by Alice Temnick

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In this week’s episode, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay discuss the threat to modernity, the increasing polarization of society and associated break-down in discourse as a global phenomenon. Host Russ Roberts probes with questions about the pre-modern and post-modern extremists and the challenges faced by the spectrum that makes up the middle. Where do you fall on the political spectrum? How do you see modernity’s influence on human flourishing?

1. The Oxford English Dictionary defines manifesto as a public declaration of policy and aims. Is the authors’ support of modernity an anti-authoritarian claim against the political far-left and/or far-right? Is it a call for moderates from across the political spectrum to come together? To what extent is collective action a concern to Pluckrose and Lindsay? 2. Is the sense of increasing polarization of society an illusion or reality? How do our tribalistic tendencies shape our meta-narratives feeding into this possible illusion? How do our tribal affiliations shape our attitudes toward liberty?

3. Lindsay claims “….and it’s just a matter of finding out what those truths about human behavior are and what the right degrees are and then coming up with a system for managing them”. Roberts’s “nit that he picks” is that we have never been good at managing this. Is a better “nit to pick” to question whether we should aim to manage human behavior at all? Why?

4. Do Pluckrose and Lindsay insinuate that belief in science would lead people to share the same beliefs (“converge closer and closer to whatever these truths are, and strategies for working with them”)? Or do our ideological differences arise from interpretations of scientific findings that influence the value-laden actions we desire?

5. Besides ignoring extremists and avoiding the promotion of tribal outrage, what other actions should we take as free and responsible individuals to encourage civil discourse?

Alice Temnick teaches Economics at the United Nations International School in New York City. She is an Economics examiner for the International Baccalaureate, teaches for the Foundation for Teaching Economics and Oxford Studies Courses and is a long-time participant in Liberty Fund Conferences.