The Great Lincoln-Darwin Debate, part 2
Think about that for a moment, for it says everything you need to know about what man is, and how dramatically he stands out from the rest of creation. It's a little pathetic when scientists, as they so often do, use the findings of science to try to minimize or eliminate our unique cosmic standing -- as if, say, the heliocentric theory literally displaces man from the center of creation, or our relative smallness in the face of the vastness of the physical cosmos places any actual limit on the limitlessness of man's imagination. As we will see, this represents a kind of "reverse omnipotence" which eventually reduces to infinite stupidity and the rule of morons.
After all, the vastness of the cosmos is only conceived in man's imagination and no place else. In the absence of man, there's not even a cosmos, since it is obviously a form of our sensibility. No one has ever seen this construct called "the cosmos," and no one ever will, for it is in man, not vice versa.
Every serious scientist implicitly recognizes the truth of this, in that he believes that reality is capable of being understood -- which is to say, contained -- by the mind. To say cosmos is to stand outside of it. And again, to say "natural selection" is to stand infinitely above it, on pain of automatically refuting whatever truth the theory may express.
And "infinite" is the precise adjective, since the distance between truth and falsehood is infinite. There are not degrees of truth between 2 + 2 = 4 and 2 + 2 = 5. Rather, it is an either/or proposition. Likewise, there are not degrees of acceptance of America's founding principles. Thus the irrevocable and absolutist language: "We hold these truths to be self-evident." "Inalienable rights." "Nature and nature's God."
Therefore, as I've said before in so many different ways, the real debate is between absolutism and relativism. And it is a debate that the relativists of the left cannot win unless they first undermine the plain meaning of our founding documents. Instead of embodying the fixed principles toward which our task is to evolve, the founding documents must become an elastic and mutable organism that evolves itself, a la Darwinism, in which all is change and nothing is fixed. Everything is back on the table -- life, liberty, property, slack.
Thus, the documents truly become "just anything." To think otherwise is to be an absolutist, which for the left is a kind of oppressive fascism instead of ultimate liberation. For the conservative, liberty is a priceless gift; for the leftist, it's a curse. So the absolutists must learn to compromise between what the Constitution says and what the left wishes it to mean. In short, 2 + 2 can = 3.78, or 4.22. Let's negotiate. There's wiggle room.
Which, oddly enough, is actually a different kind of absolutism, similar in way to Hegel's "bad infinite." It reflects the primitive psychological defense mechanism of infantile omnipotence, through which the child perpetuates the illusion of primary omnipotence beyond the stage at which it is appropriate. This often occurs due to early developmental trauma, in which the reality principle impinges upon the child too early, forcing him to prematurely deal with things beyond his capacity. This is why early parenting involves providing the child with a sort of "psychic cocoon" -- or subjective womb -- from which he will only gradually hatch.
The defense mechanism of psychic omnipotence is a stock-in-trade of the psychoanalyst. As it applies to the present discussion, it involves elevating oneself over reality, i.e., the Immutable and Undeniable.
Now, man as such obviously participates in the Immutable, hence our ability to know, for example, those timeless first principles enunciated by the Founders. Bad omnipotence would come into play if we imagine that we can surpass what is already absolute. But as we shall see -- either today or in the next post -- this is the essence of the leftist project. The leftist always imagines that there are special people with special knowledge who can improve upon reality. Thus, it is always rooted in omnipotence.
The next time a leftist utters one of his omnipotent pronouncements, just remember the wise words of Kip Dynamite: Napoleon, like anyone can even know that. Manmade global warming? Like anyone can even know that. Saved or created a gazillion jobs? Like anyone can even know that. Iran's not a threat? Like anyone can even know that. If coach woulda put me in the fourth quarter, we woulda been state champions. Like anyone can even know that, Uncle Rico.
Again, Lincoln advocated the good kind of omnipotence, which provides the rock upon which our nation was built. Like a "secular revelation," these principles were "handed down by the Founding Fathers for later generations to preserve," not to squander like a bunch of irresponsible and good-for-nothing trust fund babies.
It indeed reminds me of children, who need psychological boundaries above all else, even while they will perpetually try to test them. The child imagines that he would prefer a life without parental boundaries, but would actually be terrified if they were removed.
Similarly, the Constitution is there to protect us. It contains the boundaries provided by our wise Fathers. To eliminate those boundaries is to plunge ourselves into tyranny, not freedom. If the Constitution means whatever a liberal judge wishes it to mean, that is the rule of omnipotent men, and we are back to 1775. Absolutism is our only defense against bad omnipotence. As Watson explains, our natural rights "are self-limiting.... They do not, and cannot, depend on mere will, or tradition, or History.... For Lincoln, natural rights provide the ground for a manly assertiveness in pursuit of something beyond individual satisfaction."
No wonder Schuon held Lincoln in the highest esteem: "At the antipodes of the false genius exalted by the people [and the Nobel committee--ed.*] is situated the true genius of which people are unaware: among famous men, Lincoln is one such example, he who owes a large part of his popularity to the fact that people took him -- and still take him -- for the incarnation of the average American," but "whose intelligence, capacity, and nobility went far beyond the level of average." And they did because he was rooted in the changeless, not the pure meaningless change of philosophical Darwinism.
To be continued...
(Unless otherwise noted, all quoted material is from Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence.)
*According to Drudge, Obama "will accept the award on 'behalf of Americans and America's values.'" The irony is too thick for me to wrap my mind around. Let's just say that no one who actually held and defended American values could ever be the recipient of this prize. While they're at it, why not give one to Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, or Kofi Annan? Gosh!