by Ralph Raico

I know two economists the author quotes in his book: Israel Kirzner and Murray Rothbard. In the late 1960s, I audited Kirzner's course while I was a graduate student in physics at New York University. In the summer of 1979, I took a course at Pace University on macroeconomics given by a professor whose thesis advisor was Kirzner. At some point, I expressed my view that macroeconomics was unintelligible. The professor replied that all economists considered macroeconomics intelligible. I said, "Israel Kirzner does not." The professor replied, "Not true. Professor Kirzner just does not do macroeconomics. He only does microeconomics." Some years later I told the story to Rothbard who said he was not surprised the Pace teacher thought such a thing.

How can there be such a disagreement between economists about economics? Are there such disagreements between biologists about biology and physicists about physics? A related question is what caused the following historical flip-flop:

There us no doubt that after around 1900 the Liberal Party in Britain veered increasingly in a statist direction. In the United States a similar transformation took place within the Democratic Party—once 'the party of Jefferson and Jackson'—at a somewhat later date. (location 1836)

I don't agree at all with the author's explanation for the change:

But such shifts, evident also in Continental parties that kept the liberal name, are easily explained by the dynamics of democratic electoral politics. (location 1838)

My theory is that liberalism is a neurotic response to religion. Religion causes conflict between people, conflict produces anxiety, and inhibition is a defense mechanism for anxiety. Religion inhibits religious and non-religious people from thinking rationally and intelligently and behaving honestly. Lack of religious faith makes people prone to irrational beliefs such as the socialism of Karl Marx, the imperialism of Theodore Roosevelt, the racism of Adolf Hitler, the capitalism of Herbert Spenser. Herbert Spencer thought it was good that poor people died at a greater rate than more productive people because "survival of the fittest" improved the human race. The two political parties changed because being against government stopped satisfying their member's neurotic needs.

Religion is related also to evolutionary biology because of the question whether a human being is an embodied spirit or a biological organism. There is also the question of how single-celled organisms evolved into whales in a period of only 100 million decades. While all biologists understand that Darwinism just explains adaptation (microevolution) and not common descent (macroevolution), many laymen are under the impression that Darwinism explains the complexity of a mammal. Notice, in the following quote, that the biologist (Darwin) understands this, but Steve Pinker, Paul Bloom, and Christine Kenneally do not:

They [Pinker and Bloom] particularly emphasized that language is incredibly complex, as Chomsky had been saying for decades. Indeed, it was the enormous complexity of language that made is hard to imagine not merely how it had evolved but that it had evolved at all.
But, continued Pinker and Bloom, complexity is not a problem for evolution. Consider the eye. The little organ is composed of many specialized parts, each delicately calibrated to perform its role in conjunction with the others. It includes the cornea,...Even Darwin said that it was hard to imagine how the eye could have evolved.
And yet, he explained, it did evolve, and the only possible way is through natural selection--the inestimable back-and-forth of random genetic mutation with small effects...Over the eons, those small changes accreted and eventually resulted in the eye as we know it." (Christine Kenneally, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, pp. 59-60)

A peer-reviewed physics article goes beyond being neurotic ("Entropy and evolution," Am. J. Phys., Vol. 76, No. 11, November 2008). Creationists promote the idea that the origin of life and evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics, which is that heat flows from hot to cold, a gas fills up the container it is in, and a sugar cube will dissolve in a cup of coffee. Biologists calculate the probability of getting a protein from the random selection of amino acids in an attempt to understand where proteins come from. Physicists calculate the probability of the sugar molecules in a cup of coffee drifting to one location and reconstructing a sugar cube. Juxtaposing these two calculations is the cause of the unintelligent but intelligible idea that evolution violates the laws of physics.

The idea is unintelligent because there is nothing improbable about proteins. There is, however, a real possibility that a cup of coffee will lose its sweetness because of the random drift of sugar molecules. Also, the location of molecules in a solid, liquid, or gas refers to its location in three-dimensional space. The location of amino acids in a protein, however, refers to which amino acid is next to which.

The American Journal of Physics article refutes the creationist pseudoscience by arguing that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics because of the sun. This is literally unintelligible. But the article goes further into madness. There is in fact an equation that describes the second law of thermodynamics, and the paper includes an absurd calculation purporting to prove that the second law is not violated by evolution. As Chesterton once said, "People who don't believe in God don't believe in nothing. They believe in anything."