Philmon and I had an exchange below that needs further expansion. Phil wrote:
I’ve long been suspicious that the modern liberal is typically nothing more than someone who is proud of the “ability” to string multiple syllogisms into what they ultimately consider a de facto valid “argument”.
As have I. As I wrote in that post, liberals’ confusion about whether or not astrology is scientific comes, not from misunderstanding either of the terms, but from skipping over meaning entirely.
I’m going to ignore the “astrology” part, mostly because I really don’t know what pops into people’s minds when they hear that word. But “science,” now…. that I get. It means
knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation
Or, at least, that’s what it should mean, used as a standalone word. The problem is, as Phil noted, Our Betters tend not to use it as a standalone word. Rather, “science” is part of the definition of another word: Liberal. A liberal is someone who likes science.
From there, liberals tend to “argue” in bastard syllogisms, like so:
- I am a liberal.
- Liberals like science.
- Therefore, things I like are scientific
- Therefore, things I dislike are unscientific
- Therefore, people who disagree with me hate science.
I think this was once known as the fat cattle fallacy — the notion that a cause must be like its effects. We don’t need to look at the evidence for, say, global warming — it’s “settled science,” and therefore we believe it, and it’s settled science because we believe it.
It’s nothing new that liberals like to poach on the authority of science; it goes back at least as far as Marx himself (his socialism, unlike the gassy love-the-world-ism of guys like J.H. Noyes, was “scientific”). But Marx was also a philosopher, and he could browbeat folks into submission with verbiage about “dialectical materialism.” Our modern leftists lack this, and because they do, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they’re using themselves as the starting point for all their arguments.
Which makes sense, given the left’s identity politics uber alles attitude. But this makes communication with them very, very difficult, as they’re automatically going to assume that their preferences are both metaphysically true and universally applicable. And in any conflict with the real world, the real world is likely to lose.
A good example of this comes from the supposedly conservative side of the aisle. I didn’t really follow politics much back then, but I recall that Andrew Sullivan used to call himself a conservative, and graciously allowed himself to be used as the face for the new, open, tolerant right….
His feud with National Review Online was semi-amusing, back when I cared about what any of those hacks thought, but I think they missed a trick when it came to the origins of Sullivan’s “conservatism is whatever I feel it is today” schtick. It wasn’t George W. Bush’s objections to gay marriage that sent him over the edge; it was the Pope’s.
Now maybe Jonah Goldberg and the crew saw this clearly, and I’m misremembering. Again: didn’t care, don’t care. The point is that Andrew Sullivan subscribed to two different identities simultaneously — Catholic and Gay Crusader — and, when they inevitably came into conflict, spent years insisting that he was right and 2,000+ years of Church history was wrong.
That the Catholic Church needs to embrace leftism is one of the rottenest of all chestnuts, of course, but when the hipster dimbulbs at places like Salon.com say it, you know it’s just a nervous tic. They’d be much happier if the Catholic Church didn’t exist at all. But from what I could tell, Sullivan really meant it. He continued to insist he was a good Catholic — indeed, perhaps, the only good Catholic — while rejecting one of the oldest and strongest of Church dogmas. His endless contortions to square that circle only make sense if he’s “arguing” fat-cattle style — I’m Catholic, I’m gay, therefore the Catholic Church is ok with every item on this minute’s gay agenda, no matter what the supreme and infallible successor to St. Peter says about it.
How to break this thought-complex up beats my pair of jacks. I can’t enter into that mental world very easily, or stay there for very long. Like many conservatives, for instance, I’ve abandoned the Republican Party — they just don’t fit with my values anymore. And while I do understand the urge to change it from within, to get it back closer to what I think its values should be, that’s not what I’m talking about (noble though that pursuit may be). The fat-cattle version would be, I guess, to insist that the Republican Party is the party of Reagan and Calvin Coolidge, and that there’s no conflict at all between my limited-government preferences and the big-government activism of the GOP establishment, because I’m a small government guy and a GOP voter and therefore Republican plans to “fix” Obamacare are actually shrinking both the scope of government and the debt…..