America according to Obama, and Man according to Darwin

Jake F. writes:

Regarding the “summons to greatness” passage in Obama’s oil leak speech, you commented:

Our determination to fight for an America which we don’t know what it is? There’s progressivism for you. A call to keep moving forward toward some transcendently alluring goal that lacks any content. A.k.a. “Change,” or “Change you can believe in.”

Do you notice the parallel between Obama’s America and the Darwinist’s Human?

According to Obama, we don’t need a vision of what America is in order to fight for it. There is no roadmap, no goal, just “change we can believe in.”

According to the Darwinists, nature doesn’t need teleology or a plan to create a new species. There’s just chance mutations and “survival of the fittest.”

In both cases, most of the time there’s the foolish presumption that the changes that occur, by our will or by survival, will create a better order: a better America, a higher-order species. We humans are the pinnacle of nature—so far—even though there’s no map to the summit. America is the greatest nation on Earth (except for all the others) even though we don’t know what America is really supposed to look like.

Interestingly, as I was writing this email, my wife pointed to a post at Commentary about Justice Scalia’s speech to his grandchild’s graduating high school class. Between Obama’s speech and Scalia’s, you can’t get a more stark contrast between the liberal belief in progress through directionlessness and the conservative belief in a higher order of being.

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Leonard D. writes:

Your correspondent Jake F.”s comparison of progressive change to evolutionary change is inapposite in two ways.

First, there is a reason that evolution happens whereas hypothetical directionless “change” in a polity would almost always fail. Most random changes to a functional genome are bad things. And most random changes to a polity would be too. But there are millions or billions of individuals in a species, and thus finding the odd improvement can still happen. And the improvements have a mechanism for replacing the failures: all individual creatures are mortal. Differential survival of the fittest. Whereas, when a polity screws up, there’s not zillions of other polities that can replace it. Nor, even if there were, is there any mechanism for doing that.

More importantly, progressives generally do know what they want. For example, in that utopic city on the hill, “no person is illegal.” When progressive politicians talk about “change we can believe in,” or other such gassy nonsense, it’s because they are intentionally trimming and obfuscating. They—or their speechwriters, at least—know that many progressive ideas are not yet popular, so they must hide the more unpopular ones—for now. (In the future, their schools and their universities, and their press, will educate the next generation.) But you can be sure, now, that any “change” a progressive wants is not random. There’s one direction. The speed of change does vary, but not the direction.

LA replies:

We need to distinguish here between the hard left and the soft left. The hard left may have an idea of where it wants to go. But the soft left—liberals—much less so. Thus, as I said in the recent post about George Will appealing to “evolving moral standards” as the reason to support the admission of open homosexuals in the military:

Of course, Will’s “evolving” moral standards are indistinguisable from progressivism, as Richard Brookhiser defined it in his 1991 book The Way of the WASP:

“Progress was not progress toward anything definite…. It was going with the flow, waiting in the baggage-claim area of history to see what rumbled up the belt next.”

And what has rumbled up the belt this time [for Will] is the idea that homosexuality is the moral equivalent of left-handedness.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 22, 2010 10:47 AM | Send

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