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Rush Limbaugh, Statist Monster

February 12th, 2009 by Myrhaf · 37 Comments · Culture

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh revealed an ugliness inside the modern conservative. He was filled with as much emotional intensity as I have ever heard from him as he railed about how the right would have its revenge on the left.

We’re going to treat them the same way they have been treating us for years.  We are going to subject them to the same things they have subjected us to, and we are going to have a big and strong and powerful government to wield against them because they’re in the process of building it.  And we’re going to win it back one day, and when we win this country back, and this government back, we are going to deploy government against them the way they have been deploying it against us, and let them find out what it’s like, and they’re not going to be able to stop it, because they will not have a power base anywhere that will let them stop it.

Nothing here about the proper goal of dismantling government and freeing America. No, Rush is happy with big government — as long as his gang has the power to persecute the other gang.

They will not control government forever, and when our turn comes, we are going to turn the power of government against the left.  We are going to investigate them. We are going to hold public hearings. We are going to humiliate them. We’re going to nationalize their unions. We’re going to fund our groups for a change.

If they can give ACORN $4.1 billion then we can start paying our groups with federal money.  We’re going to do exactly to them what they have done to us.  We’re going to build and use the Big Government that they have built and turn it right against them.  We are gonna turn the power of government against the left, and against Democrats in ways they cannot imagine.  They will not know what hit them.  They are using the law. They are using government to advance a cause that is un-American. We are going to use the power that the left is centralizing in the federal government to punish them, to break ’em up, and to make them pay for this.  It’s time for tit-for-tat.  Nice guy playing by the rules when they don’t, is over.  It’s time they got a taste of their own medicine, and it’s going to happen, folks, because they’re not going to hold power forever.

This thinking is the logical result of welfare state politics. It’s my gang vs. your gang in the struggle for power.

When the left hears Limbaugh say this, they are not appalled. His revenge fantasy is perfectly logical to them because it is how they would act. The age of freedom is over; now we just have two parties using big government to destroy one another.

How hopeless the conservatives are! They don’t value liberty, just power. They think America will be better if they’re the ones throwing around big government. And because they give lip service to smaller government and free market economics, they are in the end more dishonest and more dangerous than the left.

We can only hope that  when the right regains the wheel of Leviathan, that the opposition stifles them better than the hapless Republicans are now opposing the Democrats. In the meantime, those of us who do not fantasize about government power must continue spreading a rational philosophy to oppose both the nihilist left and Limbaugh’s religious right. Let us work to reestablish a culture that values freedom more than the power to destroy our enemies with the state.

37 Comments so far ↓

  • Madmax

    As stated, this is pretty disgusting stuff. I’m shocked that Limbaugh would stoop so low. But was this just him venting? Has he retracted any of this since? How can he ever claim to be a limited gov’t advocate if this is his ultimate dream; to lead a Rightist lynch mob?

    The country is going crazy and madness rules throughout the land.

  • Harold

    “We’re going to nationalize the unions…”

    What exactly does this mean?

    “How can he ever claim to be a limited gov’t advocate if this is his ultimate dream; to lead a Rightist lynch mob?”

    I don’t know, not long ago he was complaining about how it was immoral (without saying why) to take people’s money and redistribute it.

    “The country is going crazy and madness rules throughout the land.”

    It’s like The Twilight Zone.

  • rob sama

    I strongly suspect that Rush is trying to teach liberals listening to his show about why big government is dangerous… and NOT trying to make a serious case for what Republicans would want to do with government should they win back power.

    I’m not a big Rush fan, I think he steals most of his material from bloggers these days. But what you’re quoting doesn’t sound like Rush being straight up. It sounds like him being tongue in cheek.

  • Burgess Laughlin

    What is happening today is a consequence of ideas adopted for decades, with roots going back centuries. In that perspective, it is not mental illness that accounts for events, but terrible premises leading to terrible conclusions.

    Myrhaf, congratulations on writing a model article. It is an example of the power of “show and tell.” Your quotations provide the evidence. Your observations summarize and integrate. And your conclusion provides a prescription to follow. Ideas and action–there is no more powerful combination.

  • Joan of Argghh!

    No, I can’t agree on this one. The entirety of who Rush is and what he values is easily grasped by anyone who has listened to him over the years. This is his typical high dudgeon of outrageous outrage to make a salient point.

    Plus, he is pushing their buttons. If they, like you, fall for the ploy he will loom ever larger in their imaginations and they will target him exclusively. Hopefully, that will provide cover for other, new GOPers to run for office without drawing as much fire.

    Or not…

  • Andrew Dalton

    Joan –

    I tend to take people’s intentions at face value unless there is good reason to think otherwise. One must be especially vigilant against the temptation to dismiss (or creatively reinterpret) people’s statements based upon one’s own wishful thinking. I learned my lesson with George W. Bush.

    History has a long record of people saying, “He can’t really mean that”–followed years later by the realization of, “Crap, I guess he really did.”

  • L-C

    Ah, the juvenile cause of an “against” without a real “for”.

    It’s part of what discredited idealism.

  • Myrhaf

    As an actor, Rob and Joan, I do not think Rush could fake the passion in his voice when he said all this. The hatred and the anger of the left were real. Now, he might try to weasel out if he gets enough criticism by claiming he was “illustrating absurdity by being absurd,” but I don’t buy it. He wants to use big government against his enemies.

  • Joan of Argghh!

    “as an actor”?

    As a woman, I can spot acting a mile away. Hell, we invented it.

    I haven’t drunk the Rush Koolaid, and find much to criticize about him, but this isn’t it. This is theatrics, plain and simple. Rush is having a delicious moment with Obama’s ridiculous ploy of calling him out. Does he feel it? Damn right he does. I could go there myself right about now. Red meat is tasty and inspiring.

    Moreover, as long as Rush is not an elected official, he is an outlier, an interesting element in the mix. I find that useful. Obama finds it useful to make Rush the bogey-man. That must mean that Obama looks out on the horizon and sees only one threat amongst the entire GOP.

    And I find that sad.

  • Amit Ghate

    Nice post Myrhaf! And to those who claim Limbaugh is just making a point by exaggeration, note that he’s framed the whole issue as left vs. right. There’s no mention of, nor room for, the individual in this setup — not a surprising view coming from a religious conservative.

  • Luke Baggins

    Rush said on his show with Hugh Hewitt something to the effect of “If you don’t believe abortion is murder, I don’t want you in this party.”

    The religious right, with Rush as their champion, have made the republican party the party of foetuses and the braindead. Functional, breathing humans can expect no sympathy from them. We have nothing to gain from any support of them.

  • Phoroneus

    There is a silver lining in this cloud I believe, if Rush is representative of the more intelligent conservatives his collapse into thuggery will help keep them from claiming the moral high ground and allow us to better equate them with the left.

    It’ll be a good time to espouse the rational alternative to their big government b.s. and help us show everyone how petty and worthless altruism and welfare statism really is.

  • rob sama

    Joan is right. Rush is trying to illustrate that large government, once enabled, can be used to do things that you hadn’t intended. He is not seriously arguing for large government.

    Limbaugh has become a parody of himself in recent years, and frankly I think he jumped the shark with his “Barack the magic Negro” song. There are a lot of reasons to dislike Limbaugh, in particular his refusal to back away from endorsing the Republican congress in 2006 when they richly deserved to lose. But this quote? You’re just off base here…

  • Myrhaf

    Rob and Joan are wrong. Rush is arguing that the Democrats will be destroyed by the Frankenstein monster they are creating. The biter will be bit. He was so focused on this idea that he forgot one thing: in order for the massive state to be turned against Democrats, the Republicans must become as bad as the Democrats.

    Notice that we’re arguing here over whether Rush means what he says. There never is a question that an honest man means what he says.

  • Jim May

    Joan: if we are to let Limbaugh off the hook for this kind of thing, then perhaps we should let James Wolcott off for his “rooting for hurricanes” comment just a few months before Katrina, eh?

    Limbaugh writes::

    “They are using government to advance a cause that is un-American.”

    Is that one of the things that he fancies that the Right should do once in power, in an effort to spite the Left?

    I have posted in many locations, again and again, that the most dangerous popular misconception in America today is the idea that the Left and conservatism are somehow opposites. They are not — they are competitors, siblings born of a common anti-Enlightenment, and thusly anti-American, parent.

    Much of what each side “achieves” is built upon earlier work done by the other side. The religious right has been learning to speak the language of the Left, seeking ways to paint themselves as “victims” in order to insulate themselves from criticism: see Ben Stein’s execrable “Expelled” flick, done to Michael Moore’s pattern, and the Discovery Institute’s quasi-Alinskian efforts to co-opt the socialized “education” apparatus.

    Limbaugh himself puts his finger on the crux of that issue when he says:

    “We are going to subject them to the same things they have subjected us to, and we are going to have a big and strong and powerful government to wield against them because they’re in the process of building it.

    You see, that’s how it works. The Left builds some apparatus of government that should not exist and uses it against their enemies. The Right regains power, and uses the pre-existing apparatus, along with something new that they added, against their enemies. And so on.

    Meanwhile, those who seek to tear these things down have no voice… while the mainstream gets used to their existence, then becomes dependent upon them.

    This is always how the Left and conservatism have always played off one another to move us towards tyranny.

    So, as with Wolcott, I consider it completely irrelevant how serious Limbaugh is — because he is accurately describing what is really going on.

    As did Wolcott for the Left, Limbaugh exposed something crucial about the soul of the Right — and sure enough, their mainstream supporters just laugh it off as unserious.

    I find *that* very sad.

  • Joan of Argghh!

    Wow, Jim. I’m not letting Limbaugh off the hook. I’m judging his statements in light of his life’s work. Which is knowable.

    You write with a definitive and final air, as though all is tidy and illumined in your corner of the ivory tower, and you may post it everywhere for sheer volume, but it still won’t make something true.

    I find, from my side of the philosophical aisle, that the Left has perfectly frightened otherwise intelligent people into rejecting the idea that intelligent people of faith have anything to offer society or government. Especially those of the Christian heritage who have yet to intercept a phone call, invade a home looking for drugs, or tax us for condoms. None of the Left’s boogey-men of the Religious Right have incarnated themselves into law. I have yet to see the Right use the tactic you describe.

    Yet we will swallow any amount of new taxes guised as “green” and progressive, and based on specious data and politically-charged agenda-science. (How is “political” different from “metaphysical”? Discuss.)

    Meanwhile Ben Stein’s argument has been lost in the cant of the Left’s yellow lenses and focus. The sum total of Stein’s argument is that someone is deciding which questions are allowed and which are not. That is as dangerous coming from a scientist as it is from a Pope. He’s not advocating dismissing fossil evidences of evolution or some other hysterical crap that I’ve seen ascribed to him. Moreover, “science” is actually capable of corruption from within. True scientific method and Reason have fallen under the political wheel. We shall bemoan AGW while the sun has yet to produce a new cycle of sun spots and we descend into another mini Ice Age.

    Your view, whether you can see it or not, was born with Roe v Wade and will likely die with your own enlightened euthanasia. Whether or not that will be sad, will depend on one’s unenlightened metaphysical perception of the event.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Joan-

    What exactly do you think Jim’s view is?

  • Jim May

    You write with a definitive and final air, as though all is tidy and illumined in your corner of the ivory tower, and you may post it everywhere for sheer volume, but it still won’t make something true.

    No, the words of conservatives and the Left do that for me.

    I find, from my side of the philosophical aisle, that the Left has perfectly frightened otherwise intelligent people into rejecting the idea that intelligent people of faith have anything to offer society or government.

    I find that books of pre-Enlightenment history do that.

    I have yet to see the Right use the tactic you describe.

    See Little Green Footballs. Check out his posts on all the creationist shenanigans — nearly all straight out of the Left’s “Long March Through the Institutions” playbook.

    The sum total of Stein’s argument is that someone is deciding which questions are allowed and which are not.

    Ah, but carefully done in a fashion calculated to avoid addressing the fact that “someone deciding” is not a problem per se. Universities cannot and should not admit just any idiot with a theory.

    At best, Stein was being a simpleton; at worst, he’s engaging in Michael Moore-style slander of the academy as such. Either way, he’s nicely given the Left something to be used against anyone who raises such questions in the future.

    True scientific method and Reason have fallen under the political wheel.

    Oh yes. That’s the Left’s goal. The kicker is that core conservatism, being anti-Enlightenment in its origins, will happily aid and abet that process, hoping to exploit the resulting disasters to claim that science per se is not trustworthy, it’s “just a theory” etc.

    That is my biggest concern with regards to the global warming trojan horse; its payload is not only the expansion of government power (that goes without saying when Leftist goals are the topic) but it will hand the religious crackpots a huge, credibility-killing disaster to lay at the foot of “science”.

    That is another example of the Left-conservative synergy; the Left undercuts the foundations of the Enlightenment, making it easier for the religionists to make inroads they never could have managed on their own.

    Your view, whether you can see it or not, was born with Roe v Wade and will likely die with your own enlightened euthanasia. Whether or not that will be sad, will depend on one’s unenlightened metaphysical perception of the event.

    When someone can make sense out of this bit of poppycock, please post it here.

  • Joan of Argghh!

    Because, to continue down the so-called enlightened road that abortion carved into our national psyche is to eventually arrive at the deterministic and reasonable view that euthanasia be widely accepted as well. After all, it too, has been peddled as “enlightened.” It’s something I saw even 35 years ago and pondered even then: who is to dictate the reasonable beginnings and endings of life, it’s meaning and value? What enlightened angel would you trust that sort of collective power to?

    I’m gonna have to side with those Luddites who might be a bit more chary to pull the plug on me.

    that core conservatism, being anti-Enlightenment in its origins, will happily aid and abet that process,

    Core conservatism is NOT anti-enlightenment or anti-science. Sounds good to say so, in a Chicken Little sort of way, but history will not bear that out. The shrieking eels of imaginary threats must be silenced for reasonable discussion and a few snake-handlers do not a national threat contain.

    I’ve read LGF extensively and I find him more and more unhinged as years go by. He’s leading the charge of the weightlessly light brigade, fueled by the fear that some Christer is gonna take away Truth. As if Truth needs me or LGF to defend it. Truth is knowable as is Reason. We’ll all fight to the death over it, and yet Science cannot measure, observe or report on either.

    In fact, it is much more accurate to place Mr. Johnson on Jim’s two-sides-of-the same coin assertion, for he plays into the Left’s totalitarianism and squelching of dissent. He has, like others, spoken the final word on the subject, repeatedly an inexhaustibly. His amen corner believe themselves the chosen few who “get it.” All others he dismisses and blocks and bans because he’s dreadfully bored with being asked questions he deigns to have answered for us all.

    The sum total of what Science doesn’t know is that it can’t explain why we can know Science. Christians have every right to ask and hypothesize about that great imponderable as anyone else does.

    It’s not a sin to point that out, and it doesn’t make one an unenlightened person to say so.

    No matter. If you believe the Conservative voice of the Right to be the same in type and tactic as the Left, you have played perfectly into a much greater error, and one that will ultimately destroy what it seeks to preserve. The statist monster is always the one to whom no moral appeal can be made, since there is no Other outside their own self-regard.

    GWB, that famously hated Christer, had eight years to enact every feared imagining of the progressives. He used his bully pulpit to influence a respect for life, but he never abused his power to coerce any American into his own personal way. But the proggies will continue to shout that the Christers are making the sky fall, playing fully into the quiet underground plots of the truly disengaged Luddites of Islam.

    Christianity, it can be proven, has done more to uphold Science and Enlightenment than most have yet taken time to discover. But you will never take the time to approach that little fact for yourself with an open mind, because it doesn’t splash well on the front pages of the MSM’s lust for another Monkey Trial.

    I would like to know more about the progressive agenda for my life and my country, but I would like to see it presented calmly without the inaccurate fear-mongering. If Progressivism can stand alone in its strength, without contrasting itself by pointing to a boogey man of unrealized fears, I shall be glad to entertain it.

    When it can echo a stand-alone and knowable Truth like, “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain and unalienable rights” then maybe. But I really don’t want to progress from that beautiful little nugget right there. It’s done the whole world a better turn that all my soundings. You take “creator” out of that, and we descend once again into the morass of “sez who?”

  • Andrew Dalton

    Joan, the most polite thing that I can say is that your last post is a scattershot, incoherent tirade.

    Again, exactly *what* position are you arguing against?

  • madmax

    “You take “creator” out of that, and we descend once again into the morass of “sez who?””

    Its clear where we are going with this. Joan’s post makes me think that she is influenced by Larry Auster as she has made some of the exact same arguments he does. In her rant above these are some of the high(low)lights:

    *Evolution is atheistic and must lead to the destruction of objective morality. Random Darwinianism denies teleology and thus robs the universe of any purpose.

    *Abortion represents a disdain for human life and is the epitome of Leftist nihilism. A society that allows abortion will self-destruct and never be capable of defending itself. Islam will prevail, for demographic reasons if nothing else.

    * Science is a type of faith as is religion. One must have “faith in reason” as no certainty is possible without God. Objective Truth (his Truth) must have a divine source.

    * Charles Johnson is a totalitarian “liberal” because he argues against Creationism in public schools. Rejecting Creationism in public schools is “liberal” censorship of Christian values and thus part of the secularist war against religion and moral truth.

    * Christianity is what made science possible. For the reasons why see Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason.” (What a deliberately misleading title that is given what Stark’s thesis is.)

    * Leftist totalitarianism is an expression of individualism because “liberals” only believe in “the self” and don’t believe in anything outside the “self” such as moral law or the Truth or a transcendent creator which gives meaning to all things. Believing in “the self” and not a transcendent God as the foundation of society is the hallmark of “liberalism.”

    * Without God there can be no absolute truth, no absolute morality, no moral law, no foundation for civilized society. And all that is possible to secularists is the skeptical, relativistic, baby killing, Darwinian, random worshiping, morality denying nihilism of “liberalism.”

    * Since you Randians reject God you must be “liberals” too. And besides, you worship Rand the same way we worship Him, His Truth, and Jeebus.

    That’s what we’re dealing with here. I could go on, but I think we all get the point. Most of these are core Conservative arguments but Joan is using phraseology and copping an attitude which suggests she gets it from Auster but she may just get it from the sewer that is known as Conservatism. Obviously each and every point is pure garbage but Conservatives cling to it for dear life. Because it is all that separates them from being a dirty “liberal.”

  • Jim May

    I’m going to refute the only two bits of coherence I could find in that rant, and be done with it.

    Core conservatism is NOT anti-enlightenment or anti-science. Sounds good to say so, in a Chicken Little sort of way, but history will not bear that out. The shrieking eels of imaginary threats must be silenced for reasonable discussion and a few snake-handlers do not a national threat contain.

    Mere gainsaying is not an argument.

    I base my claim on “snake-handlers” such as Russell Kirk (“The Conservative Mind”), Roger Kimball (who tells us not to keep our eyes open for too long) and John Derbyshire, who derides the “Goddess of Reason” as a “counterfeit deity”.

    Trust me, Joan; neither you nor they will be absolved when the tyranny at the end of your road becomes a reality, and you stand there screaming “But I didn’t mean THIS!”

    As if Truth needs me or LGF to defend it. Truth is knowable as is Reason. We’ll all fight to the death over it, and yet Science cannot measure, observe or report on either.

    Your first sentence contradicts the second, and the second is Hopperian/positivist “it’s only theory” nonsense which you got from that philosophical base you share with the Left.

    Truth needs to be defended; the grasping of it is not automatic. Case in point: the prevalence of the pernicious notion that the Left and conservatism are opposites.

    As for your slam at Charles, that’s a pretty strong indicator that you are in the Pamela Gellar camp. Charles is a pretty sharp guy, who appears to have some understanding of the Dark Ages commonalities between the nastier Christians and Muslims. He doesn’t realize that while faith can happily coexist with reason (being ultimately mutable, it can coexist with anything you want), reason does not return the favor.

    Christianity, it can be proven, has done more to uphold Science and Enlightenment than most have yet taken time to discover.

    Christianity’s relationship to Science (specifically, the ideas of Aristotle) is like that of a scavenger who rescues a priceless artifact from the ruins of a burnt-down building. We can credit the scavenger for the rescue and preservation, but not for creating it.

    As for the Enlightenment, that was a revolt against the Christian hegemony, which conservatives more consistent than you (Kirk) openly acknowledge as they denigrate that salutary movement.

  • Jim May

    OK, it was three. I couldn’t resist that last one 😉

  • Jim May

    Found another I can’t let slide.

    GWB, that famously hated Christer, had eight years to enact every feared imagining of the progressives.

    Instead, the “compassionate conservative” proceed to act like one of them, enacting Medicare Part D and presiding over the biggest expansion of government spending since LBJ’s “Great Society”.

    That makes plenty of sense when the common philosophical base is understood.

  • madmax

    “Christianity’s relationship to Science (specifically, the ideas of Aristotle) is like that of a scavenger who rescues a priceless artifact from the ruins of a burnt-down building.”

    I would go even further and say that Christianity is one giant Potemkin Village. Christianity lives like a parasite off of the Classical world. Without the Greco-Roman intellectual accomplishments, its doubtful that Christianity would have even existed at all as it is nothing more than Platonized and Hellenized Judaism.

    But further, pure Christianity can accomplish *nothing* on its own as it is nothing more than a suicidal cult of death worship. Its only because of the intellectual framework of Greco-Roman thought that Christianity has anything interesting to say. Without the Classical element all that Bronze-Age Sky Wizard stuff wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans.

    Christian mythology without Classical thought wouldn’t even have produced a civilization at all let alone Western Civilization. Christianity is the greatest con-job in human history.

  • Jim May

    I just found a choice example of how the Left and Right work hand in glove.

    As we know, the notion of innate ideas (a concept following from the notion of genetic determinism) is fundamental to conservatism; it ties into the notion of Original Sin.

    While browsing LittleGreenFootballs (and discovering that sadly, Robert Spencer seems to have closed his eyes to the attempts by the racist European right to co-opt the anti-jhad movement), I found a comment on another blog discussing Spencer.

    The blog author rejects the notion of genetic determinism. The commenter arguing for it invokes this study as support for his argument.

    Googling the study author, John Alford, indicates that his specialty is researching deterministic causes for political leanings. I’d only need one guess to determine *his* political leanings…. and I don’t need a DNA sample to do it.

  • madmax

    “As we know, the notion of innate ideas (a concept following from the notion of genetic determinism) is fundamental to conservatism; it ties into the notion of Original Sin.”

    Wow. This is a great identification. I never thought of this before. This explains so much of the Traditionalist/Racialist worldview of those like Salier and Auster. Both of these men constantly argue that humans are in large part defined by the collectives they are part of such as race or gender. Thus blacks and hispanics are low IQ people and will always commit crime and advocate for the welfare-state. Women are caregivers and will always work for the caregiving welfare-state. Etc, etc..

    Auster even believes that different races represent the “different aspects of God’s personality” and they must remain separate and unmixed because that is the way God planned it. The Tower of Babel parable proves this in Auster’s eyes. God imprints certain behavioral traits on all races, and peoples. To deny this is to be, well, a “liberal.”

    I think this all fits in with the religious view of knowledge. As rationalists, the religious believe that knowledge comes to them through the means of revelation; ie the pious person “opens” his mind to the God’s Truth and he effortlessly receives the “knowledge.” This is total mental passivity but it does imply innate ideas being implanted by some unknowable source. Genetic determinism and its offspring, racial collectivism, would then be the logical next step, although most conservatives wouldn’t want to go there.

    I too am not surprised that many Leftists believe in genetic determinism. Most Leftists are neo-mystics themselves that substitute some ineffable biological moral intuition for God’s Truth. Dawkins, Harris and Dennet are all case in point.

    Interesting thread this has become. I guess we owe Joan some thanks after all.

  • Jim May

    Most Leftists are neo-mystics themselves that substitute some ineffable biological moral intuition for God’s Truth.

    Yes, they call it “instinct”. It connects to the old Nazi proverb:

    What you believe is no disgrace
    The swinishness is in the race

  • Jim May

    Here’s my comment from guftafs blog, slightly edited for context.

    ……..

    There are two conceptions of “tabula rasa”.

    The genuine one asserts that human beings possess an immutable identity, while individual human *character* is a function of that individual’s choices.

    The Leftist version tosses out the individualist/moral character component entirely, and subscribes to the notion that human *nature* itself is the blank slate.

    The Leftist version of “tabula rasa” and the genetic determinism of conservatism, which purports to be *the* alternative, both share a common premise, one that the genuine view of “tabula rasa” rejects — that individuals do not possess free will, and therefore are not authors of their own character.

    Both of these false concepts are aimed at the same goal — escape from the awesome moral responsibility of self-authorship.

  • madmax

    Jim,

    That is a great response. The Leftist/determinist you responded too had this to say:

    “Genes influence behaviour, that’s just a fact. That they do not determine it 100% to the degree that you can predict with 100% accuracy that someone will be a murderer doesn’t mean that they are suddenly irrelevant and we have total, pure, unfettered free will. It’s NOT all or nothing. Seriously, sometimes it’s like libertarians are stuck in a time warp from the 1950s. The blank state theory was demolished decades ago.”

    You once said that the Left has more brain power than the Right and I think this determinist’s comment shows why. The Right is stuck in the world of superstition. So no matter what arguments they make they still claim allegiance to the Bronze-Age Sky Wizard and His Magic Kingdom. In the eyes of the non-superstitious this kills the Right and not without justification.

    But the Left claims the mantle of science. That leftist quoted above who claims that there is no unfettered free will could probably summon up 100 science papers dealing with all kinds of neurological phenomena. To him, and all empiricists and positivists, if you can’t isolate free will in a petri-dish, then it doesn’t exist.

    To be honest, I don’t even know how to respond to them. I always feel that if I just use base Objectivism without some kind of science that I leave myself open to the charge of rationalism. I know free will exists because determinism is self refuting but its no easy thing to define or explain. This is one reason why dealing with the empiricist/Popperian/positivist Left is, IMO, more challenging than dealing with the Bible thumpers.

  • Andrew Dalton

    madmax –

    You’re right that it would be rationalism to use Objectivist philosophy alone to attack (properly delimited) scientific ideas. But it’s pretty easy to pick out philosophical claims that are pretending to be science.

    The root of the problem is that even competent scientists are no better, on average, in dealing with philosophical abstractions than anyone else in our culture. They sometimes make claims that go beyond science and commit errors such as concept stealing. Now, put those ideas , taken secondhand, into the head of some armchair Internet loudmouth who likes to assert what “science says,” and the correspondence of the original evidence to the claim is going to be tenuous at best.

    Here is something that may help in dealing with people who are deaf to philosophic principles and want to make everything “scientific” in an empiricist sense:

    One way I’ve dealt with “scientific” irrationality is to demand that people lay out their evidence very specifically. It’s very easy for people to assert that “studies show [insert sweeping claim here]”; the proper response is to ask *which* studies show *what*.

    I used this technique against someone on another forum who claimed that “studies” showed that non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (such as from power lines) were dangerous. When I pinned him down on his reasons, he cited a non-published internet “paper” that barely hinted at the claim he was making.

    Specific knowledge of science does help, however.

    For example, as for the issue of genes determining character or behavior–can any of these determinists say what a gene is and what it does? Genes encode RNA and proteins; they also regulate their own expression and the expression of other genes. What does it mean for there to be a “gene for violence” and so on? That is, in fact, a hand-waving non-explanation. They may as well be blaming the Devil.

  • Jim May

    madmax: I’m pretty sure that “aNZu” is a conservative. Not that the distinction means much 😉

  • Madmax

    “I’m pretty sure that “aNZu” is a conservative. Not that the distinction means much.”

    Oh I see. For some reason I thought he was a liberal. Your absolutely right, its getting harder and harder to tell them apart.

    Andrew,

    Good comment and identification that many that claim the mantle of science actually treat science as a religion; ie rationalistically.

  • Peter Murphy

    Andrew Dalton writes at #29

    “You’re right that it would be rationalism to use Objectivist philosophy alone to attack (properly delimited) scientific ideas…

    “Specific knowledge of science does help, however.

    “For example, as for the issue of genes determining character or behavior–can any of these determinists say what a gene is and what it does? ”

    If you are saying that philosophy is on equal hierarchical level with science, you’re mistaken.

    Philosophy subsumes all knowledge. The self-refuting nature of determinism is just that: self-refuting. To open up the debate on that issue to a discussion of the function of genes, is to deny the hierarchical primacy of the law of non-contradiction.

    It’s not rationalism to “use Objectivist philosophy alone” – when dealing with the issue of determinism. Objectivism is already fully rooted in reality, in this case, starting with the law of non-contradiction.

    Hierarchically, science depends on philosophy – not the other way around.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Peter-

    No, I am not saying that science and philosophy are on the same level as part of a proper epistemology.

    But as a polemical matter, in the context of an audience steeped in empiricism, the appeal to philosophical principles *without answering any specific scientific claims* can be like talking to a brick wall. The determinists claim to have science on their side; to many people, that pretty much settles the debate.

    You need to have some way to break through, to knock the determinist off his feet and show that that science does not, in fact, answer the all of the questions that he thinks it answers. The purpose is not really to convince the determinist, but to make a case to the fence-sitters who admire science and would otherwise be drawn to the determinist’s side due to lack of a rational countervailing argument.

  • Peter Murphy

    Andrew –

    Good points all. You’ve helped me recall that I’ve successfully reached the fence-sitters (and silenced the determinist) on many occasions, simply by showing the self-refuting nature of the determinist’s view in a mirthful way.

    “If your genes determine your view, and my genes determine my view, then neither of us has any means to verify either position – except that under your position, consistency requires that you stop speaking about anything because communicating for the purpose of informing or persuading is useless by your premise, and so you’re at the dead end where no new, verifiable knowledge is possible to you.”

    I can’t remember a time when I didn’t se a dropped jaw on the determinist — and I recall many chuckles from the fence-sitters!

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