I haven’t read the Bret Stephens Column on Climate Change

and I’m not afraid to admit it.

I have read more than 700 words of tweets about it.

I have two thoughts on the meta discussion.

First Jonathan FBD Weisman is a remarkably unpleasant person.

In this twitter comment thread he repeatedly typed “you didn’t read the column” in response to criticisms of his criticism of critics of the column. He accused people he didn’t know of intellectual dishonesty based on his reading of their tweets.

He is a reporter. His claims of fact are supposed to be based on evidence. I think his certainty based on nothing demonstrates that he can’t do his job. This aside from the fact that he is being very very rude to customers.

Oddly, I have found Weisman’s reporting to be credible and interesting (I keep track of my thoughts on him because of his profane quarrel with Brad). I am alarmed to find I have trusted the claims of fact of someone who makes claims of fact with reckless disregard. I guess his editors restrain the recklessness which twitter allows. I will continue to treat his reporting as normal NY Times reporting (which I tend to trust).

Second Jonathan Chait is very very hard on conservatives (yeah a shocker). He wrote

… an approach that makes sense if your highest priority is limited government, and you are attempting to reason backward through the data in a way that makes sense of a policy allowing unlimited dumping of greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere. That is a tic of American conservative-movement thought — the conclusion (small government) is fixed, and the reasoning is tailored to justify the outcome. Nearly all conservatives argue this way, and if the Times is going to have conservative columnists — which, in my opinion, it should — they’re going to engage in this kind of sophistry.

I note that the conclusion doesn’t follow. If “Nearly” all but not all conservatives argue this way, the New York Times could probably hire one of the few who doesn’t. My problem (which I posed to myself before reading Chait’s post) is to name a conservative who doesn’t argue that way. If not Bret Stephens who ?

Can you think of a non sophist conservative ? Is there anyone who draws conclusions based on reasoning and evidence (rather than choosing reasoning and evidence based on the conclusion) who is a conservative in good standing with the conservative movement ? I can’t come up with a name.

Now I haven’t read anything by Bret Stephens. Maybe he is the one. But the discussion of his first NY Times column makes me think I should look elsewhere. But where ? I repeatedly have the sense that I have found a reasonable and reasonably honest conservative, but then he* breaks with the movement (sometimes because he was fired for heresy).

*yes all of them are men: Bruce Bartlett, Josh Barro, John Cole.(others I have forgotten).

Comments (23) | |