Elites have lost faith in Enlightenment rationality

Elites have lost faith in Enlightenment rationality. By Mary Harrington.

Covid sceptics are routinely painted as paranoid, credulous rejecters of reason and scientific consensus. But the paper’s authors show that the reverse is in fact true. Far from being a superstitious, science-denying bunch, Covid sceptics in fact place higher value on evidence-based decisions, replicable results and science as a process.

Members of this community are described, in fact, in terms that strongly resemble the classic picture of a scientist: they “value individual initiative and ingenuity, trusting scientific analysis only insofar as they can replicate it themselves by accessing and manipulating the data firsthand.” Nor are they naïve realists but rather “highly reflexive about the inherently biased nature of any analysis”, resenting “what they view as the arrogant self-righteousness of scientific elites”.

More than the truth, the elite values the intellectual submission of those who believe in their false narratives. This inverts the situation of the last two hundred years, when western civ was on the rise:

But the paper first details this scepticism and commitment to evidence and open debate — attitudes until recently strongly coded as elite — only to conclude that this stance is a clear and present political danger. The anti-authoritarian narrative of evidence and reason, it appears, just enables sinister manipulators such as Big Tech or Donald Trump to foment wickedness, ‘prompting people to simply “think for themselves” to horrifying ends’. …

Universities are rapidly reverting to their pre-Enlightenment role as theological seminaries. In the Enlightenment model, these institutions were tasked with delivering something morally neutral called ‘knowledge’ and ‘critical thinking’. But in the new model they deliver a fundamentally moral worldview, where ‘knowledge’ comes second to the doctrinal framework, and even what’s knowable is ordered by that framework.

Nigh-on every elite young person undergoes a version of this religious orientation. No wonder individualist, evidence-oriented scepticism is increasingly coded as marginal and dangerous.

Believing the elite’s PC narrative shows political obedience. But following the evidence and employing reason shows dangerous political independence.

Gosh, at this rate the west will soon be like Islam, where religion and political obedience triumphs over evidence and curiosity.