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How possible is it to escape your own ideology?

- September 22, 2008

In the course of an otherwise interesting discussion of policies for climate change, noted physicist Freeman Dyson writes:

As a scientist I know that all opinions, including my own, may be wrong. I state my opinions firmly because I believe they are right, but I make no claim of infallibility. I beseech you, in the words of Oliver Cromwell, to think it possible you may be mistaken. . . .

The difference between Lord Stern’s view of the future and mine is the difference between passion and interest, between ideologically imposed stagnation and free growth. Lord Stern would have us obedient to his passion. I would have us following our interest.

I don’t know anything about Lord Stern (although as an American I’m always amused by people being called “Lord” or “Sir,” perhaps in a similar way as English people might be amused by us calling people “dude” or “y’all”), but . . . does Dyson really believe that these other people are on the side of “ideologically imposed stagnation”? I mean, c’mon. I’m sure Dyson could reasonably argue that the policies with which he disagrees could lead to stagnation, and, sure, you can always argue that somebody else’s policies are “ideologically imposed,” but this sort of thing reallly seems to me to be an argumentative dead end. Especially given the first paragraph quoted above.

I’m not commenting here in any way on the substance of the debate, only on the belief that one’s opponents in an argument are for “ideologically imposed stagnation.” I mean, where do you go from there?