Thursday, June 21, 2007


Hierarchy and the Well-dressed ID Activist

"The universe is hierarchical," Discovery Institute fellow George Gilder has told The Jerusalem Post, "And hierarchy points to a summit. The summit remains enclosed in fog, but this doesn't exclude the possibility that behind the fog is a divinity that we, through our faith, might worship."

So, Gilder, the far-sighted tech guru -- a fierce opponent of women's rights and supporter of supply-side economics whose late embrace of telecom stocks during run up of the late 90s not only bankrupted him, but thousands of the readers of his Gilder Technology Report when the bubble burst -- looks backward to the medieval notion of scala naturae or the great chain of being.

At the top of the medieval world's great chain of being were God and the angels and below them man. In this hierarchy, men were above women, the king and the noble class above the artisan and peasant. Man stood above the animals and animals above plants. There was even a hierarchy among the animals -- the lion being the king of beasts.

This hierarchy was enforced in England by sumptuary laws which regulated the clothing people could wear:

None shall wear in his apparel: Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King's other, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only.

Cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold or silver: except all degrees above viscounts, and viscounts, barons, and other persons of like degree, in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose.

Woolen cloth made out of the realm, but in caps only; velvet, crimson, or scarlet; furs, black genets, lucernes; embroidery or tailor's work having gold or silver or pearl therein: except dukes, marquises, earls, and their children, viscounts, barons, and knights being companions of the Garter, or any person being of the Privy Council.

Velvet in gowns, coats, or other uttermost garments; fur of leopards; embroidery with any silk: except men of the degrees above mentioned, barons' sons, knights and gentlemen in ordinary office attendant upon her majesty's person, and such as have been employed in embassages to foreign princes.

Caps, hats, hatbands, capbands, garters, or boothose trimmed with gold or silver or pearl; silk netherstocks; enameled chains, buttons, aglets: except men of the degrees above mentioned, the gentlemen attending upon the Queen's person in her highness's Privy chamber or in the office of cupbearer, carver, sewer [server], esquire for the body, gentlemen ushers, or esquires of the stable.

And so on. Violators of the sumptuary laws were subject to legal penalties up to and including death. Eventually, democracy did away with medieval hierarchy.

This is the forward looking thinking of those who inhabit the Discovery Institute.

You may want to think of science and reasons as fog lights that penetrate the mists surrounding Gilder's own personal Olympus.


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