Attempting to eliminate incorrect speech will do more harm than good. Here’s what we should do instead.
Well done. Regarding the brush-cleaning, I'll add two points:
1. Skepticism as an inclination is more important than critical-thinking skills. If one wants to believe, the tools of disbelief will simply rust; if one wants to doubt, one will develop the tools.
2. Basic number skills *are* tools that we should focus on providing. Read "Innumeracy", "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper" and others -- there's a whole genre.
Basically you're correct, and what you say is important.
As a minor quibble, I'd say the Covid mRNA vaccines were extremely effective and produced extraordinarily quickly; that they didn't stop the pandemic is attributable to limited supplies, human cupidity, and the remarkable evolutionary adaptability of the virus. And the purported scientific certainty that Covid-19 originated in a wet market has perhaps more to do with journalistic coverage early in the pandemic than a genuine consensus among virologists.
Clearing the brush would be nice but try it…and I speak as an instructor.
And now is different because the proles and peasants are empowered politically. These people have always believed rubbish and done damage. Think of the millenarian sects during the Middle Ages, from which the People’s Crusade drew ,.which ultimately morphed into the left wing of the Reformation—the ancestors of conservative evangelicals in the US. The difference was that back then unlike now the lower classes had no political voice and could be suppressed.
Now the lower classes have political representation and support demagogues who exploit their resentment of people who occupy positions from which they’re effectively locked out, including all experts—everyone educated, credentialed, and operating within the academic-government-media establishment. No amount of brush-clearing by experts or other representatives of the Establishment will dissuade them from believing rubbish. They don’t buy evidence and rational argument because they perceive as a bamboozle by ‘elites’ who despise them (true) and are out to harm them (false). And censoring social media will do no good at all. It will be perceived as more oppression by ‘elites’ and the lower classes will find other ways to get the misinformation they like and communicate.
I can think of two fixes, neither of which is feasible. (1) Disenfranchise them. No college degree, no vote. End of story. And let me be clear, the issue is not intelligence but social class—the college degree is just a class marker. (2) Give them money—lots of it. More broadly jobs and opportunities to break into the upper middle class. They resent us because they know that not only they but their children don’t have a chance to become us. And since they know they can’t join us their aim is to beat us.
A belief in ‘science’ was fashionable on the left as long as science could be used to attack religious creationists. However, that was a long time ago (with some notable exceptions as outlined below).
These days the left overly hates science and denounces it very explicitly as “another way of knowing”. Indeed, a key idea of left-wing postmodernism is that no ideas or facts are privileged as ‘true’ or even ‘more true’. The very idea of the Western Enlightenment (obviously including science) is bitterly rejected on left. Supposedly, ‘lived experience’ is a superior substitute. A few examples.
1. There was nothing that James Damore wrote in his famous memo that wasn’t generally accepted science. Didn’t help him a bit. Science has found an ever increasing number of differences between men and women. In serious science circles, this is accepted as a consequence of billions of years of evolution. In PC circles, it is blasphemy. Science hasn’t influenced the PC crowd a bit . Note the hysteria over L. Summers remarks years ago. The factual basis for his remarks was not really in doubt. However, Feminist rage was the dominant theme and highly effective.
2. In real scientific circles it is obvious that ‘race’ has a genetic basis. In PC circles that is a sacrilegious statement. it is blasphemy. Science hasn’t influenced the PC crowd a bit .
3. In real scientific circles, the reality of IQ is universally accepted as a valid measure. Not so much in PC circles. Science hasn’t influenced the PC crowd a bit .
4. In real scientific circles, the partial heritability of certain traits (including IQ) is taken for granted. Not so much in PC circles. Science hasn’t influenced the PC crowd a bit .
5. In real scientific circles, it is obvious that transwomen (having gone through male puberty) have no business competing in women’s sports. The PC crowd hates this.
6. The war on GMOs is essentially a left war on science. Science has repeatedly shown that GMOs are safe. The PC crowd does not appear to care a wit. Of course, the is not really a US issue. However, in Europe anti-GMO hysteria is very real.
7. The anti-vaccine movement is generally (but not exclusively) a left-wing war on science. Waldorf schools and Whole Foods are well-documented hotbeds of anti-vax sentiment. How many Waldorf parents and Whole Foods patrons voted for Trump?
8. The left generally views anything ‘natural’ as good and anything ‘man-made’ as bad.
The situation is so bad that Chris Mooney (yes, that Chris Mooney) actual wrote a WaPo article about one aspect of the left-wing war on science. See “Liberals deny science, too - The Washington Post” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/).
Do exceptions exist? Sure they do. Liberals are more likely to embrace the impact of GHGs (global warming) than conservatives. However, even this topic is muddled. Liberals appear to believe that only US (or European) CO2 causes global warming. Somehow China’s vast CO2 output is irrelevant and basically never gets mentioned by the global warming crowd.
I would argue that CV-19 is not another exception. Liberals go around claiming that the government should ‘embrace the science’. However, the science isn’t that clear. The tradeoffs are real and can’t be avoided. However, the deeper point is we have had pandemics before and liberals were adamant in rejecting ‘the science’. AIDs has killed roughly 700,000 people in the US so far. Liberals rejected all suggestions that standard public health approaches be used to stop HIV from spreading. They were entirely successful.
Remember the Reditt, Robin hood, Gamestop event?
Wall Street owns either a controlling interest of a significant interest in almost all the media, including Fox News. They want to control the narrative to maximize their returns. Joe Biden approves this message. And since Joe Biden approves this message, Wall Street pulls their ownership levers and switches to help keep him in the throne... including the top-down directive to bury the Hunter Biden laptop story.
I think the story isn't so much disinformation and misinformation, it is corporatism and its control of the corporate media. Big tech was supposed to be the everyman voice, but the corporatist cabal sucked that up too. However, there is still enough grassroots access to challenge the political media narrative and that explains the Biden Admin's ministry of truth attempts.
The recent Twitter lost defense of the Alex Berenson case against it seems to be a bit of milestone in forcing big tech to stop. Also, the GOP is readying reforms of Section 230 and also anti-trust cases against Google and others.
I think most people that consume news have a pretty good bullshit detector if only they can consume news with differing opinions. The risk is that too much control of the content is owned by those with self-dealing interest and the news becomes too one-sided and repetitive. Then people are stuck ingesting the bullshit as good stuff.
Think about how Wall Street would be attracted to control of the media narrative to help maximize their returns by influencing the opinions of the general population. For example, Bill Gates benefiting from the narrative of man-made global warming and the narrative that ranching is so harmful and that we should not be eating real meat but synthetic meat... and Bill Gates, through his Wall Street asset managers, buys up millions of acres of farmland and invests in synthetic meat business startups. Push those narratives in the media, but then there is the irritating critics of all of that... and of course, the motivation that they be silenced.
Good piece but you are way too generous to the censors. You say it is "understandable" they wanted to "enforce science" (??) in a pandemic but this assumes a degree of good faith that simply did not exist. An easy proof: all censored covid "misinformation" (much of which was later deemed true) was always from a "conservative" angle. Leftists could and did lie as aggressively as they wanted in the other direction, i.e. vastly overstating the risks to kids, and never get suspended or flagged. Also by using the arsonist analogy you paint the censors as people trying to do something good, even if ineffectively. They are not. The "arsonists" were as often as not saying things that were true, and being attacked and maligned.
For years a standard joke about anti-vacination sentiment was from Seth Mnookin “Last April, we examined the state of the anti-vaccination movement, and turned to science writer, Seth Mnookin, who wrote a book about the vaccine-autism controversy. We called him again this week and started by playing back part of a conversation we had with him last year. In it, he told about an epidemiologist who would track where the anti-vaccine trend tends to cluster.
SETH MNOOKIN: And he said, sure, we just take out a map and put a pushpin everywhere there's a Whole Foods and draw a circle around that area. He was speaking slightly in jest, but what he was referring to is the fact that you do see a number of well-educated, politically liberal people who self-identify as being environmentally conscious."
Almost everyone (exceptions exist) on the liberal/left is in total denial about evolution. Any attempt to suggest that evolution is (was) a reality and might affect all species, including humans, gets an overtly hysterical response. Disagreeing about global warming triggers debates on the right. Suggesting that evolution might be real, produces outright repression (including violence) on the left. For a depressing case in point, take a look at the persecution of Larry Summers. His critics didn't trouble themselves to disagree with Summers (hard to do, given that the facts were in his favor). They sought (with great success) to suppress any discussion of the topics at hand.
The harsh reaction to Wade's book is just one example of how intolerant the left is to the idea of evolution, including human evolution. Pinker in "The Blank Slate" (and "The Language Instinct") had many other examples of left-wing attacks on the very idea of "human nature", much less the notion that it might be the product of evolution.
Sadly, it appears that some folks don't know, that the very same leftists who use "the evolution of (non-human) species" to bash religion, get very religious (and deeply) upset when anyone suggests that evolution didn't stop with the great apes.
The "show trial" of Larry Summers is just one case in point. Summers dared to suggest (based on irrelevant things called "facts") that human nature might actually exist. His subsequent recantations and apologies were right out of Stalin and Lysenko. Note that Summers did not assert that human nature was/is the product of evolution.
The severe reaction (on the left) to the Damore memo was just another datapoint in the left rejection of evolution / science. There are some pretty obvious evolutionary reasons why women would differ (a lot) from men in their preferences for people vs. things (Damore’s key point). Was anyone (one the left) influenced by the rather clear science on the subject? Not exactly.
The left has been overtly hysterical about GMOs for years. A common phrase of the left has been ‘frankenfoods’. The fact that GMO safety has been repeatedly demonstrated has not impacted the debate at all. There is a marked trans-Atlantic schism on this point. The American left has never taken up the GMO cause (with some exceptions). By contrast, the left in Europe has gone completely insane on this issue.
To AGW obsessives only US / European CO2 emissions contribute to global warming. The fact that China produces more CO2 than the US and Europe combined goes mostly unmentioned. Of course, the bigger issue is whether AGW is really a ‘crisis’ or not. So far the answer is clearly no.
This is something that can be empirically measured in several ways. First, is global life expectancy rising or falling. One possible consequence of AGW would be falling life expectancy. However, global life expectancy is strongly rising. Of course, other factors (healthcare, etc.) could be more than offsetting an underlying downward trend driven by AGW.
Global food prices provide a more sensitive measure of the impact (or lack thereof) of AGW. If AGW was changing the world materially, global food prices should respond with dramatic increases. In real life, global food prices have been falling for decades (with high volatility).
Hurricane activity (or lack thereof) provides another measure of the impact of AGW. The hurricane activity metric shows a gradual increase of time. For example, hurricane activity in the 1880s (a peak) exceeded hurricane activity around 2000 (also a peak).
It should be noted that real climate crises have occurred in the past. By some estimate the lake Toba eruption (roughly 70,000 years ago) killed almost all living humans. Much more recently the eruption of Krakatoa (maybe) devasted the Eastern Roman empire (AD 536). Later the eruption (possibly) of Mount Tarawera, New Zealand might have caused the European famines of 1315-1317. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 caused crops to fail globally in 1816.
Unfortunately war always entails censorship when the "incorrect speech" is put forth.