James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Real Culture War

Highly recommended two-part essay with interesting side-bars as well. David Brin writes:

But how can we work together when we disagree over the very nature of the universe and of the future? Or over the very possibility -- the desirability -- of human improvability?

Suppose you perceive -- through evidence and scientific consensus -- that the universe is about 13 billion years old, containing a trillion-trillion stars, some of which may be visited by your descendants: People who (you hope) will be greater, better, wiser than ourselves. You look forward to incremental steps in that direction, whether fostered by social benevolence or fecund competitive markets.

Perhaps those descendants -- while carefully overcoming challenges -- will even find important work to do, worthy of their ever-rising stature in a vast and ongoing universe. Does that sound good to you?

Then do you really want to put civilization's decision-making process in the hands of people who believe that native tribes had a better vision of the cosmos than modern science? (Left-handed mysticism.) Or people who actively yearn for an imminent apocalypse that will end a cramped, 6,000 year-old Creation in fire and damnation for everybody who uses different incantations than they do? (Right-handed mysticism.)

It sounds silly. Yet that is what some of our finest intellectuals do each day, from Jared Diamond and Kim Stanley Robinson to William F. Buckley and George Will. Oh, they grouse about some of the maniacs who are now running their parties. Then they close ranks, rationalizing that you ultimately have to ally yourself with fellow members of the right or the left.

But this election has shown, at last, that America just is not divided that way. Rather, we seem divided between those who feel alienated toward -- or enthusiastic for -- a 21st Century filled with change.


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