Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The New Relativism

In case the conservatives lost sight of the ball in their fight against relativism John Rogers, a.k.a. Kung Fu Monkey, points out whose yard it bounced into:
Even if your kids aren't directly taught ID or aren't in one of the new Bible Class districts, the overarching cultural damage has already been done. Through this group of RadicalRighties' constant rhetoric, they consistently strip away the idea that there is indeed a rigorous scientific process through which certain non-negotiable physical truths can be ascertained. They have suffused the county with with an intellectual laziness and a terrifying narcissism. Opinion has been enshrined as superior to fact. No longer need a person take into account the way the world works when forming their worldview -- they can instead hunt down "facts" and "theories" which support their own comfort zone, and what's worse, we can NO LONGER CALL BULLSHIT. Because if our leaders -- pardon me, your leaders -- don't call bullshit, who will? They have undermined the very process by which we know WHEN to call bullshit!

For the alleged "realists" in the public arena, the guys running the Right are now the ultimate masters of relativism.
Rogers astutely points out that the future of economic development will ultimately rely on new innovations that will be created by those with the strongest tech industry. Productivity growth and new industries will continue to be fueled by the most nimble and capable tech industries. If the current support, implicit or not, for ID on the right end of the political spectrum is any guide to our future potential, we are in trouble.

There is an anti-intellectual, anti-modern, anti-science, anti-fact movement in this country and it is coming from a surprising source. For a generation or two the right has considered itself the defenders of Truth. They were the anti-subjectivity troops. They depicted liberalism and its recognition of non-quantifiable social influences and their role in public policy as the first step off the cliff into the great nothingness of a collapsed civilization.

In recent years, the intellectual right has had to perform greater and greater feats of back-bending as they try to defend and support a party that has strayed further and further into a corrupt nebulae of power and money. Their leader, President Bush has made it even harder for those who haven't given up and joined the Libertarians. His record of ceiling-busting spending, anti-intellectual attitude and his oh-so-public embrace of the religious right's agenda has left many public supporter sputtering for a response.

Bush's endorsement of Intelligent Design is perhaps the most public example of how far out of touch the President is when it comes to handling domestic policy and crafting a vision for the future of this country.

It is perhaps no wonder that Bush, given his dismissal of learned academia in areas like education and science, never seemed to question the plans that were brought to him in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Nearly every expert involved in military preparation or with middle-east experience said it would be a short war but would require a long, nasty occupation.

The situation we face today both in Iraq and at home was clear to many years earlier, but the right's slavish dedication to defending their lack-luster leader, C+ Augustus as Charlie Pierce refers to him, surpasses any commitment to truth or intellectual honesty.

James Wolcott found a perfect example of this in Charles Krauthammer.
One such sensible, rational warmonger is Charles Krauthammer, who apparently benefitted from not being homeschooled.

"Charles Krauthammer, a neoconservative commentator, said the idea of teaching intelligent design — creationism’s 'modern step-child' — was 'insane.'

“'To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of a religious authority,' he wrote. 'To impose it on the teaching of evolution is ridiculous.'

"Krauthammer’s scathing article appeared in the current issue of Time magazine before Bush expressed his opinion."

Now you would think, assuming you still can, that Bush's pronouncement would therefore discomfit Krauthammer. Disappoint him. After all, if you believe teaching "intelligent design" is idiotic, then having the Idiot in Chief endorse it would be your worst educational nightmare come true.

But that would also assume that Krauthammer has a trace of intellectual integrity left over from the eighties when he was one of the bright young faces sitting around the editorial table at the New Republic. If he does, it's undetectable now. Watch him waffle and straddle and sell out from both ends.

“'It is very clear to me that he is sincere about this,' Krauthammer said [after Bush's statement]. 'He is not positioning.'

"However, he added: 'If you look at this purely as a cynical political move, it will help in the heartlands and people of my ilk care a lot more about Iraq than about textbooks in Kansas.'”

So first K praises Bush for the sincerity of his convictions--as if sincerity were the measure of anything. The Hale-Boppers who committed group suicide were sincere in their beliefs, but their beliefs were cuckoo. One of the conservative indictments of modern liberalism has been that wishy-washy libs are willing to tolerate and excuse all sorts of crackpot and heretical ideas as long as they're sincerely held, and now it's conservatives and neocons elevating Sincerity to the level of virtue. Because now they have their own flanks to protect.
It's a safe bet that Krauthammer has a chiropractor on speed dial.

- Murphy

No comments: