Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spot the Blog

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.


Nick Stokes said...

Ah yes, reality. They told me it's an optical illusion caused by alcohol deficiency...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've heard that too. I think it's the result of extrapolating spin (Quantum Mechanics) to macroscopic world.

chrisd said...

I realize that rabetts tend to have large families, but I never heard of brother Darryl. Don't you mean James Inhofe?

Arthur said...

I suspect thinking about epistemology is, in coming years, going to be of far more practical interest than the centuries of philosophers who studied the subject have ever dreamed. In a world awash in information, *how do we come to know* things in a reliable fashion? That is the central question of our time.

Friends of the Friends of Science said...

We are a new climate denial skeptics group from Calgary that will take care of this problem:


Here' from Planet Gore is National Review climate consigliere Chris Horner's response to Manzi:

Liberty and Tyranny Was Right [Chris Horner]

I read Jim Manzi’s dismissal of the chapter on "environmentalism in Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny and, while I really do not have time to do this today —

I do not think Manzi’s lengthy post was reasonable. It was simply an attack, and so I am going to lay down a marker.

I don’t have the time to be any more brief than Jim was. Let me begin by agreeing with Andy McCarthy — there are people who write on this topic who deserve all the scorn one can muster, but Manzi’s scorn is wildly misplaced. The purpose and function of Levin's chapter was to remind everyone of who we are dealing with on the catastrophist side of the warming debate, and that — given that they and not we have the burden of persuasion if not proof — there are many reasons that their steamroller must be stopped immediately. More reasons have emerged since Liberty was published — yet it is Liberty that is at fault somehow.

Jim not only misses that point but engages in and defends exactly the behavior he sniffs at. Manzi is bemused that a book addressing the Left’s . . . well, power grabs . . . doesn’t stop to ponder, say, Schwarz’s arguments on climate sensitivity, or how many angels can relieve themselves in the woods while dancing on the head of a pin if the value of X is Y.

Simple me, I read L&T as Mark's effort to remind a popular audience of the history and premises of the environmental global complex. The case seemed fairly straightforward, critically undermining those things without which the green Left cannot progress and to which they risibly cling like grim death: the debate-is-over ruses of certainty and unanimity and appeals to consensus authority. (And Levin is the one guilty of epistemic closure? Do what I want or people will die! is usually not a sign of a strong case or confident movement.

…. I fail to see why Manzi should credit the Green stunt of sneaking the name of a Spice Girl onto the Oregon Petition Not a sign of a winner, or a winning point.

Even if this dissatisfies the intellectual urges of some, the AGW campaign is being decided at the popular level: If nodding acceptance can be imposed and dissent made impolite, the most massive intervention in our lives in at least a half a century will lock into place. The premise no longer deserves the respect Manzi wants to give it,…

Without the slightest pretense at being a Roy Spencer book about climate sensitivity or the impact of clouds, L&T armed the catastrophist agenda’s putative victims with the verve and responses needed to push back. If you had doubts about these people, their movement, and their claims, then — it is true — Mark is guilty of affirming them.

So up strolls Levin to unceremoniously punch the AGW complex’s shibboleths in the mouth…. Mark is not dishonest in his arguments, while global-warming alarmists have widely been shown to be. And contrary to a major premise of Jim’s claim — that Mark simply engages in the tactic of appeal to authority…I think Jim picked up Liberty and Tyranny, written by a lawyer and street fighter, and was disappointed that it didn’t want to haggle and tell the alarmists of course there is some kind of monster under the bed and we should discuss what sort of monster. Let's have a sit-down. On their turf. In a meeting arranged by Tessio — but with no gun taped behind the toilet."

whole rant at :

N. B. :
Bunnies not around when The Godfather was made should note than no honest cops or ethical attorneys were massacreed at the Tessio meet.

And that to assure epistemic closure, Horner his hiding behind a firewall- Planet Gore does not allow comment posting.

trrll said...

Citing a petition as evidence for a lack of scientific consensus is pretty much the equivalent of hanging a sign around your neck that reads, "I am a crank!" To fail to acknowledge the endorsement of AGW by pretty much every independent scientific review body is intellectually dishonest. Manzi is quite correct that this by itself is sufficiently flagrant to cast a cloud of doubt over anything else written by the same person.

Lazar said...

Horner's contempt for truth is what earns him his dollars. It's a free world, innit.