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Way back in the heyday of conservatism, a common charge leveled at them from the Left was that they were anti-intellectual. Generally, this meant that conservatives did not appreciate free verse or post-modern art. You see, the Left read books and appreciated the arts while the Right read the Bible and fired off their boom-sticks. It was not so much an argument against the intelligence of the Right, but rather a class argument against the uncouth people entering politics.
After the Cold War, it was no longer possible for the Left to use a class argument against the Right, when their champion was the Snopes clan. There was simply no way to present the Clintons as sophisticated and erudite. Compounding it was the obvious fact that their politics looked like daytime television. These were crude, uncouth people who brought with them a collection of vulgar carny freaks. By comparison, the talk radio guys looked sophisticated and measured.
That was not the end of the anti-intellectual claim. It transformed into a claim that the Right was full of anti-science believers. You see, the Left was now armed with the latest ideas from the social sciences, while the Right was armed with superstitious nonsense from their sky god. Never mind that the social sciences are closer to astrology than actual science. They had studies and the word of men with impressive sounding titles to show how much they bleeping loved science.
Since the end of the Cold War, this has been incredibly effective magic. Just look at how the conservatives curled up in a ball when the Left started waving around their studies about the Covid pandemic. Most of them did not hold up to scrutiny, but the conservatives were unwilling to scrutinize them. Instead, they were happy to embrace policies that they allegedly opposed as a matter of principle. They accepted the grotesque violations of civil liberties because science!
Science, of course, is about debate, when you stop and think about it. Theories are proposed to explain some observed phenomenon. Those theories are tested and challenged in a formalized process. Simply put, science is about broadening the debate about the natural world within an agreed upon process. The exact opposite of science is telling people to shut up because science. This is exactly what happened with Covid and the conservatives were happy to agree.
What appears to be happening is that the Left’s claims against what they call their opposition are being embraced by their opposition. Just as many conservatives in the 1980’s relished their populist, working clash aesthetic, the new conservatives forming up seem to be embracing a rejection of science. They are going to stand on antiquarian ideas from the long lost past and reject the human sciences. This is what you see in this book review by Sohrab Ahmari.
The book and the review are a long form version of the old internet meme about Democrats being the real racists. You see, race never existed until it was invented by bad people to do bad things. Before those bad people, no one had ever noticed the vast differences in people. Then those bad people came along and coined the word “race” and then created “race science” to divide people along entirely arbitrary lines, that while easily measurable, are a figment of our imagination.
Now, Sohrab Ahmari is not working math puzzles in his free time. He is a discount Dinesh D’Souza. An exotic guy who orbits around conservative politics, looking for a place to land. D’Souza got his big break when he stabbed the great Sam Francis in the back on behalf of the Washington Post. Ahmari got his break when he noticed people making fun of David French on Twitter then penned a column based on what he read called Against David French-ism.
Sohrab Ahmari is at the center of the new Right so even though he is no one’s idea of a deep thinker, he represents the new opposition being created within the managerial elite to be the Left’s new foil. He is not an exception. Look at the Yoram Hazony project and you see an even stronger opposition to science. In the tenth item, he writes, “No person’s worth or loyalties can be judged by the shape of his features, the color of his skin, or the results of a lab test.”
The fact that no one says such a thing makes his opposition to it rather weird, but that is not the point. Anyone who has taken in Hazony’s live shows will have seen how he acts when the human sciences are mentioned. In his first show he said something along the lines that the “race scientists” are incredibly good at marshalling the facts to support their arguments, so it is best to avoid debating them. In other words, this is not a pose for him, but a cornerstone of his worldview.
In fairness, some of this hostility to the human sciences is due to fear of mean words from the Left. If you are going to be the useful idiot to the people atop the prevailing orthodoxy, you have to make clear you are no threat to their worldview. Controlling the morality of race has been a highly effective weapon for the ruling class and they are not going to let that weapon drop, even in the face of reality. They are certainly not going to trade it away just to create a new useful idiot.
That said, there is a genuine contempt for the human science on the Right, both the new Right and the old Right. Part of it is due to the fact that once you accept biological reality, whole areas of debate are closed down. Worse yet, important areas of social life are reduced to the tough choices. A big part of democratic politics is reality avoidance, so reducing policy options to coldblooded trade-offs is no fun. Universal human equality is much more fun than biological reality.
A bigger issue here may simply be intelligence. For a long time, the smart fraction was selected into areas like philosophy and theology. Once theology was dropped from ruling class interest, the smart fraction was recruited into things like the amusingly named political science and then political economy. The rise of actual science began to change the selection pressure. For a few generations now, the smart fraction has been selected into STEM and even finance.
The result has been a dumbing down of political philosophy. A dunce like David French can pass himself off as a deep thinker, as long as he keeps up with the latest fads and picks the right enemies. No one else around him is going to notice that he moves his lips when he reads. In such a world, the increasingly complex world of the human science can easily look like black magic. Declaiming against “race science” is not just an in-group signal but a defense mechanism.
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