A recent article in Chronicles of Higher Education bemoans the uses of relativism in the organized subversion of civilization by moneyed interests.
"But now the climate-change deniers and the young-Earth creationists are coming after the natural scientists," the literary critic Michael Bérubé noted, "… and they’re using some of the very arguments developed by an academic left that thought it was speaking only to people of like mind."
That is the price one pays for playing with ideas as if doing so has no consequences, imagining that they will be used only for the political purposes one intended. Instead, the entire edifice of science is now under attack. And it’s the poor and disenfranchised, to whom the left pays homage, who will probably bear the brunt of disbelief in climate change.Yeah. Well, I kind of said that in 1996.
My concern is that the weaponry of relativism is only coincidentallyDid y'all listen? Actually getting credit for seeing this coming would be a sort of a nice consolation, but it would be nicer still if my warning had been heeded or, really, had I been actually wrong. But that's reality for us Cassandra types. When we are right, it doesn't matter.
and temporarily associated with the rhetoric of freedom and dignity. Less
developed versions of the same thing have been used in the Stalinist
and Nazi tyrannies. This is a central fact of the history of twentieth
century science. In developing a rhetoric of willful uncertainty and
confusion (somehow ignoring manifest and spectacular success) and
conferring some sort of academic respectability upon it, the relativists
are developing a weapon that can and would be used by spectacularly
malevolent forces in the process of subverting and eliminating the
very sorts of human dignity contemporary proponents believe themselves to be
promoting. Ultimately it comes down to the triumph of the ad hominem
over the substantive. In that case, it is a trivial matter to move
the trusted class from tofu munching bicycle commuting book collecting
casual buddhist environmentalist utopians (I have described the class so
as to include myself) to gun totin beer guzzlin angry racist tax paranoids.
If such people ever get the sort of power they aspire to, they will
need a front of intellectual respectability, and the machinery of
radical relativism will prove remarkably malleable.
Truth is not so cooperative. Relativism is the enemy of decency as
much as unfounded certainty is.
Celebration of confusion and uncertainty transcends the left/right
dichotomies of property and nationality. A position that opposes
the possibility of testing hypotheses moots the issue of which
form of government is superior. It amounts to "why, whichever
form I say". It thus presents a common enemy to left and right.