Operating Without the Weight of Evidence

I’m glad that Jonah Goldberg found an opportunity to use “Aristotelian” in a sentence, but his overall point is wasted in the context in which he provides it. While it is true that some people would prefer a shopping mall to a public park, and vice-versa, that doesn’t mean that we can’t rely on scientists to give us the most reliable answers to scientific questions. Neil deGrasse Tyson cannot tell us whether it is better to encourage exercise or commerce, but he can explain the cosmos better than the editorial staff at the National Review.

Likewise, scientists and medical professionals can tell us how safe the abortion procedure is, or whether it will be beneficial to women’s health to insist that doctors providing abortions have a medical facility suitable for brain surgery. The Supreme Court looked at the evidence and concluded that right-wing legislators are passing laws with the sole purpose of driving abortion-providing clinics out of business. That wasn’t some aesthetic call. It wasn’t taking the side of the green spaces people over the mall shoppers. It was a correct conclusion based on data and expertise in the field of medicine and the careful collection of evidence.

Finally, it won’t do to insist that whatever the people decide must be correct and that anything contrary to the wishes of the people (as expressed by a snapshot of their will in one election season) is undemocratic. We will always have a governing elite, and we will always have experts who know the most about important things. Democracy is how we tell these people that they’re doing a bad job. It’s not a way for us to make decisions for them.

When our elites fail us, the whole system breaks down, and the surest way for them to fail us is for them to stop believing in the very idea of knowing the most about important things. That’s what has happened on the right in this country. And one of the consequences of that is that we’ve lost the freedom to vote people on the left out of office for doing a bad job.

Sorry, but you don’t put a blabbering schizophrenic patient in charge of the hospital surgery team because the team in place is making too many mistakes. You just grin and bear it, and hope things somehow take a turn for the better.

The brain of the right is out to lunch and it doesn’t appear that it will be returning in the afternoon. And, yet, folks like Jonah Goldberg keep making excuses for their abdication of duty.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.