Why Has our World Gone So Crazy?
Because the contemporary consensus is wrong about virtually everything.
In the history of humanity, virtually every civilization has believed itself to be right about virtually everything, and believed all its predecessors and rivals to be wrong about virtually everything. Every civilization has been mostly right about its predecessors and rivals, and mostly wrong about itself. Because knowledge can be shared and accumulated over time, each successive civilization has, in bits and pieces, stumbled closer to the truth. This gradual process is what has permitted more complex civilization to develop.
Today, the world’s dominant civilization might be called transnational progressivism or global neoliberalism. Whatever you call it, it certainly believes itself to be right about everything, and believes all its predecessors and rivals to be wrong about everything. It proudly trumpets its values from its tall skyscrapers, from where it condemns recalcitrant dissidents as foolish and misguided — or, worse, dangerous and evil.
But the skyscrapers are built on sand. Like every prior civilization, transnational progressivism is wrong about virtually everything. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s even more wrong than some prior civilizations.
That, at least, is what I have come to believe: Our contemporary consensus is not just wrong here and there, not just mildly out of step on reality. It is wrong on the fundamentals. The very building blocks of our entire society are misshapen and fractured, and they do not fit together. They are, in fact, so broken that they are leading us to ruin.
Now, when I speak of a “contemporary consensus,” let me be clear what I mean. I am speaking of the opinions that one can speak out loud at any dinner party in Manhattan, in any interview on CNN, in any speech at Davos; of the opinions that yield blue checkmarks on Twitter and consulting gigs with Fortune 500 companies.1
I am not asserting that every person in the United States or Europe believes the consensus. Plenty of people disagree — but they are dissidents and they are ridiculed or cancelled for their beliefs, or at the least told not to talk at family thanksgiving.
I am not even asserting that every expert in a given field believes the consensus as it applies in his field. In fact, I am relying on experts who don’t believe in the consensus in their field to show us the errors of their field. Often the experts already know the consensus is wrong in their field, but hold their tongue for fear of being cancelled, as you shall see when you read on.
What matters is not that everyone agree with all of the consensus, but that most people accept most of the contemporary consensus most of the time. Even most experts who strongly disagree with one aspect of the contemporary consensus accept the other parts of the consensus without trepidation. Roger Penrose, who criticized the computational theory of the mind, seems to have otherwise orthodox views on genetics. Steven Pinker, who criticized the blank slate theory of human nature, does not seem concerned that neoclassical economics might be wrong. Each expert loudly decries the errors and fallacies of his own field — while quietly accepting all the other fields as true and reliable.
The writer Michael Crichton called this the Gell-Man Amnesia Effect, named for physicist Murray Gell-Man:
“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
Let us cure ourselves of Gell-Man Amnesia so that we can see that not just some, but virtually all, of our contemporary consensus is a sandcastle that will be washed away in the high tide of truth.
In the sections below, I have briefly stated what I believe the contemporary consensus to be in a number of areas, and then I have listed the falsehoods I believe the consensus contains. I have focused on foundational matters (“is materialism a true account of nature?”) rather than inflammatory but second-order concerns (“should we permit private ownership of assault rifles?”) Even so winnowed, the list is by no means exhaustive and I could have easily doubled it.
For each claim that the consensus is in error, I’ve provided a paragraph of text from a credentialed expert in the field summarizing their critique of the consensus. The specific text used was chosen to provide the gist of their critique, without necessarily explaining it in full.
In selecting the experts, I have had two criteria. First, I only selected experts whose book(s) I had actually read, rather than read about. Second, I aimed for those who are respectable within contemporary society, to avoid their work from being dismissed out of hand by those who might read this. Again, the list is not exhaustive.
In presenting this analysis, I don’t expect to persuade anyone that the heterodox experts are correct and the orthodox consensus incorrect. Each expert I’ve quoted felt they need a book to do it, not a paragraph, and I don’t expect that I can do better! Therefore I have provided a link to purchase the complete work for each claim. Consider each link a recommendation from the Tree of Woe book club. It’s 10,000 pages of reading, so you’ll want to get started right away.
Finally, at the end of each section I’ve briefly stated the implications of the heterodox views. At the conclusion, I summarize the whole.