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It Is Known

In one episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen and her handmaids were discussing the origin of dragons. One of the young women espoused the fantastic story of dragons coming from the moon. The other maid laughed at her and then proffered the more acceptable story of draconic origins. When Daenerys questioned the veracity of the story, the young maid confidently supported her tale by simply stating “It is known.” She appealed to the collective wisdom of society. Her version was…

  1. Amy Schley

    Game of Thrones … on the subject of the sexualization of society … :D

    Actually, while there is a lot of sex that is gratuitous, plot-wise, I’ve been impressed at the way that the sex is rarely used to titillate.  Many of the men and women we’ve seen naked are not actually all that attractive, and the much of the sex we see performed isn’t loving or passionate, but rather ugly, violent, or almost bored.

    I don’t know if the “mundane-ization” of sex on the show is a good thing, but it seems to be a different animal than the Playboy porn of “Caligula.”

  2. mike in state college

    “He loved Big Brother.”

  3. The King Prawn

    It’s not even just the sex, Amy. The left has so normalized every piety in their religion that any dissent is treated as a pariah.

  4. Man With the Axe

    While I join you in bemoaning the “things that are known” in liberal society, we must remember that other things that weren’t true were “known” because of (or perhaps despite) the influence of traditional institutions:  the validity of slavery, the depredations of the Jews, women’s inability to work in “male” professions (see Justice Bradley’s opinion in Bradwell v. Illinois).  

    The main thing, it seems to me, is that whether they are based on liberal or conservative dogma, the things that are known must be challenged by man’s reason.

  5. DocJay

    I knew this would hit main feed.

  6. mike in state college
    Howellis:

    The main thing, it seems to me, is that whether they are based on liberal or conservative dogma, the things that are known must be challenged by man’s reason. · 8 minutes ago

    Yes!  Thank you!  While faith is always necessary (all thought systems are based on unexamined postulates, after all), it is unhealthy not to re-examine them from time to time.  We need to be able to defend our principles, after all.

    The Enlightenment project, as flawed as it was, was in many ways an effort to find a common basis upon which discourse could proceed between people who held fast to radically different interpretations of revealed religion (or, who rejected revealed religion as any kind of basis for knowing).  It arose out of the horror of the religious wars of the 16th-17th centuries.  The common basis is submission of truth claims to the courts of reason and evidence.  While a given individual may be more easily convinced (by faith, usually) of a given assertion, to speak persuasively to another, not likewise convinced, requires translation into the common tongue.  This we all too often forget, and periodic re-examination of dogma is just the ticket.

  7. Merina Smith
    I agree with Howellis that what is “known” is not very permanent.  The Hollywood and lefty idea of what is “known” exists is a bubble.  It sure isn’t what is “known” to many people in the rest of the country. So no, I wouldn’t say that we have “lost,” a dangerous sentiment in any event, because then you quit trying to combat idiocy. 

    IMHO, there are truths that society always comes back to because they are true and they work–marriage is good for grown-ups and children, people need to take care of themselves as much as they can–government policies that diminish this are bad, the private sector creates jobs and prosperity, some government is necessary, but too much is tyranical, and so on. 

    What’s interesting is that even Hollywood can’t escape truth because they tell stories, and in order to connect with people outside bubbleland, a few of those stories have to have some relation to truth.  Argo won the Oscar last night.  I’d call its basic message conservative. That’s why it was such an effective film. 

  8. The Mugwump

    You have two separate ideas going in this essay, KP.  Let us make a distinction between the search for truth and the defense of (conservative) societal mores.  Truth is based on facts and supported by logic.  Morality is determined by our notions of right and wrong.

    I can think of no better example of the “it is known” defense of an idea than global warming.  Conservatives should never concede (can you hear me, Newt?) objective facts based on popular consensus.  This is the sort of delusion that advances hair-brained policies like supporting wind and solar power.  We must remain steadfast in support of the facts.

    Moral positions are more difficult to defend than objective truth.  We cannot expect secularists to accept our positions based on traditional religious morality.  However, we can make our case to the body politic based on what is best for society.  Such a battle will be constant and ongoing.  The fight over abortion rights is still not resolved forty years after Roe v. Wade.  But conservatives are making progress in changing attitudes toward the practice.  We will likely never see a complete resolution to the matter, but we can move the needle.         

  9. mask

    To quote Galaxy Quest: Never give up! Never surrender!

  10. Western Chauvinist

    Great post KP. I was going to try to comment about American social conventions being an outlier in human history, but I don’t know…

    Instead, I’ll recommend Peter Kreeft’s take on the dissolution of the marriage of faith and reason: Socrates meets Jesus Part 1, Part 2.

  11. PsychLynne

    Sadly, often intent counts more than results…but can all be explained away with “it is known.”  My personal favorite is:  Preventative health care will save millions of dollars.

    From the New England Journal of Medicine, 2/14/2008:

    Sweeping statements about the cost-saving potential of prevention, however, are overreaching. Studies have concluded that preventing illness can in some cases save money but in other cases can add to health care costs….

    The focus on prevention as a key source of cost savings in health care also sidesteps the question of whether such measures are generally more promising and efficient than the treatment of existing conditions.

    But, of course, this doesn’t matter, because of what is known.

  12. Fricosis Guy

    These “traditional” discriminatory institutions needed enforcement by the state.  Note that in the examples below the power of that state was required to ensure that Jews, slaves, and women had to be excluded from, or restricted to, certain professions. 

    Hayek tried to grapple with this topic: he grasped that traditional institutions contained knowledge about how best to organize the family, village, county, etc. and could not be split apart simply or easily. But some must be destroyed as a matter of justice — like slavery — though the consequences shake us to this day.

    His thinking on this topic is fascinating — if nothing else you’ll learn the difference between law and legislation — but his prescription is of necessity  incomplete. 

    Howellis: While I join you in bemoaning the “things that are known” in liberal society, we must remember that other things that weren’t true were “known” because of (or perhaps despite) the influence of traditional institutions:  the validity of slavery, the depredations of the Jews, women’s inability to work in “male” professions (see Justice Bradley’s opinion in Bradwell v. Illinois).

  13. The King Prawn
    ~Paules: You have two separate ideas going in this essay, KP. 

    The point I almost made is this: the left will latch onto any scientific (or pseudo-scientific) “truth” and make a moral out of it. For them it is all the same, and much of it goes completely unexamined. For the left it all becomes religious. They claim to be free of religion, but all they’ve really done is create a new one.

  14. The King Prawn
    PsychLynne: Sadly, often intent counts more than results…but can all be explained away with “it is known.”

    This idea has been rattling around in my head since a friend posted some sappy picture on facebook last month. It bemoaned that school tests don’t measure the things that really count like intuition, determination, creativity, etc. My reply was that your dreams count for only so much because gravity still won’t let you fly if you can’t get the math right.

    This particular lady is really sharp. She’s a CPA with enough special certifications to contract to her employer on her own terms, but she still falls for many of the leftist pieties. (My new concept is that they don’t have ideas or dogmas, but pieties.) I’m baffled that such an intelligent, thinking person can swallow the hook so easily. We’re swimming up stream. No amount of reason works. We’re not looking to persuade and convince so much as to lead people to a religious conversion.

  15. Doug Kimball

    KP – A most thoughtful post.  This is a struggle that has been going on since Locke, Smith, Hegel, Kant and Rousseau first esposed their views.  Remember WFB’s famous proclamation when he founded NR and cited its purpose, “it stands athwart history, yelling Stop”?   Our founders were  wise and tried to innoculate their new republic from the tyranny of an overarching state.  Theirs was a construct of a singular secular law, informed by the morality of its citizens and their churches.  No doubt, religion lost power in this bargain, but our founders knew that theology was as historically prone to tyranny as any state.  What we face is the same threat that we’ve faced for over a century: socialism.  The Soviet threat has passed, so we are back to the creeping utopian fantasy.  It’s hard for a Can-Do America to admit it can’t legislate fairness and determine entitlement.  Conservatives know that this is a fool’s bargain, but it’s hard to be heard with so many demanding so much.  Being right in time will be painful, but we must stand our ground.  There are no easy ways out or easy lessons. 

  16. Ralphie

    As Ben Franklin noticed, humans are social. It hurts to be left out of the group.  We all want approval from our peers. We don’t want to be considered stupid.  How many students will not as a question because they don’t want others to know they are confused?

    Notice that these organic areas are infiltrated by government, not just the left.  The idea is that the removal of the church frees people, but that mostlly frees government.

  17. Palaeologus
    Amy Schley: Game of Thrones … on the subject of the sexualization of society … :D…

    I don’t know if the “mundane-ization” of sex on the show is a good thing, but it seems to be a different animal than the Playboy porn of “Caligula.”

    Sure. But it’s no I, Claudius either.

    The King Prawn: . It is an irresistible force. We should just give in because the tide has turned against us. There is nothing we can do to change it now. Our ideas no longer shape society. Society’s ideas will shape us. It is known.

    Meh.

    If you like hardcore commie George R.R.R.R.R.R. Martin’s (I dig his story, btw) narrative, you may want to give Robert Jordan/ Brandon Sanderson a shot.

    Some of the characters Jordan developed had a particularly apt saying:

    Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the last Day.

    Why push against the tide? 

    ‘Cause (expletive) ‘em. That’s why.

  18. Ryan M
    ~Paules:

    I can think of no better example of the “it is known” defense of an idea than global warming.  Conservatives should never concede (can you hear me, Newt?) objective facts based on popular consensus.  This is the sort of delusion that advances hair-brained policies like supporting wind and solar power.  We must remain steadfast in support of the facts.

    Woah, ~paules…  I feel like I was just recently (queue piano music and memory waves across the screen as I scratch my chin and think back to last week) …

    I second this, for the most part.

  19. Ryan M

    Prawn, have you read Charles Murray’s “coming apart?”

    Let me restate the entire book (I haven’t read it, so that’s a bit presumptuous, but I’ve listened to Murray discuss it) with an anecdote:

    I have a super liberal friend from Portland who currently lives in Northampton Mass.  Liberal in soooo many ways; a knee-jerk use of the term homophobe and an almost jerkier rejection of all things traditional or religious (his parents are religious, by the way. he is painfully rude about it, actually).  Anyway, he spent a good deal of time hitchhiking around the country following a no-name indie band.  But he was recently married – got a job as a nurse (and makes a fine living) – bought a house, and his wife is pregnant.  Note that he got married.  She didn’t take his name, at his insistence, actually… but that’s incidental.

    I asked him about child-care recently, and he replied with a very odd tone of (not quite condescension… but close) that they wouldn’t have child-care because his wife would be staying home.

    Hollywood and liberals are very loud, that is for sure.  But a lot of noise.

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