Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I link, therefore I am


This week: DSPT conference on philosophy and theology in Berkeley.  See you there.

John Searle, who will be speaking at the conference, is interviewed by Tim Crane.

Does Darwinism eliminate teleology and intentionality, or does it explain teleology and intentionality?  Some major naturalist philosophers hash it out in a new anthology reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Philosopher Stephen Mumford tweets that he is “really enjoying” and “finding it hard to put down” my book Aquinas.  Thanks, Stephen!  (Stephen’s book Laws in Nature, to which he refers in one of the tweets, is highly recommended.)

Less than three weeks left until Guardians of the Galaxy.  Here’s the extended trailer.  And the flick’s got a cool soundtrack.  (But it’s not all fun and games.  Check out “The Glory and Tragedy of Rocket Raccoon” for the sad story of Rocket’s co-creator Bill Mantlo, who could use all the help his family can get.)

John Gray on Michael Oakeshott, in Literary Review.

Franciscan University of Steubenville will be hosting a conference on “The Power of Beauty” this October.  Roger Scruton is the plenary speaker.

Adam Bellow, founder of the Liberty Island website, on the subject of conservatives and pop culture in National Review.  Liberty Island asks for your support.

Philosopher and Aristotle scholar James Lennox has posted many of his articles at Academia.edu.

Henry Koren’s An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animate Nature is perhaps the best of the old Neo-Scholastic manuals treating metaphysical questions concerning the nature of life, evolution, and the like.  It has long been out of print, but is now being reprinted by Editiones Scholasticae

Mark Anderson, author of Pure and of the forthcoming Plato and Nietzsche, has also authored a work of philosophical fiction: The Thinker-Artist.  Details here.

Prof. Peter Adamson is presenting a “History of Philosophy without any gaps” in a series of podcasts.  Details here.

In The New York Review of Books’ letters section, Marcia Cavell and Colin McGinn discuss McGinn’s recent exchange with Patricia Churchland.

213 comments:

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TimLamb said...

No mention of my course, 'Clam Chowder So Easy Even YOU Can Make It!'??
Thanks Ed. I'll remember this next time I think about promoting your blog at my annual Voltron Enthuistists Emporium.

ccmnxc said...

I look at the editiones scholasticae website, and everytime I feel a punch in the gut at the prices. How was it that your book managed to go for between $18-25 and almost everything else is stupidly expensive?

Daniel said...

I am pleased to hear that Koren's Philosophy of Animate Nature has been reprinted, though given the price I don't think I will be trading in my old hardcover any time soon.

Since we're recommending links may I suggest Josef Seifert's What is Life for a more modern take on that question from a standpoint different from but close kin to that of the Thomist. The German Phenomenologist and philosopher of Science Hedwig Conrad-Martius, the work of whom sadly remains unappreciated in the Anglophone world, took as her inspiration the Aristotelean concept of 'Entelechy' (she was very influenced by Aristotle and Thomas through Edith Stein) and developed a realist essentialist phenomenological analysis of biology, and is thus also deserving of a link:

http://www.amazon.com/What-Originality-Irreducibility-Value-Life/dp/9042003812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405428752&sr=8-1&keywords=Seifert+what+is+life

http://link.springer.com/journal/10516/18/4/page/1


Lastly Thomas M Ward has book out on the various issues pertaining to Scotus’ own account of Hylemorphism. It will make an interesting comparison with Jeffrey Brower’s Thomas volume on the same subject.

http://www.amazon.com/Scotus-Hylomorphism-Investigating-Medieval-Philosophy/dp/9004278311/ref=pd_ybh_2

Timocrates said...

I wonder if we need to go back to the basic for teleology and finality. Defending human intentionality should be insisted upon of course as it is evident and necessary to explain human action. But in nature finality is more difficult to demonstrate and often comes across as adding unnecessary baggage. I believe it's the apparent lack of necessity that makes this so; however, good philosophy is based on the necessary and draws necessary conclusions from the necessary.

PID, PNC, PEM, PSR, PC and PF have a logical relationship to each other and are usually said to follow from each other. But if PF (principle of finality) properly belongs here in the first principles, then it too should be a necessary consequence of granting the others, which are most defensible and rarely denied even today.

I think finality/teleology should be investigated partly in light of PNC. If an agent is acting then it cannot not be acting at the same time; similarly, if the agent is doing X it cannot be doing X and not-X.

When I decide to make myself a coffee, I simultaneously (almost without any deliberation anymore thanks to habit) exclude many things almost automatically and partly simultaneously when executing that action. For example, since the coffee is in the kitchen which is in direction 'X' I exclude from my path the direction that is opposite to that goal (of reaching the coffee maker). In taking one step toward my goal I also necessarily (and this physically too) did not take a step in any other direction.

We keep speaking of teleology or finality being in nature or intrinsic to things; however, I think this is one step above where we should be grounding finality/teleology. Maybe that's too much like grounding non-contradiction in physical phenomenon or nature: of course it is physically impossible for a physical thing to both exist and not exist at the same time; notwithstanding, non-contradiction is a principle of being and can't be demonstrated by physics though, of course, physical reality follows it necessarily. Similarly, I wonder if we should try to ground finality/teleology in the basics of beings (so to speak) and thus remove the confusion that arises when we confound it with physics as if it followed from physics or was demonstrated by physics as such.

PSR is not a physical principle either and seems closely related to the principle of identity; but we don't need or use physics to demonstrate PSR. Even God follows PSR, for example.

Most here know that teleology is ultimately necessary for efficient causality or a necessary consequence of it; and efficient causality is still retained as a legitimate kind of causality even today.

Perhaps we should focus on seeing if teleology/finality can be demonstrated more as a principle of being and of the necessary nature of being (so to speak) than reducing it to a principle of physics or being of the nature of nature/the natural world.

Best regards Dr. Feser and I hope your new book is selling well! Both for your sake and for the sake of sound philosophy in general.

Timo.

Anonymous said...

I noticed in Scholastic Metaphysics that you reference Mumford throughout the book. He certainly seems to be one to follow up on.

Cheers,
Daniel

Tom said...

A Rosenberg or Nagel-style series of posts on the naturalism anthology would be incredible, and there's only one man for the job...

Anonymous said...

Dennett's key move here is to show how the intentional stance, precisely because it is an epistemological device with no ontological purport, applies just as well to organisms "designed by Mother Nature" as it does to the artifacts crafted by intelligent agents. With this move in place, Dennett can proceed to clarify the role of reasons or purposes in nature in terms of the distinction between "what for?" and "how come?" types of "why?" questions, and then in terms of the distinction between reasons and reason-representers. Lots of organisms, it turns out, do things for reasons, but only we are able to represent them (and ourselves) as having the reasons that they do. This is necessary because, on Dennett's view, "you can't do biology without assuming function, and you can't assume function without seeing reasons everywhere" (p. 62). However, Dennett holds, we can see reasons everywhere without returning to an Aristotelian, teleological metaphysics (and without offering aid and comfort to the Intelligent Design movement) because the intentional stance is just as anti-realist (or non-realist) for biological functions as it is for beliefs and desires of agents.

Does Dennet just assert this point finale? Wow.

Cheers,
Daniel

rank sophist said...

Bellow's article was, unfortunately, a lot of empty bombast. He provided zero concrete examples of his alleged revolution. On top of that, he was advocating the impossible: "conservative art" is predetermined to be bad, just like "Christian art" and socialist realism. This is because it's premised upon misaligned values. Even in the name, the "conservative" comes before the "art", no matter how much Bellow protests. The conservative cultural bastions of which he dreams will churn out pap, like their Christian and liberal counterparts, because they start from a forgetfulness that art has to be good primarily. The Lord of the Rings works because, although it is by a Christian and it reflects his worldview, it is not "Christian art" in the regrettable manner of CCM.

(Also, I found it somewhat ridiculous that Bellow called LOTR "subtly conservative". Tolkien held broadly anarchist views, and he rejected the technologies and social structures of the conservative and liberal dream societies. All of this appears "subtly" in LOTR. Not exactly the cheerleader you're looking for.)

Daniel said...

‘The Lord of the Rings works because, although it is by a Christian and it reflects his worldview, it is not "Christian art" in the regrettable manner of CCM.’

I think one of the reasons it works at least to a degree is that though he (Tolkien) analysed themes, some of which could be called Christian, the rest well broadly Theist with an Augustinian bent, he didn’t just paraphrase Christian doctrine, but explored what some of these issues would mean in different context.

Anyone – and this means you Peter Kreeft – who talks about Tolkien and the metaphysical issues in his work and relates it to The Lord of the Rings shows they haven’t read very deeply, as it is in the Silmarillion, his main work, and the thousands of pages of attendant essays and personal notes he left (the main focus being on a Lucifer figure and the conflict between two races of broadly similar beings, one of which has been granted temporal immortality and the other an immortality beyond time). He also wrote an essay called ‘Myths Transformed’ which presents a phenomenological analysis of Evil in the context of his mythologies which is in a strange way one of the best takes on the subject in English literature

Anonymous said...

what is CCM?

Scott said...

Contemporary Christian Music.

DavidM said...

All the best to those taking part in the DSPT conference and congratulations to the organizers - looks great, I'd love to go.

Jeremy Taylor said...

rank sophist,

I think that it depends how the term conservative is used. If you mean the sort of conservatism of Russell Kirk or Roger Scruton, then Tolkien and Lewis could be described as conservative. If you mean the conservatism of Sean Hannity or Fox News, then Tolkien is not very conservative.

Even Chesterton and Belloc, who explicitly eschewed the conservative label, could be considered conservative in the traditional conservative sense of Kirk or Scruton.

The problem is Bellow seems to have Fox News style conservatism in mind, because he talks about the lack of literary and artistic focus in conservatism, whereas the traditional conservatism I'm familiar is very much concerned with literature, arts, and culture. Those few contemporaries left in this conservative tradition - Scruton, Peter Hitchens, Wendell Berry, the folks at The Imaginative Conservative - are either authors of creative literature or very much preoccupied with the cultural and artistic.

He also does not address one of the most urgent topics to my mind, whether modern artistic media - Television and mass popular music - are capable of satisfying conservative and Christian ideas about art. Can you make a sitcom of artistic and spiritual worth?

I would disagree with you a little bit about conservative and Christian art. I think that many good and great artists have indeed approached art with a cultural and religious mission. Dante, Milton, and Bunyan spring to mind. Certainly, technical proficiency and creating art that is itself good is most important, and the overly didactic rarely works, but I don't think it too outrageous to speak of Christian or conservative (not, again, in the Fox News sense) art.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Can you make a sitcom of artistic and spiritual worth?

I agree with what you're saying to a point. On the other hand, you know what?

I'd like some throwaway stuff that's conservative too, please.

Comic books, video games, cartoons, movies, TV shows... 'artistic' worth is a mistake to exclusively focus on. I'd prefer just plain entertaining. And I do think it's possible.

In fact you see a firestorm brewing along these lines at the SFWA, with the conservative authors openly fighting with the liberal "progressive" ones.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I did not mean to suggest that only high culture was of worth, far from it. In most traditional societies, like pre-modern Europe, folk and popular art and pastimes were often suffused with deep moral and spiritual meaning and they were often, too, of considerable artistic worth. One thinks of popular romances and ballads and fairy tales or mystery and morality plays.

This is a vexed issue, but I think form does matter to art and crafts, even popular and folk ones. The question is whether modern popular media have the capacity that traditional popular media had.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I understand. But I think they clearly can. Conservatism and Catholicism broadly speaking aren't constrained to paintings and statues. If even Objectivism can be made to seem somewhat heroic, even if fatally flawed (Bioshock), I think others can too.

Hellboy stands out to me as something very 'Catholic' at times, in a good way, however odd it is.

Tom said...

@Crude: (Off topic alert) Is Objectivism really portrayed even somewhat heroically in BioShock? I haven't played it myself, but am about and am familiar with it, and it certainly doesn't seem like much of a positive portrayal. On a related note, someone who's smart enough to discuss the connections between the "Gospel" preached by Comstock in BioShock Infinite and the Americanist heresy would have lots of great material indeed.

rank sophist said...

Jeremy,

More evidence tying Bellow to Fox News conservatism is his repeated praise of Breitbart, and indeed his direct reference to Fox News as an element of the "conservative intellectual movement". But, yes, Tolkien and Lewis, like Chesterton and Belloc, were conservatives in a sense. None of their views would be very popular among conservatives now, though.

As for art with a cultural/religious mission, I think there's an important point to be made here. The works of Dante, Milton and Bunyan can't be compared to dc Talk and "Amish romance", and not merely because the former are significantly (infinitely?) better than the latter. They grew out of living traditions; not reactionary nostalgia or hunger for cultural power. That art is explicitly Christian (or conservative, or whatever) isn't the problem. The problem is that these modern works aren't expressions of tradition--made for the celebration and transmission of that tradition--, but unmoored weapons of cultural warfare. They're arbitrary, ideological crap. Even when the creators of such art actively try to avoid this pitfall, they tend to land in it, for the simple reason that the historical conditions of our time have made it almost impossible to live in a tradition. (Or, in any case, this tangent is what came to mind after reading your comment.)

Finally, it's an interesting question you ask about contemporary media. But I think that television has long since proven its worth as a medium. The Twilight Zone alone would be enough to validate it. As for pop music (i.e. the music of the masses), Benedict was skeptical of it, but dismissing it outright would take away the Great American Songbook and many other gems. I'm not sure how you can listen to Ella Fitzgerald perform Gershwin's "Summertime" and question the artistic and spiritual worth of pop-as-such.

Timocrates said...

@ all

Why are we talking about so-called Christian art ("art" in the modern sense)? This is not a theology blog. Every Christian knows that all art is, ultimately, Christian.

Now for our philosophical friends I ask your patience or you may ignore this. But for our Christian friends I speak not now as a would-be philosopher but as your fellow Christian.

"[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made."

Even the most ugliest of modern art (again "art" in the modern sense) is made of materials that are intrinsically beautiful. Random splashes of paint made by a man who is intoxicated, angry and perhaps even iconoclastic in spirit are, notwithstanding, considered in themselves beautiful.

Bread is a product of human labour; Christ Himself used bread made by a mere man (who, we might safely assume, had no clue that the Messiah would use it - though, perhaps, he made that bread according to the laws/rules for making bread for the Passover). Regardless, it could have been totally ordinary bread (but perhaps accidentally according to the law if it was indeed a Passover meal) and yet the Divine saw it fit to be a host (as it were) of His own being.

Modern art is often vulgar, cheap and so on. However, I also notice from time to time some real intelligence there that almost seems to conceal itself in order to prompt Christian reaction for publicity sake. Bear in mind that modernly not a soul in the mainstream public education system is taught a single principle of art. The desire is there -and hence there are no shortage of artists or would-be artists- but the science is gone.

Still, there are many skilled artists out there who are easily judged as atheistic but in fact are just critical. I worry sometimes that though Christian often admit they lost the culture wars in terms of pop culture they imagine that the "other" is some uniform soup. Reading between the lines will often reveal or betray a desire for something more honest and substantial. Sometimes modern art is not a criticism of Christianity or truth or beauty or goodness; but a veiled criticism of moderns by moderns.

/End rant.

Necessarily all that is will be at least intrinsically redeemable. Why so? Because made nothing evil. But -a believer may rightfully ask- what about the devil and the demons? And an erudite Christian knows that it is not their substance that is irredeemable but their own free choice not to be redeemed.

Even the most conservative of Catholics I have ever met have had a soft spot for some form of modern pop culture. The reason is, of course, because they were attracted to some aspect of it; and as their knowledge increased they were increasingly able to separate the baby from the bath water (as it were). In other words, they found something of "Him" through which "All things were made."

Daniel said...

@Timo,

‘Now for our philosophical friends I ask your patience or you may ignore this. But for our Christian friends I speak not now as a would-be philosopher but as your fellow Christian.’

Now I by no means disagree with what you say below, in fact I’d say it’s largely correct, but I would ask: why the need to address it specifically to Christians rather that to philosophers as well? I am not a Christian but would endorse most of the points therein including the analysis of evil spirits as being trapped in an ever descending spiral of degradation because of an arbitrary rejection of the ground of their own being. Many of the points made are not based on specifically Christian points but on general metaphysical ones (though of course this does not make them other than Christian since the Christian would affirm them to be true).

Daniel said...

About pop culture, it certainly does have worth though a lot of it is bad and has contributed towards the modern tendency to think in one-liners (pop music is probably largely to blame for the death of poetry). I do resent though the often unspoken assumption that pop culture and pop culture nostalgia should constitute such a core part of our personal identities. Just to give an example: a friend whom I greatly respect once wrote a prose meditation where the main character whimsically remarks that figures of great metaphysical and religious significance often seem so abstract and impersonal – what would be Lao Tzu’s favourite Fall album and which Dr. Who incarnation would Jesus like best, he asks. Now, in no way to decry what is said here I have always found the reverse to be a far greater problem: why on earth should the music and television of one’s youth be expected to be a more intimate and deeper constituant of one’s personality than metaphysical issues, just because one wasn’t raised in a raised in a monastery or by a gaggle of professors. Constantly having to assume a nominally pop culture façade is emotionally enervating and tends to drain the fun from genuinely enjoyable instances of it.

Having said all this pop culture is certainly better evaluated in the light of classical culture than vice versa. Ed’s article on Platonism and pop culture was definitely not his finest hour.

Edward Feser said...

Having said all this pop culture is certainly better evaluated in the light of classical culture than vice versa. Ed’s article on Platonism and pop culture was definitely not his finest hour.

?? Where did I ever say, there or elsewhere, that classical culture should be evaluated in light of pop culture (whatever that means)?

Edward Feser said...

Perhaps what you have in mind is the fact that in that post I linked hostility to pop culture as such to a broadly Platonic mindset. But I did so in the name of an Aristotelian approach to human nature -- which is, of course, itself classical. (I was hardly evaluating Platonism by reference to modern pop culture. I was evaluating it by reference to another philosophical tradition.) And you seem to agree that it is a mistake for conservatives and Christians to be hostile to modern pop culture as such. So, I'm not sure what your beef with that post is.

Crude said...

Tom,

Is Objectivism really portrayed even somewhat heroically in BioShock?

It's less that Objectivism is portrayed heroically than the principal objectivist, Andrew Ryan, is portrayed as a flawed but amazing individual who dies an interesting, noble, even semi-inspiring death. He's shown as having to resort to some monstrous tactics, but it's more a case of 'he was a great man who accomplished much, but he was cursed with a flawed vision, even if he stayed true to his ideals in the end.'

On the flipside, my impression of Comstock is, insofar as he IS Comstock, 'He's a crazy old religious nut racist with pretty well no redeeming qualities other than he stumbled upon magical powers that could make a pretty city and a dangerous weapon'. Ryan is allowed to be portrayed as a man who had some redeeming, even inspirational qualities. Comstock, not really.

I played through Bioshock, and as a gamer my view is that Objectivism gets a fairer treatment than Christianity, especially Catholicism, ever does. The game world is absolutely rife with caricatures of the Catholic Church turning out to be demonic or this or that. To give a comparison, I played Diablo III and loved the Templar character. But the moment he said 'Templars are supposed to remain celibate in their fight for the good' I knew his order was going to be exposed as rotten to the core. It was literally the only flag I needed to see to call the end of his story before it happened.

Oh, and as for the Breitbart knocking - Breitbart at the very least managed to make some headway in reaching some people in the pop culture. On the flipside, the idea that Chesterton, Tolkien and the rest wouldn't resonate with any conservatives is pretty funny. Conservatism has its flaws, but it's not nearly so bad as some people's personal nightmares indicate.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

Chesterton and Belloc were two of capitalism's most brutal critics. Tolkien was more-or-less an anarchist, who hated technology and reminisced about the glory days of monarchy. Lewis wrote biting critiques of early 20th century society (including its love of capitalism and technology), and Ayn Rand, for one, despised him. The contemporary conservative, or Fox News conservative, would be about as amused by these people as they are by Pope Francis.

Daniel said...

Well, I agree with you on the Ontological issues involved (though perhaps for different reasons – I don’t think Christian Doctrine presents a problem for the Platonist as much as having to explain the existence of our body and senses in a non ad-hoc fashion) and that there’s nothing inherently wrong with pop culture. The problem is, though I am not accusing you yourself of promulgating such an attitude, I think some of the quotes, meant of course with humorous intent, representative of the popular and 'more honest' side are dangerously indicative of a problem of greater detriment than Platonic Aesthetic Elitism. If excessive snobbery is a danger, which of course it is, then it is nothing compared to inverted snobbery – an attitude which is fairly common to pop culture. It breeds intellectual complacency, vague thinking, a certain cynicism purporting to be common sense and a propensity to 'one-linerism'. Of course enjoying pop culture items and valuing them (after all it’s not whether a piece of music was composed in Periclean Athens or twentieth century Harlem that determines its merit as the Platonist himself should be the first to admit) is good but should be done so in the light of prior culture and intellectual awareness. Given your remarks elsewhere I don’t know how much you’d disagree with this. The comparison of Aristotelianism with pop culture in such a way risks imparting the real problems of the latter to the former. One might initially dismiss this as a silly exaggeration on my part. Yet historically there has been a dangerous tendency to contrast Aristotelianism with Platonism as the philosophy of the 'man on the street', of purported 'homely common sense', despite the view that the arbitrary doxa of the crowd was precisely that which philosophy arose to dissolve and to judge in the light of the theoretical life. It has in the past led to a strange anti-philosophical way of approaching philosophy, which is of no credit to classical metaphysics and its proponents (to give an example, the way in which many of the Neo-Scholastics were still trotting out repetitive criticisms of Mill and Huxley when they should have been critiquing Wittgenstein and early Analytical philosophy). To put it another way Aristotle’s allegation of Plato’s neglect of the Efficient and Final Causes may be a pertinent criticism but Antisthenes’ ‘I have seen an Horse but I have never seen Horseness’ is not even worthy of being termed a criticism at all

(Tl; dr version: it's not so much the post itself which I’d largely agree with but because the comparison has less than fortunate historical precedences which are best avoided)

Crude said...

Rank,

Chesterton and Belloc were two of capitalism's most brutal critics.

Indeed they were. The fact that you think 'capitalism' necessarily describes a fundamental mentality rather than (for many) a reality that exists regardless of political system, highlights your blind spot.

I'm a fierce critic of capitalism too, at least insofar as capitalism is not tempered by morality, principle and more (which is drastically different, by the way, from overwhelming federal intervention.) Plenty of conservatives see this distinction. You should try to at the very least see it and understand it, though it may require dropping some ill-considered passion and politics.

The contemporary conservative, or Fox News conservative, would be about as amused by these people as they are by Pope Francis.

You mean they'd have a mixed view of him? Francis is doing some good things, some bad. He makes some good steps, some less so. Some conservatives are very worried, others are encouraged.

That's what's alien to you here, rank. You say 'Tolkien was a monarchist and didn't like technology' as if that alone would mean they'd reject him wholesale, which is laughable. Next you'll tell me Romney could never win the Republican nomination. Why, he's a mormon. He implemented state health care in his state for chrissake. Who would ever accept him, or find something worthwhile in him?

Oh, that's right. Millions.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

You seem to be redefining "conservative" to suit your needs, so let's get clear. I was referring at 3:10 PM to the contemporary conservative party in America, which runs on a platform of deregulated markets, technological advancement, military power and 1950s suburban values. This is the party for which Jeremy agreed Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton and Belloc would be poor fits. It's also the party whose spokespeople, including Rush Limbaugh, have called Pope Francis a Marxist.

Jeremy and I further agreed that the dead writers in question fit into a second category of conservatism, which is an endangered species today. This type, as Jeremy said, was and is very interested in culture. Its politics differ greatly from those of the Fox News conservative. You seem to want to start a dull, political mudfight, but I don't care to engage in it. The topic under discussion is culture as it relates to the conservative party, particularly as Bellow understands it. Bellow's claim that Tolkien produced "subtly conservative" work, in the sense of Bellow's own Fox News conservatism, is what started this whole digression. You don't appear to have read Bellow's article, so I'm not sure why you're trying to pick a fight about it.

Crude said...

Rank,

You seem to be redefining "conservative" to suit your needs,

No, I'm recognizing that there exists a spread of conservative thought, from Pat Buchanan the anti-war, protectionist, anti-immigration conservative to the libertarian, socially-liberal, deregulation-centric wing to otherwise.

I was referring at 3:10 PM to the contemporary conservative party in America

Now who's redefining?

You referring to the GOP, the political party which has recently had famously large splits between the Tea Party and the Establishment? This is exactly what I meant: to talk about "The Conservatives" in such stark terms is a mistake. And these aren't small disagreements.

This is the party for which Jeremy agreed Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton and Belloc would be poor fits.

It's a poor fit for everyone, precisely because there's a considerable amount of infighting over who the party should fit to begin with. Do you think it was the liberal wing that ousted Eric Cantor?

It's also the party whose spokespeople, including Rush Limbaugh, have called Pope Francis a Marxist.

The Pope makes mistakes, and Rush Limbaugh certainly makes some too. Also, 'spokespeople'? They don't sing in unison - hence Glenn Beck's stance on the border fiasco right now versus Pat Buchanan's versus Boehner's versus others.

By the by - what would Lewis, etc, think of the "Progressive Party"? You haven't said so, but I admit, I'm waiting for you to claim that Lewis would be a proud Democrat, rating Obama with high marks and giddy over the prospect of voting for Hillary.

You seem to want to start a dull, political mudfight

No, I'll settle for pointing out flaws in arguments as I see them, and offering corrections as necessary. If the response is silence, that just means I give a monologue - and who doesn't love giving a monologue?

You don't appear to have read Bellow's article, so I'm not sure why you're trying to pick a fight about it.

Again, I'm pointing out flaws in claims - and really, I don't think you've done much to address them. If you would have left things at Lewis and Tolkien likely having differences, even sharp differences, on some answers that some conservatives have to various political questions, I'd have nothing to dispute here.

Really, the identification of conservatism with capitalism, and apparently capitalism with the praise of profit over all else, is just a sight to behold. It's as if you think conservatives as a whole were aghast at Hobby Lobby's lawsuit, because it's just bad business sense to upset such a large consumer base - and Chik-fil-a? They upset a key market demographic and put principle over profit. Surely the conservatives regarded them as throwbacks who should be eviscerated by market forces.

rank sophist said...

Daniel,

I generally agree that the identification of Aristotelianism with "common sense" is a dangerous practice, and that its classical adherents really, honestly would have found the suggestion ridiculous. But the dissolution of the "arbitrary doxa of the crowd", as you put it, was largely Plato's concern. Aristotle was certainly skeptical of unfounded doxa, but his theory of endoxa--which is basically identical to historicist talk of traditions and hermeneutics--legitimized the role of common opinion.

Obviously, the myth that Aristotelianism is "the philosophy of the 'man on the street'" has wreaked havoc, but it's a misunderstanding derived from a real difference between Aristotle and Plato. Add to it the unfortunate modern tendency to see "common sense" as an inborn and clear-eyed view of reality, rather than a socially conditioned response--which flies in the face of endoxa. In terms of art, endoxa naturally favors older, tested modes of expression over new fads, which solves your concern that aesthetic judgment will be based on whatever the proletariat finds hip and sexy. However, it can absorb newer modes into itself if they prove themselves worthy.

I suppose what I'm saying is that Aristotle agrees with your view that pop culture should be judged against "prior culture and intellectual awareness", against the reverse-snobbery of "common sense"; but that some of the methods of pop culture can and will naturally become that "prior culture" with time. This view challenges those of both Plato and the modern Aristotelians.

rank sophist said...

against "prior culture and intellectual awareness", against the reverse-snobbery of "common sense"

Made a mistake. The second "against" should be "rather than".

Crude,

I said that the contemporary conservative party "runs on a platform of deregulated markets, technological advancement, military power and 1950s suburban values." Your response was, essentially, to point out that the Tea Party holds a more fanatical version of these views. I think we're done here.

Tom said...

@Crude: I suppose I can get back to you in more detail about Ryan once I've beaten BioShock, but I never got that kind of message from Comstock, especially the anti-Catholic message. Comstock's Christianity isn't Christianity in any real sense, but a terrible combination of Christianity and American patriotism, managing to spectacularly miss the point of both systems, and I very much doubt this could have been unintentional on the part of the developers.

Catholicism would have been especially repulsive to Comstock, as he represents the worst of the Protestant and nativist traditions, both of which were deeply hostile to Catholicism at that time period. Now, this might all be coincidence and the game developers might have been so ignorant of Christianity and Catholicism that they blundered into a portrayal that spares Catholicism from any actual criticism, but this seems unlikely given the brilliance of the rest of the game.

Jeremy Taylor said...

So far as my hesitations about contemporary pop culture are concerned, Dr. Feser is completely correct that they are rooted in Platonism. But is has nothing to do with snobbery or elitism. I'm all for popular and folk culture. When it comes to music, I generally prefer folk tunes to much classical music (of course, some Platonists and traditionalists think that post-Bach classical music is inferior). My hesitations are entirely about modern popular culture.

What I will say is that in a lot of the discussions on contemporary pop culture some are obviously influenced to a degree by their personal tastes, preferences, and pleasures. This is more often the case for those arguing that some aspects of current pop culture are worthwhile, but aversion to contemporary pop culture can be influenced by personal tastes as well. I know that I personally like fantasy and historical fiction but don't much like science fiction, except for some dystopian, anti-sci fi stuff (like C.S Lewis's sci fi). The important thing is to be able to put aside such personal preferences.

Rank Sophist,

I'm a raging reactionary who is sometimes quite willing to cast out people from the conservative camp. Clearly, the Fox News or Daily Mail brand of conservatism leaves much to be desired. Not least one might ask how deeply is it grounded in respect for tradition and continuity or for traditional religious faith. Then there is the whole vexed issue of economics, where simplistic free market ideology seems to have been accepted wholesale. One might even ask the question that has often been asked of post-war American conservatism: is conservatism in a meaningful sense possible in America without a massive cultural change?

But we have to be careful not to cast out all popular conservatism. It will always be the case that such popularisers will not live up to our most rigorous ideals, but that in itself is not reason to cast them out. If conservatism is to have mass appeal it will need them. The question must be whether their errors represent something beyond what is needed to reach the masses.

Crude said...

Rank,

I said that the contemporary conservative party "runs on a platform of deregulated markets, technological advancement, military power and 1950s suburban values."

And I said that that the very same party is filled with a variety - note, variety - of conservatives.

I also love the scary invocation of 1950s suburban values. Because, what... that was our darkest hour? Or such values are incompatible with what Lewis and Tolkien and others upheld, even in part?

Gadzooks, pro-lifers. What common ground could CS Lewis find with such beasts.

Your response was, essentially, to point out that the Tea Party holds a more fanatical version of these views.

If by 'essence' you mean 'funhouse mirror version bearing no resemblance to reality'.

I think we're done here.

Rank, we haven't even begun, because you refuse to interact with anything but the bogeyman you need to war against. If the 'conservatives' are anything but a monolithic group putting profit above all else, your criticisms fail and the subject becomes more complex. And the last thing we need in our politics is a bit of grey to mess up the lovely black and white, eh?

Crude said...

Tom,

I suppose I can get back to you in more detail about Ryan once I've beaten BioShock, but I never got that kind of message from Comstock, especially the anti-Catholic message. Comstock's Christianity isn't Christianity in any real sense, but a terrible combination of Christianity and American patriotism, managing to spectacularly miss the point of both systems, and I very much doubt this could have been unintentional on the part of the developers.

First, sorry if I spoiled anything.

Second, anti-Catholic? I didn't mean to suggest that, at least not that specifically.

Third - you're right, Comstock's Christianity isn't Christianity in any real sense. Nor is it patriotism in any real sense. But it was supplied, I think, as a criticism and a caricature of exactly that - 'this is what some people actually think a patriotic American Christian is reasonably portrayed as, at least in a video game'. Pardon me for putting too fine a point on this, but when I see a character like Comstock, I take about as much heart in the portrayal as Jews and blacks take heart in Stormfront caricatures. To me, it seems a little like looking at Philip Pullman's books and going, 'Well, he can't have Catholicism in his sights here. I mean look at these guys, they're nothing like the Church, but some weird cartoon monster version.'

Well, yeah.

Pardon me if I'm seeming stern on this one, but I think it's a longstanding problem in media. Christians and conservatives in general have been subjected to a kind of cultural genocide.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I read Dr. Feser's article on Platonism and popular culture, and it was interesting, but I can't help but think that he, like many others, has a view of Platonism that is not that of that of the Platonic tradition as a whole. For example, perhaps the greatest Platonic influenced writer on the arts last century, Ananda Coomawarmy, presents a position quite different to the Platonism depicted in that article.

Here are two links which contain some of his essays.

One

Two

Of course, as I said, the view of Platonism given in that article is common. I had a long dispute here recently with dguller about whether Platonism despises the body and the material world. The view that it does tends to come from narrower readings of, especially, Plato and Plotinus. The more one takes Platonism as a tradition stretching from the pre-Socrates to the Cambridge Platonists, Coleridge, and beyond (and including related schools of thought like Hermeticism, the Kabbalah, and some forms of Christian and Islamic philosophy and mysticism), then, I'd argue, one gets a fuller perspective on the essence of Platonism.


Crude,

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Rank is suggesting that real conservatism is more traditionalist and anti-modern and spiritual than much in the contemporary American conservative movement.

Certainly, popular conservatism contains aspects that conflict with traditional conservatism. For example, conservatism has always been critical of the idea of progress, yet lauding the innovation and material progress of contemporary capitalism and liberal democracy is an important part of popular conservatism today.

rank sophist said...

Jeremy,

I've given up hope for the situation. Both liberalism and conservatism, despite proposing good ideas here and there, are basically corrupt institutions. The whole idea of a "culture war", in which people "endorse" one kind of culture rather than another, has turned the culture as a whole into a mishmash of arbitrary choices. As with a lot of topics, this is something on which I agree with David Bentley Hart. When people ask these days, I identify as an independent--a meaningless label that keeps me out of the mess.

rank sophist said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Rank is suggesting that real conservatism is more traditionalist and anti-modern and spiritual than much in the contemporary American conservative movement.

Certainly, popular conservatism contains aspects that conflict with traditional conservatism. For example, conservatism has always been critical of the idea of progress, yet lauding the innovation and material progress of contemporary capitalism and liberal democracy is an important part of popular conservatism today.


Nail on the head. You understood me perfectly.

Mr. Green said...

Can a sitcom be artistically or spiritually worthy? Well, sitcoms are art, so if it's a good sitcom, it's good art. And all good art has spiritual worth — in the broad sense. (Sitcoms probably will not be all that spiritually profound, but such is the nature of the beast.) Bellow is right that art is more important than political parties (though I too get the sense that he is a bit stuck on the political view of things). I've been saying for years that to stop society going down the drain we need to produce good TV (and movies, music, etc.). (If only I'd known, I could have called it "Green's Revolt"!)

I'm not convinced that books are more important than movies (in this regard, or any other); the average American watches, what, four or five hours of TV every day? I don't think books can compete with that. Even if books were better for spreading ideas or making them stick, society didn't get to be this way by attending lectures on immorality and signing up to be disciples. People just got exposed to enough indecency that they stopped being ashamed of it.

I also don't know what he means by "no one knew how to go about making it happen" — recording music and movies has been going on for more than a century, I think the basic practices are pretty well established. I can only conclude that not enough people are genuinely interested in making good popular art; of course, money is an issue, but technology is reaching the point where such things as vastly more within reach, including the Internet as distribution channel. Of course the problem is how to make it not merely available to people, but lying in their path so that they have to go out of their way to avoid it... so I guess I don't know how to go about making that happen either.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Rank is suggesting that real conservatism is more traditionalist and anti-modern and spiritual than much in the contemporary American conservative movement.

Here's the problem as I see it.

You qualified things, where Rank didn't. 'More traditionalist.' '[More] anti-modern.' '[More] spiritual.' than 'much in the contemporary conservative movement.' You're speaking, or at least implying by your words, a case where degrees are in play. I already granted straightaway that neither Tolkien nor Lewis would be in perfect alignment with "the conservative movement" - first because there's no such singular/monolithic thing, second because this isn't an all or nothing game anyway. If it was, then we'd have to choose between Lewis and Tolkien, because it's not as if they were in universal agreement either.

It's possible to have some points of agreement, and some points of disagreement. What you call 'the modern conservative movement' differs in sections in radical ways.

Quick: do conservatives support or oppose spreading democracy by force? Well, the neo-con wing says 'yes'. Pat Buchanan and Rand Paul say 'no'. But are Buchanan and Paul on the same side? Paul has major libertarian leanings, while Buchanan is a latin mass boosting America First Catholic.

How about illegal immigration? The speaker of the house and other Republicans support broad amnesty and ramped up immigration in the name of 'compassion' and business interests. Other Republicans despise this idea and want a border shutdown and the removal of illegal immigrants.

How about bailing out banks? How about drug laws? Drug -use-? Free trade? I'm not saying that American conservatives are utterly diverse, but Rank's idea of them is simplistic. Especially viewing the Tea Party as 'Even MORE radical than the Establishment GOP!' as if the Establishment GOP wants to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants but for the Tea Party that's just not far enough and they want to import even more millions.

Certainly, popular conservatism contains aspects that conflict with traditional conservatism. For example, conservatism has always been critical of the idea of progress, yet lauding the innovation and material progress of contemporary capitalism and liberal democracy is an important part of popular conservatism today.

No doubt it does, in sections and degrees. Accent on 'sections and degrees'. Would distributivist Chesterton see health care as a problem that needed to be solved at the federal level, as opposed to state and local? Rank may hope and dream so, but I think otherwise. Insofar as conservatives want to make government as small and as local as possible - a significant but not universal sentiment - they're closer to Chesterton, given a rough distributivism. Note that I say 'closer' rather than 'a perfect match', and 'on this subject' rather than full stop.

I think one problem here is that there's a misunderstanding of how 'capitalism' is perceived by many conservatives - as if they universally subscribed to the idea that profit was the sole motivating factor for businesses and even individuals. But one look at Hobby Lobby and Chik-fil-a indicates otherwise.

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rank sophist said...

Crude,

Please stop misrepresenting my views. I have, in the past, referred to federal intervention in health insurance as a Band-Aid fix for a thoroughly broken system. Better than what we had before, but very far from ideal. In a perfect world, government and business would be disintegrated until only the most local levels remained, and so the health care industry wouldn't even exist. Further, I do not believe that capitalism is defined by the pursuit of profit above all else. It is defined by the separation of capital goods (i.e. the means of production) from labor, so that two classes--laborer and owner--are created. All of its further sins derive from this original error.

Crude said...

Rank,

Please stop misrepresenting my views.

Pot calling the ivory black here, my friend.

You write, I read and interpret - I qualify my statements as needed, I make my claims and explain my reasoning. I think I've been fair here.

I have, in the past, referred to federal intervention in health insurance as a Band-Aid fix for a thoroughly broken system.

The problem is you regard it as the clear and singular best option available, and regard dissent... let's just say, 'very poorly' and in my view unfairly.

It's not your advocacy for policy X or Y as the best choice, in your view, that has ever bothered me. It's your attitude of 'And this is clearly right, the only real option, and the dissenters are wicked or stupid' where I get riled. You spoke about 'conservatives' as if they were monolithic. I point out the deep divisions that exist among them and all you have to say is that some of them are just more extreme than the others. Totally ignore the utterly opposed goals and priorities in the cases I outlined, but I'll call that out.

Further, I do not believe that capitalism is defined by the pursuit of profit above all else. It is defined by the separation of capital goods (i.e. the means of production) from labor, so that two classes--laborer and owner--are created.

Oi...

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I really think we need some kind of definition and description for conservatism. I think the best one is probably Russell Kirk's conservatism:

http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/detail/ten-conservative-principles/

And I would emphasis that the conservative defends the permanent things, to T.S Eliot's phrase - faith, virtue, family, community, region and nation, nature - which change in detail across time and space, but not in essence.

This is the sort of conservatism that Tolkien and Lewis had. They defended the permanent things and were sceptical of doctrines of secular progress and modernity.

I think much modern conservatism in Britain and America, for all its diversity that you mention, fails to live up this idea of conservatism. And one could certainly claim it fails so spectacularly that it isn't even worth considering it conservative in this sense.

There are conservatives today who come at least close to living up to much of this idea of conservatism, though. Roger Scruton, Peter Hitchens, many of those associated with the Imaginative Conservative site, and many of the so called paleoconservatives spring to mind. But these are rare figures.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I think much modern conservatism in Britain and America, for all its diversity that you mention, fails to live up this idea of conservatism. And one could certainly claim it fails so spectacularly that it isn't even worth considering it conservative in this sense.

I can go on a tear about what's wrong with modern conservatism, their blind spots, and more. I won't deny the existence of problems, particularly at the party and popular level. If you tell me you're disappointed with mainstream conservatism, we can have that conversation and I'll probably be in large agreement with you, if a bit forgiving at times.

What I object to is the stark, pretty well unargued for declaration that they have nothing in common with Tolkien, etc, or that they'd despise them, etc, and the identification of modern conservatives as some monolithic 'thing' we can slap universal 'they believe this' or 'they don't believe that's on with such ease. More than that, my personal experience is many conservatives can hold a conversation if you respect them and don't treat them, pardon my language, like shit or idiots. That means a lot to me.

Not every one, of course, but enough.

Roger Scruton, Peter Hitchens, many of those associated with the Imaginative Conservative site, and many of the so called paleoconservatives spring to mind. But these are rare figures.

I don't think they're that rare, or at least not so rare as to not be worth counting. I think they also have (gasp) some upsides, some brights spots, some good sides with their imperfections - depending on who we're talking about. Some of their imperfections are pretty considerable, and I'll grant that too if I think as much, which I often do. Ask me what I think of Boehner, or Establishment Republicans. Or Glenn Beck for that matter. (He was right about gold, though.)

Still, look at this. You're making your case, calmly. You make some pretty obvious qualifications with how you talk, and thus we can talk even if we disagree. This is what I like, and want, and wish was more common with political discussions among fellow theists. It's funny that I can have more pleasant conversations with anarchist atheists than left-wing Christians at times.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

The problem is that I don't see the mainstream of the conservative movement in Britain or America stands for much conservative.

What do they stand for? slogans about small government and nineteenth century liberal economics; support of corporate state-capitalism; a technophile, progressive attitude when it comes to economic growth; and some lukewarm defences of some aspects of social and cultural conservatism. For all the divisions within the movement, this does describe the dominant section: from The National Review to the Tory party.

Lewis and Tolkien would, I think, be rather contemptuous of those who simply defended corporations, state-capitalism, and globalisation. This is especially true when it comes to the environment (the position on global warming of many in the conservative movement is absurdly ideological), inhumane technology, and centralisation/globalisation. This is clear from their fiction and their nonfiction.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

The problem is that I don't see the mainstream of the conservative movement in Britain or America stands for much conservative.

Politically? Maybe not. But that's a tiny handful of people who, frankly, are often fighting against other conservatives.

What do they stand for? slogans about small government and nineteenth century liberal economics; support of corporate state-capitalism; a technophile, progressive attitude when it comes to economic growth; and some lukewarm defences of some aspects of social and cultural conservatism.

I just don't see this. Sometimes the defences are lukewarm - other times they are passionate, and amount to a line in the sand. Corporate state capitalism, insofar as you mean corporate welfare, is detested by a number of conservatives. Technophile really depends what you mean. Economic growth, likewise.

I think part of the problem here is that people get into this binary attitude where 'Either you're in favor of the government outlawing all the bad things, or you're in favor of all the bad things'. So, if you're against state regulation to protect against X, then clearly you must be in favor of X.

That's not the default conservative mentality, even among the mainstream, and that's where the discussion breaks down.

Lewis and Tolkien would, I think, be rather contemptuous of those who simply defended corporations, state-capitalism, and globalisation.

What does it mean to 'defend corporations'? And who are these conservatives in favor of 'globalization'? I know they exist, but they are not the only voice on that matter.

This is especially true when it comes to the environment (the position on global warming of many in the conservative movement is absurdly ideological),

And they would say likewise about the liberals. Can you accept, even as a possibility, that their 'position on global warming' is sincere? As in they don't think the evidence on that front is sufficient? Say they misunderstand the evidence, but one can have a sincere belief and be wrong or misunderstand.

inhumane technology,

Like what? Abortion? Contraception? Eugenics? Euthanasia?

and centralisation/globalisation.

Globalization depends on what you mean, but centralization? That hardly seems true.

Tom said...

@Crude: No worries on the spoilers, just stay away from Buried at Sea, if you've played it. The basis of our disagreement seems to be how broad a figure Comstock was meant to be. I think he was meant to represent the perversions of religion and nativism, rather than Christianity as a whole, even modern Evangelical Christianity, although they can and do wed their religious beliefs too closely to the Republican Party--the use of Columbian imagery by Tea Party groups provides a prime example of this trend.

The portrayal of Comstock seems narrow enough, and I have little sympathy for nativist Protestants, so the portrayal of Comstock does not bother me.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Well, yes, I do think meaningful conservatism is only the position of a forlorn minority today.

By lukewarm defences of social and cultural policies, I more meant that there are a few issues - like gay marriage or abortion - that mainstream conservatives care about, but they don't have a holistic culturally and socially conservative mindset.

And they are lukewarm because they often are willing to give in even on these issues. In Britain, they are barely less liberal on them than their opponents. And even in America how many conservatives are ready to give in on gay marriage?

I meant not just state capitalism, although most conservative politicians are more than willing to vote to maintain and increase corporate welfare and privileges. What I meant was the entire edifice of corporate capitalism: its huge financial institutions and practices; its extensive marketing and advertising apparatus; its globalised supply chains; and the like. This is a far cry from the decentralist, localist, and communitarian concerns of traditional conservatism.

By technophile and economic growth, I simply meant many conservatives today seem to think that increasing economic growth and material prosperity are some sort of important goal for conservatism, whereas most traditional conservatism was as sceptical of such things as celebratory.

I'm certainly not saying the state should simply ban what I don't like. In fact I believe that globalisation and most large corporations are dependent on the state for their very existence. I'm greatly in favour of radically less state intervention and more decentralism and localism.

Most conservatives I know of, except for the paleoconservatives and others on the fringe, are quite in support of economic globalisation, such as globalised supply chains, using extensive third world labour, and the like. Most conservatives are indistinguishable from what you Yanks call libertarians and the likes of The Economist on globalisation.

On global warming, if you watch Fox News, for example, it is clear that many of those commenting on global warming are not that interested in seriously apprehending the evidence and the theories and are just motivated by ideology. Sometimes green ideology can be dubious, but anti-green ideology is at least as bad.

By inhumane technology I mean the entire development of more and more technology, often not designed with the human scale in mind. One of the obvious examples is the constant planning of things around the motor car. This kind of technology was something that both Lewis and Tolkien were clearly very critical of. Personally, I see no reason there cannot be technological development and the permanent things not be degraded, although I emphasis that technological development is relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It would just take the sort of mindset advocated by E.F Schumacher and the appropriate and human scale technology movement.

By centralisation, I mean that many conservatives seem to have no problem with massive corporations and their bureaucracies or globalised supply chains. Strangely, their decentralism and localism doesn't extend to economics.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

And even in America how many conservatives are ready to give in on gay marriage?

I think that issue is more complicated. The situation in the US is one of the popular culture against them, the media violently against them (to the point where someone being fired for opposing gay marriage is blessed by the media), judges against them and overturning every law they've ever passed on this front. Yeah, some are now looking for new strategies. They damn well should be, politically speaking.

I meant not just state capitalism, although most conservative politicians are more than willing to vote to maintain and increase corporate welfare and privileges.

Most conservative politicians seem willing, if they can get away with it, to vote for amnesty too. Is that a 'conservative' issue? Corporate welfare doesn't become conservative just because GOP members can be bought to do it. It makes them less conservative.

This is a far cry from the decentralist, localist, and communitarian concerns of traditional conservatism.

So to be decentralist, localist and communitarian, we need to become centralist, big government advocates in favor of regulation and control the corporations?

By technophile and economic growth, I simply meant many conservatives today seem to think that increasing economic growth and material prosperity are some sort of important goal for conservatism, whereas most traditional conservatism was as sceptical of such things as celebratory.

See, this is where things get bizarre to me. Especially insofar as you equate conservative with a political party, are you really demanding that the GOP be the party of 'Who gives a shit about the economy?'?

Can you provide any evidence that the conservatives of old rejected material prosperity and economic growth, full stop?

On global warming, if you watch Fox News, for example, it is clear that many of those commenting on global warming are not that interested in seriously apprehending the evidence and the theories and are just motivated by ideology.

Once again, they say the same thing of liberals. But this one, I'm real curious of. Do you entertain the possibility that many, even most conservatives who disagree regarding global warming (and there's more than one way they can disagree) do so sincerely, even if with incorrect data onhand?

By the by - let's say they reversed. Now they're concerned about global warming. What does it matter? They're supposed to reject globalism (and that means global action, centralized planning, etc). Or should they put conservatism aside in that case?

One of the obvious examples is the constant planning of things around the motor car. This kind of technology was something that both Lewis and Tolkien were clearly very critical of.

I think if the target is 'the motor car', it no longer makes much sense to pit 'conservatives' against Tolkien and company. That's just about everyone at that point.

But I think the key issue may be this. Conservatives aren't really 'for third world labor', as if they insist that people use it. Or insist that people do this, or that - at least, a sizable portion of the conservative culture is quite at home with people NOT doing those things. See: Hobby Lobby, the defense of religious consciousness on Obamacare. What they generally defend is the right for people to make choices on those fronts.

If people are making the wrong choices, that's a problem to be solved. But, for many conservatives, it's not government's job to solve it.

Crude said...

Tom,

I understand, but on this I just disagree. Part of this is that the near complete lack of a sympathetic somewhat conservative religious person being portrayed in... just about anything in popular culture. I can understand the intellectual interpretation of Comstock as some kind of specifically protestant figure, but keep in mind that we're in a culture that routinely calls conservative Catholics 'fundamentalist' or even 'evangelical'.

Anonymous said...

I had the good fortune of being able to attend Feser's lecture at the DSPT conference today. As one might expect, it was terrific.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Corporate welfare doesn't become conservative just because GOP members can be bought to do it. It makes them less conservative.

Perhaps, although I don't think many conservative politicians are somehow reluctant to grant corporate welfare. They seem quite happy to acquiesce in it. Indeed, often they seem to initiate the welfare.


So to be decentralist, localist and communitarian, we need to become centralist, big government advocates in favor of regulation and control the corporations?

I didn't say that, Crude. Firstly, I happen to think the biggest prop to contemporary capitalism and corporations is the state. Indeed, corporate personhood and privileges, which socialise a lot of risks and liability for owners of corporations, are state creations.

I'm actually quite radically decentralist. But I don't think it is always a question of ideological rules with no exception: it is possible for the state to interfere in the economy in a positive sense. I always support the utmost subsidiarity and decentralism and as little interference as possible, but I don't shy away from all and every intervention by the state.

Take censorship. It is now impractical, because of the internet, to censor pornography and obscenity. But Russell Kirk, for one, defended humane, limited censorship of the obscene and pornographic in the pre-internet age. That to me is the proper conservative attitude, not the J.S Mill style liberal attitude that all must be choice and freedom.


See, this is where things get bizarre to me. Especially insofar as you equate conservative with a political party, are you really demanding that the GOP be the party of 'Who gives a shit about the economy?'?

Again, I didn't actually argue that. You are assuming here that the economy has to be very much like our current economy or it cannot work. Distributists, followers of E.F Schumacher, and similar folks would argue that we could have an economy that functions well in providing employment and plenty of material goods without it trampling on the permanent things. Maybe they are wrong, but I don't think it enough to simply say the alternative to state capitalism is not caring about the economy.

It is not necessarily the case that traditional conservatives rejected material prosperity and economic growth. There were plenty of old fashioned conservatives who didn't much care for a lot of modern technology or the modern economy at all: Tolkien and Lewis themselves, Dean Swift, Bonald, Southey, Ruskin, Chesterton and Belloc, and Russell Kirk spring to mind.

And material prosperity can mean a lot of things. Most traditional conservatives did not advocate universal asceticism. I was referring more to the contemporary proliferation of consumer goods and gadgets as some great end in itself.

But what traditional conservatives did reject was the importance of technological development and economic growth in the grand scheme of things. This is obvious. If you rate these things as very important, then you are forced into a mindset whose vision is centred on secular progress. This is the exact opposite of the conservative position. The conservative values the permanent things - the spiritual, the moral, the personal, and the natural. The conservative sees clear limits to the good that material prosperity can supply, and to the capacity of man to make a better society.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Continued.

On global warming, I would say that, yes, an awful lot of those on the right who talk about it being bunk give no indication that they have tried to seriously grapple with the issue. It is not something I know a lot about, but I'm not questioning the general scientific opinion on the issue.

I brought up that topic more to show, one, the overly ideological bent on some contemporary conservatives and, two, their lack of adequate environmental concern. What we do about global warming is a different issue. I too do not wish to allow it to lead to globalism. The difference is that a lot of mainstream conservatives and others on the right let that fear determine their views on the science.

I referred not simply to the motor car but to the urban planning centred around the motor car. We design our living and shopping and working areas around the motor car instead of walking and cycling and other forms of transport which better serve a decentralised and communitarian purpose.

And this is an old phenomenon. GM in the 50s and even earlier bought up a lot of tramways in order to rip them up so that the car had less competition.

The conservative has always seen choice and freedom as important. Even reactionary, counterrevolutionary conservatives like Bonald or Maistre have not neglected the importance of persona liberty. But the conservative has never seen choice and autonomy as absolute. That has was a liberal innovation. The conservatives were quick to assert the importance of order, authority, and duty against the liberal and radical. So, I don't think the conservative should just be asserting choice as some sort of rigid principle.

Besides, I don't think just saying personal choice should determine all accounts for the complexities of real life economies and societies. Nor does it account for the fact that it bears no relation to our contemporary situation, which is shot through with government intervention.

David Bentley Hart describes Tolkien, using Tolkien's own words, as something of an anarchist who wished for life in a decentralised, rural idyll. I can sometimes sympathise, and certainly I am quite radically decentralist. But I don't see why the state can never do anything to interfere with choice and autonomy, I'm unsure. For example, in Australia there are laws to promote competition and enforce consumer rights. I don't see why this is necessarily a bad thing. Where that principles comes from in Bonald, or Johnson, or Burke, or John Adams, I'm unsure. It seems to come, instead, from J.S Mill.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- I wasn't suggesting that J.S Mill was the sole originator of the idea that choice is everything. It is obviously a idea with many influences in the liberal tradition.

George R. said...

I had the good fortune of being able to attend Feser's lecture at the DSPT conference today. As one might expect, it was terrific.

What was it about?

Tom said...

@Crude: I definitely agree that we could stand to have more positive portrayals of Christians, Catholics, and conservatives in mainstream popular culture, so we're back where we started.

But specifically with respect to Infinite, the game's socialist revolutionary turns out to be almost as bad as Comstock. That this made some gamers unhappy is probably further evidence that we need better conservatives, but I don't think criticizing Comstock is the best way to go about that.

Crude said...

Tom,

I get your perspective. I still am displeased about the whole thing, but I'll leave it at that. I think we're on the same page enough anyway.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I'm going to truncate this, because I try to keep blog comments convos to a certain limit when I can. If I miss a point you think I should address, please just say so.

Perhaps, although I don't think many conservative politicians are somehow reluctant to grant corporate welfare. They seem quite happy to acquiesce in it. Indeed, often they seem to initiate the welfare.

Do you have incidents in mind, or is this just an impression? There are some GOP politicians who are as "conservative" as Obama at the end of the day. There are some blatant hypocrites. There are some anti-corporate-welfare sorts - the Tea Party was borne out of a reaction to bank bailouts in part.

Now, some broader points.

First, it bears repeating - I'm not saying that modern conservatives are broadly in lockstep with Tolkien or Lewis or, etc. Not at all. I think some have some important points in common. On some points they'd disagree with each other. On other points they'd agree. On still others they'd agree in principle but plea to the political realities right now. Most of the traditional conservatives you reference seem to be writers and thinkers, while the conservatives you criticize seem largely to be politicians. That is in large part an apples/oranges comparison for obvious reasons.

Second - you say 'I'm not questioning the general scientific opinion on the issue' as if that's some kind of plus in your favor. But let me say this: I think the automatic respect for, even radical attachment to, 'the scientific consensus' is A) a modern phenomenon, and B) about as anti-conservative as one can get. Especially when it's wrapped up in the form of 'Well I don't understand the science at all, but by default I believe the scientists, and those who don't are not just wrong, but don't care and...' etc.

I'll go further. I think that's one point where, in many ways, the modern conservatives are closer to the traditionalists than their critics. Now, you've talked about how those conservatives would not have (put another way) enshrined personal autonomy, personal choice, etc. I agree. But they never would have forced it to yield to a show of hands by the APA or a UN committee either.

And, just to go further - that is one modern situation that is not just anti-conservative, but anti-enlightenment too. A rare thing.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Off the top of my head I would name corporate welfare like subsidies to oil companies, various patent and copyright extensions, and some of what you Yanks call pork barrel spending. I'm not sure I have the time, but if I reacquaint myself with the literature I could soon find many more examples. Kevin Carson has written reams of stuff on the topic of corporate welfare.

On your first broader point, you are correct I have named mostly writers. I could name some statesmen or politicians of recent centuries who I consider reasonably conservative. Burke, Bonald, John Adams, John Randolph, Cobbett Disraeli, Lord Salisbury, Belloc, (to a degree) Winston Churchill, and (to a degree) Enoch Powell.

Yes, politicians almost always fail to live up to expectations of writers and thinkers. And populisers too are never going to meet the most rigorous standards of the idealist. I said this above, in response to Rank's comments. But I still think contemporary mainstream conservatism has not just failed to meet my standards in this sense; I think it is hugely deficient in the mindset and basic philosophy of traditional conservatism. Take Margaret Thatcher; I prefer her to any British PM since at least Macmillan. However, she was hardly a meaningful conservative, as Peter Hitchens is often pointing out. She embraced neoliberalism wholesale - which is just warmed over nineteenth century liberalism - and she did next to nothing to reverse or slow social and cultural liberalism in Britain. She even managed to say there is no such thing as society - about as unconservative a statement as one could imagine (although the context of the statement is not quite as extreme as the statement itself).

Of course, I recognise that some of the reason for this is that contemporary society and culture is arid terrain for true conservatism. We can then argue about how much one should engage with contemporary conservatism, because nothing better is likely in the near future; or how one should just give up and be content as a forlorn remnant.

On global warming, I must emphasis I was only referring to accepting the scientific consensus in the face of those- most on the right (like those on Fox News) who comment as far as I can see - who don't seem to have properly engaged with the science on the issue. They seem reminiscent of creationists who have no idea what they are really talking about. I don't think it is unconservative to point to the scientific consensus in the face of such silliness. If someone does seem to have the technical, scientific knowledge then that would be different. However, I don't think it is unconservative to have a lot of respect for science within its proper sphere. Of course, opposing scientism has always been an important part of conservatism for over a century, but that doesn't mean that natural science does have it fields of competency. The layman can hardly have an expertise across all scientific fields, so he must trust the experts. I don't see anything unconservative here.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Off the top of my head I would name corporate welfare like subsidies to oil companies, various patent and copyright extensions, and some of what you Yanks call pork barrel spending.

I ask you this seriously. Are you honestly of the mind that Tea Party members and conservatives generally take the position of 'pork barrel spending - yay!' or 'Yeah, that's what we're in favor of - government subsidies for businesses!'? Patent and copyright extension sticks out there as a topic whose complexity is only dwarfed by the apathy with which most people regard the topic aside from a dislike of patent trolls.

I won't comment on Thatcher. British politics is something I'm barely aware of other than 'The UKIP sure seems interesting'.

On global warming, I must emphasis I was only referring to accepting the scientific consensus in the face of those- most on the right (like those on Fox News) who comment as far as I can see - who don't seem to have properly engaged with the science on the issue.

How do you measure such a thing? If someone says 'Global warming, what a load.' do you just automatically assume 'Well, you haven't seriously engaged the science.'? That'd be flimsy. What do you regard as 'engaging the science', and how do you tell someone has done it?

They seem reminiscent of creationists who have no idea what they are really talking about.

Like who? "Creationist" labels get slapped on everyone from 'people who think Satan buried the bones of dinosaurs in the desert to scare Christians' to 'Tenured biochemists who are skeptical of Darwinism and infer intelligent design in nature'.

I don't think it is unconservative to point to the scientific consensus in the face of such silliness.

I don't get that logic. Really, it seems like an ad hoc justification. Scientific consensus doesn't seem to become suddenly respectable and worthy of kneeling to because 'well that guy's an idiot.'

If someone does seem to have the technical, scientific knowledge then that would be different.

Sure. How do you tell? Bonus: how does a person tell when they themselves lack a deep technical, scientific knowledge to begin with?

However, I don't think it is unconservative to have a lot of respect for science within its proper sphere.

No, this is a switch. Science != scientists. Science is a method, it's research papers, it's experiments and hypotheses and data. Scientists are human beings, who may be experts, but who also bullshit, are given to failings, and otherwise. Respect for science is one thing, but if you're finding a way to respect the scientific consensus over and above your own understanding or even opinion, you're going to have to explain to me how this is anything but affront to conservatism and Enlightenment thinking both.

The layman can hardly have an expertise across all scientific fields, so he must trust the experts.

No. No 'must'. He can choose to have faith in some people, sure. But there's no 'must'. He can just remain agnostic. He can make qualified, provisional decisions based on what he does understand. If he has a passionate opinion, he should read up and understand what he's talking about. But if he doesn't - there's no 'must'. At least there's not for the conservative as has been explained here.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

The problem is that almost all conservative politicians today in Britain and America seem to be more than willing to fund at least some corporate welfare. Those who seem to seriously wish to role it back are rare. Even Rand Paul has allegedly been quite happy with some aspects of corporate welfare. It would be good if the Tea Party true believers could get this part of their program properly taken up by the conservative mainstream, but I doubt it.


Of course, I have no detailed evidence that these people aren't amateur experts on global warming. I'm simply reporting how they come across to me. But I think that is valid enough evidence. It is the evidence we often have to use in such circumstances. I don't think the unbiased observer would conclude that Sean Hannity or, in Australia, Andrew Bolt or their ilk who love to talk about global warming being bunk are well informed on the issue.

To be honest, I don't understand your position on science or what it has to do with conservatism. I have criticised scientism here many times, such as in the discussions on miracles and the paranormal. But I just don't understand why one wouldn't trust the experts in a genuine scientific field (ie., the natural sciences and not the social sciences or something). That seems to me a bit like saying you shouldn't trust your doctor or your engineer in their technical fields and should just do the study and work for yourself.

Yes, I don't mean that we should be slavishly devoted to the dominant ideas in the field: human beings are often wrong. And if there is a division in the field and respectable dissent from the dominant position then that should make us even less slavish in our assent to the majority opinion. And if we know something about the field, but are not experts, that may help us to get a firmer idea of whom to trust. But still, surely we should we should generally bow to the consensus in a genuinely scientific field? These are the people who have worked on the issue. These people are the experts and have the knowledge we lack.

When it comes to traditional conservatism, there are surely two strands to the issue of expertise. Conservatism has, on the one hand, been influenced by those like Socrates and Plato who argued that specialised knowledge should be respected. On the other hand, conservatism has been also critiqued overspecialisation and reminded us of the importance of a general wisdom and knowledge. This latter strand, though, is not primarily about issues within highly technical and scientific fields. The conservative, in critiquing overspecialisation, isn't suggesting that everyone should be a shoemaker or electrical engineer or have great knowledge of such crafts. Rather, he is advocating education, especially for social and political leaders, which provides access to a general wisdom. And the conservative is critiquing technocracy or the power of scientists and specialists. As long as the scientist is talking within his genuinely scientific field, then I don't see what is unconservative about generally trusting him. Scientific consensus is modern in the sense that natural science in its current form is modern, but I don't see why it is not founded on pre-modern principles that the conservative can respect.

By the way, I'm sceptical of evolution myself, for philosophical reasons. I was referring to those most generally called creationist, like evangelical Protestants. Though I'm sceptical of evolution, I have not had the time so far to do deep study on the issue. So I keep my mouth shut. I do not mouth off about the idiocy of the evolutionists or gloat, as I have seen them do on Fox News or Daily Mail or Murdoch Press, in the face of the scientific consensus.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

The problem is that almost all conservative politicians

Politics, the art of the possible. It's unfortunate, but you at the very least can't seriously tell me this is something intellectually embraced by conservatives full stop. That's false to facts.

Of course, I have no detailed evidence that these people aren't amateur experts on global warming.

I think you're both entirely within your rights to make that estimation, but let's be frank: at that point your 'evidence' is nothing more than a hunch, an impression. And, here's the important part: it's entirely subjective. And that's fine - just own it. Realize and admit what you're doing. But I think it's a stretch to say 'Okay I have no real way to evaluate this, that's just my impression, but my impression is evidence, and thus I have evidence that they think that way, so everyone should conclude the same'. Too many twists and skipped steps there.

But I just don't understand why one wouldn't trust the experts in a genuine scientific field

How about this: you're not 'respecting science' by trusting consensus. You're having faith, often intellectually unfounded, in people. Your choice, of course, but stigma aside that's what it is. I think that's a nasty can of worms that makes people squirm when it's opened, since everyone - yes, even many people who criticize scientism - loathe the thought of being regarded as 'anti-science', and nothing gets that label faster than refusing to parrot and endorse the consensus on cue. Even if one has no idea what the evidence is, how to evaluate it, or often what anything means.

I dissent. I retain the right to be agnostic, or even disagree. Sometimes that puts me up against the scientific consensus. Are they upset? With credit to Ray Smuckles, "I believe it was Voltaire who said: well then f*** them."

Crude said...

As long as the scientist is talking within his genuinely scientific field, then I don't see what is unconservative about generally trusting him.

What's unconservative isn't a mere act of trust. Trust who you like, I suppose. It's with the idea that they are owed our trust such that we should believe and parrot what they say (and thus take the actions they insist) on topics we know nothing about and can't evaluate, or worse yet, to the degree we've looked into it we find their claims unconvincing. We hardly give the Pope this much moral and intellectual authority over our lives.

Dawkins, Coyne and others routinely run around spouting what a good number of us here can tell is non-scientific nonsense offered up as science, because we at least can tell what is and isn't a scientific claim. But when's the last time that consensus of scientists (or even a significant number of them) condemned them on those grounds? And if they never do, why not? Does that weigh against our trust of them?

Scientific consensus is modern in the sense that natural science in its current form is modern, but I don't see why it is not founded on pre-modern principles that the conservative can respect.

You are asking, right after quite firmly arguing for the importance of individual communities running themselves (free of globalist influence), resistance to technological 'progress' and more (all on 'conservative' grounds) why there's an incompatibility with being pressured to accept and put faith in statements and claims people usually don't understand and can't evaluate, coming from a global consensus of scientists urging global action, regulations and more?

Here's one to ponder: a linked scientific community that can organize to form a consensus to begin with is only made possible by the very world you criticize and want to radically change.

So I keep my mouth shut. I do not mouth off about the idiocy of the evolutionists or gloat, as I have seen them do on Fox News or Daily Mail or Murdoch Press, in the face of the scientific consensus.

Why not? Because it's the scientific consensus and thus you are not allowed to have a personal, even provisional opinion on it you express, lest you offend your betters? I know where Lewis stood on that. Hardly seems conservative. The conservatives may not have believed personal autonomy was the most important good, but man, they had more respect for it than that.

You have permission to speak, Jeremy. Who told you otherwise?

Daniel said...

@Jeremy,

I am surprised that individuals who call themselves Conservative in the Catholic sense are able in good conscience to voice support of Thatcher or even call her a Conservative in the first place, since it was her government which pretty much sounded the death knell for the agrarian High Toryism of Kirk, Tolkien and co. which was the final shift from the Conservatives as the party of 'Tradition' and what is crudely termed 'Family Values' to the party of speculative finance and 'making one's self'. This is not meant as a personal insult, I'm just interested to know what you think.

I would not identify as a Conservative, partly because I certainly endorse the notion of a welfare state, but mainly, and this ties in with the above, because I'm all for an authoritarian government in certain spheres. All governments are authoritarian in that they uphold a system of laws, and I think it would be better for them to acknowledge this and seek the Good for their citizens, particularly in the areas of education and personal realisation. Of course it is not for the governor nor the people to chooose their own laws (save in a civil and administerial sense, and even here they should be decided upon with an eye towards the latter) but for these laws to reflect eternal truths - again most actual governments do something like this with tenets like 'do not murder', save that in the end they have no way of justifying them other than appeals to herd mentality. There is also the ideal of a government which acts above Finance - this is unlikely ever to happen now that corporations have so much power even to the extent of being able to affect the fate of nations. To use a 'Huysmans-ism' modern politics alternates from a brawl to an orgy between the scions of Marx and Adam Smith.

Lastly, and this will be very controversial here, I do not think any religious tradition, at least in the sense of revealed religion, should be the foundation of people's metaphysical awareness so to speak (essentially Ontotheology is core). Confused association between metaphysics and the phraseology of 'faiths and creeds' has allowed a vacuous ground-level Naturalism to get a foot in the door as a person's belief in lieu of the strictly unrelated and admirable tenet of religious freedom (people are welcome to uphold Naturalism in the same way that they are welcome to uphold Flat-Earth theories, but the government is not obliged to listen to them).

Timocrates said...

@Crude

I do not think any religious tradition, at least in the sense of revealed religion, should be the foundation of people's metaphysical awareness

There is some merit to this I believe. Pope St. John Paul II spoke similarly in his encyclical Fides et Ratio. The point being that philosophy and reason is supposed to be an independent witness to truth capable of inspiring belief in truth in its own right without appeal or reference to revelation (or "revealed religion" as you put it). This is important otherwise a society's intellectual structure will come across as begging the question and squashing intellectual and rational debate, incapable of handling objections or even simple questions without knee-jerk reactions and recourse to violence and censorship without a (non-circular) justifying reason.

One of the things the Anti-Christ will no doubt despise is religious freedom/liberty on one hand and rights that guarantee the independence of philosophical and metaphysical investigation and questioning on the other. The Church is more than capable of working within the broad framework of a society's or culture's philosophical and metaphysical theories and beliefs and finding common ground and going from there: what matters is that those disciplines be sincere and scholarly; that, however, is unlikely in a totalitarian state that imposes an ideology and subverts and subordinates academic truth to its own pragmatic ends. It must be remembered that the state exists for the common good and not the converse.

When St. Paul went to Athens, he appealed or made use of the Athenians own religious tradition and their philosophical wisdom - he did not appeal to the Law or Prophets or Revelation as such as his starting point.

Scott said...

@Timocrates:

Jut to prevent possible confusion—the remark to which you're replying is Daniel's, not Crude's.

Timocrates said...

@Scott

Thank you Scott for the correction and my apologies to Crude and Daniel for the confusion.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I think there are some important distinctions you are missing which make all the difference in terms of bowing to scientific consensus.

Firstly, I intimated it earlier but perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I was referring to pure natural science alone. When it comes to policy or social science or anything but pure natural science the issue of expert opinion is far, far more complex. Indeed, as my earlier comments imply, I'm strongly opposed to technocracy, scientism, and scientists and specialists not knowing their place. I was referring to the anti-global warming people on the right disagreeing with the pure science on whether the earth is warming and whether man is primarily responsible (and especially the large number of them who seem to do so without truly trying to get a detailed knowledge of the issue). Issues of policy - or what to do about it - are quite a different matter, and not one to be settled entirely by expert opinion.

Secondly, therefore, I think you are blurring the pure science and responses to it. Unless one accepts conspiracy theories, the scientific consensus on global warming is not globalist. Many of those calling for us to take action on the issue may well be globalists, but the 97% of climate scientists who are supposed to endorse man-made global warming cannot be simply dismissed as globalists.

Thirdly, I can't help but think your position, in fact, leaves you in the rather strange position of only accepting your doctor's or engineer's opinion on issues in their specialised field as marginally better than the man on the street. Or, at least, it would seem you'd have to be far less confident in their opinion, or the opinion of any scientific consensus, in even noncontroversial areas than we usually are. There are complicating factors, as I mentioned before, but surely it is quite conservative to accept received opinion on many issues. Indeed, conservatives tend to defend dogma and attack those who suggest that everyone must test everything by private reason and experience. Your position, it seems to me, would mean that basic scientific textbooks would be in the position of offering knowledge we should view as only a little better than nothing.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I was referring to pure natural science alone. When it comes to policy or social science or anything but pure natural science the issue of expert opinion is far, far more complex.

I understand this position intellectually, but in practice this doesn't work for most people. The problem I mentioned with Dawkins, Coyne, etc? Those are cases of scientists making claims about what 'science shows' (and they mean or imply there 'pure natural science'). But they're wrong - out of bounds. Hardly anyone, certainly hardly any scientists, correct them. Because many of those scientists also don't know what's out of bounds. Or don't care. Or maybe some are lying.

Second, there are scientists who dissent. How do you tell the difference? It sure isn't because you examine the arguments and evidence they offer and make a determination. That's outside of your expertise by your own admission. So... what, you just assume the bigger group is more honest because they're bigger?

Secondly, therefore, I think you are blurring the pure science and responses to it. Unless one accepts conspiracy theories, the scientific consensus on global warming is not globalist.

Who needs a conspiracy theory? (Oh, and are conspiracy theories about the people who disagree with the consensus valid?) As for the 97% number, should I trust it or this criticism of it? Do I need to understand statistics and polls and bias when I accept that piece of evidence? Or is that another case where I'm supposed to just trust the '97%!' claim?

All I really need is the following: "Cultures and groups and individuals are prone to bias. Therefore I should take their claims with a grain of salt, and the real value of expertise comes from the arguments and evidence they provide and that I understand and verify. If I neither understand it nor verify it, it's not like my trust is automatically owed. It's mine to give or not give."

Thirdly, I can't help but think your position, in fact, leaves you in the

Nope - I can choose to trust them, either baselessly or based on very incomplete data. ('Well, I hear he went to Harvard and he studied this. He seems like he's on the up and up.') That's not me 'trusting science' really - I'm trusting an individual. Or a group. In fact I even have to trust him when it comes to knowing he has education in his specialized field - how should I know what his field covers? Or how certain their conclusions are on subjects within their field? Why should I dump all this knowledge and understand and just say 'I trust you, you went to the right university!'?

Crude said...

but surely it is quite conservative to accept received opinion on many issues.

Not surely, and it depends on the opinion. 2000+ years of tradition, church teaching, and a whole lot of human nature says 'Same-sex sexual desire is a disorder'. The received opinion of the APA is otherwise - and they are scientists. Who wins? Don't tell me the APA is the clear winner where those old conservatives are concerned.

Indeed, conservatives tend to defend dogma and attack those who suggest that everyone must test everything by private reason and experience.

Not really. Liberals and progressives defend dogma and attack those who question it as readily and fiercely as anyone else - in fact, moreso. You think progressives are thrilled with my 'be skeptical of the scientific dogma and consider the matter for yourself' stance? C'mon.

Obviously conservatives - again, we're talking in large part about those 'old' conservatives - have a place for received wisdom. Are you really equating millenia old tradition and culture with forecasting of climate patterns?

Your position, it seems to me, would mean that basic scientific textbooks would be in the position of offering knowledge we should view as only a little better than nothing.

Not at all, and I nowhere said that. I did say that we have a choice about what we trust, -especially- in the case where we're not opening those textbooks and learning and understanding and evaluating those claims ourselves. If we have no understanding of the claims in question, why in the world are we supposed to just accept it? -Especially- if we do have an understanding and see flaws?

Keep in mind, you already told me that you have disagreements with evolutionary theory based on what you've studied and understand - but you keep your mouth shut, since you're not one of 'the experts' and therefore presumably your doubts should not be expressed. For all I know, maybe you think of your state of disagreement as a flaw, something you should get over purely to align yourself with your betters.

That's not conservative. It's not Enlightenment thought either. You tell me what it is.

George LeSauvage said...

@Jeremy:

Accusing Crude of believing in some kind of conspiracy is not very helpful. Nowadays, the word "conspiracy" is just used as a way to avoid discussion.

Try this as a way to look at it. Is there, or is there not, a "conspiracy" to misrepresent the cosmological argument? Is there, or is there not, a "conspiracy" to spread and sustain the lie that, before Columbus, Europeans thought the world was flat?

Do you see what's going on there? There is, as Crude rightly points out, in any group, a set of unquestioned beliefs and assumptions are shared. A generation or two later, these may be seen for what they are, but until then, those who question them will be derided, using ruder versions of the charges you throw at American conservatives. You should be well aware that this is precisely how the Church was regarded, by the Enlightened, in the heyday of eugenics.

Beyond that, I have only one thing more to add. (For the most part, Crude is doing a top-notch job here.) That one is that, from personal observation, I know better than to trust academics. They lie and cheat and rig the game and suppress dissent, like everyone else. Except, if anything, they are worse. We are looking at a world in which a disbelief in truth, and ultimately a commitment to honesty, has become very tenuous. It is often subject to outright ridicule.

By following up on footnotes, or checking comparable works, I have found a number of current historians engaging in clear dishonesty, for which they have not been called out. While I am less interested in science, I do know that Michael Mann did lie about the Medieval Warm Period. That is unquestionably true. Aquinas lived in a warmer world than we do. (Which entails, if polar bears are on the verge of extinction, that they couldn't have survived the 12th & 13th Cs, so they must have evolved very, very quickly since then.)

Hanson and Jones were caught, red handed, working to suppress publication of dissenting opinions. The IPCC inserted claims from an avowedly non-scientific source, to support the belief that the Himalayas were melting. Those are facts; facts far more certain than their projects for climate temperature. (Which, by the way, has not been rising for almost 20 years.)

So, why trust these people, known to be dishonest?

Daniel said...

@ Timocrates,

I agree. A propos of what you say I think when human civilisation reaches its lowest point, whether by demonic intervention or by man freely making the world demonic, one of the things that will happen is that language will become so impoverished and tainted that meaningful dialectic will become extraordinarily difficult. It’s not that people will no longer have any care for important issues, only that popular idiom will be so full of Thought-Terminating clichés and appeals to ridicule, of contextual insinuations and wife-beating phraseology that it will be hard to get anyone to properly engage without an impractically long time spent on clarification. Obviously this already happens now to a certain extent. Eric Voegelin and Josef Pieper wrote about this problem in the years leading up and immediately following World War II.

Victor said...

Feser, what do you think Aquinas would say about Roko's basilisk

Jeremy Taylor said...

George,

I didn't accuse Crude of believing in conspiracy theories. I said that if one is accusing the overwhelming majority of climate scientists of basing their opinions on the pure science on ideological considerations, then that is a conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, Crude seems to be implying this now, if I'm reading him correctly. I did not think he was when I first used the term.

When you say you don't trust academics, does that mean you don't trust your doctor or your engineer? I'm struggling to see how the position you and Crude are advocating can have anything but radical consequences.

By all means, as I said earlier, there is no reason for slavish devotion, but what you and Crude seem to imply is a significant lack of confidence in academic opinion to the point that you would surely, to be consistent, have to take your doctor's opinion as only slightly better than that of the man on the street.

When it comes to behaviour of climate scientists, it is easy to exaggerate. One would have to cite more than isolated and hotly debated instances to get a proper indication. As far as I know, those who argue against the consensus are either ideological hacks, like Sean Hannity, who don't know what they are talking about, or they are scientists who tend to get savaged in peer-reviewed outlets for bad research methods and the like. Perhaps, the consensus is badly mistaken and itself grounded in ideology. But why would one think this?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I don't think that there are grey lines between pure science and other fields, or that scientists often don't know the limits of natural science, nullifies my point about pure natural science. And surely there are many areas where we don't have to be that much on guard about grey lines and blurring boundaries, including whether or not the world is warming and what is causing is.

When it comes to dissent, as I said earlier, it depends on the level of consensus and the amount of knowledge one has about the discipline. If there is no strong majority, then that makes the plurality of opinion far less trustworthy. But if there is overwhelming consensus then that is surely quite trustworthy (though far, far from infallible). I just don't see a limiting principle in your position. It seems that if one accepted your claims then the entire edifice of modern natural science would have to be read as radically provisional. It would seem to mean that if you had an ear infection, for example, you trust the opinion of your doctor about it barely more than that of your butcher or baker.

I think the scientific consensus on global warming is undeniable, whatever the exact figure. For example, according to Wikipedia, when, in 2007, the AAPG realised a statement endorsing man-made global warming, no national or international scientific organisation of any standing rejected the statement. According to this page, "A 2013 survey of 3984 abstracts from peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011 that expressed an opinion on anthropogenic global warming found that 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity." This is not a survey of individual's opinion but is based on surveying the literature itself.

Surely, when it comes to specialised knowledge, there is only a limited amount of areas any individual can have deep knowledge of. You seem to imply a radically individualist idea of knowledge, where we private experience and reason is necessary for any firm belief in even a field of pure natural science.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Continued.

The APA is not concerned with pure natural science. Psychology is far more complicated in terms of how we should treat its expertise than, say, physics.

Yes, everyone has to live by dogmas. As Russell Kirk put it, "All societies, in all times, have lived by dogmas. When dogmas are abandoned, the social bonds dissolve-swiftly or slowly; and the “open” society ceases to be a society at all, giving way to a new order."

Indeed, this is what Kirk wrote on dogma and science:

"It is not foolish to accept on authority, or dogmatic statement, the commonly-accepted circumference of the earth; it would require a great deal of trouble to work out the earth’s circumference for one’s self, and most people are not capable of making such calculations. If that particular scientific dogma ever is altered, the innovation will be worked by talented mathematicians and physicists and geographers-not through private experience or demonstration. And then the new calculation of the earth’s circumference would itself become a kind of
dogma."

No offence, but your position - that we must test all expertise by our personal experience and reason - apart from being unworkable, strongly reminds me of political rationalism as Michael Oakeshott describes it in his Rationalism in Politics :

"The general character and disposition of the Rationalist are, I think, not difficult to identify. At bottom he stands (he always stands) for independence of mind on all occasions, for thought free from obligation to any authority save the authority of 'reason'....His mental attitude is at once sceptical and optimistic: sceptical because there is no opinion, no habit, no belief, nothing so firmly rooted or so widely held that he hesitates to question it and to judge it by what he calls his 'reason': optimistic, because the Rationalist never doubts the power of his 'reason' (when properly applied) to determine the worth of a thing, the truth of an opinion or the propriety of an action."

Obviously, the conservative has long opposed the rationalist.

I really don't understand how your points about the textbook do not collapse into treating what they say as radically uncertain.

When it comes to evolution, I do not comment because I have not had the time to get any deep of the subject. At the moment all I have in my philosophically based suspicions and a brief look at some apparently good evidence for evolution which to me looked like it depends on one's interpretation to begin with. Evolution is a subject that in today's atmosphere you look foolish if you criticise it without really knowing your stuff. I certainly wouldn't expect much respect on the issue unless I showed clearly I was knowledgeable. Even then, I wouldn't fault most people for not just accepting my opinion against the general scientific opinion and would expect a hard struggle to win many over.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Sorry, I misread the Wikipedia statement on AAPG. What is said is that, after the AAPG changed its position in 2007, "no scientific body of national or international standing rejected the findings of human-induced effects on climate change."

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I don't think that there are grey lines between pure science and other fields, or that scientists often don't know the limits of natural science, nullifies my point about pure natural science.

It's a good thing my point didn't rely on their being grey lines at all, then. Say the topic is one of pure natural science (if that's possible). It doesn't help you, because it's not as if that restraint tells you what level of certainty is possible with science, how thorough the research is, etc, in and of itself.

I think the scientific consensus on global warming is undeniable, whatever the exact figure.

It may well be - but again, that doesn't affect my point. You gave me one number, I did some research and pointed out some apparent flaws with it.

By the way, that number is very commonly cited. Did I have a right to question it at all? Did I commit a thought crime by checking your sources? Will I commit one by checking them again?

You seem to imply a radically individualist idea of knowledge, where we private experience and reason is necessary for any firm belief in even a field of pure natural science.

I don't do that, and I've said more than once that you can believe without 'private experience and reason'. I simply said that it's not required, and that if you do so, you should owe up to what you're doing.

The APA is not concerned with pure natural science. Psychology is far more complicated in terms of how we should treat its expertise than, say, physics.

Really? Why's that? And on what authority is that decision arrived at?

And will you say that climate forecasting is pure natural science?

No offence, but your position - that we must test all expertise by our personal experience and reason

I'm not offended, but that's also not my position.

In fact, I'd like you to withdraw that claim now, expressly. I've said repeatedly that people can decide to trust scientists, trust the consensus, if they so choose. I haven't been arguing that no one should do that - I expressly said that trusting people, even trusting them based on little evidence or only on authority, is something a person can decide is acceptable. What I object to is the claim that we must trust authorities, particularly scientific consensus, with little to no understanding of what's being talked about.

It's an option, it's even acceptable. It is not compulsory. And it's not rationalism, because rationalism would never make the allowances that I allow.

When it comes to evolution, I do not comment because I have not had the time to get any deep of the subject.

Okay, so let me get this straight. You cited that you're skeptical of evolution because of philosophical disagreements. But now you haven't really looked at the subject matter very deeply at all.

Put aside your enforced silence. Do you even, by your own measure, have the right to be skeptical at this point?

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Unfortunately, Crude seems to be implying this now, if I'm reading him correctly. I did not think he was when I first used the term.

Where have I anywhere said there's a conspiracy theory? That implies collusion and conscious orchestration (in this case, on a grand scale) to deceive. I cited two points: simple human nature, and the behavior of scientists in the past and present.

I pointed out Dawkins, Coyne, etc utterly misrepresenting science regarding evolutionary theory. I pointed out the near complete lack of criticism and correction from scientists, or the 'consensus of science', on those notes - despite their prominence in the public sphere.

I would like to know whether either of these two points should affect one's faith in scientists (not science) or the consensus.

When you say you don't trust academics, does that mean you don't trust your doctor or your engineer? I'm struggling to see how the position you and Crude are advocating can have anything but radical consequences.

Just as an aside - Jeremy, you rail against reliance on the 'motor car'. Do you really think "radical consequences" alone is something you can appeal to as a criticism?

But more than that, no, there actually wouldn't be very radical consequences. I go to a doctor. I work with engineers. I trust them. Here's the key: I choose to trust them, and my trusting them isn't "trusting science!" because at times I have little to no idea about the science involved, and to what degree I should trust it anyway. I trust individuals. I do what research I can, I recognize my time is limited, and I make choices. And I do so honestly.

That's really what I'm advocating here more than anything - being honest about who we trust and why, and realizing that it's not mandatory that we trust them, especially if in our own research we've come upon information that we think gives us reason to doubt them.

By all means, as I said earlier, there is no reason for slavish devotion, but what you and Crude seem to imply is a significant lack of confidence in academic opinion to the point that you would surely, to be consistent, have to take your doctor's opinion as only slightly better than that of the man on the street.

Not at all, for reasons already explained - and I'll request again you stop saying it, and expressly withdraw it. I pointed out how, under what I'm saying, I can trust my doctor's opinion.

By the by - when you go to a doctor, do you just go to the first person with a diploma you see? Or do you ask around with people you trust or sources you trust, seeing who is or isn't a good doctor?

As far as I know, those who argue against the consensus are either ideological hacks, like Sean Hannity, who don't know what they are talking about,

We tried to establish earlier how you know people don't know what they're talking about. It came down to 'well that's the feeling I get'.

or they are scientists who tend to get savaged in peer-reviewed outlets for bad research methods and the like.

Peer reviewed outlets?

Well, if we can't trust peer review then what can we trust?

But that's just peer review - part of science, but not essential to it. At the very least we can trust that a scientific field itself could never be subverted by non-scientific interests.

Scott said...

@Crude:

It doesn't matter to your main point, but for the record, the Sokal Affair didn't involve a peer-reviewed journal.

Crude said...

The conversation with Jeremy aside, I wanted to explain to anyone interested more about where I'm coming from on this.

As I've said, I have no problem with a person who trusts a doctor, trusts an engineer, etc, despite being unable to verify their credentials or knowledge or claims. For that matter, I have no problem with people trusting the Church, trusting the Pope, trusting the Bible, trusting God, etc. I mean, I damn well better not, since I do all these things myself.

What I object to - and what really matters in the context of conservative thought and culture - is the idea that "scientific consensus" deserves our automatic respect and acceptance, even if we know nothing about the topic, or even if insofar as we've read up on the topic we've found reason to be skeptical. I also think it's flat out ridiculous to insist that traditionalist conservatives of the past would be all onboard with that idea.

Let me stress: it's not that I think trusting the consensus, or trusting this or that academic is somehow wrong from the get-go. It's that I don't think it's intellectually (much less morally) mandatory. More than that, when we do engage in that trust, we should be clear: we are not 'trusting science', because the science itself isn't really entering the picture for us. We're trusting people, groups and organizations. If we knew what the science was - what all the data and evidence and research showed - our trust in the people wouldn't be necessary anyway. Likewise, believing the consensus doesn't make someone 'respectful of science' or, for God's sake, 'well-informed'. If one parrot says 'Global Warming is true!' and the other parrot says 'Global Warming is false!', and you tell me that one parrot is smarter than the other based on the particular string of words they repeated, I think you've gone off the rails.

Yes, this means that I think people are in principle entirely capable of being agnostic about global warming or evolution or this or that. Why, they can even reject the consensus expressly if they think they have reasons to - if they think there are flaws like this or that in the consensus understanding, etc. I know - scary stuff. People - in fact, whole communities - may end up getting things wrong if we allow this. We may actually have to try to convince them intellectually, rather than being able to rely on their automatic assent. We may fail, despite being right. I think we can brave it all the same, and the alternative is worse - not just practically, but where traditional conservatism is concerned.

One more thing to consider. I think that calm, rational, basic reflection on topics is, and always has been, the intellectual ally of this kind of conservative. Common sense reasoning and deliberation works for the conservative - it doesn't, I think, work so well for people who want change and upheaval. Dogmas written and stamped by secular authorities, however, work beautifully in their favor, because it gives them the illusion of authority to impose on others and force them to change, even against their will.

So even if you believe the consensus is right on this or that scientific topic, I strongly suggest you nevertheless reject what's being argued for here - the idea that consensus by scientists (or for that matter, any authority) should suffice to intellectually force people. If you want to convince them, then engage them. Talk, reason, explain. Or at least, if you're committed to enforcing secular dogma against thought crimes, at least show your cards and ditch the talk about respect for traditional conservative values and culture. Those have been left behind.

Crude said...

Scott,

It doesn't matter to your main point, but for the record, the Sokal Affair didn't involve a peer-reviewed journal.

Hey, you're right. Thanks for catching that.

Glenn said...

Crude,

I think you make some very good points, and it seem obvious that you feel strongly about them. I also haven't any objections against them on a "per se" basis.

At the same time, I think that your strong feelings about the (very good) points you make may have partially colored your perception of what Jeremy has been saying.

For example, I don't at all read Jeremy as in any way arguing that "consensus by scientists (or for that matter, any authority) should suffice to intellectually force people."

You provide an example of asking around to get a feel for whether a doctor may or may not be good.

A good thing to do.

In doing this, however, a person is going to be relying on the perceived credibility of both what he hears said and the person who says it.

This involves, I think, the same basic principle Jeremy was getting at re his comments on global warming.

He never said that the scientific consensus on global warming should be accepted simply because it is the scientific consensus, but only if -- in the absence of other potentially deciding factors -- that consensus seems more credible than the credibility of its detractors.

I agree with Jeremy that perceived credibility counts as evidence, and don't see how anyone who thinks it's a good idea to ask around in order to get a feel for whether this or that doctor might be good would want to disagree (since such a one is using the credibility of what is said, and who says it, as evidence in making his ultimate decision).

Also, if Jeremy's position was that "consensus by scientists...should suffice to intellectually force people," then he would: a) dismiss the philosophical reasons he has for being skeptical of evolution; b) relinquish his skepticism; and, c) accept evolution without question.

But he does neither.

And that he does neither militates against the soundness of any intimation to the effect that he holds to the mentioned position, and also indicates that, amongst other things (including perceived credibility), "philosophical reasons" count as potentially deciding factors in the matter of whether or not to accept a particular consensus by scientists.

Glenn said...

(I can't count: "But he does neither." s/b "But he does not of that.")

Glenn said...

(I also can't spell: "not" s/b "none".)

Crude said...

Glenn,

He never said that the scientific consensus on global warming should be accepted simply because it is the scientific consensus, but only if -- in the absence of other potentially deciding factors -- that consensus seems more credible than the credibility of its detractors.

Can you point out where he said this? Because I saw this nowhere stated by him. Keep in mind that Jeremy's view of credibility was one thing I investigated, and it seemed to mostly come down to hunches. 'They don't know anything about the science and reasons behind the consensus regarding global warming. How do I know? I just... you know, look at them. Just look at them.' If subjective estimations of credibility suffice to justify one's dissent, then the argument is done. It turns out the potential valid reasons for bucking consensus are wide indeed. Hell, maybe wider than I've been arguing.

And the response you're giving here, I think, makes a mistake. The options you've laid out are 'I either listen to the detractors, or I listen to the proponents'. But there's other options: 'I investigate for myself.' and more importantly, 'I remain agnostic.' I don't need to pick a side. I can take a provisional position, I can put my faith in this or that - but I can also put the issue aside.

I'd also suggest that this openness is more true to traditional conservativism (and, as I keep throwing out, probably Enlightenment thought too - some rare agreement if I'm right) than what's being offered here. Would the traditional conservative find it very, very important that everyone be brought up to agree and parrot this or that scientific dogma that they do not understand, and in many cases doesn't even matter to their lives? It'd be pretty low on the priority list.

Also, if Jeremy's position was that "consensus by scientists...should suffice to intellectually force people," then he would: a) dismiss the philosophical reasons he has for being skeptical of evolution; b) relinquish his skepticism; and, c) accept evolution without question.

But he does neither.


We'll see. You're saying that Jeremy can't be saying that because look, he's skeptical of evolution. But at this moment I'm wondering if I haven't caught him in a contradiction - hence my asking. Keep in mind that Jeremy's opinion was that he should keep his mouth shut on the topic because he's out of his league. But if he's out of his league - so much so that he shouldn't even open his mouth about his dissent typically - then where does he get off dissenting at all? And can the warming skeptics dissent so long as they say their dissent is philosophically based?

So no, I can't follow the logic chain you're laying out here in Jeremy's defense. If Jeremy wants to say that it's entirely acceptable to reject the consensus if one has investigated the topic and - insofar as they have done so - found what seem to be flaws in reasoning and logic, he can say so. But then he's just agreeing with me, and it turns out the consensus can be bucked by the individual and the community dependent on their judgment calls and personal investigation. That will also mean, almost automatically, that sometimes people will make a wrong choice (they'll misunderstand something, they'll have incomplete information), but that this risk alone doesn't suffice to force their hands.

Glenn said...

Crude,

I haven't the time to respond just now, will do so later. In the meanwhile, perhaps Jeremy will see fit to agree with you that I have egregiously misrepresented his position.

Victor said...

Any Thomists...
Do you have a view on Roko's Basilisk?
Is there a Thomistic defeater to this rationalist fear of Roko's Basilisk?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Actually, I did mention that there are areas in natural science where there are divisions or the research is slight, which means one's confidence in the plurality of opinion must be limited. But this isn't one of those areas. And it is usually made clear by scientists and experts that the field is divided or research lacking.

It did turn out that there was 97% of peer-reviewed journal abstracts that agree with man-made global warming.

See, I just don't understand what you mean by you don't have to believe? I'm not saying one needs to have slavish devotion to scientific consensus, and if you think the consensus is wrong then by all means critique it. But we should respect the consensus on natural science because of deep knowledge that scientists have and because most people cannot have the time or ability to have expert knowledge on more than a few topics.

In terms of psychology, social science, or policy there are clearly moral and philosophical issues involved which there is no reason to trust to the scientific consensus on. This does not mean that expertise in this field is worthless. What it means is that it certainly can't just be accepted. Natural science is different. In most areas of natural science, as long as the scientists stay within the correct boundaries, you can trust them. The philosophical and moral issues are separate to the actual scientific field (though they may underpin it, a Dr. Feser and many others make clear).

On conspiracy theories, it was me who called them conspiracy theories. I was referring to the belief that the scientific consensus on the pure science of global warming is heavily influenced by ideology and the like. Conspiracy theory is a loaded term, but I still think that the belief these scientists are somehow entirely mistaken because they have an ideological agenda is not credible.

You are certainly right that radical consequences are not themselves an indication of a wrong position. But I think they mean you owe us good reasons for accepting them. Here I find your comment on your doctor puzzling. You say you trust them, but surely you do this because of expertise. You don't just trust I because he is a good bloke. You also need to avoid the appearance of special pleading: that you trust scientific consensus generally but here object to it on ideological grounds.

I go to my family doctors' surgery. My parents chose them years ago, mostly because they bulk bill, I think.

Are you saying Sean Hannity does know what he is talking about? I think saying I was basing it simply on a feeling is a simplification. I meant that if you listen to and watch these people you get an intuition that they don't have deep knowledge of the subject by what they say, how they, argue, and the points they make. It is also clear that they are ideological motivated. One piece of evidence, though, is that, although I don't know a great deal about this subject, when I hear some of the accusations against the consensus I sometimes look them up. Very often these accusations turn out to be mistaken or largely so or greatly exaggerated. George mentioned the climategate affair. If you listened to the popular climate change sceptics, you would think this was some huge smoking gun, whereas no less than eight scientific organisations or committees of national or international have investigated the affair and found no scientific misconduct. This is quite representative, in my opinion, of the popular attacks on the consensus in this issue.


Jeremy Taylor said...

Glenn,

Yes, that is basically my meaning.

As I said, I do not advocate slavish devotion to scientific consensus. If someone disagrees with the consensus then by all means they should do their own research.

What I was arguing for is respect for the consensus, not devotion. This is because, in natural science, the experts tend to have a deep knowledge of the subject, a subject not itself bound up with philosophical and other issues (though reliant on philosophical assumptions, of course). Most people simply cannot take the time to be experts in more than a few fields.

Even if someone, like myself, did dissent from the scientific consensus and became an expert on the subject themselves, I would expect them to have a hard struggle to win over a large amount of opinion. This is, again, because scientists generally have deep knowledge of their field which should be and is respected and because most people don't have the time to find out the truth for themselves.

So when people, like many of the popular critics of man-made global warming, make rather dubious attacks on the scientific consensus, I see little wrong with respecting that consensus and being scornful of these critics.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

See, I just don't understand what you mean by you don't have to believe?

Pretty much exactly that. If we don't understand the science, we haven't read up on it and we don't care to, there's no pressing moral or intellectual need to automatically accept the consensus. We can remain agnostic. And if we read up on it and come upon what we regard as flaws in their reasoning that lead us to reject their reasoning provisionally, then that's fine too.

I'm not saying one needs to have slavish devotion to scientific consensus, and if you think the consensus is wrong then by all means critique it. But we should respect the consensus on natural science because of deep knowledge that scientists have and because most people cannot have the time or ability to have expert knowledge on more than a few topics.

What does 'respect' here mean? So far you've intimated it means keeping your mouth shut if you disagree and accepting what they propose without examination, as a kind of mandated default state. I disagree.

Natural science is different. In most areas of natural science, as long as the scientists stay within the correct boundaries, you can trust them.

Evolution is part of natural science. How good are scientists at staying within the correct boundaries there? Or with cosmology, for that matter? Experience and evidence tells me, not so great.

And I don't just mean the divide between 'what is natural science and what is not' but even between 'what one can state given current knowledge, and what's far more opaque'.

Conspiracy theory is a loaded term, but I still think that the belief these scientists are somehow entirely mistaken because they have an ideological agenda is not credible.

They don't need to be entirely mistaken. Nor did I even say much about ideological agendas - people can be wrong or mistaken for more reasons than that.

You say you trust them, but surely you do this because of expertise.

I trust them because of recommendations from people, evaluations of them as people, expertise, and more. To a certain degree, I also take a chance.

There's no special pleading at all here, because - as I keep saying - it's not as if I reject 'expertise', or doing research, or even trust and faith. I just recognize what those things are, and what right people have to my trust and faith.

Are you saying Sean Hannity does know what he is talking about?

Beats me, I don't watch him. But you haven't been able to say why he's wrong more than gut feelings.

George mentioned the climategate affair. If you listened to the popular climate change sceptics, you would think this was some huge smoking gun, whereas no less than eight scientific organisations or committees of national or international have investigated the affair and found no scientific misconduct.

I did something better than that: I read the emails and decided for myself.

Crude said...

As I said, I do not advocate slavish devotion to scientific consensus. If someone disagrees with the consensus then by all means they should do their own research.

So, I'm waiting for an answer to my question: you said you're skeptical of evolutionary theory on philosophical grounds. But then you said you keep your mouth shut, and you haven't even read up on the topic enough to really make a decision. So what right do you have to skepticism again?

What I was arguing for is respect for the consensus, not devotion.

And what's the difference?

So when people, like many of the popular critics of man-made global warming, make rather dubious attacks on the scientific consensus, I see little wrong with respecting that consensus and being scornful of these critics.

And you know they're dubious how? Because the consensus said they're dubious?

What's more, notice the a key point in your reply here: you read up and do research of your own on the topic. You're apparently not willing to say 'well they go against the consensus so they must be wrong'. Good stuff.

The problem is it seems that the research you do mostly amounts to 'asking scientists who uphold the consensus whether the criticisms are credible'.

Here's the problem with that. I'm an ID skeptic - I don't think it's science. We all know where the consensus of science is on that topic. But, I've also done my own research. I've read ID books and articles. I've also followed what consensus representatives have to say about ID - NCSE figures, articles and sites they recommend to answer ID, etc. I've talked with some of the more noteworthy figures personally, in one on one exchanges.

I've found them, repeatedly, mucking up what ID is. I've watched them get corrected on the topic over basic and fundamental issues, then turn right around and keep repeating inaccuracies to try and paint ID in a bad light. I've watched them stay dead silent about very obvious scientific abuses and misrepresentations of evolutionary theory (see my Coyne and Dawkins talk, etc.)

Now, instead of arguing about that, I'll ask another question.

Take for granted that that's my experience, for the sake of argument. If I've seen that kind of dishonesty and misrepresentation - if I've read up on the topic and found their explanations doubtful, and themselves personally untrustworthy, should my respect for the scientific consensus on that subject dive? Should my respect for scientists in that field - insofar as they're represented by the organizations and people I've mentioned - dive?

And perhaps more importantly, do I have a moral and intellectual right to argue as much in public?

Glenn said...

Crude,

My apologies for taking so long to respond. I knew it was going to be a while before I could respond, but I hadn't realized then that it was going to take this long. In the interest of keeping things short, I'll respond to your first point only.

>> He never said that the scientific consensus on global
>> warming should be accepted simply because it is the
>> scientific consensus, but only if -- in the absence of other
>> potentially deciding factors -- that consensus seems more
>> credible than the credibility of its detractors.

> Can you point out where he said this? Because I saw this
> nowhere stated by him.

As indicated by the absence of quotation marks, my statement was a paraphrase.

This is what I paraphrased:

"On global warming, I must emphasis I was only referring to accepting the scientific consensus in the face of those- most on the right (like those on Fox News) who comment as far as I can see - who don't seem to have properly engaged with the science on the issue."

Here it is again, with relevant phrases emphasized:

"On global warming, I must emphasis I was only referring to accepting the scientific consensus in the face of those- most on the right (like those on Fox News) who comment as far as I can see - who don't seem to have properly engaged with the science on the issue."

It is true that "credibility" is not explicitly mentioned. But it is equally true that "credibility" clearly is implied -- just as it is clearly implied, and more strongly so, in the 2nd and 3rd statements which followed (emphases added):

"I don't think it is unconservative to point to the scientific consensus in the face of such silliness. If someone does seem to have the technical, scientific knowledge then that would be different."

My "other potentially deciding factors" was a subsuming of Jeremy’s more specific "technical, scientific knowledge".

- - - - -

Even without the above, anyone familiar with Jeremy’s helpful contributions to the collective effort here on Dr. Feser's blog -- vis-à-vis talking some sense into, let us say for the sake of simplicity, Gnu's or Gnu-like people -- would know that the notion that he would advocate or argue for a slavish devotion to scientific consensus is, pardon my saying so, rather ludicrous.

(Many comments are posted here, and it is difficult to find the time to read all of them, and even more difficult to remember everything that is said, so it would be understandable if one hadn't picked up on that, or had picked up on it but also had subsequently forgotten about it.)

Glenn said...

Jeremy,

Yes, that is basically my meaning.

Thanks.

(Of course, your meaning is plain enough on its own, so my having gotten it basically right was nary a great feat.)

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Crude said...

Glenn,

Of course, your meaning is plain enough on its own,

*adjust monocle* I say, chap, I do respectfully dissent from your most humble of evaluations of this fine, fine gent's nomenclature - pardon my actively, rather than passively, communicating this.

A bit more below, with some more seriousness.

It is true that "credibility" is not explicitly mentioned. But it is equally true that "credibility" clearly is implied -- just as it is clearly implied, and more strongly so, in the 2nd and 3rd statements which followed (emphases added):

It doesn't mean much here, Glenn, since 'credibility' here - by the evidence supplied - is little more then a gut feeling on sight. And if gut feelings and subjective impressions rule the day, then - at least for many people - respect for the consensus is doomed from the get-go. Hence my comments about that formulation.

Even without the above, anyone familiar with Jeremy’s helpful contributions to the collective effort here

..Would realize that said contributions are only so relevant here. I think Rank is absolutely remarkable on some subjects, and dead wrong on others. Why, I even go so far as to disagree with Ed Feser himself at times - and my disagreement with him on subject A or B doesn't mean he was dead wrong about subjects C through Z. Even if I make my case forcefully. Ed's brilliant. For all I know, Jeremy is too, and nothing I've said requires that be denied. But I'll dispute him here, because I think he's not just wrong, but dangerously wrong.

My suggestion about slavish devotion didn't come from thin air. It was borne out of Jeremy saying, on his own, that he keeps his mouth shut (his words, not mine) in the face of the consensus, despite having what seem to him like reasonable disagreements. Maybe you don't consider that slavish, the keeping quiet even when having what seems like a reasonable objection. I disagree, but feel free to tone it down to 'an excess of undeserved submission in attitude and behavior' then. The criticism remains.

Now, I do recognize one problem that comes with that bucking of the consensus - it's already been brought up here by Jeremy, in fact. You run risk of, say... creationists or others shooting their mouths off about topics they're out of their depth about, and they can be cringeworthy. I doubt I'm probably not the only one here who's sighed and looked for a shot of vodka when watching one or another wannabe apologist rail against 'the evolutionists' or the like. But I eventually came to the conclusion that we're far better off with people feeling comfortable with bucking the intellectual consensus of academics and scientists (despite the sort of people who may end up bucking it) than feeling unease or shame for daring to go against it.

Really, one lesson learned from The Last Superstition was that a multi-century intellectual 'consensus' turns out at the end of the day to be a bunch of nonsense. Maybe it's not just the philosophical consensus that we should have a different attitude towards.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I do not think that it makes sense to be agnostic when it comes to genuine expertise. As we have been through, there are different areas of expertise, but when it comes to the technical and the purely scientific, these people do have deep knowledge and it makes perfect sense to respect expertise.

For example, if one knows one's shoemaker does have expertise, then, generally, you wouldn't second-guess them.

This is not slavish devotion, but genuine knowledge deserves respect, and we can hardly be experts in many areas.

So, I'd say that an agnostic position doesn't make sense on the score of common sense respect for expertise. Also, I don't think it is liveable. Human societies are based on a division of expertise as well as labour. What you are proposing would seem to take away your confidence in many experts. It would be an anti-social attitude.

What you seem to be advocating is a radically individualist approach to knowledge, which would endanger all expertise and all accumulated knowledge, much like Michael Oakeshott's Rationalist.

When it comes to respect, it does mean accepting what genuine experts say as a default position. This is because one doesn't have the time to be an expert on more than a few issues, so, where expertise is important, you will have to bow to it.

But respect here means a trust but not a slavish devotion. One should be alive to the limits of expertise and one should remember that experts, humans, can be wrong.

I made it clear, I hope, the main reason I keep my mouth shut is I haven't had time to get any deep knowledge of evolution and its flaws. I think that is sensible.

Scientists tend to keep within the boundaries of science within their technical work. You seem to be referring to populisers and the like in the media. That is quite different.

You did mention globalism and the like. But why do you think these 97% of peer-reviewed research is wrong?

Sorry, but I find the stuff on doctors and other experts hard to believe. Surely, the primary reason you trust a doctor is his expertise. Sometimes one can need to be sure of expertise, such as for a shoemaker or plumber, and sometimes one can need be sure of their honesty and integrity or other qualities (like a doctor's bedside manner), but the primary reason we trust doctors is their expertise.

You have a right to scepticism because you think you that the experts are wrong, and they can be wrong because they are human. However, genuine expertise or deep knowledge exists, and we should respect it. The former does not invalidate the latter. If you have a reason by all means investigate the topic for yourself, but don't expect anyone to take you seriously unless you gain a deep knowledge, and then expect, at best, only a gradual increase in support if you are attacking the consensus.

Those attacking the consensus on the right are often dubious not because they are attacking it. Nor is it just a gut feeling. It is an intuition, like a historian's intuition about the best fit of the evidence. It is an intuition from watching them. I have given some of the reasons for it. But, basically, it is because of things like the clearly ideological motives; the fact they make not just respectful objections but wild accusations that try to paint most climate scientists as deluded - the consensus is often made fun of with little reason given or referred to as green religion or whatever; the vagueness and lack of detail or the just plain silly - how many times is it brought up that we're only talking about a few degrees or a very small absolute amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as if that meant anything; and, as I said, the fact that whenever I have heard of some important criticism of the consensus, like the climategate affair, it turned out to be no such thing. Of course, I'm not saying there is no one on the right who is not dubious in their scepticism on this issue, but we were talking about an important section of the mainstream right.

Glenn said...

Crude,

Really, one lesson learned from The Last Superstition was that a multi-century intellectual 'consensus' turns out at the end of the day to be a bunch of nonsense. Maybe it's not just the philosophical consensus that we should have a different attitude towards.

If you mean to suggest that maybe we should have a different attitude towards the consensus of blunderbuss conservatives, then I'd likely agree. But if I did agree, I wouldn't be agreeing that there's anything wrong with conservatism per se, only with those conservatives who, via their intellectual malfeasance, give conservatism a bad name.

Glenn said...

Crude,

I doubt I'm probably not the only one here who's sighed and looked for a shot of vodka when watching one or another wannabe apologist rail against 'the evolutionists' or the like.

Probably not.

But what do people who sigh and look for a shot of vodka think about wannabe apologists railing against 'the evolutionists'?

"If only they had more knowledge about that against which they rail, they might be able to make something resembling a cogent case for our side."

But that doesn't stop you from chiding Jeremy -- and who knows who else in the unvocalized thoughts in your head -- for not wading into the battle insufficiently armed.

Crude said...

Glenn,

But what do people who sigh and look for a shot of vodka think about wannabe apologists railing against 'the evolutionists'?

"If only they had more knowledge about that against which they rail, they might be able to make something resembling a cogent case for our side."


Again, I disagree. On more than one front.

For one thing, it's not like 'our side' walks in unison, or at least the side I recognize as 'my side' doesn't. My side, in large part, contains Catholics, protestants, jews, muslims, mormons, hindus and more - including theistic personalists, classical theists, intelligent design proponents, and even - a bit more rarely - full blown young earth creationists. I got over any feelings of shame at being associated with that group, particularly the last ones, a while ago.

That's one view I have about conservative culture: the desire to make 'our side' too exclusive may not be the best idea. We can disagree with people on 'our side', and we should be prepared to zero in on exactly what the biggest problems are. Frankly, young earth creationism itself is one of the least of the problems we have. Yes, I know - they get mocked and belittled so much. Do we really want to associate with them? With some caveats, my answer is yes.

But that doesn't stop you from chiding Jeremy -- and who knows who else in the unvocalized thoughts in your head -- for not wading into the battle insufficiently armed.

Battle? I disagree with Jeremy's reasoning, period. Success in 'the battle' can be a factor, but it's not really central to my disagreement with him. I think he has an improper attitude, putting aside questions of conflict.

Oh, let me vocalize those unvocalized thoughts: I've disagreed with everyone who has ever commented on this site, at times. Including myself, at various slices of time - I changed my mind here and there. Ed managed to persuade me regarding lying and Hiroshima, for example, after some reflection on my part. I assume everyone else has disagreed with me at least once. I'm sure everyone can handle dissent from the anonymous nobody over here.

If you mean to suggest that maybe we should have a different attitude towards the consensus of blunderbuss conservatives, then I'd likely agree.

No, I mean to suggest we should have a different attitude towards the consensus of scientists and philosophers and academics, period. Really, this blog itself is, at times, one perpetual carousal of 'Scientists confidently state (x) is true or (y) is false. Let's examine their claims. Oh, look at that - they're unfounded nonsense and deal with subjects not in their actual field, and questions which their methods couldn't hope to settle to begin with.'

We've seen this repeated with cosmology, evolution, morality, free will, consciousness, and more. So tell me - should those repeated failures by scientists, and repeated failures of 'the consensus' to either publicly rail against said scientists for those failures, have any effect on my estimation of the consensus of scientists?

Jeremy Taylor said...

I think it can't be stressed enough that knowledge and expertise and our attitude to them should be complex and many-sided. There are many areas where we cannot just trust the experts. There are, however, areas where expertise and knowledge should be respected. We could hardly have an advanced society if this were not the case. I think your attitude, Crude, is radically individualist and is not practical, as well as endangering much of the accumulated knowledge of society.

The areas you mention scientists looking foolish are almost areas where they are outside their technical fields, as you even suggest yourself.

When it comes to conservatism, I do try not to be too narrow or rigorous, but when I turn to the contemporary conservative movement in Britain or America it does seem so far, in general, from what I consider basic conservative principles and a basic conservative disposition that I tend to have little hope for it. For example, like Peter Hitchens, I see the Tory party being in power as no better than the Labour Party. If UKIP broke through and was a major political force then that would be good, in my opinion, but even then I wouldn't expect too much.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I think it can't be stressed enough that knowledge and expertise and our attitude to them should be complex and many-sided. There are many areas where we cannot just trust the experts. There are, however, areas where expertise and knowledge should be respected. . We could hardly have an advanced society if this were not the case.

How do you tell the difference again? I mean, other than the method I'm suggesting which involves consciously making judgments, taking risks sometimes, being agnostic at others, and - in those instances where you do trust others - recognizing that you are, in fact, trusting others (as in individuals, not 'trusting the science' or the like.)

As for society advancing - we apparently have advanced just fine with most people being beautifully ignorant of quite a lot things that had nothing to do with their day to day lives. We've also had episodes of secular hell owing to people trusting the experts and following their lead.

Ever notice how many people wring their hands desperately over how much of the population doesn't 'accept evolution', versus the number of people who are really worked up that most people have a terrible understanding of chemistry, or fundamental physics?

I think your attitude, Crude, is radically individualist and is not practical, as well as endangering much of the accumulated knowledge of society.

You keep saying it's radically individualist or the like ('You won't even trust the opinion of your doctor!'), but as near as I can tell it's just common sense and self-aware, and as friendly to a conservative sense of community as one can get. I've nowhere argued that people should not trust their doctors, or even that they must withhold trust from the 'consensus of experts'. I've simply said they're not intellectually or morally forced to give that trust, and that remaining agnostic when they do not know the subject and don't care to learn about it is fine. Likewise, it's fine to question the consensus if, to the degree one has read up about the topic, they disagree.

Obviously there's caveats in there, but the fact that you regard it as so dangerous is just bizarre. 'Endangering much of the accumulated knowledge'? What, does the fact that I'm skeptical of expert consensus on the Origin of Life literally suck information out of the mind of Eugene Koonin? And is it very conservative to push for default respect of scientific consensus on the grounds that it's suspected this is required to accumulate scientific knowledge most satisfactorily?

As for politics in what I assume is your country, I'm ignorant of it so I have little to say. I hope I'm not violating any rules by taking that position. By the way - what was the expert consensus on the UKIP's chances a couple years ago?

Crude said...

I think I'll add this, since 'radically individualist/rationalist' keeps coming up.

I've emphasized that the attitude I'm suggesting has 'trust' - willful, conscious trust - as an option. But it's incorrect to say that the only option is 'Trust the consensus' or 'trust myself'.

If the APA comes and declares that same-sex sexual behavior (or open marriages, or sex with children, or whatever else they'll likely give a secular blessing to before I expire), the options are not 'trust the APA' or 'trust myself'. It's also 'trust my church' or 'trust my community' or 'trust my family' or otherwise.

When the teacher's union comes a-wailing that it's absolutely necessary that children all go to public school for this, that and the other reason, the options are also to trust yourselves to raise them, trust one community over the other, and likewise.

Of course, someone can also choose to trust the APA, or the teacher's union, or this or that. I don't think that's automatically ruled out either, though I may argue about that choice on its merits, if there are any. (I'd say I doubt that anyone would have a fideistic faith in either, but I suspect that just means I'm not yet cynical enough for reality.)

The point is, my supposedly 'radically individualist' view leaves the door wide open for very conservative - even traditional conservative - ordering of trust, attachment, and priorities in one's life. You're talking to someone who thinks the Amish have actually hit on a pretty interesting system for organizing a community. And the Amish, keep in mind, give its members (at least when they become adults, given a key choice in their life) the option of deciding who they should trust, and how they should live.

But I'll again say it's weird to receive pushback - among conservatives, no less - for my radical idea of 'we should be able to question the consensus view, remain agnostic if we lack information, and provisionally argue against it if we're unconvinced'. It's also odd that people will look at the litany of abuses both scientists and scientific consensus have been guilty of, but to have someone nevertheless argue that that's no reason not to have vastly more trust in them in another (political hot button) field. I can't think of another field where we make allowances like that.

Jeremy Taylor said...

How do we tell the difference? There is no formula, of course. We might use Cardinal Newman's term and note there are many authorities, like tradition, the Church, and various institutions. The sort of experts we are talking, whether scientists or craftsman, are an authority. It is the job of us as individuals and as a society to make sure we draw what knowledge and wisdom and skill is necessary from experts whilst keeping them within their place. This has always been a major concern, in one way or another other, for traditional conservatives though, and writers as diverse as Burke, Cardinal Newman, and T.S Eliot have written at length on elites and aristocracies, culture, the university, and science - topics which are connected to the question of knowledge and expertise.

I don't know if advance is the right work, but society certainly cannot function without a division of labour, including a division of knowledge, expertise, and technical skills (and wisdom, leadership, and so on).

Of course, I agree that technocracy and scientism are to avoided. What I'm suggesting is that there are more than two choices - we don't have to, on the one hand, accept scientism and the rule of scientific experts and all any expert claims, or, on the other, embrace your radically individualist position. There are no easy solutions, but, as I said, an important part of the traditional conservative corpus has been concerned, at least in part, with the role of leaders and experts in a healthy culture and society. There are areas where we should bow to expertise - though not in a completely unquestioning way - and I do think large swathes of natural science are one such area.

You have certainly argued that experts do not deserve general respect and that we should only trust them if we decide to. Your comments on doctors don't really make sense to me. Yes, there may be other reasons you chose a doctor, but surely the overwhelming reason you trust a doctor is his expertise.

I would argue that genuine expertise - knowledge, wisdom, or skill - deserves trust and respect by its nature and, no, one shouldn't stay agnostic one knowledge. The problem is making clear where there is genuine expertise and where there is not (or what the limits of the experts is), as well as marking out the knowledge and wisdom that various kinds of non-experts should acquire. I think your position is too extreme an individualistic one to properly deal with this issue and that it resembles, in its individualism, a position quite distinct from traditional conservatism. Traditional conservatism certainly repudiates technocracy, but it does not repudiate expertise - indeed, in various ways it has always sought to mitigate the extremes of democratic and egalitarian doctrine.

I think my position answers why we don't have to trust the APA, because their expertise doesn't extend to deciding moral issues. There are different kinds of expertise, with different spheres of knowledge. To repeat, as a society and as individuals we must draw what we need from experts whilst policing them and keeping them in their place.

To return to the original topic, I just don't see why the pure science on climate change - the consensus, that is - is not worthy of respect.

Jeremy Taylor said...

On climate change, you are, implicitly at least, arguing that we should not trust the scientists but should trust the climate change sceptics. To me, whatever some scientists in various fields are guilty of (most of what you have brought up has been populisers talking to the public about philosophical and political topics outside their field), I don't see how the sceptics are not significantly less trustworthy.

If your answer is we should investigate the field ourselves, this is not easy. It requires time and effort that I, for one, do not currently have.

Finally, you might say, those such as me should just remain agnostic. But what does that mean in this instance? Global warming, if true, will likely impact society and there are raging controversies about what to do about it. If agnosticism just means side with the sceptics, then this seems a rather dubious use of the term agnostic.

I would, in fact, argue that the most agnostic choice would be to accept global warming as true, because of the risks of it being true, but not to endorse responses to it that are too radical or too disruptive to the permanent things. This is basically my position anyway.

Mr. Green said...

Of course we must assent to what the experts say on a given topic, if we are to be rational — that's what it means to be an expert, after all. But the catch is Crude's question: how do we know? Just because someone claims or is claimed by others to be an expert does not make him one. And even if he is, he might not be telling the truth. And even if he is, the journalist reporting his views to us is not necessarily competent. And even if he is, we might not understand correctly.... Etc., etc., etc. Even calling somebody a "scientist" invokes an implicit chain of trust — in other scientists, in universities, in society as whole, etc., etc., etc. Technically, you don't trust a degree from Harvard, you trust the person who awarded the degree to be a competent judge — or the community of people who run the institution as a whole to be able to weed out incompetents — or the general approval of larger society that the institution in question is worth continuing to support... and when you consider how much incompetence is able to survive throughout modern society, it suddenly might not seem quite so trustworthy anymore.

Now in fact, you might pick a mechanic simply because he's there — say, if your car breaks down in front of his shop. If he does a good job, then he has earned your trust; if he doesn't, then you won't be going back. Same with a doctor: you probably already have reasons to trust him, and if you don't, you will soon decide based on results. That's why, as you have no doubt noticed, folks who love to push Science!™ so frequently argue not from science itself but from technology. They aren't the same thing, even though there is nowadays a lot of interdependence between the two, but technology is where the non-expert can see the results, in other words, the actual evidence on which to base his trust.

Despite making a good slur, nobody really rejects science — only what certain people try to make out of it. Not very many people are very much worried about how old the planet actually is; but lots of people care a lot about whether "science proves that we're just animals". Such people reason — and rightly! — that if science says that, then so much the worse for science. It's a valid argument, though not sound, because of course science says no such thing. But many non-experts are not in a position to know that. Likewise, no one would really care about whether the climate is warming or cooling or dancing jigs: we care about the effects, and the experts are not expert enough to know exactly what could be done, let alone what should be done. Frankly, I think it's true that opponents of the global-warming schtick pretty much don't know what they are talking about ... but that is just as true of the supporters, so where does that leave us?

Mr. Green said...

I don't think Crude's position is as radical as it sounds, and that's at least part of his point: we are taught so strongly to bow before the Experts that it has become unseemly to question them even when the supposed chain of trust turns out actually to be quite weak. Why shouldn't I say, I trust my mechanic because he reliably fixed my car time after time, but I don't trust the conglomeration of climatologists and politicians (—because as I pointed out, if it were an obscure question of scientific data alone, no one would care enough to agree or disagree—) because they simply do have a comparably established track record? And something similar would apply to evolutionary biologists, in the relevant ways. Does this kind of thought preclude civilisation as we know it? Well, no — we know very well that governments and universities waste all sorts of money on wrong-headed projects all the time, and we soldier on. If more people were sceptical in the way Crude is advocating, we might get some things wrong that we otherwise wouldn't have... but then again, we also will probably get some things right that we otherwise wouldn't have (because of too many people buying in to experts who were wrong). It wouldn't bring down the medical-cum-automotive-repair economy, because we have reasons to trust them that don't require becoming an expert in medicine or mechanics.


Jeremy: If agnosticism just means side with the sceptics, then this seems a rather dubious use of the term agnostic.

I can't speak for Crude — actually, in this case I think I can, because I'm entirely confident that by "agnostic" he means "agnostic".
(I also reckon he would agree with you about there being more than two choices — I think his main point is to emphasise that there are at least two. Often the second choice of "no, I'm not simply going to assume they're right" is considered verboten.)

I would, in fact, argue that the most agnostic choice would be to accept global warming as true

Now that's a dubious use of "agnostic". Perhaps the true agnostic could say, "I don't accept global warming, but I think we should adopt such-and-such a proposed plan, just to be on the safe side." The catch is that his agnosticism is limited: it does not extend to evaluating whether the given plan is, in fact, on the safe side. If he is not an expert, how can he even know that the plan would work? And how does he know that, if global warming doesn't happen the way the experts expect, the plan will not in fact make things worse? Isn't the honest thing for most people to say, "I really don't know either way"?


And it still isn't clear to me whether your position is consistent or not — could you lay out just what the difference is between your doubts about [special?] evolution and you acceptance of global warming? (For example, you said you were "sceptical" of evolution, as opposed to merely, say, having questions about it.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Mr. Green,

I don't see in what sense your position, as you lay it out, is meaningfully different from mine: that we should respect genuine expertise and knowledge (where specialised knowledge is necessary), but we must take care to determine what is genuine knowledge and expertise.

I do not think, however, that Crude's position is the same as ours. His position is unclear, but it does seem to be that we should not accept genuine expertise if we don't want to. I think Crude's position is simply impractical, so far as it radically devalues all expertise or specialist knowledge or technic or wisdom.

When it comes to global warming, I think you, like Crude, are conflating populisers of man-made global warming and talk about policies with the scientific consensus itself. This is why this seems like special pleading to me, because of the ideological associations of the popular activists about man-made global warming.

"I don't accept global warming, but I think we should adopt such-and-such a proposed plan, just to be on the safe side."

Actually, this wouldn't be the agnostic position. The agnostic choice would be saying I don't know if global warming is true, but we should accept it as to be on the safe side. That is what I meant, as I said:

"I would, in fact, argue that the most agnostic choice would be to accept global warming as true, because of the risks of it being true, but not to endorse responses to it that are too radical or too disruptive to the permanent things. "

On evolution, as a Platonist I feel it conflicts Platonic metaphysics. I do think that there are reasons for evolution's acceptance - most importantly that some form of evolution is the obvious explanation for the development of life if one counts only horizontal and naturalist causes as possible ones. As I said, scientists most certainly can be wrong. I do not see how my position means I must accept every scientific consensus. I don't see how it changes the basic fact that the consensus on pure science is fallible but generally worthy of respect?

Glenn said...

Crude,

Would it be fair to say that most, if not all, of your statements/positions re trust, experts consensus, etc., can be boiled down to a desire or preference to not fall for, or be victimized by, fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind?

Crude said...

Glenn,

Would it be fair to say that most, if not all, of your statements/positions re trust, experts consensus, etc., can be boiled down to a desire or preference to not fall for, or be victimized by, fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind?

Not really. It certainly can help guard against that, but it's not even the central concern. Part of it is simple honesty - really, truly evaluating what we're doing when we decide this or that, what we're trusting, how we're thinking, and what we know. Fallacies are a problem, but not every reliance on an authority is necessarily fallacious anyway.

I do think there is a kind of false confidence in play, even a self-deception, when it comes to this. A lot of people say 'I trust the SCIENCE'. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? As if you're dealing with a person who understands and grasps some intellectual and intellectually powerful stuff. 'I trust a bunch of guys I never met to be consistently honest and scrupulous with me about the things they study that I have know clue about, especially about topics where they may stand to gain either financially or politically'? Doesn't pack nearly the punch.

I also think what I'm outlining helps put into proper relief just what we should reasonably expect of people in terms of trust and knowledge goes.

I trust people. I take chances. I only have so much time to evaluate this and that. Sometimes I study something for a while and become fairly knowledgeable (I think we all do that, here - we're an intelligent bunch even if we disagree, though we of course stick to particular fields.) Sometimes I make mistakes too. Sometimes others do. I'm fine with that, and I think more people should be fine with that.

Green and LeSauvage seem to understand where I'm coming from on this, for the record. Green, I expect, has seen me talk about this before.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I do not think, however, that Crude's position is the same as ours. His position is unclear, but it does seem to be that we should not accept genuine expertise if we don't want to. I think Crude's position is simply impractical, so far as it radically devalues all expertise or specialist knowledge or technic or wisdom.

I keep on saying that no, I am not saying this at all. Nor do I think I've been unclear. If so it's the kind of !clarity that results from repeatedly, clearly stating one's view, but someone keeps rephrasing it as something other than what it is.

It's not that I think we 'should not accept genuine expertise'. It's that I have evaluate what is or isn't 'genuine expertise' to begin with. You keep trying to rephrase this as if I'm saying something along the following lines:

'Hello, Doctor of Mathematics. I know for an absolute fact that you are of the finest and highest moral calibre, incapable of dishonesty for political or personal gain. I likewise know with certainty that you are peerless in your field, a mathematical genius, and that your methods and expertise allow you to determine - with utter accuracy - the answer to this equation. Nevertheless, I choose to not believe you!'

That's not what I'm saying, and not the situation I'm addressing. Instead it's closer to this:

'Hey. I've heard through third or fourth hand knowledge - typically a journalist, or a singular person who is also an activist - a variety of claims about a field I have little knowledge of. I don't personally know a single person involved. I have no way to verify their claims - not enough time, or interest, or perhaps even ability. Or maybe insofar as I have that time, interest, and ability, I disagree with their conclusions. I am being asked to completely ignore my lack of understanding of the things of which they speak and my ignorance of their character and motivations (or worse, evidence that is negative) and commit my faith that these men are not just possibly correct, but so certainly correct that I take their word as true by default. I decline this, and reserve the right to be agnostic, or even disagree if I've studied the issue and have license to.'

So there we have it. And that is really where you're clearly objecting to me. You think the default should be 'trust'. Again I note - we don't even give the Pope this kind of trust. Do you tell your atheist friends that they should drop all their misgivings and, as a matter of intellectual honor and morality, praise God in spite of their beliefs? Even if you damn well know their grasp of the issues is utterly lacking?

Actually, this wouldn't be the agnostic position. The agnostic choice would be saying I don't know if global warming is true, but we should accept it as to be on the safe side.

That's not agnosticism. I mean, no, it's pretty clearly not. 'I accept global warming is true. This is the agnostic position.' Really, just think about it.

And 'the safe side'? There's no such thing. If belief is connected to action, then 'acting' can have some damn dire costs - especially if it turns out to be false. If belief is not connected to action, then there's no 'safe side' because you're asking people to accept a factoid that commits them to no action, even no contemplation of action. You're as safe as you are disbelieving it as believing it.

Scott said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"The agnostic choice would be saying I don't know if global warming is true, but we should accept it as to be on the safe side."

Surely the agnostic position is just I don't know whether global warming is true, full stop.

If someone is agnostic with respect to the existence of God, they're agnostic whether or not they go on to add But I'm going to live as though God exists just to be on the safe side.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Can you please tell me why you are sceptical of the scientific consensus on man-made global warming? So far I haven't seen any actual argument on this point which didn't conflate the likes of Al Gore with actual scientists or was not patently ideological.

Your latest description of your position is not that far from mine. The problem is that your description still does look too idiosyncratic, too much like the reduction of all to private judgment. It does still neglect, it seems to me, how we deal with actual expertise. It also neglects the more systematic and social side of knowledge and expertise and technique. Natural science is not just "a bunch of guys", it is a field of study (the quantitatively measurable and testable), a method, and contains its own checks and balances. Of course, it is far from perfect and infallible even within its own sphere, and we must make sure it doesn't stray outside that sphere (which is a problem Lewis and others tried to deal with). However, I think your approach ignores the real nature of scientific expertise and is not, therefore, an especially realistic approach to keeping the scientists honest.

Of course, I personally think natural science is of rather low importance in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn't mind if the scientific entreprise shrank considerably, but that whilst it is around I think we should put it into proper focus.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Scott,

That is true, but I'm not sure agnosticism makes sense in this context, as one must then decide one's position in regard to anti-global warming policies.

Crude,

In my last post I was referring to the post you gave in reply to Glenn. Based on your new latest post, I must say I'm thoroughly confused about your position.


'Hey. I've heard through third or fourth hand knowledge - typically a journalist, or a singular person who is also an activist - a variety of claims about a field I have little knowledge of. I don't personally know a single person involved. I have no way to verify their claims - not enough time, or interest, or perhaps even ability. Or maybe insofar as I have that time, interest, and ability, I disagree with their conclusions. I am being asked to completely ignore my lack of understanding of the things of which they speak and my ignorance of their character and motivations (or worse, evidence that is negative) and commit my faith that these men are not just possibly correct, but so certainly correct that I take their word as true by default. I decline this, and reserve the right to be agnostic, or even disagree if I've studied the issue and have license to.'

This is a misrepresentation of my position. I'm far from an expert, but I have certainly paid a reasonable amount of attention to proper journalism on the subject, from a range of sources. I have even paid attention to sceptics.

I don't see, firstly, how your being agnostic here is really that different from being sceptical, and, secondly, how it is practical or sensible, as one could replace global warming with any technical expertise (like one's plumber) or any or all topics in your secondary school Chemistry textbook.

Jeremy Taylor said...

And, actually, I don't think there is anything wrong with putting your trust in scientists and experts. I have talked about clear limits, but within these limits I just don't feel the sting of admitting I'm ignorant and trusting in the experts.

When I fly, I don't second guess the pilot (well, you're not allowed in the cockpit anymore, but you get my meaning). I admit I know little about flying a plane and put my trust in the pilot. When 97%+ of peer reviewed articles in twenty years are showing roughly similar results, I don't see what is wrong with trusting the scientific consensus.

We have discussed the fallibility of scientists and the limits of their expertise endlessly, but surely there is a field of natural science where they have expertise, including collective checks and balances, and a considerable consensus should be respected as a rule, whatever exceptions crop up.

On man-made global warming, if I see some reputable opposition to the consensus appear I will pay close attention, but, as I said, so far when I have researched (albeit briefly) accusations against the consensus (like climategate) they have turned out to be rather dubious.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Can you please tell me why you are sceptical of the scientific consensus on man-made global warming? So far I haven't seen any actual argument on this point which didn't conflate the likes of Al Gore with actual scientists or was not patently ideological.

See, the sad thing is - I haven't said anything that requires reaching the conclusion of 'man-made global warming is a myth!' or anything. I'm dealing entirely with a mode of thinking, a thought process. Yes, it does away with automatic by-default 'I'm pro-science! Therefore I parrot the consensus as MSNBC/FoxNews tells me' but really - do you think that no one can reason their way to trust in the consensus, or belief that man-made global warming is true, by the standard of 'investigate for yourself if you think it's important, choose to be agnostic or not, and decide for yourself who deserves your trust - they don't get it automatically'? If that's the only crutch keeping belief in AGW sensible, then you've got bigger problems on your hands.

This is a misrepresentation of my position. I'm far from an expert, but I have certainly paid a reasonable amount of attention to proper journalism on the subject, from a range of sources. I have even paid attention to sceptics.

Do you admit it's possible others who disagree with you have done the very same thing?

By the by - should people who haven't paid a reasonable amount of attention to the topic believe the consensus by default, even if they have no real idea about the science? Do you think it's wrong to demand they accept that consensus by default in that situation?

I don't see, firstly, how your being agnostic here is really that different from being sceptical,

If you change the definition of 'agnostic' to 'person who believes X', then yeah, I suppose I'd see that being easy to confuse.

how it is practical or sensible, as one could replace global warming with any technical expertise (like one's plumber) or any or all topics in your secondary school Chemistry textbook.

I don't know how many times I can keep repeating 'I think it's entirely okay to have faith in people, to investigate to a degree, to decide to trust and take a chance - just be honest about it, and the consensus isn't default true' before it sinks in. At this point, I really think this may be a case where you're the only one who's terribly confused about what I'm saying.

Others may well speak up.

And, actually, I don't think there is anything wrong with putting your trust in scientists and experts.

Do you? See: evolution. Hell, see: philosophy, and metaphysics, and more. You would seem to buck the consensus plenty. 'Ah, but I have good reasons to! Many of those people don't deserve my trust, even on the topics they claim to be experts on!'

To which I say, indeed.

I have talked about clear limits, but within these limits I just don't feel the sting of admitting I'm ignorant and trusting in the experts.

Again I ask - I wonder how many times I have to say I have no problem with people 'admitting their ignorance and trusting' people. I do it myself - something else I've said. But 'the consensus' isn't owed some automatic, default respect. We're free to be agnostic, or investigate topics for ourselves if we deem it worth the time.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I think you don't have to reason yourself to the consensus. I do think the average person should trust in the consensus in areas of natural science, and some other areas of expertise, where there is a well-established one, unless he has a good reason not to. This is the same as for a pilot or doctor.

There are different degrees of familiarity with issues like global warming. One doesn't have to just have watched MSNBC (which isn't available in Australia) or some similar hacks. My own familiarity is taking an interest in decent journalism on the subject as well as sometimes looking up particular claims. This means I am certainly no expert, and have read few peer-reviewed first hand research, but it is a reasonable familiarity.

You did imply that the consensus was connected to globalism, etc.

Yes, if someone has the same familiarity with the topic as I do, I would not respect their knowledge, but I'd go with the consensus. And yes, I think the average person with no knowledge of the subject is justified in just going with the consensus.

The point is your agnosticism seems to work out the same as scepticism in terms of outcome. Or this is how it seems. You haven't given much detail about where one goes from this agnostic position.

It seems we have been over this topic repeatedly, but there are clearly different kinds of expertise and different spheres of knowledge. There is no easy formula to work out exactly how to deal with each or how to piece them together. Expertise in philosophy requires some respect, in general, but it isn't the kind of area where consensus necessarily deserves the same respect as natural science. Evolution, or the full understanding and development of life, firstly involves philosophical aspects outside the field of natural science, and I'd argue is an exception which doesn't disprove the general respect that scientific consensus deserves.

Therefore, I do not think scientific consensus deserves our
respect unless we have a good reason to think otherwise. This doesn't mean that it is infallible or there cannot be exceptions, but these do not overturn this general truth. Your alternative seems to me to be unwarranted, impractical, and to emphasis individual judgment and reason far more than I'm comfortable with (as Russell Kirk put it, "It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared.".

Jeremy Taylor said...

- I meant I would respect someone who disagreed with the consensus on global warming but had the same familiarity with the issue I do, although I'd still go with the consensus.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I think you don't have to reason yourself to the consensus. I do think the average person should trust in the consensus in areas of natural science, and some other areas of expertise, where there is a well-established one, unless he has a good reason not to.

Well, I disagree. Especially given the alternatives, which seem obviously more reasonable at least as a starting point. Frankly, I will say, once the track record of consensus is considered, it's not going to improve matters.

You did imply that the consensus was connected to globalism, etc.

I mentioned a global consensus of scientists urging global action.

And yes, I think the average person with no knowledge of the subject is justified in just going with the consensus.

There's a difference between 'choosing to go with the consensus' and 'being expected to go with the consensus automatically, despite not even understanding the issues in a meaningful way'. That is, frankly, just weird. I expect that from some churches, and at least there there's typically a conscious commitment to the authority.

The point is your agnosticism seems to work out the same as scepticism in terms of outcome.

Not really, since what I'm outlining is open-ended. That's like saying that NOT having the default decision to eat at McDonalds, but instead to open oneself up to a variety of places to eat at, amounts to boycotting McDonalds for life.

Evolution, or the full understanding and development of life, firstly involves philosophical aspects outside the field of natural science, and I'd argue is an exception which doesn't disprove the general respect that scientific consensus deserves.

How about scientists who represent that consensus repeatedly blowing off the very things you say are necessary to appreciate the topic, and standing silent while some very, very public representatives misrepresent the science utterly?

I've asked before exactly what the respect towards the 'consensus' view regarding evolutionary theory should be given 'consensus' staying dead silent in the face of Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins' presentations of evolution. Remember that there we're not talking about mere 'common descent' but full on declarations of evolution as unguided and unintended by God, etc. Does that lead to any hit being taken in terms of respect deserved?

This doesn't mean that it is infallible or there cannot be exceptions, but these do not overturn this general truth.

It's not a general truth. It's at best an attitude, a mode. I'm offering an attitude and a mode as well.

By the way, let's give that full Burke quote:

"The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right."

Oh really?

But more than that, here's the funny thing. As near as I can tell, Kirk said that not with regard to science, but morality and sentiment.

Do tell me what the consensus of ethicists and scientists generally is regarding conservative morality and ethics.

Glenn said...

Crude,

>> Would it be fair to say...

> Not really.

Okay. I was curious, so thought I'd ask. Thanks for answering.


A lot of people say 'I trust the SCIENCE'. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

I don't know if it has a nice ring to it or not. But if I did know that someone said, 'I trust the SCIENCE' simply because he thinks it has a nice ring to it, then I'd be leery about trusting him.

As if you're dealing with a person who understands and grasps some intellectual and intellectually powerful stuff.

If I hear him say, "I trust the SCIENCE", and I haven't any reason to believe he's saying it for some spurious reason (e.g., because he thinks it has a nice ring to it), and I haven't any reason to believe he is a salesman trying to sell me something, then I'd likely default to presuming that:

a) he isn't all that familiar with the actual science (coz if he was, he'd probably say something else (such as, perhaps, "I'm familiar with the science itself, and I know it to be reliable")); and,

b) he has one or more reasons, sound to him, for trusting that the itself of which he himself is not all that familiar.

But if he is a salesman trying to sell me something -- be it a product, service, idea, attitude, perspective or philosophy (re some subject) -- and he says, "I trust the SCIENCE' behind [this]", then this would be a different case. And here I would be cognizant of the fact that a salesman wanting me to buy into whatever he's selling likely will, for the most part, say whatever he thinks will close the deal with me.

'I trust a bunch of guys I never met to be consistently honest and scrupulous with me about the things they study that I have know clue about, especially about topics where they may stand to gain either financially or politically'? Doesn't pack nearly the punch.

No, it doesn't pack nearly the punch. But why should it? The verbosity dissipates the punch.

(Btw, how is it even possible for any bunch of guys to be (in)consistently (dis)honest with you, if you've never met them (and, presumably, they not you)?)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

What alternatives? Your alternative doesn't seem practical or warranted as far as I can see and it doesn't deal with real expertise or how we should view it. You talk about trust but ignore the fact trust, in this context, is primarily about expertise and discovering it (and that it will be used properly).

Whatever the flaws of scientific consensus, I think that within its own spheres it has had a lot of success.

The implication (and you used the term globalist in the same paragraph and previous sentence in a similar context) was that the policies advocated by those who accept global warming, and the purported ideological associations of its supporters, were meaningful to judging the scientific consensus. This is false.

I'm still confused about what agnosticism really means in this context.

What the likes of Dawkins say on areas outside pure natural science is quite different to how we just think about natural science itself. As my record here amply shows, I'm just as much opposed to scientism and related idiocy as you are.

We have already seen Kirk appeal to scientific dogma and expertise. He was resolutely opposed to private judgment which does not know its limits, and in this he represents the entire traditional conservative position. The problem with your approach is it does seem to emphasis private judgment so much that one can, according to one's own desire, legitimately set at naught all expertise or accumulated knowledge, skill, and wisdom. There is little limiting principle in your position, it seems to me, and I see no reason why it cannot be applied to all authorities, like tradition.

Crude said...

Glenn,

I don't know if it has a nice ring to it or not. But if I did know that someone said, 'I trust the SCIENCE' simply because he thinks it has a nice ring to it, then I'd be leery about trusting him.

So in general you'd discourage people from saying 'I trust the science!' when they actually have no clue about 'the science!' beyond the say-so of others?

And here I would be cognizant of the fact that a salesman wanting me to buy into whatever he's selling likely will, for the most part, say whatever he thinks will close the deal with me.

Ahh, now there's some cynical thinking. Warms my dark heart. 'For the most part'? I wonder how you figured that out about salesman enough to make it a rule, but I digress.

Can we broaden that rule? If someone wants to convince you of something and they have a financial or political stake in your being converted, does your trust dive a little? A lot?

No, it doesn't pack nearly the punch. But why should it? The verbosity dissipates the punch.

I think you'll find it's not the verbosity that's the problem there, but the clarity.

(Btw, how is it even possible for any bunch of guys to be (in)consistently (dis)honest with you, if you've never met them (and, presumably, they not you)?)

Because you don't need to meet individuals in order to address them, and addressing individuals dishonestly is sufficient here.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

What alternatives? Your alternative doesn't seem practical or warranted as far as I can see and it doesn't deal with real expertise or how we should view it.

I'm not too worried, since your repeatedly stated biggest fears about my alternative have hardly represented my actual position. I suppose, that consistent misrepresentation should be one more brick in the wall against subscribing to your version of automatic scientific trust.

Whatever the flaws of scientific consensus, I think that within its own spheres it has had a lot of success.

Within its own spheres? You mean those spheres you're not trained in, not an expert in, and have to rely on the opinions of others to, by your own measure, confidently evaluate?

The implication (and you used the term globalist in the same paragraph and previous sentence in a similar context) was that the policies advocated by those who accept global warming, and the purported ideological associations of its supporters, were meaningful to judging the scientific consensus. This is false.

I agree entirely - your reading of me is, in fact, false.

On the flipside, 'globalism' aside, I do think it's meaningful to take into account the political and personal motivations and payoffs of people insisting on the importance of the public believing X or Y. A man can benefit from telling the truth, keep in mind - but, as Glenn just suggested, once that's in play perhaps it's time to be a bit more careful at the very least.

I'm still confused about what agnosticism really means in this context.

Again I'm going to say, unfortunately, I think the confusion's pretty isolated at this point. It's not a tricky statement I'm using, it's not a counterintuitive or original use of the word as near as I (or seemingly, others) can tell.

What the likes of Dawkins say on areas outside pure natural science is quite different to how we just think about natural science itself.

What makes you think Dawkins' and Coyne's opinions aren't the consensus view? Keep in mind one thing here: that is a case where you and I, even as non-scientists, are able to properly identify not only when these guys have 'gone outside the limits', but are dead effing wrong.

There's no 'consensus' that corrects them. Because that 'consensus' - well, the individuals part of it - don't care, or agree. And thank God you and I question 'the consensus' on that point and have thought for ourselves, because otherwise we'd have some dead wrong views about the subject.

I ask again - does that kind of performance at all impact how we should regard scientific consensus? You seem to praise Dawkins' track record 'within his field'. EO Wilson says that Dawkins isn't even a scientist - and he has a point, insofar as (given his employment and activities for ages) it makes about as much sense to call Dawkins a scientist as it would to introduce a 50-something Einstein as 'a quite successful patent office clerk'.

The problem with your approach is it does seem to emphasis private judgment so much that one can, according to one's own desire, legitimately set at naught all expertise or accumulated knowledge, skill, and wisdom. There is little limiting principle in your position, it seems to me, and I see no reason why it cannot be applied to all authorities, like tradition.

Before I answer this more fully - because really, it's a wrong interpretation - I'm going to ask something again.

Do you demand that the atheists you know submit to tradition? Do you, if you have any atheist or agnostic friends, flatly tell them 'Yes, I know you don't believe in God. But you're wrong, intellectually and morally, for not believing and acting as if you believe anyway.'?

Glenn said...

Crude,

So in general you'd discourage people from saying 'I trust the science!' when they actually have no clue about 'the science!' beyond the say-so of others?

I find your question much too vague. But I will say the following. Generally speaking, I extend to others the benefit of doubt, and leave it to them to give me reason to retract it. In the matter of your question, I would leave it the ones saying "I trust the science" to provide me with a reason for my wanting to discourage them from saying that. This isn't to say that I would ignore any and all prior knowledge I might have and think is relevant to the matter. Of course not. I'm speaking generally. So there may be cases where I might retract the benefit of doubt more quickly than I otherwise would, or even not extend the benefit of doubt in the first place.

Ahh, now there's some cynical thinking. Warms my dark heart. 'For the most part'? I wonder how you figured that out about salesman enough to make it a rule, but I digress.

It isn't clear to me why it might be thought cynical to think that a salesman -- whose purpose is to sell something -- might be willing, and even likely, to say what he needs to say in order to sell what he's selling. If he's attempting to sell something which more or less sells itself, then all the better for him -- he'll have fewer moral decisions to make regarding how he goes about being successful at his job. But I'll guess that your implied point is that personal experience and personal judgment, along with other things, factor into one coming to that rule of thumb about salesmen. If so, then I'd have to say that your implied point is a good point, and would add that personal experience and personal judgment, along with other things, likewise factor into one coming to a rule of thumb about the soundness and reasonableness of trusting a consensus of experts who aren't playing 'salesman'.

Can we broaden that rule?

I'm open to broadening the rule. How would you like to broaden it?

If someone wants to convince you of something and they have a financial or political stake in your being converted, does your trust dive a little? A lot?

The motive behind an attempt to convince me of something may influence my level of trust in that something, yes. Why? Because the credibility of what is being presented to me, as well as the credibility of he who makes the presentation, is influenced by the motive(s) behind the presentation. I have spoken of this previously, as did Jeremy before me, and you seemed to reject it at the time, so it's nice to see that you're able to change your mind (on the value of credibility as a factor in determining the level of trust one is willing to have regarding something). Let me add that just as a financial or political motive might have an impact on my level of trust regarding what is presented to me, so too might a motive involving the perpetuation of what appears to be a personal philosophy, if not of radical reliance on private judgment, then of "the default position regarding academics, philosophers and scientists ought to be knee-jerk distrust and dissent."

Glenn said...

Crude,

I trust people. I take chances. I only have so much time to evaluate this and that. Sometimes I study something for a while and become fairly knowledgeable (I think we all do that, here - we're an intelligent bunch even if we disagree, though we of course stick to particular fields.) Sometimes I make mistakes too. Sometimes others do. I'm fine with that, and I think more people should be fine with that.

This is interesting.

More to the point, I hope you like pickles.

On the one hand, scientists make up one of the three prongs of your unholy trident (the other two being academics and philosophers).

OTOH, what you say is not terribly out of synch with "wise restraint" -- wise restraint being one of three moral qualities of the scientist spoken of by the mathematician George Polya:

"The third point [that 'we should not change a belief wantonly, without some good reason'] requires 'wise restraint.' To change a belief without serious examination, just for the sake of fashion, for example, would be foolish. Yet we have neither the time nor the strength to examine seriously all our beliefs. Therefore it is wise to reserve the day's work, our questions, and our active doubts for such beliefs as we can reasonably expect to amend… Intellectual courage, intellectual honesty, and wise restraint are the moral qualities of the scientist."

Crude said...

Glenn,

I find your question much too vague.

How? It was extremely straightforward. Someone says 'I trust the science!' - they don't know the science at all. At best, they know some soundbites of scientists.

I'll put 'benefit of the doubt' talk aside.

I have spoken of this previously, as did Jeremy before me, and you seemed to reject it at the time, so it's nice to see that you're able to change your mind

No, but I'm glad to see you recognize now that your 'Crude doesn't think one should evaluate people's knowledge and trustworthiness' interpretation of me was incorrect, and now cop to my perfectly reasonable standards. Don't worry - I'll convert you on the other points yet. Loathe though you may be to admit as much.

The issue I've focused on - and which Jeremy has fought me on - is, as I've said repeatedly, a case of default states. More than that, default states that one must have on pain of being guilty of this or that mental or moral wrong. I've said straightforwardly that I admit you can choose to trust someone, based on your own investigation, incomplete evidence, or even as an act of faith. It's the defaults and automatics, among other things, that I reject.

Let me add that just as a financial or political motive might have an impact on my level of trust regarding what is presented to me,

Might?

so too might a motive involving the perpetuation of what appears to be a personal philosophy, if not of radical reliance on private judgment, then of "the default position regarding academics, philosophers and scientists ought to be knee-jerk distrust and dissent."

It's a good thing I didn't advocate a default of knee-jerk distrust and dissent. Even when it comes to, say... the NCSE, that wasn't my default state. I arrived at that conclusion after personal investigation. Extensive, actually.

Is that allowed?

OTOH, what you say is not terribly out of synch with "wise restraint" -- wise restraint being one of three moral qualities of the scientist spoken of by the mathematician George Polya:

I expected pickles, and was disappointed. Though let me give you a quote in turn, from one T Beale.

"What science fetishists almost always forget is that scientists are human, not golems animated by the spirit of the scientific method."

When Polya says, "Intellectual courage, intellectual honesty, and wise restraint are the moral qualities of the scientist.", I have a reply: those are supposed to be moral qualities of everyone. Not 'of scientists'. Further, that is not a reality - it is an ideal.

I'll also fill in the ellipsis.

Do not believe anything, but question only what is worth questioning.

One last thing.

On the one hand, scientists make up one of the three prongs of your unholy trident (the other two being academics and philosophers).

Unholy trident? I have restricted my criticisms to the idea that default intellectual submission to 'the consensus' is to be expected. I've outlined an approach where people should acknowledge when they trust (or have faith in) people rather than 'the science', that 'the consensus' is not automatically assumed true by default, and that people can be agnostic on a topic if they don't understand it and haven't looked into it, and don't care to.

What gall I have, suggesting that acceptance of (say) modernist metaphysics shouldn't be automatic and unexamine among individuals. However will the Thomists and classical theists put up with such an absurd idea.

Crude said...

A side comment.

A good amount of effort - I'll chalk it up to misunderstanding, maybe some knee-jerk reaction in the state of selective dissent - has been put into the idea that I'm outlining an intellectual approach of 'default skepticism' towards philosophers, scientists, etc. So if a scientist says 'the sky is blue', well, you should believe as a default that it is NOT blue, because grr, scientists - you can't trust them.

That's not correct.

You can trust a scientist, even a consensus, as far as I'm concerned. Just know what you're doing - you're trusting an individual or a group of individuals. Not 'the science', because if you knew THAT, you wouldn't really need the individuals or group anyway. What I'm arguing is that this is a choice. It's not a default state that you automatically intellectually 'owe' scientists (or really, anyone else) on pain of being a dirty science-hater or the like. I won't say you should start with a blank slate - not possible - but you should account for some of your biases from the get-go.

In theory (and in other areas, in practice) I could check up the consensus on this or that issue, and choose to trust individuals or groups. Or maybe I won't even check up that much and will just make an assumption. I do this at times - I'll trust that algorithm X, on average, is more efficient than algorithm Y, based entirely on my perceived say-so of others. I'll trust this historian, that scientist, this group, that group. But I don't mistake my trust for expertise, or my awareness of the consensus view as being 'well-informed about (this topic)'. I'm parroting a bit. I'm making assumptions. Quite fine, so long as I cop to it, and so I do.

Part of the problem is that I'm bringing up points where 'the scientific consensus' has - once I investigated it - turned out to be crap. See my reference to evolutionary biologists and other scientists, the NCSE, etc. All I can tell you (hey, more personal experience) is that I've seen them butcher ideas and concepts over and over again, misrepresenting their opponents (many of whom *I* disagree with too), etc, and utterly failing to self-correct in any meaningful way. So yeah, in that particular instance, that's a case where I think trusting the consensus (in considerable part, on some prominent issues) is a bad idea - and I'll even say, those results partly inform some skepticism I have elsewhere.

(I should point out here I accept common descent, evolution broadly, etc.)

But what's important to take away from that is this: it didn't have to be that way. Maybe I could have ignored the whole debate and stayed agnostic. Or just decided to throw my faith in them, provisionally, without investigation. Or maybe I could have investigated them and they could have (in another world) acted better than they did. It's not as if a degree or being part of a professional group automatically makes one unworthy of trust.

That's just how it turned out in those cases. And insofar as I investigated and found the groups lacking, well - I think that's more their fault than mine. Scary as those creationists may be.

Pardon me, but I don't think any of what I just outlined here is all that radical or dangerous. Or, put another way - if someone does find it radical and dangerous that someone can be agnostic about issues they don't understand and haven't investigated, or that they question the consensus when they find good and sincere reason to, well. I suggest that the danger may be on their side of the fence, not mine, in a very real sense.

Glenn said...

Crude,

I'll respond either later tonight or sometime tomorrow.

Meanwhile, perhaps you can, after reviewing all the comments above, name one "science fetishist" -- or one person who you think is (or who you would like to tar as) a "science fetishist" -- who has posted a comment under "I link, therefore I am".

Happy hunting.

(But do, please, exercise diligence and caution. I'd hate to return here only to find out that you have shot yourself in the foot while I was gone. ;))

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Well, I didn't want to be rude, as I respect you, but you have actually misrepresented my position in this argument far more, I think, than I have misrepresented yours. I mention I don't like the dominance of motor cars in city planning and suddenly I'm completely opposed to the motor car, and so on.

I actually don't see how I have significantly misrepresented your position. It is just you're trying to have your cake and eat it. You suggest, one minute, that all expertise should only be trusted if the individual wishes, but then say you don't margingalise expertise. Or you repudiate expertise necessarily deserving respect and then still suggest you trust your doctor, when at bottom it is clear the primary reason you must respect your doctor is his expertise.

As I have said repeatedly, I have not a whit of embarrassment that I trust scientists, for example, on astrophysics even though I know little about it.

The point about Coyne and Dawkins is that what they say about philosophy or religion or politics is not the kind of thing that we should trust scientists on, necessarily, even a scientific consensus. This should be obvious. This is completely different from the 97% of peer-reviewed papers which support man-made global warming.

I would wish all Englishmen venerate and respect the traditions and traditional institutions of England. Above all I would wish they would respect what T.S Eliot called the permanent things. Tradition alone cannot make men believers exactly, although if they were tradition-minded they would probably have much greater respect for traditional society and not be New atheists.

Jeremy Taylor said...

My position, despite insinuations, is certainly not to bow to any purported expert in any field whatsoever. I believe there are areas where genuine expertise (consensus) deserves default assent, though it is certainly fallible and needs policing - these areas include natural science and many crafts and professions. There are fields where genuine expertise deserves respect but not necessarily default assent - like psychology, philosophy, literary criticism, and the like. There are many areas where a good swath of the population should have a general knowledge. And, finally, there needs to be, in various ways, a firm policing of expertise and knowledge to make sure that experts are kept in their place. Dr. Feser and you and I, Crude, do our bit for this policing.

Natural science, despite all its flaws, is in the first category, as far as I'm concerned. It is, through its methods and its checks and balances, quite successful and trustworthy within its field. Yes, I'm well aware that scientists are human, but I don't see much evidence that contemporary Western scientific establishment is so overwhelmed by non-scientific motives that we shouldn't trust scientists in their actual fields of expertise. It does warrant default assent when there is a well-defined consensus.

But, of course, science, like any area of knowledge and expertise, is far from perfect and needs policing. I just don't think, Crude, you position gets the arrangement and framing of knowledge quite right. I think one can be as bitterly opposed to scientism and technocracy as I am whilst acknowledging that within its own field the scientific consensus deserves assent unless one has a very good reason to think otherwise.

Crude said...

Glenn,

Meanwhile, perhaps you can, after reviewing all the comments above, name one "science fetishist" -- or one person who you think is (or who you would like to tar as) a "science fetishist" -- who has posted a comment under "I link, therefore I am".

In context? George Polya, at least given that quote, for the reasons I stated. It's partly a misnomer to call that science fetishism - it's actually scientist fetishism.

But do, please, exercise diligence and caution. I'd hate to return here only to find out that you have shot yourself in the foot while I was gone.

Glenn, let me say this. Throughout this conversation, I've been trying to be civil, even polite, despite being forceful with my arguments. (Keep in mind, this came after comments about how stupid some people think various conservatives are, or look.) You, meanwhile, keep trying - with increasing desperation - to land a 'gotcha!' with me. It's failed each time, and it failed just now.

And it's going to keep failing, because you're not as good at it as you think.

Now, let me ask this, respectfully: are you going to stop? Because if you'd like this conversation to shift downward from 'civil exchange' to 'contenst to see who can mock who with greater skill, ferocity, and barbs that provoke a reaction', I'm willing to do so. You will not leave this conversation proud if you do so. You will leave it bitter, and worse for wear.

Yes, I know. Just saying that may rile you. Or at least provoke you to yawn and mention how oh-so-not-riled you are. It's all been done before. But my request is stated sincerely. Please consider it.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

Well, I didn't want to be rude, as I respect you, but you have actually misrepresented my position in this argument far more, I think, than I have misrepresented yours.

I disagree, and leave both my arguments and yours as evidence to that effect.

I mention I don't like the dominance of motor cars in city planning and suddenly I'm completely opposed to the motor car, and so on.

Feel free to quote me as saying that you're completely opposed to the motor car - you'll try in vain. I suggested your criticisms and desires on that front would lead to radical consequences. You deny this? Perhaps we have different definitions of radical.

More than that, that's hardly been a major focus of mine. I focused on your self-imposed keeping-your-mouth-shut more.

I actually don't see how I have significantly misrepresented your position. It is just you're trying to have your cake and eat it.

'When I asked if you're still beating your wife, senator, I didn't mean to imply you were a wife beater. Clearly my question was so phrased to leave the door open that you've given up the habit. Why act offended?'

You suggest, one minute, that all expertise should only be trusted if the individual wishes, but then say you don't margingalise expertise. Or you repudiate expertise necessarily deserving respect and then still suggest you trust your doctor, when at bottom it is clear the primary reason you must respect your doctor is his expertise.

Sigh.

Jeremy, here's a big difference between you and I in the course of this conversation.

When I notice that something seems amiss about your answers, I ask questions. I point out one problem or another, and ask how you resolve it. (Often, you don't reply at all.) I grant that I can do things in a pointed way, but - aside from with Glenn, who is at this point asking for it - I'm pulling punches. You don't do that so much. Instead, you just declare problems you think you see, and frankly seem to wish to see. When I explain why you're wrong, when I detail my position and explain why your interpretation doesn't work, you don't miss a beat - on to other problems. Or the same problem, restated.

I keep saying - God, at this point I'm sick of repeating myself - that no scientific consensus or individual scientist/academic/etc deserves respect as a default, from the get-go, before investigation and overriding the will of the thinker. Determining who does or doesn't have "expertise" is not knowledge typically imparted by the Holy Spirit into our minds, nor is 'this man is of acceptable moral characters and restraint on this subject'. But, as I keep saying, a person can - if they choose - go on to investigate a matter, or a man, and choose to invest their trust in them. Indeed, they can choose to say, 'Based on faith / my limited understanding, I think you have expertise'. This is not some necessary fideism. They can decide this based on practical reason. Or maybe they just like to trust people. There's a few avenues there - I want them to be honest about them.

But the endorsements of the default?

"A group of scientists whose names you don't know, on a subject you know nothing of, have X to say about a topic you haven't investigated - or insofar as you investigated it, you see flaws in their reasoning. But they are scientists, from what you hear, so you should accept their claims as truth, now, and if you don't you're a bad person. You can't even be agnostic, because agnosticism is skepticism now. At least, it is if you don't believe. Real agnostics would believe."

No thank you.

Crude said...

As I have said repeatedly, I have not a whit of embarrassment that I trust scientists, for example, on astrophysics even though I know little about it.

I... don't see what this has to do with anything. It's a statement of personal psychology.

The point about Coyne and Dawkins is that what they say about philosophy or religion or politics

Jeremy, do you realize that neither Coyne nor Dawkins - nor, for that matter, Hawking or Krauss - are typically in the mode of saying 'Hold on now, I'm no longer talking about science. I am talking about philosophy and theology. Different thing!'? They present their claims as science. Hell, Victor Stenger wrote a book called 'God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows God Does Not Exist', to considerable acclaim and endorsement by various (CoG) scientists. (Still on the NCSE recommended reading list, last I checked.)

Where's 'the consensus'? Why does an army of scientists go crazy when Behe touts a book (and often the craziness doesn't include honest representation), but when Gnu claims get made of that sort, it's ignored or, in the NCSE case, tacitly endorsed? Or is 'the consensus' and scientists off the hook when it comes to turning a blind eye to abuses, selectively?

Tradition alone cannot make men believers exactly,

Okay. So, men are intellectually and morally bound to believe the consensus of scientists, by default, sans investigation of either the topics or the consensus members and makers. But when it comes to believing in God, well, that's something else, quite forgivable.

This is the conservative sentiment of old? Channeling Lewis and Tolkien here, I'm sure?

Dr. Feser and you and I, Crude, do our bit for this policing.

Oh, do we? We police the consensus? We question it? We point out flaws? We - God in heaven - dissent at times?

A shock, that. How dare we set ourselves up as judges of these men. What degrees do we have anyway?

Can't the consensus do this policing themselves? Is peer review failing them? Or are they now excused from even knowing the limits of their expertise, or at the very least, reporting as much accurately - and that job is now ours, against them?

Wait, I think I know the answer. Yes, the consensus needs policing. In principle, it doesn't, but in practice it does. The consensus has scientists who overstep their bounds, overstate their case, oversell their predictions, misrepresent their critics, and more. It's a mess filled with skeptics and critics both reasonable and not (proportions varying by topic), scientists both reasonable and not, political and cultural motivations, and much more than that. You know, like every other endeavor in the history of fallen humanity.

It is not owed our default respect. It (or particular scientists) can gain it, to whatever degree, when we investigate it (if we care to investigate it), recognize the situation we're in, and believe and act accordingly. Or maybe we just don't care because it doesn't affect us anyway.

You keep talking about respecting 'expertise'. But determining who has expertise on a topic, how trustworthy they are as individuals, and to what degree their expertise can translate to one or another level of certainty, is not obvious. Not without knowledge, or trust, beforehand. Which would suggest, strongly, starting without default acceptance, investigating, and deciding accordingly.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I have no wish to get acrimonious, because I respect you as I said, but I have felt that throughout this discussion you have often interpreted my comments in ways not charitable to them.

On the motor car, for example, I wrote:

"One of the obvious examples is the constant planning of things around the motor car. This kind of technology was something that both Lewis and Tolkien were clearly very critical of."


And you responded:


"I think if the target is 'the motor car', it no longer makes much sense to pit 'conservatives' against Tolkien and company. That's just about everyone at that point."

Maybe I was unclear, but that is the most uncharitable interpretation which you have gone with. I do not wish to belabour the point, but if you wish to talk about misrepresentation, I do not think I have been the more guilty party in our exchange in this thread.

The problem with your latest comments on scientific expertise is they ignore the specific characteristics and institutions of contemporary natural science. Natural science consists of a methodology that works well in its proper field, and it has mechanisms of internal checks and balances. This is what makes me suggest it should be the default to accept genuine scientific consensus. You write, for example:

"You keep talking about respecting 'expertise'. But determining who has expertise on a topic, how trustworthy they are as individuals, and to what degree their expertise can translate to one or another level of certainty, is not obvious. Not without knowledge, or trust, beforehand."

I disagree. You are ignoring the defining characteristics of the modern scientific entreprise and its institutions. These are not perfect, but they do give us a reason to trust the consensus of scientists as a default.

We do need to police natural science, as we do all expertise. This is done by various cultural, social, and intellectual institutions and functions. Traditional conservatives have actually written at length about how to maximise and police expertise in the best way for society. I just don't think your approach takes into account important aspects of the modern scientific entreprise.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I do think that Lewis and Newman and the rest of the traditional conservatives who have dealt with these issues of expertise and knowledge would try to grapple with the specific characteristics of natural science and recognise that genuine expertise deserves respect and that there are intellectual, institutional and cultural reasons for respecting genuine scientific consensus as long as it stays within its bounds. What these figures sought to do is try to work about the differing areas of expertise, making sure that we got the most out of experts whilst keeping at bay overspecialisation and keeping experts in their place.

Mr. Green said...

Glenn: [Crude's position] can be boiled down to a desire or preference to not fall for, or be victimized by, fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind?
Crude: Fallacies are a problem, but not every reliance on an authority is necessarily fallacious anyway.

I didn't take Glenn to mean arguments using appeal to authority, just distinguishing true authorities from false ones. Which I think does get at the heart of it, and largely frames how I have been understanding your position.

That is, there is no such thing as "trust by default" (if we want to be rational). Obviously the default position on anything is not knowing anything about it. And from nothing [known] comes nothing [in the way of reasonable judgements]. If I trust someone, it should be because I have a good reason — and being an expert in some area is a good reason to trust someone! ...but first I must have a reason to believe that he is an expert. If I have such reasons, then fine. If I don't, then the only reasonable thing I can say is that I simply do not know either way.

That doesn't mean that it is reasonable to ignore what everyone else thinks, or that I have to figure out everything for myself. If everybody thinks someone is an expert that is evidence of his being an expert — it's hardly conclusive evidence, but it means something. If the only way the entire population could be wrong is through some ridiculously convoluted conspiracy theory, then I have reason to accept the popular view. But how impossible is it? The man whose only tool is a metal-detector is not going to find any wood, no matter how honest and forthright he is. It takes a lot of work to figure out all the relevant factors, and without that we are ignorant — the question is, do we admit our ignorance, or do we "default" to pretending we know something when we don't?


Jeremy Taylor: it does seem to be that we should not accept genuine expertise if we don't want to.

When Crude talks about "choosing" whom to trust, I'm sure he doesn't mean it's reasonable to flip a coin to decide what to believe. You ought to have reasons for any belief, and you have to choose how to get your reasons (what questions to ask, whom to ask them of, in how much depth to study a topic, etc.). Insofar as you choose to investigate something, you are entitled to make judgements about it; insofar as you don't, you are entitled to have no opinion about it at all — and that includes opinions about what "experts" say. (Because if you have absolutely no knowledge you have no basis for accepting that they are experts. Conversely, if you do have a basis to accept someone as an expert, then you do have at least some knowledge.)

When it comes to global warming, I think you, like Crude, are conflating populisers of man-made global warming and talk about policies with the scientific consensus itself.

"Science" doesn't have a consensus, of course; scientists do. And unless you have studied the science itself in detail, you have to rely on popularisers (to some extent). But at every step of the way there is some margin of error; and even though each individual error might be small, the total can be significant when you multiply them all together. So sure, in a hypothetical perfect world, we would all easily accept anything any scientist says. In the real world, things aren't so simple. Often we think we do have good reasons for some belief, but upon examination there are always holes.

The agnostic choice would be saying I don't know if global warming is true, but we should accept it as to be on the safe side.

It occurs to me that perhaps here you are thinking that one should accept that it is true even though one is agnostic about why (i.e. the scientific details). But Crude and I were referring to being agnostic about whether it is true at all, which obviously is the opposite of accepting it as true (or as false).

Mr. Green said...

Jeremy:On evolution, as a Platonist I feel it conflicts Platonic metaphysics.

OK, so I gather that your doubts lie on the philosophical side, such as interpretations of the science, not on anything that is strictly in the realm of biology itself. Fair enough.

I'm far from an expert, but I have certainly paid a reasonable amount of attention to proper journalism on the subject, from a range of sources. I have even paid attention to sceptics.

But then you are an expert — a minor one, to be sure, but you do in fact have at least some relevant experience, and thus are in some sort of position to make (limited) judgements. That's not the blind faith Crude is decrying.

secondly, how it is practical or sensible, as one could replace global warming with any technical expertise (like one's plumber) or any or all topics in your secondary school Chemistry textbook.

Surely making judgements insofar as you have actual reasons on which to base them is far more practical and sensible than making judgements out of ignorance? And global warming is very different from plumbing or secondary-school chemistry: you have first-hand knowledge of the chemistry (unless you played truant the whole time), and as I already mentioned, you have pretty obvious experience of the results of your plumber's handiwork.

I think you don't have to reason yourself to the consensus.

Well, either you arrive there by rational means (i.e. reasons) or by irrational ones. If you have good reasons for accepting the consensus, then you have reasoned yourself to it. If you don't have good reasons, then why would you accept it? For bad reasons? Crude is pointing out that of course we should have good reasons for accepting something, and if we don't, then there's no shame in admitting that we just don't know. Copping to "scientific consensus" because that's the done thing is not a good reason. And as Crude has said explicitly, that doesn't mean you can't have good reasons — of course you can, for all sorts of things. But if you don't, then don't place your trust for bad reasons.

When I first encountered Crude's position (on his own site, I had a similar reaction — that this was going too far, of course we should trust experts, and not be like twerps who reject philosophy because they "just know' that it's not worth studying. But he's not saying, it's OK to fully understand and acknowledge that someone is a bona-fide expert and ignore him anyway. If you actually know that someone is correct about something, then the reasonable thing is to trust him about it.

I do think the average person should trust in the consensus in areas of natural science, and some other areas of expertise, where there is a well-established one, unless he has a good reason not to. This is the same as for a pilot or doctor.

But when you refer to consensus, are you not implicitly appealing to what you consider good reasons to trust the experts? The consensus is a sign of something. You don't trust your pilot because he looks really piloty in his cap and uniform. You trust him because you trust the people running the airline not to employ pilots who go around crashing their planes. You trust governmental regulators not to license airlines that go around crashing their planes. You trust the media not to cover up stories of airlines that go around crashing their planes. And you trust society in general not to accommodate or facilitate such things. Not that any of these is impossible, but you start with direct experience of your friends and those around you, and work out from there. There's no default trust, but there is a lot of implicit trust, based on vast chains of complex reasoning of which we are rarely conscious, certainly not of the whole chain at any one time.

Mr. Green said...

Glenn has a sometimes whimsical style, which is not quite the same as playing "gotcha" (though, if I may attempt some whimsy myself, may not be quite different from playing "gotcha" either). At any rate, for what it's worth, I don't detect any actual ill-will on his part from where I'm standing.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: Where's 'the consensus'? Why does an army of scientists go crazy when Behe touts a book (and often the craziness doesn't include honest representation), but when Gnu claims get made of that sort, it's ignored or, in the NCSE case, tacitly endorsed? Or is 'the consensus' and scientists off the hook when it comes to turning a blind eye to abuses, selectively?

Surely what Jeremy is getting at is that he has enough knowledge to distinguish the genuine scientific statements from the crummy tacked-on philosophy, and that he has reasons to trust the former but not the latter. I disagree with him that this should be called "defaulting" to consensus or anything like that. But clearly he does have reasons — whether those reasons stand up under scrutiny is another question; he might be right or he might be honestly mistaken — but those actual reasons are what he bases his trust on, and it's not surprising that he has reasons to accept this consensus and other reasons to reject that one. The checks and balances he refers to, for example, do provide reasons for trusting actual scientific claims (...once we take into account a lot of supporting infrastructure which may be taken for granted but is there nevertheless).


As for who's misrepresenting whom, I am forced to choose to remain agnostic. It takes two to tango — one to present and one to interpret, and it's possible for a given presentation plus a given interpretation to add up to a misrepresentation even if neither half does so by itself. In my attempt to read both sides charitably, I somewhat suspect we have here a case of violent near-agreement.

Glenn said...

Crude,

This is to get caught up on what I had earlier said I would respond to.

1. >> I find your question much too vague.

> How? It was extremely straightforward. Someone says 'I trust the science!' - they don't know the science at all. At best, they know some soundbites of scientists.

Your original question was: "So in general you'd discourage people from saying 'I trust the science!' when they actually have no clue about 'the science!' beyond the say-so of others?"

Now you're acting as if it had been: "So in general you'd discourage people from saying 'I trust the science!' when they actually have no clue about 'the science!' beyond some sound bites of scientists?"

If you see 'say-so' and 'sound bites' as synonymous, equivalent and freely interchangeable, and you see 'others' and 'scientists' also as synonymous, equivalent and freely interchangeable, then it makes sense that you don't see why I found your original question much too vague.

I suppose, however, that I could have refrained from engaging in 'benefit of the doubt' talk, and simply asked, "What is the 'say-so', and who are the 'others'?"

But now that I know that 'say-so' = 'sound bites', and that 'others' = 'scientists', I no longer find your question much too vague. So, here is my answer:

Standing on T. Beale's assertion that, "[T]hose who are skilled at understanding and anticipating human behavior can correctly ascertain the truth or untruth of a scientific matter without knowing anything whatsoever about the science involved," I can see no reason why anyone would want to discourage a person skilled at understanding and anticipating behavior from exclaiming, 'I trust the science!' -- provided that person's ascertainment was of the truth, rather than the untruth, of the scientific matter he wants to shout out about.

(Yes, I'm being whimsical. Partly. And, no, I'm not making up that Beale quotation; in fact, it's from the same paragraph you quoted from earlier.)

2. When Polya says, "Intellectual courage, intellectual honesty, and wise restraint are the moral qualities of the scientist.", I have a reply: those are supposed to be moral qualities of everyone. Not 'of scientists'.

I agree that those are good qualities for any person to have, be s/he scientist or not. However, the quotation is from a section in which Polya is specifically addressing what is needed in science. And in saying that those are the moral qualities of the scientist, Polya is not suggesting that they are qualities non-scientists need not have. So, I don’t see anything wrong, imprecise or misleading about his having identified those qualities as qualities of scientists.

Additionally, if intellectual courage, intellectual honesty and wise restraint are supposed to be moral qualities of everyone, and by 'everyone' is meant 'all people', and scientists qualify as 'people', then it necessarily follows that intellectual courage, intellectual honesty and wise restraint are supposed to be moral qualities 'of scientists'.

3. Further, that is not a reality - it is an ideal.

I'll take it that you mean to say that it is not a reality that everyone does indeed have those qualities.

- - - - -

I’ll respond to your subsequent comments later.

Crude said...

Green,

I didn't take Glenn to mean arguments using appeal to authority, just distinguishing true authorities from false ones. Which I think does get at the heart of it, and largely frames how I have been understanding your position.

Glenn referenced fallacies specifically in that question, so that's the term on which I replied. I don't think trusting person X, even trusting person X wrongly, is necessarily a fallacy. So, etc.

But then you are an expert — a minor one, to be sure, but you do in fact have at least some relevant experience, and thus are in some sort of position to make (limited) judgements. That's not the blind faith Crude is decrying.

Yeah, this is worth stressing too. When someone says, 'Well I've looked at X amount of evidence, I've read up on the science, and I've come to this conclusion about this topic (which is to trust these experts/authorities, etc)', that's not 'trust by default'.

There's no default trust, but there is a lot of implicit trust, based on vast chains of complex reasoning of which we are rarely conscious, certainly not of the whole chain at any one time.

I think it'd be interesting to figure out what the chain of reasoning and 'trust' is for a person on a gluten free diet, when they don't have celiac disease, and also don't really know what gluten is.

The checks and balances he refers to, for example, do provide reasons for trusting actual scientific claims (...once we take into account a lot of supporting infrastructure which may be taken for granted but is there nevertheless).

I don't doubt that, insofar as Jeremy claims to have read up on this or that and studied the issue and studied the actual science, he now at least has some information on his side, etc. Nor am I disputing that there are some reasons for trusting a particular 'consensus' view on a given, narrow, specifically scientific issue, etc. (Note that this isn't decisive. There can be some reasons to trust X, and some reasons not to.)

What I am after with that example is this: I've pointed out areas where scientists, and 'the consensus of scientists', is failing. Obviously failing, according to reasons and standards at least all of us here know. Someone can go ahead and tell me that, on balance, they still trust the consensus or scientists or whatnot anyway. That's a different argument. But I think I've presented an example - in fact, multiple examples - of cases that weigh against that consensus and community.

Scott said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"I do think that Lewis and Newman and the rest of the traditional conservatives who have dealt with these issues of expertise and knowledge would try to grapple with the specific characteristics of natural science and recognise that genuine expertise deserves respect and that there are intellectual, institutional and cultural reasons for respecting genuine scientific consensus as long as it stays within its bounds."

I expect so, but of course that wouldn't be "trust by default."

Glenn said...

Crude,

1. My first comment to you in this thread began with:

> I think you make some very good points, and it seem obvious that you feel strongly about them. I also haven't any objections against them on a "per se" basis.

This statement was true then, and it is true now.

2. I then continued with:

> At the same time, I think that your strong feelings about the (very good) points you make may have partially colored your perception of what Jeremy has been saying.

This statement also was true then, and also is true now.

3. If second person is entitled/free to disagree with a first person's reasoning, then a third person is entitled/free to disagree with the second person's reasoning. (And a fourth person is..., etc. so on down the line.)

Glenn said...

Mr. Green: I didn't take Glenn to mean arguments using appeal to authority, just distinguishing true authorities from false ones. Which I think does get at the heart of it, and largely frames how I have been understanding your position.

Crude: Glenn referenced fallacies specifically in that question, so that's the term on which I replied. I don't think trusting person X, even trusting person X wrongly, is necessarily a fallacy. So, etc.

Me: My query about 'appeal to authority' fallacies had been made out of curiosity. Crude has made numerous statements regarding not trusting by 'default' or 'automatically', and often makes mention of people screwing up, getting things wrong, etc., as support for his rejection of 'automatics' and 'defaults'. So, I was just exploring a preliminary point, on the off chance that it might lead to a discussion on whether he might be thinking that misuse and abuse justify doing away with use.

Glenn said...

From 1966:

o Today it is enough indeed to stick the label "scientific" on any theory, however wild, in order to have it gain unconditional (and uncritical) acceptance. Scientific as physics, chemistry and medicine may be, we live in an age that also accepts as "scientific" the speculations offered by anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, while failing to make a much called for distinction between what is "scientific" and what is "pseudo-scientific" in the approach as well as in the conclusions of these disciplines.

-- Von Hildebrand, Dietrich and Alice, MORALITY AND SITUATION ETHICS (Epilogue: The Case Against Situation Ethics)

- - - - -

It seems to me that the distinction Jeremy has alluded to on multiple occasions is not inconsistent with the distinction mentioned by the Von Hildebrands.

And while I happen to agree with the quoted remarks re "pseudo-scientific", I don't see how respect for the "real-scientific", if I may call it that, ought to suffer because of the proliferation of the "pseudo-scientific".

It may at times be difficult to separate the one from the other, but we should still make the effort not to throw out the baby ("real-scientific") with the bathwater ("pseudo-scientific").

I agree that there is a strong case to be made for accepting 'defaults' and 'automatics' re the "real-scientific", if for no other reasons than that the "real-scientific" is cumulative, and that if we were to be constantly throwing out cumulative results demonstrated to be reliable, and constantly starting from scratch, we'd be constantly getting nowhere.

Crude said...

Glenn,

Yes, I'm being whimsical. Partly. And, no, I'm not making up that Beale quotation; in fact, it's from the same paragraph you quoted from earlier.

I disagree with Vox about a lot of things. Hell, I find him to be an ass many times. But I don't really care what he has to say about anything else - not even in the same post that quote comes from.

I use that quote because it's both important, and reasonable. All that, plus it's nicely succinct. I defy anyone here to dispute it, because really, it'll lead to laughter - and we can all use a good laugh now and then.

I haven't bothered reading most of the rest of your comment, though - it's possibly irrelevant, for reasons my next comment may be able to show.

Crude said...

I've skipped over the most recent replies, because there's a good chance they're just pointless to the topic. I'm going to thank Mr Green for raising the possibility that misunderstanding is at work here - so, I'm going to try and change tack and see if that helps.

The problem may center around what I mean when I say 'belief by default'.

Let's say you're curious about topic X. You do some research, and discover that there is a field of people called Xists who study this topic, and have come to some conclusions about it. You do further research, determine that they seem generally trustworthy - you determine, broadly, their methods and how they reach their conclusions, how they qualify them, how they communicate them. It all seems reasonably and trustworthy to you. You decide, to save time and energy, from that point on to place some amount of trust in the community of Xists on this topic.

You may say that, thereafter and until something changes, you 'trust the Xists by default'.

Great. Fantastic. Not what I mean by 'default belief'.

Let's try another scenario. Here, you come to know person Y. Person Y, for whatever reason, seems generally and knowledgeable and trustworthy about certain topics (for good reasons - you're aware of the general limits and risks here) - and you trust their character as well. They tell you that the community of Xists are who they tend to trust about topic X. You decide to take Person Y's endorsement, and thus you now tend to trust the community of Xists in the future on this topic.

Again: Great. Fantastic. Also not what I mean by 'default belief'.

Now, in both cases, I think it's tremendously important to be aware of and say what you're doing. You are not trusting 'the science' or the research or this or that or, etc. You're actually quite ignorant of those things. You're trusting people.

Now, another scenario. You know nothing about topic X. Really, you aren't even particularly clear about what the limits or methods of study are regarding X. You've not looked into the topic, and X is pretty remote in terms of it likely having any bearing on your day to day life. You have no person Y who you trust (appropriately trust, no less) who advises you here. You have not looked into X, and likely aren't going to - you have other things to do. But there is a cultural pressure to believe and trust the Xists. So, you just decide to believe the Xists. Indeed, you ridicule those who don't.

Now here we have an example that's a lot closer to 'belief by default'.

Does this help? Is this clear?

Tony said...

I defy anyone here to dispute it, because really, it'll lead to laughter - and we can all use a good laugh now and then.

Well, I dispute it. SO there.

Wait, let me go back and read it to see what I am disputing...

Oh, well, in that case, maybe I dispute the dispute.

Actually, let me pose something of a confirmation of science fetishism: In high school science classes all across America (and other places, I assume), science teachers and students regularly perform experiments that are supposed to have certain outcomes. Regularly, at least some 1/5 (but probably more like 1/3) of the experiments do NOT HAVE the results expected. Invariably, either the teacher or the students sit around trying to assign "reasons" for why their experiment "failed", such as bad measuring devices, faulty observations, etc. Instead of, you know, asking whether the supposition that X "should" have resulted might be an error. That is, they assume that what scientists tell them is the "right" outcome is more valid than the actual evidence in front of their eyes. Because, hey, they're scientists, right? The frequency with which either a student or a teacher says anything like "well, that theory may not be true" is evanescent.

Crude said...

Tony,

Quoting Feynman on this one:

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of—this history—because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong—and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that...

George LeSauvage said...

Late returning here. Not that it matters, as Crude has said - better than I could - almost everything I would have.

There are only 2 points I would make, Crude. While you have pointed it out, I think you might have hit more on the distinction between "science" and "scientists". Like every other similar statement, "I trust science" does, IRL turn into "I trust scientists."

The 2nd is that I would have hit on one point about AGW. The fact is that the "settled science" just hasn't been so long enough to count, reliably, as "settled". I'm old enough to remember when scientists were telling us that we'd all soon be freezing to death.

On a general note, deference to the current crop of experts, and their recent (not long established) claims, strikes me as the very opposite of conservative. It's just what the philosophes would recommend. And I'm not alone here:

"In other words, the expert does not escape his age; he only lays himself open to the meanest and most obvious of the influences of his age. The specialist does not avoid having prejudices; he only succeeds in specialising in the most passing and illiterate prejudices."

(And just for the record, only T S Eliot was a bigger influence on my ideas than was GKC.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Scott,

Well, I suppose it depends upon what is meant by default.

Obviously, it does depends, for me, upon the characteristics of modern science.

What I want to stress though is that there is quite a wide sense in which the consensus should be treated as default. This is because the man in the street often can only have a passing knowledge of the scientific consensus. You might say that then we should ignore the man in the street then, but our polities do not. Besides, there are areas of expertise - like a doctor or pilot - where the man in the street has to trust expertise.

George,

The work on global warming goes back at least thirty years and includes thousands of studies and articles, over 97% of which seem to support man-made global warming. Seems rather settled to me. Certainly, it hardly seem like one can jump from that to implying it is all up in the air and one should side with the sceptics.

That quote from Chesterton is in the context of him bemoaning the fact that experts tend to have "the most vulgar and sentimental ideas that happen to be common to their social clique". That seems a rather distinct topic to the one we are discussing. The traditional conservative tradition has certainly be opposed to overspecialisation and technocracy, and so am I.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Mr. Green,

I'm still unsure just what Crude's position is. When it comes to blind faith, I think there needs to be people like me who know a little something about the topic, as well as non-experts who know even more, to help police it. But there man in the street often does have to rely on experts and although it won't quite be blind faith -because my whole argument is there are reasons to trust experts like scientists and doctors and plumbers - he will be largely ignorant of field.

I'm not sure I accept the differences you are trying to draw between global warming and plumbing or chemistry. If you have little of plumbing or chemistry, then you have to trust their expertise rather blindly. The same is true on global warming. At some point you have to make that choice, even if the results are more readily available in these cases.

When it comes to good reasons, I think that the methods of natural science within its own field, as well as the checks and balances of science as an institution are good reasons for giving default assent (though recognising the consensus is certainly fallible) to genuine scientific consensus. This is especially true in a society that does it policing of expertise well. The same goes for a plumber or mechanic. If we have good reason, as we do, to know they learn a well-defined body of knowledge, we should trust them (obviously, with these sorts of experts their integrity and the like is an even more pressing question and can't be discovered simply from their expertise). And there are whole swathes of our lives where we need to trust experts, often whilst having little knowledge of the area ourselves. This would include everywhere from having our car fixed to using a new piece of technology (if you know little about lifts, and don't give default trust to experts, why would you get in a new lift or model of aircraft?).

Global warming itself is an issue where most people have to decide what they believe, as it is a political and social issue. No one here has really explained the full implication of staying agnostic on the issue.

There's no default trust, but there is a lot of implicit trust, based on vast chains of complex reasoning of which we are rarely conscious, certainly not of the whole chain at any one time.

Indeed, this is basically my point. I think Crude's position, besides seeming to invoke a overly individualistic perspective I'm not comfortable with, doesn't take into account the specific characteristic and institutional apparatus of contemporary science and other areas of expertise, like science's methods and its checks and balances (peer-review, oversight, and the like).

Crude,

I would say that often our response to genuine scientific expertise legitimately blends your first and third descriptions of the default. This is because, although people often know little of the area, the characteristics and institutions of modern science do allow the man on the street to give default assent to a genuine scientific consensus.

Jeremy Taylor said...

George,

Sorry, I meant to note the Chesterton quote was attacking the ideas and notions of specialists outside their fields. Those are the sentimental and vulgar ideas Chesterton talks about.

George LeSauvage said...

@Jeremy:

The reason I quoted GKC was the phrase "the expert does not escape his age". (Yes, I know the context.) And I do think the point relevant here. To me, the statement "The work on global warming goes back at least thirty years and includes thousands of studies and articles, over 97% of which seem to support man-made global warming. just is amazing. at least thirty years? ???

That's one generation, one group of very-much like minded people. Which is to say, it is a group extremely likely to err together, independent of any conspiracy theory. We see this repeatedly in history; to take one example, you have the consensus of the late '30s that "the bomber would always get through", therefore it was futile to invest much in fighter defenses. As with AGW today, they enjoyed immense support from politicians, and had a committed megaphone in the media. By the end of 1940, everyone who'd said that was engaged deep in CYA. (The years leading to WWII are just loaded with this stuff.)

I will also point out that the 97% number is not beyond doubt.

Jeremy Taylor said...

George,

Thirty years and thousands upon thousands of peer-reviewed articles and research. Since 2007, no scientific organisation of any national or international standard denies the consensus on man-made global warming. Seems rather settled to me.

I don't understand your point about the like-minded group. We are talking specifically about scientific expertise as it is applied to a scientific topic. I see little evidence that the consensus itself has much to do with ideology.

Are you and the sceptics, though, not deeply influenced by ideology? With the sceptics, at least, the ideology is obvious, but not for the actual scientists involved.

And whilst the claim that 97% of scientific opinion supports the consensus has been questioned (though how meaningfully is open to question), as Crude and I went through, it is hard to question the idea that 97%+ of peer-reviewed articles in recent years have supported the consensus.

This is why some of the concern about expertise looks like special pleading to me: it is an excuse to dismiss the science on global warning, whilst not really applying such a standard to many areas of science and expertise.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I'm still unsure just what Crude's position is.

Ladies and gentlemen who may be functioning as onlookers throughout this discussion, I have a simple plea.

If you are unsure 'just what my position is' at this point, can you please step forward? Or, for that matter, if you actually do know what my position is, can you do the same? Because, as I've said, I really do think at this point that there's pretty well an audience of one who is confused here.

I would say that often our response to genuine scientific expertise legitimately blends your first and third descriptions of the default.

And insofar as we engage in the third, we make a mistake insofar as we believe that that default is necessary on pain of moral or intellectual error. And insofar as it's blended with 1, it's no longer option 3. How in the world is someone both pig-ignorant of the science yet they've investigated on their own in considerable measure?

You keep talking about how scarily individualistic my 'you don't have to believe that which you don't understand unless you freely chose to, and if insofar as you do understand you legitimately disagree you're free to do that too' view is. So let me, finally, counter - your 'yes, we should expect people to blindly believe secular authorities' view is dreadfully collectivist. If what pushes you to it is a fear that, if you don't exert pressure on people to believe what they don't understand, then they won't believe what you want them to believe, I have a simple plea: leave them alone, at least when it comes to that kind of crass manipulation. And leave their children alone too. They should not be regarded as puppets for you to so lovingly push towards the conclusions you deem right, even for their own good.

Those 'checks and balances' you speak of are not God-given or God-enforced, any more than the checks and balances of government are, or the relationship between the media and the corporation, or otherwise. They can fail. In the past, they have failed. I have pointed out repeatedly where they do fail now.

Now, you may at this point just reply, you feel no shame in ridiculing and mocking people for failing to believe something they don't understand and don't want to blindly trust their supposed betters (who they also know little about) regarding. If so, my own reply is simple: you should, in fact, feel ashamed.

George LeSauvage said...

@Jeremy:

"Thirty years and thousands upon thousands of peer-reviewed articles and research. Since 2007, no scientific organisation of any national or international standard denies the consensus on man-made global warming. Seems rather settled to me." You have very low standards. Once again, I insist it takes time. One should remember that one error to which scientists have long been prone hasty generalization; basing theories on too small samples. Here, the more compacted the studies are, by time, the more likely they are to repeat assumptions, rather than questioning them. Conceptual criticism is inherently time-consuming. (Also, "thousands upon thousands" is very questionable; too many have been studying the same data, or simply extrapolating from one another. As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up.)

I think Crude hits the nail on the head (again) about the reliability of a contemporary consensus, with "Those 'checks and balances' you speak of are not God-given or God-enforced, any more than the checks and balances of government are, or the relationship between the media and the corporation, or otherwise. They can fail. In the past, they have failed. I have pointed out repeatedly where they do fail now."

I have said many times, that "peer review" has become a superstitious word. It really doesn't guarantee anything; it is merely a time-saver. It is at best a way of catching the worst and most flagrant errors. It is not, and never was, a guarantee of correctness.

And that is at best, assuming there is no wagon-circling. But on AGW, there has, provably, been just that. I cited Mann, Hanson, and Jones. Those are not obscure names in the debate. And they all are guilty of professional malfeasance. There is simply no reasonable doubt that skeptics are unwelcome, and have been for at least 15 years. Anyone who raises doubts risks money, ability to publish, and denunciation. Serious science doesn't act that way; AGW alarmists do.

The way we handle this nowadays is inherently self-policing. That is, self policing by a community which has always been very inclusive and self-protective (back to Thomas and Albert's days), and which today is dominated by a belief that "truth" is an illusion, that the noble lie is justified, and that they are an embattled and virtuous remnant.

You ask if it is a matter of ideology? In a sense it is, for me, though not in one which is directly political. I do - deeply - distrust those who try to make our flesh creep, and who come up with frankly hysterical demands that we do their bidding. And AGW is clearly just such a movement. I do not trust fashions, period.

Oh, yes, some days ago, you asked if I question my doctors this way. The answer is, and always has been, "yes". I never take what they say on faith, unless there is no choice (e.g., because of the time factor.) The funny thing is that many of them like this. Those are the ones I keep going to. A few get offended, and those I do not trust.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

Certainly your position seems as confusing to me as it did at the beginning. For example, you dismiss any requirement to trust expertise, yet you wish to be able to trust experts like doctors and support it by talk about personal trust, whilst ignoring the fact that surely this trust must be primarily about expertise.

I struggle to see how my position is collectivist. It is social. It recognises the social nature of knowledge, but does not reduce the social simply to a slavish devotion to a collective. So, my position takes into account the actual characteristics and institutions of contemporary natural science - which you largely ignore - as well as the broader need of institutions and outlets for policing of scientific and other knowledge, which you again largely ignore.

Your position does seems dangerously individualistic, precisely because it ignores the social nature of knowledge and refers all to private experience and reason - you even give a paean in your latest post to the right of anyone to set themselves up as the ultimate personal authority on any knowledge or expertise or social division or area of leadership and authority. Wasn't this overreliance on private reason one of the fountainheads of the Jacobin errors? What would Vicomte De Bonald or Cardinal Newman say to such an approach to knowledge. There is no limiting principle in your position - it can apply to all expertise, all divisions of knowledge and leadership.

Of course, the checks and balances are not full-proof, nothing human ever is. But that does mean that they are not, as natural science currently stands, not reasonable good. You certainly have not shown reason to doubt that these checks and balances are generally, if not always or completely, effective.

Jeremy Taylor said...

George,

Do you have any actual evidence that the consensus on global warming is not well-defined and supported? At the moment you are simply offering vague and unsupported conjecture about what the time frame for the data collection means.

You mentioned climategate above and now you mention the scientists involved. But no less than eight scientific bodies or committees found no scientific misconduct beneath that so called scandal. So, it is hard to see what point you are trying to make.

If you wish to allege any widespread censorship of scientific sceptics, then you will have to prove this. In the media, if anything, sceptics are overrepresented, because the media likes to give two sides, even if one side is not reputable.

You confuse actual scientists with global warming activists. But even these activists hardly seem more ideological or more often hacks than the sceptics. The sceptics probably are worse.

George LeSauvage said...

@Jeremy:

I believe climategate is more than enough grounds to doubt. If you actually read some of the emails, the evidence of rank dishonesty is overwhelming. And I will say that I put very little weight on the fact that "no less than eight scientific bodies or committees found no scientific misconduct beneath that so called scandal." I do not need a hearing to interpret my own reading. When there is explicit discussion of how to prevent opposing papers being published, and how to punish those journals which do publish them, then the hearings' own credibility is what is at stake, not the charge. (Of course, there is also the question of how narrowly defined was the matter investigated; some of the investigations may have been absolutely correct in terms of what they were commissioned to look into, if that was so circumscribed. And of course, dishonesty is not, per se, punishable; that depends on how the rules are written.)

Both my own experience and my reading convinces me that self-policing doesn't work; such committees are normally just CYA boards. You may think this conspiratorial thinking, but that is so only in the sense that all human life is full of mini-conspiracies, of children trying to hide their misdeeds from parents, students their idleness from teachers, judges their bribes from the public; all the panoply of human defensiveness.

So when should we distrust? Well, when there is clear dishonesty of

Analogies would be the US Bishops' handling of pedophile priests. Or in academia, Penn State's handling of the Sandusky scandal & UNC's current athletic difficulties. Academics and politicians are at least as likely to lie for their own as others are. (I would put them lower - about even with lawyers, in fact.)

I believe that the presumption is heavily against such investigations, per se, unless the evidence is made public, and thus can be evaluated, as with the Warren Commission. Or countless others.

In response to Crude, you say " my position takes into account the actual characteristics and institutions of contemporary natural science", but it doesn't do that, at all. It really involves accepting, uncritically, the ideal and professed character of these institutions, and assumes that somehow a lab coat sacramentally removes all the frailties of human nature.

And since he has unquestionably lied in the past, until Mann's data is released, I don't trust him, period.

Again, the censoring is documented, and I have not seen it refuted. There are a number of believers in AGW who have protested this. (Admittedly a minority, and of course, immediately reviled.) Far more have openly advocated such suppression. Which is natural, today. We live in an era when belief in honesty, and in open discussion, is at an historic low. Of course lies and suppression will be the result; what else could one expect.

But I don't see the point of going on, when you say "
If you wish to allege any widespread censorship of scientific sceptics, then you will have to prove this. In the media, if anything, sceptics are overrepresented, because the media likes to give two sides, even if one side is not reputable". If you can believe that, you will believe anything. Like the fair treatment they give to exponents of Natural Law, who are almost always described as basing their arguments on Revelation. Or the reaction to Nagel's book, in the overwhelming majority of stories which covered it. Yes, both sides indeed.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"Ladies and gentlemen who may be functioning as onlookers throughout this discussion, I have a simple plea.

If you are unsure 'just what my position is' at this point, can you please step forward? Or, for that matter, if you actually do know what my position is, can you do the same?"

I understand your basic position to be as follows:

If I'm completely ignorant of a specific subject, I'm not therefore obliged by default to trust any sort of "consensus" about that subject; remaining agnostic is an option as well, though of course I can (legitimately) place my trust in some person or group if and as I see fit to do so. (And if I know something about how research on the subject is generally conducted, then I'm not in a state of complete ignorance about that subject.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Well, that is what I understood his position to be, too. But how he deals with the specific characteristics of different areas of knowledge and expertise, and the fact there is a necessary division of knowledge, expertise, and social authority - including a need to trust experts in the many, many areas where we have no deep knowledge - is where I'm totally at a loss.

George,

So, those eight different scientific bodies of national or international standing, from Britain and the U.S, all missed the obvious? Seems conspiratorial. I haven't read all the emails, but I paid attention to the issue when it first came to public attention, and, though the emails were embarrassing, they hardly seemed to constitute an active campaign to mislead or anything verging on scientific misconduct.

I didn't say my position was to uncritically accept the professions of these institutions. I have talked about the fallibility of these institutions and the need to police them. You are implying something different. You are implying widespread bias and corruption, but I see no reason to think this is a characteristic of these institutions.

The problem with the claim that the censorship is documented is that many of the allegations against the consensus are supposedly documented. But, like climategate, when you actually look them up they dissolve like water in the hands.

It is certainly correct that the mainstream media doesn't give much coverage to the socially conservative. But when it comes to scientific expertise and the like they are often criticised for giving two sides equal treatment when they don't deserve it. Recently, in Australia, the media was criticised for giving anti-vaccination campaigners equal treatment to the health authorities.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- It should be said that some of the allegations of censorship do refer to actual issues - often fuelled by the toxic atmosphere which popular sceptics have created. But to just talk about censorship without qualification is unhelpful and inaccurate.

I don't usually think much of The Guardian, but it has a serious of articles covering climategate which are balanced, informative, and well-thought out:

Q&A: 'Climategate'

How the 'climategate' scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics' lies


Battle over climate data turned into war between scientists and sceptics


Emails reveal strenuous efforts by climate scientists to 'censor' their critics

I think these articles, and the rest in the series, give a good overview of climategate. The emails do show genuine problems with how these scientists sometimes acted. However, they certainly do not support the idea that there was a general conspiracy of censorship. And it must be noted that a lot of the problems arose because the scientists felt themselves under siege from those who were often ideological and uninformed hacks.

George LeSauvage said...

Jeremy: this is the last answer I will give you. You are blowing smoke.

No one who actually reads their own words can avoid the fact that Mann and Jones actually conspired to suppress the publication dissenting opinions. That is not an interpretation, it is a fact. They did quite clearly discuss trying to suppress the Medieval Warm Period, to hide it. That is not in doubt.

Until the 60s, this would have ruined them. But since then, advocates of lying and suppressing dissent are now the majority, at least of those who speak. It's an indictment of our culture that two proven lying thugs are defended, and that people like you will bow down to that defense.

Given that, no number of "different scientific bodies of national or international standing, from Britain and the U.S," can change those facts. Not 8, not 8000. Not all the perfumes of Arabia can sweeten it. Why they exonerated them is irrelevant. You are making an appeal to authority where there is better evidence, which anyone can read who wishes.

I'm done with you.

Crude said...

Scott,

If I'm completely ignorant of a specific subject, I'm not therefore obliged by default to trust any sort of "consensus" about that subject; remaining agnostic is an option as well, though of course I can (legitimately) place my trust in some person or group if and as I see fit to do so. (And if I know something about how research on the subject is generally conducted, then I'm not in a state of complete ignorance about that subject.)

Pretty much. 'Legitimately' would have to be parsed, but my main issue there is that it is, in fact, an act of trust and faith in people, as opposed to "the science" or "the expertise", since that's the one thing a person would be ignorant of.

I also think that, insofar as someone has studied an issue and has come to a conclusion against the consensus, a provisional belief in opposition to it is reasonable.

This isn't a perfect position, but I think it's reasonable - even 'traditionally conservative' (though I get the impression that standard's been waning throughout this conversation.)

Either way, thank you for responding. That gives me some hope, regardless of whether or not you agree with the stance.

Crude said...

And just to clarify one thing.

Me, personally? Yeah, I'm pretty skeptical of consensus in general, particularly on political hot button issues. That doesn't mean that I take the opposite view by default - I actually don't have much of an opinion on the actual science of global warming. Search my blog for my discussion of it if you care to - I think I have one post about it, and I don't talk about the science at all. I just roll my eyes about the political behavior.

But I don't advocate (and you'll notice, I haven't advocated here) *default* skepticism of consensus. I recognize someone else may be ignorant of the evidence I've seen, have access to evidence I do not, may weight things differently, may think different chances are worthy of risk. That doesn't bother me in and of itself - that's an opportunity for conversation.

Maybe that's what spooks some people. I haven't described an intellectual stance that guarantees all these right and proper conclusions and positions automatically. Good God, if more people subscribed to what I'm outlining (no default trust in ignorance, the provisional reasonableness of doubting and questioning, the recognition of when one is trusting people as opposed to 'science', etc), the focus to change minds would be on intellectual engagement and persuasion, not simple bullying. However shall the republics and democracies continue with such standards in play?

I think we'll find a way.

Glenn said...

Crude

You need not not read what follows on the premise that it is possibly irrelevant -- it definitely is irrelevant to your point, and it is on this basis that you ought not read it.

At any rate, what follows is not a response to your point, so, actually, it is irrelevant whether you read it or not.

Glenn said...

Some food for thought:

1. Can an expert marksman miss the bull's eye? Yes, he can.

Can a non-expert marksman hit the bull's eye? Yes, he can.

Even so, i.e., despite the fact that the expert can 'miss' and the non-expert 'hit', my money is on the expert.

My money is on the expert not because I think he's necessarily infallible – I think no such thing – but because, being an expert, he's more likely to succeed at hitting the bull's eye than is the non-expert.

And my money is not on the non-expert not because I think he's necessarily incapable or incompetent – again, I think no such thing – but because, being a non-expert, he's less likely to succeed at hitting the bull's eye than is the expert.

Addendum: If the expert and the non-expert are equally likely to hit the bull's eye, or are equally likely to miss it, then it is the case that one of the two is mislabeled (vis-à-vis, e.g., the target aimed at and/or the conditions under which the aiming is to take place).

2. Stan Lester's Novice to Expert: the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition "contains two versions of the Dreyfus 'novice to expert' model, one combining the main features of both versions of the model published in the early 1980s, and the other taken from the Institute of Conservation's professional standards."

"Novice to Expert" is four pages long, easy to read, easy to understand, and addresses five gradations of increasing skill levels: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient and expert.

Only the expert is an expert; the other four -- the novice, advanced beginner, competent and proficient -- are not experts, i.e., are non-experts. And there is a good case to be made in favor of having an 'in principle' (though by no means rigid and unalterable) preference for trusting the expert over the non-expert.

One can forgo adopting an 'in principle' preference in favor of taking a more 'agnostic' stance, true. In preferring a more 'agnostic' stance, however, one is balancing oneself on the cusp of ostensibly trusting either an expert or a non-expert -- depending on what he himself, the so-called 'agnostic', is.

3. There's a joke about a guy who couldn't get his boiler to start. He calls a repairman, explains the problem, and asks if the repairman can come right over (there's a cold-snap going on). The repairman said he wasn't busy just then, and arrived ten minutes later.

"Try starting the boiler,” the repairman said. “I want to see what happens." The guy tries starting the boiler; it makes some noises, but won't start.

"Okay," said the repairman, "I know what the problem is." He opens his toolkit, takes out a hammer and whacks the side of the boiler. "Okay, now try it." The guy tries starting the boiler, and it immediately fires up.

"Hey, that's great," said the guy. "Thanks! How much do I owe you?"

"$100," said the repairman.

"$100?! What you are, nuts? I could've hit the boiler with a hammer!"

"That's true," said the repairman, "and that's why I charged you only $10 for hitting it with a hammer."

"Oh, yeah? So what's the other $90 for? You said you weren't busy, and it only took you ten minutes to get here."

"That too is true. But it's also true that I've been busy for years acquiring knowledge and gaining experience. And $30 is for being able to tell from the noises that the problem could be fixed simply by hitting the boiler with a hammer, $30 is for knowing which spot was the right spot to hit, and $30 is for knowing the correct force to use in hitting that spot."

Jeremy Taylor said...

George,

I have read some of the emails. Everyone who will grant that they don't represent the best behaviour. What is in dispute is whether they represent the more exaggerated claims of censorship and misconduct. Eight scientific bodies or committees of national or international standing have said there was no scientific misconduct involved. You claim, without argument or evidence, there was and these committees, presumably, were involved in some sort of cover-up. This seems to border on the conspiratorial and is not, in the current form, at all convincing.


Crude said...

Glenn,

Some food for thought:

1. Can an expert marksman miss the bull's eye? Yes, he can.

Can a non-expert marksman hit the bull's eye? Yes, he can.


Great. But, your comment has a problem with it that has become a theme in this thread:

How do you tell who the expert is and the non-expert is? Do you just trust the biggest, loudest body? Do you investigate and research?

And if you have no way to tell, no knowledge or evidence to really work with... are you crazy or wicked for saying you're agnostic about their claims?

I suppose this makes for an interesting link.

Should I trust the information contained in that link?

Not trust it?

Partially trust it, temporarily, provisionally - but insist on investigating further?

Should I *not* trust it?

Perhaps I should look for what the consensus is among journalists about bias in the media. Why would they lie? They are not salesmen. They report on things. The importance of objectivity is presumably taught both in their profession and at their schools. They are part of the checks and balances when it comes to factual claims, or so I hear.

Mr. Green said...

Glenn: My money is on the expert not because I think he's necessarily infallible – I think no such thing – but because, being an expert, he's more likely to succeed at hitting the bull's eye than is the non-expert.

Or indeed, "being an expert" in this context just means "he is more likely to hit the bull's eye". So I must concur.

And my money is not on the non-expert not because I think he's necessarily incapable or incompetent

Isn't that what "non-expert" means in this context? At least probabilistically speaking (which we apparently are).

then it is the case that one of the two is mislabeled

Or one of the three: the so-called "expert" might have been mislabeled himself. Which it seems to me is the foundation of Crude's whole point.

3. There's a joke about a guy who couldn't get his boiler to start.

And if the repairman had been an expert in comic delivery, instead of giving a spiel about noises, forces, et al., he would simply have answered the question about what the other $90 was for by saying, "Knowing where to hit it." His full answer was of course much more accurate, but it rather scuppers the rhythm of the joke — which goes to show that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another. 'Tis something we all know, and something that is also key to Crude's position.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Surely you can only understand how to properly label expertise if you carefully consider what a particular area of expertise - like contemporary natural science - consists of, what its institutions and its qualities are.

Glenn said...

Mr. Green,

>> And my money is not on the non-expert not because I think he's necessarily incapable or incompetent

> Isn't that what "non-expert" means in this context?

He who is not an expert is necessarily incapable or incompetent? Why would anyone think that?


>> then it is the case that one of the two is mislabeled

> Or one of the three: the so-called "expert" might have been mislabeled himself

The attempted subtle attribution actually is a gross misattribution. One qualifies, or not, as an expert marksman according to pre-established criteria. Still, mistakes do happen, e.g., someone screws up the paper work, one or more contestants are given a wrong identifying number, etc. Nice try, though.


> which goes to show that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another. 'Tis something we all know, and something that is also key to Crude's position.

Perhaps so. But when given the opportunity to say that it was key to his position, he instead replied that "it isn't even the central concern."


Btw, I forgot to mention... After the guy resentfully forked over 100 scupperoos to the repairman, the repairman, taking pity on the (now) poor guy, told a joke: "Did you hear about the man who broke his leg while raking leaves?" "No, what happened?" "He fell out of the tree."

Crude said...

Sayeth Green: which goes to show that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another. 'Tis something we all know, and something that is also key to Crude's position.

And Glenn, in reply: Perhaps so. But when given the opportunity to say that it was key to his position, he instead replied that "it isn't even the central concern

What Crude said was not 'his central concern' was 'fallacies of the appeal to authority kind'.

Good thing an expert on what Crude is saying is showing up to correct the laymen, eh? ;)

Glenn said...

Crude,

You have expressed some frustration over others not understanding your position, and others, me included, have expressed some frustration over your position, or at least certain aspects of it, not appearing to be clear. So, I hope you'll bear with me as I get lengthy here in an attempt to elicit from you some (further) clarity regarding your position.

Because this is lengthy, I'll give a brief outline. There are three sections: the first section revisits a question I had earlier asked; the second section consists of a quotation from a logic text on the appeal-to-authority fallacy; and the third section contains two points and one question.

(Also, comment modification either is on, or will soon be turned on, so this will be the last from me. This means you can say whatever you feel like saying in response, without having to anticipate a further response from me.)

(cont)...

Glenn said...

...(cont)

1. As I said earlier, "Generally speaking, I extend to others the benefit of doubt, and leave it to them to give me reason to retract it." So, if you say that Mr. Green is an "expert" on your position, then I accept that, and I'll continue to accept that until such time as either you or Mr. Green provide me with or more reasons to think otherwise.

An "expert" on your position, Mr. Green, has said that that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another is something we all know, and is key to your position. Given that that is something "we all know", it follows that it is something I know. In light of the fact that I know it, and in light of the fact that it is key to your position, I'd like to revisit an earlier question. That earlier question, with an emphasis now added, is:

"Would it be fair to say that most, if not all, of your statements/positions re trust, experts consensus, etc., can be boiled down to a desire or preference to not fall for, or be victimized by ["taken in by" might be a better way to put it], fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind?"

Your response at the time was: "Not really. It certainly can help guard against that, but it's not even the central concern."

I took/take this to mean:

a) a desire or preference to not fall for, or be taken in by, fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind isn't really at the bottom of (i.e., doesn't really undergird) your position;

b) being on guard against fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind can be helpful; but,

c) fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind are not a central concern of your position.

Although you need no invitation to do so, I do invite you to correct me where -- if -- I am wrong on any these three points.
(cont)...

...(cont)

Glenn said...

...(cont)

2. This section consists of a lengthy quotation from Copi's Introduction to Logic (6th ed.) on the subject of argumentum ad veredundian, aka "appeal to authority". I'll quote from two paragraphs, but will treat each sentence as a separate paragraph.

(1st para)

"In attempting to make up one's mind on a difficult and complicated question, one may seek to be guided by the judgment of an acknowledged expert who has studied the matter thoroughly.

"One may argue that such and such a conclusion is correct because it is the best judgment of such an expert authority.

"This method of argument is in many cases perfectly legitimate, for the reference to an admitted authority in the special field of that authority's competence may carry great weight and constitute relevant evidence.

"If laymen are disputing over some question of physical science and one appeals to the testimony of Einstein on the matter, that testimony is very relevant.

"Although it does not prove the point, it certainly tends to support it.

"This is a relative matter [I assume no pun was intended], however, for if experts rather than laymen are disputing over a question in the field in which they themselves are experts, their appeal would be only to the facts and to reason, and any appeal to the authority of another expert would be completely without value as evidence.

(2nd para)

"But when an authority is appealed to for testimony in matters outside the province of that authority's special field, the appeal commits the fallacy of argumentum ad veredundian.

"If in an argument over religion one of the disputants appeals to the opinions of Darwin, a great authority in biology, the appeal is fallacious.

"Similarly, an appeal to the opinions of a great physicist like Einstein to settle a political or economic argument would be fallacious.

"The claim might be made that people brilliant enough to achieve the status of authorities in advanced and difficult fields like biology or physics must have correct opinions in fields other than their own specialties.

"But the weakness of this claim is obvious when we realize that, in this day of extreme specialization, to obtain thorough knowledge of one field requires such concentration as to restrict the possibility of achieving authoritative knowledge in others."

(cont)...

Glenn said...

...(cont)

3. Two points and one question:

a) Re Copi's: "In attempting to make up one's mind on a difficult and complicated question, one may seek to be guided by the judgment of an acknowledged expert who has studied the matter thoroughly."

Based on my limited understanding of your position, I think you might say this supports your view that, on difficult and complicated questions, one may elect to not go by the judgments and/or pronouncements of experts, and choose instead to remain 'agnostic'. I see no reason why this view would be inconsistent with the judgment/pronouncement of Copi, a recognized authority/expert on the subject of logic (or at least on certain subdomains of the broader subject). For that one may seek to be guided by an expert, clearly leaves open as an option that one might not seek to be guided by an expert.

However, although I think that Jeremy might be willing to agree that such an option is legitimately available on a more or less isolated, case-by-case basis, I also think that, based on my limited understanding of his position, he also would be unwilling to agree that, in the long run, habitually defaulting to an 'agnostic' stance serves well either the individual or society as a whole (or at least is not damaging to either).

b) You said (in your penultimate paragraph here): "...I mean to suggest we should have a different attitude towards the consensus of scientists and philosophers and academics, period. Really, this blog itself is, at times, one perpetual carousal of 'Scientists confidently state (x) is true or (y) is false. Let's examine their claims. Oh, look at that - they're unfounded nonsense and deal with subjects not in their actual field, and questions which their methods couldn't hope to settle to begin with.'"

It seems to me that you are taking away a wrong message, or at least an incomplete message, from the "perpetual carousal" to which you allude.

When Dr. Feser takes to task some scientist, philosopher or academic, he does not do so because that person is a scientist, a philosopher or an academic. Period.

And he doesn't take him to task because he is a scientist, philosopher or academic making judgments, providing testimony or uttering pronouncements which have to do with matters outside his field of expertise or competency. Period.

On the contrary, and in fact, when Dr. Feser takes a scientist, philosopher or academic to task, he does so because that scientist, philosopher or academic, in making judgments, providing testimony or uttering pronouncements which have to do with matters outside his field of expertise or competency, is not just wrong, but demonstrably wrong.

Whatever may be Dr. Feser's actual intention(s) in taking such individuals to task, a consequence of his taking them to task, i.e., a consequence of his showing them to be demonstrably wrong, is that others are less likely -- hopefully, anyway -- to fall for, or be taken in by, a fallacious appeal to authority regarding the matter in question.

Nonetheless, although you call attention to the "perpetual carousal" as having something to do with your position, and the "perpetual carousal" has very much to do with the debunking of reasonings, claims, positions, views, etc. in one area made or taken by someone not an expert or authority in that area, you say that fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind are not a central concern of your position.

You're the expert on your position, not I, so if you say that fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind are not a central concern of your position, who am I to question that?

...(cont)

Glenn said...

(cont)...

c) Nonetheless, I do have a question:

If your position does not have as a central concern experts in one area being wrong in some other area -- or, more specifically, if your position does not have as a central concern not taking an expert to be right in an area outside his expertise, simply because he's an expert in some other area -- then in what way, and to what extent, is the fact that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another area key to your position?

Glenn said...

...(cont)

(I thought I had posted this last bit, but it’s not showing up, so maybe CM has finally kicked in. OTOH, maybe I forgot to post it. Either way, last attempt.)

c) Nonetheless, I do have a question:

If your position does not have as a central concern experts in one area being wrong in some other area -- or, more specifically, if your position does not have as a central concern not taking an expert to be right in an area outside his expertise, simply because he's an expert in some other area -- then in what way, and to what extent, is the fact that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another area key to your position?

Crude said...

Glenn,

Are you serious? Even in those 400+ page monstrosities that turn up on this blog when people are arguing over the most technical aspects of theology and philosophy, no one belts out replies quite so voluminous.

Pardon me if focus my replies, and what I read. If you think you made a point I need to address and haven't, well... mine that ore from the mountain, take it to the smelter, and present it to me concisely and purified.

Meanwhile...

You have expressed some frustration over others not understanding your position,

I've expressed skepticism about the claim that my position is all that hard to understand.

You're the expert on your position, not I, so if you say that fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind are not a central concern of your position, who am I to question that?

I question how you regard 'fallacies of the appeal-to-authority kind' as equivalent to 'expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another'. This is on the level of 'You called me a bad name ergo you're guilty of an ad hominem fallacy!'

When Dr. Feser takes to task some scientist, philosopher or academic, he does not do so because that person is a scientist, a philosopher or an academic. Period.

That's wonderful, Glenn. And it matters why?

I cited this blog as helping to illustrate problems with 'experts'. It's filled with examples of 'experts' declaring confidently a judgment on this matter or that matter - sometimes actually within the scope of their general expertise (Philosophers on theological arguments), sometimes not actually within the scope but still with their views being presented (at times by themselves) as if it were within the scope, and so on.

Where did I say that *I* 'take someone to task because that person is a scientist, philosopher, or academic', as if I'm advocating that people just plain dislike any of those three just for being what they are? Where did I say *Feser* did?

Wait, hold on. You're not an expert, so I'll give the expert opinion: it was said nowhere.

then in what way, and to what extent, is the fact that expertise in one area does not automatically extend to another area key to your position?

What was key in one part of what I've presented here is that I've pointed at examples of 'experts' confidently declaring judgment, as experts, on this or that topic that WE know is outside of their area of expertise entirely, while THEY seem oblivious to that. Or they're lying.

Here's a problem. One of the claims that has repeatedly come up in this thread is 'you can (and apparently should, by default!) trust the experts within their field of expertise'*. I've pointed out that even scientists, some prominent ones, apparently can't tell when they're speaking as experts. The consensus doesn't seem to care to correct them either, all too often.

So on the one hand we're being told 'trust the experts by default! they're experts!' but then 'but only trust them in their field!' As if people come with in-born platonic knowledge of what an expert's field is. As if experts in a given field aren't implicitly expected to be able to delineate what is and is not outside of their field to begin with.

(* Unless that field is psychology or philosophy, apparently, among other fields that aren't 'pure natural science'. I haven't even followed the that particular thread, but I suspect if I did I'd find it involved some very ad hoc judgments. Maybe even including how to tell whether one field or another IS 'pure natural science'. I suppose we'd need another expert to evaluate that.)

Crude said...

An additional comment before I go for a bit.

I've pointed out that trusting an expert on a field you know nothing about, or nearly nothing, is primarily an act of trust in people - not trust in science. I've argued that it's quite sensible, if a person chooses, to be agnostic about topics about which they reasonably believe themselves to know nothing or nearly nothing - and that if they do decide to trust people, they should understand what they are doing, the faith they are having, and the intellectual risks involved. I've argued that if a person, (insofar as they've studied a given topic) believes the experts to be in error, it's acceptable for them to provisionally be skeptical of those experts until they learn otherwise. I've pointed out how consensus and 'expertise' can go wrong, how it HAS gone wrong, how it IS going wrong in some areas, as a supplement to explain my own current views (which, I said, could have been otherwise by my own standards if the data was different.)

I've said other things, but really, most of it has been about as 'earth shattering' as the above - that is to say, hardly earth shattering at all. Yes, yes, I know - it means people who don't know a damn thing about evolution or global warming aren't committing a great sin if they withhold belief in either direction about it at the time. Frightening stuff! Yet I think we'll manage.

You're finding trouble tearing down my position, Glenn, precisely because what I'm saying is - for as offensive as it is to modern ears (accent on the modern) - pretty down to earth, reasonable, and nearly qualifies as common sense. Or it would in a time where default acceptance of the claims of this or that secular person or group wasn't considered of vital political importance.

So, I'll give you a tip. If you want to make any headway against me, you're going to have to do better than passively note I misspelled 'carousel' in my haste or dump textwalls on me which amount to a whole lot of smoke.

You're going to have to make concessions.

I'll prime things for you.

"Okay, Crude, you have a good point about (X, Y or Z), but here is concern (A, B or C) that I still have because..."

If that's too noxious for you to say at this point, I'll be general and give you an alternate for free.

*ahem*

'For now, I have to go shopping. I'd like to eat spagheti tonight.'

There we go. A pasta error. Ample ammunition, no doubt.

Mr. Green said...

Glenn: He who is not an expert is necessarily incapable or incompetent? Why would anyone think that?

I was going to say that he's incapable of doing everything the expert does, but you're right — that is, there are degrees of competence, and someone can be partially competent without being either incompetent or being as fully capable as an expert.

"Did you hear about the man who broke his leg while raking leaves?" "No, what happened?" "He fell out of the tree."

That's what he gets for leaning at a rakish angle!


I also think that, based on my limited understanding of his position, he also would be unwilling to agree that, in the long run, habitually defaulting to an 'agnostic' stance serves well either the individual or society as a whole (or at least is not damaging to either).

I agree that it would be a problem if everyone remained (widely) ignorant. I do think that there are enough reasons for people to trust in many experts to a large degree, sufficiently for society to continue, anyway. And if certain aspects of society changed because everyone insisted on having good reasons, then (1) some of those changes would be for the better, and (2) if more intellectual honesty resulted in some changes for the worse, then so be it.

Crude said...

Green,

I agree that it would be a problem if everyone remained (widely) ignorant. I do think that there are enough reasons for people to trust in many experts to a large degree, sufficiently for society to continue, anyway. And if certain aspects of society changed because everyone insisted on having good reasons, then (1) some of those changes would be for the better, and (2) if more intellectual honesty resulted in some changes for the worse, then so be it.

Agreed on 'then so be it'.

I'll also note something else. It's not as if I'm arguing that people should be agnostic, and be treated as hermetically sealed from discourse, instruction and otherwise. A man may have every right to be agnostic about the age of the earth given his current state of knowledge - or may even, terror of terrors, provisionally believe an estimate that is wrong.

Do you think he should change his mind? Consider two avenues - not the only two, but hey, let's make a contrast.

Option one is to tell him that there's a consensus, the consensus says X, and he should believe X. He says he has no idea about the consensus, the topic, how they reach their conclusions, how certain they are, etc. Perhaps he simply doesn't care. So you belittle him as a moron and a rube and the like, hoping you can shame him into believing what you think is right.

Option two is to - get this - present him with arguments and evidence relevant to the topic. Maybe you'll want to share with him why he should regard the consensus on this topic as trustworthy. Maybe you're aware of the arguments and evidence yourself and you can help him understand those things, if he's interested (if he has any opinion at all, he should be at least somewhat. If he doesn't, then maybe he will and maybe he won't.)

If you can talk with him via option two, you know what? It's entirely possible he'll go 'Oh, I see your point. Okay, I (choose to place my trust in these guys) / (find your evidence and arguments compelling and will provisionally accept this based on this new data.)' It's not like he's forever agnostic.

Of course, that takes time. Worse, he may ask you questions you don't have an answer to. Maybe he just won't care and has better things to do with his time. Maybe this, maybe that.

But yeah, I find option two preferable by far to option one. In fact, option one seems pretty foul. Yes, I am outlining an intellectually difficult path to walk. It means accepting, in some cases, that someone can come to a different conclusion than you (even on an important topic) and they're not automatically wrong or even particularly stupid. You've got your work cut out for you.

So, get to work.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude writes,

"The consensus doesn't seem to care to correct them either, all too often."

What consensus? Surely, this is equivocation and ignoring the actual characteristics that define these different situations. The scientific consensus on global warming - how it is determined and its contents - is quite a different thing from the alleged silence of scientists at what Coyne or Dawkins might say in public.

I just don't see how Dawkins mouthing off about religion supports your position at all. I think you think it does because you are ignoring our actual position and substituting for it the idea that we should slavishly follow any experts whatever they. Which leads on this passage:


"So on the one hand we're being told 'trust the experts by default! they're experts!' but then 'but only trust them in their field!' As if people come with in-born platonic knowledge of what an expert's field is. As if experts in a given field aren't implicitly expected to be able to delineate what is and is not outside of their field to begin with."

Perhaps I could have added more detail, but this passage appears to entirely miss the heart of my position, and presumably Glenn's, on this issue. I spoke again and again and again about the need for institutions and authorities to police expertise and I pointed in the direction of figures like Newman or C. S Lewis or T.S Eliot who have written about precisely that. These institutions and authorities include writers and thinkers and journals and the Church and an important section of the public.

Also it simply doesn't follow that because we fear the error of scientism and technocracy we should not recognise the genuine expertise and characteristics of modern science within its own field. It seems rather like saying one must avoid Nestorianism by embracing Monophysitism.

Finally, I think the anti-expert side is ignoring the sheer ubiquitous nature of expertise in society. I don't know the exact figure, but I wouldn't be surprised if we relied on dozens of different kinds of experts in a day. The bus driver, the chef, the plumber, the doctor, the scientist, the engineer, the policemen, the gardener, the teacher, the tailor, and so on, can all be called experts in their various ways. I don't think the anti-expert side has given anything like a proper foundation for dealing with the widespread and essential nature of expertise and divisions of knowledge.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I just don't see how Dawkins mouthing off about religion supports your position at all. I think you think it does because you are ignoring our actual position and substituting for it the idea that we should slavishly follow any experts whatever they.

Actually, I'm on the fence about that, since you seem to excuse yourself from that 'we' to imagine yourself as being part of the people who will police the "experts" to keep them on the straight and narrow. Which is itself pretty baffling, since your initial comment about evolutionary theory was that you keep your mouth shut when you have doubts.

So if you do consider yourself to be part of the policing group, it'd seem that the slavish following is for other people.

And Dawkins doesn't just mouth off about religion. He mouths off about evolution too! He says it's unguided, unplanned, with no products of evolution being the products of a mind (I'd say presumably excepting our own, but then again he's a materialist, yes?). Coyne has explicitly said over and over on his blog and in his presentations that evolution is unguided, period - that doesn't just mean 'no intelligent design' but 'nothing that happens was foreseen or orchestrated by God' - and that science shows this (indeed, that this is the proper scientific view). The list goes on.

These are abuses in the presentation of science to the general public. Abuses within the scientists' own fields, in fact. They go uncorrected. The 'consensus' does not care. Or - ponder this - may be sympathetic to their views.

By the by, how's the consensus doing on multiverse speculation, string theory, and otherwise? Adequate restraint being showed?

I spoke again and again and again about the need for institutions and authorities to police expertise and I pointed in the direction of figures like Newman or C. S Lewis or T.S Eliot who have written about precisely that. These institutions and authorities include writers and thinkers and journals and the Church and an important section of the public.

Yeah, this sounds an awful lot like you're defending a system that is purely hypothetical and idealistic, as opposed to one that actually exists. Please, show me the prominent scientist who regards the Church as being an institution or authority that legitimately polices expertise, particularly scientific expertise. Or, for that matter, anything else nowadays.

You say 'writers and thinkers'. Why not include anyone who cares to take part in it and wants to read up and share their views, however provisionally stated?

Finally, I think the anti-expert side is ignoring the sheer ubiquitous nature of expertise in society. I don't know the exact figure, but I wouldn't be surprised if we relied on dozens of different kinds of experts in a day. The bus driver, the chef, the plumber, the doctor, the scientist, the engineer, the policemen, the gardener, the teacher, the tailor, and so on, can all be called experts in their various ways.

I'm not 'anti-expert'. You're 'pro-subservience'.

I've repeatedly said that I have no problem with trusting experts, and that I trust plenty myself. Sometimes a bit more whimsically, other times after cursory research, still other times after much more research. Other times, I withhold judgment and don't look into an issue because I don't care. Still other times I disagree with experts based on experience or study. And I try to be aware of when I'm doing any of these things and why. These are decisions I make, and they're mine to make.

What I object to is the claim that a person, in a state of ignorance, is forced to intellectually put faith in the claims of 'experts' and 'consensus' by default, on pain of moral or intellectual failing.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

The abuses within the scientific field you refer to, or have done so far, hardly amount to much. It is certainly correct that the scientific institutions are not infallible and need policing, internally and externally, but you have hardly shown they are generally unreliable.

The stuff about Dawkins is clearly irrelevant and I don't know why you keep bringing it up. Who is suggesting we follow Dawkins when it comes to philosophy of mind?

Again, what do you mean by consensus? You don't seem interested in our actual position. Quite obviously the consensus I was talking about was the actual scientific consensus on well-defined issues. I made this clear again and again. What scientists think on philosophy of mind or in areas where there is no clear consensus is quite different.

It is certainly correct that our current society and culture does not get the position of expertise and the division of knowledge right. However, that does not mean your position - which seems to take no notice of the actual characteristics and institutions of natural science - is the correct alternative. Nestorianism is not the current alternative to Monophysitism, or vice versa. The fact Lewis or Newman wrote at such length on the subject is itself a suggestion we haven't got things right.


Your trust in expertise makes no sense. You give no real reason why you trust expertise (the claim that all your trust is based on personal preference with actual expertise not being paramount seems highly dubious), how to deal with the ubiquitous nature of expertise in life, or any recognition of the specific characteristics and institutions of modern science.

If someone was from a tribe in the Amazon rainforest and had never heard of natural science, then I'd agree they do not need to give any default assent to its consensus. However, most people have some small idea of how the scientific process works and they should accept as likely true a genuine scientific consensus, such as on global warming, unless they have good reason not to.

Mr. Green said...

Jeremy, I'm not sure how you get "anti-expert" out of what Crude has said. In terms of the practicalities of how we go about justifying our trust in a complex society such as ours, I agree that it's not a trivial matter; but clearly Crude is meaning to identify a problem, not offer a detailed solution. And yes, in theory, the scientific method provides a certain sort of guarantee to scientific endeavours — but how is the non-expert to know it is being applied according to the theoretical ideal? That's why Dawkins is relevant: when the experts are making bogus claims and themselves labelling them as part of the science, then they undermine that ideal. I don't think anyone is claiming that, say, climatologists or biologists can't do their sums competently (although actually I have seen articles complaining about scientists who are not good at understanding how to apply statistics — but I think that might have been specifically referring to psychologists, and well, you know... psychologists…!!); rather, the problem is how is the layman supposed to figure out what needs to be stripped away to get to the actual scientific kernel of truth?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Mr. Green,

To be honest, I just used the term anti-expert because I couldn't think of another term to describe your side. It wasn't meant to mean much. Obviously, whatever can be said of Crude's position, you are hardly anti-expert. It was properly a lazy and inappropriate label though, but I can't think of another.

I just don't think Crude's position will do anything but hinder a proper solution to this problem.

When it comes to Dawkins and his spouting off about religion, I think the solution is in thinkers and writers and journals of opinion and study and even the educated public to a degree to police him. I don't actually think many people believe Dawkins's comments on religion are akin to the scientific consensus on global warming. Besides, apart from the diehard followers who would take a similar opinion whatever, I think much Gnu influence is political. That is, left-liberals and many in the modern West (especially outside the U.S) are bitterly opposed (even contemptuous) to traditional religious positions on sexuality, the family, and the like and this is what gives what wider popularity the Gnus have.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

I say...

And Dawkins doesn't just mouth off about religion. He mouths off about evolution too! He says it's unguided, unplanned, with no products of evolution being the products of a mind (I'd say presumably excepting our own, but then again he's a materialist, yes?). Coyne has explicitly said over and over on his blog and in his presentations that evolution is unguided, period - that doesn't just mean 'no intelligent design' but 'nothing that happens was foreseen or orchestrated by God' - and that science shows this (indeed, that this is the proper scientific view). The list goes on.

You say...

The stuff about Dawkins is clearly irrelevant and I don't know why you keep bringing it up. Who is suggesting we follow Dawkins when it comes to philosophy of mind?

Look, Jeremy. I said, specifically, he mouths off about evolution. Unguided, unplanned, etc, etc. The fact that I used the words 'products of a mind' in there... does not make it a philosophy of mind question. I don't know if that was a misreading, or just the weirdest attempt at word-twisting. I don't see how it could be the latter, because my words are too obvious.

It is certainly correct that our current society and culture does not get the position of expertise and the division of knowledge right.

It is my point that *scientists* and *experts* often don't, or certainly don't act as if they get, the position of expertise and the division of knowledge right.

Your trust in expertise makes no sense. You give no real reason why you trust expertise (the claim that all your trust is based on personal preference with actual expertise not being paramount seems highly dubious), how to deal with the ubiquitous nature of expertise in life, or any recognition of the specific characteristics and institutions of modern science.

Yeah, I say you should investigate, research the topic, be agnostic if you're ignorant and don't care to trust someone, feel free to conditionally trust people if they seem trustworthy... but I 'give no real reason'.

If I look into a topic, come to understand it in part, determine that person X is trustworthy, who seems to know more than me about the topic, who seem to be a good judge of their statements, and then I decide to trust them... I've clearly decided to trust them with no real reason whatsoever, and this kind of scary thinking will lead to the end of civilization.

I've already said, Jeremy, I think you're the only person confused here. For now, I think I will just leave it at that. There's other conversations to get to.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

I wrote the wrong phrase. I didn't mean philosophy of mind. The point is simply that you are referring to philosophical issues that Dawkins mouth off about and which few confuse for the scientific consensus on issues like global warming. This should be obvious. You keep using dubious examples like this though, just as you used a few flaws in peer-review and other scientific institutions to imply that most of these institutions were more or less suspect.

It is not simply for scientists and experts to police themselves. But I think even Dawkins or Coyne do recognise the difference between their professional fields and their mouthing off about philosophy and the like. I doubt they try to do this when they are writing a paper for a biological journal or whatever.

See your explanation of why you trust people seems to heavily rely on them being trustworthy. Why should they be trustworthy, though? Surely, this has a lot to do with their expertise. And, again, you omit all reference to the actual characteristics and institutions of contemporary natural science. This makes your position very unpersuasive. It just neglects the actual circumstances and features of contemporary science and knowledge.

And let us not forget, you never did specify what being agnostic really means when it comes to an issue like man-made global warming, let alone give a proper reason why we should doubt the consensus.

No one here has really been able to show me how your get around these obvious flaws in your position. I'm sorry, but you have fled to Monophysitism to avoid Nestorianism and your position is not that helpful, therefore, in avoiding the real dangers of scientism.

bmiller said...

Hi Jeremy,

Can you please tell me what exactly the 97% of experts agree on? And also what source(s) you are using to rely on this number?

I ask because survey questions can be phrased in ways that skew the results

Jeremy Taylor said...

Well, I did mention that survey but Crude objected, so I also mentioned the surveys of peer-reviewed literature that found 97% agreed with man-made global warming. I posted supporting links above. To me this is a more important figure anyway.

bmiller said...

Hi Jeremy,

Is it the Cook survey you're referring to? That's the only link I could find searching for "97%".

I'm not really sure I understand what "agreed with man-made global warming" means to you.

If it means "Man affects the climate by emitting CO2" then I think you will not get much of an argument.

If it means, "Man is affecting the climate and disaster is imminent unless we implement dramatic governmental reforms." then I can see where you get push-back.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Look for the wikipedia link in original comment:

"I think the scientific consensus on global warming is undeniable, whatever the exact figure."

Man-made global warming is certainly distinct from the government action to prevent its consequences or continuation. The consensus is there is warming, man is contributing to it to a non-trivial degree, and it is likely that the negative consequences will not themselves be trivial and will outweigh the good.

What can be done about it and whether we should do it are a different matter.

bmiller said...

Jeremy,

Thanks for clearly stating the 3 propositions that you think have 97% consensus.

I searched the wiki article for "97" and found 3 of 8 surveys that contained that number. The George Mason survey had 84% as the actual number related to human contribution.

The Anderegg survey found that 97% of 200 of the 1372 "Climate Researchers" thought the human contribution was responsible for most of the recent warming. The 200 were chosen by volume of publication.

The Cook survey only asserts that humans have contributed.

I think that partisans have done a good job embedding the vague "97% consensus" meme into the public discourse without any qualification.

It's worth noting that the George Mason survey has 5% agreeing that the study of global climate change is a fully mature science, 51% as fairly mature, while 40% rate it as an emerging science.

My daughter who is studying Environmental Science at university is working with her professor to try to determine why none of the climate models predicted the present 15 year pause in global warming. I suspect if the science was fully mature, this would not be a funded study.

I agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps heat and that we are pumping it out at unprecedented levels. I also think that there are few people that would oppose seeking technical solutions to reducing CO2 emissions as long as it did more good than harm.

However, I think that
"What can be done about it and whether we should do it in a timely manner " is actually driving the ability of human scientists to do objective science. Confirmation bias, availability to research resources and ability to publish being among the obstacles.

In this case, I'm afraid it's difficult to tell what the consensus is, whether scientists are being overtly or covertly pressured to accept one position or the other, or to what degree we really understand all the factors driving the climate, all due to the controversial nature of this topic.

Jeremy Taylor said...

As I said I dropped the topic of the survey's of scientists views and was referring to peer-reviewed papers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming


"A 2013 survey of 3984 abstracts from peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011 that expressed an opinion on anthropogenic global warming found that 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity."

If by not mature, you mean climate science is in some barely explored infancy, then I think this is wrong. I don't see much evidence that the consensus on global warming is in an area so unknown that it is likely to be radically wrong.

You will certainly have to substantiate these claims against the consensus - they have history of falling apart upon closer examination, like the case of climate gate

Jeremy Taylor said...

Whilst I would agree that climate science is less mature than many sciences, I think it is just plain wrong to imply it is in its infancy or to suggest that consensus on man-made global warming is somehow extremely flimsy because of this, without further argument and explanation at least.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/history-climate-science.html

bmiller said...

Jeremy,

Thanks for narrowing down the source you're citing.

The one you're referring to is the Cook survey. The central claim is that 30% of 12,000 abstracts reviewed indicated an opinion on global warming. 97% of those attributed at least some climate warming due to human activity. This is a view that few classified as skeptics would disagree with.

I think you'll find that when you research the question about the extent of human causation on global warming or the consequences of global warming, it is not 97%.

By the way, you know that the authors of that survey run the Skeptical Science site don't you? They used site forum participants to do the rating.

Regarding the maturity of the study of climate science. I merely followed the link on the wiki page you referred me to and then looked up the citations on the George Mason university study. Here is a link from the author of one of the citations. I chose it because he is from George Mason University:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/19/climategate-copenhagen-science-opinions-contributors-s-robert-lichter.html

This is the only study I've seen where scientists rate the maturity of their field of study for themselves.

I'd be interested if you have other information that you can share.






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