Derbyshire, as a materialist nihilist, is unable to explain why we should care about race differences, or, indeed, why we should care about anything

Sam writes:

John Derbyshire has written another article which is now up over at Taki’s Magazine. Much of what he says is sensible. But when he tries to explain why, exactly, we should adopt a realistic perspective about race, the best he is able to do is this:

In the long biological view, the only criterion is survival. The humble sea cucumber, which has been around for 400 million years, is a “superior” organism—more successful—than the saber-toothed tiger, which I don’t think lasted even one million. Likewise, the premise of the movie Idiocracy is that coarse, dumb people will inherit the Earth by out-breeding refined, smart people. If that happens (and I wouldn’t be surprised) then from a biological perspective, which is actually my own perspective as a stone-cold empiricist, the coarse, dumb people will have proven “superior” to the refined, smart ones. Personally I prefer the latter type, but Ma Nature doesn’t care what I prefer.

Derbyshire is a naive verificationist and his worldview is predicated on a vulgar form of scientism. He really thinks that if you cannot empirically verify a proposition through scientific methods, it follows that proposition is purely subjective and a matter of mere opinion. Thus, Derbyshire has no rational basis on which to stand when he defends western civilization. His ideology won’t let him say that there are objectively good things that Western civilization has produced and which are worth preserving. His ideology won’t let him say that the culture which produced the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven, and modern science is objectively worth keeping intact. All he can do, given his scientism, is fall back upon an admittedly arbitrary preference for the status quo. If a bunch of feral savages outbreed us and destroy our civilization, he is forced to concede that they were “really” better than us, given his adherence to scientism.

I laud Derbyshire for speaking the forbidden truth about race in public. But when it comes back down to basics, his apology makes it clear that there can be no effective defense of Western civilization until we abandon scientism and genetic reductionism in favor of a worldview which acknowledges the good the true and the beautiful as objective features of reality. It is truly pathetic that Derbyshire can only defend his position by appealing to private preferences to which he refuses to grant any objective validity.

LA replies:

Of course it’s not just material reductionists like Derbyshire who do this. It is a defining feature of liberalism. In one way or another, liberals all say, “Of course I believe in right and wrong, but I don’t believe in imposing my standards on others.” Meaning, all beliefs as to the good are nothing more than opinion, lacking any objectivity and any basis for serving as a common authoritative standard for society. And that view is nihilism.

My recent heartfelt praise of Derbyshire for his article on race does not change one iota of my previous criticisms of him.

In particular, it does not change my previous position that it was wrong for National Review to let this nihilist be a part of their magazine for all these years, giving him the opportunity to undermine conservatism from within. As I said in my first post about the Derbyshire affair on April 6:

If they do fire him, it will mean that NR had no problem with a contributor who violated fundamental tenets of conservatism, but that they do have a problem with a contributor who violates fundamental tenets of liberalism. Which would confirm what I’ve been saying about that ruined hulk of a once-important magazine for the last ten or 15 years.

And by the way, Derbyshire has protested my description of him as a nihilist (without mentioning me by name). But he offers no arguments to back up his position that he is not a nihilist. He simply suggests that those calling him a nihilist are mean.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2012 09:38 AM | Send

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