Chapter one: where does morality come from?
Chapter 5: beyond WEIRD morality
Chapter 7: the Moral Foundations of Politics
Chapter 8: the conservative Advantage
Chapter 9: Why are We so Groupish?
Chapter 10: the Hive Switch
[Our movement rejects the view of man] as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law, which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which, suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest... can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists.
Chapter 11: Religion is a Team Sport
Chapter 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
1. Somewhat controversially, that wiki article also says the separation is "so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches". That is distinctly dubious; see here.
* What If We Wrote the Constitution Today?; The National Constitution Center’s Constitution Drafting project. Looking at the libertarian version, I find In completing this project, we’ve focused, as the original Constitution’s authors did, on protecting “negative” rights— that is, rights against being interfered with— instead of creating “positive rights,” such as a right to education, or health care, or other things that must be provided by others. Classical liberal theory holds that the only valid rights are things like free speech, private property, and the right to be left alone, and that so-called positive rights are not rights at all, but privileges that government can only give one person if it has taken away the rights of another which I like. See-also Rawls, continued.
* Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study (via Lomborg): Most of the temperature-related mortality burden was attributable to the contribution of cold.
* Two Facts about Mass Transit and Cars by David Henderson
Having driven from Oxford - I have various excuses for not taking the train - I stayed overnight at the "Grand" hotel in Llandudno (by the Great Orme! Gogarth! I've never been to Gogarth) and after some regrettable car-park comedy1 dropped my plan to walk out of Conwy on the coastal path in favour of starting from Abergwyngregyn (more conveniently known as "Aber falls"), which has a very convenient off-main-road parking spot. There's a broad path up to the Aber falls, and a scree path up the side of said falls, and then it gets more open and rather nice. See GPS trace, which also has more pix, as of course does Flickr. Elevation gain on the day, 1670 m, total distance 28 km.
However, I'd decided to do Drum; although only 770 m (3000 feet = 914 m) it was kinda there, and I wasn't in a hurry, so I took a rather eccentric contouring path above Llyn Anafon. In retrospect, taking the earlier valley of Afon Anafon would have made more sense. But! I wasn't there to make sense.
Somewhere around here my trail shoes - which were a decade old and inherited from Maz - started to fall apart; I tied them up with cord. Happily it was just the sole separating from the "basket", which latter proved quite robust. Here's the Llyn, and a pano from Drum.
Incidentally I had no physical map with me at all; I was relying on Google maps, and OS snippets from the 3k website (Carneddau section); this worked, though Google maps are pretty blank up there. At this point it is all very soft and gentle; here's Foel Fras, 942, the first.
Continuing from Foel Grach (GPS trace) which has an emergency shelter (pix: ext; int). Yr Elen is off on a spur of about 1 k's (easy) ridge; here's a pano of it looking back to Carnedd Llewelyn and down to lake Ffynnon Caseg. Note kewl cloud.
It was getting on for... around 8 pm at this point, but the day was lovely and the light holding well. I stopped for my evening porridge at a low wind-break-shelter under Carnedd Dafydd, looking over Afon Llafar towads Bethesda.
Pushing on I got over the rather dull bulk of Pen Yr Ole Wen (although it was about 10 pm there was a large party on top) and starting descending to my intended bivvi spot on the outflow of Ffynnon Lloer beside which - you can just see if you know where to look - someone had camped.
It was getting quite dark when I got down, so here's my bivvi spot taken the next morning. I had with me a rubbish old thin closed-cell carrymat, and an exciting expensive new Thermarest Uberlite, which I even inflated. Then I thought (a) this turf is so lovely I don't need the Uberlite; and (b) this turf is interspersed with pokey heather that might puncture my Uberlite. So I did without it.
Last night had been moderately windy, but this morning was still, and I was forced up by the midges. Not zillions of them, but enough to keep me moving. So, descent (GPS) to the road, just at the head of Llyn Ogwen. I tried (see GPS) to head straight up, but it isn't really possible, so ended up pathing around, then up, following some other folk; but from about 600 m up I was on the nose.
Tryfan - and indeed the Glyders generally - seemed to me somewhat less friendly than the Carneddau, more inclined to have summits awkwardly covered in giant boulders. From Tryfan I progress over Glyder Fach and Fawr (GPS) and down to Llyn y Cwn (see-also last October). From near the top of Tryfan:
Llyn Ogwen in the valley, R; Idwal centre; Boclwyd, L. G Fawr beyond, I think. From the summit:
Adam and Eve far L (no, I didn't), Fach centre (you go up the paler scree-y stuff L of the more solid ridge R). And so on down to the lake. It was sunny, I was hot and sweaty, and so went for a swim, although brief, for it is not warm. I failed to take a afternoon pix; here's an evening one, with me camped out:
It was a beautiful evening. But! I haven't finished the hot afternoon yet. I contemplated my future, specifically how to deal with Elidir Fawr; I didn't like the "std" descent from that to the road, nor did I want to camp by the road. So I resolved to leave my pack (sadly I didn't think of that till past Y Garn), do E Fawr and return to the lake (GPS). In terms of ascent or distance, this doesn't really make sense, because the "std" path gets you down to the road only a km away from where I ended up descending, and the road is nearly level at that point. Hey ho; it did get me a nice campsite. What it also got me (because I foolishly didn't replenish my water bottle in the stream) was very thirsty.
This is from E Fawr looking back to F Goch and a more distant Y Garn (947 m). It's all rather nice. Back at the lake I made my evening porridge and dozed. Late on, it grew a bit windy, so I put on the bivvy bag.
Monday woke me with a brief small shower at about 5 am, so I pulled all my spare gear into my rucksac and dozed again. At around 7 rain set in and continued. I was happy to discover that my three decade old bivvi bag is still waterproof. How to get out of it and into "walking mode" was going to be a bit tricky since I hadn't of course set up the tarp last night. So I did it spasmodically in the morning and it just about worked, with my head as one "pole". I then set off to descend, which is a real path, honest, just not a very well marked one (GPS). Eventually I found and followed the fenceposts down.
About half way down I did come out of the cloud, here we see rather more typical Welsh scenery. The plan now called for me to walk up the Llanberis pass to the Youth hostel, but alas my left knee was unhappy, and the peaks were completely enveloped in cloud. I decided on sanity and walked down to Llanberis, which is quite a long way (GPS). Better pic to Llanberis; and view of the path up from the road. And here we are safe and sound n Pete's Eats.
After: to the Castle Hotel in Conwy.
1. Booked via https://www.yourparkingspace.co.uk/ in Tesco's carpark. Alas, Tesco had never heard of them, so I didn't feel able to leave the car. After some subsequent correspondence, they admitted they'd mis-described the place (as being in the nearby leisure center) and refunded my fee.
For my records. Minimal. ME S'bag (forgot the inner), bivvi, light carrymat, Uberlite, tarp, 2 x skipole; light rucksac; green waterproof coat; fleece; thing long-sleeve; hat; neckwarmer; socks; trailshoes; u'pants x 1. Kindle. Petzl. Gas cyclinder, screw-on stove, pan; misc. Porridge sachets x 10; raisins; 4 x Bounty. 3 x tins of vine leaves. Oatcakes. 1 L water. See-also. Energy pack (used for watch multiple times; down to 2/4 lights after second phone recharge).
* his conception of the Veil of Ignorance is not coherent;
* his assertion that people behind said veil would agree is wrong;
* his assumption that all are risk-averse is wrong;
* his idea that socio-economic stuff should be mixed in with justice is wrong;
* the comparisons that he so casually asserts can be made between radically different societies cannot be made.
Now we come to chapter 3. I find The two principles of justice, however, seem to be a reasonable proposal. In fact, I should like to show that these principles are everyone's best reply, so to speak, to the corresponding demands of the others. In this sense, the choice of this conception of justice is the unique solution to the problem set by the original position. He needs this; because he wants an unique solution. Framed the way he does, though, he will not get an unique solution. This is because, unlike Hobbes, his solution is not constructive. Instead, his solution consists of him pulling out his favoured principles and saying "now I am going to show you a list of other things and I think you'll agree mine is best" (I am not joking). Whereas Hobbes proceeds, logically, step by step, deducing everything he says from what has gone before (as an aside, Hobbes is wrong, because the correct solution - or so I say - is not an unlimited Sovereign; but Hobbes argument is good, and most people will not be able to point at the flaw. Whereas Rawls is riddled with obvious errors. Also, Hobbes language (stemming, I suspect, from his erudition) is vastly superior).
Quoth Rawls: I shall simply take as given a short list of traditional conceptions of justice, for example those discussed in the first chapter, together with a few other possibilities suggested by the two principles of justice. I then assume that the parties are presented with this list and required to agree unanimously that one conception is the best among those enumerated. We may suppose that this decision is arrived at by making a series of comparisons in pairs. Thus the two principles would be shown to be preferable once all agree that they are to be chosen over each of the other alternatives... Now admittedly this is an unsatisfactory way to proceed. It would be better if we could define necessary and sufficient conditions for a uniquely best conception of justice and then exhibit a conception that fulfilled these conditions. Eventually one may be able to do this. For the time being, however, I do not see how to avoid rough and ready methods... For the present, no attempt is made to deal with the general problem of the best solution. I limit the argument throughout to the weaker contention that the two principles would be chosen from the conceptions of justice on the following list.
He then proceeds to list his "two principles" vs various versions of utilitarianism. Since utilitarianism doesn't work (everyone knows this, don't they? I don't have to prove it), this gives him an easy win. But he has carefully excluded just-his-first-principle from the comparison.
That gets me to the end of Chapter three, and of Part I entirely. Woot.
Update: Fifty Shades of Gray
John Gray, who I'll get to in a moment, notices some of the problems with Rawls, in his Enlightenment's Wake. In particular, in Agnoistic Liberalism, he points out that Rawls' work is anti-political (p 76 in the Routledge paperback edition). I think this is true, in the sense that Rawls wants, not rule by philosopher-kings, but rules devised by same; and in this way he has fallen into the trap that Plato left him. Gray's contention is that Rawls expects too much: that he wants to deduce too much, he expects too much to be determined from his principles. And as I said above, he can't have this. Gray concludes that politics will have to solve conflicts of rights, whereas Rawls waves the conflicts away (p 72, "contoured").
1. each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.
2. social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.
The first is, I think, reasonable. Per "quibbles", it can be quibbled, but nonetheless I don't want to; I and I think almost anyone would accept it - well, in principle; actually I'm going to quibble the details in a moment.
As to the second, I think I get as far as "social and economic inequalities are to be arranged..." and say "No! Stop!". I do not want you, or the govt, to "arrange" social and economic inequalities, as part of a consideration of Justice, and likely not at all.
(b) needs further sub-quibbling: as written it is ugly; what he wants to say there should be part of a more general statement about non-discrimination. And "open to all" does not preclude age, aptitude or rectitude tests, for example.
Coming back to 1, I dislike rights-based language (see The Trials of the State, "Chapter 3: Human Rights and Wrongs"). We're in social-contract land here, remember, so the correct formulation is expressed in terms of the liberty that you give up (we all give up similar) and/or the restrictions that the govt is allowed. The model is of course Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press which does not give you a defined right of free speech, instead is prevents the govt from preventing your free speech.
He regards 1 as prior to 2, so I also need to quibble the placement of 2b, which should be part of 1.
Continuing (p 62): the two principles (and this holds for all formulations) are a special case of a more general conception of justice that can be expressed as follows.
All social values-liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect-are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to every one's advantage.
Injustice, then, is simply inequalities that are not to the benefit of all.
This is wrong. Mixing up economic factors amidst liberties is a category error. And his defn is injustice is I think untenable. The nearest thing we have to an exemplar is the US constitution, and none of the original seven articles involve "social and economic" matters (article one empowers regulating interstate commerce, but I think that's not-in-the-sense-he-means). I think you have to go down as far as the eight amendment which "protects people from having bail or fines set at an amount so high that it would be impossible for all but the richest defendants to pay" to get even close, and that's not very close.
Still on p 62: Imagine, then, a hypothetical initial arrangement in which all the social primary goods are equally distributed: everyone has similar rights and duties, and income and wealth are evenly shared. This state of affairs provides a benchmark for judging improvements. This idea would be reasonable (we think of something basic and imagine improving it) except it is the how-to-divide-a-fixed-pie fallacy. In the real world, nothing is so static; changing the distribution of wealth changes the rate at which wealth accrues. Example: Amazon makes us better off (how do we know? Because we use it. If it didn't, we wouldn't) and the price for having that available is Bezos becoming really very rich indeed: inequality. The fixed-pie mindset isn't trivial: it is very much the difference between the "progressive" and "capitalist" mindsets. Rawls is, I think, going to tie himself up in knots over this; my solution, as I've said, is to leave the economics out of justice entirely.
Usually, Rawls speaks as though of a static society. Occasionally - e.g. p 78 - he admits of the possibilities of change and improvement. However, he also needs to be able to compare, effectively numerically, societies or the positions of folks in same; and it isn't clear he has any way of doing so between two changing societies, except in the trivial case of one being strictly better than the other for everyone.
On p 75 we find The intuitive idea is that the social order is not to establish and secure the more attractive prospects of those better off unless doing so is to the advantage of those less fortunate. However, this is presuming several things: one of them is his unexamined - probably not even thought out - implicit assumption that society will be deterministic from the principles of justice established. This is unlikely to be true: establish some principles and keep them fixed; then repeat ten times: setup some laws, form a society: and you will get ten different societies. And of course, those societies will be unpredictable in principle. So his people, behind the VoI, cannot make the judgement (would these rules be "to the advantage of those less fortunate"?) he is expecting of them.
To make any sense of this we have to admit that we're actually thinking of a rather different situation: us, in today's society, thinking about making small enough incremental changes (ha ha: so we're really in Hayek-world) that we could meaningfully make the comparisons he needs. But then we're not behind the VoI and our prejudices return. This can be rescued: because we're really only interested in the abstract principles of justice - we don't actually believe this is a programme that will be followed through in practice - so we can perhaps recover our judice.
p 85 and on discusses perfect, imperfect and pure procedural justice. Perfect is when, if you follow the rules, you get the right answer: cutting a cake fairly can be done by the person cutting choosing last (no collusion). A criminal trial, even if conducted fairly, may reach the wrong result and thus the process is Imperfect. A Pure process is one where there is no right result, and so is "just" as long as the process is followed: a game of cards, for example. We then try to apply this: Suppose that law and government act effectively to keep markets competitive, resources fully employed, property and wealth... widely distributed by the appropriate forms of taxation, or whatever, and to guarantee a reasonable social minimum. Assume also that there is fair equality of opportunity underwritten by education for all; and that the other equal liberties are secured. Then it would appear that the resulting distribution of income and the pattern of expectations will tend to satisfy the difference principle. In this complex of institutions, which we think of as establishing social justice in the modern state, the advantages of the better situated improve the condition of the least favored. Or when they do not, they can be adjusted to do so, for example, by setting the social minimum at the appropriate level. As these institutions presently exist they are riddled with grave injustices. But there presumably are ways of running them compatible with their basic design and intention so that the difference principle is satisfied consistent with the demands of liberty and fair equality of opportunity. It is this fact which underlies our assurance that these arrangements can be made just. So I think what he is saying here is close to what he should say: effectively, that if we run the system forwards, and the system itself is not unjust, then the end result will be just, even if not all receive the same shares. He then notices (p 87) the immense advantages of this: you don't have to keep track of an endless variety of circumstances. But how he fits this into his previous work, I don't know.
p 90-91: considering Utilitarianism, he notes that requires maximising some utility function, and that can't be done (he isn't quite brave enough to say that) whereas he asserts his difference principle can do better (but only relatively so, which is why he doesn't want to absolutely reject max-util, cos he needs some of it himself). This isn't convincing.
* There is one clear monopoly in this ecosystem, however: the state. Any legislative or regulatory restriction on Big Tech will not be a triumph of the oppressed over the powerful. It will be yet another instance of the already powerful wielding the state’s machinery to compel private companies to do what they want, likely at the expense of their market competitors or political enemies. Such reforms are far more likely to be censorship than to reduce censorship, in the strictest sense. Don't Try To Fix Big Tech With Politics via CH.
Laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust
I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good
The fundamental agreements reached in it are fair
1. Many years ago I had a copy, but I grew disenchanted about 1/3 of the way through and recycled it. This from 2008 (see the comments) provides some discussion, but clearly I hadn't read it by then. Thx Mfd+J for loan of their copy.
2. Lest this example be thought utterly implausible, proponents of colonialism could argue for B.
3. I, of course, subscribe to Hobbes' defn of Just.
Wiki offers, of The Enlightenment, The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment) was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason, and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. The page does offer a brief quote containing "project of Enlightenment" but I think that's not it.
More promising is The Enlightenment Project in the Analytic Conversation by Nicholas Capaldi one of whose chapters is The Enlightenment Project which says Alasdair Maclntyre, in his enormously important and influential book After Virtue (1981), identifies the ‘Enlightenment Project’ as the “project of an independent rational justification of morality”... we use the same expression as Maclntyre, namely ‘Enlightenment Project’, and while we agree that part of that project was to establish the authority of Judeo-Christian morality by reason alone.... So already there's a slight disconnect: was it to establish a morality, or was it to establish the morality that everyone already knew was correct?
How has this project got on? Pretty well, I'd argue. We don't all agree on all details of morality, but we do rather largely agree that our morality isn't grounded in religion. Actually I'm pushing that too far: I think many of the religious - who might even represent a majority in the USofA - would say that their morality is grounded in religion; but then we face the bizarre coincidence that those of us who are good atheists have essentially the same morality. You can try to get round that by saying you morality comes from your upbringing, and your parents were believers, but I don't really buy this. Let's poke around in the Ten Commandments, not caring about the numbering too much since people seem to differ on even that, and ignoring the "I am the Lord" type ones which I think everyone can agree can't be grounded in rationality, we get: Thou shalt not murder / Thou shalt not commit adultery / Thou shalt not steal / Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour / Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house or his wife or his slaves, or his animals, or anything of thy neighbour. If you then drop regrettable bits like implicitly condoning slavery, which rational secularism definitely doesn't; and making the wife in the same class as property of the husband like his animals, ditto; then we end up with a set that you can trivially justify rationally - I wave my hands here as to exactly how because that isn't my current point. And I'll add that a couple of them don't come through so strongly: against adultery, or honouring-they-father-and-mother. Adultery, I would rephrase as not-subverting-bonds, which makes it more justifiable (actually I think I barely need to do that; adultery is immoral, but may not be illegal, but that's different). HTFAM is harder; I notice it sits between the Lord ones and the Normal ones; wiki points out that they were enforced as law in many jurisdictions, and are still considered enforceable law by some; it also notes the connection with honouring god.
Given all that, why does JG believe that our age is "distinguished by the collapse of the Enlightenment project on a world-historical scale"? He continues with "shed their traditional allegiances and their local identities and unite in a [sic] universal civilisation grounded in generic humanity and and a rational morality..." And it seems that what he is sad about is "renascent particularisms, militant religions and resurgent ethnicities" (bear in mind this was written in 1992). And yet the secular West remains strong.
So his (implicit) defn of EP rather appears to contain a lot of practical politics, but I think he is over-pessimistic. I'm also somewhat doubtful that it can be meaningfully categorised as a "project", but that's a different matter.
Update: having talked to Mfd, I think the subset I picked - establishing morality by reason - was too narrow. I should probably have stuck with Wiki's version; and the distinction between EP and E is probably spurious; the modifier P is both unnecessary and confusing, in that it suggests a concerted planned effort that did not exist.
Another Update: from essay 6 (Agonistic Liberalism) we have "sought to found political authority on the rational choice of its subjects rather than on tradition or local prescription" which is nice.
* On Morality (2008).
What's been going on?
Popcorn of the day comes from The PM on Hancock: 'totally fucking hopeless': Some evidence re my and Hancock's testimony to MPs from Big Dom. What's interesting though is the inability of the meeja to tell truth from fantasy: they don't expect to have to think so don't really try: just present competing narratives.
Via Auke via Reuters (which remind me: fuck the cretinous GDPR) More China-invested overseas coal-fired power capacity was cancelled than commissioned since 2017. Which is nice. I'm not going to trouble myself if the research is believable, because it feels truthy.
Via PG we have Technology Saves the World by Marc Andreessen, which is also nice. Although I really wanted to go to Switzerland, not Wales. And Waterstones cafe shuts at 4 pm. Meanwhile JA's pix show that deaths are... well, not clearly heading up as the model thinks they should, which is encouraging.
And I nearly forgot: via Twatter: What Voltaire understood is that if diverse people are to cooperate they must focus on their common interest & leave [...] religion at home. Unfortunately, the woke movement is bringing religion back into business (and every other aspect of life). Mission Protocol by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.
John Millar via CH: The authority of every government is founded in opinion; and no system, be it ever so perfect in itself, can be expected to acquire stability, or to produce good order and submission, unless it coincides with the general voice of the community. He who frames a political constitution upon a model of ideal perfection, and attempts to introduce it into any country, without consulting the inclinations of the inhabitants, is a most pernicious projector, who, instead of being applauded as a Lycurgus, ought to be chained and confined as a madman.
Recent scientific research indicates that current likely temperature-rise trajectories, supported by implementation of mitigation pledges, would entail 2.0–2.6°C global warming [over pre-industrial] by mid-century. We use this as the baseline to simulate the impact of rising temperatures over time, while also modelling for the uncertainties around most severe possible physical outcomes. The result is that global GDP would be 11–14% less than in a world without climate change (ie, 0°C change).
Secretary-General António Guterres [said] “Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency? That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.”
I agree with MN that this is a Bad Thing, whatever AG actually meant by it. Perhaps he only meant it rhetorically. In which case, he's a pointless windbag, but still bad: there are quite enough strongmen in the world today all to happy to take rhetorical cover for evil policies; science and the UN should not be encouraging this. And if he meant it literally - declare a state of emergency - then he's a nutter.
Weirdly, ATTP offers as defence of CE Also, neither Matthew Nisbet nor Mike Hulme seemed to provide some kind of viable alternative, at least not one that I could see. If we should avoid acknowledging a climate emergency, what should we do instead? First, this doesn't address MN's in-my-opinion-valid complaint re AG's language. Second, I think "we must do something; this is something; let's do it" is bad; saying so does not require an alternative and defending doing random-thing merely because someone has pointed out it is bad but provided no alternate is... bad. Third, there's always an alternative: carbon tax.
* Bartleby: Why the bullshit-jobs thesis may be, well, bullshit. David Graeber’s theory isn’t borne out by the evidence; h/t Timmy.
1. Honesty - or perhaps a gratuitious desire to insult - compels me to admit that I had previously declared that Prof. Matthew Nisbet is a twat.
What happened is that Tom Cotton raised this idea in February in his capacity as a China hawk, and then again in March as part of a nonsensical attack on Joe Biden. He got shouted down pretty hard by scientists on Twitter, by formal institutions, and by the media. Then this kind of pachinkoed down into being a politics story where writers and fact-checkers who didn’t cover science at all “knew” that this was a debunked story that right-wingers were pushing for their nefarious ends. I think it’s increasingly clear that this was a huge fiasco for the mainstream press that got way over their skis in terms of discourse-policing, and there is in fact a serious scientific question as to where the virus came from — a question that we will probably never be able to answer because the Chinese government has clearly committed to one viewpoint on this and isn’t going to allow a thorough investigation.
I say "starter" but actually that's about all there is to say. This piece goes into some more detail (note: IANAV and can't judge the science) but it turns out that all you end up with is that (A) none of the evidence either way is particularly convincing and (B) various statements by various scientists expressing certainty or near-certainty that the lab-leak theory is wrong, are themselves wrong; in that their certainty is unjustified. The WMO investigation seems to me to have been farcical - as MY puts it "the Chinese government has clearly committed to one viewpoint on this and isn’t going to allow a thorough investigation"; it looks like political pressure made the statements in that report unreliable2.
From the policy-response side I think the interesting point is that all the nice people saw the bad people saying this thing, and concluded that it must be false. Which is logically obviously wrong. And yet nominally sane people are still making this mistake. Wittily, it turns out that fb had banned talking about it, per Facebook lifts ban on posts claiming Covid-19 was man-made which shows the dangers of pressuring fb to censor things you don't like.
That the commies are doing their best to impede investigation is not proof of their guilt. It seems like moderately convincing evidence, until you remember that, well, that's just how authoritarian govts behave about everything; and also recall Saddam's impeding of the WMD inspections.
The NewYorker notes that The left’s theory blamed an unreconstructed pre-modern approach to wildlife that, instead of protecting it, killed and ate it; there certainly were a number of stories around that, and a number of people were rather clearly "happy" to have their worst fears confirmed. But I'm not sure these were influential.
1. FWIW, there are two variants: (1) accidental leak, and (2) deliberate release. (2) seems implausible to me, and I think some people have used 2-is-obviously-false to somehow elide into 1-is-false; which is logically invalid.
2. Quite a lot of other stuff by experts turned out to be unreliable; the early advice on masks for example; the surface-contact stuff: see the Economist's Evidence points to SARS-CoV-2 being a virus which travels easily through the air, in contradistinction to the early belief that short-range encounters and infected surfaces were the main risks.
* PW notices that herd immunity was indeed the govt's policy, as advised to them by scientists.
* Paper tiger: India’s national government looks increasingly hapless. Confronted with catastrophe, the state has melted away - the Economist.
* The preservation of a free system is so difficult because it requires a constant rejection of measures which appear to be required to secure particular results, on no stronger grounds than that they conflict with a general rule, and frequently without our knowing what will be the costs of not observing the rule in the particular instance. A successful defence of freedom must therefore be dogmatic and make no concessions to expediency, even where it is not possible to show that, beside the known beneficial effects, some particular harmful result would also follow from its infringement. Freedom will prevail only if it is accepted as a general principle whose application to particular instances requires no justification - Hayek via CH; and In civilized society it is indeed not so much the greater knowledge that the individual can acquire, as the greater benefit he receives from the knowledge possessed by others, which is the cause of his ability to pursue an infinitely wider range of ends than merely the satisfaction of his most pressing physical needs. Indeed, a ‘civilized’ individual may be very ignorant, more ignorant than many a savage, and yet greatly benefit from the civilization in which he lives.
* The Climate Book You Didn’t Know You Need: The Physics of Climate Change by Lawrence Krauss by Sabine Hossenfelder.
* Some reflections on (corona) truth wars - ATTP.