I’d been busy and didn’t have time to write much lately, but this is a fantastically insightful piece. I do think that the author is erroneous to assume that the problem of smugness is particularly unique to “liberals,” assuming there are such things as “liberals” to begin with. Rather, it is the central characteristic of those who are locked in a self-reinforcing echo chamber without willingness to think outside the bubble. This is true of conservatives and liberals, multiculturalists and racists, atheists and religious fundamentalists alike–and the greatest enemy of science. (In fact, I am known to rant that Richard Dawkins, as the advocate of “scientism,” is a greater enemy of science than creationism.) Of course, this is how the Qing dynasty China fell, as did many other civilizations that thought themselves at the apex of the universe as they knew it. Something that we should think about very very carefully.
There is only one counter to this smugness: genuine curiosity untarnished by prejudice. If you see someone doing something that you would not normally and naturally expect, don’t judge them as being irrational or silly for it: think why they are doing what they are doing. This reminds me of a joke that I heard about Russians and the Chukchi (the native people in Eastern Siberia, across from Alaska):
A Chukcha and a Russian geologist go hunting polar bears. They track one down at last. Seeing the bear, the Chukcha shouts “Run!” and starts running away. The Russian shrugs, calmly raises his gun, and shoots the bear. “Russian hunter, bad hunter!” the Chukcha exclaims. “Ten kilometres to the yaranga, you haul this bear yourself!” (h/t to Wikipedia)