Most well adjusted adults have learned that life is complicated. People aren’t completely good or bad, and many questions we face don’t have a clear-cut answer. We are stuck weighing evidence, rather than always facing choices that are obviously right or wrong. Because there are so many choices to make and so much evidence to weigh, it’s very difficult, or even impossible, to know all the facts we need to make wise decisions, so we end up delegating much of this work to specialists, like doctors, lawyers, scientists, and many others. These specialists help us make more informed decisions, but that doesn’t mean they will always be right. No doctor, for example, has ever been 100% accurate at diagnosing illnesses. That’s ok with most people, though, because we know that more informed decisions generally have a better chance of being correct than poorly informed decisions.
The world looks much more black-and-white to extremists, however. They think they already know all the answers, so they don’t bother consulting available specialists or weighing evidence. When they argue their case, they simply collect whatever facts and expert testimony seem to support their preconceived opinions and ignore the rest. They aren’t very concerned with the quality of their arguments, because the end (supporting a certain point of view) justifies the means. Likewise, extremists aren’t very concerned with the quality of their opponents’ arguments, because they are sure that these arguments must be faulty. The most important thing for extremists is to have a large quantity of arguments on their side, because it makes them feel secure. So of course they won’t bother to drop or modify any of their arguments in response to criticism, because they care about quantity, not quality.
We all (at least the normal people) know extremists are out there on both sides of any important issue, but we don’t normally want them running the government. Unfortunately, over the last several months I have been convinced that a number of the Republicans in the Utah State Legislature are anti-climate change extremists. I consider it unfortunate because 1) climate change is an important issue that needs some serious discussion at the state level, and 2) I’m a fairly conservative Republican. It galls me that my party has been electing wild-eyed conspiracy theorists to run the state.
Some readers (assuming there are any) will no doubt object that I’m being rude, or even petty, in calling some of our legislators “extremists” and “wild-eyed conspiracy theorists”. Maybe they’re right, and I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I think anyone who disagrees with me about anthropogenic climate change is some kind of nut. Clearly there is room for different opinions about such a complex topic, but reasonable people should be able to sit down together and rationally discuss things like this. They should be able to acknowledge that sometimes the other side brings up a good point or two. But this doesn’t describe the behavior of the legislators in question, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t really have a reasonable conversation with a willfully ignorant extremist. All you can do is politely ignore them or shine a light on them. Since these particular extremists happen to be running our state government, I’m done with politely looking the other way. What’s more, in this blog I intend to fully back up my claims–that is, I believe I have excellent reasons for the labels I apply. If you disagree with either my claims or my mean and nasty approach, please post a comment. I won’t delete it unless you insist on using profanity.
My hope is that reasonable people (especially Utah Republicans) will read this and decide that we really do need to screen our candidates for office more carefully. Really.