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Samizdata quote of the day

In the mind of the anti-free-marketeer, the government occupies the same kind of intellectual territory as the divine designer in the mind of an anti-Darwinian.

Brian Micklethwait

39 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nuke Gray!

    And yet, it’s the book of Revelations that warns against the ultimate Market control device- the Mark of the Anti-Christ! 666 and all that. Christians are against people-counting and state regulation because of this, as well as the example of King David, who was punished because he wanted to have a census of all ‘his’ people. So I’d have to say this example is flawed.

  • And you’d be wrong Nuke. Firstly a great many Christians are indeed socialists and that clearly has no mitigating effects on their desire to count people. Secondly, the quote actually never mentions ‘Christians’ per se, but rather anti-Darwinians, which tend to be a particular species of Christian.

    And as it happens almost all the Christians I know personally have no problem with Darwin and the theory of evolution… 100% of the British and European ones as far as I know and about 80% of the US ones.

  • Nuke Gray!

    I suppose it would depend which church you attend. My pastor regularly mentions the Anti-Christ, and the evils of a powerful state, so our bunch of Christians are immunised against the wiles of the Evil One, known locally as the Prime Minister. None of us admits to voting for Labor, so your bunch must be- false Christians! Spray holy water on them, and see what happens!

  • lukas

    And yet, it’s the book of Revelations that warns against the ultimate Market control device- the Mark of the Anti-Christ! 666 and all that. Christians are against people-counting and state regulation because of this, as well as the example of King David, who was punished because he wanted to have a census of all ‘his’ people. So I’d have to say this example is flawed.

    Yes, and the letter to the Romans admonishes Christians to submit to the government as they would submit to the Lord (that’s pretty creepy, eh?). So the churches’ attitude towards the state is at least ambiguous, if not schizophrenic.

  • criminal

    Darwin married his cousin.

  • Antoine Clarke

    In the mind of the anti-free-marketeer, the government occupies the same kind of intellectual territory as the divine designer in the mind of an anti-Darwinian.

    Wrong, on all counts.

    For this to be true, it would be necessary for the following conditions to be met (unless we throw away logic):
    1) All anti-free-marketeers would have to favour the state, which they do not (anarchist, syndicalists, christian hermits, some Stirner followers).
    2) All anti-Darwinians would have to be advocates or believers in “divine design.” We can start with lucferians. Then we have the people who believe in divine design AND Darwinism (Darwin himself I suspect). Then we have scientific critics of Darwin (is it a series of dramatic mutations, is it gradual, are we finding enough intermediary fossils). The latter can have any number of beliefs about Big Bang (it didn’t happen, and God doesn’t exist; it did and He does; etc).

    Of course, the Darwin fundamentalists can be relied upon to dismiss my objection out of hand: they argue from faith, reason and logic have no place. ;-)

  • Of course, the Darwin fundamentalists can be relied upon to dismiss my objection out of hand

    Very true. As a case in point consider your objections rejected out of hand by me on the grounds just because Brian did not caveat his remarks with ‘most’ and ‘except for’ clauses after each point, that does not mean he is incorrect, just that he does give give a damn about catering to folks who prefer a more pedantic style :-P

  • Pa Annoyed

    Actually, since you have to apply “some/most” qualifiers to both categories, they are alike in that sense too, and Brian’s comparison is therefore still valid.

  • Odd, then that the most staunch of the Darwinists also tend to be big government leftists. Fantasy thinking pervades both stances, so perhaps this should be no surprise.

    Mickelthwaite’s analogy is deeply flawed, in that there is plenty of evidence for a designer, but no evidence for the efficacy of socialistic government. Other than the fact that atheism makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Darwinist, there is little good evidence that random variation and natural selection have the magical powers ascribed to them.

  • Vadept

    “Then we have the people who believe in divine design AND Darwinism”

    Well then, those people wouldn’t be anti-darwinists, would they?

  • Grimmy

    Strange that anti-anti-Darwinists suffer from something close to Bush Derangement Syndrome – hating or ridiculing something they don’t understand. So, even on the right or center, we have ID Derangement Syndrome.

    Like Hitchens said on the Daily Show, it’s the joke stupid people laugh at. Except that they’re not as stupid as Jon Stewart’s audience, just uninformed.

    If the scientific case is strong enough to make lifelong atheists like Antony Flew renounce his atheism, maybe it’s time to open your mind just a teeny bit when it comes to ID … just maybe?

  • tim maguire

    Matteo, I call bull. Most staunch Darwinists are also tend to be big government leftists? In your creationist dreams.

    Please cite some evidence for a designer. Because nature has plenty of evidence that, if he worked his magic in the sense you think he did, he was drunk at the time.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Matteo,

    In my experience, the left/right split is only so noticeable in the US. I have long been curious as to why, but the partisans of both sides don’t seem to know, or aren’t saying. All you get are variants on “because they’re idiots”. It’s curious how the human mind works.

  • Grimmy

    What’s wrong with Darwinism, by the way? Hitler, as evolutionist Sir Arthur admits, was simply implementing Darwinism, quite logically:

    “The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.’ (Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics, Putnam, NY, USA, p. 230, 1947. )”

    “[T]he Nazi party viewed Darwinism and Christianity as polar opposites. Milner said of Germany’s father of evolution, Ernst Haeckel, that in his Natural History of Creation he argued that ‘the church with its morality of love and charity is an effete fraud, a perversion of the natural order’. A major reason why Haeckel concluded this was because Christianity:

    ‘ … makes no distinction of race or of color; it seeks to break down all racial barriers. In this respect the hand of Christianity is against that of Nature, for are not the races of mankind the evolutionary harvest which Nature has toiled through long ages to produce? May we not say, then, that Christianity is anti-evolutionary in its aim?’

    Charles Darwin himself, though strongly opposed to slavery on moral grounds, was convinced of white racial superiority. He wrote on one occasion as follows:

    “I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit…. The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.” (Charles Darwin: Life and Letters, I, letter to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, p. 316)

    As the agnostic Berlinski points out in “The Devil’s Delusion,” the devotees of Darwin (Hitler, Mao, Stalin …) produced more mass murder than all the alleged crimes of religion in all of history.

  • lukas

    Well, I guess it had to come down to a creation vs. evolution debate, didn’t it *sigh*

  • Well, I guess it had to come down to a creation vs. evolution debate, didn’t it *sigh*

    Heh, I suppose so. To be honest I find the whole religion/god thing so daft and so obviously a psychological artifice that I just cannot be bothered to really get stuck in this debate. The main reason for my indifference is that unlike statist beliefs, the whole gonzo religious thing per se does not in preclude fulsome support for liberty. So hey, if that’s what floats people’s boat and gets them through the night, whatever, its not like it actually matters.

  • “Well, I guess it had to come down to a creation vs. evolution debate, didn’t it *sigh*”

    I think you have the original post to blame for that.

  • If the scientific case is strong enough to make lifelong atheists like Antony Flew renounce his atheism, maybe it’s time to open your mind just a teeny bit when it comes to ID … just maybe?

    Flew was a philosopher, not a biologist. ID is not taken seriously by scientists, virtually every scientific organization has released statements supporting evolution, and ID was publicly discredited in Dover v. Kitzmiller.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Lukas, let’s put things in context. the letter advising Christians to obey the state was in a time when Christians were small in numbers. Obedience was prudent, and Paul seems to have gotten a garbled belief that Jesus would return in just a few years, so worldly matters were unimportant.
    In many ways they were like Libertarians. We find it prudent to obey the rules of current society, though we hope for something better. When a Libertarian society is established, with libertarians in any positions of power, then we will expect better things from them. After all, Israel broke into two kingdoms when Solomon’s son promised to be even more heavy-handed than his father- and God told Rehaboam to let the seceders depart. Rebellion can be justified, depending on circumstances.
    (I think Paul had simply been given a garbled account of Jesus saying that this generation would see the kingdom of Heaven- which (I believe) was fulfilled when Peter, James and John were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.)

  • lukas

    Matteo, isn’t it possible to explore parallels (and differences) between statist and creationist thought without assuming anything about the truth of either?

    At the heart of both the ToE and free market economics lies the principle of self-organization that explains, in very general terms, how order can emerge from chaos by means of decentralized interactions. In evolution the basic forces are mutation and natural selection, while in economics you have actors taking decisions in terms of production, voluntary exchange and consumption.

    Many creationist attacks on the ToE, just like many statist attacks on the free market, are based on an argument from personal incredulity: the attacker can’t imagine how decentralized forces can provide for a highly complex outcome (say, a modern mammal’s eye or a functioning health care system); therefore a designer/the state has to step in. That’s about as far as the analogy goes.

    Nuke Gray!, sure, that is your interpretation, informed by your philosophy. Most churches however find it easier to accommodate the state than to oppose it… and the text of Romans works just fine for them, they don’t talk much about Revelations.

  • Micha Elyi

    Book of Revelation. No ‘s’.

  • Many creationist attacks on the ToE, just like many statist attacks on the free market, are based on an argument from personal incredulity: the attacker can’t imagine how decentralized forces can provide for a highly complex outcome (say, a modern mammal’s eye or a functioning health care system); therefore a designer/the state has to step in. That’s about as far as the analogy goes.

    And I suspect that is probably about as far as it was intended to go. That succinct summation makes you ‘Thread Hero’ in my books :-)

  • Lukas, if that was the intended analogy, then I have no objections to the post, although I find Darwinism to be essentially an argument from personal credulity regarding the science, essentially built on an argument from philosophical/theological incredulity (i.e. “who designed the designer?” “If I were the designer I wouldn’t have made this world, therefore no designer”).

    The post is much more interesting according to your interpretation, so I’ll accept that as the correct one. I’d originally taken it as something along the lines of “effective socialist government is like the tooth fairy, and so is God!” I’ve seen enough spouting off along those lines over the years that I was too quick to misinterpret this post.

  • “who designed the designer?”

    Well yes, this is indeed the argument of infinite regress to which *all* justificationalist theories are vulnerable… and that is why I am a pancritical rationalist.

    ‘God-as-a-theory’ does not really explain anything at all for me, so I prefer other theories, including the one that starts with “I have no idea how existence came into existence, and neither do you” :-)

  • Sunfish

    I prefer other theories, including the one that starts with “I have no idea how existence came into existence, and neither do you” :-)

    LOL WUT?

    Us theists have a perfectly good idea. None of the honest ones claimed to have unequivocal proof, but that’s not the same question.[1]

    [1] For the theists in peanut gallery, you know I’m not dreaming this up. If the existence of God were subject to proof, then we wouldn’t bother talking about faith and we’d be trampled by zebras.

  • And because Perry de Havilland has no idea how anything (that began to exist) came into existence, nobody can?

    In any other field, saying “I have no idea” would kind of take one out of the conversation, wouldn’t it? Aren’t the Darwinists the ones who are always saying, “Hey just because *you* can’t imagine this works, doesn’t mean it doesn’t!” It’s quite the double standard they practice. If Darwinism is the topic, professing to have no idea means you should pipe down, but if religion is the topic, professing to have no idea means the other guy should pipe down.

    Pretty convenient.

    Note: I’m using “pipe down” for lack of a better term. I don’t think anyone in this thread is telling anyone else to shush.

  • Pa Annoyed

    I quite like the theory that the world was created from the toenail scrapings of a magic talking turtle who originally occupied a small raft along with someone going by the marvellous name of Father-Of-The-Secret-Society – who doesn’t say or do a lot, but hardly needs to with such a great handle. This seems like a perfectly good theory, as theories go, and I think we ought to all take it seriously.

    Although the idea that Mbombo was sick and vomited the world would explain an awful lot. From a distance, it even looks a bit like pavement pizza, doesn’t it?

  • Sunfish

    I quite like the theory that the world was created from the toenail scrapings of a magic talking turtle who originally occupied a small raft along with someone going by the marvellous name of Father-Of-The-Secret-Society – who doesn’t say or do a lot, but hardly needs to with such a great handle. This seems like a perfectly good theory, as theories go, and I think we ought to all take it seriously.

    Toenail scrapings? Turtle?

    Silence your blaspheming mouth, with your toenail heresies and I’m not even going to dignify the turtle comment with a response.

    After all, EVERYBODY knows that it was FINGERNAIL scrapings and a salamander!

    Check yourself before you wreck yourself, you heretical…heretic!

  • And because Perry de Havilland has no idea how anything (that began to exist) came into existence, nobody can?

    That is just another way of saying “I don’t know and as all the theories I have heard do not really explain much, it strikes me that no one else does either”. ‘God’ strikes me as more of a philosophical ‘placeholder’ (as in “the answer goes here, we think”) rather than a really ‘theory’. So rather than worry about something that might be unknowable by its very nature (i.e. what came before everything), I prefer to use the hapless brain cell for pondering the stuff that came after that point, and I have never found much room for ‘God’ in any of that even if he was indeed the name we give to the cosmic pool cue that set the whole shebang in motion.

    In any other field, saying “I have no idea” would kind of take one out of the conversation, wouldn’t it?

    Which is why I am not exactly jumping into the fray with both feet on this one, which is hardly my usual M.O. I am not a militant atheist who finds it offensive other do the God Think (i.e. I am not Dawkins… I find his political view far more harmful that the religious views of most other people).

    I am more of the shoulder shrugging variety of atheist (i.e I strongly suspect God is just a psychological artifice and if is turn out there really is a Beardy-Guy-In-The-Sky, I am not sure it actually matters all that much) :-)

  • Pa Annoyed

    Hmm. Turtle or Salamander. So we have two hypotheses, how do we tell which is true? Any ideas?
    We obviously have to treat both views with respect, these being religious beliefs we’re talking about, but how respectful is it to suggest that one of them is false? Or could both be true? What are we supposed to do?

    The difficulty I see here is that even if someone were to discredit Darwinism, it isn’t clear to me whether the Turtle theory should replace it, or as my honourable colleague would suggest, the Salamander theory. People pick holes in the theory of natural selection, but are scientists allowed to turn round and pick holes in my turtle or your salamander theory? To ask questions, like how did it hold its breath for six years, and where did the wood for the raft come from, and what about the conservation of mass? Can we go into church, and demand they “teach the controversy”?

    If I say I don’t know, and you say it was definitely a salamander, must I drop out of the conversation – because you have an answer and I have nothing?

    People should be able to believe what they want. Even belief in the benevolence of the omnipotent, omniscient state, and the hellfire that awaits capitalists come the revolution. But when you think of the millions of man-years devoted to thinking about and believing in it all, when we could have been thinking up something better, don’t you find it so terribly sad?

  • Laird

    How is it that we’ve gotten this far into the discussion with absolutely no mention of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    Anyway, everyone knows that it’s turtles all the way down.

  • As the agnostic Berlinski points out in “The Devil’s Delusion,” the devotees of Darwin (Hitler, Mao, Stalin …) produced more mass murder than all the alleged crimes of religion in all of history.

    Which is interesting but not actually that important, because (a) that is not why they did it (b) it has no bearing on the rather important issue of “does it have anything to do with falsifying the theory?” and it clearly does not.

  • Nuke Gray!

    The old ‘Who designed the designer’ furphy! I wondered when that would crop up.
    The fallacy behind this question is the assumption that time works as well ‘outside’ the universe as it does ‘inside’ it. Space-time is a part of our universe. Anything outside it, such as something causing the big bang, would have different rules.
    If some scientists are right, and chaos simply throws up all sorts of universes, nothing could stop a universe developing into a life-form that incorporates all other universes, moving freely through ‘time’ and ‘space’ and ‘cosmoi’ as it would wish. If God didn’t create Chaos, then God did/does/will evolve from chaos, outside of our definitions of Space-time.

  • If God didn’t create Chaos, then God did/does/will evolve from chaos, outside of our definitions of Space-time.

    Yup, just as I thought… like I said, I don’t know and nor does anyone else and until He touches me personally with his noodly appendage, that is the theory I have a critical preference for, hehehe

  • Nuke Gray!

    ‘hehehe’
    Is that a veiled preference for Trinitarianism? A three-in-one masculine God?

  • It is true that we Pastafarians always say touched by His Noodley Appendage, so yes I suppose so.

  • lukas

    I’ll go with Wittgenstein on this one: What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.

  • Paul Marks

    The oddest bit of Christian writing I have come upon (at least by a writer I respect in many other ways) is from Richard Whately.

    In his “Principles of Logic” (1830) he argues against cultural evolution (let alone physical evolution).

    In flat contradiction to the mainstream of theology (going back to the Schoolmen and beyond) Whately declares that such things as fire and the wheel (and civilization itself) can not have been developed by human beings but most have been presents from God – in exactly the God-as-gift-giving-state that Brian suggests.

    It is odd because Richard Whately was a free market man – indeed one of the best economists of his time (and better than the ones that were to come a bit later).

    Whately is mislead by his starting point – his definition of a “savage” as someone incapable of rational planning ahead and incapable of change and teaching their children. If one accepts his starting definition his reasoning is totally logical – but his starting point is nonsense.

    It is much like the Whately starting point about law – again in defiance of so much Christian thought, Whately just ASSUMES that a “law” is a command from government (Hobbes style) and reasons from there.

    Why is this important?

    It is important because Richard Whately logic was the most important book on logic in its day – taught (for example) in almost all American universities.

    I wonder if Whately did more harm than Paley – I suspect he did.

    Both had the effect of both pushing some people to atheism and pushing others into a false understanding of Christianity – although in their church duties both Paley and Archbishop Whatley preformed well.

    Of course Richard Dawkins is a recounter for the very “anti Darwinists” he attacks.

    In this society if someone is going to be atheist they will be one long before they read Dawkins (he is not going to recruit many people for atheism) . So Christians who read R.D. have already been exposed to atheist propaganda for many years – they are not likely to be won over by him.

    Then Dawkins tells them that Christianity is not compatible with evolution – so they reject evolution and become anti-Darwinists.

    Nothing to do with favouring big government – they become anti Darwinists because atheists like R.D. tell them they have to be.

  • In this society if someone is going to be atheist they will be one long before they read Dawkins (he is not going to recruit many people for atheism) . So Christians who read R.D. have already been exposed to atheist propaganda for many years

    In my case I actually read very little on the subject and in fact after reading Ayn Rand’s views on the subject that almost pushed me the other way. That said she made excellent arguments for deriving morality via reason, which proved a useful mental tool later even though I eventually found the flaws in Objectivism too glaring to remain a true Randoid.

    I was never particularly religious to start with but my ‘conversion’ to atheism crept up on me gradually over the years, helped in no small part because two people I respect a great deal (Brian Micklethwait and Paul Coulam) are atheists and over time both have made entertaining off hand quips/cracked jokes on the subject that stuck in my head until one day I just realised the quips/jokes were actually pretty much on the money.

    However Dawkins is simply (and very obviously) wrong to say Christianity is incompatible with the theory of evolutionary. Creationism is, but creationism does not equal Christianity.