11 comments posted · 5 followers · following 0

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - "What do you think—o... · 0 replies · +1 points

I would be hesitant to ascribe too much coherence to people's nationalist feelings. On the other hand, isn't this roughly what "my country, right or wrong" means? Trump isn't a particularly careful analytic thinker, but he seems to have the idea that loyalty to country is pre-cognitive down. For a left-wing version, there is Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country".

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - "What do you think—o... · 0 replies · +1 points

Other presidents undoubtedly acted out psychological harm in destructive ways -- Nixon being the most extreme example perhaps, although probably not the worst president substantively. But has there ever been anyone as transparent as Trump? You have to go back to Suetonius.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - "What do you think—o... · 0 replies · +1 points

There is no evidence of Trump's having abjectly capitulated to Russia. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence of irrationally relentless hostility to both Iran and China. It is unfortunate that American liberals prefer to engage in warmed-over Romneyism than focus on the real threat of Trump's presidency, namely unfocused belligerence.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - "What do you think—o... · 2 replies · +1 points

I don't think there is any real contradiction here. Trump-style nationalism is not based on a cognitive judgment that America is (objectively) better than other countries. It is based on an emotional commitment to one's own, regardless of such judgments. His base just assumes that of course we should prefer our own country, right or wrong, just as we prefer our own family, without necessarily thinking that it is morally superior to other families. This is no doubt how Russians think as well. It actually makes a lot more sense than neoconservative rhetoric about how the US is morally superior to the rest of the world, since the neoconservative's loyalties obviously do not actually depend on a cool, dispassionate decision that the US (or Israel) is on the right side of some impersonal moral standard.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - "What do you think—o... · 2 replies · +5 points

I should preface this by saying Trump is a terrible president and a terrible human being.

But, in context, he made a reasonable point. All states are instruments of violence. The US does not have its current landmass or position in the world by having been nice to people. The US has had a close military alliance with Stalin's Russia and a loose alignment with Mao's China. Putin is an authoritarian populist, but is undoubtedly popular in Russia. There is no reason to think that Putin is incapable of making mutually beneficial arrangements with other states.

The problem with Trump's foreign policy is not that he is willing to work with Putin, or rethink American alliances almost forty years after the Cold War ended. The problem is he lacks self-control, knowledge, willingness to consult experts and has a belligerent personality. He also has an instinctively zero-sum view of international relations. I sort of wish that some restraint/realist foreign policy types could get in his headspace, rather than lunatics like Flynn and Bannon.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - On Scientific Objectivity · 0 replies · +2 points

What can you possibly mean by "science thinks it knows a lot of things it doesn't know"? Science isn't a person. I am sure some scientists think they know things they don't know, although I am not sure they are any worse than anyone else on that score.

Claims about what science can "never possibly know" come closer to at least having content. What kind of things? Kant obviously thought he could figure that out, but Hegel pointed out that requires somehow thinking both sides of the limit. That being said, I am sympathetic to the idea that there are important things science (in the modern, English-speaking sense) cannot know.

What annoys me is the cheap 1980s post-modernism that Heims was selling, since it is a direct line from there to the Trump presidency.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - On Scientific Objectivity · 0 replies · +2 points

What is really offensive is the claim that it is an "article of faith" that technological innovations are "a priori" beneficial. I know techno-optimists. Some techno-optimists are friends of mine. I am willing to bet any amount of bitcoin that there is literally no one who knows what "a priori" means and thinks it applies to the proposition all technology is beneficial, and that was as true in 1980 as it is now.

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - On Scientific Objectivity · 2 replies · +2 points

Throwing around "positivist" as a swearword doesn't mean you are making a sensible point. "Positivist" is a bit like "neoliberal": it means the person using it went to grad school, and doesn't understand what people who disagree with them actually think.

All you said is that science doesn't know everything with perfect certainty. I happen to have zombie A J Ayer and Auguste Comte right here, and they both know that.

You also fail the test of relevance. The Original Post claimed (a) that scientific facts are not "objective" in the sense of value neutral and (b) the conventional view that chemical reactions are either energy-producing or not and it doesn't depend on whether you like it that way is contradicted by the also-conventional view that technology is beneficial. It actually went further and claimed that there are people who think that technology is "a priori" beneficial, which zombie Ayer and Comte both tell me they never thought. But if we leave aside the stupid hyperbole, there is actually no contradiction because technical efficacy is perfectly compatible with value-neutral science. And of course topic selection isn't value neutral, but my zombie positivists never thought it was.

All of this on a blog called "Same Facts" when there is a presidential administration committed to a populist war on scientific expertise. Sad!

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - On Scientific Objectivity · 1 reply · +2 points

There is no logical contradiction between thinking science tends to give a true, value-neutral picture of the world and that technology based on this picture tends to be effective at what it is designed to do. On the general realist-materialist world picture, that is because accurate representations tend to lead to accurate predictions. Effective technology will be "beneficial" to the extent that the purposes of the people designing and employing it are beneficial. Or course, accurate science also leads to more destructive weaponry, which of course implies that a dark age can be made more sinister and protracted by the lights of a perverted science.

There is no contradiction here. Better postmodernists please!

6 years ago @ The Reality-Based Comm... - On Scientific Objectivity · 0 replies · +1 points

This post fails the ideological Turing test. No one who said science is "value neutral" thought topic choice is value neutral. Any argument that assumes Max Weber was dumber than the average undergrad probably has a flaw in it.