When Reason Becomes Madness – Catholic World Report

(Image: Teemu Paananen/Unsplash.com)

Why have people gone so crazy when there is so much information and so many experts?

To answer, we need to know the basic knowledge that people rely on. These obviously lead them astray. Here are a few that now dominate public debate:

scientism. This tells us that modern natural science is our only authoritative source of knowledge. If we want to understand man and society, we must be scientific and rely on statistics, simple causal explanations, mathematical models, etc.

Hedonism. Preferences can be observed and measured. Since we want to be scientific, we should take them as a guide rather than a broader, less concrete idea of ​​good.

egalitarianism. All preferences are also preferences, so they also become eligible for satisfaction when the goal is the satisfaction of preferences simply as such.

Technocracy. As a result, doing what scientific experts say will allow us to satisfy our preferences as much and as fairly as possible is now seen as the only rational approach to human life.

These views have a lot to say for them, at least from the perspective of those who govern us. First, they seem clear and simple. If today’s government were based on something like natural law or the good of man, there would be endless arguments about what it requires.

In contrast, technocracy provides what appears to be a simple means of deciding what government should do: promote equality and prosperity, and related goods like security and environmental protection, in the way technically as efficient as possible. To this end, experts should guide all aspects of life.

This last point is extremely important, because it gives our leaders an easy way to justify unlimited power and unlimited privilege.

Since our leaders are experts or act on the advice of experts, the authority of scientific expertise means that we must obey them without question. To resist would be ignorance, stubbornness, bigotry or senseless selfishness rather than a legitimate exercise of freedom. So what they say is valid, and they answer only to themselves. We have seen many such arguments during the recent pandemic, and more recently in reference to parents complaining about what their children are being taught in school.

At the same time, the wealth and other privileges of our rulers can be justified on the grounds that incentives are needed to maximize production and engage the best experts in the task of governing. Their size, of course, depends on the experts. Thus, the maximum satisfaction of equal preferences turns out to justify unlimited economic disparities – without them, everyone will be worse off.

This line of thinking is the basis of the alliance between billionaires and bureaucrats that has dominated the world since the fall of communism. They rely on each other, so they support each other.

Despite its obvious advantages for our rulers, technocracy has serious weaknesses that will eventually destroy it. The first is that the maximum satisfaction standard for equal preference is less clear than it appears.

People’s preferences clash, and when that happens, some have to be sacrificed for others. But it is impossible to measure and compare them by size. Who knows if my love of sleep is greater than your love of loud parties all night? And anyway, the world is too complicated to predict the ultimate results of removing one in favor of the other. It is not even possible to show that focusing on preference satisfaction makes people more satisfied than another principle.

But this means that there is no reliable way to calculate and maximize satisfactions. Experts can do studies that claim to provide an answer, but the answers will depend entirely on the assumptions they put into the studies.

Even so, one preference or the other must win. In the absence of a principled resolution, the government will inevitably support the preferences that sustain the system. Rested and focused workers benefit the system, so sleep will undoubtedly trump loud parties.

Generally, however, the effect will be that people will be discouraged from becoming housewives, independent thinkers, contemplative monks, or adherents of natural law as the basis of government. Instead, they will be pushed into becoming careerists, consumers, lifestyle enthusiasts and politically correct nags – activities that fit more easily into a technocratic system.

It therefore turns out that the principle of equal satisfaction of preferences suppresses certain preferences. In particular, he rejects those who are directed towards the objects like God, the family and the traditional community which normally inspire the most devotion. Devotion is disruptive, and why would a system industrially run by billionaires and bureaucrats want disruption? But suppressing devotion also weakens the social order, and people eventually lose patience when told they can have what they want while being denied what they want most.

Another problem is that what science can tell us is limited. Ideally, scientific expertise is based on mathematical relationships between quantifiable observations. This is how he achieves the objectivity and accuracy that makes it irrational, for example, to dispute what scientists say about the distance of the earth from the sun.

But there are some very important things that science cannot tell us. In particular, it cannot tell us about knowledge or reason because it cannot observe and measure them. It can only observe and measure opinions and preferences, that is, the things that people actually say and do. So if ‘knowledge’ means ‘scientific knowledge’, then it cannot tell us about itself.

The result is that scientism ends up telling us that we have no knowledge, only opinions and preferences, because those are the things that science can tell us about. But then these must do the duty of knowledge – they are all that is available – just as the satisfaction of preferences now does the duty of good.

Technocracy thus results in the same attitude towards truth as towards beauty and goodness: everything is in the eye of the beholder. Our image of reality – what we think we know – is something we invent to please ourselves.

This is paradoxical, since modern science originally wanted to make knowledge more objective and reliable. But the consequences are real. As the Supreme Court said in Family planning c. Caseyeveryone now has the right to define their own reality: “At the heart of freedom is the right to define one’s own conception of existence, meaning, the universe and the mystery of human life.

That is why, in the eyes of educated and responsible people today, a baby is only a baby if the mother says so, the mother is only a woman if she identifies herself as such, and two men form a married couple if that’s how they see themselves.

The problem is compounded by the tension within the technocratic view between human beings as resources and human beings as creators of all values. The first means meritocracy – ranking people according to their usefulness to the system – while the second means an absolute right to define the world that makes each of us a little god. And who can classify or use a god?

A compromise is therefore found: people can be distinguished from each other, but only by purely technical criteria such as academic qualifications, and these must be fairly distributed among all discernible social groups.

The result is that no one can define what a woman is, but if women don’t make up half of all fighter pilots, that’s a mistake because they’re not treated as equal human beings.

Can such a diet last? It is doubtful, but the logic of its principles is too implacable for moderation. A process that began with reforms deemed rational led to Drag Queen Story Hour. It will probably go further.

It seems clear that the accumulation of contradictions and unreality will eventually bring down the system. Until then, we can expect more and more desperate attempts to shore it up. We are already seeing, at the highest levels, hysterical attempts at thought control and savage accusations of terrorism against large sections of the population.

The Church represents reality, so it will inevitably be a privileged target in the struggle. To deal with the situation, we must cling to the realities that she always spoke about. And we must stand our ground and never compromise the truth in the name of an imagined peace with its opposite.

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