The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

October 4, 2006

Intelligent Design = Socialism

Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog wrote a snarky post exploiting a couple of the problems with the arguments of the people who think oil companies are keeping gas prices down to help Republicans. As an added thought, he said something brilliant:

In fact, the more I think about it, the more economics and evolution are very similar. Both are sciences that are trying to describe the operation of very complex, bottom-up, self-organizing systems. And, in both cases, there exist many people who refuse to believe such complex and beautiful systems can really operate without top-down control.

For example, certain people refuse to accept that homo sapiens could have been created through unguided evolutionary systems, and insist that some controlling authority must guide the process; we call these folks advocates of Intelligent Design. Similarly, there are folks who refuse to believe that unguided bottom-up processes can create something so complex as our industrial economy or even a clearing price for gasoline, and insist that a top-down authority is needed to run the process; we call these folks socialists.

It is interesting, then, given their similarity, that socialists and intelligent design advocates tend to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Their rejection of bottom-up order in favor of top-down control is nearly identical.

Oddly, they both have ascribe the same qualities to their god. For the right-wing Christian god, it is an all-knowing supreme being, that will use its power in a good and just way. For the left-wing socialists, it is an all-wise Government, that will use its power in a good and just way.

I’m not one to think either delusion is plausible, but at least the right-wingers are smart enough to believe in something that can never truly be disproven. The left wingers, despite being shown over and over that government is inherently a flawed system, continue to believe that it can work.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 1:00 am || Permalink || Comments (6) || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Religion, Science


  1. I’m not saying that I’m 100% convinced that Dick Cheney picked up the phone and ordered up $2/gallon gasoline, but according to fundamental law of Economics, Supply vs Demand, the drop in price could only be explained by a drop in the demand for gasoline, an increase in the supply, or a cheaper supply. So what is it? Why has the price at the pumps literally fallen by a full third of its cost in just over a month?

    When scientists laugh off the Intelligent Design theory, they do it with facts, research, evidence, and an explanation. I have not heard about any new wells tapping into previously unused oil. I don’t think the situation in the Middle East has suddenly calmed down, and I don’t know anyone who is driving less, so how did it happen? Did an industry that was making $300 Billion per quarter (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’, and quarter, as in ‘3 months’) suddenly decide they didn’t really need the money? Or is it possible that they’re scratching the back of the people that helped them make that money?

    Or perhaps it is simply a natural phenomenon of economics that gasoline prices (not diesel by the way, that’s still up around $3) dramatically fall every other fall. Please don’t hide behind any free market explanations either. The Oil Industry is controlled by a cartel from the top down. OPEC openly engages in price manipulation, and Big Oil represents one of the strongest unchecked oligopolies since anti-trust laws went into effect.

    Comment by Jim — October 4, 2006 @ 8:19 am
  2. First things first… The price of oil is set by speculation. The price was abnormally high due to worry about another bad hurricane season (that never materialized), a worry about a pipeline that was taken out of service (in Alaska, I think) for repairs, and worry about problems with OPEC due to the war. Thus, while supply didn’t ever drop that much, it was *expected* to, and the price of oil was bid up due to that.

    What happened? The hurricane season was unexpectedly light, the pipeline was repaired well ahead of schedule, and there wasn’t any problem with OPEC. Thus, the expected supply crunch never happened.

    Then, demand *DOES* fall every fall. The summer travel season is always higher prices than the fall, the only exception I know of was last fall, and that was due to Katrina. We had a serious supply shortage of local refinery capacity and local drilling. Add to that the fact that in the winter, many states go back to different environmental blends, which cuts the price in the fall and winter.

    There are small changes to some people regarding driving less, choosing commute alternatives, etc. Someone you know (Justin) and I rarely ended up making the drive to hang out during the summer, partly due to the fact that the gas for an 8-hour round trip wasn’t that great. When I came up to Purdue for the game a few weeks ago, I flew instead of driving, as the difference in cost to keep my truck full of gas was very little. These are small changes, to be sure, but in the aggregate they do make a difference.

    I’m not defending OPEC, as they do deliberately engage in price manipulation of the cost of crude oil. That’s a decent factor in the cost of gas at the pump, and has dropped from $70-75 a month or two ago to $59 now (80% of previous price). A 20% drop from $3/gal would be $2.40/gallon. Is it so hard to believe that decreased demand in the fall, and the easier-to-refine fall/winter environmental formulations, have brought the price down the rest of the way?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — October 4, 2006 @ 10:59 am
  3. I’m not one to think either delusion is plausible, but at least the right-wingers are smart enough to believe in something that can never truly be disproven.

    This statement is ridiculous.

    Economics gets disproven all the time, if it leads to results that any civil society would find unacceptable (assuming that should be part of the equation in assessing its value… which I argue it should). Even from the standpoint of the standard libertarian moral tenets of non-aggression, respect for property rights, etc., many immoral activities are rewarded because of economics. If you think long and hard enough, I’m sure you’ll come up with some examples.

    Comment by Paul — October 5, 2006 @ 7:20 am
  4. Paul,

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear when I was writing. I did not mean to imply by that statement that what right-wingers believe in is economics. It was in response to Intelligent Design, and I was saying that the right-wing Christians believe in God, which is something that can never truly be disproven. I.e. you can’t prove a negative.

    No matter how good evolutionary science gets, Christians can always say “sure, there’s evolution, but God’s hand directs it.” I would respond by asking why, then, he made the human knee and back such injury-prone parts of his design, as any engineer worth his salt would try to fix such glaring design flaws, but that’s just me.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — October 5, 2006 @ 7:30 am
  5. Read Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit. The central thesis is the idea that the free market capitalist systems evolved over time building every more complex systems without conscious direction. The fatal conceit is that the intellect of a chosen few can direct the affairs of men better.

    From the Greeks through to the enlightenment, great minds attempted to find a firm foundation for truth, beauty and absolute morals. We would call these concepts “values” today. They were considered part of the physical universe not unlike the four forces scientists recognize in particle physics. As the modern concept of the scientific method was taking shape, “values” were banished from the physical universe. It is ironic that Descartes attempt to prove the existence of God in his Discourse on Methods hasten the collapse of “values”. What he thought as a firm foundation, “I think, therefore, I am”, only lead to greater skepticism in intellectual circles around Europe.

    Of course all this lead to Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche and the conclusion that man through his reason and intellect only could form and shape the world as he saw fit. The traditions and morals passed down through the ages along with the economic structure would now be molded by reason and directed by those convinced of their own greatness. Revolution would sweep these “shackles” away and we would make a more just society of our choosing. Command economies, multiculturalism, egalitarianism, political correctness, and socialism would become the foul fruit of such hubris.

    A funny thing happened on the way to the commune. An Englishman wrote a little book called the Origin of Species. Atheists embraced its idea of decent with modification through natural selection because it finally freed them of the need of a creator. Most people in religious circles would not accept the possibility of “The Blind Watchmaker”. No one understood at the time that Darwin discovered the method by which the universe assigns “value”. Whether we are discussing species, economic systems, human societies, or morals they evolve. The good ones tend to reproduce and survive and the bad ones tend to go extinct.

    So this leaves us the ironic situation. People, who are religious, believe in absolute moral standards, and free markets but reject evolution. While others think values and truth are all relative, the market place should be highly regulated but embrace evolution. As a result of this confusion both on the Religious Right and Secular Left we are left with poor choices for governance.

    Comment by Septagon49 — October 6, 2006 @ 11:47 pm
  6. Very well said, Septagon.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — October 7, 2006 @ 9:39 am

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