Thursday, 18 September 2008

Clegg's creationism???

. I have to confess to being really bad; I have pretty much ignored conference up until today when I have started to wade through the reportage and reaction. Apparently Nick Clegg's speech was really good (although as I have made clear I don't like the 'Preparing for power' pretensions and remain undecided over tax cuts due to their viability in the current climate) and my overall impression of the conference is positive. Of course, you wouldn't expect Conservative Home to feel as such but I thought it's piece attacking Clegg for 'creationism' was rather surreal in some ways. Frankly, I thought there was something in the speech that I had missed but it would appear not it is in fact an attack on Clegg's 'rosy' view of human nature.

Clegg said;

"My basic view of human nature is that people are born with goodness in them. Of course, people can be selfish, cruel or violent - But I believe no-one starts that way. "

This is not a subjective or rosy view because Clegg is not saying that we all start out good; he is saying that we all start out as 'blank slates'. It doesn't even rule out the possibility of predisposition towards certain tendencies but a recognition that predispositions can remain unfulfilled which at birth is as possible as their fulfillment. Obviously, what tips the balance is environmental factors, upbringing, opportunity etc. Determinism suits a conservative mindset because if an individuals path is already set then the need for society ie, the voluntary engagement of individuals with their peers to the betterment of the species and protection of the weak is not needed.


"If you deny that human selfishness - which evolutionary biologists explain as a willingness to help not just oneself but also those closest to oneself genetically, like children - is an intrinsic part of human motivations, then you'll struggle to understand why fiscal incentives, market signals and marginal tax rates are so important."

Conversely you could say that if you deny the reverse tendency towards selflessness then a focus on 'charities and voluntary sector support' as policy is complete madness. Either that or it is code for denying people the support they need from the state. Incentives without support create a off balance society riven with social division which inevitably would collapse. Change is the motor force of progress and yes, sometimes it does get messy, but so does the preservation of what is old and rotting (ask Gordon Brown about that one). It would be wrong and lop-sided to see complex organisms like human beings in purely one-sided terms. A lop-sided view produces lop-sided politics which invariably don't benefit society and only allow for the advance of the privileged few, which is of course the kind of society the Conservatives want and have always stood for; so no change there then at least.

1 comment:

Charlotte Gore said...

yes Dawkins has a lot to say on the subject of inherited altruism. Humans are not entirely selfish. Law of the jungle does not apply to us. One of the advantages of sentience. ;)