Irrationality On The Left

One accusation made by those on the left, gaining in popularity since the election, is that cultural conservatives are irrational. They refuse to grant marriage "rights" to gays believing homosexuality to be a choice rather than biologically driven behavior. They want to introduce prayer in schools. They refuse to teach evolution in science classes, giving creationism equal validity. In the eyes of the left, red state bible-thumping fundies are a threat to America.

Yet, the left often overlooks blind faith within its own ranks. The Larry Summers brouhaha is the latest example. Summers, at a conference , suggested that differences in the prevalence of male and female scientists may be explained by biology. For that, he has been labeled a backwards degenerate and a "scandal" has erupted. Kevin Drum says that he "has serious doubts" about the validity of Summers' statement while his commenters cry out sexism. Daily Kos commeters say that discrimination is a fact, and that's that. Atrios's commenters are... atrios's commenters.

At the root of the controversy is the Blank Slate, the notion of an infintely malleable mind that only culture and politics can shape. This idea is important to the left because if rendered invalid, the hopes of social engineers are dashed and the dreams of central designers are shattered. If there is indeed a human nature, we must create political institutions that conform to it rather than let our fantasies run wild with political theories that merely "look good on paper". If the blogosphere reaction is a microcosm of the political landscpae at large, then many of the same accusations made by left of the far right fall squarely on the shoulders of the left - automatically dismissing ideas which contradict core beliefs and holding on to pleasing falsehoods and instead of reaching for displeasing truths. The same blind faith keeps a few on the left nostalgic for socialism, excuses Soviet chic as a fashion statement, and supports policies that harm the very people intended to help.

As someone with a naturalist viewpoint, given the evidence available, I believe evolution by natural selection to be the best explanation for the complex biochemical systems in the world and for the origin of life. In fact, I believe it with a strong conviction. I would not want my (future) children to learn creationism in science class. Yet, I also would not want to learn that there are no innate biological drives or differences between individuals, sexes, or races. From a scientific point of view, that is as irrational a belief as creationism. Of course, the political solution to differences in belief is classical liberalism - letting people choose the manner in which they educate their kids. Those on the far right can teach their children creationism. Those on the far left can teach the Blank Slate. My children will learn rationalism and skepticism.

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