Since endorsing Ted Cruz for president in my previous post (and see also this good article by Craig Biddle endorsing Cruz), I have had interesting discussions with friends on Facebook regarding the religiosity of Cruz. Because we do not have the opportunity to interrogate each of the candidates personally, our assessments of the candidates moved quickly to a broader issue: our assessments of contemporary Judeo-Christian Conservatism vs. contemporary postmodern Leftism, from which perhaps we could infer more about each of the candidates.
But our assessments of these broad cultural movements have more important applications, such as deciding where in America to live for our own survival and flourishing.
Four years ago, I relocated from a lifetime spent in blue centers of blue states to a red dot in a red state. The move saved my soul. And this is an atheist writing. I find the culture in my new home far superior in every way—intellectually, philosophically, morally, politically, artistically, and romantically. I feel as though I have stowed away on a UFO and been brought to a more advanced civilization, and that I will have to work the remainder of my life to try to catch up in knowledge and ability compared to those around me.
The cause of the superiority of the society I now live in is, in my judgment, that contemporary Judeo-Christian Conservatism is far superior to contemporary postmodern Leftism. I have much still to understand on this subject. The purpose of this post is to present what I understand so far.
I will not defend straight Christianity taken from the Bible, nor will I defend Luther or Calvin, though I think that even the Bible is better than postmodern ideology. (See, for instance, Marcuse, Foucault, or Alinsky, or a thousand others for examples of postmodernism.) What I will defend is the contemporary Judeo-Christian tradition, which is an unholy mixture of Christianity (akin to Platonism), Aristotle, and Enlightenment thought. I think that this tradition is the only major seat of Aristotelian and Enlightenment thought in the humanities remaining in the world. Popular Christians such as Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck—along with Christian intellectuals such as Robert George—study not only the Bible but also Locke, Jefferson, Mises, and Ayn Rand. Obama and Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, study Black Liberation Theology and Alinsky. While the Conservative Right is an unholy mixture of Plato and Aristotle, the postmodern Left is Plato, Kant, and worse.
Here is a telling passage written in 1980 by Richard Rorty, a very famous philosopher who himself was an arch-pragmatist, Leftist, and fan of arch-egalitarian John Rawls.
Since Kant, philosophers have prided themselves on transcending the ‘naive realism’ of Aristotle and of common sense. On this naive view, there is a right way of describing things, corresponding to how they are in themselves, to their real essences. Scientists, philosophers like to say, are especially prone to adopt this unreflective view. They think they are discovering the secrets of nature, but philosophers know that they are really constituting objects by synthesising the manifold of intuition, or predicting the occurrence of sensations, or wielding instruments to cope with the flux of experience, or something equally pragmatic and anthropocentric. This condescending attitude towards common sense, Aristotle and science has been shared by people as far apart as Russell and Bergson, Whitehead and Husserl, James and Nietzsche, Carnap and Cassirer.
Until Kripke came along, almost the only exceptions to this consensus were the Catholics and the Marxists.
As one friend of mine reported, most academic Leftists no longer call themselves Marxist (though I can report that many in the LGBT movement do indeed call themselves Marxist). My inference from this report is that now even the Marxist Leftists have cut their last tenuous connection to Aristotle and the Enlightenment tradition, fully joining their Kantian comrades.
Catholics are not the only Christians to embrace Aristotle, but we cannot expect Rorty—a postmodern Leftist—to understand Christians that well. He sure has his own kind pegged, though.
But don’t think that Saul Kripke, widely considered the most important philosopher alive today, has resurrected Aristotle among the moderns. I am reading Kripke now. He comes to bury the elaborate schemes of his post-Kantian comrades, but not to praise Aristotle or reason. This is from Kripke’s most famous and influential book, Naming and Necessity (p. 64):
Let me state then what the cluster concept of names is. (It really is a nice theory. The only defect I think it has is probably common to all philosophical theories. It’s wrong. You may suspect me of proposing another theory in its place; but I hope not, because I’m sure it’s wrong too if it is a theory.)
Kripke wrote that book in 1972. Since then, judging by what I have read, philosophers have been concocting even more elaborate theories, and shooting down one another’s theories, but never questioning their Kantian premises. For a survey of the theories on the subject of propositions, which I am researching, see here, just to get a flavor of the high-brow irrationality.
In contrast, here are some examples of the influence of Aristotelian, Enlighenment thought—and even of Ayn Rand—among contemporary Conservatives.
In March, Glenn Beck, a devout Mormon with (I think) millions of paid subscribers to his television network, delivered the closing speech at CPAC, one of the largest and most important Conservative conferences. (The transcript and actual speech vary slightly.) Here is an excerpt from the speech [Time 19:49–22:12]:
And I want each of you to personally think for a minute and rediscover what it means to be Conservative. We are dedicated to the Constitution and its principals not because we cling to our Bibles and our guns. We are dedicated to the Constitution and its principals because we are clear-minded. Because we are rational. Because we have the courage enough to recognize the self-evident truth: That mankind, by his nature, has a God-given identity. [Applause.] That we are endowed by our creator with inherent, unalienable rights. They are ours simply because we exist. If you don’t understand why the Constitution matters, then you’re the one who’s confused. You don’t understand the nature of man. How can you look at yourself in the mirror and not see who you are? You are a sentient being. You’re born with free agency. You’re capable of choosing right from wrong, morality from immorality.
The world tells you that you are powerless, that you need government programs and rules and edicts. I tell you that you are the most powerful being ever created. When we say we are dedicated to the eternal principals of the Constitution, that is what we mean: We recognize and embrace mankind as the powerful beings we are. Man is who he is. A is A.
Here is another excerpt, a little later:
Mankind has spent over a century experimenting with the live A / B test of Liberty vs. Tyranny. What are the results? What was the leading cause of unnatural death during the 20th Century? It wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t car accidents. It wasn’t drugs and alcohol, or terrorism. It wasn’t gang violence in the inner cities. The greatest murderer over the last century was governments. Socialist, communist, fascist and theist governments. During the last century, totalitarian governments murdered over 120 Million of their own citizens. And that doesn’t include the countless millions who died of disease and malnutrition, suffering on government health care plans, and on government food programs—always in the name of ‘progress’, all for the greater good.
It was reported that Beck’s speech was interrupted thirteen times by standing ovations, indicating strong support by Conservatives for these ideas.
Beck also frequently quotes Jefferson’s famous statement,
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787.]
The following passage is from the mission statement of Hillsdale College, a college well-known by all Conservative intellectuals:
The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture, a heritage finding its clearest expression in the American experiment of self-government under law.
Hillsdale College offers online courses. Here is the beginning of the description of the first course listed:
The American Founders wrote a Constitution that established a government limited in size and scope, whose central purpose was to secure the natural rights of all Americans.
Another instance of such Enlightenment ideas being endorsed by Conservatives is this reading by Ted Cruz himself of excerpts from Atlas Shrugged during his 21-hour speech, on the Senate floor, against Obamacare. Here is one such excerpt (Part Three, Chapter VII):
Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live—that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values—that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human—that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay—that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live—that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road—that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust, that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap, and the man who makes another man his goal is a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up—that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction.
Another example is from Robert Spencer, the man behind the very valuable and very popular Web site Jihad Watch, and a Christian. In distinguishing Christianity from Islam, Spencer writes,
In contrast to the dogmatic stagnation of the Islamic world, science was able to flourish in Christian Europe during the same period because Christian scientists were working from assumptions derived from the Bible, which were very different from those of the Qur’an. The Bible assumes that God’s laws of creation are natural laws, a stable and unchanging reality—a sine qua non of scientific investigation.
Christian mathematicians and astronomers believed they could establish mathematical and scientific truths because they believed that God had established the universe according to certain laws—laws that could be discovered through observation and study.
[Spencer, Robert (2007). A Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t (p. 156). Regnery Publishing.]
I do not agree with Spencer’s charitable assessment of the Bible, but the point is that many if not most Christian Conservatives today hold this respect for natural law.
Let us consider, in contrast, the religiosity of the Left. In 2012, I wrote,
The Left does not oppose religion and mysticism as such, but rather the Western Judeo-Christian tradition in particular: the least mystical religion today because of its infusion of Aristotle via Aquinas. The Left supports all other religions and mystical beliefs: Islam, Buddhism, Eastern religions, all kinds of ‘New Age’ fads, and—that most primitive and mystical of all Western religions—environmentalism.
Recall this famous statement by Obama to the world, at the UN following the 2012 deadly attacks on Americans in Benghazi:
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.
That is, Obama asserted that Muhammad is a messenger of God, and that anyone who denies this assertion is committing slander. Note also that Obama made that statement as his main response to a foreign attack on and murder of Americans. That is, Obama based his Leftist foreign policy—a horrid policy—on adherence to absurd religious doctrine. That is, Leftist Obama has already done just the kind of thing that some fear that Cruz might do, even though Cruz has not done any such thing in his political life.
Moreover, Obama’s act, in addition to enacting absurd religious doctrine, also undercut free speech, another thing Cruz has never done. As for Hillary Clinton, she took two main actions in response to the attacks in Benghazi: she worked to silence a Christian pastor, and she worked to get the maker of the anti-Muhammad video thrown in prison. Like Obama, she supported absurd religious doctrine and repudiated free speech of Americans, in response to a murderous attack on Americans.
And recall this statement by Obama:
our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.
The notion of ‘collective salvation’ comes from Black Liberation Theology, espoused by Obama’s long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright. That is, Obama is basing his Leftist welfare-state policy on absurd religious doctrine. He is advocating welfare-statism because he claims that welfare-statism is what we need in order to get in good with God on Judgment Day. Again, Obama and the Left have already done what some fear Cruz might do.
And recall this statement by Al Gore in 1993 to justify environmentalism, which is a modern form of animism:
If it is possible to steer one’s own course—and I do believe it is—then I am convinced that the place to start is with faith, which for me is akin to a kind of spiritual gyroscope that spins in its own circumference in a stabilizing harmony with what is inside and what is out. Of course, faith is just a word unless it is invested with personal meaning; my own faith is rooted in the unshakeable belief in God as creator and sustainer, a deeply personal interpretation of and relationship with Christ, and an awareness of a constant and holy spiritual presence in all people, all life, and all things. But I also want to affirm what people of faith from long ago apparently knew and that our civilization has obscured: that there is revelatory power in the world. This is the essence of faith: to make a surrendering decision to invest belief in a spiritual reality larger than ourselves. And I believe that faith is the primary force that enables us to choose meaning and direction and then hold to it despite all the buffeting chaos in life.
[Gore, Al (1993). Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. (pp. 367–368). Plume.]
The manner of the Leftists’ support for Obama was a paradigm of religiosity. As many have identified, supporters deified Obama. His main campaign slogans were “Hope” and “Change you can believe in,” empty vessels for the mindless to fill with unquestioning faith. The deification of Obama follows from the nature of postmodern Leftism, which denies essentials and therefore eschews integration. Leftists must on some level feel their impotence and insignificance. Therefore, they feel a need to believe in and belong to someone and something. Obama was the “nuanced” thinker, the “smartest person in the room,” the one able to see the nuances in every disparate, un-integrable situation and use his superior intelligence to solve every un-integrable problem. Obama was the one who would hire “the best minds” to assist him in this process.
These positive assessments of Obama are mystical ideas, a belief in minds with capabilities and knowledge beyond one’s own, minds that somehow know what to do about everything. When asked whether they agree with a particular Obama policy, Leftists often reply that they have faith in Obama, that Obama must know what he is doing. Obama. Period.
When a meme goes out from an accredited Leftist source, the Leftists re-post it en masse. Leftists in public office and in the electorate vote en bloc. The Leftists deduce that if a Leftist leader is for something, then that something must be right.
When have Conservatives ever deified a presidential candidate as Leftists have deified Obama?
Hillary Clinton and Trump also claim to be the smart ones who can solve every un-integrable problem.
Again, the Left is just as religious as the Right, if not more so, with two differences. First, the Left has more favorable press. Second, and more importantly, the Left has taken all the premises of the Judeo-Christian tradition, thrown out all the good stuff incorporated from Aristotle and the Enlightenment—reason, objectivity, individualism, capitalism—and retained only the evil: mysticism, subjectivism, sacrifice, and collectivism. The Left is like the Christianity of the Dark Ages.
Let us look at Hillary Clinton’s religion and philosophy. She is a Methodist. Methodists take the Bible literally. (Nov. 28, 2016: It has been pointed out to me by a reader that Methodists differ on whether the Bible is to be taken literally.) But Hillary’s real beliefs, as demonstrated by her actions, come from her personal mentor Saul Alinsky, about whom she wrote a favorable senior thesis in college. Here are some quotations from Alinsky’s 1971 book, Rules for Radicals:
The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away. [Vintage Books edition, 1989, p.3]
So much for the virtue of productiveness.
An organizer working in and for an open society [The “Open Society” advocated by Karl Popper is what Leftist financier George Soros is explicitly committed to] is in an ideological dilemma. To begin with, he does not have a fixed truth—truth to him is relative and changing; everything is relative and changing. …
In the end he has one conviction—a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions. … I am not concerned if this faith in people is regarded as a prime truth and therefore a contradiction of what I have already written, for life is a story of contradictions. [pp.10–11]
So much for the virtues of rationality, honesty, and integrity.
On p. 23, Alinsky praises
those who know the interdependence of man to be his greatest strength.
So much for the virtue of independence.
Obama and Hillary Clinton, along with many other Leftists, speak in favor of this ‘interdependence’—an evil notion, as I explain here.
Later (p.24), Alinsky favorably quotes philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:
We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only fitfully guide it by taking thought.
So much again for rationality, and so much for all of ethics.
Alinsky continues (p. 24–25),
Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life.
Again, so much for all of ethics.
Then Alinksy writes,
The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s “conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action.”
So much again for ethics.
Later, Alinsky writes (p. 76),
With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason—this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason—therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals. He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world.
Again, so much for rationality and honesty.
In addition to being a personal mentor of Hillary Clinton, Alinsky was the originator of the training in community organizing that Obama received. Alinsky is a major mentor of a whole generation of Leftists.
There are some clear giveaways that today’s Left is much worse than today’s Right not only in its conclusions, but also in method of thinking. The clearest giveaway is this: Who today defends free speech, and who attacks it? I already gave the examples of Obama and Hillary Clinton attacking free speech in the Benghazi incident. The Left attacks free speech on the Internet and on talk radio. The Left wants to outlaw ‘hate speech’ and ‘Islamophobia’, and has already done so in Canada and much of Europe. The Left shouts down speakers not only on college campuses, but in private forums. And note the latest absurdities on college campuses regarding ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘safe spaces’. The Left wants to make it a crime to deny ‘climate change’. To the Left, science is ‘settled’, and it is heresy to claim otherwise. Etc. These Leftist policies attacking free speech occur whether Republicans or Democrats hold political office. The Left is systematically and consistently seeking to destroy rational inquiry and rational discourse. That is, the Left is the side that wants to outlaw reason.
Another giveaway is the mindless slogans of the Left: hope, change, etc.
Another giveaway is policy toward Israel. The Left—including Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Trump (who says he wants to be “neutral”)—supports Palestinians, even Hamas, the most barbaric religionists, against Israel. The Left is consistently in favor of the worst theocracies, appeasing even Iran and Saudi Arabia. (Shamefully, ‘moderates’ such as the Bush presidents have also appeased Saudi Arabia and other Islamists.)
Then there is environmentalism, another religion, another basis—more primitive than Genesis—for the garden of Eden and original sin. Again, the Left uses the worst aspects of religion as a basis for policy.
One can reason with Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck, and most other Conservatives. One cannot reason with Hillary Clinton, the Alinskyite woman of action. To Hillary Clinton and her ilk, rationality and morality are an enemy’s weaknesses to be exploited.
Cruz, along with other religious Conservatives such as Marco Rubio and Glenn Beck, often use the phrase “rights come from God.” But whenever I have heard them state this phrase, it has been followed by “not government.” This full statement is their uneducated way—uneducated in that they do not know Ayn Rand’s theory of concepts—of stating that rights are objective, part of man’s nature, not subjective. Almost everyone on the Right and Left believes in God and that everything comes from God. The point that Cruz is making is not that we should believe in rights because God told us to, but because we can see—from our observation of the requirements for flourishing—that rights are a part of the nature that God gave us.
Of course, citing God undermines the Conservative case for rights, but there is nevertheless a great deal of inductive knowledge packed into the Conservative concept of rights. Conservatives such as Cruz and Beck constantly cite the success of America compared to the failure and evil of socialist regimes, the success of free periods in our history compared to the failures in our less free periods. Many Conservatives, as business owners, also are aware first-hand of their need to make decisions free from interference by government, and of what happens when government does interfere. I daresay that such Conservatives, many of whom also know much explicit ideology of the Enlightenment tradition, understand rights far better than does an ‘Objectivist’ who can merely deduce rights from metaphysics and epistemology.
Another induction that Christian Conservatives such as Cruz have been able to make, in contrast to Obama and Hillary Clinton, is that theocracy is evil.
Ayn Rand did not invent the concept ‘objective’. She clarified and validated it. Most Conservatives are trying to be objective as best they know how, and they say so explicitly. It is those on the Left who openly attack objectivity.
Producing an objective theory of concepts—as Ayn Rand did—is the last step, not the first step, in understanding and validating a concept of rights. Conservatives, in my judgment, have the intellectual background and the willingness to understand that last step eventually. Leftists have neither of those two prerequisites.
Most Christian Conservatives form their political ideas based much more on reason than on faith. The Bible does not demand capitalism and constitutional government. It is reasonable to presume that a given Conservative chose capitalism based on his own rational judgment, not blind faith, unless one can prove otherwise. Ronald Reagan was a liberal well into adult life before he became a Conservative. He and millions of others have changed their opinions by observing facts I alluded to above, and then by studying thinkers such as Locke, Bastiat, and—yes—Ayn Rand.
The same is true of abortion, sexual orientation, and other issues. Christians are all over the map on these issues. (So are atheists.) Indeed, Obama, Biden, and the Clintons are Christian. There is no reason to presume that a given Christian is basing his view on these issues on a mystical belief, especially when he presents secular arguments and advocates reason.
Now I come to the issue of abortion. Many students of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism condemn Conservatives for opposing abortion. This is a topic for a separate essay or book, which I don’t yet have nearly enough knowledge to write, but here is a nutshell. I do not think that Ayn Rand’s argument for abortion on the basis of the distinction between actuality and potentiality is conclusive. Nor do I think that pro-abortion arguments by Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff or other Objectivists are conclusive.
There are various stages of actuality, such as these: when the specific individuality of the living entity becomes fixed; when the specific individual becomes conscious; when the individual makes choices; when the individual has lived. Scientifically, it is not known when these stages begin; philosophically, an argument is required to explain how each of these stages matters. Even a rational faculty is both an actuality and a potentiality. And even an infant, already born, is both an actuality and a potentiality. An infant’s means of survival qua infant is not reason, but rather his parents. Consequently, the infant does not have the right to liberty, but he does have—qua potential adult—the right to life. And the infant, qua infant and potential adult, also has a right that adults do not have: the right to life-sustaining support from his parents. Why does this right not extend also to the unborn in the mother’s womb? Perhaps there is an argument why, but I have not seen a convincing one. Indeed, when Leftists do grapple with such questions, they often end up—like Peter Singer—in favor of legalizing infanticide.
In my previous post, endorsing Cruz, I wrote, “It is far better to grapple with the serious philosophical and scientific questions of when human life begins and when the right to life begins than to evade those questions.” This statement was based on my preliminary observations that it is Conservatives—even very religious ones—not Leftists, who tend more to address these issues rationally. Indeed, Peikoff begins his lead essay on his pro-abortion site with this sentence:
Thirty years after Roe V. Wade, no one defends the right to abortion in fundamental, moral terms, which is why the pro-abortion rights forces are on the defensive.
In the same essay, Peikoff writes,
Nor should abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase “a woman’s right to choose.” Does she have the right to choose murder? That’s what abortion would be, if the fetus were a person.
My preliminary observations are consistent with Peikoff’s statements above, which presumably are based on extensive observation. For example, when I Googled “pro-choice,” these two sites came up first:
On these sites, I did not find even an attempt to address the question of when the right to life begins. Nor did I find any such argumentation on the site of Planned Parenthood.
On the other hand, when I Googled “pro-life,” this is the first site that came up:
This site, which seems to be from a Christian group, contains a plethora of philosophical and scientific argumentation that the right to life precedes birth.
Cruz himself addresses this issue rationally. He does not argue, as Pope Paul did, that couples have a moral and legal duty to procreate. He argues on the basis of when human life begins. I don’t know of Cruz writing a full argument on this issue, but here is an article co-authored by a long-time Cruz mentor, Robert P. George.
George argues—explicitly on rational, non-religious grounds—that the right to life begins at conception. I think this conclusion is mistaken. But I think that the conclusion by Ayn Rand, that “a human being’s life begins at birth” (“The Age of Mediocrity” p.3 in June 1981 issue of The Objectivist Forum) is also mistaken. And I think the conclusion of the above-quoted essay by Peikoff, that the right to life begins at birth, is also mistaken. I have to do more research on this question, but I suspect that the right to life probably begins between the second and fourth month. So which is worse—forbidding, for no good reason, women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, or killing human beings in violation of their right to life? I tend to think that the latter is worse. But I do not condemn Ayn Rand, Peikoff, and many other Objectivists for what I think is a mistake, even though the consequences of the mistake are terrible. Similarly, I do not condemn Conservatives for making their mistake, so long as their mistaken conclusion is based fundamentally on reasoned argument.
(In “A Last Survey—Part 1” in The Ayn Rand Letter, Nov-Dec 1975, Ayn Rand writes, “One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months.” And Peikoff, in his above-quoted essay, writes, “The status of the embryo in the first trimester is the basic issue that cannot be sidestepped.” These statements, especially Ayn Rand’s, seem to acknowledge that the issue of late-term abortion is different in some important way from the issue of abortion in early stages of pregnancy.)
One can argue with Objectivists on this matter. One can also argue with many Conservatives, such as Cruz and George, on this matter. I don’t think that one can argue with most Leftists on this matter, because Leftists generally do not recognize individual rights and the efficacy of reason in the first place. They will say that a woman has a right to her body, but then they also support the Food and Drug Administration, which forbids individuals from buying and using potentially life-saving drugs—in their body.
It seems that most Leftists base their pro-abortion position not on reason but rather on evasion and on indulgence of emotion—their desire to have sexual intercourse without considering the consequences. As in all other matters, most Conservatives are better than that.
Most Conservatives I know (including one former Christian who became a student of Objectivism) operate on the explicit ideology—not just a sense of life—that they use reason on as many issues as they can, and resort to faith only when their reason does not give them an answer. The lack of scientific knowledge regarding when a human being acquires his human-ness is why, in my judgment, Conservatives are more prone to error on that subject than they are on others. They are too quick to become complacent in their ignorance and thereby resort to intrinsic concepts (such as that human life begins at the bright red line marked by the moment of conception) or—after concluding that reason cannot take them any further on the matter—even faith. And Christians, tragically, also retain faith in self-sacrifice.
In contrast, however, the postmodern Left seeks to institute ignorance on every question, replacing reason with the primacy of emotion, and with an even more pervasive imperative—Kant’s moral imperative—for self-sacrifice.
Religion wanes as reason discovers more. And religion waxes when alleged reason declares its own futility. Many people today choose the religion of the Judeo-Christian tradition as the only alternative they know of to the wild irrationality of postmodernism. Given their limited context, they are rational to make that choice.
I offer the following conjecture. Contemporary Christian Conservatism and contemporary postmodern Leftism are two reactions to the program of Kant “to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith.” Unable to validate certain basic ideas against the attack from Kant—such ideas as the validity of reason itself—Christian Conservatives resort to faith in these basic ideas, yet continue to use reason regarding everything they can validate. The most influential Conservatives tend to be the most rational ones, the ones who use reason the most and faith the least. The Left, on the other hand, uses a form of reason only in the attempt to complete the Kantian program of invalidating reason in every field, on every question. The most influential Leftists tend to be those who are the most emotionalist and the most complete in their attack on the validity and efficacy of reason. In short, the Right accepts Kant grudgingly and as little as possible; the Left accepts Kant enthusiastically and as much as possible.
As Ayn Rand did not originate the concept of objectivity, neither did she originate any of the seven concepts that she named as fundamental virtues of the Objectivist ethics. What she did was clarify and validate those concepts. Of those seven virtues, with rationality as the most fundamental, six are explicitly extolled and practiced by most Conservatives as best as they know how, and the seventh—pride—is indeed practiced if not extolled. In contrast, the postmodern Left explicitly attacks all seven.
It is not by dumb luck that most Conservatives extol and practice these virtues, but rather by the great deal of virtue in the Judeo-Christian tradition transformed by Aristotle and the Enlightenment.
Here, in a sense, is the bottom line. If America were to dissolve, the Conservative states of Utah and Texas would probably survive and thrive. The Leftist states of New York and California would probably descend into barbarism. Contemporary Christian Conservative ideology, with all its terrible flaws, is on balance auspicious to human life and to continued intellectual and material progress. Contemporary postmodern Leftism is a dead end, intellectually and literally.
And Conservatism has been improving. Back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, numerous Conservatives—most notably those at William F. Buckley’s National Review— condemned Ayn Rand. At the same time, Conservatives defended capitalism on the basis of ‘original sin’, arguing that government could not be trusted to run an economy because people are basically bad. For the same reason, many Conservatives advocated censorship laws to control the bad tendencies of people. But today, many Conservatives praise Ayn Rand. And they argue for capitalism on the basis of man’s rational faculty. And most of them do not advocate censorship laws. I suspect that there is a causal relationship among these changes: that the acceptance by Conservatives of some important ideas of Ayn Rand has caused these Conservatives to have better arguments and better policies.
In a well-known 1979 interview of Ayn Rand by Phil Donahue, there is an interesting exchange near the very beginning:
Donahue: You don’t like the Conservatives either.
Ayn Rand: No. … Not today’s Conservatives.
I wonder what Ayn Rand would think of today’s Conservatives.
At the same time that Conservatism has improved, Leftism has gotten much worse. The Left, which used to defend free speech, now wants to destroy it. The Left, which once extolled industrial progress, now wants to kill industry in the name of “the environment.” The Left condemns everything about America, Israel, and Western Civilization in general, in favor of the worst kinds of barbarism.
Contemporary postmodern Leftism is what happens when the disease of Kant runs rampant. Contemporary Christian Conservatism, in contrast, is like a cryogenically frozen ideology, using Christian faith to preserve the ideas and culture of the Enlightenment, waiting for a cure for Kant to come along.
The cure has arrived, in the form of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and Conservatism has begun to thaw.
Postscript, May 8, 2016: For half a millennium, from Aquinas until Hume and Kant, reason was winning out among explicit Christians. It was Hume and Kant, not some Christian idea, that knocked the West off course in becoming fully rational.