Phooey On Your Facts!

There's an interesting discussion going around the political internets about the degree to which conservatives are affected by epistemic closure; I write a lot about the nature of that closed information system, but I'm inclined to leave the high-falutin' analysis to folks with fancy degrees from liberal coastal elite universities (some of whom might be related to me).

But, in honor of Earth Day, I'll make note of the most recent spin-off of that discussion, which was set off by Jim Manzi, a libertarian conservative who, among other things, blogs at National Review Online. (And who should not be confused with Bill Manzi, who didn't get elected and re-elected mayor of Methuen by using phrases like "epistemic closure.")

Manzi has written a lot about climate change, and is one of the few public commentators, left or right, who start from what seems to me the fairly obvious and necessary starting points that A) climate change is real, and serious; and B) efforts to do something about it would be expensive and a drain on economic growth, which need to be seriously weighed.

Manzi decided to break through one aspect of the epistemic closure problem -- the failure of conservative commentators to call out fellow conservatives for spouting nonsense -- by revealing that Mark R. Levin is a moron. (My word, not Manzi's.)

Manzi writes that he read the chapter on "Enviro-Statism" in Levin's massive-selling, extremely influential book Liberty and Tyranny, and was bowled over by its disingenuousness and (his word this time) "wingnuttery":

It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times — not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.

I would go further, having read Levin's book closely and written about it, in my essay and mini-reviews of 2009's conservative best-sellers. I would suggest that the book is so nonsensical, so obviously ideologically incoherent, so blatantly wrong in its facts, and so utterly irrational in its prescriptive analysis, that anyone who commends it (a list which includes many, many notable conservatives and Republicans) should not be taken seriously.

But I digress; what brings me to write this post is the reaction to Manzi's post in the right-wing blogosphere. Put aside their horror that someone has questioned the intellectual merits of their leading light; what they're particularly peeved about is Manzi's assertion that (my words) you have to be living in a crazy, epistemically-closed bizzarro world to deny the reality of climate change.

The initial responses I've seen to this have been: Get out of my crazy, epistemically-closed bizzarro world!

Here's super-popular blogger John Hawkins at RightWingNews:

You know why I don't buy that man is causing global warming -- or  that there's even any global warming going on? It's because every plausible scientific argument I've ever heard has come from people shooting holes in the theory. If Al Gore, Jim Manzi, and the rest of the "We're all going to die because of global warming crowd" can ever come up with some credible scientific arguments to support their position, which they keep insisting is based entirely on science, I'd be willing to be convinced. Most skeptics of manmade global warming would probably feel the same way. But in a post-Climategate they simply can't say "more scientists agree with our position;  so therefore we must be right" and expect people to fall into line.

Here's super-popular blogger Robert Stacey McCain:

Ever since global-warming theory became a political controversy — in the 1997 ratification fight over the Kyoto Protocol – I have dismissed AGW [anthropogenic global warming] as merely the latest manifestation of the same anti-Western doom-and-gloom hokum that liberals have peddled so often in my lifetime. That this gut-hunch reaction is not scientific, I readily admit, but I am one of those “men of untaught feelings” of whom Edmund Burke spoke, and have never subscribed to the Temple Cult of Scientism.... If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and AGW theory was — from the perspective of environmentalists — far too good to be true. So I think we can safely predict [that] the entire pseudo-scientific edifice of AGW theory will eventually be proven utterly false.

 Here's "Hogan" on hugely popular RedState:

I have neither the desire and time nor the expertise to analyze in detail Manzi’s specific criticisms of Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny.... Look - reasonable people can disagree about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.... But, I am sorry there Jim, no matter how much research you’ve done or no matter the extent to which I might even agree with you at times, while you are sitting in your little circle with a bunch of other self-indulgent asses that no one else in the world gives a rip about putting out posts like yesterday’s nonsense, Mark is out on the front lines inspiring a generation of Americans to fight back against statism.... I have read Mark’s book, and I know a little about the topics in question - and it’s a good book, with good citations and a lot of good facts. The entire global warming debate is one of hysteria and deserves the mocking it gets from Mark. It’s filled with lies and scare-mongering, resulting in less freedom, higher taxes, more expensive energy, a worse economy and a lower standard of living for tens or even hundreds of millions of people - for absolutely no good reason.... The facts are fairly clear - environmental nuts are sticking it to America and those who indulge their nonsense are living in their own bubble, while the rest of us focus on the simple truths of freedom, limited government and wanting Washington the hell out of our backyard. It is once again a time for choosing, and I choose to fight the statists - enviro and otherwise. And I will happily fight with Mark by my side while you, Mr. Manzi, keep talking in circles.

I suspect there will be a lot more of this, but that's a pretty good start, at three of the most highly-trafficked sites in the conservative blogosphere.

Perhaps Manzi will prompt some conservatives to re-assess things. Or, perhaps they will click on their WorldNetDaily bookmark and see the headline "Confirmed! Global warming is 'settled' -- as a scam!" (or, so claims a new book from World Net Daily's publishing arm), and forget they ever saw Manzi's post.

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