The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature (英語) ペーパーバック – 2011/2/8
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In his most powerful book to date,award-winning author TimothyFerris makes a passionate case for scienceas the inspiration behind the rise of liberalismand democracy. Ferris showshow science was integral to the AmericanRevolution but misinterpreted inthe French Revolution; reflects on thehistory of liberalism, stressing its widelyunderestimated and mutually beneficialrelationship with science; and surveysthe forces that have opposed scienceand liberalism—from communism andfascism to postmodernism and Islamicfundamentalism. A sweeping intellectualhistory, The Science of Liberty is a stunninglyoriginal work that transcends theantiquated concepts of left and right.
“Unfashionably optimistic. . . . Ferris provides irrefutable evidence that, despite the tragedies of war and terrorism, there has been astounding progress in both the living standards and the degree of personal freedom enjoyed by the majority of the human race.” (The Financial Times)
“Lucid and captivating. . . . Deeply important. . . . Ferris’s clear and educative account makes for an enjoyable read.” (A. C. Grayling, The New Scientist)
“Engaging. . . . Ambitious. . . . Ferris usefully reminds us that science was an integral part of the intellectual equipment of the great pioneers of political and individual liberty.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“An important and extremely readable book. . . . Lively. . . . Clear and perceptive. . . . Ferris is one of America’s most skillful communicators about science. . . . He shows himself a fascinating historian too.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)
“An important, timely, and splendidly written book. . . . Ferris is among the half-dozen foremost explicators of the physical sciences alive today. . . . The Science of Liberty is a profound delight.” (The Washington Post)
“Modern science and liberal democracy are novelties of recent vintage—considering that, as Whitehead used to say, it takes a thousand years for a genuinely new concept to engrain itself in a culture.” Our culture's concept of the individual did not exist in the ancient world and is a recent innovation outside of Western European culture. The individual was invented by the medieval church to bypass the feudal nobility, adopted by kings to form the nation state and has taken on the form we now assume since the industrial revolution where the individual is the source of authority. This is the end point of a 2000 year process. [Siedentop, Larry (2014-10-20). Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition. ISBN: 978-0-674-41753-3] I would question whether the individual has more liberty as an untethered entity than when tethered to clan or polis.
The Biblical principle from which the concept of the individual developed is that each person is responsible for their own sin. The Devil does not make you do it. Our modern concept of freedom for each individual is a corollary. Romans chapter 6 describes true freedom as being freed from sin unto righteousness. The first thing to note here is that freedom is a transaction. Whether you believe the Bible to be The Word of God or not, this is still a useful way to view freedom. You are freed from one thing unto another thing. The framers of our Constitution, whether believers or not, were Biblically literate and understood this concept.
The second thing to note is the Biblical definitions of sin and righteousness. Sin in the Bible is defined as rebellion against God. Righteousness is defined as obedience to God. For those who are not Bible believers, the takeaway here is that true freedom is obedience to authority rather than personal autonomy. This is not what most people think of when they hear the term freedom. We all want control and do not want to be controlled. We all want to be in charge of our own salvation. This is original sin.
At the beginning of chapter two, Farris quotes John Stuart Mill that the only legitimate use of power over an individual is to prevent harm to others. I would argue that taxing everyone to pay for health care for all individuals meets this condition. Further, I would argue that this frees the individual from economic risks of illness unto security to pursue any endeavor that seems right to that individual. That individuals want exclusive control of their own fate is the cause of harm to others. For this reason the Bible defines government (kings) as the minister of God for the restraint of evil. This idea is not incompatible with Mills’ rule.
I found Ferris’ definition of Liberal, Progressive and Conservative to be useful. I still do not know into which category I should place myself. Ferris asks the question whether Democracy should be defined in terms of Liberty or Equality. I think he is asking the wrong question. We should be asking what kind of society, political economy, we should have and how best to achieve that end. Democracy is a process by which the members of a society can make these determinations.
Ferris says, “everyone has—or ought to have—equal standing as citizens, because the strength of the society resides in the very diversity of their abilities.” I could not agree more. The Bible teaches that we are all equal before God. It also teaches that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made each for a purpose. Each person has a role in the community for which they are uniquely suited. The idea of universal education, for which Mr. Ferris advocates, came out of Christian religion. When Presbyterianism invaded Scotland, its leaders wanted all individuals to be able to read and interpret the Bible. Scotland was the poorest country in Europe, in a state of bankruptcy and poverty that would make today’s poorest governed third world country look prosperous. Yet this country had a literacy rate exceeding 70% while the rest of Europe barely exceeded 10%. People who could barely feed themselves were buying books. From this came the Scottish Enlightenment.
Mr. Ferris makes much of the contributions of Bacon and Newton to the invention of Science. He is in this correct. Where Ferris goes wrong is to denigrate the contribution of Christian religion. If judged by what these two men actually said, they would be considered today to be dangerous fundamentalist Christians. I would argue that the invention of the printing press and the Protestant Reformation were critical to the invention of Science. The Reformation upended traditional authority. People’s minds were freed to think in new ways and seek new authority. It was that “Pauline and Augustinian thought” that motivated those first Scottish Presbyterians to insist that everyone should be able to read and think for themselves.
“The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive Being;” This statement stands the Bible on its head. The Bible says that God does NOT change and is NOT vindictive. He is passionate about his love for his people. He is infinitely holy and infinitely loving. This holy God cannot have sin in his presence. This loving God wants us, his creation in his presence. We are all sinners, in rebellion against God and cannot stand in his presence. There is no way we can fix this problem, which is why Christianity should not be confused with religion. God himself provided the fix. We may choose to accept what He has done or reject Him. This is free will. God does punish, but those drownings and wars are exceptions and not a rule. The primary way God punishes is to remove His restraint, providence, to let us do exactly as we please. We are quite capable of destroying ourselves without help from God.
In Isaiah chapter 44 God condemns his people for worshiping the good things He has given them rather than the God who gave the good things. Science is a good thing, but it is not a god that will save us or anyone else. The study of Christian theology can, as I have shown by example, provide insight into the secular as well as the spiritual. The confusion of religion and science in this book makes nonsense of some conclusions. Darwinian evolution, creation nor intelligent design are science. They are metaphysics and should be taught as such. Toward the end of the book of Job, God asks whether anyone was there when he created the universe. We weren’t there so why do we think we know so much? The chapter on evolution is a stream of consciousness listing of unsubstantiated assertions. Most of these assertions can be shown to be false or questionable by preponderance of the evidence logic. The basic premise is to look at all the evidence available and determine if any contradicts the assertion. If the evidence is exclusively consistent with the assertion then it is reasonable to accept the assertion. If new evidence becomes available then the assertion can be reevaluated. This is not science as Bacon and Newton would have it. But for much of what must be decided in this life, it is all we have.
I have no objection to chapter five. Our Constitution is not divine revelation. We live in “interesting times” where we must react and adapt to new circumstances almost continuously. This cannot be done by command. There are no all-encompassing philosophies to guide us, as Mr. Ferris points out. Anyone who claims to have The Answer is lying. If some answer seems reasonable, try it. If it doesn’t work, get rid of it. If it needs fixing, fix it. Politicians become invested in the things they champion and refuse to drop what they have advocated. This is why wars seem to go on endlessly and end badly. This is why we need elections.
The chapter on Post-modern philosophy is spot on. I remember reading Martin Perez in The New Republic saying the exact same thing. It is anti-modern, anti-science, anti-Christian, and anti-truth. It is stupid.
The Science of Wealth; Mr. Ferris is right that economics is more amenable to experiment than most of the social sciences. We have seen the National Socialist, the Soviet, and the Libertarian experiments. These are good examples of what Mr. Ferris calls all-encompassing philosophies that purport to solve all our problems. A great deal of mathematical wizardry is used to model national economies attempting to predict where they are going. Unfortunately Chaos Theory is still well down the learning curve. All the curve fitting over the last century has not predicted the financial disasters that have occurred, but a few intelligent people have done so by simply assuming we are all sinners and will continue sinning until everything breaks. The joke that 30 economists asked the same question will provide 30 different answers still fits.
Mr. Ferris sites Adam Smith with favor. I shall do the same. In Book One of Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith coins the term invisible hand. The conclusion to Book One includes a warning that no one belonging to the commercial class should be allowed anywhere near public policy. Those in this class know their self-interest very well, but have little understanding of the common good. In Adam Smith’s day this class promoted mercantilism. In our day they promote a winner take all Social Darwinism. All that has changed is the nature of mercantile self-interest.
The Chicago school does not produce equal opportunity and the Keynesian does not produce equal outcomes. This is a false distinction. The ideal is a mix of government and private initiative focused on the needs of society. Economic incentives are often negative where the individual is rewarded and the community is punished. Private business seeking profit cannot finance generation long research. NASA pioneered the rockets that Space-X launches. The batteries in Tesla autos are built from research funded by the U.S. and Japanese governments. The Internet was invented by the Department of Defense. The World Wide Web was invented by a government researcher at CERN in Switzerland. The graphic user interface on computers was invented by Xerox, but exploited by Apple. The national infrastructure used by private enterprise is built and maintained by government. The workers hired by private enterprise are educated by government. There is every reason to believe that well managed and imaginative government can contribute massively to quality of life and prosperity.
Great historical review of the problems our founding fathers had with the religious community in the separation of church from state affairs. Most religious leaders wanted Christianity to be intermingled with the language of our founding documents, but the secularist philosophy of our founders, most notably George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, prevailed. This is evidenced by no mention of God in our US Constitution and only a brief mention in The Preamble to the The Declaration of Independence.
"The Science of Liberty" is arguably his best book: it has all his trademark eloquence and a vastly more relevant topic. But the huge popularity of his earlier books won't repeat here. Ferris has stepped from neutral ground onto a morally charged minefield to forcefully argue that individual liberty and scientific inquiry are historically and inseparably linked, and that together they form the principal engine of human progress. Any book taking a passionate and unequivocal moral stand will provoke loud protests from someone. Neither science nor liberty have historically lacked powerful and visible enemies: religions, monarchies, dictatorships, holy terrorists, etc. Their heirs won't be reading this book. The incandescently obvious success of (small "l") liberal democracies and scientists in improving human life on our planet has forced most of its modern adversaries underground--where they chip away at the basic assumptions of science and lobby for ever tighter limits on freedom. They will hate this book and you'll surely be hearing from some of them on this page.
A prefatory note: The title isn't meant to imply that liberty or liberal governance is a science. The author means to show that science and liberty were siblings born of common parents. Much of the book details the intertwined emergence of human rights and scientific experimentation with original observations, and unusual examples. It reveals in anecdotes & capsule biographies the conspicuous overlap of in proponents of liberty and iconic early scientists--even the odd lapses of overlap. A paraphrase from Lewis Thomas sets a basic pillar of this thesis: "...the greatest discovery of modern science was of the dimensions, not of cosmic space and time, but of human ignorance." (My note: That perceived ignorance was enormous then, and is growing rather than shrinking. The notion that all worth knowing is already known is as old as humanity, and thrives today--not just in Waziristan.)
The common ground of science and democracy is broad: the inherent messiness, the need for freedoms of association, speech, inquiry and press, the diffusion of authority through consensus, the permanent mutability of judgment. These are repellent to people who prefer direct acts of dictatorial intervention, unchallengeable moral axioms, or permanent (capital"T") Truths. We easily imagine the stereotype forms of this opposition, but Ferris extends his criticism of illiberal ideas beyond the usual suspects. Coercive agendas are reentering modern politics in force. In America the Republican & Democratic parties both include majority factions who see ideas they wish suppressed, research they wish limited, trade they want prevented, liberties they want canceled.
Ferris has his own chart of contemporary politics. He proposes replacing the 1-dimensional Left/Right paradigm with a 2-D space showing the political spectrum shown as a triangle: Left & Right on the bottom corners, labeled "Progressive" & "Conservative" with (small "l") "liberal" at the upper apex. (This denotes liberalism in its original sense, a principled devotion to individual freedom, before before the word evolved to describe advocacy of a progressively expanding sphere of regulatory governance. (Ferris could as well have named his apex corner "Libertarian" and left the Liberal label on the left.) Later on he appends a second lower triangle to this 3-D graph to accommodate a "Totalitarian" corner at bottom center (thus forming a de facto square--an idea suggested long ago by a Libertarian writer whose name I've forgotten).
His relatively light chastisement "progressives" and "conservatives" is prudent and sensible: most of them support science in general and most pay at least occasional lip service to liberty. The gloves come off when exposing dictatorships (expected) and the radical anti-science fringe and police state-friendly professors within academia (not as expected), particularly the "deconstructionists" and the countless academic cranks who've made profitable careers attacking science, liberty, & virtually anything associated with Western Civilization. There's a good bibliography if you're skeptical of his descriptions of academic intolerance.
Clarity of prose is a fair indicator of clarity of mind. A good idea can be presented boringly, but a bad idea clearly expressed won't travel far. Compare the transparent clarity of this book with obfuscatory jargon of "Postmodern" academic neo-medievalists and you'll know why they write so opaquely--and what makes this book by contrast so well thought out, so utterly wise, necessary, and best of all, so wonderfully readable.