Families of Ideas
This is one of my themes. I think it is fairly uncontroversial. An atheist, a socialist or a warmist would, I think, agree that, for example, if you take a position on subject A, it is (to some extent) predictive of your position on subject B. I hope you think that this is interesting – and a bit baffling. You tell me that, in your opinion, inequality is the major issue facing our society. Ladbrooks would give me lousy odds on correctly guessing your view on global warming. What on earth have the two to do with each other? Not a lot – superficially. If I were a confrontational sort of bloke, I might argue that stupid people have stupid opinions. Actually, this is what I think. I don’t think, though, that that would be worth blogging about. Atheists and socialists think the same.
I have been listening this afternoon to Phillip Johnson arguing against Richard Dawkins. He believes that RD takes the position he does on ‘Darwinism’ because of his world view. Dawkins gives support to this belief: he claims that Darwinism makes it possible to be ‘an intellectually fulfilled atheist’ – and that is what he wants to be. He is grateful to Darwin. Good luck to him.
Suppose I were in his camp. I would believe that space, time, matter and energy were all that exist. The surprising existence of ‘complicated beings that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose’ have to be explained in terms of space, time, matter and energy and nothing else. The Neo-Darwinists give this their best shot. Purpose is ruled out from the beginning. Any ‘apparent’ evidence of purpose or design is (by definition) illusory. QED! Having thus defined the rules of the game, I cannot lose.
I am not in his camp. There have been two camps in European intellectual history. One camp maintains that ultimate reality is matter; the other that ultimate reality is mind. The former is the tyro. For much more than two thousand years everyone believed the latter. Did I just happen to be born into camp two?
The use of the word ‘liberal’ is interesting and perhaps instructive. One meaning is ‘generous’. We like generosity; we like to be thought liberal. How comes it that in the USA political opinions are broadly categorised as liberal or conservative? It drives conservatives and (particularly) libertarians crazy that someone like Obama is called liberal. What is liberal, they ask, about compelling people to take out health insurance? What is liberal about prosecuting people for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage? What is liberal about progressive taxation, whereby the wealthy pay not just more but a higher proportion of their income? What is liberal about politically correct so-called speech codes in universities? ‘Oppressive’ would seem a more appropriate word. Leftism, statism and ‘progressivism’ have been violently oppressive in the last hundred years. Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator, achieved the remarkable feat of murdering one third of the people in his country, sometimes for the crime of wearing spectacles – I am committing a capital crime at this very moment. Of course, Mao, Stalin and Hitler each killed more in absolute terms than PP; but proportionately he wins the gold medal.
Multiculturalism is a ‘liberal’ agenda, as is feminism. Feminists and multiculturalists find it difficult to be critical of FGM and ‘honour’ killings. To my mind, it is hard to identify practices more illiberal than these.
The issue of AGM divides people. Alarmists are frequently to be found on the ‘liberal’ left. Some have called for the imprisonment of ‘deniers’. Prison for finding the alarmist case unconvincing?
For sure, there have been cases of people who have rejected one set of beliefs and embraced another. I am comforted by the apparent fact that progressives are more likely to become libertarians or conservatives than vice versa. David Horowitz is a dramatic example. Brought up by card-carrying Marxists to be a hard-core leftist, he now espouses conservative views and campaigns for free speech on US campuses.
I have seen dozens of videos in which so-called liberals have attempted silence him (and other conservatives) by noisy demonstrations.
Why is it that conservatives and libertarians are much more likely to support Israel and that ‘liberals’ are likely to accuse Israel of genocide? Why do so-called progressives energetically campaign for the right to abort a baby for the crime of being inconvenient to the mother? Protecting the weak is surely as clear cut a moral obligation as exists.
For the record (and to nobody’s surprise), I am a libertarian conservative. I strongly support free markets and free speech. I strongly support Israelis in their resistance those who would destroy their country. I think that AGM is a crock and that policies designed to de-industrialise the west and to deny industrialisation to the developing world are wrong-headed at best and wicked at worst.