The Neanderthals

[This article is the third in a series on Elitism, Conservatives and Progressives.]

Baroness Murphy said recently in an article on Lords of the Blog.

Sitting here blogging while waiting on tenterhooks for the vote in the Commons on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Mustn’t watch more TV…I just heard a TV BBC 1 newsreader describe the debate on the creation of hybrid embryos for stem cell research as ‘a clash between science and ethics’. I was so angry I wanted to punch the screen. Huge numbers of ordinary people (and peers by a massive vote when the bill came through the Lords a couple of months ago) regard it as immoral and unethical to stop research that could benefit thousands of people. Far from being a clash between science and ethics it is more a straight clash between medieval church ignorance and 21st century secular realities and medical advances.

This dismissal of the concerns of so many people as ‘medieval church ignorance’ is a typical highly-educated liberal dismissal of those that question, on religious grounds, the brave new world being delivered by science, as was Arianna Huffington’s article, GOP Debate: A Competition to See Who Could Be the Biggest Neanderthal, decrying conservative positions on issues like abortion, stem-cell research and evolution in a Republican presidential debate.

Now I do not have clear-cut positions on any of these issues, which presumably puts me in the Neanderthal category.  Let’s start with abortion.  I happen to be aware of an impressive body of philosophical and empirical evidence that supports the Buddhist understanding of reincarnation (I have in mind the evidence amassed by the late, great Professor Ian Stephenson’s, as summarised by Jim Tucker), so late-term abortions cause real difficulty for me (would you like to be aborted.  Harvard Professor Stephen Pinker’s idea that mothers aren’t doing much wrong in killing their new-born children (complete with a pile of specious justifications) is the kind of thing that empowers the conservative in me (the one that says we aren’t currently competent to tinker in this area), as does the reaction to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s carefully expressed concerns about the increasing tendency to view abortion as a form of birth control.  I am by no means advocating the proscription of abortion.  My alarm is the substantial segment of liberal opinion that believes there is no ethical dimension to abortion beyond a women’s right to be in control of her own body.  My position is not clear-cut.

In The Universe in a Single Atom the Dalai Lama discussed a his reaction on seeing a television programme showing an animated sequence of a possible future where human-like zombies are cultivated for their human organs.   While the animated sequence was clearly intended to convey a bright new feature, the Dalai Lama was horrified, presumably that these beasts may well be sentient, and given the modern confusion about the reality of the mind and sentience, I think these fears are well placed.  Baroness Murphy’s lack of any awareness of these issues, her deference to men in white coats with their famous scepticism and the contemptuous dismissal of other’s reservations doesn’t fill me with confidence.  I am not opposing stem-cell research but I worry about the lack of any sensitivity by advocates of stem-cell research.  On this issue my position is not clear cut either.

And then there is Huffington’s decrying of the Neanderthals that ‘would reject evolution most passionately?’.  But what does Arianna Huffington mean by ‘Evolution’?  She doesn’t seem to be aware that there is a huge spectrum of discussion on this, both inside and outside the scientific community, but of course she means whatever the high priests in white coats mean, and anyone who doesn’t pay obeisance to that are the Neanderthals.  Neanderthal Sam Brownback’s New York Times op-ed article on the subject seemed more reflective and mature and showed more awareness of the issues.

There is an institutional liberal arrogance, entirely convinced of their rightness (being on the side of ‘21st century secular realities and medical advances’ rather than ‘medieval church ignorance’) and righteousness  (being on the side of the weak and oppressed) that I find both disconcerting and suspect may be self-defeating.  Today’s thoughtful reminder of the principles of liberalism by Juan Cole with the conclusion of the bruising democratic primary where the Democrats became too distracted by destructive identity politics is welcome on the other hand.

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2 responses to “The Neanderthals

  1. southernvoice

    You might read about Leo Strauss, the neocon philosopher, to understand more about what is happening to Anglo Saxon religion and heritage in every country from Australia to Canada.

    http://www.nhinet.org/ryn18-1.htm

    Jacob Javits, a Jewish senator from NYC changed our immigration laws so that America gets immigrants from places other than Western Europe. This allowed for Jews to not stand out as a minority. Now they run our country with their money. They own Barack and McCain who are forced to be rabid Zionists.

    I do not hate any ethnic people. However I think history shows that which ever group is in power will do whatever is in the interests of their own ethnic group.

    The United States is now a country of various groups with each seeking its own interests, at the expense of the general welfare. Even illegal Mexicans and South Americans are making demands upon us. Anglo Saxon culture, heritage and religion are under constant attack.

    We are told that Aryan states are evil at the same time we must secure a Jewish state and our Christian children are in the middle east killing Muslims and being killed by them and we are being bankrupted.

    Anyone who doesn’t toe the line is considered to be an idiot who believes in Creationism. Never mind that the Christians founded and built the greatest nation on Earth and that the United States is the leader in state of the art science and we have the finest schools on Earth.

    The Jewish liberals destroyed the Democratic party which was once the party of the Big Tent but now can’t win elections.

    Now Jewish Neocons are destroying the Republican party.

    Jews control our candidates and our government with their money.

    They demand that we get Christians out of our own government at the same time the state religion of The Holocaust and Anti-Semitism are enforced by every editor, educator and politician across the land.

  2. I have indeed taken an interest in Leo Strauss and read some of the critiques of his thinking. (Drury’s I thought was interesting–I wrote a little in the ‘neoconservative’ section of a previous article and here).

    I think this whole area needs to be treated with great care and sensitivity. There is plenty of objective evidence that Jews on average are highly liberal, tolerant, educated and so on being much far more sceptical of the neocon nutty Iraq project than the population on average. As an ethnic group I find it particularly easy to think highly of them (and my ethics says that we should strive to think well of everyone).

    There is peculiar post-Holocaust dynamic. I believe that Europeans have a horrible history of persecuting Jews and Europeans were collective collaborators in the mid-20th century attack on European Jewry, not just the ‘good Germans’ (and it may have been true of North America too, which is and was not so culturally separated from Europe).

    Now we see a huge guilt complex which I think is unhealthy (see my recent post on modern guilt and why I think it is unhealthy). While the Holocaust traumatised the Jews I think it also traumatised gentiles, maybe equally.

    The consequence is that unscupulous people, quite unconsciously I am sure, can exploit the the traumas of both parties and this I think is what we are seeing. Some of them may be Jews, but many aren’t, and in any case the unscrupulous ones are in such a tiny minority that it is a terrible mistake to spread the accusation beyond those responsible, and people should be very careful of doing this, especially given the well worn habit of blaming Jews once things go wrong. As I said, the objective evidence makes it really, really easy for me to dismiss any such thoughts.

    Instead we must try and get beyond these guilty taboos and talk about the kind of issues you raised honestly.

    That is why, after a hesitation, I decided to approve your comment. I think it is important that these things are discussed. The problem is that it is such a radioactive issue that people can easily get the wrong idea. I really much prefer to discuss these things openly, provided everyone is engaging in the discussion with the aim of reaching a better understanding. But at the same time I had to write a reply.

    I hope you understand.

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