I want to use some smaller issues to illuminate a larger
issue. The small issues are global warming and clean energy
generation. The larger issue is "social epistemology": how
do we know what we know, how do we make public decisions,
and what can we do to improve our collective intelligence.
With global warming, we've seen some interesting
maneuvers from our conservative friends, exploiting the
inevitable uncertanties in science to stall any attempts
at fixing real problems.
And yet, while the left likes to think of itself as "the
reality-based community", in some areas (e.g nuclear
power) I think you can see a tendency to exaggerate
problems and cherry-pick facts that rivals the right.
Evaluating data is hard, and we all often fall back on a
kind of tribalism, choosing to believe what we hear from
"our side", choosing the facts that support a belief, and
avoiding engagement with facts that challenge them.
Now, that alone is practically a bland truism, the stuff
of New York Times op-ed columns (by people who aren't
named Krugman)-- even someone who nods in agreement at
that line may be unable to see when they're falling into
the same trap (and yes, I expect to be accused of showing
the same symptoms).
Finding some better ways of dealing with these traps is
the problem that really interests me-- if we could crack
this one, then we'd have solutions for most of the
others, and "global warming" might really seem like a
So that's my manifesto in outline. I hope to flesh it
out and re-write it over time (though at the moment
taking back Congress in 2014 seems like a more
At the outset, I should probably say that while I am
indeed saying "both sides do it", I don't want to slide
into "false equivalence". If it seems to you like the
Right is responsible for some of the biggest Big Lies of
our times, I can see why you feel that way...