Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/11

31

Evolution and the culture wars

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I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the Right has a similar elite vs. populist chasm as the Left when it comes to some non-economic issues. In this case it is evolution, where many elite conservatives have presumed to humor, and in the end ignore, the more unvarnished populists who espouse Creationism.

Acceptance of evolution a marker in political/cultural tribal disputes:

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican congressman from Savannah, deserves credit for venturing into “unfriendly territory” on Bill Maher’s HBO show. In the show taped live Friday night, Kingston and the host got into a debate about evolution. Kingston denied the existence of evolution

“I don’t believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day,” Kingston says. Of course, nobody else does either — the process was a little more complicated than that. At one point, Kingston turns to fellow conservative Will Cain, of National Review, asking for a little support. Cain declines, explaining that he accepts evolution.

I am not a liberal because I think modern Left-liberalism does not take into account reality, in particular, it too often ignores human nature. There are probably issues where I agree with many Creationist social conservatives on the answer, if not the method by which I come to a particular answer, but one must draw the line at aggressive espousal on frankly primitive superstitions. A conservative movement without a religious segment would be totally ineffectual, as it was during the New Deal era. But a conservative movement without an intellectual element will also be ineffectual, as mass movements without elite guidance tend to founder and become incoherent.

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40 comments

  • Kevin Lawrence · January 31, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    > I am not a liberal because I think modern Left-liberalism does not take into account reality, in particular, it too often ignores human nature

    The right has plenty of people that ignore reality and human nature. The left does too.

    My heart sinks though when I hear those unfortunate facts used as justification for choosing to bat for the opposite side. Should I switch side because Reid is a douche? Or Schumer? Should I switch back because modern conservatism thinks that taxation is equivalent to slavery?

    Of course not.

    I don’t know your politics terribly well but I am willing to bet that I (a self-described liberal) have far more in common with you (a self-described conservative) as judged by, say, The Political Compass, than either of us do with mainstream liberal or conservative politicians.

    I had great hopes for Lindsey’s/Wilkinson’s liberaltarian project but it seems to have been killed by organizations who think talking to “the other side” is tantamount to treason.

    Do us a favour, and just keep talking about what you think rather than which side you are on.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Do us a favour, and just keep talking about what you think rather than which side you are on.

    you better speak to me with more respect. i don’t tolerate the impudent bullshit which is the norm in other weblogs.

    i spend plenty of time saying what i think.

    http://razib.com/wordpress/

  • RandyB · January 31, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Last week, results from the NEAP test showed that American students were woefully non-proficient in science and that the least scientifically knowlegeable were African-Americans, and that the least scientifically advanced whites were in the South. I think this is not a coincidence, as per Thomas Sowell’s thesis about Black Rednecks (i.e. African-Americans learned their culture from Southerners)

    The fact that our political spectrum today is defined by having these two groups at opposite ends of it, is IMO an important limiting factor on scientific advancement. Any scientific research has to be politically tempered by addressing the particular concerns of one or both groups.

    Bradlaugh, under his own name on TakiMag, has written that he expects China to surpass the USA next decade in the field of genomics. It’s not hard to see where the two political parities will avoid this subject like the plague:

    Republicans fear genetic testing of fetuses will help inform abortion decisions

    Democrats fear it will confirm a hereditary component of mental abilities, refuting their doctrines about societal causes and hence obligations to the less gifted

  • Stephen · January 31, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    “Do us a favour, and just keep talking about what you think rather than which side you are on.”

    Aside from being impudent B.S., the stupidity of this statement is that it was posted on a site called Secular Right.

    I expect the posters to explain why they are on the right, and how they get along with all of the religious people there (or here, since I consider myself to be conservative).

    I hope the posters will someday discuss how a free and open society can be sustained without a religious basis. Evolution does not appear helpful in this regard.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 31, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    I hope the posters will someday discuss how a free and open society can be sustained without a religious basis.

    what does ‘religious basis’ mean? some religious people think that morality is based on religion. i think religion co-opts it. in any case, there are several societies where supernaturalism seems to have been pushed to the margins as cultural ornamentation. scandinavia and japan stand out. states like north korea are officially atheist, but they substitute theism for materialist idolatry (turning the kim family into the subjects of a devotional cult).

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 31, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    btw, some people might come to this site via my twitter feed, where most followers know me through my *science* site, and are unaware of my political sympathies. that’s fine, but once you see the domain the orientation *should* be clear as stephen suggested.

  • Clark · January 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    To be fair, in the last primaries, I believe only a minority of candidates stated they didn’t believe in evolution. It’s not certain who the candidates will be this round. However it is interesting that two of candidates considered religious who are presumably running for President (Romney and Huntsman) both accept evolution.

    Not to beat the Huntsman drum again. (I honestly don’t think he has a chance) But I really am excited at today’s announcement of his leaving as Ambassador of China. Unlike most he’s got pretty solid economic expertise, has successfully run a state (and received accolades for running it so well), and has strong international cred unlike any other candidates I’ve heard brandied about. And his biggest weakness (his Mormonism) is held by an other candidate who happens to be the presumed frontrunner.

  • Stephen · February 1, 2011 at 1:14 am

    “what does ‘religious basis’ mean?”

    A fair question. Coming from a Math background, my interest is, what are the postulates that a society is based on? It is clear that the U.S. has postulates: “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. One of these is the existence of God: “that they are endowed by their creator”.

    My problem is, if you take away the God postulate then how does one argue for equality? I would love to see a case made based on evolution, But I’m not holding my breath.

  • Craig · February 1, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Stephen:

    Ii take “endowed by their creator” to be cagey political compromise. To many it means “god”. To those of us to whom it doesn’t, it means “nature”. The important thing is that the self-evident truth is that we are born with those endowments.

    If they had meant to say god they would have.

  • Stephen · February 1, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Craig,

    The phrase is “endowed by their Creator”. Note the cap C. Interpreting this as small-n nature is bit of a stretch, unless you think he is referring to Mother Nature. I don’t think switching from God to goddess helps your case, though.

  • Clark · February 1, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Stephen, coming from a math background, why on earth do you think society is an axiomatic rule based system? I’d see it as much more likely that apparent rules are somewhat misleading and that it is an emergent system more akin to a neural-net.

    As valuable as rule based systems and axioms have been one of the big things we learned in the 20th century was that they don’t describe all systems. (Evolution being an obvious example)

    My sense, perhaps incorrect, is that a lot of the anti-evolutionary drive in America comes as much out of wanting relatively simple rule-based systems as it does religious dogma.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 3:35 am

    first, why is it that people ignore this: “, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” this precedes the section about the creator. everyone who knows anything about the 18th century note that these are pointers a particular conception of god in a deistic sense.

    in any case, on to stephen’s question

    first, i don’t think theists have any particular ground to stand on moral questions because they favor a particular postulate which non-theists do not. god is a non-answer. now, i understand theists disagree, but that’s because they already presuppose that god exists, and has all the attributes and significance in his existence which they usually do. this is like a theist assuming that the ontological argument is awesomely deep. in contrast, a lot of non-theists perceive it to be a cognitive fart. similarly, the idea that most theists have that they have this awesome and substantive ground for their morals which is particular transcendent strikes me as totally without substance or force. but then i’m an atheist. this is like an argument as to whether a rose smells like a fart or like a fragrant flower. you can keep arguing back and forth, but the disagreement is upstream, in terms of the criteria which one uses to adduce beauteous odors.

    second, i think a mathematical model of morals or social organization is fundamentally un-empirical, and where some “theocons” and liberals go wrong. as a conservative i accept custom and tradition which has allowed for human flourishing in the past, and does so in the present, and will presumably do so in the future. morals and mores have evolved over time, and only a few truths are truly eternal (though i am willing to accept a thin set based on human universals hard-wired into our species due to evolution, as well as the fact that reality seems to exist outside of us). societies do not rise or fall on their transcendent beliefs enumerated, they rise and fall on the complex and contingent mores which develop organically from history (e.g., see how false the “people’s republics” are by and large, while britain is notionally a monarchy whose government is headed by one individual).

    third, i generally attribute far less to ideas as having power than many. rather, i believe that ideologies are often post hoc justifications of social forces which have evolved over time. for example, the american revolution and the values enumerated in its founding documents did not create america as it was, the anglo-saxon population exhibited a particular set of whiggish predispositions dating back to the great puritan migration of the 1630s. though i think it is anachronistic to assert that the colonials were rebelling to defend their customary rights, america as an idea far post-dates america as a substantive entity distinct in culture from the motherland.

    finally, i do not foresee the end of religion or religion as a majority orientation in human societies in the near future. though in 1600 i probably would have said that about slavery, so who knows? (though i think religion is a much more deeply hard-wired tendency in our species than something specific like slavery)

    probably should turn this into a post, but i’ve had this argument many times over the course of this weblog….

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Stephen, coming from a math background, why on earth do you think society is an axiomatic rule based system?

    hm. but clark, as an empirical matter wouldn’t you agree that many mathematicians and engineers fall into this false model? though i don’t see physicists doing this much….

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 4:43 am

    To be fair, in the last primaries, I believe only a minority of candidates stated they didn’t believe in evolution.

    yes, i’ve noted this. what it illustrates is the elite-populist chasm. the primary electorate is mostly creationist, especially the influx of ‘religious right’ people who have come into the republican party since the 1970s. huck, paul, and palin are well aligned with the rank & file. romney and mccain had to be careful in elaborating on their theistic evolutionist beliefs, because evolution is connected with anti-christianity in many evangelical circles (romney for obvious reasons had to tread very careful and elaborate at length).

  • GTChristie · February 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I have begun a small campaign to convince people that creationism (and its contrast with evolutionism) belongs in philosophy class, not science class.

    It disserves everyone who wants well-educated students, to confuse young minds with the mistaken notion that science is only a matter of opinion. There are opinions among scientists, but the scientific endeavor is not intended to improve the opinions, but rather to establish facts.

    That work is hard enough to do — facts are elusive enough — without undermining in the science classroom the discipline known as “scientific method.”

    Let science be science in its own context within the science classroom, and let its relative merits (and alternatives) be discussed elsewhere in school. If we “must” teach creationism for its equal-time value in the wider context of society, then let it be taught, but not in science class.

    I ask anyone who sees the wisdom in this clear, logical solution to the problem “what to teach” by adjusting “where to teach it” to please discuss this solution as widely as possible. Bluntly: spread the word.

    Thanks.

  • Mark · February 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Hmmm…wait a minute, Mr. Hume.

    I seem to recall, pre-election, discussing a supreme example of primitive superstitious idiocy, Christine O’Donnell. She said shit about evolution that was AT LEAST as dumb as Rep, Kingston’s comments, plus far more stupidity on a whole host of subjects. (Whatever his flaws, Kingston is easily her intellectual superior–not that that is some great accomplishment).

    Now, you say “one must draw the line at aggressive espousal on frankly primitive superstitions”. But when I made that same point, and pointed out that many here refused to draw such a line, but instead were willing to jettison the “secular” to get the “right”, all I got was this somewhat snarky post from you: http://secularright.org/SR/wordpress/2010/10/06/perfection-is-impossible/

    I didn’t mind the post so much for pointing out the differing perspectives here, but what bothered me then–and even more now, given your position in this post–is that you never then came out for the “line drawing” you now advocate. I agree with your position today, obviously, but it mattered more, and was more principled, I think, in the heat of an election campaign, as opposed to now, when it is quite “safe” to take such a position–it has no practical consequence, politically. Regardless, I know I can look forward to having you as an ally on the secular ramparts in 2012. Right?

  • Clark · February 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    We physicists have just encountered too many places where this rule based axiomatic system approach doesn’t work. Sometimes, such as with thermodynamics, you discover years afterwards it does work. But in general physicists have a culture of look for the patterns then try and figure out what is below. Mathematicians obviously have a culture of start with axioms and see what you can prove. As for engineers, I’m not sure there. My perhaps biased experience with engineers is that they have a plug and play attitude towards mathematics. i.e. take simplified math solutions that work for the particular situation at hand. So I suspect that may lead to a cultural approach of doing that as well. Of course I know plenty of engineers who took lots of physics or other science so I don’t want to make that generalization.

    The question is how many question the applicability of their standard methods. (In any group) Physicists are somewhat rightly criticized for having a bit of a Jehovah complex and arrogance. The interplay between economists and physicists doing economics is often quite funny – the physicists can typically do the math much better but get criticized for being empirically naive and not doing enough research through existing papers. There’s often a criticism of physicists thinking they are doing something novel when they are just reinventing the wheel. Yet to a physicist rederiving things from scratch is part and parcel of understanding. (And rarely a bad thing)

    So I think you’re right that there are broad cultural approaches here. Especially to the God question as well as how evolution is approached. Engineers are apt to be more open to skeptics due to the unnecessariness of science but also because they just don’t encounter that sort of phenomenon much. (I’ve noticed you see far more Creationists amongst engineers than you do physicists – and mathematicians seem more open to problematic philosophical notions that seem elegant and beautiful)

    You should break out your various social science data to see if there is a real connection. (I’ve no idea what studies have been done in this area)

  • secularsquare · February 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Stephen @ January 31:

    As a non-religious conservative, I get along fine with religious conservatives because we share many of the same views on limited or constitutional government. We even share similar moral values. The last six of those ten commandments really are human values. We really did not need God to tell us something that we knew already. If God has something to say, let him say something we don’t know ( Like maybe who Carly Simon really thought was “so vain”)

    I do not appreciate the religious or purported biblical basis for the views of religious conservatives, but different people can support the same social/political goals for different reasons. And when we disagree, we live with those disagreements. For example, down here in Atlanta my religious conservative allies demand that I honor Jesus by not purchasing beer or liquor on Sundays, except in restaurants. It’s a minor inconvenience, but I live with it. With our new governor, hopefully that will change. Then my religious conservative allies can live with it.

  • secularsquare · February 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Stephen @ February 1:

    I am not sure your concern that society and government must be based upon religion rather than biological evolution is all that important. Both religious based governments and materialist based governments have shown themselves hostile to liberty.

    The political philosophy of our government rests on those propositions in the D. of I. regarding equality (no man is born or created with the right to rule over others, rights (life, liberty, etc.), government established to protect those rights, and government resting on the consent of the governed.

    It is not obvious to me why it makes a difference whether one bases equality, etc. on our creation in God’s image or on our species specific properties as human beings.

    As to non-religious foundations for rights, see Liberty and Nature by Douglas Rasmussen or maybe Darwinian Natural Right or Darwinian Conservatism by Larry Arnhart.

  • Clark · February 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Mark, I can’t speak for Razib but I suspect there’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and making it a litmus test for voting. As a practical matter I don’t think a person’s evolution beliefs matter that much in most contexts. Put an other way I’d rather have someone fiscally conservative who disbelieved in evolution than a big spender and regulator who happened to believe in evolution. That said I think one must stand up for scientific belief against the wave of anti-science belief in America. I just think that’s done by confronting the issues rather than making it a voting litmus test.

    Of course O’Donnel should have been voted against for a slew of reasons.

  • J. · February 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    HL Mencken may be of more assistance in explaining the rise of Kingston-like yokels than are a few dozen academics. The WASP Herd by and large thinks like Kingston does. He represents a large section of Heartland, USA (and that includes..GOP and Dem). So, that’s who gets voted in.

    In a few college towns, people may know something about evolution–and science and mathematics (though …I doubt less than 5% of population has passed a calculus course) and they tend to vote Demo or for non-superstitious candidates yet…hardly all liberals or non-conservatives are secular (maybe you could examine what muslims think of Darwinism, “David Hume”). So, blame Herd -politics, ie mob-democracy, the LCD, so forth (that’s not to say a Toryish elitism is superior either).

    Mitt Romney believes in evolution? Apes to humans, to…the truths of the Bible, the 12 tribes in America, and finally….Joe Smith evolves …and the Angel Moroni visits him with the Golden Plates, engraven with ancient tongues. Science.

  • The Heathen Republican · February 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I don’t have the same questions about morality from an atheist perspective since I’ve covered the same issues myself. But I am curious why you say, “A conservative movement without a religious segment would be totally ineffectual”.

    It’s not axiomatic to me, so I guess I’d like to hear you expand on it. I think a well thought out conservatism without the meddlesome religious belief would work perfectly well.

  • Mark · February 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Clark, my point, simply put, is this: what does it mean “to draw a line”, if you so willing to cross it to get to a voting booth? Such line-drawing seems like a rather pointless and empty gesture, doesn’t it? If that is all we are talking about, who cares?

  • Stephen · February 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Clark said:
    “Stephen, coming from a math background, why on earth do you think society is an axiomatic rule based system?”

    Well, the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is pretty much the definition of an axiom, and if U.S. government is based on the Declaration of Independence then I am living in an axiomatic rule-based system. For a false model it seems to have held up pretty well.

    Speaking of false models, would any of you more enlightened types like to point me to a definitive explanation of why society cannot be modeled using axioms?
    I have a tendency towards paranoia, and I would like to put up a fight before I conclude that some people here are rejecting this to avoid confronting the contradictions in their own personal axioms.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Speaking of false models, would any of you more enlightened types like to point me to a definitive explanation of why society cannot be modeled using axioms?

    because if you know a lot of history (i do) you see how weak a priori systems are at predicting anything. do some mental checks if your axioms can predict anything robustly. most people who think that axioms can predict robustly don’t know enough history to test inferences.

    i mean, looking at the declaration of independence vs. britain’s monarchy, in 1780 which polity would have assumed would have abolished human bondage first? the problems with your framework are trivially transparent.

    (p.s. i’m actually much more open to mathematical models of history than most btw)

    and if U.S. government is based on the Declaration of Independence then I am living in an axiomatic rule-based system

    you live an alternative factual universe. the current US gov. is not “based” on the declaration of independence in anything but the most trivial senses. it is more concretely based on the constitution, but even that framework has changed and reinvented itself.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I didn’t mind the post so much for pointing out the differing perspectives here, but what bothered me then–and even more now, given your position in this post–is that you never then came out for the “line drawing” you now advocate.

    such things are situational. this is a fight within the modern conservative movement and republican party. that’s where line-drawing is more effective. o’donnell had made it past the primaries, and she was going to lose anyway. if you care about the efficacy of the issue, i.e., whether creationism gets a hearing or not, then it is more important to focus on the repub. primaries than on guaranteed-to-lose candidates.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    also, everyone would vote for a creationist on the margin. very few american liberals (i hope) would vote for an avowed marxist-leninist who expressed a wish to bring about a dictatorship of the proletariat over a social conservative creationist republican. a right-liberal is better than no liberal.

  • Mark · February 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Again, wait a minute–you are now conflating “creationist” with “aggressive espousal on frankly primitive superstitions”. I have voted for “creationists”. I have not voted, and never would vote, for some idiot who thought the earth was 6,000 years old; that dinosaurs were on “the Ark”; etc. These would seem to be “frankly primitive superstitions” where a line must be drawn, if the phrase is going to have any meaning. And, further, I am not going to positively reinforce the wayward tendencies of the modern GOP to nominate idiots like these by brainlessly voting for the “R”–besides the Democratic opponent, one can vote third-party, write-in or (gasp!) not all for that office. If your “line drawing” is limited only to primaries, you have given the GOP every incentive to take you–and us–for granted. How that can be rationalized as a good strategy in your mind, I don’t know.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    How that can be rationalized as a good strategy in your mind, I don’t know.

    you probably spend more time on ‘grand strategy’ than i do :-) seriously dude, no offense, but i don’t take epiphenomenal politics seriously. i don’t tear my hair out over a creationist or liberal democrat winning office in any given election.

  • Mark · February 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Well, neither do I. I am just unclear what the “line-drawing” was meant to circumscribe. Clearly there is a point where I think “right” alone is insufficient, if being “secular right” is to have any meaning. I assume the same goes for you, but we’ll just have to leave our common ground undefined for now–no lines.

    Peace unto you, good sir.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 2, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Clearly there is a point where I think “right” alone is insufficient, if being “secular right” is to have any meaning.

    look, i generally favor ron paul’s extremism, or romney’s competence. i think huckabee is a nice person and an attractive candidate, but he’s too dumb for my taste. i would probably vote libertarian. i’m out of sink with repubs. on foreign policy, and that’s where i think huck et al. are most likely to listen to self-interested parties.

  • Stephen · February 2, 2011 at 12:32 am

    “because if you know a lot of history (i do) you see how weak a priori systems are at predicting anything. do some mental checks if your axioms can predict anything robustly.”

    Compared to what? Models that can make robust predictions are rare in any field. In any case, failure to predict likely says more about me than the validity of an axiom-based system. I will concede that a long history of modeling failure can cast serious doubts on it’s validity, but I would like to read about that history.

    “looking at the declaration of independence vs. britain’s monarchy, in 1780 which polity would have assumed would have abolished human bondage first?”

    Well, if I was restricted to just the Declaration as written and just the monarchy at that time, I would have predicted the U.S. would be first. If I included a few other details, like Jefferson being forced to take out his condemnation of King George’s support of the slave trade, and the plague’s effect on Britain’s population (increasing the value of the serfs), I would lean more towards Britain. This is probably a hindsight effect.

    I have little interest in mathematical models of society. My position is simply that societies have at their base axioms (core values, self-evident truths) that they build on and one of them in the U.S. is the existence of God. If that axiom is removed, can a free and open society be maintained?

    “you live an alternative factual universe. the current US gov. is not “based” on the declaration of independence in anything but the most trivial senses.”

    I seem to have company in my alternative universe: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1451
    “What we mean, then, when we say that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are best friends, is that they are necessary and reciprocal supports for each other. “

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 2, 2011 at 1:51 am

    My position is simply that societies have at their base axioms (core values, self-evident truths) that they build on and one of them in the U.S. is the existence of God. If that axiom is removed, can a free and open society be maintained?

    my study of cognitive psychology indicates that humans don’t operate like this at all. therefore, i doubt that society in the aggregate does, since society emerges from the cognition of multitudes.

    I seem to have company in my alternative universe:

    first, i know that you have company. second, a single sentence illustrates what you just said, it doesn’t add anything to your stated position. you’re welcome to your opinions. you asked for mine, and i gave them. i have no interest in convincing you really of the plausibility of my own, as unfortunately said plausibility is probably conditional on a large data base of historical facts, which i’m not sure if you have. if i met you in person i could have a robust and thick discussion about american and world history, and it would be fruitful. my experience on internet discussions is that that is more difficult when presuppositions differ.

  • Author comment by David Hume · February 2, 2011 at 1:58 am

    also, richard weaver stated that ideas have consequences. but, i think more often consequences give rise to ideas.

  • Stephen · February 2, 2011 at 6:10 am

    “a single sentence illustrates what you just said, it doesn’t add anything to your stated position”

    I inserted the single sentence to give an idea of what you would find if you followed the link.

    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1451

    If it helps, here are a couple more:

    “The detailed ways in which the Constitution, rhapsode-like, echoes the Declaration are legion and, mercifully, will scarcely reward rehearsal in these premises. (However, an appendix is added to illustrate the relationship.) A notable example is the subordination of the military power to the civil power, and there are many others. Yet, I would insist that nothing so fully explains the Constitution as the Declaration. “

  • Clark · February 2, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Stephen it might be better said that society functions more like a narrative constructed out of a few agreed upon starting points rather than a mathematical proof starting with some axioms. The issue isn’t the starting points but rather what happens afterwards with them. I see no evidence society functions like an axiomatic system. Razib sketched out why. However to me the burden of proof is on those arguing it does as I see zero evidence it does and considerable evidence it functions more like folks interpreting a poem.

  • Kevin Lawrence · February 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    You know, i’ve been following this blog since you first created it and I followed your science blog for a significant period before that. I have commented frequently. I am a fan of yours and your co-blogger’s writing not least because you are so rarely partisan and because you discuss facts rather that talking points.

    >> Do us a favour, and just keep talking about what you think rather than which side you are on.

    >you better speak to me with more respect. i don’t tolerate the impudent bullshit which is the norm in other weblogs.

    I’d much rather hear about why liberalism is wrong than that some liberals are idiots. That’s why I have followed your blog for so long. I already know that there are plenty of idiots on both sides.

    But I certainly meant no disrespect by my exhortation and I apologize sincerely for my unartful phrasing.

  • Kevin Lawrence · February 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    “Aside from being impudent B.S., the stupidity of this statement is that it was posted on a site called Secular Right.”.

    I follow plenty of conservative blogs. My criteria for following a site is whether the bloggers write well and have intelligent ideas. Secular Right does, which is why I have followed it for so long.

    “I expect the posters to explain why they are on the right, and how they get along with all of the religious people there (or here, since I consider myself to be conservative).”

    I expect posters to explain how their ideas apply to the world we live in rather than declare their allegiance to people on the same side.

  • Stephen · February 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    From Clark:
    “Stephen it might be better said that society functions more like a narrative constructed out of a few agreed upon starting points rather than a mathematical proof starting with some axioms.”

    I agree completely. I do not think I would want to live in a society that functions as rigorously as a mathematical proof. My interest (inartfully stated) is: what are those agreed upon starting points? I think that one of them (for the U.S.) is the existence of God. If the secularization of the U.S. continues and that prop is removed, what happens next? What supports the inalienable rights, life, liberty, etc.? The theory of evolution is not going to be helpful here.

  • Kevin Lawrence · February 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    “What supports the inalienable rights, life, liberty, etc.? The theory of evolution is not going to be helpful here.”

    On the contrary, evolutionary psychology, while not yet universally accepted as scientific truth, has a lot to say about where morality and virtue comes from.

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