Down with the British Library and cancel Charles Darwin 1

Come, let’s discard everything we have, everything we use, everything we read, learn, think except what has been invented, made, written, taught by black women.

Stupid idea?

What about discarding everything that we have from white men?

Now that, some of the chief guardians of our civilization think, is a brilliant idea, and are setting about implementing it as far as their power to do so will take them:

Breitbart reports:

The chief librarian of the British Library said “racism is a creation of white people” while pushing for “decolonisation” of the Library as Black Lives Matter activists continue their long march through British institutions.

Liz Jolly, the chief librarian, is backing a so-called “Anti-Racism Project” to develop and deliver “major cultural change” within the taxpayer-funded institution in order to reflect the “diversity” of modern Britain.

In a video recording obtained by The Telegraph, Jolly said called for white staff members to join in on the leftist purge, saying: “I think, as I have said before, that we need to make sure some white colleagues are involved because racism is a creation of white people.”

The Library has created a “Decolonising Working Group” that has encouraged staff members to support the radical Black Lives Matter movement and to read Marxist literature.

In the effort to “decolonise” the British Library, an internal report demanded that statues honouring the founders of the library be removed, including Sir Hans Sloane.

They also called for the bust of Sir Joseph Banks, a British botanist and co-founder of the Library, to be removed, and that even the statue of King George III should be reviewed for possible removal.

The group said that “colour blindness” is, in fact, a manifestation “covert white supremacy”, and that the Library building itself is a symbol of imperialism because it looks like a battleship.

“This glorification is hard to miss in the structure of the building itself, designed as it is in the form of a battleship, by far the greatest symbol of British imperialism,” the report claimed.

The report went on to call for removing “Eurocentric” maps and to review its collection of classical music, deemed to represent an “outdated notion” of Western civilization, saying that busts commemorating Beethoven and Mendelssohn are indicative of “Western civilizational supremacy”.

The Decolonising Working Group also called for every empty hall in the library to be devoted to the cause of so-called “anti-racism”.

They went on to say that the Library is tainted by its links to the “ongoing settler-colonisation of Palestine” by Jewish people.

London Assembly member Peter Whittle responded to the report by saying: “This is utterly chilling and [its] importance cannot be overstated. The British Library is the very spine of British Culture. It is being systematically attacked from within by the people who lead it. They hate our history and call Western civilization ‘outdated’.”

“They should resign,” Whittle said.

Iranian Australian columnist Rita Panahi added: “How can the British Library chief be so pig-ignorant? ‘Racism is a creation of white people’?! Say that in Asia or the Middle East and they’ll laugh at you.”

Conservative Party MP Ben Bradley said that “there is something fundamentally wrong with the leadership of the British Library.”

“If the Chief Librarian is so unhappy with British history perhaps they should not be in that job,” he said.

“The very suggestion that racism only applies in one direction, by white people towards BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] people, is categorically false, inflammatory and divisive,” Bradley concluded.

The British Library is the largest library in the world by the number of objects housed, which is estimated to be around 200 million. The collection includes two copies of the Magna Carta, the 1215 charter that laid the groundwork for many liberal rights enshrined in throughout Western countries, notably the American Constitution.

Breitbart further reports:

In response to the iconoclastic Black Lives Matter movement, the Natural History Museum has launched a review into supposedly “offensive” and “problematic” collections, including exotic birds collected by English naturalist Charles Darwin.

The review will audit rooms, statues, and items that the executive board deems offensive for possible renaming or removal, to show how “science, racism, and colonial power were inherently entwined”.

Documents revealed to The Telegraph from the review state that “in light of Black Lives Matter and the recent anti-racist demonstrations around the world”, the Natural History Museum will review “whether any statues (or collections) could potentially cause offence”.

The review will reportedly include specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands, which were instrumental in helping the naturalist form his Theory of Evolution. A curator of the museum listed the pieces as an example of Britain’s many “colonialist scientific expeditions”.

The museum is home to a statue depicting the 19th-century naturalist, which may also come under scrutiny during the leftist assault on British history.

The review team argued that exotic birds collected by Darwin and Caption Robert Fitzroy on the islands served to “enable greater British control” throughout South America.

A statue honouring Thomas Henry Huxley — who promoted Darwin’s theory of evolution to such an extent that he is known as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ — has been targeted for removal as well due to his controversial views on race.

The director of the Natural History Museum, Michael Dixon, told staff: “The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated that we need to do more and act faster, so as a first step we have commenced an institution-wide review on naming and recognition.”

“We want to learn and educate ourselves, recognising that greater understanding and awareness on diversity and inclusion are essential,” Dixon went on.

A curator at the museum argued that collections need to be ‘decolonised’ because “museums were put in place to legitimise a racist ideology” and that “covert racism exists in the gaps between the displays”.

Besides targeting Darwin, the review is also looking into pieces collected by Sir Joseph Banks on his journeys with Captain James Cook for the British Empire, as well as flora specimens collected by Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum.

In August, the British Museum announced that it would be removing a bust of Sir Hans from its pedestal and placing it in a cabinet adorned with a plaque that describes his connections to the slave trade in Jamaica.

So the time has come for Marxist revolution.

Remember, white Christians, what Jesus commanded you: “Resist not evil.”

Let BLM triumph.


Enlightenment values 8

Christian values (as described in the post immediately below) are alien to human nature. Human beings do not, cannot, love all other human beings. (Many find it hard to love a few. Some find it impossible to love any.) A thirst for vengeance is common among us. Normal people do not prefer poverty to riches.

Christian values do not underlie our civilization. What values do?

Freedom, justice, reason.

None of which are of any interest to the Christian religion – though millions of individuals who are Christian benefit from them and, to their credit and reward, consciously defend them.

The rewards of reason are, most importantly, scientific knowledge, technological progress, innovation. “Measurement began our might,” wrote W. B. Yeats, referring to ancient civilizations.

To live in freedom, to make justice attainable, to reap the rewards of reason, we need government by Law.

In its beginning, Christianity rejected Law. The author of the Christian religion, St.Paul, contended that the sacrifice of Christ marked a new era and the Law was no longer needed. Christianity was instead of the Law. Later the Church found it necessary to retrieve the moral law of Judaism, and to compile its own canon law. The period of Christian antinomianism was short-lived, but Catholic rule failed spectacularly through the centuries of the Church’s power to provide justice to the peoples of Christendom. It punished heresy, blasphemy, innovation, mere disagreement. It opposed scientific discovery. The Church of Rome was a totalitarian tyranny. So were the Protestant regimes of the Reformation.

The greatness of our civilization began with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the recovery of ancient thought, the launch of the Age of Reason. Europe measured again. Our age of science dawned.

And on the principles of reason, freedom, rule of law, the United States of America was founded.

Yes, some of the Founders were Christians. (And some were deists. And some, though pre-Darwin, were probably quietly atheist.) Yes, the Declaration of Independence mentions a Creator. It designates this Creator as “Nature’s God” – a bold statement of an Enlightenment perception. (Spinoza’s god was nature, the laws of physics.) This god, the Framers said, “endowed” human beings with certain rights. In other words, they saw them as natural rights. There is barely a trace of Christian doctrine in the founding documents, but just enough for those to discern it who want it to be there.


Jillian Becker    October 22, 2019

The god of the gaffes 17

Why would baffled scientists reach for a supernatural explanation of puzzling phenomena?

David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale, reviews books that argue against Charles Darwin at the Claremont Review of Books in an article titled Giving Up Darwin.

Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. … Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer, which collects some of the arguments Meyer’s book stirred up. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore. Bringing to bear the work of many dozen scientists over many decades, Meyer, who after a stint as a geophysicist in Dallas earned a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge and now directs the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact.

Gelernter explains the anti-Darwin arguments:

In the famous “Cambrian explosion” of around half a billion years ago, a striking variety of new organisms—including the first-ever animals—pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years. This great outburst followed many hundreds of millions of years of slow growth and scanty fossils, mainly of single-celled organisms, dating back to the origins of life roughly three and half billion years ago.

Darwin’s theory predicts that new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life. Those brave new Cambrian creatures must therefore have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated. They could not have all blown out suddenly [if, he is saying, Darwin was right], like a bunch of geysers. Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors: Darwinian evolution is gradual, step-by-step. All those predecessors must have come together, further back, into a series of branches leading down to the (long ago) trunk.

But those predecessors of the Cambrian creatures are missing. Darwin himself was disturbed by their absence from the fossil record. He believed they would turn up eventually. Some of his contemporaries … held that the fossil record was clear enough already, and showed that Darwin’s theory was wrong. Perhaps only a few sites had been searched for fossils, but they had been searched straight down. The Cambrian explosion had been unearthed, and beneath those Cambrian creatures their Precambrian predecessors should have been waiting—and weren’t. In fact, the fossil record as a whole lacked the upward-branching structure Darwin predicted.

The trunk was supposed to branch into many different species, each species giving rise to many genera, and towards the top of the tree you would find so much diversity that you could distinguish separate phyla—the large divisions (sponges, mosses, mollusks, chordates, and so on) that comprise the kingdoms of animals, plants, and several others … But … the fossil record shows the opposite: “representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes”. In general, “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged”. The incremental development of new species is largely not there. Those missing pre-Cambrian organisms have still not turned up. (Although fossils are subject to interpretation, and some biologists place pre-Cambrian life-forms closer than others to the new-fangled Cambrian creatures.)

Some researchers have guessed that those missing Precambrian precursors were too small or too soft-bodied to have made good fossils. Meyer notes that fossil traces of ancient bacteria and single-celled algae have been discovered: smallness per se doesn’t mean that an organism can’t leave fossil traces—although the existence of fossils depends on the surroundings in which the organism lived, and the history of the relevant rock during the ages since it died. The story is similar for soft-bodied organisms. Hard-bodied forms are more likely to be fossilized than soft-bodied ones, but many fossils of soft-bodied organisms and body parts do exist. Precambrian fossil deposits have been discovered in which tiny, soft-bodied embryo sponges are preserved—but no predecessors to the celebrity organisms of the Cambrian explosion.

This sort of negative evidence can’t ever be conclusive. But the ever-expanding fossil archives don’t look good for Darwin, who made clear and concrete predictions that have (so far) been falsified—according to many reputable paleontologists, anyway. When does the clock run out on those predictions? Never. But any thoughtful person must ask himself whether scientists today are looking for evidence that bears on Darwin, or looking to explain away evidence that contradicts him. There are some of each. Scientists are only human, and their thinking (like everyone else’s) is colored by emotion.

Darwin’s main problem, however, is molecular biology. There was no such thing in his own time. We now see from inside what he could only see from outside, as if he had developed a theory of mobile phone evolution without knowing that there were computers and software inside or what the digital revolution was all about. Under the circumstances, he did brilliantly.

Biology in his time was for naturalists, not laboratory scientists. … But the character of the field has changed, and it’s not surprising that old theories don’t necessarily still work.

Darwin’s theory is simple to grasp; its simplicity is the heart of its brilliance and power. We all know that variation occurs naturally among individuals of the same type—white or black sheep, dove-gray versus off-white or pale beige pigeons … [M]any variations have no effect on a creature’s prospects, but some do. A sheep born with extra-warm wool will presumably do better at surviving a rough Scottish winter than his normal-wooled friends. Such a sheep would be more likely than normal sheep to live long enough to mate, and pass on its superior trait to the next generation. Over millions of years, small good-for-survival variations accumulate, and eventually (says Darwin) you have a brand new species. The same mechanism naturally favors genes that are right for the local environment—warm wool in Scotland, light and comfortable wool for the tropics, other varieties for mountains and deserts. Thus one species (your standard sheep) might eventually become four specialized ones. And thus new species should develop from old in the upward-branching tree pattern Darwin described.

The advent of molecular biology made it possible to transform Darwinism into Neo-Darwinism. The new version explains (it doesn’t merely cite) natural variation, as the consequence of random change or mutation to the genetic information within cells that deal with reproduction. Those cells can pass genetic change onward to the next generation, thus changing—potentially—the future of the species and not just one individual’s career.

The engine that powers Neo-Darwinian evolution is pure chance and lots of time. By filling in the details of cellular life, molecular biology makes it possible to estimate the power of that simple mechanism. But what does generating new forms of life entail? Many biologists agree that generating a new shape of protein is the essence of it. Only if Neo-Darwinian evolution is creative enough to do that is it capable of creating new life-forms and pushing evolution forward.

Proteins are the special ops forces (or maybe the Marines) of living cells, except that they are common instead of rare; they do all the heavy lifting, all the tricky and critical assignments, in a dazzling range of roles. Proteins called enzymes catalyze all sorts of reactions and drive cellular metabolism. Other proteins (such as collagen) give cells shape and structure, like tent poles but in far more shapes. Nerve function, muscle function, and photosynthesis are all driven by proteins. And in doing these jobs and many others, the actual, 3-D shape of the protein molecule is important.

So, is the simple neo-Darwinian mechanism up to this task? Are random mutation plus natural selection sufficient to create new protein shapes?

Gelernter’s answer, in agreement with the books he is reviewing, is No. He explains why in some detail. We have no quarrel with him over this point. We are not scientists and have no idea whether the answer is solidly proved or not. We accept that the answer is No, and that, consequently, Darwin has been caught out and disproved – in part.

But the reviewed books are about giving up Darwin; negating evolution.

It can hardly be surprising that the revolution in biological knowledge over the last half-century should call for a new understanding of the origin of species.

A new understanding. Darwin was wrong. Evolution is wrong. Species do not evolve. So what does explain the existence of species?

We held our breath at this point in the article. A new theory, as exciting and revolutionary as was Darwin’s when it was sprung upon the world, but better in that it explains the phenomena which Darwin failed to explain, was about to be set before us.

You may be as disappointed as we were with the answer. What explains the “sudden explosion” of Cambrian species; how did all those new living things appear over “a mere 70-odd million years”?

Why, God put them there.

That’s it. Let your heart sink. It’s God again. Not that the word “God” emerges from the scientist’s lips or pen. No, no! In fact Professor Gelernter is careful to inform us that “religion” is not mentioned by the scientists whose work he is discussing.

What they offer us, is the uncertain semi-rationalist’s euphemism for God: “INTELLIGENT DESIGN”.

Intelligent Design, as Meyer describes it, is a simple and direct response to a specific event, the Cambrian explosion. The theory suggests that an intelligent cause intervened to create this extraordinary outburst. By “intelligent” Meyer understands “conscious”; the theory suggests nothing more about the designer.

Can  a “conscious” mind be understood to be anything but a human-type mind? So a human-type mind designed – and made – living things on this earth at least once “over a period of 70-odd million years”.

Gelernter reveals that he himself does not find Meyer’s answer satisfactory:

But where is the evidence? To Meyer and other proponents, that is like asking—after you have come across a tree that is split vertically down the center and half burnt up—“but where is the evidence of a lightning strike?” The exceptional intricacy of living things, and their elaborate mechanisms for fitting precisely into their natural surroundings, seemed to cry out for an intelligent designer long before molecular biology and biochemistry. …  An intelligent designer might seem more necessary than ever now that we understand so much cellular biology, and the impossibly long odds facing any attempt to design proteins by chance, or assemble the regulatory mechanisms that control the life cycle of a cell. …

 “Our uniform experience of cause and effect shows that intelligent design is the only known cause of the origin of large amounts of functionally specified digital information,” [Mayer]  writes. …

Known? Who knows “intelligent design” to be that cause?

If Meyer were invoking a single intervention by an intelligent designer at the invention of life, or of consciousness, or rationality, or self-aware consciousness, the idea might seem more natural. But then we still haven’t explained the Cambrian explosion. An intelligent designer who interferes repeatedly, on the other hand, poses an even harder problem of explaining why he chose to act when he did. Such a cause would necessarily have some sense of the big picture of life on earth. What was his strategy? How did he manage to back himself into so many corners, wasting energy on so many doomed organisms? Granted, they might each have contributed genes to our common stockpile—but could hardly have done so in the most efficient way. What was his purpose? And why did he do such an awfully slipshod job? Why are we so disease prone, heartbreak prone, and so on? An intelligent designer makes perfect sense in the abstract. The real challenge is how to fit this designer into life as we know it. Intelligent design might well be the ultimate answer. But as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go.

To design is to purpose. The believers in the Intelligent Designer must be asked: What was his purpose? Why did the Designer design and make the life-forms?

And how intelligent was he when he made so many mistakes; made so many life-forms so badly that they could not survive?

Although Stephen Meyer’s book is a landmark in the intellectual history of Darwinism, the theory will be with us for a long time, exerting enormous cultural force. Darwin is no Newton. Newton’s physics survived Einstein and will always survive, because it explains the cases that dominate all of space-time except for the extreme ends of the spectrum, at the very smallest and largest scales. It’s just these most important cases, the ones we see all around us, that Darwin cannot explain. Yet his theory does explain cases of real significance. …

We know that evolution happens. It is happening about us all the time. We ourselves evolve. If there are important questions about the evolution of species that remain unanswered, why not say, “Just as we now see from inside what Darwin could only see from outside, as if he had developed a theory of mobile phone evolution without knowing that there were computers and software inside or what the digital revolution was all about, so in the future we might learn what made the Cambrian explosion possible without looking to the supernatural to explain it.”

An Intelligent Designer is surely the least plausible, the most absurd “explanation” for how things are and how they came about. There is always the possibility that natural explanations will be found for natural phenomena however perplexing. There is no possibility that we will find anything outside of nature.

Posted under Philosophy, Science, Theology by Jillian Becker on Saturday, May 11, 2019

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In defense of classical liberalism 7

A Harvard University reader of this website, who goes by the pseudonym of Adam Smythe, sent us by email this well-informed reply to the Yoram Hazony article we posted yesterday. He explores the issues with admirable intellectual rigor:

The article is interesting, though rather confused – mainly because the categories that he is trying to describe are themselves confused. In turn, I found much of his article confusing, and my response will, doubtless, further confuse the issues in question. So confused at first was I by his article that I did not know whether I wholeheartedly agreed or abjectly opposed it.

First things first: von Mises strongly believed (too much, I would say) in the right of self-determination. The comment  he made about world government mentioned in the article was predicated upon all countries first adopting his brand of liberalism. He argued that the size of a state was an irrelevancy, and that if all states happily adopted liberalism, then a world government in line with the liberal program would be favorable.

That von Mises opposed hugely bureaucratic institutions, of the kind lauded by “globalists”, is even more clear. It is true that German and Austrian 19th century liberalism did generally argue for the widespread adoption of governmental bureaucracies full of well-educated administrators; one might conclude from this that Mises, an outspoken “liberal” himself, would be in favor of a world bureaucratic government. Nothing could be further from the truth — he wrote extensively against bureaucracies in, among other things, his scathing book Bureaucracy, and was the originator of the entire intellectual opposition to the idea of “educated” planning with his essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. In this respect he was opposed to his “liberal” colleagues.

The “liberal” infatuation with bureaucracies further confounds the author’s thesis that liberalism is fundamentally rationalist. Most liberals liked these bureaucracies because they could be empirically minded, and pragmatic, whereas laws originating from legislative bodies could not. Von Mises, however, generally opposed this position.

To argue that von Mises was in favor of big government, on the basis of the single comment mentioned by the author, and to further conclude that this is the backbone for the case for widespread “liberalizing” military intervention in contemporary American politics, is absurd. In particular, a man in favor of international government in general or forcible interventions by liberal states into the affairs of non-liberal ones, would not write as von Mises did in Man, State and Economy:

Liberalism knows no conquests, no annexations; just as it is indifferent towards the state itself, so the problem of the size of the state is unimportant to it. It forces no one against his will into the structure of the state. Whoever wants to emigrate is not held back. When a part of the people of the state wants to drop out of the union, liberalism does not hinder it from doing so. Colonies that want to become independent need only do so. The nation as an organic entity can be neither increased nor reduced by changes in states; the world as a whole can neither win nor lose from them.

In fact, I would say von Mises went too far in opposition to world government — he believed strongly (I believe too strongly) in the right of self-determination. Also from Man, State, and Economy):

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.

As for Hayek: it is true that Hayek broadly favored multinational trade federations, and a European trade federation in particular. He enunciated the conditions for such trade federations in an early essay from the 30’s.  Most of Hayek’s followers despised and despise the EU itself, however. (I cannot find Hayek’s point of view on the EU.) But Hayek outspokenly did not identify himself as a conservative. The AEI has an interesting piece on this:

In both cases, any discussion of world government was predicated upon the government being, in the first place, little more than a nightwatchman state. So it is wrong to read into them the kind  of technocratic “globalist” view so reviled by Trumpist or Bannonist conservatives.

The author is right insofar as he claims that von Mises and Hayek believed that liberalism and human liberty were universally good, and that all states ought to adopt liberal policies. He is wrong to suggest that these ideas lead to the conclusion that liberal states ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal ones. (Ayn Rand, however, did say that liberal states had the right — though not the obligation — to liberate illiberal states. But, she wrote, there were, in fact, no presently existing states – America included – that were “liberal” enough to have earned this right .)

The position that liberal states like America ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal states is quintessentially “neoconservative” — a philosophy which certianly borrowed some things from the liberal tradition, but, in this respect, not only parts company from its classical liberal forebears, but lies in opposition to them. In today’s world, for instance, most right-wing individuals who identify as “classical liberal” as opposed to “conservative” – Rand and Ron Paul, for example – do so in order to make it clear that they favor an isolationist foreign policy, in opposition to conservatives on this very issue.

If we are to conclude, as the author does, that America’s intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan are failures (even if we simultaneously acknowledge that postwar liberalizing of Japan, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Korea are successes), and we therefore conclude that the internationalist position on American hegemony is wrong, then we simply ought to conclude that internationalism has not worked, not that liberal ideals are wrong in general. 

You see, Mr. Hazony goes  further: not only is American military intervention as a general practice wrong, he says, but the very idea that the “virtues” of classical liberalism  — private property, free markets, and individualism — are universal, is wrong, too. This is chucking the baby out with the bathwater. The reason Iraq and Afghanistan failed is because they failed in the end to liberalize Iraq and Afghanistan, not because liberalization as an end is bad. 

The fact that some societies do not easily adopt liberal policies does not mean that liberal policies are not the right ones always to strive for. For what are the alternatives? Dictatorship, oppression, and serfdom. The problem with an interventionist foreign policy might be that, in an effort to liberalize certain nations under the rule of a dictator, say, we create a power vacuum that is filled by something even worse (think about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the toppling of Mubarak). For instance, I am the first to acknowledge that Pinochet was a superior leader of Chile to Allende, despite the fact that the latter was “liberally” elected. This is because I measure a government, always, on the scale of how liberal it is. And despite the despotic nature of Pinochet, society was governed far more liberally under him than under his deposed predecessor.

I do not at all take the (almost) relativist stance, which is advanced in the article, that we shouldn’t hold classical liberal ideals as universal. We absolutely should, even if we are pragmatic about when to urge (or force) other societies to adopt them. Our consideration should be the effectiveness of such policies, not whether the ends of liberalism are the right ones for that particular society. The answer to that question, I think, is always, “Yes. They are.” 

Now, in general, as far as I can tell, the author is somewhat bizarrely categorizing present-day ideological associations as follows (I’ve tried to offer a respective juxtaposition of each of the views):

Conservatism — Empiricism — Religion — Nationalism — International Pragmatism

(Classical) Liberalism — Rationalism — Secularism — Globalism — Interventionism.

Not just one, but every single one of these categories is disputable.

The least debatable is the association between classical liberalism and secularism versus conservatism and religion, which I think has been true historically. But there are plenty of religious classical liberals, and plenty (led by Jillian Becker) of atheist conservatives! 

However, assuming that classical liberalism is less empirical and more rationalist as a rule is wrong. True: Ayn Rand, von Mises, and, to a lesser extent, Hayek, were fairly “philosophical”, “a priori”, or “rationalist” in their reasoning. Milton Friedman, however, was not; he and the “Chicago School” considered themselves to be (and indeed were) very empirical. Meanwhile, many “pragmatic” liberals — Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, for instance, founded the liberal tradition (continued by Hayek) about societal evolution in metaphor with Darwin’s theory of species evolution. This is clearly not a viewpoint that considers values to be unchanging without reference to observed facts. I am also fairly sure that there is significant overlap between American “pragmatists” and American classical liberals of the nineteenth century. “Pragmatists” eschewed general principles on principle. Today, this is something far more associated with the political left than the political right — many on the right think of the left as deeply unprincipled, whereas they are guardians of the classical virtues; the left thinks of the right as doctrinaire, whereas it thinks of itself as pragmatic. 

Indeed, the left thinks (and to a certain extent they are right in this) that the universal “values” upheld by many on the right, stem from the right’s greater religiosity. But then for Hazony to suggest that religion is something founded more on empirical than a priori “rationalist” principles is bizarre. Indeed, religion should be eschewed on both rationalist and empirical grounds — God is an intrinsically incoherent concept, for which there has never been any shred of real-world evidence. And whereas I have seen many a fallacious rationalist justification for God, I have never seen an “empirical” one from any of the “serious” religious propagandists.

To suggest that liberalism, in its “rationalist” adherence to principle, neglects noneconomic forces, is curiously myopic. Hayek considers these institutions at great length – including family, religion, and moral precepts –  particularly in his later writings (see The Fatal Conceit, for example). And finally to suggest that somehow liberalism is associated with globalism and military interventionism, whereas conservatism is (or should be?) associated with nationalism and international pragmatism is, as I’ve described above, rather odd.

Hello evolution, bye-bye creationism 13

One state honors Charles Darwin on the anniversary of his birthday.

The day of Darwin’s entry into the world was the beginning of the end for that fictitious character the Creator God. His dying is a long drawn out process, but from February 12, 1809, he was doomed.

Posted under Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 12, 2017

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Today is Charles Darwin’s 206th birthday 15






Posted under Science by Jillian Becker on Thursday, February 12, 2015

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The survival of the stupidest? 6

Has evolution ended with Homo sapiens?

On this question, Tom Chivers at the Telegraph reports a fascinating disagreement between Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Adam Rutherford.

We have chosen some excerpts. Read it all here.

Like every other species on Earth, Homo sapiens is the product of more than three billion years of evolution: random, blind changes put through the filter of natural selection, leading from one simple original form to all the startling variety of life we see around us. Humanity’s lineage split with that of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, six million years ago, and our ancestors have been evolving separately ever since. In that time we have gone from short, robust, hairy apes – perhaps partly tree-dwelling and knuckle-walking, like chimps – to tall, gracile, naked humans. It has been quite a journey.

But is that journey over? It might be, according to Sir David Attenborough, who said … “I think that we’ve stopped evolving. Because if natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the main mechanism of evolution – there may be other things, but it does look as though that’s the case – then we’ve stopped natural selection.”

To support his case, he points out that, unlike any other species, we can use technology to keep ourselves alive until breeding age, when otherwise we would have died. Specifically, he points towards the vast improvement in infant mortality rates: “We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95-99 per cent of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.” …

And what will happen next fascinates us even more. …

Attenborough … is suggesting something at once prosaic and startling: that human evolution ends here,that we are the final stop on the journey. You can understand his reasoning. After all, if we (at least in the affluent, technologically advanced West) can take even the most vulnerable babies, babies who would have died within hours of birth a hundred years ago, and keep them alive – essentially repair them so that they can live into adulthood and breed – have we not ended the cruel process of natural selection?

It’s not that simple, says Dr Adam Rutherford, a geneticist, author of Creation …  “He is absolutely right that the selection pressures on humans have radically changed, … And he’s right that one of the most profound changes to those pressures is infant mortality rates. But that’s not really, in a pure scientific sense, how evolution works.”

The fact that certain evolutionary pressures have been reduced – for example, the requirement for a baby’s lungs to be fully developed and functional by birth, now that we can keep that baby alive on a respirator until its lungs are grown – does not mean that all of them have gone. “The robust answer to the question ‘are humans evolving?’ is: we don’t know, because the timespans are too short to make a judgment,” says Dr Rutherford.

While we can watch evolution happen in viruses and bacteria – or fruit flies, or mice – human generations are just too slow; even the longest-lived of us can only reasonably hope to see great-grandchildren. Our split with the chimps takes us back to our great‑times-250,000-grandparents.

We can look at our own recent history, though, and at our genes. Several studies have suggested that human evolution has actually speeded up, not slowed down, since the advent of agriculture in the last 10,000 years – an eyeblink in evolutionary terms. In the past few thousand years some humans have evolved the ability to digest milk, unlike any other adult mammals. …

“If you look at changes in the frequency of genes in a population, which is the true measure of evolution, then I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that we’re not evolving,” says Dr Rutherford. The question, of course, is how we’re evolving.

There have been various suggestions, of varying stupidity, up to and including the suggestion that we’ll evolve fatter thumbs to help us text. (“That’s called Lamarckism, and it’s just wrong. The Jewish people have been cutting foreskins off their boys for 5,000 years and one hasn’t been born without a foreskin yet,” snorts Dr Rutherford.) More obviously plausible hypotheses include the idea that our tendency to have children later in life will select against people who are unable to do so.

What won’t necessarily happen is that we’ll become cleverer, or in any arbitrary way “better”, than we are now. Evolution doesn’t work that way.

The 2006 film Idiocracy suggested that clever people are having fewer and fewer children, while stupid people are having more, so the future of humanity is one of everyone being thick. That was a joke, but it illustrates quite neatly that evolution is not a stairway to a glorious pinnacle called “humanity”; intelligence is not the culmination of evolution, it’s just one tool that works for one species at the moment, just as sonar works for bats.

If powerful brains become less useful in future, then we can expect them to dwindle away, like the eyes of cave fish – they’re expensive, energy-draining things, and natural selection is a brutal accountant.

And if we contemplate the intellectual quality of those who have risen in recent years to the commanding heights of political power and academic authority in the West as a whole, we might suppose that the decline of brain-power in the human species has already begun.

Posted under Commentary, Science by Jillian Becker on Saturday, September 28, 2013

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Can this be true? 4

From the Telegraph:

Creation, [a film] starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans [according to whom?] believe in the theory of evolution

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment [by whom? when? where?] dismissing evolution as “a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying”.

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

“That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said. “The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up. It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It’s quite difficult for we [sic] in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.”

Does it? It’s hard for us in the US to believe that only 39% believe in evolution. And they almost entirely confined to New York and LA? What rare birds we country-bumpkin atheists are, if that is so!

But the writer of the article, Anita Singh, seems rather too vague, lacking attribution, to inspire much trust in her report. And it has the ring of a typical piece of European anti-Americanism.

Anyway, someone should seize this entrepeneurial opportunity and screen the movie. We suspect that millions will want to see it as much as we do, whatever they believe about evolution.

Posted under Christianity, News, Religion general, Science, United Kingdom, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, September 12, 2009

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