One of the most common epistemic errors is the idea that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle of two competing claims. It’s tempting to look at the extremes of any debate and imagine that each side is eliding the truth somewhat.
Reality, however, just doesn’t bear this out. Sometimes one side is right and one side is wrong.
Take the vaccination ‘debates’.
*Only* the people who argue that vaccines are safe and life saving have any backing from hard science.
On the other extreme, there are people who misuse science for nefarious reasons, beginning with Andrew Wakefield, who had a commercial interest in falsely claiming evidence for vaccines’ harms.
So who are the people in the middle on this debate? They’re quack-arse doctors who talk about ‘not overloading’ children’s immune systems with vaccines all at once, preferring instead to space them out.
There is literally zero scientific foundation for this wacky belief, of course, and the harms that accrue from the ‘centrist’ practice are real: often children on the extended schedule delay or miss out completely on vital vaccines. As a result their lives are endangered and they in turn – as potential vectors for disease – endanger the lives of others.
Similarly, ‘centrism’ on the ‘Jewish question’ during the Holocaust was precisely what allowed governments around the world to limit Jewish refugee migration. Sure, such governments weren’t proponents of the final solution, but nor were they active against it. They occupied a very deadly ‘sensible centre’.
Indeed, ‘centrist Orthodox Judaism,’ isn’t any more ‘sensible’ than either the egalitarians or the Haredim. They hate women more than the lefties, and and have a higher tolerance for sexual abuse, but their clothes are more modern and fashionable than the Haredim… so they must be OK, right?
Of course that’s patently silly: none of that in any way provides evidence that ‘centrist’ Orthodox Jews have a hotline to God that works any better than any other group’s.
So when Jennifer Huppert, President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, predicates the entirety of the defence of her abominable leadership on not being too left wing and not being too right wing, but occupying some mythical ‘sensible centre‘, you can be pretty sure that we are not dealing with someone who cares for things like epistemic rigour – or even accuracy.
To finish, I’ll leave you with the ever delightful John Oliver, who demolishes uncertainty around vax and demonstrates what epistemic rigour actually looks like.
Jennifer Huppert, you would benefit from watching this.