Friday, March 7, 2014

The Empirical Mind and the Fallacy of Liberal Dogma


Liberals love their facts. Whenever I argue with liberals, inevitably one will appeal to the authority of some study or another, ostensibly based on empirical evidence. This is true for most liberal causes célèbres such as global warming, abortion, same sex marriage, the war on poverty, the welfare state, and a myriad others. This appeal to authority relies on the doctrine of empiricism.

Empiricism is the philosophy that all knowledge is derived from the senses. As a corollary, empiricists also believe that there is no reality beyond what we can prove with our senses. Yet, such reliance on "science" to "prove" all reality lends itself to the most ridiculous arguments. Here are some examples from some of my many "admirers" who took time to "talk" to me.

In a debate on Colorado's legalization of marijuana, where I argued that marijuana posed health problems, one argued: "And most of these effects have been thoroughly debunked by real science. Next." (The "real science" he refers to was in opposition to a government-based study on the harmful effects of marijuana use.)

Another "proved" marijuana was completely benign by stating: "US CDC Figures directly from the CDC dot gov web site on numbers of deaths per year in the USA: Prescription Drugs: 237,485; Tobacco: 81,323; Alcohol: 39,199; Marijuana 0, none, not a single death in all medical history Cited direct from CDC dot gov. Stop the lies!" (Begging the question about the dangers of the legalization of marijuana with meaningless statistics.)

In defending President Obama, one liberal soul made the following empirical observation: "speaking of war dead......you forgot to mention the .........4486..........American Service members who DIED in W. Bush's illegal Iraqi invasion..................." (I'm thinking the long row of dots really makes a strong "point" here.)

And the ever-popular appeal to science while sneaking in an ad hominem attack. This one stems from a debate about the social harms of same sex marriage: "See, the difference is, my views are backed my science and facts. Your views are based on the fact that your brain never moved on past middle school bullying, and so gay people are to be made fun of and ridiculed. Let me guess, you don't trust black people, you're scared of Muslims, and you think that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Marxist who is turning America communist?"

Empiricism is a useful tool when we look at science and the scientific method. We cannot deny the value that science has brought into the world, with its corresponding technology which makes our world a better, healthier, and safer place than our ancestors could have dreamed of. The problem with liberal thought, however, is its absolute reliance on the empirical world as a source of truth, all the while denying the foundational problems with the premises of the empirical argument.

Liberals ignore the premises of the argument, because those rest on rationalism. Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge stems from rational thought and experience, rather than on the merely empirical.

Here's an example: Say I run an experiment that shows plants grow better in sunlight than in the dark. I put 20 bean plants on my kitchen ledge and 20 bean plants in my kitchen cupboard. (Boy was my mom pissed when she got home that evening.) I used the same soil, watered them the same way, and kept the temperature even. After two weeks, my mother made me throw them out, but only after discovering that the plants in the dark actually grew faster (in search of the elusive light seeping in at the cracks of the cupboard).

OK, what did I learn? I proved that bean plants grow faster in the dark, but I didn't "prove" that they grew "better." The word "better" is not a provable result in the empirical world. And where did my initial assumption about plant growth and the sun come from? That assumption relied on experience, which is rational, not empirical.

The primary fallacy of empirical thought is that its premises rely on rational thought and experience which cannot be proven empirically.

Bringing this back to liberal dogma, note that in the arguments above, every single liberal argued from false premises. Here are come broad examples:

"I happen to like marijuana and want it legalized, so I'll find some scientific study that proves why marijuana is not dangerous."

"Gay marriage is all about equality, so I'll find some scientific study that proves why gay marriage is a social good."

"Abortion is all about women's choice, so I'll find some scientific study that proves why abortion doesn't harm women."

These arguments rest on the ideals of empiricism, all the while ignoring the inherent fallacy of the argument. Why does this happen? A lot of the blame comes from the K-12 school system (especially those now aligned with Common Core). The Common Core standards preach the doctrine and virtues of empiricism, while nearly neglecting rationalism altogether. In such a curriculum, "scientific proof" trumps all arguments.

Unfortunately, by teaching empiricism rather than rationalism, the schools now produce children ready to be cast into the image of the perfect liberal - completely unable to formulate an argument based on rational thought, while relying on liberal ideologues to turn out the empirical data needed to squelch all other - rational - arguments.