Dan Popp
Anti-rationalism
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By Dan Popp
December 20, 2014

So do errors and false opinions contaminate the life, if the reasonable soul itself be depraved, as it was at that time in me, who was ignorant that it must be enlightened by another light that it may be partaker of truth.... – Augustine

Conservatives are perpetually puzzled by the left's lack of consistency. Progressives voted for the measure before they voted against it; they embargoed Cuba, they unembargoed Cuba; they say that giveaway programs are necessary for the "no fault of their own" folks, then they remove the requirement to look for work; they pay ransom to terrorists, then blame Sony for acceding to terrorists; and they firmly believe that "Black Lives Matter," except inside an abortion clinic. As others have pointed out, the only discernable motif in their policy collage is the demand for more power for the government – more power for them. Leftists do not have principles; they have an agenda. They have wants. "What do we want? Fill in the blank! When do we want it? Now!" is the infantile cry that goes up everywhere that leftists gather.

But there's a pattern emerging as barbarians flail for whatever new scrap of power they can grab, and that is a pattern of anti-rationalism – actual hostility to reasoned thought.

Leftists are inherently shamanists – they believe that only Experts are smart enough to make many decisions for society. They're all Jonathan Grubers, disdaining any possibility that the masses could understand the world well enough to order their own lives. This is anti-rational. Rationalism demands that every argument be examined before the bar of reason. A layperson sometimes does see through a technical problem. The Emperor sometimes does walk around in the altogether. Shamanism demands that we shut up and follow the Expert's advice because only he can understand the issue. It pretends to be pro-knowledge, but the opposite is true.

We have some fresh examples.

There are a lot of people upset by the decisions of Grand Juries in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York City. Virtually none of the protesters have all of the information the Grand Juries had. They weren't there. They don't know. So their protests are not only born of ignorance, they are anti-knowledge. They are opposing what those with knowledge decided.

Absence of evidence is now evidence. I remember when John Ashcroft was nominated for Attorney General under George W. Bush. There were charges that he was a racist. I said, "There's no evidence that he ever treated anyone differently because of race." The response came back, "That's the worst kind." Heads, I win – tails, you lose, you see. Lack of evidence is the most damning evidence. Anti-reason.

A believer in GlobalCoolingWarmingChange will trot out his evidence and the credentials of his shamans, until countered by a "denier" with contrary evidence and his own specialists. "For every expert," as Arthur C. Clarke said, "there is an equal and opposite expert." Apparently at a stalemate, the believer may say, as his crowning argument, "Well, we have to do something. Even if I'm wrong, the potential consequences are too dire. If there's any chance that worldwide catastrophe is coming, we must do whatever we can to avoid it."

Sound familiar? It's a variant of Pascal's Wager.

Now the atheistic left ridicules Pascal's Wager. In case you're not familiar with it, the basic idea is that, if there were no convincing evidence of God's existence it would be wiser to act as if He did exist, because the consequences of being wrong are zero if He does not exist, and extreme if He does exist. And I've seen atheists dumb and smug enough to opine, "I'VE READ PASCAL'S WAGER – IT PROVES NOTHING!!!" Of course. It starts with the assumption that there is no empirical proof. (There is proof of God's existence, by the way, and I write about it from time to time.)

In its original form, Pascal's Wager is arational. It leaves the path of rational argument and presents a different kind of consideration. In its new, "green" version it's used to trump unfavorable evidence, so it becomes anti-rational. And when politicians use it as a pretext for using force against human beings (in their choice of fuel, for example) it becomes anti-rational tyranny.

In a word, Leftism.

Bill O'Reilly recently said to someone, "But that's an emotional argument." There's no such thing as an emotional argument, Bill. There are emotional appeals, such as the left uses with phrases like "people dying in the streets," "hands off my uterus" and many others. And there are rational arguments. Let's examine the evidence and see whether people really did die in the streets, or in great numbers, when government didn't award them the property of others. Let's ask whether the fetus is a living human being, and then check our premise that government's job is to protect living, innocent human beings.

Calling someone names like "denier" as a substitute for debate, conveniently forgetting that statistics are not arguments, or defaulting to the genetic fallacy ("you're a bad person, therefore you're wrong") just reveals that you can't do logic.

When people reject God, they lose their link to the source of Reason. Jesus is the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the rational Mind behind everything. The effects of denying Him are all around us.

© Dan Popp

 

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