Category Archives: Philosophy

The Next Generation Of Republicans

Are they already here?

What’s behind all these surprising numbers? I can’t say, but it’s hard not to notice that a decline in destructive behavior associated with peer pressure has happened at the same moment that the US became a fully wired nation.

Now that broadband access is nearly universal — 78% of homes, and that’s not counting all the schools and library and Wi-Fi hotspot connections available to most kids with minimal effort — restless youth don’t have to go along with whatever the local knuckleheads are up to.

They can find their community of likeminded souls online, and an unintended consequence of their tinkering with YouTube videos or playing “Call of Duty” with a buddy in Mexico City, they’re staying in. As a frustrated barman in England, where pubs have been closing in huge numbers, put it to The Economist, “Kids these days just want to live in their f- – – ing own little worlds in their bedrooms watching Netflix and becoming obese.” That sounds right, but at least no one ever got pregnant from eating Cheetos.

How are young people turning out politically? They’re liberal Democrats . . . who sometimes sound an awful lot like conservative Republicans.

I don’t really care whether or not they’re Republicans, as long as they’re vehemently not Democrats.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow: How the Left got boring.

[Late-morning update]

Sorry, first link was broken. Should be fixed now.

Scientists And Philosophers

Why they need to talk to each other:

Most of climate science is in ‘shut up and calculate’ mode. This is a very dangerous place to be given the substantial uncertainties, ignorance and areas of disagreement, not to mention the problems/failures of climate models. Climate science needs reflection on the fundamental assumptions, re-interpretations, and deeper thinking. How to reason about the complex climate system, and its uncertainties, is not at all straightforward. And then of course there are the ethical issues, including understanding how the climate debate has gone so badly wrong.

Yes.

Libertarianism

What it isn’t:

…journalists cover complex things they don’t know about all the time, and this is usually okay because they research and talk to people who do know about it.

Unless, of course, they’re writing about libertarians.

Not only do you not have to know the first thing about libertarianism to cover it for major news outlets, it is perfectly fine to a) decline to ask anybody who does know, b) make up your own version of what it is, and then c) lament the terribleness of this terrible philosophy or people you have just created. Cases in point: approximately every 10th article published by Salon, this piece by Damon Linker at The Week.

A lot of people seem to have difficulty with the concept of liberty.

The Missing Light

It’s a mystery:

As one participating scientist points out, to miss the mark by so much means what we understand about the universe is fundamentally wrong. The universe continues to be exciting, a little scary, but mostly—a mystery.

And yet some have the hubris to tell us they can predict the temperature of the planet and level of the seas decades from now.

Heidegger

Since we were discussing philosophy the other day, Lileks has some thoughts:

The article concerns the anti-Semitism of Heidegger, and how the publication of recent texts the philosopher intended to be the capstone of his output reveals that he didn’t have the easy, lazy cultural anti-Semitism of the era, but really, really thought hard on how the Jews were putting the stick to the decent noble Volk. Not just any kind of Jews, though: worldwide jewry! It’s the richest kind.

..Anything that starts out with “Russia and America are the same” is the product of a mind so high in the clouds it cannot tell the different between red and black ants. But while Russia did indeed have “unrestricted organization of the average man,” an inevitable consequence of the state’s politicization of the entire society, you could say Germany under Hitler had a smattering as well. Or a gerschmatturung, to use Heidegger’s word. Just kidding; he doesn’t. But the article is full of German words intended to set off a Concept, as though expressing a concept in a train-wreck of consonants makes it important. I suppose the point is to be accurate, use the terms the author uses so there can be no misunderstanding. But for my part that would require anything close to comprehension, and I cannot grasp a lot of what Heidegger is talking about, perhaps because there seems to be no point in understanding what he’s saying.

Philosophy isn’t useless, but some philosophers are. Or worse than.

On Gun Control

How I learned to stop worrying and love the AR-15:

Brutally put, it makes little philosophical sense for the elected representatives of a government that is subordinate to the people to be able to disarm those people. As an enlightened state may by no means act as the arbiter of its critics’ words, it may not remove from the people the basic rights that are recognized in the very document to which it owes its existence. “Shall not be infringed” and “shall make no law” are clear enough even for the postmodern age. To ask, “Why do you need an AR-15?” is to invert the relationship. A better question: “Why don’t you want me to have one?” And far from being the preserve of two-bit reactionaries, this, I discovered to my consternation, is a deeply — nay, radically — liberal principle, and one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of beautiful ideas. It changed my politics forever.

It is not, and has never been, about hunting.

[Update a few minutes later]

And then there’s this:

These ideas had a profound effect on me, ushering in the startling realization that, far from merely being a larger England, the United States had become something quite different: an incubator of lost or diluted British freedoms. As the Liberty Bell was originally cast in England but rang out in America, so those guarantees of the “rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects” have found their truest expression across the Atlantic. “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy,” wrote George Orwell in 1941. “It is our job to see that it stays there.” In Britain and beyond, that rifle has long been taken away. England’s bell has fallen silent. Americans would do well to ensure that the crack in theirs grows no larger.

Yes.

Rousseau Was Wrong

That’s an evergreen post title, but the science is settled:

Human facial structure evolved to tolerate punches to the head, according to new research that suggests our ancestors spent a lot of time fighting.

So they weren’t corrupted by civilization. Huh.

[Update early afternoon]

On the other hand, maybe not.

But even without this theory, there’s ample evidence that prehistoric humans weren’t gentle pacifists.

Technocracy

Always ends up being idiocracy:

…the elites had to wait for the man of their dreams.

When they found him, he was a rare breed: a genuine African American (his father was Kenyan) who thought and talked like the academics on both sides of his family, a product of the faculty lounge who dabbled in urban/race politics, a man who could speak to both ends of the liberals’ up-and-down coalition, and a would-be transformer of our public life whose quiet voice and low-key demeanor conveyed “moderation” in all that he spoke and did. Best of all, he was the person whom the two branches of the liberal kingdom—the academics and journalists—wanted to be, a man who shared their sensibilities and their views of the good and the beautiful. This was the chance of a lifetime to shape the world to their measure. He and they were the ones they were waiting for, and with him, they longed for transcendent achievements. But in the event they were undone by the three things Siegel had pegged as their signature weaknesses: They had too much belief in the brilliance of experts, they were completely dismissive of public opinion, and they had a contempt for the great middle class.

…Obama had reassured them again and again that if they liked their plans and their doctors, they would be able to keep them, but this proved inaccurate. For the first time in American history the cost of a massive social program would be concentrated on a small slice of the populace that was not rich, and in some instances, could not afford it. Those costs came in many different dimensions: Parents found they could not take sick children to the same hospitals they had used before. People with complex chronic conditions found that the teams of doctors who had worked together to treat them had been broken up. For the people who had been insured through the individual market the elites had little compassion. Cancer patients who took their complaints to the press (and to the Republicans) were “fact checked” and then viciously attacked by the Democrats, among them Harry Reid, who called them all liars. “We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what’s in it,” Nancy Pelosi infamously said. People had finally found out and they were furious.

In February 2010, in the midst of the row over Obamacare’s passage, 80 highly credentialed experts in health care, graduates of and teachers in the best schools in the country, sent an open letter to the president and the leaders of Congress insisting the bill be passed. The Affordable Care Act, they maintained, would “cover more than 30 million people who would otherwise have gone uninsured. .  .  . Provide financial help to make coverage for millions of working families. .  .  . Strengthen competition and oversight of private insurance. .  .  . Provide unprecedented protection for Americans living with chronic illness and disabilities. .  .  . Make significant investments in community health centers, prevention, and wellness. .  .  . Increase financial support to states to finance expanded Medicaid insurance coverage, eliminate the Medicare prescription drug donut hole .  .  . provide a platform to improve the quality of the health care system .  .  . [and] reduce the federal budget deficit over the next ten years and beyond.”

They were not alone. “Historians will see this health care bill as a masterfully crafted piece of legislation,” wrote Jonathan Chait in the magazine Herbert Croly cofounded. “The new law untangles the dysfunctionalities of the individual insurance market while fulfilling the political imperative of leaving the employer-provided system in place. .  .  . They put into place numerous reforms to force efficiency into a wasteful system. They found hundreds of billions of dollars in payment offsets, a monumental task in itself. And they will bring economic and financial security to tens of millions of Americans who would otherwise risk seeing their lives torn apart.”

It did none of these things. It did not fix the dysfunctions of the individual market; it destroyed it. It did not save money; it squandered billions. It did not bring peace and security to tens of millions of people; it took it away from them. The best and the brightest had made their predictions. They were wrong.

Hayek wrote a book or two about this sort of thing.

Climate Scientists

Are they being forced to toe the line? Sure looks like it:

I have heard that a number of leading scientists are pretty disgusted with the way Bengtsson has been treated and see the larger issues of concern about the social psychology of our field. People are talking about writing blog posts for professional societies, trying to get signatures on a statement, etc. I hope that these individuals follow through, and that the ‘climate’ for climate research can improve.

This is a very welcome change from the 2009 reactions to Climategate, which reflected most silence, but solidarity with the climate scientists whose emails were made public.

With regards to Pielke Jr’s statement: “anyone who wishes to participate in the public debate on climate change should do so knowing how the politics are played today — dirty, nasty, destructive.” I agree with this statement. As someone participating in the in public debate on climate change, I certainly expect barbs from the media and advocacy groups. What concerns me greatly is other scientists behaving in a dirty, nasty and destructive way, in other words, playing dirty politics with their science.

Can climate scientists please stop the intimidation, bullying, shunning and character assassination of other scientists who they find ‘not helpful’ to their cause? Can we please return to logical refutation of arguments that you disagree with, spiced with a healthy acknowledgement of uncertainties and what we simply don’t know and can’t predict?

Probably not. Not until they suffer some truly adverse consequences for it.

Republicans Aren’t American

So says Howard Dean:

He was addressing a Democratic crowd in Colorado, and went off on a tirade against Republicans. Yes, he really did say that Republicans aren’t American. And that they should stay away from the United States, and go to Russia where they belong. One gets the feeling that if the Democrats ever have the opportunity, they will have us all arrested. Or deported.

The totalitarian impulse never lies very far below the surface of the Left.