Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why I'm not a conservative

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about why I don't like to call myself a liberal. I couldn't seem to find it (not that I tried really hard) but the basic gist of it was that by labeling myself, it's like I've already determined what my opinions are going to be before I get all the information. I mean, when we have to decide which side of the war between zombies and vampires comes along, which side is the conservative side and which is the liberal? I'm going to have to wait until I get all the facts, and I'm not going to pick a side based on whoever Kieth Olbermann supports.

In all seriousness, the problem is that I just don't like to label myself. The only time the word "liberal" gets used around me is when other people accuse me of being one. I even got accused of having a "liberal agenda" one time. That seemed weird to me. I was just speaking my mind, and I didn't give any thought as to what agenda I happened to have. I guess I have the same agenda as everybody - to make the world more the way I want it to be (without breaking any laws and/or violating the rights of others.) Also, I don't think that all of my views are necessarily what one would call liberal. I think that my attitude on gun control would be considered to be more moderate. (Although I'm probably a raving liberal compared to the people with bumper stickers that say that you're not doing your job as an American citizen if you don't have a gun.)

So, I'm not a liberal because it just doesn't mean a whole lot to me. Still, I have a much easier time saying that I'm not a conservative than saying that I'm not a liberal. Why is that? Here are my top two reasons. Beware! Gross generalizations shall follow!

1. Conservatives are anti-science. Actually, a better way to word this is that the anti-science movements in this country are predominantly conservative. Intelligent Design/Creationism? It's not liberals who are pushing that one. Global Warming denial? Yup, it's the conservatives.

This isn't to say that there aren't liberals out there who are anti-science as well. Still, you don't associate things like the anti-vaccination movement as being a liberal cause. In fact, many of the most ardent supporters of vaccinations that I know of you could probably categorize as being further to the left than the right.

I mean, isn't it stupid that issues like evolution and climate change are even thought of as being conservative or liberal? Isn't it the facts that matter here? And where really is the controversy? Many conservatives would have you believe that the scientific community is mixed when it comes to these issues. Well, regarding climate change, 97% of currently published climatologists support the notion that we are having an impact on the earth's increasing average temperatures. (This is a point that many conservatives don't seem to get. They'll use cold winter days as proof that things aren't getting warmer, which shows that they don't even understand the issue in the first place.) And yes, I'm aware of the big list of scientists who deny global warming. The thing is with that, anybody with a BS could add their name to it. They even had a few dentists! Maybe we should actually stick with the experts when it comes to climate change - namely, climatologists. (Or maybe I can get a big list of people who deny that car engines run on gasoline, and I can get a bunch of podiatrists to sign it as my "experts". Hey, they're scientists!)

As for the evolution "debate"? I suggest you check out Project Steve. The gist? The NCSE was able to get a much larger list of scientists who support evolution than the ID proponents could get. Not impressed? Well, the NCSE limited their list to biologists. Oh, and you could only get on the list if your name was Steve.

2. Conservatives love strawmen and the false dilemma. I don't know how many times I've debated a self-identified conservative and I've had to point out that they were putting words in my mouth and arguing a point that I wasn't even trying to make in the first place. What's worse, when I point out that they're doing this, they don't acknowledge it. When I explain the concept of "strawman" they act like I'm pulling some sort of rhetorical trick on them. It's difficult to even engage in any kind of honest debate in the first place. Also, if you tune in to shows like O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck, they basically thrive on knocking down strawmen. But hey, it's easier to argue an imaginary point than an actual one, I guess.

They also love the false dilemma. Everything is either completely this or completely that. A conservative recently recommended the book Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin. I read through bits and pieces of it at Barnes and Noble, but I think that I read enough to say that it's ridiculous. His first chapter sets up both the strawman and the false dilemma. Basically, you were either a conservative, or you were a "statist". Essentially, if you weren't somebody who identifies as being conservative, then you essentially want a government that controls every aspect of your life. I remember reading his opening chapter and thinking, "I'm not either one of these things!" Yeah, yeah, I know, you probably shouldn't judge a book unless you've read at least the majority of it. But how can I keep going when the initial premise is so flawed to begin with?

And don't get me started on his chapter on religion. His whole argument was, "Science can't explain reason, so therefore a magical man who lives outside of space and time created everything." (Okay, he didn't use phrases like "magical man" but that's still the crux of his argument. Since you can't explain something, therefore a god must have done it. This of course is fool-proof logic, as we all know that Thor brought lightning before we could explain it.)

Anyway, I was going to give more reasons, but then I started to realize that they were things that liberals tend to do as well. Shoot, liberals might use a lot of strawmen and false dilemmas too, and maybe I'm just not noticing them since I tend to sympathize more with the left. I was going to write about how conservatives love to boil things down to simplistic talking points, but I know plenty of liberals who do the same thing, and it's just as maddening to hear it from somebody with whom I agree.

The thing is, in my experience I notice that conservatives embrace their label much more enthusiastically than liberals do theirs. This isn't to say that there aren't people who proudly identify themselves as being liberal, but I know a lot of people who are as left, if not more left, than I am, and they seem to be just as uneasy with the label as I am.

I'm not beyond having opinions that might be considered conservative, but it seems to me that if I want to identify myself as being one, it involves a commitment that I'm just not willing to make.

1 comment:

Nolan said...

I don't consider myself a conservative on any issue, really, except global warming. You see, I KNOW that we can function as a planet with our current temperatures. So I'd like those to remain in place, rather than changing and seeing what comes of it. I'm amazingly conservative when it comes to not wanting the Earth to get hotter.