‘Over at the Quadrant, my friend science journalist Matt Ridley has a fantastic article, “The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science” in which he despairingly explains how he lost trust in climate science. Even worse, Ridley also fears that the top-to-bottom of politicization of climate science will comprehensively undermine the public’s trust in the whole scientific enterprise with huge consequences for the future.’
Mark Steyn has taken a stand to highlight just how some people are using science, the law, as well as the public trust to advance their claims, many of which simply don’t hold-up.
Here’s John Gray in the Guardian on Ridley’s new book (Gray’s position is more or less that scientific progress is going on, but in human affairs, ethics and politics, things are learned but don’t stay learned…better to be pessimistic/realistic when it comes to the possibility of our reason making the world any better in these realms).
He’s not a fan of Ridley’s rational optimism:
‘If The Evolution of Everything has any value, it’s as a demonstration that, outside of science, there isn’t much progress – even of the vaguer sort – in the history of thought. Bad ideas aren’t defeated by falsification, and they don’t fade away. As Ridley’s book shows, they simply recur, quite often in increasingly primitive and incoherent forms.’
The two have butted heads before regarding Ridley’s last book:
‘John Gray, in his review of my book The Rational Optimist accuses me of being an apologist for social Darwinism. This vile accusation could not be farther from the truth. I have resolutely criticised both eugenics and social Darwinism in several of my books. I have consistently argued that both policies are morally wrong, politically authoritarian and practically foolish. In my new book I make a wholly different and more interesting argument, namely that if evolution occurs among ideas, then it is ideas, not people, that struggle, compete and die.’
How far will rationalism stretch and tell us true things about the world, predict the future and be a place to put one’s hopes? How far will Darwin’s ideas travel well?
A few years ago, Larry Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism took a look at Ridley as opposed to Paul Erhlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’ predictions:
‘Notice that in this new journalistic coverage for Ehrlich’s Malthusian pessimism, there are no references to the arguments of people like Simon and Ridley. Even in the articles in Nature, the scientists are careful not to mention the historical record supporting Darwinian optimism.’
As previously posted, just to flesh some problems out further.
A summary of chapters in a reading group presentation:
‘Jerry has argued throughout the book that the conception of the person employed within public reason liberalism and liberalism broadly speaking must move in this Hayekian direction. If public reason liberals follow Jerry’s lead, the fundamental structure of public reason and even the nature of the social contract theorists’ project must substantially change. In short, political justification must not begin with deriving the rationality of rule-following from a teleological conception of practical reason. Instead, it must begin with an understanding of the nature of human beings who are already rule-followers and the nature of the moral emotions and cooperative activities that accompany such rule-following. It is in this way that Jerry moves most forcefully away from Hobbesian conceptions of public reason. He goes further by arguing that even the Kantian conception of the person he endorses cannot be constructed out of practical reason alone. Instead, human nature contains Kantian elements for thoroughly Humean-Hayekian-evolution reasons. Our rule-following nature is contingent on our social development (though no less contingent than our goal-seeking nature).’
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. Gaus tries to reconcile three ideas:
1. The reality of deep disagreement, and the fact that private reason leads each of us to vastly differing conclusions about the nature of truth and how to live and what to do; how to constrain our behavior.
2. The principle that no one has any natural authority over anyone else
3. The principle that social authority is necessary for social life. We are already born and woven into such a fabric and are already rule-followers to some extent.
For Gaus, instrumentalists do not deal persuasively with number 003, and some empirical research, cog-sci, economics etc. is perhaps necessary for the practice of good political philosophy.
In addition, he cites his three primary influences as Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, and Amartya Sen.
Some liberaltarians I know are quite pleased.
Addition: And a friend asks?: “Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?”
Addition: Public Reason also has an audio interview here. Likely worth your time.