I wanted to blog this item last week, but for lack of time, here it is now, better late, I suppose.
Robert Bidinatto points to an unforgivable flaw in an otherwise typically excellent Victor Davis Hanson essay.
Who, exactly, does Dr. Hanson believe champions or represents reason
today? Does he truly think that reason is the method of postmodern,
relativistic leftists, who sneer at the very possibility of rationality
and objectivity? Or is it the method of tenured Marxists in western
universities, who blindly embrace the mysticism of Hegel and uphold the
subjectivity of "class logic"? Or is reason the preferred method of
Christian conservatives, who, like Hanson himself, believe that blind
faith in some unseen, supernatural deity must supplant (as he puts it)
"trust in reason alone"? Or does he perhaps see reason at work in the
jihads of our fanatical Islamist enemies, whose envy-eaten rage against
our Enlightenment-based civilization impels them to nihilistic orgies
of suicide and murder, rationalized by the fantasy that they will be
rewarded for their mayhem with 72 virgins in a supernatural afterlife?
Looking around us at the world today, where does one see the
slightest evidence of the presence and influence of reason? Who are its
intellectual advocates, let alone its consistent practitioners?
No, Dr. Hanson: reason has not failed us. To the contrary, reason
is universally ignored, rejected, criticized, mocked, and assaulted —
and not just by civilization’s avowed enemies, but by its
intellectually-confused defenders, as well. Today’s world represents
the triumph of irrationalism, in all its forms.
A very big indeed. I like Hanson, most particularly for his depth of historical knowledge, which recognizes, very simply, that we are who we are and are where we are because of Western Civilization — much of which has to do with a profound ability to make war better, longer, and more consistently that any other culture. That’s just recognizing plain facts, which so few have any real ability to do.
But he errs when he assumes that it’s our cultural religious and other fantasies that are the source of our historical strength rather than it being Western Civilization that was first enlightened with reason at least some of the time. That led to science, and onto industry, sealing Western military dominance for the last few hundred years, which in-turn, allowed Western cultural values to widely disseminate and now dominate the world on that level as well.
But now the cat’s out of the bag, and a Middle Eastern tribe of 7th century primitives — who couldn’t engineer a building that can withstand and earthquake of any serious degree — much less create a nuclear bomb had those things not been first invented in the West — is on the verge of having nukes without going through the cultural process of enlightenment necessary to get them.
You don’t have to worry about monkeys creating nuclear bombs and destroying the world. They may, after several million years of evolution, but what’s evolving that’s far more important than their physical characteristics is their minds. It is only rational minds that have the prowess to create such things, and cultures only produce rational minds to the extent that they embrace some form of enlightenment.
A number of the sci-fi tales of various sorts contain the principle, often called "non-interference," or some such other thing. It is a recognition that a culture needs to develop technology on their own, because high-technology brings great power, the power to destroy, and that the process of getting there, culturally and intellectually is what provides the best defense against that technology’s misuse to do evil.
It’s a principle that ought to have been applied by the West towards other civilizations from day one, and today we pay the price because of it.
(Update: Oops, forgot the nod to Beck.)