I just learned an enormously powerful heuristic. If someone feels that to survive they need to imply threats my safety, they're all but certainly corrupt. Meteorite bombardment. AGW. All revolutions. Peak oil. Population bomb. Global cooling. Islamic terrorism. Religious/ideological war. Nuclear/bio/chemical holocaust. Racism. Ignorance. Biodiversity depletion. Dysgenics. Unfriendly AI. Pandemics. Immigration. Supervolcanoes.
Nearly everyone who promises disaster proves themselves corrupt - they're intellectual muggers. Essentially mugging at one remove. See, they're not responsible for the threat, so they have plausible deniability. However, the logic goes, "Fork over your wallet because you should believe that otherwise the disaster, X, will occur." And they are responsible for trying to make you believe in the threat.
But...'nearly?' How does one tell the difference? In reality, these threats would also threaten the proselytizer. Remember that compassion is usually fake. They don't care about my well-being, but they do care about their own. What steps are they taking to safeguard themselves? Al Gore is trying to safeguard his future by nagging me. Like...that's obviously self-defeating, right? I don't really have to explain?
Protecting yourself is under your personal control - you can guarantee success. Someone who really believed in peak oil would simply short oil futures. They may tell others about it - but first, they'd set up the short sales. Someone who thought meteors were going to kill us all would build a shelter, and then maybe try to convince someone to launch a mission so they don't have to use it.
No, someone who immediately jumps to the non-guaranteed solution must either be a raving madman - and thus epistemically broken regardless - or must not really believe in the threat they're peddling - and thus epistemically broken.
I just realized I almost stumbled into this myself. I do believe sophism is a plague, and I nearly implied it would doom us all. I want to be clear: it won't. Athenian democracy was pretty bad for Athens, but there's a lot of ruin in a nation. Humans have been often wrong about stuff since the beginning of time. Apparently, trial and error is usually sufficient for civilization.
Moreover, my reaction to 'most people are wrong' is not 'make them Less Wrong' but rather to personally learn better epistemology. I think it's pretty awesome on this side and I heartily endorse it, but if you don't want to join me, then it is probably not cost-effective for you or something.