“I am at a loss to know how creationism has got mixed up with conservatism. I have always thought of conservatives as the cold-eyed people, unafraid to face awkward facts, respectful of rigorous intellectual disciplines, and decently curious, but never dogmatic, on points of metaphysics. Conservatism thus understood is, in my view, the ideal outlook for free citizens of a free society. Contrariwise, pseudoscientific fads, metaphysical dogmas like “dialectical materialism,” magical explanations for natural phenomena, and slipshod word-games about “agency” and “design” posing as science, arise most commonly in obscurantist despotisms. The old USSR was addled with such things, Lysenkoism being only the best known. You may say that an obscurantist despotism can be conservative in its own way, and you may have a terminological point; but that’s not the style of conservatism I favor.” – John Derbyshire, NRO, in an exchange with Tom Bethell.
Once again, I find myself in complete agreement with the old codger. How can that be? Once you get past his prejudices, which he proudly displays, Derbyshire is actually a recognizable old-style conservative. His description of the conservative temperament and attitude toward reality is absolutely something I share and, as he puts it, absolutely consonant with deep religious faith. I can see now what will be a main line of criticism of my book: that its understanding of conservatism is an English one, not American. Maybe that’s the origin of my detente with the Derb. But if our shared conservatism draws inspiration from English tradition and history, it is also a philosophical argument, available for universal inspection and debate. The point is not whether such a skeptical, empirical, practical, limited government conservatism can survive in today’s America. The point is whether it offers an attractive politics for the West in modernity. I agree with Derb that it is the ideal outlook for free citizens of a free society. I also believe it is the best politics for maintaining our freedom in modernity. Which is why fundamentalists of all kinds – Muslim and Christian – feel so threatened by it.
– posted by Andrew.