The Dangers and Poverty of Subjectivism and a Call to Epistemic Responsibility
Separating our belief systems from reality has proven to be unhealthy. Objective science exists in a realm beyond -isms.
The classic role of Science was to allow us to use the tools of observation, experimentation, reason and logic to develop knowledge, fully aware of the fact that our best knowledge is an approximation of reality. Science holds no special harbor for what most people think of as “truth”, rather, we use careful approaches that make require that we make as explicit as possible, prior knowledge and its limits, which includes differentiating accepted facts and speculation (assumptions). The particular method toward advancing our state of knowing itself can influence whether we reach sufficient velocity to escape the gravity of ignorance, whether we fail to launch, or whether we spin wildly out of control and crash at some unknown reference point - from which making our way back to objectively acquired knowledge can be very difficult.
An undue faith in science is “Scientism”. By contrast, objective science is self-skeptical. It leaves egoism and other “isms” out of the picture - no socio-politico agenda, be it capitalist, socialist, or communist should steer the course of scientific inquiry. The socio-politico constructs by which we try to outsmart and empower each other are the means by which objective science can be funded - not filters through which science should be pressed before public consumption. The formation of policies should be founded on objective science, and science should never be limited, promoted or otherwise biased or twisted to fit a specific policy agenda - and this is tough - no matter what the consequences. If we are to have objective science, there can be no taboos on subject or topic of inquiry (questions asked), findings, or conclusions and interpretations.
If any of that seems radical to you, take a deep breathe and understand that Science is service, not another “-ism” in competition with other “-isms”. Viewed by the lens of Science, the idea that all human lives have equal value is self-evident. This view is clearly not shared by all who call themselves “scientist”, but they are basing their assessment on the relative value of human lives on their own bias. The Scientific view that all human lives have equal value is due to the very boring fact that it is the default null hypothesis position - and no data has been, or ever could be generated that creates a universal truth that any particular human life is more valuable than others.
This beginning position is not and cannot be used to argue that any particular socio-economic collection of positions is “Evil” simply because individuals vary in their means of taking care of themselves or others. Some systems use force to strike down individual advantage (communism), and others reward individual initiative (capitalism). An outside view of sociopolitical extremes allows one to see that each and every sociopolitical system has its own cheaters, people who game the system to their individual advantage. That same view allows one to see that for humanity to find a system of government and a set of rules for conducting business and enterprise that is acceptable to each and every individual would require omniscience if the requirement was that every person accept the rules.
Recently, an egalitarian viewpoint that falls into “Wokeism”, also known as “Cultural Marxism”, has many confused. Yaron Brook, of the Ayn Rand Institute, says that Cultural Marxism is worse than Marxism, because at least Marxism describes a process that leads to a specific goal. Yaron sees Cultural Marxism as a movement that understands destruction, but does not understand nihilism.
In his view, Cultural Marxism demands sacrifice for the sake of “equity”, using only the shame of ownership both as evidence of the low moral position of property ownership by the success and the tool for material redistribution. Yaron points out that the virtue of suffering - the idea that a person is a better person merely because they have suffered - is absurd - and the solution of the re-distribution of wealth is equally absurd. He rarely points out but I suspect he would agree that the poverty of logic of Cultural Marxism comes from the self-inconsistency in the end goal of equality of outcome is the fact that those who had less, by the process of acquiring more, become relatively more evil. “You’ll own nothing and be happy” is impossible in a system of redistribution - unless one literally surrenders their ego, their sense of self, and their awareness of their own well-being - to the state.
Yaron decries statism (thank goodness), and points out you cannot bring the best of society to the level of equal with the have-nots in real-time, and therefore past pure egalitarian regimes - such as the communists in Cambodia - simply killed 40% of their population. Under a Scientific objective evaluation of that equation, that solution requires the indefensible belief that being dead makes you equal to those parts of society that could not, or have not yet, achieved success in a free and open society. The high-mindedness of Marxism leads to violent enforcement of policies based on subjective beliefs, not policies found on reasonable processes involving logic, reason and compassion for all.
For a few years, I have railed against constructivist activities that are sometimes (often) confused with objective science. Now, post-COVID-19-policies, it is clear that the real enemy of the open society is Subjectivism. All totalitarian tendencies and regimes are subjective, even if they show up claiming to be scientists working for the common good, in spite of our experiences of pain & suffering under their “solutions”.
For many who have taken the time to study philosophy, one virtue that resonates with many as objective is the idea that we all have a responsibility to consider and reconsider the basis of our beliefs. This idea, known as epistemic responsibility, is that we should require (of ourselves, individually) to place responsible limits on our accepted beliefs if we have no - or insufficient - empirical basis for a belief. When we don’t have enough evidence to take a position, the correct and responsible thing to do is to withhold taking up a position. This require meta-cognition - thinking about how we are thinking - and is a mark of what Llewellya Hillis-Colinvaux used to call “thinking people”.
Take vaccine safety, for example. How many people have accepted the messaging of universal vaccine safety without skeptical inquiry on whether those claims are solid? “I trust the CDC” is a subjective belief system masquerading as objectivity, and people who adopt that position should evaluate the degree to which fear of “being othered” reinforces that subjective belief. They should evaluate the role of total saturation information campaigns have had on their degree of belief without understanding. To what degree is the bias in your search engine controlling the degree to which you are even capable of being informed - and performing your epistemic responsibility (to yourself, and to others, as needed) to adopt no position until you have sufficient evidence to do so?
Watch, for example, the irony in this video (Crash Course in Philosophy) on Epistemic Responsibility. The host does a super job in other videos in teaching the public the basics of biology and some other sciences. But in this case, he has clearly not done his own research. He clearly simply does not know that long-term vaccine safety studies are retrospective observational studies, which are easily (and have been) manipulated to provide specific results favoring safety. He clearly does not yet know that vaccine studies should use inert placebos on the control group, but instead use active ingredients (adjuvants), or other vaccines. He has never heard of Pathogenic Priming or unsafe epitopes, Dr. William Thompson, or Dr. Brian Hooker. He does not know that nearly all of the vaccine safety studies conducted to address the question of whether vaccines cause autism actually never tested causality, and were underpowered (thus likely to miss an effect if it was, in fact, present).
In his video, he obliquely references the Wakefield study, but has clearly never read it. If he had, he would have known that Dr. Wakefield and colleagues never concluded in their paper that vaccines cause autism; instead, they posed the question of the possibility of an association, and the study was merely a pilot study of gastrointestinal issues in kids with autism who had been vaccinated and who also had autism.
He is unaware that Dr. Wakefield’s co-author was exonerated of wrong-doing. He is likely unaware that not all vaccines have been tested for association with autism. Nor that some studies DO exist that show association between vaccines and autism.
Thus, this informational video is a perfect exercise is self-unawareness in a most ironic, and sad manner. Watching it, I could help but wonder how long it will be before this otherwise obviously bright and engaging scientifically literate young man reads his first vaccine safety study, or whether he, like so many others, will one day be forced through the pain of cognitive disequilibrium brought on by overwhelming personal experience be force to accept that he, like so many others, failed in their personal epistemic responsibility on vaccines and looked too late.
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