Comment Of The Day: “Observations On The Unethical Tweet Of The Month”

Michael West’s Comment of the Day was less a commentary on  a post than an observation triggered by it. There’s been a lot of lawyer-style analysis around here of late, so it’s high time for an engineer’s perspective—in some respects the reverse of the legal problem-solving method–  to be highlighted, in reaction to the post, “Observations On The Unethical Tweet Of The Month.”

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Science is a wonderful thing. The rise of empiricism as a practiced discipline by professionals from it’s rudimentary roots in ancient philosophy has allowed mankind the ability to learn beyond his superstitious ancestor’s imaginations. And combined with that human imagination – the knowledge gained by science has empowered us to manipulate, to engineer, incredible solutions to direct problems as well as reduce mere inconveniences and discomforts to non-entities.

Scientists and engineers, by merely studying a problem, determining predictable laws that govern the interactions within problems and using that knowledge to develop a solution, opened up the power of man’s intellect.

But therein lies another problem. We think we can engineer, we can manipulate our way to solve everything. We think we’ve studied the factors going into a problem so thoroughly that we know the right solution. I’m an architect, and we have a saying – “A problem thoroughly defined is more that half-solved”. By “defined”, we mean, researched, studied, determined our constraints and our opportunities. Very rapidly, in the design process – the more we spend in studying the problem the more our options are narrowed down to one or two appropriate solutions. Soon, the solution presents itself.

We, as a society, have gotten so good at defining and researching the data surrounding our societal problems that we think we can narrow down to a singular solution that will solve them. We’ve elevated “experts” to demigods of policy. But there’s hubris here – society’s problems aren’t the same as “how do I get from this side of the river to that side? Oh! A suspension bridge is best here!” or “How do I maximize summer shading but winter sunlight on this backyard patio? Oh, angled louvers on a pergola are perfect!” Society’s problems are, first of all, never able to be so thoroughly studied that we think we can confidently define the problem, and second of all, are only half data driven anyway.

I can study an area and see that 50% of the people live below the poverty line. But that doesn’t tell me much about the real problem as much as it says “there’s a problem here.”A one dimensional policy maker might say “let’s just give them more money”. Further study may indicate causes of the poverty, and the two dimensional thinker might say “fix those causes”. And yet, even further study might indicate that there are deeper root causes behind *those* causes, for which the 2D thinkers solutions would only exacerbate.

Our hubris in thinking we can engineer a better society flows from these two points: we’ll never be able to full study a problem to its deepest level, for at their deepest level, society’s problems are almost always a discrepancy between idealized value-sets and actually practiced values,  something raw data cannot define. It can only hint at symptoms.

Modern progressives have increasingly latched onto a religion run by a priesthood of “experts” – people who are so deep in the data, you will be thoroughly impressed. But they fail to recognize that at the end of the day, it is values that should drive policy, not data. As their religion becomes more doctrinaire, anyone who questions the people who know the data become heretics. Never mind the value-set of the experts. Never mind that their values may not do anything to solve the underlying problems the data describes.

As all engineers believe problems should be solved and eliminated, increasingly, in the religion of the progressives, society’s perceived problems also include people who don’t buy into the progressive religion.

In this, Progressives share the exact same evil fervency that the extremists of the French revolution had and also the same fervency that the Communists and Nazis had. If you don’t agree with them, you are a problem and you should be eliminated. Our little doctor friend [the medical student in the post who proudly tweeted about punishing a patient who mocked her woke pronouns requirement] above hasn’t advocated the murder of those she disagrees with – yet. But she has certainly shown she enjoys hurting those she disagrees with.

And, in that sentiment she’s taken the first step on the road to join history’s worst monsters.

As an aside…I’d love to ask progressives,  “Let’s pretend that the Nazis didn’t actively pursue the murder of minorities. Is there anything then, on the Nazis’ program of society, that you actually would disagree with?”

I won’t ask them “Is there anything on the Communists program of society, that you actually would disagree with?” because I’m afraid I already know the answer.

13 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Observations On The Unethical Tweet Of The Month”

  1. >> As an aside…I’d love to ask progressives, “Let’s pretend that the Nazis didn’t actively pursue the murder of minorities. Is there anything then, on the Nazis’ program of society, that you actually would disagree with?”

    Dangerous question! The Nazi’s were big on “Family Values” and general wholesomeness. Patriotism and duty to country were first and foremost, as was investment in domestic industry. The Nazi’s were even virally anti-abortion! So much of the platform superficially resembles the Republican platform that it makes their characterization of the Right as neo-Nazi facilely plausible.

    Of course, the same facile parallels can be drawn about Democrats and Eastern European Communists. Social safety nets. Government oversight of industry. Dilution of personal accountability.

    The worst caricatures of both parties represent values utterly antithetical to American society. It is scary that one side seems to be embracing it, while the other side is obvious to it. Both sides need to take stock, and stop acting like the worst of the worst, lest they create a negative feedback loop and race us to the bottom.

    • The Nazis were also anti-gay!

      I have to laugh at today’s so-called neo-Nazis with their play-acting. They never would have survived the real Third Reich which made sacrifice of one’s time, money and life journey for the good of Germany an expectation.

  2. Michael West wrote,

    “In this, Progressives share the exact same evil fervency that the extremists of the French revolution had and also the same fervency that the Communists and Nazis had. If you don’t agree with them, you are a problem and you should be eliminated. Our little doctor friend [the medical student in the post who proudly tweeted about punishing a patient who mocked her woke pronouns requirement] above hasn’t advocated the murder of those she disagrees with – yet. But she has certainly shown she enjoys hurting those she disagrees with.”

    “And, in that sentiment she’s taken the first step on the road to join history’s worst monsters.”

    To be more accurate, that last sentence should read “And, in that sentiment she’s taken the first step on the road to join history’s worst totalitarian monsters.”

    Progressives are not “progressive” they are regressive and they are intentionally undermining our culture and driving the United States directly into the hands of totalitarian tyranny. I think we are on the precipice of totalitarianism right now and it could go either way, but the populace in our culture appears to have dramatically shifted ideological views and is now leaning more towards totalitarianism and away from liberty. The question is will the USA survive the 21st century cultural shift?

  3. From Fargo season 4:

    Doctor Senator: “Hubris to think that you can control things. That’s why God created tornadoes. To remind us.”

  4. I wonder about psychology in general. You bring up very good points about identifying problems and then solving them, but I wonder if psychology itself is inherently flawed.

    I’m sure there are people who can point to data that proves psychology is helpful, and I don’t doubt that. But I wonder if it fails as often as it helps–if some people just want someone to listen, while others get no benefit from it–in other words, there is no science there at all. Perhaps our brains are so muddled, with so many chemicals and external and internal stimuli that we don’t even recognize yet that we’ll never be able to map the human psyche. Or perhaps, as is my own opinion, we cannot map it because free will is a real thing that cannot be measured or explained through science.

    We know that psychology has a replicability problem. They’re even calling it a crisis. But they blame it on poorly designed experiments, when I wonder whether that’s just the nature of human nature.

    So, to Michael’s point, I wonder if the broader problem is that we’re viewing these problems as something that can be studied, defined, and solved using the same methods that we use in other areas. And when that branch of science is so heavily dominated by a group of people who think alike about politics (and one’s beliefs about human nature probably centers someone’s political beliefs), we get “science.” Our modern priesthood for our modern religion of the state, which is the state itself.

    The best part is, if you question these conclusions, like the idea that a UBI will result in everyone being better off, you’re not just a heretic. You’re denying science! You are no better than a neanderthal at that point.

    Very astute comment, Michael. I don’t disagree with it at all; rather, I wonder whether the approach we as a society is taking, is understandable yet inevitably fruitless.

    • “I wonder about psychology in general. You bring up very good points about identifying problems and then solving them, but I wonder if psychology itself is inherently flawed.”

      If I could have expounded further I would have developed this concern.

      There’s science like – biology, physics, chemistry, etc

      Then there’s science like – sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, etc.

      I think as soon as a “science” touches on human thinking, interactions, relationships, institutions – sure, they can be studied – but I don’t think they be studied to the same level of definition as the 1st type of science. And we’re arrogant to think we can – though we should try – but knowing the limitations we *cannot* with any hope of advancing society, take the conclusions of those “sciences” to any level so firm as to think they should be applied with a heavy hand.

      • I concur. As I see it, the issue with using science mindset on human brains is that it’s important not to rely on generalizations too much. Human brains and minds are subject to much more variation than just about any other natural phenomenon.

        Predicting an individual beyond broad strokes requires getting to know the individual, and even that might not help that much with prediction. Predicting a society statistically can work better, but there’s still too many x-factors around that can invalidate the assumptions.

        I find it studying minds works better when we have a realistic picture of what we hope to accomplish by it.

    • “So, to Michael’s point, I wonder if the broader problem is that we’re viewing these problems as something that can be studied, defined, and solved using the same methods that we use in other areas. And when that branch of science is so heavily dominated by a group of people who think alike about politics (and one’s beliefs about human nature probably centers someone’s political beliefs), we get “science.” Our modern priesthood for our modern religion of the state, which is the state itself.”

      YES.

  5. A relevant OpEd in today’s WSJ:
    Climate-Change ‘Solutions’ That Are Worse Than the Problem
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/climate-change-life-expectancy-carbon-netural-oil-coal-fossil-fuels-ukraine-war-russia-china-fossil-fuels-carbon-emissions-mining-pollution-electric-car-vehicle-11649258860?st=v0hsbvb9qca76fw&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

    And, as usual, the comments to the article also include some great insights. Like this one:

    “Anyone who cites consensus to advance a scientific argument doesn’t even understand what science is.”

  6. We humans are chaotic by nature. We can’t control the things instinctively, because if we did, rules wouldn’t have been established and morals and ethics would not have been thought of. That being said, I believe that there will never be a perfect order nor a perfect society, as there will only be changes and adaptation to the said changes…

  7. That’s a good expression of the problem. When analysis mindset users start responding too much to the motivation of hubris, they start disregarding observations that contradict their model of reality. They may make excuses to entirely dismiss aspects of reality that don’t fit in their paradigm.

    I find this habit annoying because it means people aren’t using analysis to its fullest potential by augmenting it with other mindsets. What’s worse, though, is that they’re setting a bad example for the people who look up to them as the most prominent analysis users. By using miscalibrated analysis for certain problems and inevitably failing, they’re leading everyone else to think that analysis just shouldn’t be used at all for those problems. “I tried putting this flour in the oven and it didn’t make a cake. I guess flour just can’t be used to make cakes.”

    That’s why I created a vocabulary of foundational concepts to help people describe all aspects of a situation. As you say, understanding our values must come first. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” Only by describing values can people recognize the ways in which an approach is constructive, and the circumstances under which it stops being constructive.

    It’s true that there won’t be a way to get rid of problems without getting rid of consciousness as we know it. As long as desire exists, there will be problems. They key is to make sure people don’t get stuck on those problems.

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