I had written, among many other things:
I assume that those who cannot imagine defending science, defending facts, defending fairness, defending nonviolence, defending democracy, defending rights, defending standards while at once holding on to beliefs like these [about the ineradicable uncertainty and contingency of the warranted beliefs of finite beings such as ourselves, and about the pluralism of reasonableness of multifaceted social beings such as ourselves --d] are either honestly a little ignorant for now or just rather stupid, by which I mean to say that they are being terribly lazy, inattentive, uncritical, and even rather bratty about the whole thing...
To this, "JimF" responded:
Well, of course it's more complicated than that.
To the extent that the political right wing is imbricated with religious traditions, and it overwhelmingly is, then these folks have a different standard for truth, fundamentally incompatible with "defending science" as the ultimate standard for determining the facts.
They see science as a flawed human enterprise (which it is, of course), circumscribed by the limits of human reason (which it also is), while at the same time subscribing to a "higher truth" (opaque to you and me) which they get from their holy books and prophets.
The Mormons, for example, are quite explicit about this -- an
individual's standard for knowing the truth of Mormonism is supposed to be a "testimony" -- a warm and fuzzy feeling in your guts that's supposed to be coming straight from God. On the other hand, if you don't have this warm and fuzzy feeling, or if you get warm and fuzzy feelings about things which aren't on the approved curriculum, then **you've** got problems.
These are incommensurate discourses, and I see the ultimate resolution as a Darwinian one. Whichever one endures or predominates in the long run will be the one that tends toward the long-term survival of the human race. This isn't a particularly cheerful thought, but there you are. I'm hopeful, personally, but if something like global warming changes the rules of the game faster than human civilization can adapt, then we're screwed, pure and simple.
My reply, off the cuff, as it were:
I don't agree that all forms of religious faith are incommensurable with the proper defense of consensus science. When you say the right wing is imbricated in religious faith, I am last to deny the danger of the program attested to in those precincts of the right that are infused with patriarchal authoritarian Dominionist politics, but it really is important to remember that not all religious formations are the same, and also that religious formations change in the face of historical vicissitudes like all sociocultural formations do, in the face of the pressures of a wholesomely diversifying, secularizing, queering nation for example. To be honest, I see as much or more of the trace of the triumph of "acceptable" deception, hyperbole, self-promotion that has come from the suffusion of our public life with the norms and forms of advertizing and marketing in the ugly evils of Movement Republicanism as I do the scary trace of Dominionism.
Anyway, if I can be pluralist about modes of warranted-belief and truth-talk anybody can. I'm an atheist myself but I'm also an aesthete and I have no trouble squaring the idea that true beliefs that yield prediction and control should emerge from testable hypotheses attracting a public consensus of conviction while true beliefs that yield beauty should make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or enable me to empathize with a lifeway that had hitherto been too alien to me to connect to or something like like (that is, some standard of warrant quite different from the one that makes scientific beliefs reasonable). If Mormons are a moralizing subculture and fandom they can treat all sorts of things as matters of taste accompanied by warm and fuzzy feelings differently than I do without threatening outright incommensurability in matters of prediction and control or political reconciliation. How warm and fuzzy do they feel about their cardiologist, after all, as they are going under?
Claims about utter incommensurability of belief seem to me almost inevitably too hasty: Humans are awfully clever over time when they need to find ways of reconciling apparent contradictions between their histories and hopes or between changing members of their communities. As you know, I find it rather easy either to moralize or aestheticize faith-claims among believers, to make a quiet translation that makes initially unreasonable declarations among them seem instead reasonable enough to deal with.
It is only the insistent fundamentalists, the ones most recalcitrant about pluralism who are trouble. But when it comes to this sort of recalcitrance champions of science can be easily as fundamentalist as the faithful are -- and it is often from such a place that genocidal rages for order making recourse to clash of civilizations narratives, discerning interminably incommensurable epistemologies, or declarations about pluralists qua menacing relativists come.
Of course for the pluralist herself the reductivist/ fundamentalist, whether religious or scientific, scarcely seems incommensurable to her -- fundamentalisms tend rather to look like neurotic symptoms after all, which is simply one of the many ways finite humans as incarnated poems with a creative unconscious coping with the vicissitudes of history remake themselves into unexpected beautiful perverse art-works for the world. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" can be a declaration celebrating proliferation as easily as a chestnut proposing a facile reassuring collapse. So, I do agree that barriers to pluralist conviviality are a bit more complicated than just ignorance and laziness, but I just don't like to leap to the pathological too quickly is all.