Gene Expression

Ben Stein is a barbarian?

John Derbyshire has a long column excoriating Ben Stein and the Discovery Institute titled A Blood Libel on Our Civilization:

And there is science, perhaps the greatest of all our achievements, because nowhere else on earth did it appear. China, India, the Muslim world, all had fine cities and systems of law, architecture and painting, poetry and prose, religion and philosophy. None of them ever accomplished what began in northwest Europe in the later 17th century, though: a scientific revolution. Thoughtful men and women came together in learned societies to compare notes on their observations of the natural world, to test their ideas in experiments, and in reasoned argument against the ideas of others, and to publish their results in learned journals. A body of common knowledge gradually accumulated. Patterns were observed, laws discerned and stated.

The “intelligent design” hoax is not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism, to the sensibilities of those Apaches, made by people who lack the imaginative power to know the horrors of true barbarism. (A thing that cannot be said of Darwin. See Chapter X of Voyage of the Beagle.)

Via Talk Islam.

Comments

  1. #1 Russell
    April 29, 2008

    I sometimes have hope for Derbyshire that he will come to realize that the majority of Americans who today call themselves conservative are but religious hucksters, an ugly dross on the surface of western civilization.

  2. #2 Jason Failes
    April 29, 2008

    “And there is science, perhaps the greatest of all our achievements, because nowhere else on earth did it appear.”

    Never heard of Ibn al-Haytham ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method#Introduction_to_scientific_method

  3. #3 razib
    April 29, 2008

    john thinks of natural science as a particular cultural matrix which arose only once in europe during the late 17th century. i think that’s a defensible position, if not unassailable.

  4. #4 tom bri
    April 29, 2008

    Russell, such kind thoughts.

  5. #5 Caledonian
    April 29, 2008

    I sometimes have hope for Derbyshire that he will come to realize that the majority of Americans who today call themselves conservative are but religious hucksters, an ugly dross on the surface of western civilization

    That’ll happen when people realize ‘liberalism’ is just a lot of authoritarian, collectivist pipe-dreaming.

  6. #6 Coin
    April 29, 2008

    And there is science, perhaps the greatest of all our achievements, because nowhere else on earth did it appear. China, India, the Muslim world…

    Uh… great. I feel like I’m basically getting an accidental inside view into some weird internal dispute within the right over which group of outsiders to look down on :|

  7. #7 Luis
    April 29, 2008

    Uh… great. I feel like I’m basically getting an accidental inside view into some weird internal dispute within the right over which group of outsiders to look down on :|

    Almost exactly my thoughts: conservative vs. conservative = meaningless ranting.

    Sadly that seems the road that overall socio-political discussion is heading towards in the West, and that’s reminds me of the Greco-Roman decadence between Neoplatonic sofistic arguments, once they had already ostracized all critical thought. Then it came the Inquisition, not yet with that name, the “known world” became pious to the point of fanaticism, the political institutions and society went back many centuries, ancient philosophical works were overwritten with prayers, and the outcome is celebrated by historians with a very appropiate name: “the Dark Ages”.

    I may sound somehwat like Derbyshire here but, unlike him and Kipling, I know that if “northwest Europe” (sic – what about France and Switzerland, what about Renaissance Italy?) eventually became the hub of rationalism and science, it was precisely because they were quite liberal. Otherwise they would have burned Kepler and, specially, Darwin at the stake.

  8. #8 razib
    April 29, 2008

    hey all, just an FYI, i consider myself one of those nutty conservatives….

  9. #9 Cogsys
    April 30, 2008

    I am curious, Razib… my genotype would also enjoy being a conservative because I find so much use professionally and personally for reductionism and economics, but the militarism and religiosity of the right drives my actual votes to the left.

    Does this have any similarity to what you mean by being conservative?

  10. #10 razib
    April 30, 2008

    Does this have any similarity to what you mean by being conservative?

    not really.

  11. #11 Cogsys
    April 30, 2008

    Ah, that’s interesting to think that GNXP-level rationalism (IMHO) and conservatism could be reconciled.

    Care to elaborate? Are you more interested in the moderate and fiscal conservative philosophies represented by e.g. Schwarzenegger than the philosophies represented by e.g Bush?

  12. #13 razib
    April 30, 2008

    philosophies represented by e.g Bush?

    LOL. bush doesn’t represent any philosophy ;)

    i’m in a hurry, but let’s just say i’m a pragmatist on the touchstone social and fiscal issues which divide right & left in the USA (though i do lean to the liberal side on the former and the conservative side on the latter, but just, i’m a very centrist libertarian). my friend reihan salam descaribed me as a “neo-paleocon.” i guess that’s close enough.

  13. #14 razib
    April 30, 2008

    also, perhaps my conservatism is most clearly reflected in the fact that i tolerate a range of attitudes on many issues as being acceptable or within the bounds of reasonable discussion. i’d be put in the “paleo” camp because i tend to be disclined toward the warfare state, nor am i, at this point, as unmitigatingly hostile toward a social democratic lurch as most on the american right….

  14. #15 B.B
    April 30, 2008

    Unfortunately, there is no place in American politics for a pragmatist within the current liberal/conservative Democratic/Republican duopoly. I’d consider myself a socially liberal nationalist. The last decent candidate to run for president was Richard Lamm competing for the Reform Party ticket in ’96.

  15. #16 jim
    April 30, 2008

    I know it’s conventional wisdom that the Republicans are in the grips of religious nuttery. But I personally find the modern Green movement as nutty as anything Falwell/Robertson say — and much more powerful.

    The Religious Right doesn’t really have that much power. And the power they do have is fairly limited. They’ve stopped gay marriage (for now), but gays are free to live an open, gay lifestyle. Abortion and contraception are widely available. Stem cell research and funding are on the rise.

    The Religious Left (ie eco-crazies) harms all of us by driving up energy costs and blocking human progress. And there’s no way to avoid the costs they impose.

    The lack of new oil drilling, new refineries, new nuclear plants, etc, etc … is directly traceable to this perverse desire to limit our energy usage.

    The Religious Left (eco) has achieved cultural dominance (McCain and Newt Gingrich both embrace it, for example). Pat Robertson can’t force me to pray, the Catholic Church can’t force me to repent. But the Green Movement does force me to recycle with the power of the State. (Consumer level recycling is inefficient and wasteful.)

    Energy consumption isn’t a sin. But most people feel that way nowadays. The Religious Right gets hung up on things like sex — The Religious Left gets hung up on *everything*, cause everything uses energy, which is bad and sinful.

    The power of the Religious Left has the potential to lower GDP per capita growth for decades to come with their policies. And all good things flow from productivity and gdp gains (including the ability of gays to live as they please in a Christian society, for example).

    The human brain is, I believe, hard-wired with concepts like purity and sin. We are hard-wired to be believers and ritual followers. The Green Movement has tapped in to the wiring very successfully. I think it’s perverse and harmful what they are doing. But they have taken over the powers of the State almost completely at this point.

  16. #17 Omar Ali
    April 30, 2008

    Modern science DID appear/fully develop in Western civilization. Why should that be controversial? Ibn Haytham or Aristotle or Alberuni or all the Indian Mathematicians made interesting individual discoveries and were part of the greater human learning process (and part of proto-scientific subcultures within their own times), but our well-deveolped culture of science is a very recent development. ..and it developed in Europe in the 14th to 19th centuries. It built on work done by others in many different parts of the world, but then, we are all building on work done by others in the past (and we are all African-Americans, as one of my Polish-American colleagues likes to say). And it has spread to other parts of the world now.
    But Derbyshire is on solid ground if he wants to take some credit for “his civilization”. Where he may be wrong is in his belief (implicit, maybe even explicit, i dont know his work that well) that the barbarians are somehow all outside “his culture”. As another one of my colleagues likes to say: The holocaust was AFTER the renaissance. The same civilization that created modern science created Belgian Congo and Adolf Hitler. ..and a lot of it is run by greedy little crooks like Cheney, but its NOT all bad in the same way or to the same extent and there IS such a thing as civilization, even when Bush is President. Who can seriously say that the oppression of religious minorities is the same in Saudi Arabia and the US? or that individual freedom is the same in Myanmar and Denmark? or that science had a more hospitable home in Europe than it did in the Ottoman empire or ibn haytham’s little corner of the world? (for whatever reason…thats another debate). The proof of the pudding is in the eating..

  17. #18 B.B
    April 30, 2008

    The Green movement is effectively dead in the United States. It was taken over by the social justice movement around the 1970s. This is evidenced by the now complete silence on issues like population growth and immigration reduction as a means of preventing environmental destruction, while they instead focus on issues such as the welfare state, homosexual rights, etc. The only environmental issue that gets any significant attention from these people is global warming, but whenever the issue is talked about, it is discussed in a completely dishonest manner. Al Gore would like to tell people that you can maintain responsible economic growth without damaging the environment, which is pure fantasy. Hybrid cars and green products that those in the Democratic and Green Party want you to buy aren’t going to be enough to prevent environmental destruction.

    As far as the idea of the green movement as a religious movement is concerned, that may be true for some people, but the same goes for every other political movement. The Gaia hypothesis sounds New Age bullshit to me, but that has zero to do with the utilitarian justification for environmental protection that I adhere too. Neither does it have anything to do with decent environmental activists such as Garrett Hardin, John Feeney, etc.

  18. #19 Caledonian
    May 1, 2008

    hey all, just an FYI, i consider myself one of those nutty conservatives….

    razib, at this point, political conservativism has nothing to do with being conservative. As far as I can tell, you’re genuinely conservative, which disqualifies you from the faction that is called “The Conservatives”.

    So you’re not one of the nuts… at least, not because of your position on this continuum. You may have other positions that qualify you for nuthood, but I am not immediately aware of them.

  19. #20 Andrea
    May 2, 2008

    The Religious Right doesn’t really have that much power. And the power they do have is fairly limited. They’ve stopped gay marriage (for now), but gays are free to live an open, gay lifestyle. Abortion and contraception are widely available. Stem cell research and funding are on the rise.
    None of these really applies where the Religious Right has its way, which is most of the country.

    35 states (including some fairly liberal ones) have legally banned gay marriage for the foreseeable future, most by introducing constitutional amendments against it. Most states have no legal protection whatsoever for homosexual couples. Gays and lesbians are generally afraid to come out, except in liberal states and certain enclaves in conservative ones – try being gay in rural Kentucky.

    Abortion providers are effectively unavailable in large swaths of the country. Contraception is more available, but just because not all flavors or religious nuttery oppose it on principle (and when they do, such as in the case of balanced information for teen-agers during sex education, puff it goes).

    Stem cell research can only be financed privately and by some (liberal) states, limiting its scope dramatically. 20-some states have passed restrictive legislation on it. Federal legislation to limit its scope have been introduced, and the President has vetoed legislation that would encourage it.

    Meanwhile, anyone who thinks gas will soon reach $4/gallon because oil companies are not allowed to drill in ANWR and the environmentalists have a stranglehold on their choice to consume as much as they want, is just insane. Far more rational objects of blame are federal inaction on car efficiency standards and energy conservation for over 20 years; a reckless disregard for research on alternative sources of energy for at least as long; a foreign policy that has increased instability in the Middle East and antagonized most oil-producing countries; an economic policy that has dramatically weakened the dollar; passage of various rules and regulations under which energy company profits have positively ballooned in recent years, at the expense of the consumer; the consumers’ own love affair with gas-guzzling monstrosities instead of regular cars in the past decade; and finally (and arguably, primarily) – and this is really no one’s fault – the world-wide raise in demand due to rapidly developing countries, mainly China and India.

  20. #21 razib
    May 3, 2008

    The last decent candidate to run for president was Richard Lamm competing for the Reform Party ticket in ’96.

    amen???

  21. #22 Julie Stahlhut
    May 9, 2008

    Russell wrote: ” … the majority of Americans who today call themselves conservative are but religious hucksters.

    Caledonian wrote: That’ll happen when people realize ‘liberalism’ is just a lot of authoritarian, collectivist pipe-dreaming.

    For one of many other takes on this supposed dichotomy, we might start here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_chart

  22. #23 johannes
    May 10, 2008

    > The same civilization that created modern science created
    > Belgian Congo

    King Leopold’s Kongo aka the Kongo Free State. It was his private property. It was only taken over by the Belgian state when things became so horrible that they were unbearable even by early 20th century colonialist standards (and probably because the threat of British intervention loomed in the background).

  23. #24 Pablo
    May 10, 2008

    Why is Derbyshire picking on Apaches?

  24. #25 Martin
    May 10, 2008

    Derb might point out that people have been maimed and even sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of objective truth, e.g. those brave chemists working to isolate fluorine, the most reactive element. Poor Monsieur Hervey’s assistant had both legs severed in an explosion and died in agony.

    When someone goes blind proving ID theory, let me know.*

    *Trick query: they’re already blind.

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