree with) as a confirmation of liberalism.

Conservatives take it as a condemnation of reality.

The two attitudes are not symmetrical. I do not say "Reality is liberal, therefore reality is corect." But rather "Reality is liberal, so therefore liberalism is correct."

The party opposite says "Reality is liberal, therefore reality is wrong."

Anonymous said...

Larry Hart,

8)

The only way I know to defend locumranch's position is if the groups supressing expert opinion are considered to be expert opinion too. I'm not ready to live in a 1984 world where up is down just because someone says it is, so I need a somewhat objective measure of what counts as expert opinion in a particular field. The folks who argue scientists aren't expert in politics have a point, but arguing that EVERYTHING is politics if it impacts public policy is lunacy.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. That's what I get for typing too fast from work where I can't use my Google ID. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

>>>>As an example see Locumranch again... Is climate change real as scientists say -- or is it a UN plot for world domination as the GOP politicians say?


There is no reason it can't be both. People come in many varieties and many will grind their particular axe on whatever wheelstone presents itself.

David Brin said...

Brin posting from remote as anonymous:

Once again Occam's Comic unintentionally proves his monomaniacal political fused spine disease by interpreting my very well-backed assertion that the FAR-left contains some crazies… as opposed to the ENTIRE right being presently inherently crazy… as asserting "equivalence." No, Occam, all you do is demonstrate exactly the kind of monomania that proves my point. You will allow no besmirchment of your "side." You are a fanatic.

Gator, likewise, thinks I do this simply in order to maintain my "cred" as a person who can turn his neck and look at danger in all directions. You have it backwards. Because, unlike you, I CAN turn my head, I can see the potential for real danger in left wing fanaticism, even if -today - it is far less dangerous than the insane, undead thing that has hijacked conservatism.

I was on college campuses in the 1970s and 1980s. I listened to Angela Davis and Herbert Marcuse defend Stalin and rationalize and excuse his murderous methods. I attended political gatherings in which lefty SOBs tirades and threatened and bullied anyone who did not toe the line. I saw offices burned and trashed, when legitimate Hayekian or Austrian school professors were chased off campus in savagely violent acts of political policing…

… actions that the lefties smugly bragged about, never knowing how much harm they did to the world, by driving men like Wolfowitze, Nitze, Perle, Adelman… and Clarence Thomas… away from true academia, where they might have had their views moderated by give and take with colleagues, instead sending them limping and wounded and angry into the arms of faux "academes" like Heritage… where they turned their intellects into the service of Straussian "neoconservatism" and helped give an intellectual gloss to the horrid manias of the GW Bush years.

The harm that Anita Hill did to us all, by turning Thomas into a raging reflex-hater of the entire modern American experience, cannot be calculated.

Fug. There is no need for me to go on, other than to mention the USSR, Gawd. To deny that the left can be dangerous? Oh. Oh. Oh. You guys are living proof.

David Brin said...


Again, gator and occam…. LIBERAL is an entirely different kind of being than LEFTIST. They are allies, at present. But they will face off again. I am a certain kind of libertarian, who is in many ways a certain kind of Liberal. I will never be a $%#! leftist.

Both liberals and libertarians trace roots back to Adam Smith and farther to Pericles, who both cited the human propensity for delusion and cheating and tyranny as reasons to DIVIDE POWER and create competitive systems in which cheating is checked by reciprocal accountability.

Liberals agree with smith that the state can help achieve this by feeding and educating all children so that they can grow up and - from roughly even starting blocks - eagerly and capably compete to produce cornucopias of wonders and wealth. Liberals believe the state should regulate and break up centers of corporate and oligarchic power that threaten to cheat or get too big to fail.

Sane libertarians have no problem with this, in principle, but they deeply worry the state itself can become a center of dangerous power abuse that grows beyond accountability. Both are right!

Leftists (insanely) denounce competition. They relish the state as a wise, paternalistic way to force people to become and act better. They believe that small groups of elite -- inherently delusional -- human beings can prescribe and design Right Ways.. just like all the other religious fanatics who ever lived.

State enforced COOPERATION… yum. They do not trust us to reciprocally hold each other accountable. Equalize not the starting conditions, but outcomes. Prescribe and prescribe. WHat loonies.

Randian libertarians are saps who have abandoned Adam Smith and competition, extolling instead grand and airy platonic essences like absolute property rights… and thus pave the way for a return to oligarchy, cabals of cheater-owner-lords who crushed freedom in every other era.

The enemies of our enlightenment are the prescribers. The right is worse… right now. I must ally myself with leftists against the New Confederacy. But I know them. They contain their own sickness.

David Brin said...

Leftists love MSNBC. Liberals like Jon Stewart. I need say no more.

Jumper said...

I couldn't help wondering what Mr. High IQ Blue City racist would think of the tribe of low-IQ Anglo-Saxon Baptist-by-proclamation alcoholic trailer-trash crackheads barely hanging on because they are contrarian pissants who sabotage every venture they are briefly employed to attempt, and just as quickly shudderingly disposed of by the unfortunate capable Randian heroes who still with honor try to keep our industry running...
......................

For a general sampling of the loony left, see HuffPo, where a large number reside, although, granted, in company with some saner heads.

Worst,
Jumper

Randy Winn said...

I'm not so sure that "reality has a liberal bias"; it may be that conservativism has an anti-reality bias. For it is the essence of conservativism that the truth is already known and need only be applied to any given situation; whether the truth is contained in the Bible or the Koran or Atlas Shrugged or Das Kapital or even The Origin Of Species is a matter of taste. Whatever your choice of holy writ, you need learn no more because you have the truth dad gum it!

An essence of liberalism, on the other hand, is that our knowledge is imperfect and we are constantly learning new things and therefore must change our prescriptions. This sets up a conflict between the professional practices of scientists and their personal political beliefs
---
Dr. Brin's harping on the distinction between leftist and liberalism makes me uncomfortable, and that's a good thing. I don't know that I agree with him, but knowledge is imperfect and some cautionary warnings in that area is a small insurance premium to pay against the risk of disaster.

---

I'm pretty sure that the fascists (yes, that's the word) have no problem attacking liberal divines. They revere learning that justifies their desires.

Robert said...

Huffypost is downright sane compared to Daily Kos. I still read Huppypost (as a news aggregator) and take it with a grain of salt. If I realize something is DK, I won't use it as an argument point because it inevitably is leftist biased.

Rob H.

Alex Tolley said...

@locumranch (...) the ‘expert’ (most specifically the ‘scientific expert’) should possess and exercise disproportional power and political authority over those social issues which fall within their purview, proposing (in a most undemocratic fashion) that the expert and/or scientist should rule the general (non-specialist) population (...)

Funnily enough, the libertarian, Virginia Postrel, makes a very similar argument in her book "The Future and its Enemies". Which makes a) David not a libertarian, b) Ms Postrel not a libertarian, or c) you constructing an incorrect statement about David's arguments.

My sense is that the last is mostly true, as I do not see David making the argument that experts should rule, bu rather that their advisory role in supporting sound decision making is not undermined by denigrating that expertise.

occam's comic said...

UGGG trying to turn my fused neck;-)

But my monomaniacal devotion to the motto "Criticism is the only know antidote to error" is forcing me to respond. If all you are saying is that folks on liberal side can have some wrong (even crazy)ideas I completely agree. If you are saying that I believe some wrong (or even crazy) ideas, I would have to say yes you are most likely correct. but in my defense I am not sure which my beliefs are the bad ones.

But if you are saying that liberals are more likely to think that vaccines are dangerous than moderates or conservatives, the evidence I linked to does not support that idea. That survey found that liberals, moderates and conservatives all had about the same level of concern about vaccines. (The same survey found that political beliefs are related to how dangerous Climate Change, guns in the home, and marijuana legalization are viewed.)

Gator said...

@Dr Brin:
"Gator, likewise, thinks I do this simply in order to maintain my "cred" as a person who can turn his neck and look at danger in all directions. You have it backwards. Because, unlike you, I CAN turn my head, I can see the potential for real danger in left wing fanaticism, even if -today - it is far less dangerous than the insane, undead thing that has hijacked conservatism."

You assume too much sir. Perhaps I did the same of you.

However, today, here in the USA, there is no leftist political force equivalent to the rightist, crazy anti-reality GOP. We can worry about the left when the pendulum starts to swing. I am much less worried about potential danger than I am about actual, real, causing-damage-today danger.

Again, the fact that you have to point to anti-vaxxers (which as Occam'd comic points out are not actually leftist) makes my point above crystal clear.

BTW -- I'm curious about the scientists in the GOP stat. You point to something that points to something that points to a 2009 Pew poll. Do you know of anything more recent? My few minutes of googling did not find anything...

David Brin said...

Occam's Comic, Your are courteously raising arguments and I apologize for earlier florid language. Still, I think you are obstinately missing the point. If liberals are inherently different than leftists, then much is explained.

They overlap in many policy aims... civil rights, feed all poor kids, spend of education. But I earlier showed a number of deep, psychological differences that matter a lot. Moreover, it is insulting and misleading to claim the difference is because liberal moderates are pallid "leftist lite."

"But if you are saying that liberals are more likely to think that vaccines are dangerous than moderates or conservatives, ..."

No, I said that LEFTISM contains a fair number of nostalgia junkies and anti-science types who include vaxxers. Those tendencies are almost absent from LIBERALS, who are the only consistently pro science group in America.

Not ALL leftists fit this bill. They vary a lot and anti science is not an official leftist dogma... yet. But it is a disturbing tendency that goes back to hippie mysticism and includes hostility toward crewcut engineering, military engineering and Space.

And yes, in all such cases there are examples meriting criticism. Industrial pollution, for example and military-industrial wastage. Specific criticisms from the left are often correct! But that does not make me un-wary of the propelling impulse: hatred of modernity.

I gave the example of campus lefty bullies, who did fantastic amounts of harm in the 70s, 80s, 90s... Let me add that the madness continues, with leftist professors having taken over hundreds of soft studies departments, all over american academia. Their output is generally mountains of utter (taxpayer supported) drivel, while tormenting and enraging students and turning them into Republicans.

And yes, part of my anger is simple to explain. These lefty flakes are intensely hostile to science fiction and have ensured that SF scholars almost never get tenure at any university in America.

These are the idiots who supply Sean Hannity with his anecdotes, which he then uses to support his Big Lie that "all liberals are like these idiots." And that, in turn is how they rally tens of millions in the New Confederacy in their war against intellect.

No, I have PLENTY of reason to despise leftism. I need leftists as allies against the far worse danger to the republic and civilization that I love. But do not stop casting your wary glance leftward, now and then. There is sickness there, as well.

Alfred Differ said...

My personal experience with anti-vaxxers is that they come in many varieties. The folks on the right tend to object to others telling them what to do or object on faith grounds. The folks on the left tend to object because they believe the experts are simply wrong and as a result are doing harm. I view the left-leaning crowd as more dangerous because they work to undermine expert opinion by calling it group-think. The folks on the right side aren't that well organized. This is ONLY for the anti-vax crowd, though.

The danger I see when expert opinion is attacked the way the Right currently tries is that they are trying to undermine the dignity of those who discover the knowledge we accumulate. Do that for long enough and people won't want to engage in the tasks because an important social reward will be removed.

occam's comic said...

David
I took no offense at the "florid language".

But to the general point you are trying to make " But do not stop casting your wary glance leftward, now and then. There is sickness there, as well." I agree.

In fact i would put like this:
I see a lot of monsters on the right and I see some monsters on the left and I know there is potentially a monster in the mirror. And that last monster is one tricky SOB.


Gator said...

Re Lefist anti-vaxxers.

Since they are fighting government mandates to vaccinate, aren't they by Dr. Brin's definition NOT Leftist?

daddyoyo said...

I consider myself a leftist although I've had many arguments with friends on the left over the years because I have stubbornly stuck with the validity of the scientific method and have been wary of New Age Mysticism, which put me in a lonely cohort when I was an L.A. Hippie in the sixties. Many of my friends were seduced by Jacques Derrida and deconstruction. Their extreme relativism crossed the line, I believe, into solipsism. I highly recommend watching a debate which you can find online between the two leftists, Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky. I think that Chomsky just took Foucault apart. In my hippie days I would often hear from friends that they now believed in esp or other paranormal phenomena after a psychedelic trip. I would respond that hallucinogens, if anything, made me more skeptical because it was so clear how easily the mind could be tricked.

David Brin said...

Occam... fair enough.

daddyoho... sounds to me as if you are a liberal. Do not accept the guilt trip that you are somehow "leftist lite" and therefore less passionate. You are passionate for the Enlightenment that gave us every hope that humanity has. Liberals made it happen. Leftists at-best want some good things (feed all kids) that liberals also want. But their mysticism and bossiness makes them very different beings.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Leftists love MSNBC. Liberals like Jon Stewart. I need say no more.


Is MSNBC really the boogie-man the right portrays it as? I'll grant I don't spend a lot of time watching any television, but I've been lured into spending some hours watching Rachel Maddow, and if anything, I'd say she goes in for in-depth reporting of the type I wish more news organizations would indulge in.

Where FOX is 24-hour propoganda, whether you're watching a news show, a commentator, or a commercial, my sense of MSNBC is that their news is pretty straight news, and their prime-time commentators are liberal/progressive/pick-the-label, but they acknowledge that right off the bat, rather than pretending to be "objective" or "fair and balanced". It's also the case that their full lineup is not devoid of right-wingers. To paraphrase our host: Joe Scarbarough. I need say no more.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The danger I see when expert opinion is attacked the way the Right currently tries is that they are trying to undermine the dignity of those who discover the knowledge we accumulate. Do that for long enough and people won't want to engage in the tasks because an important social reward will be removed.


There's irony at work here, because the Ayn Randroids make that very argument about captains of industry. The world falls apart in "Atlas Shrugged" because the industrialists refuse to participate in the society that impugns them, and this is supposed to be a lesson to the reader to suck up to the Koch brothers. But they have no truoble similarly turning those who best understand reality away.

Doubly ironic because Randroids pride themselves on understanding and living by objective truth (They think every moral precept follows from "A = A").

David Brin said...

LarryHart without doubt I agree more with Maddow than with the oligarchy shills at Fox. Still, it is a Nuremberg Rally and proof that liberals are more broad minded than rightists or leftists can be seen in the viewership figures. MSNBC has maybe 10% the ratings of Fox and barely breaks even. Liberals wander away.

Re Rand. let's be fair. The villains in her tales are ALSO "captains of industry"... old money fobs who use captured government to squelch any new or rising stars. It is the old story of resenting the old ruling class... but assuming it can only be replaced by a NEW ruling class.

THAT is the reason why AR never ever ever shows any of here heroes procreating or even discussing having children. Because then the logic would become a tiresome circle.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Re Rand. let's be fair. The villains in her tales are ALSO "captains of industry"... old money fobs who use captured government to squelch any new or rising stars. It is the old story of resenting the old ruling class... but assuming it can only be replaced by a NEW ruling class.


Exactly like the Koch Brothers, you mean?

And yet, today's Rand-worshippers like Paul Ryan shill for the modern day James Taggerts, while doing unto the real-life Hank Reardens and Howard Roarks as Rand's bad guys do.

David Brin said...

I agree. Were they not hypocrites, they would agitate for actual deregulation of captured regulatory apparatus.

LarryHart said...

Maybe the political atmosphere was different in the 1940s and 50s when Rand was writing her major novels, but from a 1980s-to-present perspective, she seems to have interpreted the players exactly backwards. Her "villains", the ones who use inherited wealth to game the system, are the "collectivists" who do everything in the name of the People. Her heroes, the thinkers and engineers who work thanklessly while producing society's real value are the individualists who care for nothing but their own profit (which she sees as a morally good motivation).

In real life, at least in today's world, the players are almost the exact opposite. The Koch brothers are James Taggert; Sheldon Adelson is Ellsworth M Toohey; and Rupert Murdoch is Gail Wynand. The climate scientists and Krugmanesque economists who diagnose real problems and propose real solutions as well as the progressive legislators and civil servants who would carry out those solutions if allowed are the ones being spat upon to the point of going "on strike".

I see great irony in the present right-wing apprpriating Ayn Rand as one of their own as the latest in a line of failed attempts to morally prop up their agenda. In that, I hear clear echoes of Rand's own villains appropriating John Galt in the same manner. Either they never read the exchange following Galt's long radio speech (where a flunky asks Mr Thompson in disbelief "Do you want them to think we agree with that?" to which Mr Thomspon replies "Do you want them to think we don't?) or they took the entirely wrong lesson from it.

LarryHart said...

I know this isn't an Ayn Rand thread, but I'm on a roll. Sorry.

It doesn't surprise me that Randists get their interpretation of reality ass-backwards. For someone who prided herself on recognizing objective reality, Rand herself often missed her own point.

When her married lover, Nathaniel Branden, had another affair with someone else, she screeched at him for betraying his highest ideal (Rand herself). Did she question her premises and reconcile actual evidence with the fact that there are no contradictions?

Dr Brin, we've discussed Rand before, and I'm not saying anything new, but I find the climax of "Atlas Shrugged" to be more significant (in what it says about Rand's philosophy) than even your personal bugaboo about her characters not reproducing. Namely, in order to do a happy ending to her adolescent adventure story, she has to have her good characters heroically "act for the sake of another"--exactly what they swear not to do throughout the entire novel.

David Brin said...

The Branden Affair was a stunning exhibition of guru-tantrum justification. A sure sign that a movement has become a cult.

My own contribution to Rand scholarship is to decrypt how very Marxist who whole dialectic truly is. Her version of the Labor Theory of Value is polar opposite to Karl's, but it remains LTV. Her predicted and ordained cycle of industrial/social development is exactly that of Marx, only with the penultimate phase declared to the the good and final phase.

She prevents Marx's final phase, proletarian revolution... by applying to the masses a new religion!

David Brin said...

onward

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zmortis said...

I personally take issue with "scientists" who ignore when other "scientists" enter into paid political advocacy instead of dealing with the real world as it is. Plenty of "science" is conducted as a means of enriching "scientists" by following the political money trail to support a "politicized" social agenda. The mere idea that all "science" is pure and only for the sake of knowledge and the betterment of mankind is naive at best, just as it is naive to presume that every member of the religious establishments is a selfless servant of their system of belief.

People have human motives. The desire to control and direct other people has been with the species throughout recorded history (and witnessed in many other species in the animal kingdom). Scientists are no less prone to it than clergy, politicians, militaries, or other places where people gather to have more influence over others. Even George Orwell recognized this in his work "Animal Farm" when the "Pigs" put themselves in charge because they were smarter than the other animals, and thus most suited to lead.

As an independent who has never been registered with any political organization or party, I can see that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are only concerned about convincing people to keep putting them in charge. Neither one can be trusted as reasonable stewards of the power they have. Neither one can be trusted to even keep from expanding the national debt beyond the currently ridiculous levels.

Sometimes the government isn't the solution, it is the problem. People who side with one part of the problem over another part of the problem are still not too wise in my estimation.