Is Brainpower Equal to the Task of Creating a Better Society?
Impressed by the power of the brain to solve hard problems, intellectuals with credits in thinking and deficits in morality have for centuries deceived themselves and others that humans can remake themselves into better creatures than those designed by their Creator.
Excited by this prospect, religious leaders with similar credits and deficits have added their weight to the project. But ever since two of the grandest delusions of all time – the Protagoras boast that “Man is the measure of all things” and the Enlightenment myth that Reason is the only way to truth – a persistent minority of souls have noticed the emptiness of both claims, wondering how such an unintelligent take on life could have flattened so many minds.
Using brainpower to demystify God and Nature, obstacles in the mission to improve people and the world, the heirs of Bacon, Rousseau, Hegel, Mill, Emerson, John Dewey, and a host of other bright stars of intellect (with dim morals) are still expecting reason to improve human life and banish evil. But evidence of such an outcome so far shows conclusively that the philosophes, past and present, have been greatly mistaken.
Readers may draw their own conclusions of how far off the mark the world has come in getting populated with better people through brainpower. Even amplified with the latest technologies, human brains are evidently unequal to the task. It would appear that keeping humanity from succumbing to the worst consequences of morality-starved brainpower has been the work of divine providence.
Decent humans, regardless of intelligence or origin, value all human life (each equal in the eyes of God) and use their unique talents to help one other overcome inadequacies in the common pursuit of happiness. This natural and productive form of progress is not to be confused with “progress by equity,” that bratty brainchild of egalitarianism that stifles initiative and keeps people with genuine talent from rising above the crowd, lifting people in the process. This stagnating, across-the-board “equality” – cutting us all out of the same dough like cookies – reduces the gifted to apologists and removes any real work toward improving the community, an awful price to pay for fake social justice under fake equality.
Agonizing over the discrepancies between what they think ought to be and what in fact is, crusaders for phony social justice and equality continue to cast people into roles they don’t fit or can assume, involving them in factitious conflicts over “racism,” “sexism,” and numerous other issues generated when the actual facts of human experience are ignored.
For example, it is unrealistic, unnatural, and in fact unreasoning to attempt to unite a diverse population into a uniform body of mutually embracing “equals.” Reformers since the French Revolution continue nevertheless to act as though liberty and equality are two sides of the same coin. It was forgotten then and is forgotten now that the free pursuit one’s interests and the mandate of equality grind against each other like ill-fitting gears, an unproductive source of friction and conflict.
Another damning form of misplaced brainpower is the attempt to make God-centered religion conform to the secular world. I think of the martyrdom of archbishop Thomas Becket in1170 for acting to keep the Church aloof from his king; I think of the beheading of Thomas More in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of an earthly kingdom over a heavenly kingdom; I think of the solemn provision of the First Amendment to keep the state from encroaching upon the domain of religion. And yet some politicos, while pretending to refrain from interfering with church doctrine or violating church sanctuary, continue to push for the “political correction” of religion – a job accepted by spineless religious leaders.
The old but still good word for this is anathema: the ultimate condemnation for the violation of what is sacred, an action that even the current pope has with ample justification been accused of. For what else is to be made of his rejection of the teachings of Christ, alleging that they are backward and therefore incompatible with world progress? Serious critics of this stand have justly pointed out that where there is no deposit of faith there is no church.
Of the true wonders of modern religion, the greatest may be its marriage to secular humanism and its allied sciences, whose courtship began during the “Enlightenment,” when many an intellectual chose Reason over Faith for finding truth. The legacy? Well, for starters, it doesn’t seem to bother modern Christians that secular humanism removes God from human affairs, as do atheists. It is evidently the faithful alone who have noticed the great distortion of Christianity in our time. Secular humanism, having taken an overdose of “man is the measure of all things,” puts itself in direct conflict with God. Any “theology” based on the premise that human happiness (however defined) comes exclusively from the pursuit of knowledge is an example of brainpower jumping over the limits of its usefulness.
Relying on reason as the only source of human knowledge, and therefore the only path to truth, is challenged by people of every IQ level who not only question the weaknesses of this stand but point to the many failures of reason to improve the world and its people.
The rationalist/secular focus on life limits the view of the full breadth of human knowledge and experience, hardly an intelligent way to improve life on earth.
The longstanding idea that man is both capable and justified in taking control of his own destiny through the power of the brain shows most dramatically in our time, does it not? The evidence is staggering of how big a lie this has been.
It is a tragic error to ignore the way of truth, which is the way of God, and rely on “man’s way” to improve society. All who aspire to leadership in this effort need to heed a warning from scripture: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” [Isaiah 5:21]
Anthony J. DeBlasi is a veteran and lifelong defender of Western culture.
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