Tuesday, June 2, 2009

<i>Liberal Fascism</i> in Paperback

One of the most important books of the decade, in my opinion, was released in paperback yesterday, and now you have no excuse for not purchasing a copy. The book is Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, an exploration of how ideological fascism was spawned by twentieth century progressivism/liberalism.

Those of a certain age will agree that it has been taken for granted for much of the twentieth century that Italian and German fascism were phenomena of the ideological right. It's not uncommon to hear leftists trying to stick the label of "fascist" on their conservative opponents. What these name-callers don't realize, and what even many conservatives don't realize, is that fascism is actually a child of leftist ideology and that the fascist temptation is alive and well today in America - not the fascism of the Nazis, to be sure, but what Goldberg refers to as happy-faced fascism.

In honor of the occasion of the paperback release National Review has an interview with Goldberg in which he talks about the book's reception and the impact it's having on campuses across the country. It's pretty interesting and serves as a good introduction to the ideas he writes about in the book.


I, Jerk

We all have at one time or another jumped to conclusions about something and wound up regretting it. That's why it's always wise, no doubt, to hold one's fire until sure of the target. Andrew Beitbart recounts a recent incident in which he had this lesson borne home to him in stinging fashion. Breitbart's telling of the tale is pretty funny and contains a good admonition for all of us. Give it a read.


Socialist Prophet

These words by an American socialist and six time candidate for president certainly seem prescient:

"The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened." Norman Thomas (d.1968).

In the last three months the Obama administration has taken over five banks, the largest insurance company in the world, and two automobile companies. It has borrowed in those three months more money than has been borrowed in total over the last thirty years. It has amassed a debt that is greater than the cumulative American debt since our founding. It has imposed a burden on every American household of almost $540,000.

We are well on our way to becoming the socialist nation Thomas foresaw. It's hard to envision how, unless the massive spending to which the Democrats have committed us is reversed by the elections of 2010, we can avoid hyperinflation, massive taxation, and the loss of our status as the most prosperous nation on earth.

Perhaps I'm just missing something that others see, but if not our children will pay an awful price for the political choice the nation made in November of 2008.


Perfection in Biology

Anika Smith at Evolution News and Notes links us to a surprising post. According to the Biologic Institute, physicists studying biological systems are assessing them to be perfect or near perfect in their design:

When we think of simple, elegant, unifying principles in science, we think of physics. It's not surprising then that physicists who examine living systems are looking for principles of this kind.

And it seems they have found one. Simply stated, it is that biological processes tend to be optimal in cases where this can be tested. Life's complexity can make it hard to pinpoint what "optimal" means, but sometimes physical limits provide a crisp definition. Because these limits cannot possibly be exceeded, they serve as an objective standard of perfection. Interestingly, in cases where it is clearly beneficial to edge right up to this standard, that's exactly what life seems to do.

For decades enzymologists have recognized that certain enzymes are catalytically perfect - meaning that they process reactant molecules as rapidly as these molecules can reach them by diffusion. That hinted at a principle of physical perfection in biology, but no one anticipated its breadth until recently. According to Princeton physicist William Bialek, one of the leading proponents of the emerging principle,...."While it is popular to view biological mechanisms as an historical record of evolutionary and developmental compromises, these observations on functional performance point toward a very different view of life as having selected a set of near optimal mechanisms for its most crucial tasks."

In other words, Bialek is saying that the optimal nature of the systems these physicists have looked at cannot plausibly be explained in terms of chance mutation and natural selection. Thus, the people at the Biologic Institute wonder, doesn't this mean that the evidence of perfection coheres better with a Design view of nature than it does with the Darwinian view?

It must be frustrating being a Darwinian. Here you have this beautiful, comprehensive theory that explains so much but which just refuses to conform to so many empirical facts.



Dennis Prager's column, to which we alluded the other day, got me to thinking about the matter of worldviews or what post-moderns like to call "metanarratives."

Worldviews are inescapable. Everyone has one. It's a lens through which we view the world, the set of assumptions we hold, consciously or unconciously, that help us to make sense of the world.

Any worldview offers answers to the following questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. Where am I going?
  4. What's wrong with the world

Different worldviews offer different answers to those questions, but consider the answers given by just two of the major worldviews on offer in the U.S. - Judeo-Christianity and atheistic materialism.

In the Judeo-Christian view the above questions are answered as follows:

  1. A child of the Creator of the universe.
  2. Because God wanted to love us.
  3. To be with Him forever.
  4. It spurns God's love.

Those answers have been the well-springs of human creativity and discovery for two thousand years. Belief in those answers leads to a high view of humanity, it's what gives men reason to believe they have dignity and, consequently, human rights. The anticipation of eternity is a source of hope, meaning and happiness in life.

By contrast consider the answers that the atheistic materialist must give to those same questions:

  1. A chance product of blind, impersonal forces.
  2. No reason.
  3. Nowhere.
  4. Nothing.

    Could anything be more sterile, more nihilistic, more likely to sap the life and vitality out of a culture than a view of things that declares that there's no hope, no real truth, no meaning, no dignity to being human? A culture which rejects the Christian worldview in order to embrace this view of life is a culture that will soon be empty and effete.

    Ideas have consequences. One may think that the only difference between the atheist and the Christian is that the atheist gets to sleep in on Sunday morning, but one would be profoundly wrong. The difference between the two worldviews ripples across every aspect of life. It's the difference between hope and despair, meaning and pointlessness, values and worthlessness, dignity and degradation.

    The question that puzzles me the most about atheism is not why people believe it, although that is indeed a puzzle, but rather why people would want it to be true. Why, for example, would Christopher Hitchens say that he would find it very depressing if he should discover that God really did exist? Why would philosopher Thomas Nagel write that he doesn't want the universe to be the kind of place where God existed?

    These men are essentially saying that they would be depressed and disappointed if the universe were in fact a place where life had meaning, where there was a hope for life beyond the grave, where justice will ultimately prevail, where morality is based on something far more substantial than subjective feelings, where humans have dignity and worth and thus rights, where love is something more than a chemical reaction in the brain, where reason can be trusted, where there is a reason for our existence, and on and on.

    To hope that God doesn't exist is to hope that none of this is the case because surely none of it can be the case if God is not there.