Intellectual Sociopath

by Brad Nelson6/30/16

Neil Tyson is an intellectual sociopath. I found two recent articles on his sociopathic intellectual idea of “Rationalia,” that “All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence,” in the words of Tyson.

I’m not here to examine his stupid idea as much as I am to show you two articles that deal with it. One by David Klinghoffer is short and sweet and gets to the central point:

The problems are obvious. Who would weigh the relevant “evidence”? What about questions — the vast majority in government — that turn upon the application of values once the “evidence,” whatever there may be, is available?

There’s another article by Kevin Williamson that, frankly, I lost interest in. For some reason, instead of getting to the point, he bloviates on and on about other stuff. Maybe he ended up making an even better point than David Klinghoffer. But the lesson is, what good is the point if no one reads it?

There is this temptation by smart people to insert a bunch of build-up before they get to the point as if preparing us for their Solomon-like wisdom. Our minds might crumble and be overwhelmed otherwise. On the other hand, Klinghoffer respects his audience and gets to the point.

If you’re out there writing articles for here or elsewhere, keep that in mind. No one wants to read your mental masturbation. If you have a point, get to it. By all means, elaborate on your main points. But unless you get to the point, and actually have a point, who wants to sift through paragraph after paragraph of build-up? This thought is not aimed at anyone in particular (but certainly it is a self-lesson I try to keep in mind). But all could benefit from being more David-like and less Kevin-like.

Plus, I find that with true understanding usually comes brevity. David Klinghoffer clearly understands the central fallacy of governing by “data” and “evidence” and it’s that most societal questions have little to do with those things.

Neil Tyson expunges the moral dimension from the question of laws and government…thus marking himself as an intellectual sociopath.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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10 Responses to Intellectual Sociopath

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I seem to recall that Tyson is a liberal, so his science is always subject to his politics (though he will never admit or probably even realize it). I started on the Williamson article, too. I think your advice here is quite good, and I’ll try to keep it in mind.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Timothy. You know there is wide latitude here because I don’t fancy myself a Little Napoleon. But we should strive for excellence. When I read an article such as that one by Williamson my eyes start to glaze over fast. I think making a point is like beating a path through a jungle. First, you have to know where you’re going. Second, you have to have a sharp knife to cut away the brush. Third, you have to be expert at allowing the trail to follow the lay of the land where deemed suitable.

      I think the human ego, and the need to crank out a word quota, mean that it’s very easy to bloviate. Compare the Constitution of the United States to any modern constitution. Modern constitutions are anything but succinct.

      I think any good article or essay contains a story. Ronald Reagan, for example, was expert in getting to the essence of things. Condensation does not necessarily mean leaving out important things. Reagan, In His Own Hand is a treasure house of examples of succinctness and clarity without making the error of over-simplification.

      This understandability, of course, marked Reagan as a rube amongst the intellectual class which measures value by the impenetrability of their words to normal people — or just sheer volume. But it is very easy to lose site of the fact that 99% of writing (of any style…fiction, non-fiction, technical journals, whatever) is about communication. In some cases, it’s an artistic vision that is trying to be communicated. In others a political or moral idea — or just the plain workings of some mechanical system or software.

      Think about how rare good technical manuals are and you can appreciate how difficult they are to write. Now think of political writing as a “tech manual” for how a society is, or ought, to function. Clarity is enormously difficult. And in non-technical types of writing, it is much easier to fall into obtuseness because your’e not bound by the immediate “Part A” which has to “fit into slot B.” Meandering is very easy.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Another person who was excellent at getting to the essence of an issue was Cousin Abe. His observation that half the country thought that slavery was right and ought to be extended, and the other half thought slavery was wrong and ought not be extended, perfectly described the basic issue over slavery.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Oh, I total agree. Lincoln was remarkable in his ability to synthesize a very complex thing into its essence. Great and good leaders can do this. They can help clear away the clouds of confusion, misinformation, and ignorance and help focus us to where we need to go. Of course, demagogues purport to do the same thing so it’s a real process of discerning the demagogues from the true Lincolns. But because there aren’t that many Lincolns (or Reagans, or George Washingtons), due diligence means we assume bullcrap unless given good reasons to believe otherwise. Today’s society has lost most of its ability for discernment, instead relying upon fortune cookie wisdom and bumper sticker slogans. The duty of a truly Orwellian society, as we are becoming, is to free people from having to think.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    An affirmative action huckster with mediocre credentials whose agenda just happens to dovetail nicely with the fetid spirit of the age.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      My first reaction was, “Who is Neil Tyson?”

      I then looked him up and my next reaction was that, “Oh that asshole. Only known due his outrageous, self-promoting statements.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That and he’s a Cardinal in the Religion of Leftism. As Timothy said, his science is always subject to his politics. And thus the Left shows how anything it touches it makes worse.

      Also, I think a great way of looking at these New Atheists and other Progressives is as Puritans (in the stereotypical way we think of them…control freaks, trying to control everyone’s life to the nth degree with moral pronouncements about anything and everything). They are religious fundamentalist kooks who go around saying everyone else’s religion is dumb. There is cognitive dissonance coming and going with these guys.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, I think David is just being nice. I found Kevin’s article to be too dense. The question is whether or not society can be “scientifically” managed. That is one of the prime guiding influences (delusions) of the Left. As experienced conservatives, we know this “scientific management” is, at times, a real belief of theirs and at times a mere gloss, an attempt to give legitimacy to things that are mere preferences or ideological presuppositions.

      That is, this whole idea of the guidance of “reason” or “scientific management” is a cluster of rationalizations, delusions, and often just bad faith. If, for example, the hard data pointed to the fact that more people are made un-poor by free markets (as the data most certainly does), would Mr. Tyson then embrace free-market, opportunity-based, limited government where self-responsibility is king rather than dependency upon government via socialism? Almost certainly not.

      Kevin makes a point that “There isn’t a road to Rationalia. There are billions of them, negotiated by individuals and institutions dozens or hundreds of times a day, every time they make a significant choice. Government programs are, by their nature, centralized, unitary, and static attempts to impose a rational order on complexity beyond the understanding of the people who would claim to manage it….” But the truth is, government choices can be “rationally” imposed over individual choice. It happens all the time, sometimes to good effect (such as laws that require us to drive on the right, and not simply the lane of our choice) and sometimes to bad effect. It depends. No one “rational” rule is going to cover all instances of when central and unitary is good and when it is bad. This is often said to be the core ongoing argument of American politics.

      And we must not make the error in saying that government can’t manage a rational order. If often does or else the entire idea of government wouldn’t work. The Constitution is a managed rational order in a broad framework. Lincoln tried to clarify the boundary when he said “Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”

      But depending on one’s moral point of view, that’s an idea big enough to drive a thoroughly socialist truck through. Let’s be honest and say that what gives socialists the opening is that it is quite true that many people have trouble managing their own lives. Government schools can no doubt manage a child’s education better than many people can (satisfying Lincoln’s formula). And as government steps in to “manage” more aspects of our lives, it becomes a self-sustaining “rational” cycle whereby we know less and less how to do the things thereby giving government “reason” to step in and do it better.

      “What people cannot do better by themselves” grows as dependency and instilled infancy grows. For this and other reasons, conservatives believe that there should be hard limits to what government can do and should try to do. It’s not that, in theory, government couldn’t impose a rational and function order using data and facts not at the disposal of the average citizens. It’s that, in reality, perfect man doesn’t exist who can exercise pure rationality, even assuming “rationality” was a self-evident higher moral position and framework (which is also not true…reason is a method, not a goal or moral).

      Government itself is order. The question is not *if* in regards to imposing order but how much, for what reason, and using what methods. In a perfect world, the order would be balanced against the harm imposed by this order. But politicians and political questions are not so introspective. The method of “reason” is one component of politics. We should want facts and data to bolster any policy. But as George Washington noted long ago:

      Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

      Another way of understanding that is that “reasons” put forth by politicians very often have little to do with facts and data. Politicians are motivated by many other things. Mr. Tyson and others of his sociopathic type have the naive belief that precedes even Rousseau, the belief that one simple governing rule (“rationality,” in this instance) can provide perfect motivation and get past not only the vast complexities of any political/cultural system but purge human nature as well of all ill influences. This is merely another pursuit of utopia under a different name, and driven by people who, frankly, don’t think their own shit stinks.

      In essence, Mr. Tyson has the better-than-thou delusion of his type, drunk on the fumes of his own intellectualism. There will always be people full of themselves, who think they are a cut above and thus if only they ran things, all would be well. They have neither a sense of history or of their own limitations.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a surprisingly intelligent article on the same subject by Jeremy Egerer: The Age of Bad Reasons. The gist of the article is contained in the second paragraph. (Well done, Jeremy, for the rare act of getting to the point!)

    The whole of our lives is based on emotions like sadness and lust and disgust. and the question we really ought to be asking isn’t whether reason or emotion is better, but whether one reason is better than another for the way we indulge our emotions.

    Another astute point:

    Few people who use the word reason in the current sense (and I refer specifically to people like Neil Degrasse Tyson, who know everything about science and apparently nothing about the humanity of scientists) are aware that there is no such thing as pure reason, except in an ideal sense used primarily by logicians and especially by bad philosophers (and here I’m referring to Kant).  Reason, after all, is an ordering of multiple desires and an organized attempt at getting them, which means there are good reasons and bad reasons, and reasons that are useful for some people and painful for others, and some that are good for almost all of us (think the laws of nature) and some that are good for only a few (think a government of crony capitalism).

    Another gem from this writer:

    The problem with the modern era isn’t that we feel too strongly, but that we think too lowly about our feelings, and too highly of our ability to reason. Our “men of reason” are not our men of manly feeling and passion, and our men of manly feeling and passion are not our “men of reason.” We believe that having access to information is the same thing as having wisdom. We frequently refuse to confirm our theories in historical precedents, and we laugh at holding timeless problems up to the written scrutiny of the ancients. We confuse nice ideas with good ideas. We confound newer things with better things. We judge men not by what they can do, but rather by what they permit.

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