Selective Skepticism

Ron Paul being told Cory is in his house.
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Through my friendfeed channel I was surprised to find (an author of) the skeptic blog 2 days ago post an article promoting (right-)Libertarianism, of the Rothbardian type. That is, what the US Americans now call simply “libertarianism”1.

This is becoming a trend recently it seems to me. From Penn & Teller to Bill Maher, many self proclaimed skepticists seem to also take a second role of promoting right-libertarianism. Similar to how this “libertarian” movement has taken over the freedom-promoting words of Anarchism, they seem to be eager to strongly associate skepticism with themselves.

It is also weirdly ironic that many (most?) of them also are eager to claim themselves as “Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) skeptics” or that the 9/11 truther movement is primarily of the Ron Paul libertarian school, or the Fed conspiracist theorists generally tend to also be Austrian-economic school anti-central-bank.

But in truth, there is a very particular common denominator in all of these skeptics. While they seem skeptical of all the usual stuff (ie anything contradicting science, or having very little empirical evidence) They also tend to be skeptical of whatever is not compatible with what neoclassical economics would suggest.

This explains why so  many of these skeptics are very eager to jump to evidence against AGW, or even if they accept it, they wish to downplay its severity significantly in order to suggest that it would be solvable through “free-market solutions”. The reason for this is that neoclassical economics suggests that the role of the state should be reduced to simply to protector of private property. As such, request for the state to implement environmental solution or to jump-start the private market, go totally against the edicts of “free market knows best” and trigger an automatic denial instinct for all the skeptics espousing them.

But why does this particular bias emerge? After all Anarchists don’t seem to have (at least from my experience) any such blinds. And similar applies to Social Democrats (“Liberals” in the US). The reason why this is of course is because libertarians have absolute faith in economics, a faith so powerful that the bias it created is enough to overwhelm even empirical science.

Libertarians of course will wish to defend this by claiming that Economics is a form of science, and as consistent skeptics, they have to side with that. But the sad truth is that Economics are not scientific. Quite the contrary actually, with its insistence on theories that are empirically disproven it is rather the opposite and resembles a religion. Unfortunately, unlike normal science which is actually empowered by skepticism (which prunes false theories), Economics’ flimsy basis makes them particularly vulnerable to it.

Now it is actually possible to have skeptic theists. It is inconsistent on their part, since they are quite capable of rational skepticism over most concepts but as soon as a topic reaches close to their religion of choice, all skepticism flies out of the window. As such, a Christian might be skeptical of ghosts, UFOs, Muslims miracles etc, but will quite happily accept some basic absurd articles, such as resurrections, existence of demons, afterlife etc. This may in turn spill over to other matters that although generally rational, might skew their perspective. So for example they may be extremely “skeptical” of evolutionary theory or abiogenesis etc. This is selective skepticism at work.

And this is unsurprisingly very similar to the libertarian brand of skepticism. A skepticism that avoids looking at a whole school of thought (economics) with the same critical eye that it directs to theism and woo-woo and rather acts like apologist to various wrong practices, even in the face of scientific evidence.

  1. For the rest of the article, whenever I mention “libertarianism” I will mean the right-side one for brevity) ((I then spend the last 2 days arguing with the Rothbardians in there. Take a look and laugh []

27 thoughts on “Selective Skepticism

  1. Well of course they believe. XD In demons who eat their money, in an afterlife after crisis and the blessed words of the tie priests from the temple of Mammon. People tend more to believe in what they do than to do what they believe in. So no f-cking wonder that they came to believe this when they live by it long enough. Dosen't make it better though. Shifting the guilt and responsibility to someone else does not make it any better. Be it a god, be it a state. In times like these I am not surprised that 5 out of 31 parties for EU-election are "christian" or "biblic" or something like that. People want someone perfect in charge and someone who's ways are so mysterious that even mistakes are benevolent and planned for a greater good. It's as lame as the 5 "generationists" parties consisting of retired old people. Of course they have the right to, but wtf are they going to do in the EU-council? Do they really expect to make politics and laws of tomorrow with the mindframes of yesterday? We need a change here..

    "The System.. has failed."
    —Megadeth 😉

  2. I find anarchists of all stripes have the same problems. People have priors and they're very difficult to get over.

    For example, many anarchists react negatively to the concept of markets, despite the freed market being a natural occurrence of human interaction. Also selling your labour – there's nothing wrong with that outside the coercive state supported system we have now, but many anarchists reject the right to work for another voluntarily.

    On 9/11 truthers – they've attached themselves to Ron Paul, but they're not a product of his 'school'.
    AGW skeptics – how else do you wish to solve the possible problems, state action? There's the free market or there's the state… (what many 'libertarians' call the free market is really the state though) (It is worth looking at climate skeptic BTW – there's a lot of problems with the current 'consensus' and the catastrophic predictions are unlikely to be true, but AGW does exist, but more at nuisance levels).

    And economics is a science. To deny that is to misunderstand economics or science or both. Science is a method of discovery of truths about the world.
    Economics is not like physics with its calculations, but it is still a science.

    The fact that false propositions are sometimes held despite evidence does not invalidate economics as a science, its a reflection on those who hold the views.

    1. For example, many anarchists react negatively to the concept of markets, despite the freed market being a natural occurrence of human interaction.

      Actually it isn't. The Free Markets did not spring up until Private property and the accumulation of wealth started becoming possible (more specifically after the invention of farming and pottery) which allowed people to start trading their excess wealth. Of course this quickly led to vast inequalities which is incidentally why the state was introduced (to prevent the haves, from the have-nots).

        1. I replied indirectly. His point is that Anarchists are irrationally against free markets. It is irrational since the free markets are "natural occurrence". By countering the second part, I prove that Anarchist negativity against free markets is not irrational.

          1. There are actually whole swaths of Anarchists who support free markets. Did you forget mutualists already? (as well as yourself, if I understand your theory correctly- replacing money with decision-making doesn't make it not a market)

          2. There are actually whole swaths of Anarchists who support free markets.

            Cheezus! I know!

            But those anarchists who are negative on free markets, are not being irrational.

          3. as well as yourself, if I understand your theory correctly- replacing money with decision-making doesn't make it not a market

            I don't see how it does.

    2. And economics is a science. To deny that is to misunderstand economics or science or both. Science is a method of discovery of truths about the world.

      No it is not. I already provided a full refutarion on that part.

      It is not science because it is based on a priori theories that cannot be disproven, "as if" assumptions, and basically it is the complete opposite of how Science works.

      And yes, it is like physics, because it attempts to explain how the world (or at least, a capitalist society) works. It is not like math, which is basically pure logic, because math does not attempt to explain reality.

    3. The fact that false propositions are sometimes held despite evidence does not invalidate economics as a science, its a reflection on those who hold the views.

      That there can be scientific economics is not what I dispure (For example, Marxian economics approach science to a much higher degree). I dispute that contemporary economics (Neoclassical, Austrian, Keynesian) are a science. Not only because they start from unbased assumptions, but also because they retain those, when refuted by reality.

      In fact, because the whole of the contemporary economics is based on false propositions is the main reason why it invalidates it as a science.

  3. Also selling your labour – there's nothing wrong with that outside the coercive state supported system we have now, but many anarchists reject the right to work for another voluntarily.

    We do not. We claim that allowing one to work for someone else would only be acceptable if it didn't bring about a situation where that was one's only viable option

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  4. (It is worth looking at climate skeptic BTW – there's a lot of problems with the current 'consensus' and the catastrophic predictions are unlikely to be true, but AGW does exist, but more at nuisance levels).

    See? This is what I'm talking about. In the face os overwhelming scientific consensus on AGW and its catastrophic consequences, you still persists!

    1. "Catastrophic consequences" completely made up by the "scientific consensus" in order to keep drumming up government funding.

      I don't believe in consensus science (that is to say, modern science). You might as well trust the Pope for all that's worth.

      1. You seriously start to sound like a conspiracy theorist with your “scare quotes”. Scientific consensus is practically impossible to modify for one's interests. This is due to the way science works, which prunes out personal biases.

        1. I am not a "conspiracy theorist." I don't believe it's a "conspiracy" any more than capitalism or modern democracy are a "conspiracy." It's simply, as you said, "due to the way science works." That's how the intelligentsia finds its place within the system. Are you saying that all the newspapers and television stations are conspiracy too? Come on.

          I find it unbelievable that an Anarchist is seriously trying to defend the "scientific consensus" of modern State-funded, corporate-funded science. Do you not realize the intelligentsia role that you're defending?

          1. Science is different from the intelligentsia and a world of difference from newspapers and television. While the things that science researches are certainly related to the corporate interests, the actual findings of science are neutral and as objective as humanly possible. Which is why corporations go to so much pains to muddle the waters when scientific findings actually go against their interests.

            The great thing is that no matter who is funding scientific research, if the results are accepted as consensus it's not because it was backed by this or that special interest, but rather because they are correct. They explain reality and they can be empirically proven.

            I find it unbelievable on the other hand that someone who espouses so much an objective view of the world is so opposed to the only real objective way we have for understanding reality.

          2. No, I do have a better way of understanding reality: my own senses and intelligence.

            As for science, I think you're about fifty years behind the times, or you're simply closing your eyes to the facts.

          3. Psychology and Neurology has already proven that your senses can lead you astray. 4000 years without science and people senses and intelligence still didn't lead them to anything like the medical science, or space science, or anything like it really.

            As for science, I think you're about fifty years behind the times, or you're simply closing your eyes to the facts

            Spare it

  5. I gotta call BS on this entry, db0. I am an Anarchist, not an ancap or a Rothbardian, and I don't believe in AGW or in economic science, or modern science in general. However, I don't call myself a "skeptic," as I have found exactly what you said (that "skeptics" are only "skeptical" about that which does not conform to their interests). I think skepticism is a waste of time.

    I think that, as anti-capitalists and anti-statists, it would be very much in our interest for AGW to be true. But that fact alone cannot be sufficient for us to accept it.

    1. and I don't believe in …modern science in general.

      Then, and sorry to say this to you, you're a fool. Modern science is the best way to knowledge we have.

      I think skepticism is a waste of time.

      Skepticism is not a time-wasting activity. It's a frame of mind.

      I think that, as anti-capitalists and anti-statists, it would be very much in our interest for AGW to be true.

      I do not think that AGW is true because I am an anarchist. Nor am I an anarchist because I think AGW is true. These two are not connected. AGW is based on scientific evidence, and my Anarchism is based on utilitarian morality.

  6. As for 9/11 truth, well, I certainly do believe that the US government is hiding something. However, I don't know what that is, and I don't think the US government demolished the twin towers.

  7. But you're not exchanging in any common sense of the word, you're giving something to those who wish to have it, and get something (not necessarily from the same people) that you wish to have.

    By the way you wield the concept, you basically render it meaningless as it ends up encompassing everything and all kinds of human interaction.

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