Discovery Institute: Conservatives or Socialists?

THE resemblance of evolution and free enterprise is something we’ve written about a few times before, for example: Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and Charles Darwin’s Natural Selection, and Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama, and Analogies to Intelligent Design, but it’s nice to see the same idea in the press.

In the Kansas City Star we read: Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?

Exactly! Let’s read on:

The arguments of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin are linked more deeply than just their bottom-up commonality. They are bonded together by a belief in the unintended nature of benevolence in economics and evolution. Smith argued “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Likewise, Darwin did not view “natural selection” as the result of benevolent intention, but rather as the result of random deviations in genetic code. Some deviations were beneficial and some were harmful. Those species that got the beneficial deviations prospered while those that got the harmful ones died out.

Right again! Well, Darwin didn’t know about genetic code. He built his theory on the well-known fact that offspring exhibit what he called “individual differences” from their parents. We continue:

The Reverend Thomas Malthus did not share this benevolent view. …

Karl Marx also felt that the world left to its own devices would result in disaster. Without governmental guidance from above, capitalism would destroy itself and ultimately lead to a new world order of socialism where government would control and organize the means of production just as God controls and organizes the creation of life itself.

Right yet again. Well, Marx didn’t assert that God controls life — but his concept of economics is clearly analogous to creationism. We made that same point here: Marx, Stalin, and Darwin. One more excerpt:

Karl Marx and William Paley tell a consistent, socialist-creationist story of life controlled through top-down, intentional design. Their view contrasts sharply with the free-market evolutionist story of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin who see a world of self-organizing, bottom-up, unintentional benevolence.

Given the above, which is obvious to the educated mind, how is it possible that the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) — who are obsessed with promoting intelligent design, can consider themselves to be conservatives? We don’t know, but as shown here: Discovery Institute — An Insider’s Tale, that’s how they think of themselves — or at least that’s how they present themselves.

The Discoveroids’ Mission Statement says:

The Institute discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty.

Some of them are probably confused (no surprise), and the others don’t care. What they really want is theocracy; the rest is unimportant.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Discovery Institute: Conservatives or Socialists?

  1. The Gadfly

    Now this one I like very much.

  2. You’re a tough audience.

  3. How about those of us that think mixing a bit of capitalism and a bit of socialism in a bucket of diluted libertarianism governed by rational choices and divorced from all religion is the best?

  4. Well, I for one think that it’s complete BS. It’s exactly the same kind of argument creationists use when they say Darwinism led to the holocaust or eugenics.
    The is/ought fallacy is still a fallacy even if you like what’s argued for.

  5. Tundra Boy says:

    How about those of us that think mixing a bit of capitalism and a bit of socialism in a bucket of diluted libertarianism governed by rational choices and divorced from all religion is the best?

    To get your “bit of socialism” functioning, you really need to dilute the libertarianism quite a bit. And if it’s “governed by rational choices,” who’s going to pay for the socialism? I donno. It might work in Canada.

  6. “…how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?”

    Exactly!

    No, not ‘exactly’.

    Biology and economics are not related.

    I question the need to believe in survival of the fittest economy because you believe in survival of the fittest biology. It is quite possible to believe in systems appropriate to the application.

    Believing that acceptance of evolutionary processes means that acceptance of laissez-faire economics must follow is akin to the is/ought fallacy.

    Evolution is the way things are, but that does not mean being ‘red in tooth and claw’ is the way things ought to be. Laissez-faire economics is very much about the judgment of what ought to be. Evolution is a fact of life, literally, and it is stupid to not accept it. Economies are artifacts of human interaction, they can change with a whim of humans. Calculating that socialism or capitalism will result in a better society is just that, a calculation. Don’t reify the concept.

    Demanding consistency between philosophies that are not related, and the philosophies of economics and evolution are not related, is unrealistic and illogical.

    I find the argument that the DI, or anyone else, is evil because of some imaginary connection to socialism based on their religious beliefs is absurd. The DI can be attacked on many (read most) of their actions and beliefs, there is no need to pull up a fallacy laden argument.

  7. Curmy said: “To get your “bit of socialism” functioning, you really need to dilute the libertarianism quite a bit. And if it’s “governed by rational choices,” who’s going to pay for the socialism? I donno. It might work in Canada.”

    My point is there is no real dichotomy. A system that contains some state control and some open commerce not under state control, is not only possible, it is the current norm. The libertarianism I spoke of is social libertarianism with controls in place to protect those who cannot protect themselves, such as children.

    So far, the state control of some aspects of life but not others works pretty damn well in more countries than just Canada. Communism has been shown to not work, primarily because of Smith’s observation that everyone is out for himself, and the fact that absolute power corrupts. We have yet to experience a completely free economy and most countries are still experimenting with the correct balance between the two.

    Adam Smith was a smart man but so was JM Keynes. As in computer programming, where design is top down and development is usually bottom up, the application determines the approach.

  8. The Gadfly

    b_sharp wrote:

    “How about those of us that think mixing a bit of capitalism and a bit of socialism in a bucket of diluted libertarianism governed by rational choices and divorced from all religion is the best?”

    You need to get out of your igdlu more often.

    There are obvious reasons why evolution and capitalism are both such dynamic pursuits. Socialism and religion, both top down, are nothing but wet blankets designed to dampen dynamism.

    But the Creationists at the DI are just lying about being conservative – they have to. Their position papers just scream Theocracy and that is equivalent to Socialism.

    If you want progress, with some of the chaff that goes along with it, stay out of the way of both capitalism and evolution. And both require freedom, genetic, economic and personal.

    Uncle Miltie would probably agree with this screed.

  9. If you’re going to go with an evolution and free markets analogy, then don’t forget about artificial selection. In artificial selection, a group that is part of the system imposes new rules upon the system. Even in natural selection one imposes some influence on the system just by existing, artificial selection just raises that influence to a new level.

    In the economic example of the butcher, at the natural level the butcher has to run a tight ship in the shop or risk losing to another shop. A butcher’s guild can impose blanket requirements on all butchers, but such decisions may or may not be informed and may or may not also be corrupt in intent. With knowledge of germ theory and which types of meat are safe under what conditions, modern government can impose health restrictions on the butcher that give high benefits at a low burden of cost.

    Artificial selection can be misguided, well guided or blind, but as long as one looks at the results and adapts the selection criteria, the results will tend to improve if treated like scientific data and lessons learned. The peanut fiasco of last year if a good example, a cheap manufacturer that cut food safety corners and an underfunded inspection agency hurt the entire industry bad.

    By the way, while on the subject, Majesty 2 will be coming out this year on PC. The original Majesty was a different take on fantasy kingdom building because you played the part of a ruler and decided what buildings were built, who was hired and a few other tidbits. Beyond that, the guys in the fighter’s guild walked around, picked fights on their own, and visited shops and such to make purchases completely independently. Interesting to play just to observe the dynamics of taking the risk of putting a potion shop or inn near hostile territory, the reward of soldiers surviving longer with local healing versus the risk of a wandering troll smashing the building up. Place a bounty on a troublesome lair and hope a competent warrior clears it out, or pump the money into the economy and hope it gets dealt with in a timely fashion? Build another healer’s temple and fund some more healers to wander around healing, or invest in some heavy warriors and let them buy their own potions and reap the taxes?

  10. Valor Phoenix says: “If you’re going to go with an evolution and free markets analogy, then don’t forget about artificial selection.”

    Right. And then there are those squirrels, storing nuts for the winter. Interfering with Darwin’s plan! Behaving like robber barons!

    Hey, every living thing does the best it can. That’s the whole concept.

  11. Marion Delgado

    Mission Statement

    Discovery Institute’s mission is to make a positive vision of the future practical. The Institute discovers and promotes ideas in the common sense tradition of representative government, the free market and individual liberty. Our mission is promoted through books, reports, legislative testimony, articles, public conferences and debates, plus media coverage and the Institute’s own publications and Internet website ( http://www.discovery.org ).

    Nice try, market fundie.

  12. “Market fundie”? Maybe, but what are you, Marion? Speak up, don’t be shy.