IT was Douglas Adams in his remarkable Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who coined the felicitous phrase about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
For the fact is that we do not know the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. But we insist that life, the universe, and everything should have a meaning, and for that we humans have gods.
It is the conceit of many moderns that we have done away with gods, and have now determined to stand naked in the world clothed only in the truth of Darwin and evolution. God didn't create the world; evolution did. All this talk of God and Creation is mere creationism, the crude insertion of "skyhooks" into the world to explain what we cannot, at least not yet, explain.
Enter Matt Ridley and The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge. Ridley proposes that it is not just animals and plants that evolve through their selfish genes. It is everything.
And anyone that demands a higher authority for, e.g., managing the economy, is nothing but a creationist. And you know what those people are like. Think Canada's liberal darling Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid's Tale. Only, of course, Atwood sensibly confines her examination of creationists and fundamentalists to the religious ones.
We humans do not just demand gods to wisely direct our moral and political affairs from above. We imagine it in all corners of our life, from religion to culture to the economy to education. It cannot be that grubby and ordinary humans, combining together in voluntary cooperation, can improve on the edicts of kings, bishops, moralists, and professors.
Rubbish, writes Ridley. If you look around, you will find that everything in the universe proceeds in a bottom-up way, by felicitous combinations and innovations. And it is not usually some lone genius that makes the breakthrough, but several people, all trying to solve the problem du jour.
For instance, in addition to Darwin there was Wallace. And there were several people in addition to Einstein around 1900 that were trying to solve the problem that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant. Einstein got there first, and to him the glory. But in no time there was quantum mechanics, an amazing collaboration of minds unlocking the secrets of the sub-atomic world.
And if you need a confirmation of the idea of evolution, here is a piece by Vaclav Smil from IEEE Spectrum about the five "Stages of Electronics," the evolution from Maxwell's unified theory of electricity, magnetism and light down to the present ubiquity of hand-held smart electronics. It is staggering that from the problem of figuring out light, magnetism, electricity, and everything, we have arrived in a little over a century at $100 smartphones that provide instant video communication across the world and a window on all the knowledge of the world. And nobody was in charge.
Matt Ridley, who is a climate skeptic, is making the argument against top-down wisdom from the right. But I am reading, courtesy of a liberal friend, The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, about the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The left hemisphere is the abstract side and logical side and the right hemisphere is the experiential and emotional side. The book proceeds from a detailed exposition of the current science of the brain to a critique of culture. The left hemisphere, says the blurb,
has grabbed more than its fair share of power, resulting in a society where a rigid and bureaucratic obsession with structure, narrow self-interest and a mechanistic view of the world hold sway, at an enormous cost to human happiness and the world around us.Yes, but, according to chaps like me, the problem is the usual suspects like the back page quotes from Huffington Post and the Times Literary Supplement. It is their conceits and their prejudices and their appetite for power from which issue all the problems of the world, including bureaucracy and mechanism. So I wonder how McGilchrist makes his argument which, according to chapter headings, goes through renaissance and reformation and enlightenment and romanticism and industrial revolution and modernism and postmodernism. I can't believe that he takes too close a cut against our present evolved, educated, administrative ruling class and cultural elite. But we will see.
IF you want to know the secret of life, the universe and everything, there is a problem. At some point, you hit a brick wall, the horizon of your knowledge. So the deep thinkers of the world have come up with a useful skyhook. The world, they say, is sitting on a turtle. But what about the turtle? What is the turtle sitting on? There is only one answer to that. It is turtles, all the way down. ...
THE big question facing America is just how hard and how successfully the so-called "Deep State" will push to stop Donald Trump and his agenda. We have seen it take out Gen. Flynn, President Trump's choice for National Security Advisor. And we have seen curious leaks of conversations between President Trump and foreign leaders. And we have seen the push-back against President Trump's refugee ...
ALL of our liberal and lefty friends are chanting in unison, as if at a peaceful protest, that Trump is Incompetent. Maybe they are right. Or maybe they haven't gotten out lately. Maybe they have been too protected by The New York Times and NPR from the dreadful record of President Obama's incompetence. Here is D.C. McAllister going into chapter and verse about Obama's incompetence, as in ...
WHEN A WHITE racist thug kills a bunch of black Charleston church ladies we are supposed to go into the Cringe. But when a black racist thug kills a bunch of Dallas policemen we are supposed, even by conservative writers, to get out of our partisan foxholes and fraternize with the other guys in political ...
THE SUPRISE OF REDNECKS debouching from the Appalachians into the Atlantic plain and the explosion of Pentecostalism in the inner cities has unnerved those who had convinced themselves that religion was a thing of the past, now that God was dead.... more
Andrew Coulson, Market Education
How universal literacy was achieved before government education
Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic
How we got our education system
James Tooley, Reclaiming Education
How only a market in education will provide opportunity for the poor
James Tooley, The Miseducation of Women
How the feminists wrecked education for boys and for girls
E.G. West, Education and the State
How education was doing fine before the government muscled in
Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
How ordinary people in the United States wrote the law during the 19th century
F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
How to build a society based upon law
Henry Maine, Ancient Law
How the movement of progressive peoples is from status to contract
John Zane, The Story of Law
How law developed from early times down to the present
James Bartholomew, The Welfare State We're In
How the welfare state makes crime, education, families, and health care worse.
David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State
How ordinary people built a sturdy social safety net in the 19th century
David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
How ordinary people built themselves a sturdy safety net before the welfare state
Theda Skocpol, Diminished Democracy
How the US used to thrive under membership associations and could do again
David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry
How modern freemasonry got started in Scotland
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
How Christianity is booming in China
Finke & Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
How the United States grew into a religious nation
Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism
How progressives must act fast if they want to save the welfare state
David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish
How Pentecostalism is spreading across the world
Work to restore the Road to the Middle Class. Heres how. Ground it in faith. Grade it with education. Protect it with mutual aid. Defend it with the law. more>>
The Road to the Middle Class is a journey from a world of power to a world of trust and love. In religion, it is a journey from power gods that respond to sacrifice and augury to the God who makes a covenant with mankind. In education, it is a journey from the world of the spoken word to the world of the written word. In community, it is the journey from dependence on blood kin and upon clientage under a great lord to the mutual aid and the rules of the self-governing fraternal association. In law it is the journey from the violence of force and feud to the kingŽs peace, the law of contract, and private property.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values