March 12, 2004

The Clear Vision of David Deutsch

Today, IMFO points to an article by David Deutsch written six weeks after the 911 attacks. She notes:

I've always enjoyed David Deutsch. He's a brilliant, brilliant man. Wry sense of humor too. I'd read his piece shortly after 9/11 happened and was just reminded about it after looking over at The World. It's worthy of a read, at least once. If not several times.
She's right about this. Here is an excerpt:

Richard Dawkins, as usual, talked sense, and made several true and timely points. He praised America as "the principal inheritor, and today's leading exponent, of European scientific and rational civilisation", and he broke a taboo by pointing out that this is "the highest civilisation ever". He took sides: "I want to stand up as a friend of America" -- as do I. But in one important respect, his remarks did not seem to me to reach the heart of the issue. He blames religion, and our convention of "respecting" it. Now, I am no advocate of religion, but religious belief is surely not central to the present disaster. There are plenty of terrorists at large who are not pursuing any religious agenda. There are notorious sponsors of terrorism who are driven by nationalist or socialist ideologies, not religious dogma. And there are plenty of religious zealots who are no danger to anybody (except themselves and their unfortunate wives and children).

That is not to deny that mainstream Islamic culture has exhibited a major moral failure. It seems to struggle even to find the language and the conceptual framework genuinely to oppose the crimes that are committed in its name. Large numbers of peaceful Muslims find themselves in effect condoning mass murder, and painfully few can bring themselves to side with the victims now exercising their right of self defence. Nevertheless it is not the tenets of Islam that have caused the present violence. This is a political evil we are facing, not a religious one. And it is a modern evil, not an ancient one.

Moreover, mainstream Western culture has also exhibited a major moral failure: a refusal to distinguish between right and wrong. The unique glories of our civilisation -- self-criticism, tolerance, openness to change and to ideas from other cultures -- have in many people's minds decayed, under this moral failure, into self-hatred, appeasement, and moral relativism.

The entire essay, WHAT NOW? is more than worth your time. Indeed, it rings more true today than when it was written. His takedown of moral relativists and appeasement specialists is also worth your close attention.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 12, 2004 12:02 PM | TrackBack
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