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Archive for the tag “Ayn Rand”

On reading books you hate

Have you ever read a book you hate, right through, from beginning to end?

A waste of time, you may think. Toss it, before you waste any more time.

But this article explains why it is important to read books that you hate.

Why You Should Read Books You Hate – The New York Times:

Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

But how do you know you’re going to hate a book before you’ve read it?

The first book I read that I was pretty sure I was going to hate was Atlas shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I had seen the book in a bookshop when I was a student in Pietermaritzburg, in about 1964. I picked it up and looked at the blurb — something about a man who had said he would stop the motor of the world, and did. I put it back on the shelf. Then, after a political meeting or demonstration of some sort, I was chatting to a fellow student who despised such things. I think it was a protest against the Bantu Laws Amendment Act, which would make life harder for black South Africans than it already was. He was doing a BSc in Zoology, and was into survival of the fittest and extended it to social Darwinism. He spoke about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, which sounded pretty unattractive to me.

A few years later, about 1970,  a work colleague was reading Atlas shrugged, and kept saying what a good book it was. So when he had finished it, I borrowed it, and after reading a couple of hundred pages told him that I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like their lifestyle, I didn’t like their values, I didn’t like the style. He said, Ah, but it’s not about the quality of the writing, the thing that’s so good is the philosophy. I didn’t like the philosophy either, but I kept on reading, right to the end. That was partly because I knew that if I criticised it without having read it, he would dismiss my criticisms as mere ignorance.

The bloke who lent it to me was the third Ayn Rand fan I had met, and I thought that if this philosophy can get such a grip on people’s minds, I’d better find out more about it, so I went out and bought a book of essays by Ayn Rand and her associates, called Capitalism: the unknown ideal, in which she tried to do for capitalism what Marx and Engels had tried to do for socialism — turn it into a religion. And, far more than Marxian socialism, Ayn Rand’s capitalism was diametrically opposed to everything in the Christian faith. And the Neoliberalism that has dominated the world since about 1980 is largely a diluted form of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

Being a sucker for punishment, I even read another novel by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, and a biography of her written by one of her disciples. The author of the article on reading books you hate apparently began with The Fountainhead, and his comments on that are worth reading too. Why You Should Read Books You Hate – The New York Times:

My taste for hate reading began with “The Fountainhead,” which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism. I thought it was a book about building things. I even showed it off to a French friend, an architect and a die-hard socialist, thinking he’d be impressed.

“How could you bring that into our house?” he asked in disgust. “But it’s about architecture,” I replied weakly. Or was it? Within pages, I found myself suffering at the hands of its tyrannical egomaniac of a protagonist, Howard Roark, forever plunging a fist into soil and holding forth. The lead female character, Dominique, who naturally took second place to the godlike Roark, kept striding across rooms in long, column-like gowns.

Still, I persisted. A hundred pages later, I was more of a French socialist than I’d ever been before or since. I finished every wretched page of “The Fountainhead” in alternating states of fury and despair, and when it was finally over, I tried to leave the vague echo of Dominique, stomping around in her evening gowns, behind. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.

Another book that I read, and also hated, was Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice. At the time lots of people were discussing it online, and I thought I’d better read it just so I could know what they were talking about. I hated it even more than Ayn Rand’s books, and had to force myself to keep reading to the end. Yet another was The Da Vinci Code, though in that case I had already read the book on which the plot was based.

So yes, I think it is good sometimes to read books that you hate. It’s not a waste of time, and can give you a better idea of why you like the books you do.

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Atlas shrugged

Atlas ShruggedAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I read this more than 40 years ago, at the urging of someone in our newspaper office, so I’m not really in a position to write a review, but someone asked why I gave it one star, so I’ll try to remember what I did think!

I’d heard Ayn Rand extolled before, by people whose views I didn’t admire, and so I wasn’t too keen to read a book by her. But since my colleague nagged me, and lent me the book so I didn’t have to buy it, I started reading it, and found it rather boring. I told him so, and he said, “It’s not the story, it’s the philosophy.” And I said that I found the philosophy rather repulsive, so if the story was boring, there wasn’t much left.

I did, however, lash out on a book of essays, with the title “Capitalism, the unknown ideal”, which laid the philosophy bare, and made it clear that Ayn Rand was trying to do for capitalism what Karl Marx tried to do for socialism — give it an ideology. And both were atheists. But Karl Marx’s version retained a vestige of Christian values, diluted and degutted, perhaps, but still discernable; Ayn Rand’s had none.

So evil philosophy and crummy story — one star.

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And I’ll add something here, which I did not include in my “review” on Good Reads, but perhaps can be said, since this isn’t really a book review. I found trying to discuss things with Ayn Rand fans was a bit like trying to discuss things with Scientologists. Their minds seemed to be stuck in an ideological groove.

I first encountered the Scientologists in 1961. Someone from our church youth group had seen an advertisement in the newspaper for free IQ and personality tests, and so some of us went along for a lark. We arrived at the two white-painted victorian houses in Joubert Park, Johannesburg, just across the road from the railway line, that proclaimed themselves to be the headquaters (in South Africa), of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International (HASI).

They gave us the two tests, IQ and personality, which were pretty standard psychological tests. They said we could come back the next week to hear the results.

The next week we went back for the results, which they explained, and then came the sales talk. We could take their Peronal Efficiency Course, which lasted a week and only cost R2.00. They guaranteed that it would improve our IQs and personalities. But that’s when we started to argue. They were quite patient with us, a bunch of stroppy and argumentative teenagers. One of the values they said we were low on was “havingness”. Whether correctly or incorrectly, we interpreted that as acquisitiveness, and said that we were quite happy for it to be low. Having it too high would go against our Christian values.

They assured us that Scientology wasn’t against any religion, and all religions were welcome (that was before they reinvented themselves as “the Church of Scientology” about 8 years later — in 1961 they presented themselves as the lowest cost mental health treatment on earth). But the spirit of “havingness” that they urged on us seemed a bit too much like plain old greed, as espoused by London’s mayor Boris Johnson:

Boris Johnson has launched a bold bid to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher by declaring that inequality is essential to fostering “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

And that, too, seems to be what is espoused by the followers of Ayn Rand that I met a couple of years later. I don’t think the ideologies of Scientology and Objectivism are exactly the same, but there seemed to be something of a similar spirit in the followers of each, and I was rather repelled by it.

Fantasy literature

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

I saw that on Jeffrey Turner’s sig in the alt.usage.english newsgroup. I don’t know if it was original with him, or an unattributed quotation from someone else, but I liked it, so I thought I’d put it here.

Mere Ideology: The politicisation of C.S. Lewis

I recently read a couple of articles that appear to me to be attempts to co-opt C.S. Lewis for the cause of American Libertarianism.

C. S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism, Part 1:

In comparison to contemporary ‘progressive’ Christians such as Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Ronald Sider, and Brian McLaren, who clamor for the foolish and disastrous notion of achieving ‘social justice’ through gigantic government powers, was Lewis just ignorant or naive about modern realities, or was he aiming at a deeper and more significant purpose? (See Robert Higgs’s book refuting the ‘progressive’ myth in American history, Crisis and Leviathan, and his book on the disastrous ‘progressive’ state since 1930, Depression, War, and Cold War; see also Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.’s The Decline of American Liberalism and The Civilian and the Military, and Jonathan Bean’s Race and Liberty in America.) In this article, I only begin to touch on some of Lewis’s many writings pertaining to the subject of liberty and Christian teachings because any truly adequate examination would warrant at least an entire book.

Hat-tip to C S Lewis on economic and social liberty – National Hobbits, Narnia & Spirituality | Examiner.com.

Though the authors of both these articles acknowledge that C.S. Lewis was decidedly non-political, he was also, and I would say even more decidedly non-ideological. Yet both authors seem to want to co-opt Lewis to support an ideology.

What gives me that impression is the use of the word “statism”, which I associate with the decidely anti-Christian ideology of Ayn Rand. I know she didn’t invent the term, but she used it and her followers used it to give it a particular meaning, so it has become an ideologically loaded term.

Not that I like “statism”. It also speaks to me of the totalitarianism of Hitler and Stalin, which elevated the state to the highest value.

I suppose as a political (but not economic or theological) liberal I could make a case for C.S. Lewis being a liberal, and supporting a liberal view of society. When he says things like:

I am a democrat… I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretentions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt (Lewis 1966:81).

It was sentiments like that that led me to sign up as a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party when I was a student, and to reject the ideology of the ruling party — Christian Nationalism — as evil and anti-Christian. When Lewis says “I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others” that decided the case for Liberalism back then, because the Liberal Party was the only legal political party that advocated a policy of “one man, one vote”. Even the Progressive Party (whose descendants, the Democratic Alliance, like to claim to be heirs of South African liberalism) believed that one group of men, the rich and the educated, were good enough make decisions on behalf of others.

And Lewis goes on to say

Being a democrat, I am opposed to all very drastic and sudden changes of society (in whatever direction) because they never in fact take place except by a particular technique. That technique involves the seizure of power by a small, highly disciplined group of people; the terror and secret police follow, it would seem, automatically. I do not think any group good enough to have such power. They are men of like passions with ourselves. The secrecy and discipline of their organisation will have already inflamed in them that passion for the inner ring which I think at least as corrupting as avarice; and their high ideological pretensions will have lent all their passions the dangerous prestige of the Cause. Hence, in whatever direction the change is made, it is for me damned by its modus operandi. The worst of all public dangers is the committee of public safety. The character in ‘That hideous strength’ whom the Professor never mentions is Miss Hardcastle, the chief of the secret police. She is the common factor in all revolutions; and, as she says, you won’t get anyone to do her job well unless they get some kick out of it (Lewis 1966:82).

And in the fascist South Africa of the 1960s the Security Police (Veiligheidspolisie) were literally the “safety police”.

Lewis may have been non-political, but it is clear from the above that he was not just non-ideological, but anti-ideological, and I’m pretty sure he would have rejected ideologies like Randism or American Libertarianism just as strongly as he rejected Hitlerism and Stalinism. Ideologies, of course, have codes of political correctness, and American Libertarians make it very clear indeed what views and attitudes they regard as politically incorrect, and we have been given a list of people whose views must be regarded as politically incorrect: Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Ronald Sider, and Brian McLaren.

I know nothing of Tony Campolo, but I’ve read some of the writings of some of the others, and I’ve not noticed a great love of totalitarianism or theocracy in what they write. Missing from the list, however, is Rousas John Rushdoony, who advocated something like the theocracy that Lewis thought the worst of all possible forms of government.

I agree with David Theroux and Mark Sommer to some extent, when they say that not all human problems can be solved by politics. But their silence on the ways in which they think they can be solved leaves me wondering whether they perhaps think that it is better that they not be solved at all. Christian attempts to solve all problems by politics do not work too well, as Will D. Campbell and James Y. Holloway point out in their book Up to our steeples in politics. As they say, what is wrong with us that can be solved by politics is not all that is wrong with us.

But we in the Church persist: we are still hopeful that though all these means we can build a kingdom in which all things will be set right between man and man (and occasionally between man and God), refusing to recognize that these means are an attempt to build a kingdom by our guidelines and blueprints, by our sociology and politics, not by what God’s reconciliation has already done for the world in Christ. In this book we are trying to confess that the goals of the contemporary Church – that is to say, the Church of St John’s by the Gas Station, the Christian College, the denominational and interdenominational seminary – the goals of these Christian communities are blasphemous. The reconciliation the Church is seeking to accomplish today by these subterfuges has already been wrought. The brotherhood – the “one blood” of Acts 17, 26 – that the Church makes its goal today is already a fact. And because this is so, that very fact judges our goals and our efforts to achieve brotherhood by social action as blasphemous, as trying to be God. Instead of witnessing to Christ, the social action of the Church lends support to the totalitarianism of the wars and political systems of the 20th century. By its social action, the Church permits and encourages the State and culture to define all issues and rules and fields of battle. The Church then tries to do what the State, without the Church’s support, has already decided to do: to “solve” all human problems by politics. And this is specifically the political messianism of contemporary totalitarianism and of Revelation 13. “Politics” by definition can only “adjust” and “rearrange.” It cannot – as politics – “solve” anything. But the Church’s social action encourages the very movements in the contemporary political processes which are moving us straightaway into 20th-century totalitarianism (Campbell & Holloway 1970:2).

But the way American Libertarians talk, it sounds as though while they reject the attempt to solve all problems by politics, they propose instead to solve them all by economics, and specifically by American big business, whose interests must take precedence over everything else.

And I doubt very much that C.S. Lewis would have supported that notion. The nearest equivalent to Ayn Rand’s heroes — Dagny Taggart, John Galt and Howard Roark — in C.S. Lewis’s novels is Dick Devine, and Lewis gives him an altogether different treatment. The Sackville-Bagginses could also be said to represent the “entrepreneurial spirit”, which probably needs to be exorcised rather than encouraged.

A few weeks ago my blogging friend Matt Stone posted this ikon on his blog, asking “What is it saying theologically and politically?”

My response was that what it is saying theologically and politically is that political power and authority are to be exercised subject to Christ, and not sought for their own sake. The task of those in authority is to make the earthly kingdom an image of the heavenly one in righteousness and justice.

And I think that C.S. Lewis had somewhat similar notions, when he made Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy kings and queens of Narnia to promote justice and righteousness. And when their successors in Prince Caspian abused their power, they returned to Narnia to put things right. Mark Sommer in his article extols freedom and social liberty, but despises social justice. Yet in The Silver Chair Jill Pole discovers at her school (a libertarian institution, if ever there was one) that liberty without justice is a recipe for misery.

We cannot solve all problems though politics because what is wrong with us that can be solved by politics is not all that is wrong with us. It is a bit like the relation between law and grace. Law can restrain us from evil, but it cannot make us good. Justice is not love. The most that can be said is that it is a kind of congealed love. Law and politics cannot make men love one another, but they can restrain the effects of their lack of love, and that is justice.

As for trying to trying to solve problems by economics, let the Orthodox philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev have the last word:

The Origin of Russian Communism (Ann Arbor Paperbacks)The Origin of Russian Communism by Nikolai Berdyaev

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quote: It was the industrialist capitalist period which subjected man to the power of economics and money, and it does not become its adepts to teach communists the evangelical truth that man does not live by bread alone. The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbours, for everybody, is a spiritual and religious question. Man does not live by bread alone, but he does live by bread and there should be bread for all. Society should be so organized that there is bread for all, and then it is that the spiritual question will present itself before men in all its depth. It is not permissible to base a struggle for spiritual interests and for a spiritual renaissance on the fact that for a considerable part of humanity bread will not be guaranteed. Such cynicism as this justly evokes an atheistic reaction and the denial of spirit. Christians ought to be permeated with a sense of the religious importance of the elementary needs of men, the vast masses of men, and not to despise these needs from the point of view of an exalted spirituality.

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Notes and References
Campbell, Will D. Holloway, James Y. 1970. Up to our steeples in politics. New York: Paulist.
Lewis, C.S. 1966. Of other worlds: essays and stories. London:Geoffrey Bles.

Darwinism has all the answers – but what are the questions?

When I was an undergraduate I had an argument with a fellow student about racism. He was majoring in botany and zoology, and was convinced that some races were more evolved than others, and was in fact a Social Darwinist. He recommended that I read the works of Ayn Rand, whom I had never heard of before then. He said that if I read her works they would change my mind on the topic.

One result of his argument was that I avoided reading anything by Ayn Rand for about ten years, believing that if they contributed to his ideas, they were not worth reading. Later, when I realised that Ayn Rand’s ideas were becoming more influential in the world at large, I did read some of her books to understand what was going on. I believe they contributed to the spread of neoliberalism, for example.

And today, thanks to The Western Confucian, I came across this piece.

Mercatornet: Darwinism 2.0 has all the answers:

The Economist’s contention is that all social policy ought to be framed in evolutionary terms. Otherwise, it is destined to fail. Traditionally, policy has been shaped by philosophy, sociology or even religion. But these are inadequate tools, it says:

They describe, rather than explain. They do not get to the nitty-gritty of what it truly is to be human. Policy based on them does not work. This is because they ignore the forces that made people what they are: the forces of evolution.

Welcome to social Darwinism 2.0. SocDar 1.0 used the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest to promote racism, eugenics, and robber baron capitalism. What fearsome ideas will emerge from 2.0?

The problem with Darwinism of any hue, at least when applied to society, is that its enthusiasts can cook up an explanation for everything in terms of survival and reproduction, the two pillars of Darwin’s theory. Whatever exists must somehow be necessary for survival, no matter how debased it may seem in old-fashioned moral terms.

This leads to some sticky problems. One of these, for instance, is genocide. Since it exists, it must confer an evolutionary advantage — which is about as close as Darwinism gets to the old-fashioned notion of ethical goodness. Some evolutionary theorists even think that humans are programmed for genocide and war. Indeed, the old man himself seems to have thought genocide something between a jolly good thing and a regrettable necessity. As he wrote in his other great text, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”

It seems to me, however, that Darwin failed to see the implications of his own theories. Civilisation may confer a short-term advantage, but not really a long-term evolutionary one related to survival. A lot of our “civilisation”, for example, is built on the use of fossil fuels, which enable mechanised farming and conveying of food and other goods over vast distances. But what happens when fossil fuels are exhausted? Perhaps civilisation will collapse. In civilised societies the development of optics has allowed short-sighted people to survive and breed. In hunter-gatherer societies, such people would be less likely to survive. And if civilisation collapses, perhaps the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies in the Amazon jungles will prove fitter to survive.

Similarly, in civilised societies medicine has allowed babies with birth defects to survive and breed. There are endless news stories about parents of babies with defective hearts or other organs appealing for money for an operation that will save the life of their child. “Civilisation” does not necessarily confer a survival advantage, in the Darwinian sense.

And Mercatornet goes on to say

While evolutionary thought may shed some light upon why young men commit more murders than any other age group, the far more interesting question is why most of them do not. Human consciousness clearly indicates that man has a spiritual dimension which is not determined by the iron law of survival of the fittest. Even some of the more intelligent Darwinists acknowledge this.

Capitalism as an economic system evolved, without too much thought being given to it. Then some people realised that the system encouraged behaviour that was regarded as immoral on the basis of phlosophy, religion or social values. In response to this various forms of socialism were proposed as alternatives to capitalism. By the 19th century capitalism seemed to have developed into a “dog eat dog” society. For some, it seemed natural, and indeed, for Social Darwinists, it was seen as part of “natural selection”. Socialist ideas took many forms, but most were based on the idea that cooperation is a better basis for economic activity than competition.

In some cases the ideas became ideologies, as in Marxism, which was linked to a deterministic philosophy. And in reaction to this, people like Ayn Rand decided to provide an ideology for capitalism, which led to the neoliberalism of today.

From a Christian point of view the problem with all this is that the economic ideologies, of both Marxism and neoliberalism, assert that man ought to be subjected to economic powers. Is that what St Paul was saying when he said “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers” (Romans 13:1)? Or did he also envisage a strouggle against them, as he says in Ephesians 6:10?

Perhaps there is indeed a Kulturkampf, and in the West there is an increasing divergence between Christian values and those of society. But many Christians tilt at windmills, and argue about things like how the world was created, arguing over things like “old earth” and “young earth”, yet accept without question the values propagated by the likes of The Economist, showing that they have already capitulated. That is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Darwinism has all the answers – but what are the questions?

When I was an undergraduate I had an argument with a fellow student about racism. He was majoring in botany and zoology, and was convinced that some races were more evolved than others, and was in fact a Social Darwinist. He recommended that I read the works of Ayn Rand, whom I had never heard of before then. He said that if I read her works they would change my mind on the topic.

One result of his argument was that I avoided reading anything by Ayn Rand for about ten years, believing that if they contributed to his ideas, they were not worth reading. Later, when I realised that Ayn Rand’s ideas were becoming more influential in the world at large, I did read some of her books to understand what was going on. I believe they contributed to the spread of neoliberalism, for example.

And today, thanks to The Western Confucian, I came across this piece.

Mercatornet: Darwinism 2.0 has all the answers:

The Economist’s contention is that all social policy ought to be framed in evolutionary terms. Otherwise, it is destined to fail. Traditionally, policy has been shaped by philosophy, sociology or even religion. But these are inadequate tools, it says:

They describe, rather than explain. They do not get to the nitty-gritty of what it truly is to be human. Policy based on them does not work. This is because they ignore the forces that made people what they are: the forces of evolution.

Welcome to social Darwinism 2.0. SocDar 1.0 used the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest to promote racism, eugenics, and robber baron capitalism. What fearsome ideas will emerge from 2.0?

The problem with Darwinism of any hue, at least when applied to society, is that its enthusiasts can cook up an explanation for everything in terms of survival and reproduction, the two pillars of Darwin’s theory. Whatever exists must somehow be necessary for survival, no matter how debased it may seem in old-fashioned moral terms.

This leads to some sticky problems. One of these, for instance, is genocide. Since it exists, it must confer an evolutionary advantage — which is about as close as Darwinism gets to the old-fashioned notion of ethical goodness. Some evolutionary theorists even think that humans are programmed for genocide and war. Indeed, the old man himself seems to have thought genocide something between a jolly good thing and a regrettable necessity. As he wrote in his other great text, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”

It seems to me, however, that Darwin failed to see the implications of his own theories. Civilisation may confer a short-term advantage, but not really a long-term evolutionary one related to survival. A lot of our “civilisation”, for example, is built on the use of fossil fuels, which enable mechanised farming and conveying of food and other goods over vast distances. But what happens when fossil fuels are exhausted? Perhaps civilisation will collapse. In civilised societies the development of optics has allowed short-sighted people to survive and breed. In hunter-gatherer societies, such people would be less likely to survive. And if civilisation collapses, perhaps the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies in the Amazon jungles will prove fitter to survive.

Similarly, in civilised societies medicine has allowed babies with birth defects to survive and breed. There are endless news stories about parents of babies with defective hearts or other organs appealing for money for an operation that will save the life of their child. “Civilisation” does not necessarily confer a survival advantage, in the Darwinian sense.

And Mercatornet goes on to say

While evolutionary thought may shed some light upon why young men commit more murders than any other age group, the far more interesting question is why most of them do not. Human consciousness clearly indicates that man has a spiritual dimension which is not determined by the iron law of survival of the fittest. Even some of the more intelligent Darwinists acknowledge this.

Capitalism as an economic system evolved, without too much thought being given to it. Then some people realised that the system encouraged behaviour that was regarded as immoral on the basis of phlosophy, religion or social values. In response to this various forms of socialism were proposed as alternatives to capitalism. By the 19th century capitalism seemed to have developed into a “dog eat dog” society. For some, it seemed natural, and indeed, for Social Darwinists, it was seen as part of “natural selection”. Socialist ideas took many forms, but most were based on the idea that cooperation is a better basis for economic activity than competition.

In some cases the ideas became ideologies, as in Marxism, which was linked to a deterministic philosophy. And in reaction to this, people like Ayn Rand decided to provide an ideology for capitalism, which led to the neoliberalism of today.

From a Christian point of view the problem with all this is that the economic ideologies, of both Marxism and neoliberalism, assert that man ought to be subjected to economic powers. Is that what St Paul was saying when he said “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers” (Romans 13:1)? Or did he also envisage a strouggle against them, as he says in Ephesians 6:10?

Perhaps there is indeed a Kulturkampf, and in the West there is an increasing divergence between Christian values and those of society. But many Christians tilt at windmills, and argue about things like how the world was created, arguing over things like “old earth” and “young earth”, yet accept without question the values propagated by the likes of The Economist, showing that they have already capitulated. That is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

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