The Corner

In Pursuit

Jonah: I agree that Charles Murray gave an excellent address at AEI on Wednesday night. It was really, really good. His observations on the authentic sources of human happiness, and what imperils them, are well worth reading.

But I want to raise an objection. Murray went on to say, with enormous optimism, that scientific research will set us free. He thinks that coming advances in neuroscience and genetics will confirm many of conservatism’s beliefs about human nature, and that these discoveries will have a profound influence on culture and politics. I’m not so sure. Science may do some of what he claims. Yet the wishful thinkers will always be with us. Rather than limiting the powers of the state, the new knowledge he envisions may actually inspire efforts to give the state greater powers than ever before, in a quixotic quest for egalitarianism.

Just how optimistic is Murray? Check out this passage:

I’m betting that the Harvard faculty of the year 2020 will look back on the Larry Summers affair in the same way that they think about the Scopes trial–the enlightened versus the benighted–and will have achieved complete amnesia about their own formerly benighted opinions.

No way. Absolutely no way. But I hope I’m wrong and he’s right.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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