Derbyshire deported from New English Review

At the Corner, John Derbyshire announces:

I have been voted off the New English Review site for being insufficiently Islamophobic. Fair enough. NER has now settled down as a definitely and strongly Islamophobic vehicle, and I’m a poor fit for it, being Islamophobophobic.

Funny, but I’ve been told that one of the founding purposes of New English Review was to serve as an Islamo-critical vehicle. Since Derbyshire, in his inimitably vain, irresponsible, anti-intellectual, and liberal manner, has repeatedly trashed all serious Islam critics as “Islamophobes,” neurotic obsessives, and people “who need to get a life” (in his current comment he adds the illuminating insight that the Islam critics’ efforts are “auto-erotic”), naturally he didn’t belong at NER.

Now if National Review would only realize that the Derb is not a conservative and doesn’t belong there either. Then he could continue his writing career at the atheist and evol-con websites where he belongs, and stop being a fifth columnist within the conservative movement.

* * *

It ought to be added that having portrayed Islam critics as neurotic and deluded human beings who are obsessing over fantasies, Derbyshire then adds that the Islam critics are correct that Islamic immigration into the West is damaging, and he says he looks forward to working with them in the future on their common concerns. This is the sort of hopelessly confused writing that results when the writer does not believe in truth, but only in what he feels. No doubt Derbyshire, wherever he writes in the future, will continue occasionally publishing useful articles on immigration and related topics. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s not a conservative and doesn’t belong at conservative publications.

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As James P. sums it up:

Derbyshire dismisses serious thinking about the threat to our civilization as obsessive, autoerotic crankiness.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Good discussion on John Derbyshire (I like to call him John Darwinshire, but it’s never stuck among my associates). I would add one mild dissent, though. You describe him as a person who “doesn’t believe in truth.” I think that’s not quite right. Derbyshire’s not an empirical relativist, or otherwise a skeptic of capital-T Truth—at least not completely. His problem, at least as I read him, is not so much relativism as scientism. He believes in the objective physical world, and he believes that science can tell us things about that world which are more or less reliable—in a word, true.

Where he expresses skepticism is truth as it concerns questions of value. He is functionally a materialist atheist. He would say that the theory of evolution is really, actually true—that it describes reality. But his materialism leads him to the conclusion (implicit more than stated) that the hierarchy values that distinguishes one civilization from the next is ultimate an expression of a physical phenomenon. It’s all subatomic, in the end, and therefore the difference between Islam and the West are not really very meaningful except in a strictly practical way. He is radically skeptical about God, about morals, and so forth. They have practical utility to us Carbon-Based Beings, but that’s about as far as he’ll go.

Derbyshire’s dilemma is, as far as I’ve been able to discern, the problem described by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man. He can’t completely write the moral law out of his own consciousness, but the principles of science—which are the only principles according to which he can divine anything like Truth—offer him no basis for it. So he does the English thing and “muddles through,” fudging uncertainties as necessary and becoming more nihilistic by the day.

Anyway, my point is that he and similar so-called conservative writers are poison to the conservative movement not because they deny truth as such, but because they deny truth as regards values. He’s a realist on the world described by science, but a subjectivist on everything else. (Which is absurd, of course—since knowledge in both broad areas is ultimately founded on intuitions about the nature of reality, not proofs.) They find themselves uncomfortably positioned on the right merely because they object on empirical grounds to some of the wilder claims of leftism about man and society (equality among groups and so forth). But of course they aren’t “conservatives” in any useful sense.

LA replies:

Yes, but I think his denial of truth goes beyond denying the truth of values. I can’t explain at the moment what I mean and will try to return to this later.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 18, 2007 12:01 PM | Send

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