“Brights” is a term that became popular nearly 20 years ago to describe self-proclaimed rationalists who reject religion, practical wisdom, and tradition, and instead rely solely on “science” for understanding and solving social and political problems. Evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins defined “brights” as “Those of us who subscribe to no religion; those of us whose view of the universe is natural rather than supernatural; those of us who rejoice in the real and scorn the false comfort of the unreal.”
The current virus crisis has exposed the dangers of such hubris. Federal and state governments have put in place exorbitantly costly polices such as the extreme lockdown, guided by provisional knowledge about the coronavirus based on incomplete data. In fact, the lockdown policy has cost lives; New York mayor Andrew Cuomo, a proponent of the lockdown, back in early March was “shocked” and “surprised” that people “sheltering at home” had contracted the virus anyway and comprised the majority of those who died. The deep recession that has followed the lockdown has also cost lives, and will cost many thousands more as the effects of lost jobs and isolation take their toll over the coming years.
Once again, the “bright” progressives’ “science-based” policies have collided with the complexity of the human condition.
The “brights’” claim that only the material world is real started to spread over 200 years ago with the Enlightenment. A hundred years later it became the controlling idea behind technocratic progressivism, which holds that the “human sciences” can understand the human world accurately enough to manipulate and improve it as much as the hard sciences’ and the technologies they create did the material world. So we hear from progressives about “science-based policies,” calls to be guided by “science” and to defer to its authority, and dismissal of skeptics and critics of their policies as “deniers,” “flat-earthers” and “young-earthers” who believe cavemen rode dinosaurs.
The persistence of this arrogance is puzzling given how frequently it has failed and continues to fail, not to mention its intellectual incoherence. Consider a recent tweet (since removed) expressing this attitude by Steven Pinker (pictured above), a Harvard psychologist: “Belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them live longer, safer, and happier. Exhibit A: Evangelicals. What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals.” Of course, Pinker is spraying a patina of pseudo-science over a Democrat talking point about Republican governors with “blood on their hands” from relaxing the lockdown in their states. Unfortunately, empirical data from Sweden to NYC prove quite the opposite.
More important, Pinker’s tweet summarizes the illogical flaws and irrational prejudices behind the whole “science-based policies” claim, and the political biases they serve. Start with the “evangelical” bogey Pinker trots out. This trope is an extension of the Enlightenment assault on the Catholic Church in the 18th century, which evolved into the radical anticlericalism of the French Revolution, and reached it bloodiest culmination in the Russian Revolution and its violence against clerics and theft of church property. In the U.S. it rose to prominence in the Seventies as the regressive Moral Majority that put Richard Nixon in power. Today’s progressive “brights” still treat faith with contempt and incremental assaults on the First Amendment by misreading the anti-establishment clause in order to drive faith from the public square.
Continue reading: The Progressive ‘Brights’ Are Pretty Dim – Frontpagemag