Krugman v. Levin on Climate Change

Jim Manzi, a conservative expert on climate change, recently reviewed Mark Levin’s coverage of the subject in his book Liberty and Tyranny. Mr. Manzi was unimpressed:

I’m not expert on many topics the book addresses, so I flipped to its treatment of a subject that I’ve spent some time studying – global warming – in order to see how it treated a controversy for which I’m at least familiar with the various viewpoints and some of the technical detail.

It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times – not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.

Levin argues that human-caused global warming is nothing to worry about, and merely an excuse for the Enviro-Statist (capitalization in the original) to seize more power. It reads like a bunch of pasted-together quotes and stories based on some quick Google searches by somebody who knows very little about the topic, and can’t be bothered to learn. After pages devoted to talking about prior global cooling fears, and some ridiculous or cynical comments by advocates for emissions restrictions (and one quote from Richard Lindzen, a very serious climate scientist who disputes the estimated magnitude of the greenhouse effect, but not its existence), he gets to the key question on page 184 (eBook edition):

[D]oes carbon dioxide actually affect temperature levels?

Levin does not attempt to answer this question by making a fundamental argument that proceeds from evidence available for common inspection through a defined line of logic to a scientific view. Instead, he argues from authority by citing experts who believe that the answer to this question is pretty much ‘no’. Who are they? – An associate professor of astrophysics, a geologist and an astronaut.

But he says that these are just examples:

There are so many experts who reject the notion of man-made global warming and the historical claims about carbon dioxide they are too numerous to list here.

He goes on to cite a petition “rejecting the theory of human-caused global warming” sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and signed by more than 31,000 scientists. There are a few problems with this survey that Levin doesn’t mention. More than 20,000 of these “scientists” lack PhDs in any field. There was very little quality control: At least one person signed it as Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. Scientific American did the hard work of actually contacting a sample of individual signatories, and estimated that there are about 200 climate scientists who agree with the statement in the petition among the signatories. And most important by far, the text of the petition is not close to Levin’s claim of rejecting the notion of man-made global warming. In the key sentence it says that signatories do not believe that there is compelling scientific evidence that human release of greenhouse gases will cause catastrophic heating and disruption of the earth’s climate. Depending on the definition of “catastrophic”, I could agree to that. Yet I don’t reject the notion of man-made global warming.

On one side of the scale of Levin’s argument from authority, then, we have three scientists speaking outside their areas of central expertise, plus a dodgy petition. What’s on the other side of the scale that Levin doesn’t mention to his readers?

Among the organizations that don’t reject the notion of man-made global warming are: the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; The Royal Society; the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand. Russia, South Africa and Sweden; the U.S. National Research Council; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Chemical Society; the American Physical Society; the American Geophysical Union; and the World Meteorological Organization. That is, Levin’s argument from authority is empty.

Of course, this roll call could be arbitrarily long and illustrious, and that does not make them right. Groupthink or corruption is always possible, and maybe the entire global scientific establishment is wrong. Does he think that these various scientists are somehow unaware that Newsweek had an article on global cooling in the 1970s? Or are they aware of the evidence in his book, but are too trapped by their assumptions to be able to incorporate this data rationally? Or does he believe that the whole thing is a con in which thousands of scientists have colluded across decades and continents to fool such gullible naifs as the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, numerous White House science advisors, Margaret Thatcher and so on? Are the Queen of England and the Trilateral Commission in on it too?

But what evidence does Levin present for any of this amazing incompetence or conspiracy beyond that already cited? None. He simply moves on to criticisms of proposed solutions. This is wingnuttery.

There are many reasons to write a book. One view is that a book is just another consumer product, and if people want to buy Jalapeno-and-oyster flavored ice cream, then companies will sell it to them. If the point of Liberty and Tyranny was to sell a lot of copies, it was obviously an excellent book. Further, despite what intellectuals will often claim, most people (including me) don’t really want their assumptions challenged most of the time (e.g., the most intense readers of automobile ads are people who have just bought the advertised car, because they want to validate their already-made decision). I get that people often want comfort food when they read. Fair enough. But if you’re someone who read this book in order to help form an honest opinion about global warming, then you were suckered. Liberty and Tyranny does not present a reasoned overview of the global warming debate; it doesn’t even present a reasoned argument for a specific point of view, other than that of willful ignorance. This section of the book is an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.

Now, obviously Levin was writing about a topic outside his specialty for a general audience, and therefore should be given some leeway. However, as Mr. Manzi details, he appears to be abusing the privilege. An instructive comparison would be Paul Krugman’s recent piece on climate change in the New York Times Magazine, which was similarly written by a non-expert outside his specialty for a popular audience, and also, as it happens, was reviewed unfavorably by Mr. Manzi. While, as Mr. Manzi detailed in a three part series of posts (see Part I, Part II, and Part III here), Krugman gets some things wrong and makes many questionable assertions, it’s clear that Krugman did his homework and at least presented some of the relevant data to his audience.

The point is not that Krugman is right and that Levin is wrong (Manzi and Levin probably agree that Krugman’s approach is wrong-headed); it’s that one took the trouble to make a good faith, if polemical, argument, while the other made a series of sloppy assertions based on conservative boilerplate. There are good reasons to be skeptical about the approach Mr. Krugman and others are advocating: 1) Our modeling capabilities are not advanced enough for confident predictions about when and how much increasing levels of CO2 will impact the climate, 2) Even if they were, there is little reason for confidence that countries like  China and India will accept their current standard of living and slow industrialization based on such necessarily tentative estimates; and 3) Climate change is one risk among many that we face; spending vast sums of money on this particular risk (which we may be better able to address later) may leave us ill-equipped to respond to other risks that materialize in the future.  None of these arguments are based on a denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus that CO2 does impact the climate (even if we have difficulty quantifying that impact), nor are they based on suspiciously selective arguments from authority. Conservatives who do not want to see Krugman’s approach win the day would do well to follow Mr. Manzi’s example rather than Mr. Levin’s.

48 Responses to Krugman v. Levin on Climate Change

  • It’s also worth noting that Manzi wrote his post on Levin in response to Ross Douthat’s point that “conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers) for offering bromides instead of substance, and for pandering instead of grappling with real policy questions.”

    Ross is right.

    Good post, John Henry.

  • The breach of trust between the scientific establishment and the public must be healed before any “policy questions” can be addressed.

    This is an opportunity for the scientific establishment to come to grips with living in a democratic society. It’s methods and data must be open to public scrutiny and review, skeptical and opposing points of view must be given a chance to prove themselves, or be disproved based on the evidence and not political intimidation.

    The “scientific consensus” argument is naive at best and dangerous at worst in a supposedly democratic society. Underneath it is the assumption that non-scientific laymen should shut up and blindly accept whatever it is “scientists” tell them. This is why conservatives such as Levin try to point out the skeptics and dissenters – to show that the “consensus” which we are all supposed to bow, never question, and goose-step to is more of an illusion than a reality.

    If “climate change” really is the great problem the majority of of climate scientists claim it is, then they need to change their methods of interacting with the public. Yes, I know – it would be easier, as Thomas Friedman argues, if we were like China, and had had a communist Central Committee to simply issue top-down decrees on climate change and any number of issues.

    Unfortunately we’re stuck here in the good old, bad old USA, where the people theoretically still have a right to a say in the laws they are to live by, and therefore ought to be able to choose between different points of view on the matter. Don’t worry though, I think that whole idea is on its way out the door anyway.

  • Ross Douthat’s point that “conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers) for offering bromides instead of substance, and for pandering instead of grappling with real policy questions.”

    Douthat was the author, along with Reihan Salam, of Sam’s Club Republicans. I’ve read a lot of political works in my life, ranging from the more polemical (like Levin) to the more philosophical. Out of all the things I have ever read in my life on politics none, zip, zilch, nada have been as inconsequential and devoid of any meaningful point as Douthat and Salam’s book. I even appreciated books that I strongly disagreed with much more because at least the author had a strong viewpoint and his convictions were clear for all the world to see. Sam’s Club Republicanism was a 200-page plus bit of meandering (and dubious ) history, the “substantive” policy offering essentially being “let’s offer more tax credits to the middle class.”

    The reason I bring this up is that it really strikes me as both aggravating and yet funny that the people who complain the most about the lack of substance in our political discourse are those who are themselves rather substance-less and rather mediocre both intellectually and stylistically.

  • Amen, Joe. Amen, Paul.

    As for Douthat’s point, he’s already admitted that he has a need to be liked by his liberal bosses, peers, and audience, and therefore shapes his writing accordingly to appeal to them:

    “I’m also acutely aware, from my own experience, of the way that peer effects – the desire to be perceived as the “reasonable conservative” by friends and peers, the positive reinforcement from liberal readers, etc. – can subtly influence the topics one chooses to write about and the tone one chooses to take. It’s not a matter of wanting a seat at the table in the Obama Administration, or anything absurd like that; it’s just a matter of being aware of your audience, and wanting to be taken seriously by people who don’t necessarily share your views, but who exert a significant influence over your professional success even so.”

    http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/a_seat_at_the_table.php

    Attacking fellow conservatives is just what the house conservatives at liberal publications do to gain acceptance and be seen as “reasonable”.

  • That’s not to say that polemical conservatives like Levin and Coulter shouldn’t be called out when they go overboard rhetorically or just plain get their facts wrong or engage in shoddy scholarship.

    It’s just that when folks like Douthat (or David Frum) send out the clarion call for conservatives to take on the Levins of the world, I’m going to take it with a big ol’ fat grain of salt.

  • It is interesting that your first response to the post is an ad hominem against Douthat and Salaam. I, and nearly all of the reviewers as it relates to the history section, disagree with your characterization of the their book on the merits. But what’s striking to me is that you would describe Reihan Salaam – a far more subtle and detailed policy thinker than Mark Levin as any familiarity with his writing suggests- as substance-less. You can say what you want about the positions he takes, but about the only thing that you cannot say is that his writings lack substance. This suggests to me that you are either unfamiliar with his writing, or that you are mistaking ideological agreement for substance.

  • That’s not to say that polemical conservatives like Levin and Coulter shouldn’t be called out

    Yes, in practice, that appears to be exactly what you are saying. You frequently take that one blog post Douthat wrote years ago, and use it as a reason to dismiss everything he’s ever written that criticizes conservatives. It’s all a bit forced. I suppose we can add Ramesh Ponnurru to the list of insubstantial conservatives now? And Jim Manzi?

  • It is interesting that your first response to the post is an ad hominem against Douthat and Salaam.

    Umm, that wasn’t an ad homimen. It was my reaction to the book. And it’s interesting that your first response to my comment was to reflexively defend Douthat.

    I, and nearly all of the reviewers, disagree with your characterization of the their book on the merits. /i>

    Bully for you. What can I say, I guess I’m not as easily impressed by mediocre punditry.

    ut what’s striking to me is that you would describe Reihan Salaam – a far more subtle and detailed policy thinker than Mark Levin as any familiarity with his writing suggests- as substance-less. You can say what you want about the positions he takes, but about the only thing that you cannot say is that his writings lack substance. This suggests to me that you are either unfamiliar with his writing, or that you are mistaking ideological agreement for substance.

    First of all, note that my critique of Salam was centered very specifically on his work with Douthat on Sam’s Club Republicans. I made no general comment about Salam’s overall work, which is admittedly much better than that of Douthat. I was mainly concerned with Douthat, who I consider to be a highly overrated writer.

    I am also amused that here you are, approvingly linking to an article about the need to reject close-mindedness and for conservative writers to be able to freely critique other conservatives, and yet your reaction to my reaction to Douthat is to simply dismiss me as either ignorant or ideological. Not surprising, considering the source.

  • I read the book as well, Paul, and my take on it was completely different than yours. Douthat & Salaam’s point is that we need to address the real concerns of the middle class. You can obviously take issue with their specific policy proposals, but I don’t see how or why conservatives would disagree with the fundamental point of the book.

    Jay, if you’ve followed Ross’s column and blog over the last few weeks, it’s fairly apparent that he isn’t interested in currying favor with his liberal counterparts or the editors at the Times; consider his repeated defenses of the Holy Father.

    Joe, I’m sympathetic to your point regarding the scientific consensus argument… certainly there have been times that the consensus is wrong. And I agree that their communications methods need improving. But neither means that Levin’s approach is valid or appropriate, does it? The mere fact that there are dissenters doesn’t invalidate the hypothesis of AGW. (For the record, my point here isn’t to defend that hypothesis; I simply agree with Manzi’s critique of Levin’s approach.)

  • Whatever, John Henry. I don’t expect you to read my blog, but if you did, you’d know just how full of crap that last comment is. I criticize conservatives on at least a weekly, if not daily, basis (probably, in terms of frequency, a lot more than you do).

    And I don’t even like Levin or Coulter. Or Limbaugh. Or Beck. Or countless other ideological polemicists. I don’t watch them or listen to them. I’ve criticized them on my blog and others’ blogs. I think Levin and Coulter (especially Coulter) are detrimental to conservatism. But when I criticize them, its not a matter of self-aggrandizement the way it is for some.

    Yes, Douthat gets under my skin. So what? I think he revealed something about himself in that piece (which is actually only about a year-and-a-half old). I’ve said it before, substantively, on the issues, he’s probably one of the columnists who most closely fits my own ideology. But there’s something about him – this need to seem more “reasonable” than all those other conservatives – that makes me dislike his style.

    It’s one of my pet peaves, so, yes, I write about it fairly often. But this comment of yours …

    “It infrequently amazes me how little criticism conservatives deserve on your accounting.”

    … is an outright falsehood. Read my blog and you’ll see that I frequently criticize conservatives, including, most recently, a post on Arizona’s immigration law. Better yet, don’t read my blog. Just keep on with the pretense that I never, ever criticize conservatives or the ideology that often masquerades as conservatism in the GOP. I mean, my comments on this don’t have anything to do with my belief that Douthat is a poseur. No, it’s just that I’m a blind ideologue.

    I’m going to stop now before this turns into a flame war.

  • “conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers) for offering bromides instead of substance, and for pandering instead of grappling with real policy questions.” Ross is right.

    ‘Conservative’ domestic policy would be in better shape if the trustees and administrators of the American Enterprise Institute and other such agencies were very sparing about hiring anyone without a completed dissertation or years of professional experience in the field of endeavour about which they are expected to write and research. It would also be in better shape if Republican elected officials understood themselves to be in the midst of an interlude in their life between engagements in business or the professions, and if they had convictions to begin with. It would in addition be in better shape if there were employed academic talent to tap. Cloning messrs. Dreher and Friedersdorf is not likely to improve much.

  • Chris,

    “But neither means that Levin’s approach is valid or appropriate, does it?”

    Not necessarily.

    However, I think it bears reminding that for YEARS we were told that the sky was falling. First Gore tried to scare us all – a man who isn’t a scientist – with his video, which was declared by a British court to be full of inaccuracies. Then when the scare tactics weren’t having the desired political effect, they decided to run roughshod over the democratic process.

    The mere fact that there are dissenters that aren’t being given equal time before the public and who the supposedly mainstream scientists will not face in a public forum is enough to warrant some kind of serious response. I don’t know if Levin provides it (I don’t really like what I know about him), but someone has to. Someone like Lord Monckton. And preferably without the stupid, discredited lie of an ad homoniem that anyone who doubts AGW is “paid by the oil industry.” At this point, I wouldn’t even care if they were, since the IPCC and its work through the UN is supported by population reduction fanatics.

  • Joe, I *completely* agree that the apocalyptic tone of Gore et al. is wrong, period. First it was overpopulation, now it’s global warming; every decade there’s a new crisis which threatens to destroy us all. My concern is that we might throw the baby out with the bathwater and erroneously reject AGW because of the hysteria of some of its advocates and their proposed solutions.

  • Jay,

    But there’s something about him – this need to seem more “reasonable” than all those other conservatives – that makes me dislike his style.

    AS you note, it seems to come down to a question of Ross’s style and one’s preference (or not) for it. In my case, I happen to like it, but I certainly grant that it may not be to everyone’s liking.

  • Thanks, Chris.

    As for Douthat’s defense of the Holy Father that you mentioned in an earlier comment, I thought he was too equivocal even in that:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2010/04/ross-douthat-media-attacking-wrong-pope.html

    Perhaps we can ask your co-blogger if my criticism of Douthat’s piece on Pope Benedict is just more evidence of my blindly ideological defense of yet another “conservative”.

  • Right below the excerpt Jay posted from Douthat’s article is this:

    Now of course similar incentives are also at work for people who make their living writing and talking to a more partisan audience: If you run, say, a right-wing talk radio show, or work for an explicitly conservative magazine, stoking partisan fervor is almost always in your professional interest

    It’s in the interests of conservatives to self-police. (And it’s true: some bloggers here like Jay do that.) No one has cornered the market on substance. There’s always the possibility that these “urbanite” conservatives are tempering their opinions not because they’re craven or sycophantic, but because they’re around people making strong counterarguments, and their moderation reflects that influence. Lord knows, I don’t like a lot of what the NY/DC corridor conservatives write, but I’d rather read their measured criticisms than the ravings of some moonbat.

  • O no, if global warming’s real, we are going to face the first natural paradoxical disaster in the history of man. The seas are going to rise, and the seas are going to fall, they’ll be monsoons, and they’ll be drought, it’s going to get very cold, and very hot at the same time! I’m very afraid of having to wear a heavy coat and clothes that are as light as possible at the same time; imagine handling a flood while dying from drought. We all have to take the threat more seriously, and stop making fun of it.

  • Jay, I’ve been away from my computer for the last hour or so. I agree that you criticize conservatives. But I don’t understand your criticism of Douthat. Douthat’s point was fairly innocuous – conservative intellectuals should call out the entertainers and politicians when they’re pandering. In response, you’ve (again) linked to a blog post that was an honest exploration of the pressures on conservatives in the MSM. It seems to me that you’re taking a post that show-cases introspection and intellectual honesty and saying that it proves a lack of both – and this in response to a point you claim to agree with. As Chris said, above, this may just be a matter of style. But I found your reaction to Douthat’s comments odd. It seems to me that you’re basing your criticism more on who makes the statement than the substance – and that’s what I meant by saying in practice you don’t approve of criticism of conservatives. You don’t mind making criticisms yourself, but if the non-approved people make them, you attack them even if you agree with the substance of what they’re saying. That is what I find off-putting, although I appologize for the sloppy and inaccurate way that was phrased above.

  • Yes,

    Lets all be good little boys and girls, always eat with the proper fork, and treat politics as if it we were all at Gollatz Cotillion.

    Some things are worth “raving” about. Some things are worth the slightest infusion of passion and emotion. Some things require more than the functions of an indifferent calculating machine. Some things are worth fighting for.

    I’ll rant and rave ’till the day I die, dag nabbit! ::whips out his dueling pistols and fires randomly into the air::

  • Joe,

    Yes, raving can be necessary. *But*, if the context is a discussion in which we are trying to *persuade* others that our course is the best, raving can often be counterproductive.

    If we’re trying to rally the troops or “speak truth to power”, raving is often appropriate. If I’m trying to *convince* someone that my way is the best way, it’s less effective. The context matters.

    An elementary point, obviously, but one worth making nonetheless.

  • I am not an art history major, but it would seem that the master artists of their time catered to the ruling houses of Europe. My bride, who has a degree in art history is one of those who can usually spot the family member or patron in the sacred art paintings of the masters. So the artists, though proud, matter-of-factly bent their art to flatter their benefactor’s good profile.

    Although supposedly the high priests of objective observation and reporting of facts, modern researchers are no less dependant today on reliable funding streams from foundations and other sources than their artistic forebears were on stipends and largesse of the great families.

    I am no more inclined to grant, without checking, the integrity of a scientist than I am to believe that the guy in the front rank kneeling before Jesus (or Peter, or an Angel) only coincidentally looks like a Medici.

  • That’s fine Chris – I’m just sick of the people who don’t make the subtle distinctions you do, and try to insist that any form of struggle in itself is some kind of insanity that ought to be replaced with servility.

  • Suffice it to say that I’m all for self-policing our own, but have issues with those who are “professional self-policers” like Douthat, Dreher, and Frum. They’re the conservative media equivalent of tattle-tales.

  • I agree Jay. They are lukewarm, and they will be spit out.

  • Jay,

    Yes. I love your way of dealing with the problems — hide it from view, and if anyone exposes it, call them “tattle-tales.” Why am I not surprised? Didn’t you learn from the child abuse crisis we are facing that a culture of secrecy is NOT what is needed?

  • Jay, given that the views of at least Douthat & Dreher aren’t exactly mainstream conservatism (no one would mistaken their brand of conservatism for Rush’s or Sarah’s), I’m not sure why you’d consider *them* “professional self-policers”.

  • Paul,
    I am also amused that here you are, approvingly linking to an article about the need to reject close-mindedness and for conservative writers to be able to freely critique other conservatives, and yet your reaction to my reaction to Douthat is to simply dismiss me as either ignorant or ideological. Not surprising, considering the source.

    Heh. Let’s clarify, here. The ignorant or ideological line was in response to your claim that Reihan Salaam’s writings lacked substance. You’ve clarified that you were not criticizing his writings as a whole, only his book. Ok, then we just disagree about the book.

    As to your criticism of my criticism of your criticism of the critique that conservatives need to criticize each other, I’m not sure what your point is. It seems to me that there is plenty of criticism going on, and my criticism of you was linked to a very specific point – namely, that characterizing Reihan as nonsubstantive is laughably, obviously wrong. You’ve conceded that point, more or less, so we’re left with disagreement about their book. But since you’ve acknowledged that the criticism of the book doesn’t necessarily apply to all of the writings of the authors, I don’t really know what to say. You don’t like Douthat. You tried to link the criticism of his book to all of his writings, but would not do the same for Salaam. Ok, that’s fine. Is Douthat right or not about the lack of and need for more debates (a la Manzi) in conservatism or not?

  • I hear you, Jay. Of the three “professional self-policers” on your list, Douthat is the only one I tend to like. So maybe it’s a stylistic approach.

    And Joe, I hope it wasn’t my comment about “raving” that set you off. I meant that I’d rather have someone *in the family* say “This is a bad argument of ours” rather than have some lefty nut screaming it at me. Again, style.

    (But feel free to shoot up the place, Yosemite Sam! It wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t!)

  • J,

    It’s all good. I understand now what you meant, and the point is taken.

  • I’m not sure why you’d consider *them* “professional self-policers”.

    That is what I find odd also. The assumption is that Douthat doesn’t really believe what he’s saying, but rather is just catering to his audience. That assumption just doesn’t bear much scrutiny; I’ve been reading he and Reihan since they were completely unknown independent bloggers (well before the Atlantic), and they have been remarkably consistent over time. To me (and this is just my impression – I may be wrong), it seems to me that Jay is confusing stylistic and occasional substantive differences with insincerity. Dreher I think is sincere, but overwrought. Frum I have no use for whatsoever.

  • I agree that self-appointed self-policers can get very annoying at times — though Douthat almost never bothers me in that respect. Dreher and Frum, on the other hand, I didn’t like even before the apostatized in their different ways, religious and political respectively.

    Looping back to the original point, however, I certainly understand and share Manzi’s frustration with a fair amount of science coverage from explicitly conservative authors. It’s not as if there aren’t important points to be made on scientific issues from a conservative point of view. Whether it’s new atheists trying to make expansive theological and socialogical claims based on mis-applying evolutionary history, or enviro-hucksters like Gore massively distorting real climate science, there are important rebuttals to be made. But unfortunately magazines like National Review don’t seem to have very good instincts in sorting real, solid criticism from polemics which fail to address the real evidence and issues.

    Some science coverage they run is good, but others is just execrable.

  • Right-liberalism (i.e. Mark Levin) is not properly conservative. It should be heavily criticized, especially when it tends towards the hackish and populist. Douthat does this effectively, as do Dreher and Frum. I support them (although Frum can be a real piece of work, as in his absurd “Unpatriotic Conservatives” NR piece).

    This is not to say that within the rightist coalitions (infused with the “freedom” of right-liberalism) that Levin et al. cannot be valuable. But “K-Lo’s” defense (the Corner last night) was hugely weak, and we need many more Jim Manzi’s.

  • Yes. I love your way of dealing with the problems — hide it from view, and if anyone exposes it, call them “tattle-tales.” Why am I not surprised? Didn’t you learn from the child abuse crisis we are facing that a culture of secrecy is NOT what is needed?

    Henry, I have a very open comment policy and so I approved this comment, but I think this attack by analogy is completely unfair; and, to compound the irony, you’ve managed an Anderson’s Law violation… while criticizing Jay Anderson! Please keep your future comments more civil.

  • John Henry: Anyone who uses “Godwin’s Law” or a variation of it is already falling for a modern, anti-analogical sensibility, and does not win anything just because they claim a win. So I don’t care if I “violated” Anderson’s law or not.

    The analogy IS apt. If someone complains about “those who are policing us” because “they are tattle tales” (though not necessarily so, could be an ad hominem if we want to play name that fallacy), this kind of mentality is juvenile and is used by people who have things they want to hide. And with the culture of secrecy within the Church, so it is within any political group. They benefit from, are not harmed by, such revelations; they help, not hinder, because they allow for metanoia. To hide error, to hide falsehood, to hide sin because it is not comfortable to expose it just the continuation of Adam’s error.

  • But unfortunately magazines like National Review don’t seem to have very good instincts in sorting real, solid criticism from polemics which fail to address the real evidence and issues. Some science coverage they run is good, but others is just execrable.

    Exactly right. The link post appeared at the Corner, but Manzi obviously knew when he wrote it that he would get completely unsubstantial comments like this in response. Conservatives need to raise their game.

  • Thanks, John Henry.

    And I apologize for the intemperate nature of my previous remarks (seems that I’m always having to do that when we have this discussion ;-) ). I think it is correct to conclude that my problem with 2 of the 3 individuals I mentioned is one of style; in the case of Frum, however, it is also about substance.

    As I said, I do think it is important for conservatives to police their own, and I hope that I have done so when the circumstances merit it (ironically, one of the instances where I did call out someone was when Frum questioned the patriotism of those conservatives who opposed the Iraq War).

    And, of course, Henry completely missed the point of the “tattle-tale” remark. The point was that no one likes the kid who goes around pointing fingers and tattling on his schoolmates, and I was likening those who are self-appointed policers to the tattle-tale. It’s a subtle point: self-policing is important; but those who are too dogmatic about it tend to be overbearing snots. We can agree to disagree on whether that description is applicable to Douthat.

  • Glad to see we are somewhat in agreement, Jay. And apologies again for the double-offense of being intemperate and unclear.

  • HK – I will be away from the blog for a while, so your comments may not get through, unless Darwin or someone else approves them. I think comparing cover-up of the sexual abuse of children with political disagreements is unwise and unnecessarily inflammatory if your purpose is to encourage discussion rather than a flame war. Or would it strike you as a good starting point for discussion, if I compared the moderation of comment threads at a certain blog with the abuse scandal cover-up? I would not do such a thing because it’s obvious it would offend you more than it would help resolve the disagreement. But a similar thing could be said about your comment.

  • “Henry completely missed the point”

    I heard the sun rose in the east this morning too.
    :)

  • “They are overbearing snots.” Or maybe they are the ones who call attention to a problem which no one wants to be made known. It is very common for bullies to denounce “tattle telling.” And that is exactly the issue. “They are snots.” That’s rich. Jay proves my point. This is exactly the attitude which is wrong, which trains people to ignore conscience, and indeed, helps keep evil in power.

  • John Henry

    If the political parties are doing evil, and the ones who expose the evil are called “tattle tales” it is quite similar to the way many people attack the media for exposing cover-ups against children. As long as the “don’t be a tattle tale” mentality prevails, metanoia will not.

  • If the political parties are doing evil, and the ones who expose the evil are called “tattle tales” it is quite similar to the way many people attack the media for exposing cover-ups against children. As long as the “don’t be a tattle tale” mentality prevails, metanoia will not.

    Jay didn’t say that if “the political parties are doing evil” people should not expose them, nor that those who did expose them would be “tattle tales”. What he did complain about is the phenomenon of people who consistently point out the faults of their own group (be it political, cultural, religious, etc.) in what appears to be an attempt to fit in with or curry favor with some other antagonistic group. Or simply in an attempt to seem “above it all”.

    This is, in fact, a real tendency which some people display, and it is one which causes unnecessary hurt and division. That doesn’t mean that no one should ever say anything negative about groups to which they belong, nor would Jay ever say such a thing.

    While it’s important to recognize, acknowledge, and repair the faults of one’s own “side”, constant harping on the faults of one’s own group (especially in a way which seems callibrated more to one’s own aggrandizement than to correcting faults) does not create metanoia, it just labels one as an annoy-a.

    Stretching someone’s statements beyond recognition in order to try to accuse them of being of the same mentality of those who covered up sexual abuse committed by priests falls much more in the annoy-a than the metanoia category.

  • “Stretching someone’s statements beyond recognition in order to try to accuse them of being of the same mentality of those who covered up sexual abuse committed by priests falls much more in the annoy-a than the metanoia category.”

    lmao

  • DC

    In other words, “don’t be a voice of conscience.” I get it. I always got it. I was accused of being the “tattle tale” when I was young, too. Yes. Better to let abuse continue.

  • Ok, I’m going to ask that we not continue this line of conversation. It’s dull for anyone not involved, and it’s not going anywhere productive. Henry believes he is a voice of conscience. Others believe he is reading uncharitably, then making an inapposite and needlessly inflammatory analogy. I don’t think there’s much room for resolution of differences on the point, and I did not write this post with such a conversation in mind. Everyone has had their say.

  • You can mark me down as being on the Manzi/Douthat side of this dispute. I’ll confess I’ve not read the section on global warming in Levin’s book (or any other part of it). But I read his response to Manzi, as well as the responses of K-LO and Andy McCarthy on the Corner, and I’m somewhat familiar with Levin’s style of argument more generally. Needless to say I was not impressed. For what it’s worth, I’ll add that I thought Douthat’s book (which is actually titled Grand New Party; not Sam’s Club Republicans) was quite good.

    There is a natural tendency for political movements to grow lazy in their argumentation, which ultimately impairs their ability to be successful. Subjecting fellow conservatives to criticism when they are not living up to standards is one way to stave off this sort of deterioration, and I think Manzi’s post was a good example of that.

  • John Henry

    Yes, it is “dull” to people with a dull conscience to consider how our socialization with “don’t be a tattle tale” is actually the kind of practice needed to keep sin and evil from being exposed into the light and repented. The fact of the matter is — it’s not dull, it is to the point. The mob boss, the union boss, an institution with a culture of secrecy, political parties who are harboring evil, etc — all will call the “rat fink” out in one fashion or another. They are always the one no one likes. Why is it?

    [Ed. Note: Henry, I was serious. As I said, I very rarely delete comments, but I would ask - again - that you not submit any more comments in this vein. You have expressed your opinion, repeatedly. If this is a topic you wish to discuss, there are venues for that at your disposal. As a courtesy, I would ask that you not continue trying to change the topic of this thread. Best, JH]

  • Levin responds on The Corner here, and it seems to me at any rate basically reveals that the scientific cards are all on Manzi’s side on this one, while the noise is on Levin’s.

    I suspect one of the dynamics here is that most people are willing to give those on “their side” a pass when they figure their heart is in the right place and the issue doesn’t seem all that important. Since most conservatives are not in favor of taking drastic and expensive action to reduce carbon emmissions, there’s not necessarily a lot of practical pressure to sort good arguments from bad arguments.

    And yet, the fact remains that some arguments present very valid reasons why we shouldn’t rush to pass certain kinds of regulations in the name of “saving the planet”, while other arguments are very poor indeed.

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