September 22, 2013

I do a Bloggingheads with Glenn Loury that's ostensibly about whether Obama has weakened and what the NYC police are doing after stop and frisk.

The folks at Bloggingheads put it this way:
On The Glenn Show, Glenn and Ann check in on Obama a year into his second term. Has his vacillation on Syria and the Fed hurt his credibility? Ann argues that the Larry Summers controversy exposed an anti-science crowd on the left—but maybe a small dose of delusion is healthy. Turning to the end of NYC's stop-and-frisk program, Ann worries that emotions adulterated the public debate. Are liberal gun-control measures breeding a nation of victims? Finally, Glenn criticizes the secrecy of the security state under Obama.
There's an awful lot going on in that diavlog, and I think we talk past each other more than usual. "Ann worries that emotions adulterated the public debate" is a terrible summary of what I say. 

Go to the link if you want to hear the whole thing. I'll excerpt a part that deals with something I care about: the unlikelihood that anyone is really making truth their highest value.



I'm highlighting what I had to say, so click to continue the video when you get to the end of this clip if you want to hear Loury's response. The lead-up to this clip is about the trouble Larry Summers got into at Harvard when he suggested that there might be a biological explanation for the scarcity of females in the highest levels of math and science.

21 comments:

Jim said...

You make some good points, Ann, but I was surprised by how you seemed to be equating science and truth. Don't get me wrong, I'm an engineer who got a minor in Physics- I'm all about science. But I don't believe science is the only road to truth.

If you have the time Ann, I recommend reading Alma 32 verses 28-43 (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/32) of the Book of Mormon. It compares the spiritual process of learning about God to an experiment. I find that comparison to be very apt. I have tried it, and it works. Other people (not just Mormons) have tried it and find that it works. Other people have tried it and found that it didn't. In my mind that doesn't make it invalid, it means that for whatever reason, the experiment's inputs were not the same, just like scientific results are not always successfully replicated. When we fail to replicate a result we don't say that science is bogus.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I disagreed with your fundamental premise. Some of us just believe that there are more sources of truth than science, and that somehow those truths can be reconciled, which is essentially what "intelligent design" is all about.

Ann Althouse said...

Jim, science isn't truth. It's a method. Whatever other methods you may offer, my point is the same: people don't put truth as their highest value, but subordinate it to some other things.

Lem said...

...something Einstein said about believing in God, or something like that, that’s something that people want to hear so badly and I think that if you have people who are engaged in science, the actual scientists that are doing the work, if as they work in trying to do the scientific method they also know who’s making the career decisions within academia, who’s handing out the grants, how that discipline works, you can see where that’s pulling you. I mean you can say 99% of the climatologists agree, but why do they agree? Do they agree because of the science and the truth? Or do they agree because there were political forces, monetary forces, that pulled them along to believe that, there are things more important, once own career, once own peace of mind, once money, that things people find more important than the truth.

The idea of including scientific literature in the pool of potential Novel Prize in literature should go a long way towards pulling whatever (hearts and minds) needs to be pulled in the direction of truth ... hopefully.

I think I follow what you are saying.

Lem said...

Forgot the link.

"Why is the Nobel Prize in Literature almost always given to a novelist, never a scientist".

Lem said...

People feel a strong need to preserve certain traditional principals, certain views that they think are central to holding society together, like the equality of the sexes, racial equality or that there is a God. I mean … we could have different points like that, that people might have this feeling about, all I’m tryng to say is that despite our praise of science our professed devotion to science and to truth as the highest value we do … truth isn’t the highest value, because you run across the places where truth is subordinated to other things...

Like the elevation of themselves above other people by pretending to save them from themselves... whether it be by banning guns or relaxing the rules of abortion on demand even further...
because they know better.

There is nothing cooler than saving people.

Lem said...

...truth isn’t the highest value, because you run across the places where truth is subordinated to other things...

Maybe that's also the reason, at least in part, why God and Conservatism is more prevalent among the older generations... they have less to worry about the acquisition of more things and more about what they are leaving behind.

Isn't that a shame that this wonderful writer has turned into an old man and all he can do is write about politics, because his powers have waned.

traditionalguy said...

The scientific studies of data used to establish truth became so well accepted that since the late 1980s the Con men seeking money and fame simply use a faked science with faked data and faked University Departments that publish faked authoritative Treatises.

Now what do we do? The Russians and the Chinese are the only unsuppressed truth sources in those fields.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrisnavin.com said...

I'm generally with Ann about her point: Truth and the pursuit of truth are subject to the passions, the delusions, the falsifications, and the willful or unwilling ignorance to which we are all subject.

Human nature hasn't changed all that much.

Go to Church and you'll see it. There are millions in this country who really would like to just have the Bible, & revealed truth be all they need. That has consequences. Locke warned about it, and it's been a major point of discussion for all serious philosophers since the Enlightenment.

Look at the Islamic revival in the Arab/Muslim world. There's plenty to go around despite the important differences between Islam and Christianity.

Larry Summers saw it. The willful commitment to an ideology, the bending away from threatening hard truths. The censure, the appeal to sentiment, the closing down of the method and the inquiry.

he was also kind of a prick and rubbed people the wrong way, but let's face facts.

Look at environmentalism, the 'personal is political' crowd, the way the feminists close ranks and usually leave Ann out. They gather collectively around a set of principles and overlook other truths and can cast out heretics

I'd even offer that much of liberalism requires a commitment to doctrines that offer something much less than the moral claims of religion and better liberal philosophers like Mill and Hume.

Human nature hasn't changed all that much.

Alex D. Novak said...

It not so much about Obama weakening as it is he was never strong. I think the comment about his wanting to have the presidency without a vision is right on the money.

Politico has an interesting article on how Obamacare was an accident in 2007 founded on his speech writer's insistence that he needed something to say at a healthcare convention to stake a strong position along with Clinton and Edwards.

A key to the Limbaugh theorem is, "Yet even after the law passed, some of Obama’s ambivalence — ROOTED IN HIS DESIRE TO DODGE THE POLITICAL BACKLASH — lingered."

His entire presidency is based, successfully, on dodging the political backlash along with usually being able to get the left to believe that whatever is wrong is the Republicans' fault.

He's still voting "present". Some in the media and political left are beginning to recognize this. It may be too little too late as he's already pretty much run the country into the ground--domestically and internationally.

Lem said...

...my point is the same: people don't put truth as their highest value, but subordinate it to some other things.

"High crimes and misdemeanors is whatever the congress says it is."

The "truth" is whatever it is that we are comfortable wearing at the moment.

I'm very pessimistic at the moment.


Lem said...

"...truth isn’t the highest value, because you run across the places where truth is subordinated to other things..."

Bryan Townsend said...

I like the classical Greek view that there are three and only three fundamentally important values: the Good, the True and the Beautiful. None is subordinated to any other because each is the highest value in its appropriate context. Truth is the highest value in the context of scientific research and witness testimony, for example. But not if you are talking about, say, art or music, where Beauty would be the highest value. And when you are talking about the treatment of human beings, the Good is the highest value because you are dealing with moral agents.

Robert Cook said...

"Has (Obama's) vacillation on Syria and the Fed hurt his credibility?"

I'm not sure what credibility the question assumes Mr. Obama possesses, or how "credibility" is being defined.

As for his purported "vacillation" on Syria, this is one of the first flickers of sanity seen in any American President in the last 15 years. Rather than commit a war crime by immediately ordering aggressive war against a nation not threatening us with war or waging war against us--(he only violates the law in re: Syria by threatening war)--he actually did what his betters--that long lost species of American politician known as a "statesman"--would have done, i.e, seek out the diplomatic solution in order to avoid war. Of course, this was more or less forced on him by Russians, to their credit, (and he has committed war crimes elsewhere), and we may be sure he and his minions are still working on justifications to press war against Syria sometime soon.

As for the Fed, he is not the first President to "accept the withdrawal of his name from the running" by a nominee to a post who is virtually universally reviled as an incompetent and a raging asshole, so, his "vacillation" on this matter (as with Syria) is to our benefit.

Ann Althouse said...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That's an article of faith about truth, not truth. It's a belief that supervenes truth.

traditionalguy said...

The first victim of war is the truth, and Obama is at war....with the USA.

tim in vermont said...

" a nominee to a post who is virtually universally reviled as an incompetent and a raging asshole"

Maybe you should get out more.

Unknown said...

On the question of truths that may have to be ignored for society to exist, examine Searle's concept of Free Will. He has a stance that says that even if Free Will does not exist, we must act as if it did for a society to exist.

Richard Dolan said...

The statement that 'truth is the highest value' is an ethical proposition of the absolutist sort, but it's one that no one lives by. There are many times when telling someone the truth is an act of cruelty (or worse), which is why the little white lie is such a common feature of everone's life.

Mark O said...

Let’s start with a religious quote: John 18:38
“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?”

I see the words of Jefferson as the equivalent of judicial notice. “Self-evident” means not that it is an unsubstantiated article of faith, rather it is a matter supported by overwhelming evidence.

Then, again, what is truth?

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

Robert Cook said...

"The first victim of war is the truth, and Obama is at war....with the USA."

This is true. But then, as Wall Street's latest servant in the White House, this goes without saying.