My sweet neocons

I just stumbled across this 1997 Ronald Bailey (yes, it’s in Reason, but it’s good) article on neoconservatives’ attitudes towards evolution. It’s probably the first thing I’ve ever read about neoconservatism that made sense to me, in terms of explaining motivations.

Not all neocons purport to reject evolution, but “intellectual giants” Irving Kristol and Robert Bork have explicitly questioned it, for example. The idea, as Bradley (correctly, IHMO) explains it is that evolution undermines faith in traditional religion which is problematic for those wishing to preserve the social order. The article is long, though, necessarily so — I will attempt to weave the main argument together in an extended excerpt:

The end of the Cold War may also be a factor. Marx fell with the Soviet Union; Freud has been discredited by modern psychology and neuroscience. The last standing member of the 19th century’s unholy materialist trinity is Darwin. Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial, makes the connection clear: “Darwinism is the most important of the materialist ideologies–Marxism, Freudianism, and behaviorism are others–which have done so much damage to science and society in the 20th century.” Kristol agrees. “All I want to do,” he told his AEI audience, “is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination. For the moment that’s enough.”

But something deeper seems to be going on, and the key to it can be found in Bork’s assertion in his book that religious “belief is probably essential to a civilized future.” These otherwise largely secular intellectuals may well have turned on Darwin because they have concluded that his theory of evolution undermines religious faith in society at large.

[…..]

At the heart of the neoconservative attack on Darwinism lies the political philosophy of Leo Strauss. Strauss was a German political philosopher who fled the Nazis in 1938 and began teaching at the University of Chicago in 1949. In an intellectual revolt against modernity, Strauss focused his work on interpreting such classics as Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Kristol has acknowledged his intellectual debt to Strauss in a recent autobiographical essay. “What made him so controversial within the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that `the truth will make men free.'” Kristol adds that “Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol’s] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences.”

Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”

Neoconservatives have always annoyed me in a way that paleoconservatives don’t. Sure, George Will says a lot of stupid and factually inaccurate things about global warming, but he’s openly agnostic (“too indecisive to be an atheist”). Yes, Kathleen Parker wastes a lot of columns on superficial cultural crap, but she often explicitly criticizes Republicans for cowing to the religious right. With these two, at least, it appears that they are writing things that they actually believe themselves.

There’s something unbelievably arrogant about taking public positions that you secretly don’t believe because you think that the hoi polloi needs to believe in order to keep our society going. It makes my skin crawl. The neocons are the worst offenders, but the Village also feels, as a rule, that the public shouldn’t know the truth about everything. I believe this attitude is toxic and is a big part of what turns out public discourse into nonsensical babble.

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82 replies
  1. 1
    jeffreyw says:

    Gentlemen don’t talk about certain things in mixed company.

  2. 2
    Lisa K. says:

    There’s something unbelievably arrogant about taking public positions that you secretly don’t believe because you think that the hoi polloi needs to believe in order to keep our society going.

    I am reminded of when Chris Matthews said to the-screaming-asshole-but-not-completely-idiotic Mike Pence, “You are a smart guy. You believe in evolution no matter what they say, don’t you?”

    Pence hemmed and hawed and finally gave the chickenshit answer that all conservatives give when they don’t want to look a) ignorant beyond all measure to the world and b) sacreligious to their fundamentalist flock, something to the effect of, “I believe God did whatever he had to do to produce humans in his own image.”

    He was clearly for evolution before he was against it.

  3. 3
    CT Voter says:

    but the Village also feels, as a rule, that the public shouldn’t know the truth about everything

    Well, no. Because the public is nowhere close to being as smart, astute, and filled with gravitas, as are the Village inhabitants. They’re just thinking of our welfare.

  4. 4

    Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”

    So Kristol is a postmodernist. Whodathunkit?

    I sort of get what he’s saying. But I don’t see that it applies to keeping social order, unless by “social order” he means keeping the riff-raff in their place.

    And yes, if the riff-raff were really exposed to the truth that the top 1 percent have been f**king them up the arse in a mad frenzy of greed for, oh, since forever, yeah, that might upset that apple cart.

  5. 5
    jamie says:

    Yup, neocons are elitists, plain and simple.

  6. 6
    ACS says:

    Yeah, the whole Strauss thing is discussed at length in the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, which (among other things) traces the intellectual histories of both the neocons and the jihadists. Some of the claims in it are a bit of a stretch IMO, but it’s worth watching, especially for that part.

  7. 7
    matoko_chan says:

    sigh.
    The social cohesion model that failed was White Patriarchy.
    Divorce, out of wedlock pregnancy, working women were socially stigmatized.
    White men were favored in the workplace, because they supported families.
    See Carlson.

    Allan Carlson’s essay “THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR THE NEW DEAL” goes into more detail on this, as do essays on his site profam.org. I’m disappointed Ross Douthat and Jim Manzi appear not to have engaged with Carlson, since he is very focused on issues like family formation.
    Now here’s how the old order was suppressed:
    Anti-discrimination laws protecting sex or marital status have destroyed customary workplace discrimination in favor of married men. The federal Title VII laws originally were designed to integrate blacks into the paternalist status quo ante. However, Southern segregationists cynically added anti-sexist provisions in an attempt to torpedo the civil rights legislation. They ended up unleashing the feminist revolution.
    As for cohabitation, landlords, hoteliers and neighborhood organizations are now prohibited by law in many (all?) states from refusing housing to unmarried couples. This deprives moral conservatism of a geographical, economic and political base as a “respectable” part of town.
    I’m sure anti-discrimination laws even destroyed the larger single-sex boarding houses, many of which served to preserve conservative mores among unmarried but independent women and men.
    The larger function of these anti-discrimination laws was to disestablish the WASP/Catholic consensus on family culture. No men were allowed to run their businesses in the traditional pro-patriarchy way.
    Non-judgmentalism became the established creed. It also became the orthodoxy of opinion-setting institutions like colleges and entertainment and media outlets not through “cultural change,” but by force of law.
    Newspapers, too, can be sued for sexism.

  8. 8
    Ash Can says:

    “Toxic” is certainly the word for it. Never mind the abject arrogance at the heart of this belief, it’s leading to the undoing of our American society. A person’s decisions are only as good as the information he/she has to work with, no matter how diligently he/she pursues that information. If the information isn’t there, fuck-ups happen.

  9. 9
    Loneoak says:

    Neoconservatives really do see everything as an epic, global battle for the future of civilization. As an out and proud materialist atheist who is fully convinced there is no need for supernatural explanations for anything on this Earth (and finds much moral and emotional comfort in this), I think they give these ideas far too much power by setting it up as a battle for civilization.

    They seem to think civilized life is preposterously vulnerable to ideas, as if the materialists had some Great Awakening event and we generated mass conversions everyone would just start raping and pillaging. That is patently ridiculous. But if we had a truly catastrophic economic/industrial failure we would run out of food in a matter of days in the US and they never seem to worry about that.

    Great find, DougJ.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    maus says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    So Kristol is a postmodernist. Whodathunkit?

    All neocons are PoMo to the hilt. It helps them redefine reality on their terms.

  12. 12
    SapphireCate says:

    Ah the irony.

  13. 13
    MattF says:

    The Bishop can be an atheist… but, then, there’s the little issue of how you get to be a bishop in a democracy. The answer seems to be that the title is handed down from father to son– e.g., Kristol to Kristol. Maybe that’s the act of a deity who’s being a teensy bit ironic… But probably not.

  14. 14
    Ella in NM says:

    Something that continues to annoy the crap out of me is that the whole debate about whether or not one “believes in” Darwinism is based on an anachronistic, outdated and highly stereotyped definition of the theory of evolution. The knee-jerk neocons and religious fundamentalists think it’s still in the Social Engineering phase of its development, when it has moved vastly beyond those early speculations. As is demonstrated that they, clearly not the fittest, persist and even thrive.

  15. 15
    Joey Maloney says:

    OFFTOPIC

    Jesus Christ I hate the fucking NFL. Like the last thing they would want to do is give their fans a way to consume their product. Assholes.

    Does anyone have a link to a working audio stream to the game in progress?

    Stupid greedheads.

    /OFFTOPIC

  16. 16

    There’s something unbelievably arrogant about taking public positions that you secretly don’t believe because you think that the hoi polloi needs to believe in order to keep our society going.

    There’s a long tradition of that kind of thing, though. Benjamin Franklin comes most immediately to mind.

  17. 17
    cmorenc says:

    These supposed neocon “intellectuals” attracted to “intelligent design” and anti-darwinism etc. miss a couple of huge, obvious points:
    1) Darwinian evolution IS a key aspect of the intelligent design of the universe by God (or at least its biological aspects). It’s not necessary at this point to differentiate whether “God” has separate spiritual/dimensional existance apart from the material universe, or whether “God” is simply a pseudonym for the overall scheme of natural laws and events by which the cosmos evolved from and since the “Big Bang”. Whatever God is, s/he invented the natural laws the universe works under.
    2) Neither Freudian theories of pschology and Marxian theories of economics were formulated on any emperical scientific basis – both were simply plausible theories in the context of the times when they were written. By contrast, Darwinian natural selection IS something which is subject to objective, scientific scrutiny, and it’s held up rather well. However, as with most of science these days, people motivated by desire to believe in faith and superstition will stubbornly resist by creative rationalization of reasons why the world is run by magic and spirits rather than science.

  18. 18
    Riggsveda says:

    “…he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences.”

    This is the thinking behind the populist nonsense that advanced education is only for the elite. All through our history as a species, those in power have voiced concerns over an educated populace, and passed these fears on to their inferiors, who regard the educated as a threat to their egos because it gives them “ideas”. To those in power, education should be confined to grinding out millions of identically-minded coolie workers with just enough know-how to stoke the fires of commerce, but not enough to think for themselves. This is what underpins the right-wing cultural engine that propagandizes intellectualism as suspect and has for decades.

  19. 19
    scav says:

    hell, it’s their attitude toward religion. The whole C-street thing about God Not Caring if WE Have Mistresses but Frowning Mightily Upon The Clenis. Unfit! Unfit!

  20. 20
    Tonal Crow says:

    So now they’re not just lying to us, but attempting to justify lying to us on the idea that they’ve got to lie to us or we’ll devolve (!) into savages.

    GOP them. GOP them to the fires of the Hell to which they would condemn us for disbelieving what they know to be untrue.

  21. 21
    Zam says:

    This made me cry. Seriously the social order would collapse? I’m gonna have to assume they mean that if the lower class didn’t believe that the hardships they endure in this life will be offset by unimaginable reward in the next they might start thinking about how shitty they upper class treats them. Honestly I am in quite a disagreement with their belief that Marx, and by extension Lenin, were completely discredited if fact the mere existence of these neo-cons seems to prove a lot of what Lenin wrote.

  22. 22
    Flugelhorn says:

    Hey Doug. Chicken Little wants his Schtick back.

    -signed, Agnostic Republican

  23. 23
    Loneoak says:

    @maus: \

    So Kristol is a postmodernist. Whodathunkit?

    I’m not really interested in starting a philosophy flamewar here (I think the characterization of postmodernism, or more accurately poststructuralism is annoyingly wrong), but I really have to insist that you note that poststructuralists believe that absence of a privileged access to a single grand Truth is liberatory—it is as much an ethical belief as it is a belief about knowledge. (It is not the same thing as believing nothing is true or no truth claims can be legitimately made.) Clearly the neocons agree and want to stamp it out for that reason. You can be all positivist/modernist and believe that there is such a thing as a grand Truth which we will eventually find, but you still have to agree that poststructuralists and neocons have entirely different motivations even if they have some similar beliefs.

  24. 24
    matoko_chan says:

    The whole problem being that if they admit to believing in evolution is they have to admit to believing in cultural and demographic evolution.

  25. 25
    scav says:

    @scav: and, as I left the room, their approach to banking and finances as well.

    Strategic Bankruptcy for Me and not for Thee.

    Moral Bankruptcy for Me and not for Thee.

  26. 26
    Morbo says:

    Not a philosophy major, but isn’t this the central dividing line between right hand path and left hand path belief systems?

  27. 27
    cmorenc says:

    The movie “Bruce Almighty” (2003) starring Jim Carrey (as Bruce, who somehow acquires god-like powers) and Morgan Freeman (who plays the real God) is intended as a fun comedy romp rather than a deep theological examination. NEVERTHELESS, part of the plot did stumble upon a very fundamental theological insight about the relationship of God to causation and to good and evil. As the movie goes on, Carrey discovers that it’s not so easy to simply command things to turn out well to benefit other people – his interventions turn out to have unexpected negative collateral effects. For example, he wishes that everyone could win the lottery, and everyone does that day – except the divided payout winds up hardly covering the costs of the lottery tickets, and everyone who “won” reacts angrily to this development.

    It may be just a comedic sketch, but one that carries quite powerfull theological insight IMHO. God is free to invent a universe that works by whatever set of natural principles s/he cares to craft, including a set that winds up producing intelligent creatures like humans. However, once set in motion it’s difficult to intervene in ways that suspend, contravene, or defy those principles without difficult collateral consequences, or so radically changing the order of things that much of the original creation must wind up destroyed in the process of creating the new order. This includes the parts God would much have preferred to keep like they were.

  28. 28
    DougJ says:

    Hey Doug. Chicken Little wants his Schtick back.

    I’m not sure I follow.

  29. 29
    srv says:

    A sorta defense of Leo:

    http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_3.2/xenos.htm

    There’s something unbelievably arrogant about taking public positions that you secretly don’t believe because you think that the hoi polloi needs to believe in order to keep our society going.

    Well, I can logically swallow that a lot easier than people saying things to get/keep their jobs. Which could be generally applied to the vast majority of politicians and bureaucrats.

    The noble lie is occassionally noble. The neocons (mostly) believed Saddam was actually a bogeyman. I’m all for beating them up as long as the rest of you who supported sanctions and random monthly bombings honestly accept that you’re objectively pro baby killing.

    There’s a lot of lying going on right now, and they aren’t sitting in the Oval Office or Congress thinking it’s the noble thing to do.

  30. 30
    r€nato says:

    I’m barely old enough to remember when conservatives regularly denounced the ‘subjective morality’ of liberalism as a grave threat to our society.

  31. 31
    DougJ says:

    Well, I can logically swallow that a lot easier than people saying things to get/keep their jobs.

    I can’t.

  32. 32
    Dave C says:

    Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley Law professor quoted in that article, is also an HIV denialist.

  33. 33
    jwb says:

    @maus: Left academics invented postmodernism, wingnuts instrumentalized it.

  34. 34
    Mark S. says:

    @DougJ:

    I’m not sure I follow.

    I don’t either.

    @srv:

    I’m all for beating them up as long as the rest of you who supported sanctions and random monthly bombings honestly accept that you’re objectively pro baby killing.

    Whatever.

    As for the topic at hand, I remember a year or two ago reading about a symposium of conservative blowhards discussing evolution. Derbyshire was the only one who thought that if evolution were true it shouldn’t be repressed.

  35. 35
    jwb says:

    My comment seems to have disappeared into the ether. Weird.

  36. 36
    jwb says:

    @maus: Left academics invented postmodernism, but it took the wingnuts to instrumentalize it.

  37. 37
    DougJ says:

    A sorta defense of Leo:

    You call that a “defense”?

  38. 38
    Nutella says:

    Those of us with pathetic little minds and without Ivy League or U of Chicago educations must not be distracted from religion, the opiate of the people, by science or anything else.

    If they think there a different truths for different audiences I guess they must have a different science for each audience, too. I don’t quite understand how scientific research is supposed to go on if every result has to be categorized for release to different classes of people.

    I wonder if there are different kinds of engineering for them, too. The bridges around the University of Chicago built of steel by civil engineers, and the bridges around the less-important institutions built of chewing gum and baling wire by day laborers maybe?

  39. 39
    Walker says:

    @jwb:

    In Fashionable Nonsense, written after his hoax, Sokal predicted that this is exactly what the wingnuts were going to do with the Science Wars. It is not a coincidence that Intelligent Designers have recruited Steve Fuller in their fight.

    Yes, I know that there were a lot of problems with the hoax. But Sokal was very prescient about the wignuts embracing the message.

  40. 40
    Nellcote says:

    re: Post title…Mick says Hey!

  41. 41
    Jim Lindley says:

    In other words, for neoconservatives, religion is a necessary opiate of the masses.

  42. 42
    J says:

    Very well said, DougJ.

    I have a further thought along the same lines. As far as I can see, Ronald Bailey does an excellent job describing the neo-conservative way of thinking in the excerpt that you cite. But if he is right, there is something peculiarly disingenuous about the neo-conservatives presenting themselves as friends of democracy,* as they did most notably while advocating war in Iraq, and the way in which they were almost always taken at their word in the MSM provides still more evidence, if any were needed, of the mental laziness and willed, cultivated cretinism that passes for wisdom in the village. At best, neo-conservatives who look to Strauss for inspiration may think that states that are democratic in form are preferable to certain alternatives, but they don’t share in democratic ideals. By this I mean, very roughly speaking, they don’t think of human beings as autonomous rational agents, capable of thinking for themselves (however far short of the ideal reality sometimes falls), and states as somehow ultimately owing their legitimacy to the consent and participation of the citizens.
    *Of course this comes as no surprise to those of us old enough to remember the ‘authoritarian/totalitarian’ distinction freely employed by an earlier generation of neo-cons to justify appalling horrors in Central and South America.

  43. 43
    Kyle says:

    Neocons, Nikolai Copernicus called from the 16th century, he wants you to grow the fuck up and deal with modernity.

    Shorter Kristol:
    Feed the rubes lies to keep them in their place.

    Also Shorter Kristol:
    I had to destroy the truth to save it.

  44. 44
    Quiddity says:

    Johnson:

    Darwinism is the most important of the materialist ideologies … which have done so much damage to science ,,,

    Science would be much better off without Darwin. C’mon.

  45. 45
    ruemara says:

    It’s not called the opiate of the masses for nothing, Doug. Of course, now we have digital crack.

  46. 46
    Socrates says:

    After reading this, “fascist” sounds like a better moniker than “neoconservative”.

    The reluctance to share the truth with your inferiors in order to control their behavior is clearly evil.

  47. 47
    wiley says:

    Neocons are predatory and imperious. Look at how Karl Rove works. There motive is dominance.

  48. 48
    wiley says:

    Their

  49. 49
    inkadu says:

    @Jonathan Lundell: Exactly. When I read this post, I was thinking, “Why are you going to Strauss for this? That was pretty much the idea of the early enlightenment thinkers who freed themselves for a personal deity.”

    And when atheism threatens civilization, they mean the civilization where the top get to extract value from everyone else. In that regard, they are absolutely correct. The best foot soldiers for idiot Republicanism are the devoutly and naively religious.

  50. 50

    […] also recommend this piece on Straussianism (via commenter srv). It’s a long read, but after reading it, I have a better understanding of why […]

  51. 51
    inkadu says:

    PS I don’t really care much for philosophy because you can always seem to find one that agrees with you. It seems that social/cultural movements use and promote philosophies that justify them; it’s one big circle jerk.

  52. 52
    jrg says:

    “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”

    Shorter Irving Kristol: “How else could we possibly get the rubes to hate the educated elites without brazenly lying to them?”

    Class warfare is central to his point.

  53. 53
    darryl says:

    But something deeper seems to be going on, and the key to it can be found in Bork’s assertion in his book that religious “belief is probably essential to a civilized future.” These otherwise largely secular intellectuals may well have turned on Darwin because they have concluded that his theory of evolution undermines religious faith in society at large.

    Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam (Latin for argument to the consequences), is an argument that concludes a premise (typically a belief) to be either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences. This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a form of logical fallacy, since the desirability of a consequence does not address the truth value of the premise.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....nsequences

  54. 54
    darryl says:

    If there’s a single unifying factor in modern conservatism, it’s being fucking stupid.

  55. 55
    Liberty60 says:

    Writing this before I check out the linked article-

    I left the conservative movement over this type of thinking. There are two wings to most political movements, the liberty wing and the order wing; The Reaganesque movement welded them together, but today the order wing (the neocons) have completely taken over.

    They emphasize authority, hierarchy, doctrine and purity against freedom, individualism, and equality.

    This is why the terroristas like Dick Cheney fit so well with the Christianists like Palin- we are children, and need Big Daddy to save us, Daddy having the spiritual imprimatur of Jesus.
    Corporations are Big Daddy, the FBI/ CIA/ NSA are Big Daddy.
    This is also why they love the 2nd Amendment, but hate the 4th.
    Beneath all their libertarian rhetoric, they cling to order and authoritarianism, not freedom.

  56. 56
    darryl says:

    January 24th, 2010 at 3:44 pm Reply to this comment
    Dave C
    Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley Law professor quoted in that article, is also an HIV denialist.

    In my experience, the Intelligent Design Creationists tended to be stupid about a wide variety of things, because, well, frankly, they’re dumb. If they had even average intelligence, they wouldn’t be Creationists. If you want to see the stupidest things you’ve ever seen, Google William Dembski, Casey Luskin, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe…

  57. 57
    Jim Lindley says:

    They are ignorant of the history of both the religion they profess and the nation they pledge.

  58. 58
    darryl says:

    That Intelligent Design trial a few years back, the judge, who was a conservative republican, basically said “These creationists are lying right to my face, and think they’re going to get away with it.”

    That’s fuckin dumb.

  59. 59
    darryl says:

    Go to Uncommon Descent or Telic Thoughts if you want to see the stupidest human beings on Planet Earth.

  60. 60
    Delia says:

    These guys aren’t particularly original. Voltaire, who was a deist and eternal enemy of the Church, always forbade his dinner guests to discuss religion at the table when the servants might hear. It could provoke the lower orders to revolution, you know.

    This is also the main reason why Thomas Hobbes, who is generally thought to have been a nonbeliever personally, prescribed a state church for society. It helped to preserve social order and fend off anarchy.

    The thing is, the neocons take up with the most wretched and corrupt of those who claim to represent religion.

  61. 61
    Scutch says:

    “Religion is advantageous to the rich. It keeps people in line.”
    — William S. Burroughs

  62. 62
  63. 63
    Anonymous37 says:

    Not all neocons libertarians purport to reject evolution anthropogenic global warming, but “intellectual giants” Irving Kristol and Robert Bork such as Ronald Bailey have explicitly questioned it long past the point that it was obvious to everyone with a brain , for example. The idea, as Bradley is obvious to anyone who is able to view their intellectual foibles objectively (correctly, IHMO) explains it is that evolution acknowledging the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate science undermines faith in traditional religion corporate apologists, which is problematic for those wishing to preserve the social order illusion that mainstream libertarians are amenable to anything even vaguely resembling “reason”.

  64. 64
    wiley says:

    lords, vassals, and fiefs

  65. 65
    Delia says:

    Bill Kristol is a good example of how natural selection works to eventually breed aristocracies into driveling idiocy.

  66. 66
    chrome agnomen says:

    FSM knows i don’t agree with anything that strauss or ktystal say, but the truth IS out there waiting to be found. it’s in plain sight. that so many choose not to seek it, or to disbelieve it when they find it, is the greater problem, and the main reason that we are in the shape we are in today. there have always been those who disseminate lies to further their own agenda, see organized religion and the right, but it’s the ones who do not question that give those lies power.

  67. 67
    chrome agnomen says:

    @jrg:

    and then there are truths appropriate to idiots—the things in which i believe.

  68. 68
    tigrismus says:

    Kristol has acknowledged his intellectual debt to Strauss in a recent autobiographical essay. “What made him so controversial within the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that `the truth will make men free.’”

    John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Damned Enlightenment dogma!

  69. 69
    tavella says:

    @wiley: lords, vassals, and fiefs

    Sums it up pretty well. Feudal patriarchy, and it’s a mindset that demands that there be serfs to “guide”, and lies to keep them ignorant serfs.

  70. 70
    Chad N Freude says:

    @DougJ: I just picked up this thread (there’s an image), and I’m breaking away from reading the article to thank you for finding it and passing it on. I love this quote, which may be one of the best quotes ever:

    Conservative activist Beverly LaHaye, a biblical literalist who is president of Concerned Women for America, puts the matter directly: “If the biblical account of creation in Genesis isn’t true, how can we trust the rest of the Bible?”

    This just screams “Deconstruct me. Please!”

  71. 71
    Sly says:

    The only thing close to this sort of elitism that I give any credence to was that of Walter Lippman, who argued that the modern state was far too complex for the everyday citizen to understand and thus needed to rely on an educated political class to make decisions on their behalf. The notion of a citizen being competent in every area as an unattainable ideal, and all that.

    Lippman didn’t criticize the interests of everyday people, just their ability to comprehend the entirety of modern society and all the nuances that entailed, and that they needed advocates in various fields who were educated. When the excesses of political insiders becomes damaging to the public trust, than the public replaces them. That’s really the only extent of their actual power, as far as Lippman was concerned.

    Straussians have a problem with the actual interests of everyday people. Governments aren’t supposed to meet the demands of its citizens. For them, democracy isn’t in crisis because sometimes it doesn’t work, democracy is in crisis when it actually does work.

    Of course all this leaves out Dewey’s approach, of which I’m a bit more favorable.

  72. 72
    noncarborundum says:

    @darryl:

    Not that the people at UhDuh and TT aren’t stupid, but how is it possible to list places where stupid people congregate without mentioning Conservapedia?

  73. 73
    William says:

    Holy moly but I’m tired of people thinking that understanding evolution somehow destroys religious faith. It doesn’t. Excluding the kind of faith that primitive people have in thunder gods, anyhow.

    I’m an atheist, but I have plenty of Christian pals who don’t have any trouble with evolution. There are a number of Christian biologists, including evolutionary biologists. There are Christian schools with entire biology departments.

    Only three sort of Christians have trouble with Darwin’s work: those who have a weak, god-of-the-gaps faith; those who haven’t thought things all the way through; and those who resent that atheists feel better for having a theory to explain life’s diversity.

    Fie on all of them, I say.

  74. 74
    Ann says:

    DougJ –

    Thanks for the link. Fascinating (if distressing) argument.

  75. 75
    Ann says:

    DougJ –

    Thanks for the link. Interesting argument that echoes Marx (religion as the opiate of the people).

  76. 76

    […] DougJ pulls this old Reason article out of the wayback machine and highlights a particularly interesting passage centering on how a mid-20th century political philosopher named Leo Strauss influenced the neoconservative movement. Here’s Irving Kristol (dubbed the “godfather of neoconservatism” and father of prominent neocon Bill Kristol, the leftmost guy in the photo) reflecting on his favorite parts of Strauss’s philosophy: Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work. […]

  77. 77
    mds says:

    Oh, crud, Anonymous37 @ 62 already got there, and much more thoroughly than I was going to. Still, can commenters help me out? When Bailey tut-tuts over dissing the field of evolutionary biology on purely ideological grounds, while himself dissing the field of climate science on purely ideological grounds, is that an example of actual irony, or the Alanis kind?

  78. 78
    stvs says:

    No one should miss this fact. Strauss acknowledged his intellectual alliance to fascism while safe in Paris just two months after its chief practitioners opened Dachau. Strauss explicitly endorsed “fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles” [his italics]. From Strauss’s 1933 letter to Karl Löwith:

    I will also spend my second year in Paris, and I will attempt in this time to undertake something that will make my further work possible. … It’s terrible – I’d rather just run back to Germany. … I see no acceptable possibility of living under the swastika, i.e., under a symbol that says nothing more to me than: you and your ilk, you are subhumans and therefore justly pariahs. … the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness … to protest against the shabby abomination. [Strauss’s italics, my bold. From Leo Strauss, Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 3: Hobbes’ politische Wissenschaft und zugehörige Schriften, Briefe (Heinrich Meier, ed.), Metzler Verlag 2001, pp. 624-25.]

    See Scott Horton’s discussion of the question “Was Strauss a fascist?” and “Will the Real Leo Strauss Please Stand Up?” for more details.

    Hilariously, and consist with other ahistorical neocon pronouncements, Harvey Mansfield reads Strauss’s 1933 letter as evidence that Strauss wanted to use Roman strength to fight the Nazis half a decade before WWII hostilities began.

    Quote Strauss’s 1933 letter to Löwith to any necon and watch the self-contradictory denialism begin.

    At the heart of the neoconservative attack on Darwinism lies the political philosophy of Leo Strauss.

    Not true. Read this—the anti-Darwin crackpot stuff comes from Himmelfarb and Kristol, not Strauss. Money quote from Strauss:

    one could grant to science and history everything they seem to teach regarding the age of the world, the origin of man, the impossibility of miracles, the impossibility of the immortality of the soul, and of the resurrection of the body, the Jahvist, the Elohist, the third Isaah, and so on, without abandoning one iota of the substance of the Jewish faith. —Leo Strauss, Liberalism Ancient and Modern, U. Chicago Press, 1968, p. 231; from the Preface to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion

  79. 79
    JamesK says:

    “…is problematic for those wishing to preserve the social order.”

    I would say “entrenched” social order.

  80. 80
    Phil Paine says:

    The NeoCon attitude towards truth, as propounded here, makes it clear what company they belong in. Like the Communists, NeoCons regard any lie as “noble” if it is useful to them, delight in deception and agitprop, and want a tiny aristocratic “vanguard” to rule over teeming millions of slaves, who are to be kept in ignorance. It is time people figured out that Marxism is, and always has been, an ultra-Conservative philosophy, and that the sniggering NeoCon “intellectuals” are nothing but the inheritors and current variant of the Communist movement.

  81. 81
    ron says:

    Conservative activist Beverly LaHaye, a biblical literalist who is president of Concerned Women for America, puts the matter directly: “If the biblical account of creation in Genesis isn’t true, how can we trust the rest of the Bible?”

    I’ve always wondered why they assert this. To non-idiots it’s obviously a fable, but if you want to play by their rules, chapter 1 blatantly contradicts chapter 2. Each is a different version of creation and gives very different orders of creation. They can’t both be literally true, therefore the bible can’t be trusted.

  82. 82

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] DougJ pulls this old Reason article out of the wayback machine and highlights a particularly interesting passage centering on how a mid-20th century political philosopher named Leo Strauss influenced the neoconservative movement. Here’s Irving Kristol (dubbed the “godfather of neoconservatism” and father of prominent neocon Bill Kristol, the leftmost guy in the photo) reflecting on his favorite parts of Strauss’s philosophy: Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work. […]

  2. […] also recommend this piece on Straussianism (via commenter srv). It’s a long read, but after reading it, I have a better understanding of why […]

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