Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

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Science & society

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I have a piece up at Taki’s Magazine, The Limits of Certitude. It might be read along with a post at ScienceBlogs, Science is rational; scientists are not. I might as well have labeled it “An argument for conservatism.”

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8 comments

  • Hisham · January 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

    While I can appreciate a healthy skepticism of radical change, don’t the limitations of certitude cut both ways?

    If a form of social organization has worked in the past, how much longer should we expect it to last? How much value can we place on experience and tradition when encountering the new and unforeseen?

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 13, 2009 at 11:08 am

    If a form of social organization has worked in the past, how much longer should we expect it to last? How much value can we place on experience and tradition when encountering the new and unforeseen?

    i think science is a good analogy. 99.99% (or more) of hypotheses at any given moment are junk. 0.01% are not. over a 100 year period though the hypotheses that we remember are far more likely to have been valid and integrated into theories, because we don’t keep a record of uselessness.

    obviously change is inevitable. but the value of a derivative shouldn’t be binned into 0 and > 0.

  • Kevembuangga · January 13, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I find the last sentence of “The Limits of Certitude” laughable and contradictory to what seem to be the main argument of the article:
    We can always rebuild a bridge which collapses, but who will be there to rebuild society if it collapses?

    I don’t think that any viable society was ever “built”, in spite of the delusions of the politicos and revolutionaries who pretend to “shape the future” the bulk of the practices which form the bedrock of any society were never “designed”.
    They grew out of an aggregation of chance events much like biological life itself, at best the politics try to nudge this morass toward what they expect to be “better mores” but there is no guarantee that this make any sense.
    I suspect that the spectacular failures of the leftists utopias have more to do with this disregard for the “organic” growth of social practices than with leftist ideas proper.
    This demiurgic approach is a typical Western slant, the failure of rationality to properly solve “practical questions” has been noted since Aristotle but the Chinese had other interesting views, beside Mozi and Confucius, about Efficacy.

  • Hisham · January 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    @David Hume

    I would be in agreement with you in regards to dealing with the old and expected.

    My comment was in regards to how that 100 years of tradition would hold up when confronted with situations that have not been dealt with during that time frame.

  • Caledonian · January 14, 2009 at 9:59 am

    No one can anticipate the unexpected.

    ‘Conservatism’ fails because it has a false expectation that what worked before will work again, and ‘liberalism’ fails because it has a false expectation that its favored strategies will suffice to cope with the unexpected.

    There is ultimately only one survival strategy: trial-and-error.

  • ◄Dave► · January 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    @Caledonian

    There is ultimately only one survival strategy: trial-and-error.

    I take your point; but in the political arena, we could do with a lot less trials and a whole lot less error. I think it is unfair to impute an unbending or unresponsive character to the Conservatives. They adapt to changing circumstances when necessary, they are just more cautious about abandoning tried and true principles and methods precipitously. The Progressives are a bit too hasty, for my taste, to try out the latest social engineering theory; and to ignore any lessons that should have been learned by its failure, while blithely embarking on the next one.

    FDR’s constant experimentation, for example, prolonged the Depression far beyond its necessary usefulness to reset the economy. Sometimes in a crisis, there is wisdom in the old chestnut, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” ◄Dave►

  • mnuez · January 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I read your piece and liked it but I’m disconcerted by the fact that your presence lends credibility to vile and utterly grotesque Taki. Being as his only claim to fame is his inheritance, I hope you at least got paid for contributing something worthy to his name.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I hope you at least got paid for contributing something worthy to his name.

    i’m being paid.

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