The Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science

.. because so many scientific theories from bygone eras have turned out to be wrong, we must assume that most of today’s theories will eventually prove incorrect as well. And what goes for science goes in general. Politics, economics, technology, law, religion, medicine, child-rearing, education: no matter the domain of life, one generation’s verities so often become the next generation’s falsehoods that we might as well have a Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Everything.

.. The idea behind the meta-induction is that all of our theories are fundamentally provisional and quite possibly wrong. If we can add that idea to our cognitive toolkit, we will be better able to listen with curiosity and empathy to those whose theories contradict our own.

How Donald Trump Redefined ‘the West’

In Warsaw, Mr. Trump boldly stated, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” In saying that, he demonstrated his administration’s born-again commitment to preserve America’s post-Cold War Western alliances, though at the price of redefining the very meaning of “the West.”

.. In the heady days of the Cold War, “the West” referred to the so-called free world — a liberal democratic order. Today it has been replaced by a cultural, rather than political, notion. But unlike in the 19th century, when a “white man’s burden” took pride of place, today what dominates are the “white man’s fears.”

.. In this imagined scenario, Mr. Bannon urges the president to challenge the European willingness to live under the emasculating malady of political correctness: “Make clear to them that the West is under siege, threatened by radical Islam, and for it to survive it must cling ever more closely to its Christian identity. Tell Europeans that we need God, if they even still remember what God is.”

Mr. Bannon goes on: “Force them to understand that the liberal nonsense that prevailed in the Cold War is now making us weak and vulnerable in the face of a world saturated with terrorists and immigrants. Neither a free press nor any quaint separation of powers will protect us in today’s world.

.. What stands out most in Mr. Trump’s speech is not its oft-quoted illiberalism but its stark pessimism about the future of the West. He was elected on a promise of restoring American triumphalism, but he appears preoccupied by the fear of defeat. What he promised his listeners was not the West’s “victory” but that the West shall never be broken.

This Age of Wonkery

If you were a certain sort of ideas-oriented young person coming of age in the 20th century, it was very likely you would give yourself a label and join some movement. You’d call yourself a Marxist, a neoconservative, a Freudian, an existentialist or a New Deal liberal.

.. People today seem less likely to give themselves intellectual labels or join self-conscious philosophical movements. Young people today seem more likely to have their worldviews shaped by trips they have taken, or causes they have been involved in, or the racial or ethnic or gender identity group they identify with.

.. we’ve shifted from a landscape dominated by public intellectuals to a world dominated by thought leaders. A public intellectual is someone like Isaiah Berlin, who is trained to comment on a wide array of public concerns from a specific moral stance. A thought leader champions one big idea to improve the world — think Al Gore’s work on global warming.

.. intellectuals are critical, skeptical and tend to be pessimistic. Thought leaders are evangelists for their idea and tend to be optimistic.

.. The world of Davos-like conferences, TED talks and PopTech rewards thought leaders, not intellectuals

.. people’s relationship to ideas has changed.

.. the very nature of society was up for grabs.  .. there was a sense that the current fallen order was fragile and that a more just mode of living was out there to be imagined.

A Referendum on America’s Identity

Jim Wilson, a 65-year-old retired white police officer in Chillicothe, Ohio, who responded to the survey, is one of them. “We’re losing the core family unit, I think, or [there’s] moral decline by both parents being gone and children don’t have the values that they did at one time,” he said. And he added, “People today don’t have a nest egg of any kind. A majority of people you see are living from check to check. [If] there is one sickness, one illness, one mistake, you stub your toe, [then] you lose everything you have.”

..Almost exactly three-fourths of both Clinton and Trump supporters say it’s harder to get ahead today. But Trump supporters are much more pessimistic about the next generation’s chances. Just 17 percent of them think today’s kids will have more opportunities than today’s adults; a resounding 56 percent of them expect them to have fewer opportunities, with the remaining roughly one-fourth expecting no change. “Well, if it keeps on going the way we’re going now, you get to be my age, you’re just done,” said Wilson, the retired Ohio police officer. “You don’t have a chance to have a nest egg, to retire on … I mean, right now if I was 21 years old today, and I just got married, I would terribly concerned on bringing children into the world the way it looks like it’s headed under the past leadership we’ve had.”

.. Although 83 percent of Clinton voters are positive about more women working outside the home, only 50 percent of Trump backers agree. Intriguingly, the women supporting Trump are more negative about this development than the men, the poll found.