Science without religion is lame.
Religion without science is blind.
- Albert Einstein
Hubble View of Gaseous Pillars in M16
Eagle Nebula - Click for Full Size JPG
Appeal to Conservatives on the Environment
Classical Liberalism vs. Conservatism
The Dirty World of Bill Clinton
God, His Laws, and Mankind
The Left has Won
The Jane Fondas
The Merchant and the Lion
Rejuvenating Moral Duties
The Roots of Evil
Why the Year 2000?
I must first of all declare that I do not call myself a "conservative", but rather a "classical liberal", or Gladstonian liberal: the kind of liberal who flourished in the second half of the 19th century. That is strange terminology to many people. I will try to elaborate on it further on.
Secondly, I do not associate myself with any organized religion, but I believe fervently that all creation functions according to the inspiration and rules of an actively interventionist creator God. My beliefs are explained in God, His Laws and Mankind. I think that the religious "label" most appropriate for my set of beliefs - which was conferred on me by another person - is "enlightened theism". That is good enough for me.
My political philosophy arises, as it does for most liberals, from the thoughts of John Locke. My mentors in political philosophy of this century are Friedrich A. Hayek and Karl R. Popper. The political philosophy of both men is very similar to that practiced by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), who was prime minister of Britain four times, for a total of some 14 years, in the 1868-1894 period. It is noteworthy that Gladstone started his political career as a Conservative, but joined the Liberal Party in 1859.
George Watson gives a succinct description of Gladstone's liberalism in The Idea of Liberalism, Chapter 7 - The Masses and the Classes: "All the world over," Gladstone proclaimed in a speech in Liverpool in 1886, "I will back the masses against the classes". Watson goes on to explain: 'Neither term meant what it now means. By the masses Gladstone meant ordinary men, then recently enfranchised; by the classes, an establishment of entrenched interests such as professional bodies, elites, unions and clubs. Gladstone is rejecting the socialist doctrine of class, which could be Tory too. The remark notably summarizes democratic liberalism ...'.
I regret the loss of the original meaning of words and language. The loss often leads to a muddle of thought, loss of exact discrimination and outright misrepresentation when we communicate abstract terms and ideas. The very concept of "democratic liberalism" has been mangled to death in the 20th century. For instance, both Hayek and I have a problem with Americans: they insist that we must be conservatives.
In the updated foreword (1976) to a new issue of The Road to Serfdom, Hayek writes:
'I use throughout the term "liberal" in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that "liberal" has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.'
I am grateful to Hayek for rescuing my political identity from that awful confusion that would otherwise have raged on in my own mind: if I am a conservative, how come I feel uneasy with being identified as one? That uneasiness is again explained by Hayek in that same foreword:
'Conservatism, though a necessary element in any stable society, is not a social program; in its paternalistic, nationalistic, and power-adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism; and with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place.
A conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be a defender of established privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege. The essence of the liberal position, however, is the denial of all privilege, if privilege is understood in its proper and original meaning of the state granting and protecting rights to some which are not available on equal terms to others.'
I have found Hayek's writing inspiring. Hayek values tradition, but knows its limitations; he is bold enough to state what is wrong with our democratic institutions today, and recommends how we should fashion new ones that would better safeguard our individual liberties from falling victim to the politics of special interests. Hayek looks to the future and presents optimistic solutions for our problems, rather than simply wishing to turn back the clock. Hayek's 'The Road to Serfdom', and his trilogy 'Law, Legislation and Liberty' provide the firmest of foundations for my political convictions.
Hayek is first of all a believer in the rule of law and second - in the necessity to reform and revamp the structure of our democratic institutions to guarantee a stable survival of the rule of law. He recommends revolutionary changes that a conservative would hardly dare to think about. In Law, Legislation and Liberty, Chapter 12: Majority Opinion and Contemporary Democracy, Hayek writes:
'We have in fact become so used to regard as democratic only the particular set of institutions which today prevails in all Western democracies, and in which a majority of a representative body lays down the law and directs government, that we regard this as the only possible form of democracy.'
'... the British Parliament claimed sovereign, that is unlimited, powers and in 1776 explicitly rejected the idea that in its particular decisions it was bound to observe any general rules not of its own making ... this in effect meant the abandonment of constitutionalism which consists in a limitation of all power by permanent principles of government'.
'Indeed, we are now told that the "modern conception of democracy" is a form of government in which no restriction is placed on the governing body.'
'... the paradoxical result of the possession of unlimited power makes it impossible for a representative body to make the general principles prevail on which it agrees, because under such a system the majority of the representative assembly, in order to remain a majority, must do what it can to buy the support of the several interests by granting them special benefits.'
'... with the precious institutions of representative government Britain gave to the world also the pernicious principle of parliamentary sovereignty according to which the representative assembly is not only the highest but also an unlimited authority. The latter is sometimes thought to be a necessary consequence of the former, but that is not so. Its power may be limited, not by another superior 'will' but by the consent of the people on which all power and the coherence of the state rests. If that consent approves only of the laying down and enforcement of general rules of just conduct, and nobody is given power to coerce except for the enforcement of these rules ... even the highest constituted power may be limited.'
The famous British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, has been similarly inspired by Friedrich A. Hayek, and considers herself to be a leader who followed in the footsteps of Gladstone. In her own words:
'The kind of Conservatism which he and I ... favoured would be best described as 'liberal', in the old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr. Gladstone, not of the latter-day collectivists. That is to say, we placed far greater confidence in individuals, families, business and neighbourhoods than in the state.' (Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture, 11 Jan., 1996.)
'Our inspiration was ... books like ... Hayek's powerful Road to Serfdom, dedicated to "the socialists of all parties". Such books not only provided crisp, clear analytical arguments against socialism, demonstrating how its economic theories were connected to the then depressing shortages of our daily lives; but by their wonderful mockery of socialist follies, they also gave us the feeling that the other side simply could not win in the end. That is a vital feeling in politics; it eradicates past defeats and builds future victories. It left a permanent mark on my own political character, making me a long-term optimist for free enterprise and liberty ...' (Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, New York: Harper Collins, 1993, pp. 12-13.)
How strongly Margaret Thatcher holds to the liberal views of Hayek is described by J. Ranelagh: '... the new Party Leader [Margaret Thatcher] reached into her briefcase and took out a book. It was Friedrich von Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. Interrupting [the speaker], she held the book up for all of us to see. 'This', she said sternly, 'is what we believe', and banged Hayek down on the table." (John Ranelagh, Thatcher's People: An Insider's Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities. London: Harper Collins, 1991.)
There is no doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher is a Gladstonian liberal and a populist reformer who had to use the Conservative Party as the only available political vehicle for implementing her social agenda. But, because today's political culture steadfastly refuses to recognize the classical Gladstonian liberals as a discrete species, they are often labeled as "neo-conservatives". Thus, George Watson states in The Idea of Liberalism, Chapter 4 - Who Are the Conservatives?: 'The Neo-Conservative of the 1980s is not remotely interested in keeping things as they are. On the contrary, Mrs. Thatcher since 1979 has given Britain the most radical government it has known since Clement Atlee's: the only British government since Atlee's to have attempted, and even achieved, something like deep surgery into social patterns.'
My other teacher is Karl R. Popper, philosopher and mathematician. Popper is Hayek's contemporary and fellow Austrian; both were born in Vienna. In their mature years their thought processes also ran very much in tandem. Hayek was bold enough to suggest that the institutional structures of democratic government must be changed if democracy is to be saved from inevitable decay. Popper was bold enough to suggest that the Platonic and Hegelian philosophical premises on which the modern political ideas in Western societies are based are faulty and, what is worse, have led to the totalitarian horrors of the 20th century. Both men recommend revolutionary changes in how we go about securing and maintaining individual liberty in an orderly democratic society: Hayek's "Great Society", Popper's "Open Society".
In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Chapter 7, Popper concludes that it was Plato who 'saw the fundamental problem of politics in the question: Who shall rule the state?'. Popper is convinced that 'by expressing the problem of politics in the form "Who should rule?" or "Whose will should be supreme?", etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political philosophy.'
In Conjectures and Refutations - On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance, Sec. XV, Popper explains why we must change the basic question for the sake of our political institutions:
'... [the] traditional question of political theory, "Who should rule?" ... begs for an authoritarian answer such as "the best", or "the wisest", or "the people", or "the majority". (It suggests, incidentally, such silly alternatives as: "Who should be our rulers: the capitalists or the workers?" ... This political question is wrongly put and the answers which it elicits are paradoxical. It should be replaced by a completely different question such as "How can we organize our political institutions so that bad or incompetent rulers (whom we should try not to get, but whom we so easily might get all the same) cannot do too much damage?" I believe that only by changing our question in this way can we hope to proceed towards a reasonable theory of political institutions.'
Solid political institutions with built-in resistance to pressure from special interests are essential in order that necessary changes in social legislation are accomplished without diminution of individual rights and liberties. In Popper's words (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Ch. 17 - The Legal and the Social System, Sec. VII): '... all long-term policy - and especially all democratic long-term policy - must be conceived in terms of impersonal institutions.' However, Popper also points out the great difficulty we have in securing such institutions, because our political philosophy has been infused with Platonic logic for millennia, and further adulterated by Hegel and Marx in the last 200 years. As Popper puts it in the same section: 'The way to its [the institutional method's] understanding is blocked to the followers of Plato, Hegel, and Marx. They will never see that the old question "Who shall be the rulers?" must be superseded by the more real one "How can we tame them?"
I agree completely with Popper and Hayek that we must re-order the priority of essentials in the make-up of our democratic institutions, so that the invulnerability of the institutions themselves to abuse by bad rulers is made paramount. Hayek has provided a prototype of what the structure of such a government should be in Law, Legislation and Liberty, Ch. 17 - A Model Constitution.
I have encapsulated the principles stated above in my own way, by saying: 'It is not what we do, but how we do it'. I believe that the current models of democratic systems do not work well enough to ensure the preservation of individuals' liberties into the future, and therefore they must be over-hauled. That is a revolutionary task that needs to be carried out by people of the classical liberal persuasion in order that it be done right, or at all. Therefore I see myself, in philosophical company with Hayek and Popper, as a revolutionary classical liberal, philosophically akin to Gladstone.
god, alone among gods and alone among men is the greatest.
Neither in body does he nor in mind resemble the mortals.
Always in one place he abides: he never is moving;
Nor is it fitting for him to change now hereto, now thereto.
Effortless he swings the world by mere thought and intention.
All of him is sight; all is knowing; and all is hearing.
did not reveal, from the beginning,
All things to us; but in the course of time,
Through seeking we may learn, and know things better.
But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor will he know it; neither of the gods,
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.
And even if by chance he were to utter
The perfect truth, he would himself not know it:
For all is but a woven web of guesses.
(from Karl R. Popper's "Conjectures and Refutations", and "The Self and Its Brain")
Statement by Laelius, in Cicero's Laws (106-43 BCE), outlining the Stoic concept of natural law:
True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need to look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchallengeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.
Albert Einstein on Science and Religion …
The Religious Spirit of
By Albert Einstein
in Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.
You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religiosity of the naive man. For the latter, God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands, so to speak, in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.
But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals in intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
From "The Science of God"
by Gerald L. Schroeder
March 23, 1989. There was no panic in the streets, no race for deep bomb shelters. Life went on as usual. Spring training was in full swing. No astronomer saw it coming. A week would pass before anyone discovered what had - or better said - what had not happened. An asteroid was heading toward Earth. Not a giant the size of which killed off the dinosaurs. This more modest cousin was a mere kilometer in diameter. It represented enough energy to destroy most of the life on any continent it struck, something like the simultaneous explosion of twenty thousand one-megaton hydrogen bombs.
It whipped past us at 72,000 mph, crossing our exact path but missing by a mere six hours. For five billion years that rock, an agglomeration of a billion tons of star dust, had circled in the solar system just as had Earth. Of those five billion years, it missed us by six hours. That is like tuning an experiment to an error margin of one part in seven million million, a precision rarely reached in the laboratory.
Hubble View of Mars
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Hubble View of Galaxy M100
Electron Microscope View of a Radiolarium
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