A bit ago Ethon pointed out that you can judge how serious someone is when they call out the really nasty or nonsensical coming from their side of the tracks. On the nasty side, Eli noticed that the Dear Senator, Darryl Inhofe, was going around threatening to toss climate scientists into the gulag unless they straightened out, and wondered who was going to step up. Suffice it to say that some folk stepped right up and called out those who dared to mention that Inhofe was doing his junior McCarthy bit.
Into this closed circle steps Julian Sanchez to start a war about the Republican war on reality where
Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)Sanchez calls this epistemic closure. Today, over at the National Review blog, Jim Manzi takes it the next mile
I started to read Mark Levin’s massive bestseller Liberty and Tyranny a number of months ago as debate swirled around it. I wasn’t expecting a PhD thesis (and in fact had hoped to write a post supporting the book as a well-reasoned case for certain principles that upset academics just because it didn’t employ a bunch of pseudo-intellectual tropes). But when I waded into the first couple of chapters, I found that — while I had a lot of sympathy for many of its basic points — it seemed to all but ignore the most obvious counter-arguments that could be raised to any of its assertions. This sounds to me like a pretty good plain English meaning of epistemic closure. The problem with this, of course, is that unwillingness to confront the strongest evidence or arguments contrary to our own beliefs normally means we fail to learn quickly, and therefore persist in correctable error.Manzi turns to the part of Levin's book about global warming, because he says, this is something he knows about, OTOH, this really could be any issue. Manzi concludes
It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times — not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.and indeed, this IS the basic point. If someone is not only wrong, but obviously wrong, and digs in, and refuses to admit they were wrong, but drags it out forever, you can discount everything else they say, and if you are on the same side as the argument as they are, and Manzi almost certainly is on the same side as Levin, they do terrible harm to your side of the argument.
Manzi, of course, is now under friendly fire.