Friday, August 12, 2005


Market Forces

Red State Rabble was sitting on the deck last night reading Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker. We were admiring the master's deft touch. The way, brick by brick, he built a seemingly insurmountable case for design in the early chapters of the book, only to tear it to shreds in the succeeding ones.

It was then that Mrs. RSR stuck her head out the door to say -- a little more pointedly, we thought, than was absolutely necessary -- that the grass was getting a little long.

We pointed out that the Kansas City Metro, sweltering as it so often does this time of year in the upper 90s, was currently under an ozone alert and that residents were strongly advised to postpone mowing.

Mrs. RSR, an ardent environmentalist, was momentarily defeated. She withdrew into the air conditioned house commenting darkly that she hoped the condition of our yard wouldn't compel the neighbors to revive their petition drive.

We returned to our book, although not with the same concentration as before. It seemed to us that every time we saw one of our neighbors talking across the fence, or going next door to borrow a cup of sugar that they might be talking about the state of RSR's lawn.

Then, winking slyly up at us from the page, we saw what every blogger who has to feed that voracious beast on a daily basis is looking for. An insight. An idea. The subject for our next post. And we promptly forgot about the sorry state of the lawn.

What caught our eye was Dawkins description of how bats find their way around in the dark using echolocation:
You might say that if this is a problem [finding their way in the dark -- RSR] it is a problem of their own making, a problem that they could avoid simply by changing their habits and hunting by day. But the daytime economy is already heavily exploited by other creatures such as birds. Given that there is a living to be made at night, and given that alternative daytime trades are thoroughly occupied, natural selection has favored bats that make a go of the night-hunting trade (p. 22).

In reading this passage, with its references to economy, a living to be made, and night-hunting trade, we were immediately struck by the paradoxical positions taken by those on the fundamentalist right who are at once supporters of a decentralized, market-driven economy and bitter opponents of evolution.

Evolution, it seems to us, is the ultimate in market driven economies. Each gene, each organism, each species fights for its own survival. Each operates in its own self interest. Dawkins' bats could be thought of as entrepreneurs of the night. A start up operation exploiting a hitherto unrecognized niche market. Isn't this the rugged individualism, the unregulated creativity, the magic of the market, that those on the right so claim to admire?

Creationism and intelligent design, on the other hand, it seems to us are the ultimate in centralized planning -- the six days of creation sounding like nothing so much as a highly compressed five year plan. No wonder 99.9 percent of all the species that ever lived on the earth are now extinct. Think of the waste, the inefficiency, the bureaucracy.

Think of the contradictory ideas the wingnuts must try to reconcile inside their aching heads.

The right claims that evolution is cruel. They claim that if it is true, human beings are no better than beasts -- that without god-given laws there is no basis for morality. And yet, they work tirelessly to tear down the man-made laws and social institutions that protect the poor, the elderly, the infirm.

What sense does it make to reject evolution in nature, but espouse rugged individualism -- otherwise known as social Darwinism -- in relations between human beings?


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