Is Science Too Politicized? – Patriot Academy Session With Michael Knowles: What is the relationship between science and politics? What is the basis of leftist politics? Is there a science of history? Did you know political science replaced political philosophy? Who influences the new fourth branch of our government – the administrative state? How do we resuscitate conservative politics? Tune in to hear this important interview with Michael Knowles from Patriot Academy.
Air Date: 08/18/2020
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith and the Culture
Welcome to WallBuilders Live. Very quick short intro today. My name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. Normally here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders, and usually here with Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders.
But today, we are going to a recording of an interview I got to do last week with Michael Knowles from the Daily Wire, he was with us at Patriot Academy. Let’s jump into it right now.
Michael Knowles, of course, the Michael Knowles Show The Book Club on PragerU, you may not be familiar with out there. You got to check out the book club. We’re actually watching those as a family and going through some of Michael Knowles’ reviews with special guests on that one. And then of course, Verdict with Ted Cruz, number one podcast in the country and a great one to listen to there as well. What you may not know about Michael, unless you have the all access pass. He is fully one half of the soon to be famous band known as and I’m just going to name it for you, Michael: The Boreing Knowles.
Oh, that’s good. That was my nickname in high school.
There you go. Okay, so there’s the name of your band. Hey man, thanks for coming back on with us. Good to have you back.
Welcome Michael Knowles
It’s so great to be here. Thank you for having me. It’s always good to be with Patriot Academy. You can tell I’m in a different location. We flew into DC to do a couple episodes of Verdict this week. Should be some good episodes, so we’re looking forward to that. Very excited to continue smoking another round of Patriot Academy cigars, it has been my hobby and lockdown. And yeah, it’s always so good to be with you guys.
Well, good to hear, man. I totally open to you, whatever you want to cover in your time with us. I do really want to encourage people to watch The Book Club, I think that could be one of the most important things you’re doing, man. They’re fun. They’re funny.
But I mean, you’re diving into some great topics and hitting some of the great books that have just been lost, frankly to even my generation, but certainly to the new generation. And wow, are we not living out 1984, which you did with Reuben recently, and so many other books?
So anyway, I definitely want to mention The Book Club and push that. I think most of our folks that are on listening to your show, as I do, but The Book Club they may not be familiar with. Anyway, I’m going to hand it off to you, man, whatever you want to chat about and then I’ll start tossing you some questions here in a little bit.
The Book Club
Great. Thank you. Well, I appreciate you mentioning The Book Club. You know, it’s funny, because it’s probably my favorite thing that I do, like I consider that show almost more of a hobby. Because the fact is, even though I’ve had a lot of schooling and went through college and a lot of fellowships and stuff, I still don’t have a particularly great education, just because even now in top colleges, some great books are not assigned. The focus is much more on a kind of ideologized left-wing, more contemporary curriculum than it is on reading all the great books.
And so, we conservative so frequently say politics is downstream of culture and we got to win back the culture and focus on the culture, but none of us actually participate in the culture. So, I’ve considered it a great way to go back. Some of books I’ve read, a lot of books I haven’t read at all, so it’ll be my first read.
And it’s amazing, I’m preparing to go to a fellowship right now, it’s going to happen in a couple days at the Claremont Institute in California. And so, I’ve got to read a ton of books and no one has time to read, myself included. But I find every time I finish a book, I’m a little bit smarter, even if it’s a dumb book, I’m smarter because I know why it’s dumb.
And this gets to the topic, I think what we can talk about today. I’ll go into it for maybe 8 or 10 minutes, and then we can get into some questions. But it’s a topic coincidentally that is very hot right now and nobody is getting to the heart of it. And that question is the relationship between science and politics.
You know, our big political issue right now is this lockdown and how the lockdown relates to protests and why the experts tell us some protests are okay, all the left-wing ones, but conservative protests are not okay and it’s all just based on the science. Joe Biden says he’s not going to have a presidential campaign, because those are the doctor’s orders. And that’s the science says that conveniently, a Democratic nominee who can’t spell his own name anymore is now going to be unable to debate and unable to hold campaign rallies that probably 10 people would show up to anyway.
So, what is this relationship? Is it really the doctor’s orders? Or is it a little bit more political? And you see it, it really get to the heart of it with someone like Dr. Fauci. Some people hate Dr. Fauci, some people love Dr. Fauci. But we all have to listen to Dr. Fauci even though nobody elected Dr. Fauci.
Who is this guy? He’s a guy who’s been the head of an administrative agency, for at this point, what, four decades, this guy’s been around since Ronald Reagan. No one has ever voted to put him into power, but he exerts quite a lot of power and he’s exerting power in the name of science, but the power he’s exerting obviously affects the realm of politics.
This category of people, public health experts are a little weird, because they’re part scientist and part politician. The word public refers to politics and vice versa. Politics is just what we all do together and how we all live together in society. So, should we look at it strictly from a scientific standpoint or from a political standpoint?
What the Left wants to say is that conservatives are anti-science. And I think of this as a kind of evolving like the galaxy brain meme or like broke woke bespoke, right? Like the broke view is that yes, conservatives are anti-science, right?
And then the woke view, the like slightly elevated view, is conservatives are not anti-science. But then I think when you get to the galaxy brain bespoke view, you realize that in a certain important sense, conservatives actually are anti-science, because the word science has become over the last 150 years, a political term that is the basis of leftist or progressive politics. So how did we get here?
The way we got here is because in the 19th century, you had philosophers building on the work of Hegel and in particular, Karl Marx, who takes Hegel and makes it very popular and transforms him. These philosophers decided that they had figured out the science of history. So even our own conception of history is based on this idea that there’s a science of history.
Political Philosophy or Political Science?
Now, what the leftist philosophers discovered in the 19th century they said they discovered, was that history is totally scientific: we can rationalize it, we know where it is going to go, there is an end to history, we know that history is going to evolve and get better and better and better over time, it’s going to progress. And so, you can be on the right side of history or on the wrong side of history. But history regardless of what we want, is inevitably going to flow in that direction which just conveniently gives the Left everything they want.
And so, before that time, we just debated political questions and we thought they were sort of eternal questions. Like what is justice? What is equality? What is liberty, right? Things get better, things get worse. But what the Left did was say no, science is progressing and history is part of science and so we’re going to reach this end.
The science question also comes into play because of two different visions of science. So, I was recently going back over some of the writings of the progressives, Woodrow Wilson in particular is the first openly progressive president. And the thing about Woodrow Wilson, by the way, even though the Left is tearing down his statues now, Woodrow Wilson was a highly intelligent man. He was an ardent Leftist, but he was the president of Princeton. This was probably the most academic and scholarly president we’ve ever had, which is why he was so terrible.
And what Woodrow Wilson said is, we have an old conception of science, which is Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics, meaning there are fixed laws to the universe and things will obey those laws in perpetuity and so if you want a stable system, you’ve got to pit various forces against one another, such as our constitutional government, our system of checks and balances and that will maintain a sort of stasis that will be good and preserve liberty and equality and justice. All good, right? That’s constitutional government he views as being based on Newtonian physics.
Newton and Darwin
However, he says in between the age of Isaac Newton and the present, there was another scientific advancement and that was Charles Darwin in the theory of evolution and the way the progressives view Darwin and evolution, as they said, Darwin is completely opposed to Isaac Newton. There are no fixed laws to the universe. Not only are there no fixed was to the universe, there are no fixed laws to human nature.
There are no fixed laws to government. Everything is relative man. Everything is just on one long scale of evolution. It’s always changing and it’s always progressing toward this better, more wonderful future.
So, when you apply Darwin to politics, according to the progressives, you’re right we got to ditch this Constitution. This Constitution is outmoded, it’s crazy, it has no basis anymore. It was good for time, but now we’re in a different time. You still hear the echoes of this today.
Around this time of the progressives, you’ll see new academic disciplines that never existed before, you’ll see the academic disciplines of political science, even political science, which we think of today is kind of neutral, no political science was designed by the Left to replace political philosophy. You might think of it this way.
Conservatives look at politics from the realm of philosophy of using our minds to contemplate fixed human nature and eternal questions and debate what we the people want. There’s philosophy on the conservative side. And then on the left-hand side of science. There’s only one right answer and coincidentally, it’s only going to be the left-wing’s answer and you can’t debate.
And if you do debate, you’re either extremely stupid or you’re evil. You’re standing in the way of the progress which we can know rationally from the science of history is where we’re all moving toward inevitably. That’s what is being pitted up against one another.
And so, you see the ditching of political philosophy and the movement toward political science. You see the development of the social sciences. You see the replacement of ethical debates with economics. We’re just maximizing efficiency. We’re no longer debating goods and evils for individual people.
You see the development of sociology, which is the same thing, basically getting rid of all the eternal debates, pretending that we have nothing in common with our ancestors, that you can only look at individuals as products of their time and of great historical forces. This infects a lot of other departments. There are a lot of new social scientific departments that are created. And what’s the point of the social scientific departments?
The point of them at the universities is to furnish the scientific basis for the administrative State. So, we’ve talked since the election of Donald Trump, about the Deep State, right, or the bureaucracy or the federal agencies. It’s this strange thing that we’re living in. We think we’re living in a democratic republic, right, where we vote and we vote for the president.
And yet, as we’ve learned from the experience of Trump, you might change the president, but things don’t change. And actually, sometimes that bureaucratic State fights back and they try to kick out the democratically elected president.
Well, how did we get here? This new branch of government beyond the first three, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is this fourth branch called the Bureaucracy, the administrative State, it is furnished with its inputs, by the social sciences, by the academic departments, by fields that are not properly science in the way that you and I would think of it, but consider themselves science now so that there can be no disagreement.
Beyond the Purview of Science
And so, you always have economists making arguments for whatever sort of efficiency or sociologists making arguments or social psychologists making arguments and this is taken in as the father of the administrative State. You no longer can have debates over whether or not it would for instance, in criminal justice. Is it good to punish criminals? Is it good to like criminals out of prison? That’s a philosophical and ethical debate.
But now the way that that’s decided is you get some social scientists to come in and present a study and say, based on my scientific understanding, you should let all the great animals out. Obviously, that’s well beyond the purview of science, but that is the scientific and political paradigm that they have established. And that’s what they’re trying to do with these lockdowns.
The reality of Coronavirus is, there’s 99.7%, at least survival rate, so that’s pretty good. But some populations appear to be at greater risk than others. And so, it would seem to be a matter of prudence, whether or not they should go outside or not. A young person probably doesn’t have to worry as much as an 85 year old person. The masks don’t seem to be particularly effective.
Many, many, many clinical studies showing that they don’t do very much at all, but perhaps if there is any effect, someone might want to put one on, okay, that’s fine. That’s a matter of prudence. There were risks.
The only way that we all know that we’re going to avoid getting coronavirus is if we lock ourselves in a bubble forever and ever, which it seems many of these social scientists want us to do, including Neel Kashkari, the head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank and some of the experts up to an including Dr. Fauci depending on the day of the week, but that doesn’t take into account everything else about our civilization.
You know, one problem President Trump had early on in those press conferences is he would only bring out the scientific experts, but our country is not run by scientific experts. He might have considered bringing out economic experts or military experts, because we have to consider beyond just the spread of the virus.
A Rigged Game
What happens when the whole economy implodes? What happens when 50 million people lose their jobs? What happens to rates of opioid overdose and suicide? What happens when China starts aggressing in the South China Sea because our country has shut down? There are many more inputs here.
The way that we will be able to resuscitate a politics that is in any way conservative is we’re going to have to recognize that the way the Left has set up the conversation, it’s a rigged game. If we buy their premises, even on the supremacy of science, we’re playing to lose. What we must do is bring back, reinvigorate a culture of authentic politics where we the people actually have a say.
You saw the beginning of this with President Trump: It’s why the Left and the Right were basically unified against him. You know, the political class of both, especially including official conservative Washington hated that guy’s guts, because he was returning away from this administrative bureaucratic, ossified, conservative, political elite. He was returning power back to people who they felt had no business exercising political power. That is going to be the ground.
So, when people are bullied or intimidated or maligned for being anti-science or something like that, I think what it’s incumbent on conservatives to do is point out that there were things much deeper, there is something on which science is we come to know it rests that would be our culture, our civilization, the philosophical questions that gave rise to what you would call modern science and the eternal enduring first principles.
What is a man? What is our place in society? What is freedom? Why should we protect it? And why on earth should we let some guy in a lab coat decide to run our entire lives for us? I will pause it there, I’ve gone over time as I most frequently do. But I definitely leave enough time for questions. So, let’s pause it there and I’d love to take any questions or comments that you might have.
Quick break. Stay with us, folks, Michael Knowles, our special guest. This is a recorded interview I had with him for Patriot Academy just last week. When we come back from the break, we’ll get the questions from the students for Michael Knowles. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
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We’re back on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. We’re in the middle of an interview with Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire and we’re taking some questions from our Patriot Academy students where he was speaking.
Here’s the question from lieutenant governor Frank Allegoria and combining this with some other things. As you see what’s happening in our country right now, what gives you hope for the conservative movement and secondly, do you offer painting lessons?
Trump Brings Hope?
Very fortunately for the future of America, art and culture, I am not offering painting lessons. As much as I want to revivify our culture, probably I’m not going to be the guy to do that, at least in the fine arts. But on your question of hope, one, actually, your second question does kind of lead to my first question. The Left has not succeeded at totalizing, taking over, rationalizing all of our culture yet.
Americans still do weird stuff that the elites don’t approve of, right? It’s still a very big country, we still have pockets of this country that are not totally beholden to the popular culture. We still have unique cultures in, you know, they might be receding, but they still exist.
And Trump, I say this without even a hint of irony, Trump actually does give me a little hope for the political culture. Because what you’ve seen for at least the past 50 or 60 years, is that the Left and the Right would run for office, Democrats and Republicans fight each other, but it seems that our most pressing problems never get fixed, they only get worse. I’ll give you an example. The clearest one would be the debt.
We’ve got this huge national debt and beyond the national debt, we’ve got a ton of unfunded liabilities at the state and local level. And for the office holders in the chat, you know this better than anybody. So, how is it the case that the democrats win and the debt gets run up and the republicans win and they run against the debt, but the debt goes up even higher?
Why is that it? I think it’s because we’re trapped in a political paradigm that that doesn’t permit an authentic conservatism, we don’t actually care very much about the past. Even our conservatives are, in a way sort of progressive. And really what that means is they only care about the present.
So, they’ll tarnish historical figures. The Left wants to tarnish George Washington, the Right feels happy and complacent just to tarnish say Robert E Lee or somebody like that, someone that you can say well, he was a bad guy, even though frankly, Robert, he was very honorable. He fought for what you might call a dishonorable cause. But in his own right, Robert E. Lee showed more personal integrity than many people who are in office today.
Our Connection to the Past
So, the Right will drag it back a little bit, but they basically share the same premises. And the same goes for the future. If you dishonor your past, if you think you have no connection to your past, then you’re not going to have much connection to your future either. You know, what does it say about a culture that leaves as an inheritance to its posterity, debt? It means, you’re not thinking in what you have just aptly described as the historical sense.
And I think what we need to do as conservatives, what’s so important is to get rid of all this ossified ideology that boils down conservatism with a capital C as just three bullet points on a manifesto, cut taxes, cut regulation and bomb the Middle East. I don’t know, whatever, it kind of changes a little bit over time, but that’s not it. And look, I love cutting taxes as much as the next guy, but that’s not all it is. We have to be interested in conserving something.
And when Trump came on the scene, the fact that he was not perfectly articulate in all the wonderful professional ways of politics, was so incredibly refreshing. And the fact that his campaign, it didn’t really care about those now sacred idols of Republican politics, like I don’t know, welfare reform or something, but what he cared about was “Make America Great Again”.
That resounds, I think a lot more, with at least a plurality, if not a majority of Americans who don’t care about the kind of two sides of the same coin, ideological debates, they just want to preserve their country. They don’t want the cities to be on fire. They don’t want the statues to topple. I think we’ve hit a turning point, it’s the first time in my lifetime that a conservative has acknowledged that. And if he can succeed, that gives me great hope for the future.
Yeah, that’s good. Okay, a specific mask question. And oh, by the way, for the name of the band, of course, I had that as the boring as in BORENG, you know. Not BORING, yeah, boring as in Jeremy and okay. Anyway, it was a lame attempt. The mask question…
The Mask Question
Pretty good. I think we can use it. Pretty good.
What about Japan and Taiwan, do these countries prove that mass work for COVID?
Well, it’s very difficult to make these comparisons to other countries. And I think actually, this gets to one of the weaker elements of this scientific or you might say scientistic approach to politics, which is that the difference between the United States and Taiwan is not that one country wears masks a little bit more than the other. Right?
There are deep, deep differences between these countries, in the way that we look at liberty, in the way we look at our own citizenry, in the way we behave, in the behaviors that we undertake. There are deep traditional differences between these countries.
And you see in some nations, even within Western Europe, for that matter, in some nations, where the lockdowns have been much more serious, you see numbers go up or they go down. In some countries, such as Sweden, for instance, where there hasn’t been much of a lockdown at all, the numbers went up a little bit, but then they actually declined precipitously lower than perhaps levels we’re seeing here. You see, there have been some studies measuring the spread of corona among schoolchildren in Finland and Sweden and there isn’t much spread at all, but there might be spread in other countries. One cannot compare.
A Little Prudence Goes a Long Way
And even within the United States, you have the entire public health apparatus saying don’t wear masks, don’t buy them. Fauci, the Surgeon General, major members of Congress, Eric Swalwell, the man who was almost president, he was that close. And so you had them all say that and then on a dime, they turn and they say, now you’ll have to wear masks.
There haven’t been new studies. There is no new information here. There have been a few mechanistic trials. But the overwhelming scientific literature says the masks actually don’t work very much. So, I think they’re grasping at straws and more importantly, they’re grasping at power. A little prudence goes a long way here.
If you feel that you’re at risk and you’re in a place that is greatly a risk, maybe put on the mask, even for what only help a little bit. If you’re not, if you’re walking outside on a sunny day, you probably don’t need the mask. This idea of prudence, an important virtue used to be seminal to conservative philosophy to the we view the world.
But in the rationalized scientific universe that the Left has created, there’s no room for prudence, you can’t be prudent because you need scientific precision, which is why you saw the public health experts uniformly say, do not wear masks, stop buying masks to you all must wear masks all the time. Because there’s no room in the middle when you have that kind of scientific precision.
There’s this old line describing totalitarian regimes that says that everything that is not forbidden is mandatory. Well, that’s what we’re seeing. But probably the more prudent politics would be one that is a little more in the middle and actually acknowledges prudence.
Michael, always a pleasure, man, thank you so much for joining us. Tell Senator Cruz, howdy from all of us at Patriot Academy. And we’ll get folks plugged into both The Book Club and your radio show as well. We really do appreciate you taking time, man.
The Daily Wire
Alright. Thank you. I always love it, so keep up the good work, guys.
That was Michael Knowles speaking to the students at Patriot Academy. You can listen to Michael Knowles podcast at Daily Wire, that’s also a great place to read his art. We are really thankful that we got the treat this year at Patriot Academy, have so many amazing speakers: Ben Shapiro, Michael Knowles, Jennifer Stewart, Dinesh D’souza, Allie Stuckey, Matt Walsh Andrew Klavan, Dennis Prager, Jeremy Boreing. It was incredible.
And so, we’re going to bring as many of those interviews as possible to you here are listeners of WallBuilders Live. So, you don’t want to be missing any programs over the next few weeks. We’ll be sprinkling in those interviews as we go.
And it was really good for the students, but honestly, it was good for me, I just enjoyed even as you heard today with Michael Knowles the optimism, that regardless of what you see in the streets and what you see in the country, that we can be happy warriors. That’s what Reagan called it “happy warriors” how to take back a country to freedom and that’s really more effective anyway.
You’re going to win a lot more people over if you’re not a doomsday. You can be realistic. I mean, I’m not saying we sugarcoat things or we’re Pollyanna about this. There’s no doubt America is facing huge challenges. We have given up major ground in the culture war. We have given the Leftist everything they need to take over the country. And now, the question is will we now wake up and fight back and prevent that from happening.
Is Science Too Politicized? – Patriot Academy Session With Michael Knowles
But we can be joyful in the middle of all that because our joy is not based on who’s in the White House or where we are what’s happening politically. Our joy is based on who’s we are. Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t that incredible that you could be living in a communist country and still have joy, you would have freedom? It would be very difficult and painful, but God can still give you joy. I’m not suggesting we want that at all.
We should be thankful for what we have and we need to recognize that it’s worth fighting for and that the system actually enables us to stay in freedom, to win with freedom if we will fight within that system if we’ll be engaged, if we’ll do our job as citizens. And regardless of what we see, victories now, defeats now, it happens. Some days you have victory. Some days you have defeats. Some elections, you win.
Some elections, you lose. But if we will have joy in that process and we will keep our eyes on the Lord and realize that our job is to be humble, is to be servants is to follow His commands, that’s what the Great Commission is, you know, we’re supposed to be making disciples of all men, we’re supposed to be making disciples that follow all of God’s commands and that includes in our culture, in our society, and how our government operates.
Hope you enjoyed this interview today. We’re going to have more great interviews coming up over the next weeks and months. Hope you enjoyed Michael Knowles and the other interviews that we’ll be sharing with you from our Patriot Academy last week. Thanks so much for listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.