Monday, July 17, 2006

The slow motion collapse of the conservative movement continues

Thoughtful conservatives have been issuing warnings to the conservative movement as a whole that political anti-Darwinism is a losing position. Less thoughtful conservatives have, for the most part, laughed in response. Ironically, it is usually the general public and liberals who do much of the laughing when the creationist conservatives open their mouths upon the subject. 2006, in particular, seems destined to be the year of the great conservative crackup over evolution. Yes, creationist conservatives, that incessant giggling coming from your Left is directed at you.

The peril the creationism poses to conservatives is twofold. First, the truth in general and scientific truth in particular are conservative principles. The truth is an indispensible component of good governance for any political movement, but for conservatives in particular, the willingness of private organizations to set their duty to the truth above the claims of political factions is also a key component of a principled anti-statism. Second, a political movement that is unwilling to say anything about science, whether true or false, to serve its political goals is only casting its general reliability into doubt. In other words, if creationist conservatives are unwilling to make the slightest concessions to truth when discussing "Darwinist" physics or mathematics, then why should they be believed when they discuss economics or political theory or anything else.

The first conservative casulty of creationist this year is Anne Coulter, whose book Godless: The Church of Liberalism has several chapters of anti-Darwinist content. These chapters have already been shreaded to pieces by liberal bloggers all across the internet since they largely recycled already discredited anti-Darwinist arguments (i.e. things like Darwinism is a tautology).
The second conservative casulty is The National Review, whose July 17th issue devotes more than 5 pages to an essay that cannot even conceed basic principles of science in its zeal to refute materialism. For example, the author writes (author's italics):
Feynman proposed the mapping of electron paths by assuming the electron took all possible routes, and then calculating the interference patterns that result among their wave functions. This method was a great success. But despite some dabbling as a youth in many-worlds theory, Feynman in his prime was too shrewd to suggest that the electron actually took all the possible paths, let alone to accept the theory that these paths compounded into entire seperate universes.
Actually, you can be absolutely sure the Feynman did believe that the elctron could travel from one point to another by multiple paths because this is a basic principle -- and practically a defining principle -- of quantum mechanics. It seems difficult to believe that anyone, much less the great Feynman, who cared to obtain the slightest practical knowledge of quantum mechanics could possibly get a fact like that wrong.

Here's another example:
In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate. No possible knowledge of the computer's materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations.
I don't know what kind of computer the author of this essay uses, but my computer was actually designed to examine automatically its component materials for information about the content of its calculations. The information is then displayed on a little device I like to call a "monitor" for my personal inspection. In reality, it is the semantic content of the information contained within the computer, not the actual physical state of the computer's components, that is independent of the computer's construction.

Yet another example (author's italics):
Turning to economics in researching my 1981 book Wealth & Poverty, I incurred new disappointments in Darwin and materialism. Forget God -- economic science largely denies intelligent design or creation even by human beings.
Is the author therefore expecting us to believe, apparently quite literally, that money grows on trees?

The rest of the article continues along similar lines by confusing information theory with semantics, confusing semantics with pragmatics, confusing information with knowledge, dropping trendy names and scientific buzzwords, and so on. That a magazine would devote more than five pages of prime "real estate" to a crank science article simply underscores the fact that it simply has zero credibility on any topic. The same issue of the National Review contains a lengthy analysis about the economic problems of Mexico. Did the editors manage to dig up an author who has read, say, page one of an Economics 101 textbook? Who knows?

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