Hayek on evolution and global warming
I’ve been working on a piece on why so many on the right have embracing delusional thinking about global warming, and I ran across a great quote from Hayek’s Why I am not a Conservative, cited by Jim Henley in relation to the debate currently going on in the US right about evolution and creationism/Intelligent Design. Hayek’s statement reads just as well if you replace “evolution” with “global warming”.
Looking at the NYTimes debate, it’s notable that debate at AEI (at least as reported by the Times) is about whether evolution is or is not politically favorable to conservatism, with ev psychists and Social Darwinists pitted against the Christian right. It’s only in the last para that the reality-based community has anything to cheer for (also quoted by Jim).
As for Mr. Derbyshire, he would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true. And, he said, if that turns out to be â€œbad for conservatives, then so much the worse for conservatism.â€?
And here’s Hayek:
I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories.
But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what are called â€œmechanisticâ€? explanations of the phenomena of life because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irrelevant or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position.
Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts.