The Corner

L’Affaire Manzi

Well, I stayed out of the whole brouhaha at first because I had a crazy-busy day. Then, as the argument around here played itself out, it seemed less and less necessary.

Still, since I wrote quite a bit about this “epistemic closure” business, and since Jim’s initial post cited me by name, and since some readers won’t rest until I say something, I guess I’ll say something.

I was a bit miffed at Jim for the way he used what I increasingly believe to be a pretty silly argument about conservative epistemic closure closed-mindedness to break with his well-earned reputation for civility and decorum – and in the Corner no less. If he wanted to argue with Mark about global warming, I don’t see why he needed Ross Douthat’s “challenge” to do so.

Moreover, I remain mystified how he can make this myopic and tendentious case for maintaining a “tactical alliance” with Andrew Sullivan — on the grounds that Sullivan (once?) opposed socialized medicine — but be so enthusiastic for ripping into Mark Levin and a book that came out a year and a half ago. If tactical alliances in the name of beating back bad  policies are the order of the day, Mark Levin is a far more valuable ally in that cause than the Atlantic’s gynecological sleuth. 

Regardless, Jim’s apologized for seeming intemperate and I see no reason not to take his apology at face value. Lord knows, I’ve let fly around here far more often than he has. It happens. And in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think Jim’s post warranted the all-hands-on deck response from some of my colleagues. 

Mark Levin’s a big boy who is certainly not afraid to dish it out. And I think it is perfectly fair to point out that sometimes he dishes it out quite harshly himself, and then hits his victims over the head with the dish and the frying pan, and then dunks the victim’s head in the lobster tank. I don’t blame him for being shocked at the tone and tenor of an attack coming from such a friendly and collegial quarter. But here’s the important thing: at the end of the day he responded with substance, and that’s as it should be.

As for that substance, I’m a bit more in Jim’s camp than Mark’s. But as both Andy and I have noted, global warming is an area that illuminates liberalism’s “epistemic closure” far, far, far more than the Right’s. Hence the weirdness of Jim’s polemical priorities. 

So, at the end of the day, this turned out to be an unnecessarily heated argument about global warming. Not exactly the Dreyfus affair if you ask me. 

As for why I’m increasingly dismissive of this whole epistemic closure thing, I’ll get to that in another post.

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