The Corner

Against the Fall of Dark

No, David. “The world is truly revealed as upside-down and backward” when intelligent young Jews sign up to the anti-science crusade.

One of the best reasons to be a philosemite in our time is sheer gratitude at the disproportionate contribution Jews have made to the advance of Western civilization, and to our understanding of the world, this past two hundred years. The U.S.A. dominated the 20th century in culture and technology, to the great benefit of all mankind, in part because of the work done in math and science by the great tranche of pre-WW2 immigrant Jews from Europe.

Now you have joined up with people who want to trash the scientific enterprise and heap insults on one of the greatest names in intellectual history. For reasons unfathomable to me, you and Ben Stein want to sneer and scoff at our understandings, hard-won over centuries of arduous intellectual effort. Don’t the two of you know, don’t Jews of all people know, where this anti-intellectual agitation, this pandering to a superstitious mob, will lead at last? If you truly don’t, I refer you to the fate of Hypatia, which you can read about in my last book (Chapter 3), or in Gibbon (Chapter XLVII). You new pals at the Discovery Institute no doubt think Hypatia got what she deserved.

Civilization is a thin veneer, David. Reason and science are bulwarks against the dark.

I am sure you know the fine speech that Robert Bolt put in the mouth of Sir Thomas More, but “people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed”:

More    …  What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper     I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More     (Roused and excited)     Oh?    (Advances on Roper)     And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?     (He leaves him)     This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?     (Quietly)     Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Bolt’s More understood a thing you and Stein don’t understand, the thing that Waugh credited Kipling with understanding in that quote I posted earlier in the week, and that Adolf Hitler (hey, you started the reductio ad Hitlerum), in his own way, and of course from the other side of the Wall, also understood.

You and Stein are playing a dangerous game, a game that Jews should be the very last to play. The ADL, for all its faults, at least understands that.

I really, seriously wonder how much of a future the U.S.A. has. We are sinking into a bog of mediocrity, frivolity, superstition, and ignorance. When even Jews join the parade of folly, it’s hard to keep hoping.

Yesterday (thanks! to a generous friend who got me in) I had the colossal privilege of watching Kurt Masur conduct Anne-Sophie Mutter in rehearsal. While Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music filled the hall I found myself thinking, as I always do: How long shall we have this? How long will it last? How long before it is all swallowed up in the great grinning, jeering maw of hip-hop, the worship of worthless “celebrities,” reality TV, Oprahified politics, and “intelligent design” — junk religion meets junk science? How long have we got?

Our civilization is on the way out. I hope it at least outlives me, but I am less and less sure it will. I’ll be damned if I won’t go down fighting, though.


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