Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Superstition in Mainstream Politics

CoyoteBlog, one of our favorites, posted this intriguing thought comparing the American Left's views on economics with the American Right's views on evolution:
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.
This Manichean bias, to view the complex interchanges of millions of individuals on a historical stage as a battle between Good and Evil, has been documented by Umberto Eco, among others. History rarely vindicates the elaborate conspiracy theory.

Speaking of: we have yet to see any truly compelling theories as to how oil companies are manipulating the price of gasoline, why they would do so to favor the Republicans (since about a quarter of their multi-million dollar lobby goes to Democrats), and what evidence there is to connect the two. Conspiracy theories almost never hinge on substantial evidence and falsifiable hypotheses. Rather, theorists take the indication of several prominent coincidences, the stroked chin and the arched eyebrow as sufficient proof. We remain harder to convince.


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