Epistemic Closure For Dummies

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on May 3, 2010

There is a six syllable phrase whose use is rampant on the political end of the internet…Epistemic Closure. With all these learned folks tossing the phrase around, PG would like to know what it means.

One way is to separate the two words. Epistemic, the more impressive of the two, means “of or referring to knowledge”. Closure has a few meanings, mostly related to the end of something. The combination of the two does not really add up to what the pundits mean when they talk about EC.

What is being talked about here is more like rhetoric . This is writing, or speech, designed to persuade. You list the “facts” that support your cause, and you ignore any troubling information that disagrees with you. You write with a specific audience in mind, and make the most noise about the “facts” that push their buttons.

We appear to be at the beginning of a tsunami of verbiage about EC. The oil well in the gulf of Mexico may be easier to shut off. In this brief study of EC, we will quote two sources on the internet. One makes a claim to define EC, but this claim may be another example of EC.

At True/Slant Mark Adomanis tells a tale of EC and Russia. It seems like the press likes to talk about Russia as being close to collapse. Some of the data available now indicates that things are not that bad. The press ( many of whom were cold warriors, long used to trashing Russia) seems to ignore this new data when writing about the problems in modern Russia.

Mr.Adomanis appears to be too young to remember the firebreathing anti communism of the Soviet era. He says that maybe things got so bad in Russia that the only way to go was up. Mr. Adomanis just wants a little bit of balance in the reporting. He also contributes a sentence that gives EC a new look.
“Are there more consequential examples of epistemic closure, closed-mindedness, or, using my own preferred synonym, intellectual douchebaggery (spell check suggestions: carpetbagger, debauchery) than movement conservative efforts to propagandize about Russian demographics?”
PG interrupts this commentary to note that using female hygiene products as an insult does not raise the level of discourse.

At National Review Online, Jim Manzi writes a piece about a “conservative manifesto” called Liberty and Tyranny. L&T is a doorstop volume, and Mr. Manzi did not want to spend his summer reading it. He decided to focus on the section involving global warming. Before he made this call, he noted
” But when I waded into the first couple of chapters, I found that — while I had a lot of sympathy for many of its basic points — it seemed to all but ignore the most obvious counter-arguments that could be raised to any of its assertions. This sounds to me like a pretty good plain English meaning of epistemic closure. “
The chapters on AGW were full of EC.
” Levin argues that human-caused global warming is nothing to worry about, and merely an excuse for the Enviro-Statists (capitalization in the original) to seize more power. It reads like a bunch of pasted-together quotes and stories based on some quick Google searches by somebody who knows very little about the topic, and can’t be bothered to learn. “ (The post you are reading is another “bunch of pasted-together quotes and stories based on some quick Google searches by somebody who knows very little about the topic, and can’t be bothered to learn.” )
Global warming is a playground of rhetoric, paid spokesmen, and EC. The subject is complex, with literally millions of measurements that few know the significance of. There is big money on the side of denial, and lots of entertainers to take the loot.

Mr. Levin does not look good in his chapter on global warming. ( This is the view of Jim Manzi. PG has not read “Liberty and Tyranny”). At one point, Mr. Levin cites a petition “rejecting the theory of human-caused global warming”, signed by 31,000 scientists. One of the signatories is Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

Mr. Manzi writes a dynamite concluding paragraph to his post.
“There are many reasons to write a book. One view is that a book is just another consumer product, and if people want to buy jalapeno-and-oyster flavored ice cream, then companies will sell it to them. If the point of Liberty and Tyranny was to sell a lot of copies, it was obviously an excellent book… But if you’re someone who read this book in order to help you form an honest opinion about global warming, then you were suckered…This section of the book is an almost perfect example of epistemic closure. ““>

3 Responses

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  1. […] and goodnight chet. A few days ago this blog published a discussion about the pedantic phrase epistemic closure. The response here was rather typical…while the normal commenters about EC talk about […]

  2. Epistemic Humility « Chamblee54 said, on August 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    […] he sees is filtered through this concept. Jim Manzi was a key figure in an earlier discussion of Epistemic Closure. He ventures again into epi land with this piece, Jim Manzi on the Stimulus and Epistemic Humility. […]

  3. L5P Sunday Afternoon « Chamblee54 said, on December 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    […] an early start, with the days getting shorter and colder. The drive down Clairmont Road centered on epistemic closure, epistemic circularity, palindromes,and the uroboru. This is not to say that anyone knew what those […]

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