Kevin D. Williamson is the Deputy Managing Editor of the National Review, but that is about all I can learn about him by surfing the internets. His Wiki is bare other than to tell me he wrote a ridiculous book that can’t distinguish between the policies of the Democratic Party and those of Soviet Russia or the Third Reich. The bio for the NPR Cruise tells me that he’s from Lubbock, Texas, lives in New York City, and is a theatre critic for The New Criterion. Nowhere does he provide the slightest credential for being the deputy managing editor of a magazine. Who sent this man from Texas to Broadway, and why is he being paid to write his drivel for the National Review?
I ask these things because his article on Rick Perry is a real piece of work. He starts out by telling us that Perry was wrong when he told a young child in New Hampshire that Texas teaches creationism in its schools and that Perry was wrong when he said that Texas reserved the right to secede when they joined the Union. He is more interested, however, in why anyone would care what a politician thinks about evolution or climate change. His reasoning is original. Let’s start with the evolution part of his argument.
The broader question, however, is: Why would anybody ask a politician about his views on a scientific question? Nobody ever asks what Sarah Palin thinks about dark matter, or what John Boehner thinks about quantum entanglement. (For that matter, I’ve never heard Keith Ellison pressed for his views on evolution.) There are lots of good reasons not to wonder what Rick Perry thinks about scientific questions, foremost amongst them that there are probably fewer than 10,000 people in the United States whose views on disputed questions regarding evolution are worth consulting, and they are not politicians; they are scientists. In reality, of course, the progressive types who want to know politicians’ views on evolution are not asking a scientific question; they are asking a religious and political question, demanding a profession of faith in a particular materialist-secularist worldview.
Let me start my response to this by giving a parallel example. If I ask a politician if he thinks the Sun generates heat, I am not asking him a scientific question. I’m asking whether he’s fucking crazy. If he shows any doubt whatsoever that the Sun generates heat, I’m not voting for him. The same is true of the evolution question. There are obviously some policy implications that I can reasonably infer from a politician who refuses to believe in evolution, but the primary problem is that their brain is broken. If you want to call this my demand that politicians have faith in a particular materialist-secularist worldview, that’s fine, but I call it having respect for the scientific method and for the near-unanimous consensus of the scientific community. There are plenty of religious politicians who I support wholeheartedly. Last I checked, there was only one avowed atheist in the entire Congress.
Let’s move on to climate change.
Take the question of global warming: Jon Huntsman was quick to declare his faith in the scientific consensus on global warming, and Rick Perry has been openly skeptical of it. Again keeping in mind that nobody really ought to care what either Huntsman or Perry thinks about the relevant science, both are making an error, and a grave one, in conceding that the question at hand is scientific at all. It is not; it is political. One might be convinced that anthropogenic global warming is a real and problematic phenomenon, and still not be convinced that the policies being pushed by Al Gore et al. are wise and intelligent.
Now, if I ask a politician where he stands on the reality of climate change, I am not just asking if he’s crazy. I’m asking if he’s bought and sold by the energy industry. And the reason I care whether or not they’re a lobbyist for Big Oil and Big Gas is because I want us to do something along the lines of what the scientific community suggests to prevent catastrophic climate change. A whore for the big polluters isn’t going to be helpful in that regard. Al Gore has nothing to do with it.
Progressives like to cloak their policy preferences in the mantle of science, but they do not in fact give a fig about science, which for them is only a vehicle to be ridden to the precise extent that it is convenient. This is why they will ask what makes Rick Perry qualified to disagree with the scientific establishment, but never ask the equally relevant question of what makes Jon Huntsman qualified to agree with it. So long as they are getting the policies they want, they don’t care. If you want to see how dedicated a progressive is to dispassionate science, spend two minutes talking about the heritability of intelligence. You’ll be up to your neck in witchcraft and superstition and evasion in no time at all.
This is some serious bullshit on so many levels. Here is a frontal challenge to progressives’ commitment to science and empiricism. He’s saying that our commitment is only a convenience since we will not readily agree that intelligence and heredity are highly correlated. But the reason we will not readily agree is because, unlike evolution or climate change, hereditary intelligence is a highly contentious issue in the scientific community. But beyond the lack of scientific consensus on the issue, it is (or should be) an entirely different type of question than evolution or climate change. Whether or not to teach evolution, and what to do about climate change are debates about actual policies. Whether you’re more likely to be smart if your parents are smart doesn’t seem to matter much from a policy point of view. Of course, Williamson is transparently appealing to a different question: race and intelligence. Or, in other words, why do blacks (collectively) score worse than Asians and Whites on the IQ and other aptitude tests? The test gap is real, but the scientific community has not reached anything close to a consensus on the cause(s). And, what would the policy implications be if there were a consensus? Because, while scientists have many theories, the one thing they agree about is that genes alone do not contribute to differential racial intelligence. Whether it’s prenatal environment, nutrition, chemical exposure, bad schools, subculture-based, test-bias, stereotype threat, or some combination, most of the policy implications are that we should do more to improve environmental conditions for the black community. If we don’t accept Williamson’s idea that blacks are objectively inferior, then we’re up to “our neck in witchcraft and superstition and evasion.” The only evasion is in our desire to get away from you as quickly as possible.
Another telling sentence is where he asks us what makes Jon Huntsman qualified to agree with the consensus of the scientific community. But that’s the whole point of having a scientific community. They figure shit out and tell the rest of us how things work. We’re all qualified to accept their reasoning. You have to actually do some work to be qualified to question it.
Perry is making an error by approaching these questions as though they were scientific disputes and not political ones. The real question about global warming isn’t whether one computer simulation or another is the better indicator of what our climate will be like a century hence, it is whether such policies as envisioned by the environmentalist-anti-capitalist green coalition are wise. They are not.
He is simply asserting that climate change and evolution are not scientific disputes, which, while not entirely true, is truer than anything else he’s arguing. There are a series of questions here.
1. Are evolution and climate change scientific or political questions, or both?
2. Is the scientific community right about these theories?
3. Should we heed the advice of the scientific community and create policies to address climate change?
On (1) he uses the premise that it is political question to prove it is a political question (tautological error). He refuses to entertain question (2) in order to beg the question on question (3).
What this amounts to is Mr. Williamson telling us that we’re not qualified to have an opinion on scientific matters and that it doesn’t matter what our politicians think about scientific matters and that, therefore, we should not ask politicians questions about scientific matters, nor should we care what their answers might be. But, scientific disputes are really only political disputes, and Mr. Williamson is himself qualified to tell us that the scientists’ prescription for addressing climate change is bad policy.
Or, in shorter words, we cannot agree to anything that hurts the oil and gas industry. Or, also in shorter words, the scientists agree with the environmentalist-anti-capitalist green coalition, so we must dismiss science!!
Once again, where did this guy come from? Lubbock?
I guess that explains it.