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The New Cult of Reason

Pulling the thread of logic Tim Keller starts in this short video: https://youtu.be/7ZmEj7ibcx4

If Keller is right that human rights can’t be proved empirically and are a matter of faith then every ideology is a faith, a religion. I argued this very concept here: https://theindependentwhig.com/2013/06/11/religion-morality-and-ideology-different-names-for-the-same-underlying-element-of-human-nature/

Social Justice is a religion. 
Haidt agrees; Social Justice is religious fundamentalism: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/psychologist-social-justice-new-religious-fundamentalism

If Social Justice is a religion, then universities are its Cathedrals, professors are its priests, dorms are its monasteries, and students are its monks in training. 

The modern education system is the new cult of reason, described starting at 1:03:48 of this video: https://youtu.be/qnPFtg6YsuI

Transcript of entire video is here, with time stamp indicated: https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/transcript-when-compassion-leads-to-sacrilege/

Social Justice is merely the modern implementation of the same underlying psychology as the cult of reason.  The parallels are uncanny, in values AND in tactics.  Morality starts and ends with “care.”  Remove symbols of other “faiths,” and sometimes replace them with its own. Demonize, ostracize, and persecute non-believers and blasphemers as in these photos from D.C. on Inauguration Day, and Berkeley; the modern version of The Terror of the cult of reason.  
Human nature hasn’t changed, only tactics. 


11 thoughts on “The New Cult of Reason

  1. Sorry for the delayed response, I was traveling. Firstly, your comment begins by implying that I am a liberal(why else would I be dissembling) which I am absolutely not in any sense. I understand why you have to believe this, for in your narrow, linear, one-dimensional conception of political ideas – one must be on one side or the other, otherwise your whole construct wouldn’t make much sense. I believe that all ideologies distort reality and fall prey to the myriad of cognitive biases our minds involuntarily embrace on a regular basis(see Kahneman, et al)

    Secondly, I am not surprised in the least that you stand by your positions, nor that you have assembled the writings of individuals that support your neatly canned, linear, predetermined worldview. You could probably add a few hundred more writers who also agree with this perspective. However, that is not actual evidence of the superiority of conservatism, that is just more subjective arguments on the topic, of which there are many on both sides. (BTW, I have seen Haidt speak in person and he does not claim to be a conservative, he describes himself as a centrist who likes Bloomberg, also not a conservative).

    Thirdly, it is not possible that I am engaging in rationalization of any sort because methodologically speaking, as opposed to your approach, I do not begin with assumptions and conclusions looking for evidence, I start the process with objective observation and considering all possible options, systematically move to potential solutions. As Hayek recommends, I don’t maintain a ”wooden insistence” on any policy, but let reason and facts guide the discovery process.

    Your approach will only, can only result in an endless, irreconcilable dogmatic battle between two giant false narratives, and two feckless, incompetent, corrupt parties neither of which is truly open-minded, nor focused on finding the best way to govern ourselves, but on winning through sheer defeat of the other side.

    Don’t take my word for it, just take a look at George Washington’s warning which is eerily prescient given our current state of affairs: “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party generally.

    This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

    The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

    Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”


    Posted by Tom Rossman | June 3, 2017, 7:07 pm
  2. To err is human…

    If ideologies are like religions and no religion can be factually demonstrated to be superior or more correct than another, than no ideology can either.
    Moreover, by accepting that one ideology is correct and the other incorrect, you are locking yourself into a narrow, linear worldview dominated by the left-right divide which is an ineffective approach when confronting complex problems of the real world.
    As has been conclusively demonstrated over the past 40 years by Kahneman, Tversky, Simon, Schiller, Levitt, Dubner, et al., with the 2002 Nobel Prize being awarded for the empirical study, the human mind is not a rational calculating machine, it is a complex mixture of emotions, inclinations, experiences and some elements of rational thought as well. It is more innately predisposed to rationalize than to reason new ideas. The advances in cognitive neuroscience has reinforced these results.

    The challenge for social science, especially in politics and economics, is how to build a system of thought or framework that consistently yields positive results when the foundation is the rationally inconsistent human mind. The approach by most social scientists for much of the last two centuries was just to assume that people were fundamentally rational. Since we can no longer hide behind that intellectual fig leaf, we now are confronted with the issue of how to improve the way we govern ourselves in the same way that Locke and his colleagues wrote the Essay Concerning Human Understanding before he wrote the Two Treatises on Government which provided the foundations of all modern democracies.

    More specifically, the challenge is how do we prevent these innate inclinations from becoming narrative belief systems that merely reinforce themselves with all the attending cognitive biases that we now know exist.

    You have created a very wonderful-sounding narrative about conservatism and the founding of America(which we both agree was a historical inflection point that ushered in many amazing benefits for the world).
    The problem with your narrative is that, upon closer inspection, it ignores the vastly different perspectives of the Founding Fathers and the true genius of the US Constitution.

    American independence was realized in two phases. First, the Declaration of Independence from England which was based on Locke’s assertion of individual sovereignty and right of self determination to free men of an oppressive monarch. Second, the construction of the Constitution which was the realization of the ability of a free people to effectively govern themselves. During the second phase, there were many different perspectives and vastly opposing viewpoints that mirror the polarization of our present day. There were those like the Jefferson/Paine faction that favored the French Revolution and had a vision of society as group of loosely affiliated yeomen farmers and those like the Hamilton/Adams faction that favored the British model and a stronger centralized financial system and central government. These fundamentally opposing views were brilliantly synthesized in the Constitution and explained in the Federalist papers. Contrary to popular mythology, the vote to ratify the Constitution in many states was extremely close and required the considerable efforts of the a fore mentioned pair and personal endorsement of Washington. Many great patriots of the Revolution opposed it.

    Lastly, the meaning of ‘conservatism’ has changed dramatically over the past 230 years and no one understood this more profoundly than the most prolific thinker in the history of economic and political liberty, FA Hayek. I highly recommend everyone take the time to read his essay on “Why I’m not a Conservative”. You might find his explanation even more compelling than mine: https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/articles/hayek-why-i-am-not-conservative.pdf


    Posted by Tom Rossman | May 25, 2017, 7:45 pm
    • Oh my. Here we go down the rabbit hole of dissembling and equivocation via cherry picking into a wonderland of tortured rationalizing and desperate straw grasping in the attempt to pull some small scrap of liberalism from the wreckage of its 2500 years of failed ideas as “proof” that without the social world would be hell on earth.

      I stand by my positions.

      Read The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman, a Conflict of Visions by Sowell, The Righteous Mind by Haidt, The Ideological origins of the American Revolution by Bailyn, Novus Ordo Seclorum by Mcdonald, The Idea of America by Wood, Democracy in America by Tocqueville, The Theme Is Freedom by Evans, to name a few.

      The moral foundations, cognitive style, principles, and practices of the psychological profile that is conservatism, and the outright rejection of liberalism, is the common thread that runs through all of them.

      Mountains of evidence of human history corroborate my summary and refute your rationalizations.


      Posted by The Independent Whig | May 25, 2017, 8:38 pm
  3. P.S. Your second comment is a slur, it’s not an argument.


    Posted by The Independent Whig | May 23, 2017, 6:45 pm
    • I sincerely apologize if you took umbrage at my second comment. I was attempting to mirror the playfully confrontational tone from your last message which clearly implied that my disagreement with your analysis was rooted in my lack of applying my thought processes to the subject.


      Posted by Tom Rossman | May 24, 2017, 4:10 pm
      • No no no. I only meant that I suspect you COULD come come up with a rationale if you really had to or wanted to. I did not mean you’re unable to or just refuse to.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | May 24, 2017, 4:18 pm
      • Another thought about your second comment: I did not take offense or feel insulted or angry. I only pointed out that I thought it was not an argument containing evidence and reason, but rather just an ad hominem.


        Posted by The Independent Whig | May 27, 2017, 7:54 am
  4. I find myself in deeply-held personal agreement with everything that is said here and in the brilliant post of 2013.

    Therefore, if ideology is a religion, then all ideologies are based on faith and received wisdom, not rational analysis and critical thinking. Again, I agree completely and thoroughly. Communism, socialism, liberalism and conservatism, all in the same faith-based ship of state.

    Therefore, how is it logically possible to advocate for the religion of conservatism over all of the others?


    Posted by Tom Rossman | May 23, 2017, 5:01 pm
    • Thanks for your kind assessment.

      As for the answer to your question, I bet if you put your mind to it it’ll come to you.


      Posted by The Independent Whig | May 23, 2017, 5:17 pm
      • Eureka, the answer is clear. For all of your intelligence, education and erudition, your thinking has yet to evolve beyond human nature’s group-think tribalism and linear inclinations. As Kant remarked after reading Hume, you have yet to awaken from your ‘dogmatic slumber.’ The coffee is brewing my friend, take a big whiff.


        Posted by Tom Rossman | May 23, 2017, 5:55 pm
      • Since ideologies are like things they should be judged alike, an the basis of which one creates the best overall quality of life, equality, justice, and fairness to all people at all stations of life.


        If we do that; if we examine every government scheme that’s ever been tried, and if we compare them side by side, and if we take the best parts and jettison the worst parts of each, we arrive at the conservative world view and vision.

        In fact, we did do precisely that.

        It’s called the American Constitution. The American founding was a conservative movement.

        It was based on:

        all the moral foundations in equal balance (conservatism), NOT just the three individualizing foundations (liberalism)

        The cognitive style of holistic Aristotelian empiricism ( conservatism)

        Process-based conceptions of negative liberty, equality, justice, and fairness. (Conservatism), NOT outcome-based conceptions of positive liberty, equality, justice, and fairness (liberalism)

        The conservative idea that the enemy of liberty is centralized, concentrated, government power, NOT the liberal idea that government power can and should be a force for good, which tends to consolidate and concentrate it.


        Here’s a quote from Forfare Davis.

        The irony is that it has taken a century for sociologists like Haidt, et al, to only begin to understand what the Founders already knew and applied so well in their statecraft. The Founders were haunted by the long history of brittle Republics of the past as chronicled by the likes of Livy and Tacitus. Indeed, if you were to read Haidt’s text then venture to read Madison’s Federalist 10 you would realize there is very little that Haidt learned in his extensive sociological studies that the Founders didn’t already divine from their deep reading of history. Man is by nature tribal and factitious. Republics must therefore be so constituted with this feature in mind. The Founders solution was two-fold, a Republic structured with redundancies that required constant checks and accountability between multiple centers of political power, and a system of education that sought to form citizens who were citizenship-minded. The tragedy is that during the last century, our experts have succeeded in virtually leveling any remnant of that system designed to override our most factitious instincts.

        Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/postmodern-conservative/422823/black-lives-matter-donald-trump-and-perils-unexamined-political-rage


        Posted by The Independent Whig | May 23, 2017, 6:39 pm

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A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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