Category Archives: Philosophy

Science And Policy

Words of wisdom from Daniel Sarewitz:

Whatever science you’re doing on a post-normal problem, it is always going to be incomplete, and it is always going to be subject to revision, and highly uncertain. It can be viewed from numerous scientific perspectives. So multiple scientific studies can come up with multiple results, so it leads to a profusion of truths that can be mobilized on behalf of different sets of values. Values and facts can pair up with each other in different ways.

One example I love is how everyone talks about how there’s a consensus on GMOs. Well there is consensus around a narrow part of the GMO issue, like there is a consensus around a narrow part of climate change. But the real problems have to do with the ‚what could be done?‘ questions. So for GMOs for example, when people say there is a consensus, what they mean is ‚we know they’re not a health risk‘. So I’ll accept it on health risk, I don’t have a problem with it. But then you say, ‚and we know that they’ll be an essential part of the economic future of Africa‘. Well, maybe that’s true — whose model are you using? What kind of data have you used to generate that? What are your assumptions? I mean anything dealing with projections of the future and claims about how the world is going to look, in a multi-variate, open system, are going to be subject to different people coming up with different claims and conclusions. And that’s exactly what happens.

And when you bring science into the political debate, you have to pick and choose which science you want to use. You have to match that with particular priorities about what policy problems you want to solve. I think science is really important, I think we want to be factual, I think we want to have a grip on reality and I think science can help us do that. But for problems where there are so many paths forward, so many competing values, the systems themselves are so complicated, I don’t think science is a privileged part of the solution.

…The post-normal science idea really does challenge the notion of science as a unitary thing that tells us what to do, PNS really says that we have to think of science in a different way in these contested contexts, and I don’t think most scientists want to go there. The deficit model puts them in charge: “we communicate the facts, you listen and take action.” So if the problem isn’t solved it’s not science’s problem. This is a self-serving superstition that the scientific community generally holds. And superstitions are hard to destabilize.

Over on Twitter, I’ve been having arguments with people about the proposed cut at the EPA, in which the budget for “protecting the climate,” is reduced to “only” $29M.

What in the hell does “protecting the climate” even mean?


No, libertarians are not:

Spencer has attempted to wring as much publicity from the incident as possible—he tweeted about it no fewer than 40 times, by my count. In his mind, libertarians are “lolbertarians” who need to “accept the reality of race” and get serious about “white replacement.” To the extent that his only goal in life is to garner more attention for his fringe worldview, I suppose the stunt was a success—here I am writing about it. Congrats to you, guy who thinks “the United States is a European country.”

In any case, the incident should make abundantly clear that the alt-right’s racism is incompatible with the principles of a free society. Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy that considers all people deserving of equal rights. In contrast, Spencer is a tribalist and collectivist whose personal commitment to identity politics vastly exceeds the left’s.

Yes. “Alt-Right” is just another variation on Left.


How they became the fascists they’ve always been warning us about.

#ProTip: They’ve always been, and are not now, and have never been, liberals.

Speaking of which, Bob Zubrin wants to start a new political party:

America needs a new Liberal Party because both major parties have abandoned liberalism. Neither adequately supports international free trade or the defense of the West — the two pillars of the liberal world order since 1945. Both lack commitment to constitutionally limited government, separation of powers, free enterprise, and human equality and liberty under law. Each supports its own Malthusian antihuman collectivist ideology: for Democrats, it is ecologism, for Republicans, it is nativism.

Largely, yes, but for the latter, that’s mostly because of Trump. Who is also no liberal.

[Afternoon update]

Related: No Republicans need apply:

One of the less understood criticisms of progressivism is that it is totalitarian, not in the sense that kale-eating Brooklynites want to build prison camps for political nonconformists (except for the ones who want to lock up global-warming skeptics) but in the sense that it assumes that there is no life outside of politics, that there is no separate sphere of private life, and that church, family, art, and much else properly resides within that sphere.

…The people who close their doors against those who simply see the world in a different way, who scream profanities at Betsy DeVos or chant ‘You should die!’ at Jewish musicians, are people who cannot rise far enough above their own pettiness to understand that the thing they fear is the thing they are.”

Yes. The Left a) has no sense of irony whatsoever, and b) continually engages in psychology projection of its own pathologies on others.

[Via Ed Driscoll]

Progress On Aging

…and the resistance to it. I think he’s right that it’s not based on science or logic, but philosophy. Some people (including Isaac Asimov) think that death is necessary, almost to the point of ultimately worshiping it. Of course, some of it could be a recognition, conscious or otherwise, of the supreme disruption to many accepted institutions that it would entail, including pensions, life-time appointments, death taxes, etc.

And I hate when they use the word “immortality.” I think an eternal life would be far worse than death, but that’s not the goal; it’s simply living as long as we want to continue to live.

Update a couple minutes later]

Sort of related: GM Salmonella cures cancer. Cool. But the anti-science left will oppose it because GM.

Locked-In Patients

They’ve found a way to communicate with them, and their lives may not be the living nightmare we’ve imagined:

“One of the most surprising outcomes of this study is that these patients reported being ‘happy’ despite being physically locked-in and incapable of expressing themselves on a day-to-day basis, suggesting that our preconceived notions about what we might think if the worst was to happen are false. Indeed, previous research has shown that most locked-in patients are actually reasonably satisfied with their quality of life,” he added.

Two pieces of good news in one. The human brain is an amazing, almost incomprehensible thing.