In trying to frame my own understanding of what occurred in Tucson on Saturday, it hit me that in trying to explain the inexplainable, I had become what I detested about mainstream punditry—a profligate member of the commentariat. Though I am not a fan of merely quoting an individual at length and marking it a “post” on MereOrthodoxy, the indefatigable George Will has struck again with sheer brilliance. He states,
It would be merciful if, when tragedies such as Tucson’s occur, there were a moratorium on sociology. But respites from half-baked explanations, often serving political opportunism, are impossible because of a timeless human craving and a characteristic of many modern minds.
The craving is for banishing randomness and the inexplicable from human experience. Time was, the gods were useful. What is thunder? The gods are angry. Polytheism was explanatory. People postulated causations.
And still do. Hence: The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today’s (pick your noun) rhetoric, vitriol, extremism, “climate of hate.”
Demystification of the world opened the way for real science, including the social sciences. And for a modern characteristic. And for charlatans.
A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society, and people, can be perfected.
This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first.