The Folly of Conservatism

For anyone serious or curious about the world, conservatism is impossible. Human knowledge advances so rapidly that it’s a challenge to keep up, even within one’s own specialty. As new information arrives, beliefs must continuously be revised and reevaluated – if not discarded.

A succinct critique of “Traditional Chinese Medicine” is that you cant trust anything traditional in medicine. Given that our knowledge of the body is changing now faster than ever, any medical practice that’s remained the same for decades – let alone centuries – is highly suspect. And medicine isnt a special case – through modern scientific investigation, mankind is quickly and steadily expanding knowledge in virtually all fields of inquiry.

And that’s a deal-killer for conservatism, which implicitly relies on the fallacy that our knowledge of the world, ourselves, science, morality, etc., is so complete that our beliefs can or should remain constant over time. Progressivism, by comparison – of which liberalism is just one strain – embraces the reality that our knowledge of the world, and the world itself, is ever changing – and that therefore, necessarily, our policies and positions must also change.

That conservatives chronically mangle science is not a coincidence. We might say that a conservative’s sine qua non is, precisely, an inability to intelligently collect and process new information; conservatives rarely even make it to the next step, which is updating existing beliefs with new knowledge. Across such diverse subjects as evolution, climate change, economics, the health costs of coal, or the ineffectiveness of teaching abstinence, conservatives maintain a static belief system by continuously suppressing new information. One is left to wonder at which is the cause and which the effect: whether scientific illiterates are more easily seduced by discredited policy prescriptions; or whether inculcation in conservatism directly thwarts the development of critical thinking skills, and so frustrates scientific literacy.

As I’ve written previously, conservative positions are not amenable to fact or logic because they arent based on them. Conservatism begins and ends with naked belief, sustained not by learning but by faith, fastidiously sheltered from antagonistic information and argument. Conservatism, by almost any definition, it is not a political philosophy, but a religion.



On the folly of grammatical conservatism: written English does fine without apostrophes in negative contractions (doesnt, couldnt, etc.). A childhood victim of French accent marks, CT is a big fan of streamlining. Parisians do fine without milk in coffee or aigu in cafe; likewise, Americans arent wont to confuse an inability with a repetitive song (cant). For one of such a mind, the eyes all but bleed from tripping over the New Yorker’s umlaut in coöperate – as if the term might otherwise reference a pidgin’s pigeons…. Our evaluation and reevaluation of this issue is, as with all things, ongoing, as new information arrives –




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