It may seem that our title’s question is asking about apples and oranges, but it is nevertheless a question that must be asked. In the US, election day is less than two weeks away, and the two major political parties have transmuted themselves into those two alternatives. We have decisions to make.
Deciding the relative degree of stupidity and ignorance involved in each is difficult, but some comparisons can be made. Yes, the evidence for evolution is vast, but so is the evidence favoring free enterprise. There is also evidence that creationism — as a stand alone belief system — is utterly goofy: the world is older than 6K years, there’s no evidence of a recent global flood, etc. But the evidence that socialism is also goofy is vast and utterly overwhelming. Almost the entire 20th century has been an experiment in socialism, and in retrospect it’s been an absolute catastrophe.
One could, perhaps, make excuses for idealistic socialists who fomed their ideas a century ago, in the years just prior to and even during the Great War, but before the Russian Revolution. Socialism may have seemed new and “scientific,” and the alternatives, at least in Europe, were monarchy, aristocracy, and state-supported religion. One can almost understand, say, young Albert Einstein’s attraction to socialism, which he probably absorbed from conversations with his fellow intellectuals in European coffee houses. The horrors of the Soviet Union, National Socialism, and Mao’s China were all in the future.
Okay, we can forgive Einstein; as a young man he didn’t know better. He wasn’t an economist, and there wasn’t then any data to be observed. But what’s the excuse for someone today, a century later? It isn’t necessary to be an economist to understand that socialism, when seriously implemented, means tyranny, poverty, and death on a massive scale. If socialism’s corpses were piled atop one another, in their countless millions throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in Latin America too, they might reach almost to the Moon.
The evidence against creationism isn’t quite that ghastly, so when comparing the two errors, one might say that although creationism is incredibly dumb, socialism is by far the dumber belief system.
“Ah,” say today’s socialists, “it’s true that our system always failed in the past, but this time we’ll do it right.” Yeah, sure they will. And believing that is a classic example of insanity.
“But look at Sweden!” they say. “Compared to what?” we respond. Can you know what Sweden would have been otherwise? No, so all you can say is that the place seems to be doing okay. But again we must ask, “Okay compared to what?” You can’t compare today’s Sweden with a “might-have-been” free-enterprise Sweden.
And we also say this: If you swapped Sweden’s women for those of, say, Bulgaria (we mean no offense to Bulgars, we’re just picking a country in Europe that’s far away from Sweden) would visitors to that legendary socialist utopia still return with praise? Without Swedish women, Sweden would be revealed as a drab and dreary state.
But let’s return to the question in our title — which is dumber, creationism or socialism? How can we calculate the relative stupidity of two erroneous belief systems?
At first it struck us that we had an easy method. After all, socialism is so incredibly stupid that even a creationist can see it. But on reflection, that method doesn’t work because it can be flipped around. One could say that creationism is so stupid that even a socialist can see it. Many science bloggers illustrate exactly that.
It’s obvious that we can’t get anywhere by adopting the viewpoint of either group. Each says the other is stupid, and to that limited extent they’re both right. Indeed, there are people so extremely stupid that they are both socialist and creationist. All one needs to do is think of William Jennings Bryan and his millions of followers — “progressives” and creationists all. It would seem that stupid is a very slippery slope.
Well, how about judging their relative stupidity by the degree to which they reject a rational enterprise like science? Surely that’s the key! But no, both groups are stupidly anti-science — it’s just that each rejects the science (or accepts the pseudo-science) that suits its purpose. We know about the Republicans and their creationism — in some cases sincere, in other cases perhaps it’s pure pandering — but they’re not the only anti-science party. As we said in Creationism and Politics: Aaaargh!!:
[W]e shouldn’t bog down over the fake issue of whether one party is smart and the other is stupid. They’re both stupid. Also, they’re both anti-science, but in different ways. We’ve previously pointed out that the Dems are just plain weird about their environmentalism — no oil drilling, and no nuclear plants either. We don’t know the principle involved (if there is one), but they also seem to oppose all weapons research. Further, they’re shutting down the space program, except, perhaps, for Muslim outreach. So the Dems aren’t very scientific at all.
So how else can we choose between two political parties, one of which is creationist and the other is socialist? This is very frustrating, because we know (at least your Curmudgeon knows) that both of them are stupid, and stupidity is a seemingly measureless quality. But Election Day is coming. Surely we should be able to develop a rational method of choosing between them.
All right, let’s try this: Can we somehow determine which is worse? Perhaps, but worse by what objective measure? How about this: Which is more destructive to our civilization? Aha, now we’re bringing the matter directly within the purview of our blog’s ultimate purpose: Conserving the Enlightenment values of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise.
A creationist is stupid — incredibly so — but most of them aren’t destructive. There’s little harm to anyone else if someone chooses to believe in the historical reality of Noah’s Ark. Not, that is, unless the creationist gets aggressive with that belief and forces it into public schools, science texts, and then tries to shut down scientific research. A crazed book-burner is by definition destructive, but at this point we’re not faced with that nightmare (except a bit in Texas and Louisiana). For now we can set it aside to be dealt with if the occasion arises.
A socialist, on the other hand, is always destructive by definition. His goal is “social justice,” which means the confiscation and redistribution of wealth. That’s done by taxation and various welfare programs. (Please, dear reader, don’t imagine that we’re opposed to charity; but that’s voluntary. Our objection is to compulsory redistribution.)
To a greater or lesser degree, a socialist will also want to confiscate or at least control most or all of the economy, which is destruction per se. No one who has his business confiscated will ever create another that might suffer the same fate. But even without nationalization of industry, with “only” the evil of taxation and redistribution, private property is destroyed, and so is the future prosperity that would have been created had that property been left in the hands of its rightful owners.
Any fool can be a re-distributor of wealth and imagine that he’s being a great “social” hero. All it requires is a gun. Any street punk can “liberate” and then redistribute wealth, but it’s a very rare individual who can be a creator of wealth, and wealth-creators are always victims of the re-distributors. As with free-enterprise Sweden, what might have been created will never be known, because that alternate future will have been destroyed by redistribution.
But if we don’t know what the free-enterprise future might have been, does that mean it’s all guesswork? Are we only indulging our prejudices by imagining that life would be better without the “compassionate” re-distributors in power? Not really. To a limited (but sufficient) extent we can find some objective data to support what we’re saying. But first, one has to know what to look for.
In the lab, we can take one uniform culture of bacteria and divide it into two separate Petri dishes. Then we can introduce one new factor into one of those Petri dishes and observe the results. Would you believe that history affords us with similar, lab-perfect examples in human affairs? Such situations are rare, but they do exist.
To our knowledge, the first to notice and draw a useful conclusion from such a situation was Alexis de Tocqueville. You can read about it in this online copy of Democracy in America. Go to chapter 18, which is titled “The Present and Probably Future Condition of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of The United States.” Here’s a link to it. In that chapter, search for “Contrast between the left and the right bank of the Ohio.”
Tocqueville gives us a fascinating study of America in the 1830s, a generation before the civil war. In the text we’re talking about he takes a slow boat ride down the Ohio river, where it divides the states of Ohio and Kentucky. Like Darwin, Tocqueville was a brilliant observer. He says, with bold added by us:
The stream that the Indians had distinguished by the name of Ohio, or the Beautiful River, waters one of the most magnificent valleys which have ever been made the abode of man. Undulating lands extend upon both shores of the Ohio, whose soil affords inexhaustible treasures to the laborer; on either bank the air is equally wholesome and the climate mild, and each of them forms the extreme frontier of a vast state: that which follows the numerous windings of the Ohio upon the left is called Kentucky; that upon the right bears the name of the river. These two states differ only in a single respect: Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the state of Ohio has prohibited the existence of slaves within its borders.
See? It’s two Petri-dish cultures, identical but for one factor. And like Darwin, he notes the consequences of what he observes:
Thus the traveler who floats down the current of the Ohio to the spot where that river falls into the Mississippi may be said to sail between liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of surrounding objects will convince him which of the two is more favorable to humanity.
Upon the left bank of the stream [Kentucky] the population is sparse; from time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert fields; the primeval forest reappears at every turn; society seems to be asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and life.
From the right bank [Ohio], on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which proclaims afar the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant harvests; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity of the laborers; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor.
And he draws a conclusion from his observations:
Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of slavery, while upon the right bank it is identifies with that of prosperity and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is honored.
As the same causes have been continually producing opposite effects for the last two centuries in the British colonies of North America, they have at last established a striking difference between the commercial capacity of the inhabitants of the South and those of the North. At the present day it is only the Northern states that are in possession of shipping, manufactures, railroads, and canals.
Among Tocqueville’s conclusions is this:
The farther they went, the more was it shown that slavery, which is so cruel to the slave, is prejudicial to the master.
Reading that for the first time, years ago, we realized that we had previously been told only half of the reason why slavery was wrong. It’s not only a supreme injustice to the slave, it’s also injurious to the master and his entire society. But it took a keen observer like Tocqueville to make the point.
There are “Petri dish” examples which can be profitably studied regarding side-by-side societies in which the sole difference is socialism. The one which today is most striking is North and South Korea. What would Tocqueville make of a journey between them along the 38th Parallel? Several other examples have existed and are still worth studying: East and West Germany being a good one. Do today’s “social scientists” ever undertake such studies?
There are no counter-examples, and so it must be admitted by all honest and rational observers that socialism is everywhere and always pernicious. And here, dear reader, your Curmudgeon takes his stand — at the risk of offending many of his loyal readers.
In deciding between creationism and socialism, the latter is by far the worse alternative. That is our unhappy guide to figuring out the choices which the current US elections provide us. The creationist candidate — if opposed to socialism — is the lesser of the two evils.
Ah, you ask, but what if the creationists evolve into book burners and witch hunters, as has happened so often in the past?
That’s a simple question. Were that to happen, then it’s time to leave.
Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.