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Sunday, March 14, 2010
Marc Thiessen and the Assault on Reason

(I wasn't a big fan of Gore's book, but the title captures the issue well.)

You can see Thiessen's interview with Jon Stewart on the March 9, 2010 Daily Show in full online in the United States (and the 20+ minutes of extra material online are a must-watch) or you can get the full interview in Canada through iTunes (the Comedy Network online version does not have the extended interview). It is the best interview Jon Stewart has done. UPDATE: Thanks to comment from Bryan W. F. I find you can get the full interview in Canada at ENDUPDATE

I've been thinking about the core issue in the discussion between Marc Thiessen and Jon Stewart, and it comes down to this: Marc Thiessen and his ilk put forth the position that you can have perfect knowledge. (I thought this kind of insight was reserved for God or at least the Divine King, but anyway...)

That is to say, they believe in absolute, unshakeable certainty. If X, then Y, 100% certain.

There is a reason I put the idea in a religious context because it exists only there and in the purity of mathematics. Jon Stewart challenges this viewpoint very well, speaking of our actual world as instead being "complex, adaptive system".

The thing is, if our actual human world was simple cause-and-effect certainty, perfect knowledge, you wouldn't need the Rule of Law. You wouldn't even need politics. You could simply say who is guilty and who is innocent, you would KNOW. You could simply list the 100% certain outcomes of a policy choice and let people decide.

In the imaginary, certain world of the crazycons, you don't need reason, you don't need logic, you don't need analysis, you don't need debate, because you already have CERTAINTY.

You would, apparently, know for certain that torture would provide reliable intelligence, that NOT torture would absolutely not, and that the consequences of torture for the larger system would be positive, not negative.

This is some kind of insane child's view of the world, not the reasoned position of an intelligent adult.

This is without even getting into the articulation of positions that are morally wrong, legally wrong, constitutionally wrong, and historically wrong. This is not even to get into the fact that they put this position forth clearly to the American public and THEY LOST. THEY LOST THE ELECTION. The American people made a choice, and now the losers reject their choice. This is not even to touch on the fact that, after having LOST, due to a majority vote of AMERICAN CITIZENS, they continue to brand anyone who disagrees with their particular viewpoint as traitors.

So to sum up:
* Certain people know absolutely everything with total certainty.
* If you disagree with them, you are a traitor.

Oh yeah, that's exactly the system of government the Founding Fathers envisioned.