Conservatism

Denial of fact is an important aspect of conservatism, as is an alignment with vested interest in general, and wealth in particular. These aspects go a long way to explaining the details of conservative ideology and arguments.

Sometimes the denial of fact is due somewhat indirectly to the alignment with wealth. The denial of global warming is an example. If global warming is true, then it is possible that there are human causes. If there are human causes, then it might be possible to do something about it. If that is true, then our response might endanger corporate profits, which in turn threatens personal wealth. Hence, the conservative response is to try to cut short the entire train of thought by denying that global warming is a fact.

But the denial of global warming is also anti-intellectual, because it does not allow for a rational discussion–even an argument that would support the interests of the wealthy. To wit, global warming can be true, but not due in particular to human causes. Or it could be that both are true, yet there is nothing we can do about it. Or we could do something, but it would be more cost effective to let it go and simply adjust to it. And so on. Conservatives do not want this debate, since they cannot be sure of its outcome, so they deny the fact of global warming.

This in turn requires a denial of the methods and results of climate science and thus questions the intellect and character of thousands of climate scientists. The aspersions rub off onto science and scientists in general. Conservatives appear to be satisfied with this general result because it opens greater opportunities for denial of other scientific facts in the future.

Not all denial of fact is associated with protecting wealth, but can be associated with the defense of vested interests in general. Take, for example, the denial of the fact of biological evolution. If evolution is true, then animals were not special creations, there is no particular point at which humans could become unique creatures, there is a likelihood that morality is an evolved trait, and many other ideas that are a threat to religious views. More than this, these ideas threaten religious hierarchies and power structures–and incomes, of course.

Once again, the denial of evolution requires the denigration of science and scientists. In this case it is more sinister, since the denigration of science in this case is not a side effect, but rather the point, since religion of any kind is ultimately opposed to a scientific world view. If science is allowed to hold sway, then homosexuality will be recognized as a product of nature, abortion will be more acceptable, stem-cell research will gain momentum, and so on, all of which are anathema to many religions.

Ironically, the denigration of scientific results would seem to apply to advances in agriculture, medicine, transportation, communications, and much more, but these appear not to be targeted.

However, the main purpose of the conservative denial of fact (in America at least) is to directly defend the acquisition and hoarding of wealth and the power that accrues to wealth. Thus we find conservatives denying that the nation’s wealth is unfairly distributed, that leveraged wealth should be taxed more than earned wealth, that capitalism needs to be regulated, that the political system is being manipulated by the wealthy, and much, much else.

Over time, circumstances change, new constituencies appear and seek enfranchisement, new evidence arises, and beliefs are challenged. All of this can be subject to conservative denial, and very often is. Conservative arguments against the acceptance of change, and against the fact of change itself, accumulate and become an ideology.

In sum, to understand conservative ideology and argumentation, one must first understand that conservatism is inherently dishonest and self-centered.

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