25 June 2010

Penn Jillette may be the most honest and rational commentator in the country

Read this interview he gave with Vanity Fair.  The guy has principles and follows them rationally to conclusions, even when they're uncomfortable.  My hat is off to that.

Here's how LabRat describes him:
I’ve often disagreed with Penn, sometimes quite strongly, but he never gives me the impression he’s being an out and out weasel or that he hasn’t thought through his position- and more importantly, that he’s playing that demented team sport that so much of politics has become.
I'd agree with that. I'd also agree that this interview tells us a lot about the interviewer and his particular breed of self-centered, intellectually-vacant Smart People than it does about Jillette.  (E.g. interviewer Eric Spitznagel is shocked that somebody might support evolution and be pro-choice. I think this is a pretty good indicator that Spitznagel doesn't think his opponents have reasoned opinions but just latch onto a specific set of ideas irrationally. Assuming that people who disagree with you about one thing must disagree with you about everything (and vice versa) is a really tribal and poisonous way to view the world.   His surprise that Jillete would want less power if he were to become president demonstrates Spitznagel's own cynicism and the lack of attention he has paid to any political theories or opinions slightly out of the statist orthodoxy.)

Jillette also gives a pretty good defense of the "Principle of Reciprocity" without using that term.  Here are some relevant passages:
PJ: I will forever stick up for Catholics and Christians in general. With a small number of very horrible exceptions, they do play by the rules.

ES: That's a curious sentiment from somebody who's gone out of his way to make fun of religion.

PJ: I do believe that a belief in god is crazy, but that doesn't mean that the people who believe in it are crazy. Those are two different things. Ideas can be stupid and crazy and the people who hold those ideas are not necessarily stupid and crazy. [...]

ES: You defended the Tea Party during a segment on Larry King not long ago, but you also said you don’t agree with them on a lot of things. What things would that be?

PJ: Pretty much everything. (Laughs.) My only point was, when you’re arguing with someone, you shouldn’t pretend to know what’s going on in their heart. To say that the only reason the Tea Party is against the president is because they’re racist, I think that’s unfair.

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