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For all our Western liberal democratic traditions and individualist rhetoric, we are a collectivist, Gnostic people who long ago swallowed the horse-pill of Marxist determinism and chased it with a vial of structuralist poison, causing an ugly growth of confused moral relativism. We no longer trust ourselves, we no longer trust what we see, convinced that appearance is illusion and that there lurks below the surface some absolute but discoverable structural system. With no genuine faith left in the moral conscience or the freedom of the individual will, with no belief in our transcendent ability to direct the currents of history, and with a latent mistrust of empirically demonstrable surface facts, we are a people who walk blindly along a predetermined cultural and biological path, following the invisible mandates of a theoretical substructure, as revealed to us from the high-bully-pulpit of the social sciences--psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, demographics etc. Psychology and sociology decide how we will behave; economics, geography and demographics determine where we will live and what we will do with our time; anthropology informs us of who and what we are.

Like all forms of intellectual utopianism, this variety implies the kind of inevitable social engineering that killed untold millions in the twentieth century. And it contains another, more personal and ultimately more dangerous undercurrent: by it we have turned a collective cold shoulder to all thought of human possibility; the easy assumption that human activities and attributes are governed by strict natural laws--analogous to the physical laws which govern the inanimate world--essentially amounts to a complete abdication of our individual humanity, and an absolute loss of hope. The bedrock of tomorrow is eroded away, the field of the future laid with mines (which are, of course, predestined and unavoidable)...

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Comment by Dave on June 30, 2011 at 6:46pm

This is a great book and should be on the reading list of everyone

 

The discussion for this post offered by me is:

 

If we only trust the feelings we sense and ideas we create, then are we not suspect to radical subjectivism? Are we to be fully trusted to understand everything everywhere when making life's decisions? Is it fair to suggest that we look to the help of, say a lawyer for legal advice since the lawyer would have a better understanding of the complexities of the law than the average layperson? So, too, should we not look to the advice of professionals in the fields of biology, ecology, or the "social sciences--psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, demographics" when trying to understand ourselves, the world we live in, and our relationship with each other?

 

Doesn't the empirical offer a guideline to better understand ourselves, our planet, our social and physical interactions, and other people? Do we not have genetic traits and predispositions that can help us understand ours and other’s vulnerabilities? Are there not correlation between human activity and the degradation of the planet as we know it?

 

I'm not suggesting that we blindly follow every piece of advice we get from these "professionals," but I do believe that if you are educated (formal or non) in what you are making a decision on, and can understand the motives of the researcher (future funding, political affiliations, etc.), then you can do some research and validate your decisions based on strong evidence rather than simple internal speculation and intuition.

 

To be suspect of those who study and report their findings--and those who try to reproduce those original findings--isn't fair to the work they perform or the oaths to which they took when entering in their fields of study. 

 

The media (T.V. shows and T.V. personalities, magazine companies, newspapers)--basically those who are trying to make a buck from the shock value of a subject or who perpetrate misleading headlines--should be what we hold as suspicious not scientists

 

We are buying snake oil from carpetbaggers when we take on face value things "reported" in the media.  However, when we find "studies" that pertain to a specific subject, and we take the time to understand the affiliations of the “studies,” we can forego or see through the capital interest and begin to understand a subject better, giving us a chance to think for ourselves and make wise choices.

 

Thanks Aaron for a great book and blog...

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