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Posts Tagged ‘evolutionism’

Continui, si in aceasta simbata, serialul “Filosofia politica pe intelesul tuturor” (pentru a citi celelalte episoade, click in sidebar pe categoria Filosofia politica pe intelesul tuturor). Voi vorbi in cele ce urmeaza despre problema permanenței democratiei ca sistem politic.

Hegel (1770-1831), unul dintre cei mai mari filosofi germani, a crezut in sfirsitul istoriei si al filosofiei. El a considerat ca diversele sisteme ale gindirii si variatele forme de organizare politica sint incercari timide pe o scara a evolutiei spiritului uman: o evolutie cu un final stabilit. Ca atare, omul credea sincer ca filosofia sa reprezinta forma perfecta a filosofiei in sine, forma la care au aspirat ceilalti ginditori de pina la el, dar pe care nu au fost in stare decit s-o aproximeze gradual. La fel, istoria politica se sfirsea cu monarhia constitutionala a Statului Prusac, forma perfecta de organizare politica a fiintelor umane.

Daca ideile filosofului german vi se par ciudate, atunci va trebui sa va pregatiti pentru a accepta ciudatenia propriilor voastre idei. Asta pentru ca multe persoane, la ora actuala, se inchina aceleiasi credinte, desi termenii sint schimbati. Multi cred in faptul ca formidabila  noastra cultura occidentala este “evoluata” fata de alte culturi si reprezinta gradul maxim de evolutie la care se poate ajunge; multi cred ca filosofia analitica este forma perfecta si ultima a filosofiei; si multi cred ca democratia liberala reprezinta punctul final al istoriei politice.

Evident, asemenea idei sint departe de adevar. Personal nu cred intr-o evolutie culturala si politica similara cu evolutionismul biologic, nici intr-un punct terminus al acestei evolutii, nici in perfectiunea nivelului pe care l-am atins astazi, si nici in imposibilitatea regresului. Daca sintem rezonabili, va trebui sa acceptam failibilismul si efemeritatea nu doar ale speciei umane asa cum o cunoastem azi, ci si – lucru poate mai dificil de indurat – ale productiilor noastre culturale, stiintifice si socio-politice. Democratia, ca atare, nu poate constitui o exceptie – si cine crede contrariul savirseste o mare greseala.

Democratia este o forma politica de organizare a societatii care presupune anumite conditii preliminare pentru existenta ei, cu alte cuvinte ea pur si simplu nu poate fi implementata oricind, oricum si oriunde. Cel mai frustrant gind tine de faptul ca respectivele conditii sint greu de precizat. Istoria ne infatiseaza diferite tipuri de democratii si diferite conditii de posibilitate ale lor. Voi oferi doar doua exemple.

De pilda, democratia participativa a fost posibila doar in cazul oraselor-state din Grecia antica. In acele orase catatenii erau chemati periodic sa-si spuna parerea asupra legilor cetatii. Ginditi-va ca localitatea Targu Frumos (din judetul Iasi) ar deveni un stat independent: din aproximativ 13.000 de locuitori, daca scadem minorii si persoanele decazute din drepturile civile am avea, sa presupunem, un numar de cetateni cu drept de vot care s-ar reduce la jumatate din cifra locuitorilor. In asemenea conditii, ar fi foarte usor sa chemi oamenii sa decida periodic si individual asupra fiecarei legi existente in acel stat. Conditia capitala a democratiei participative (adica democratia care se bazeaza pe participarea directa a cetatenilor la alcatuirea legilor) tine de numarul mic de cetateni. In consecinta, astazi un asemenea tip de democratie este imposibil de pus in practica. Iata de ce vorbim acum de “democratie reprezentativa” (adica democratia in care cetatenii isi aleg reprezentanti pe care ii trimit in parlament pentru a decide in locul lor).

Mai exista insa si alte conditii prealabile necesare pentru instaurarea democratiei. Al doilea exemplu este temporal mai aproape de noi: vorbesc despre Irak. Americanii incearca sa impuna democratia acolo insa nu reusesc, si specialistii in domeniu considera ca nici nu vor reusi prea curind, intrucit nu sint indeplinite conditiile minime pentru o asemenea victorie. Aceiasi specialisti nu se pun de acord insa cind vine vorba de listarea respectivelor conditii minime ale democratiei. Unii vorbesc despre un anumit nivel de educatie, altii despre o oarecare traditie a stabilitatii politice, altii despre un nivel de trai ridicat, si inca altii despre o dorinta colectiva sincera de auto-guvernare. Discutiile sint complicate. De pilda, unii spun ca o educatie stiintifica si laica ar fi un element sine qua non pentru ca indivizii sa fie pregatiti sa accepte democratia. Cazurile Chinei si Rusiei demonstreaza insa cu asupra de masura ca intre nivelul de educatie si forma de organizare politica legaturile sint mult mai slabe decit am dori sa credem.

Exemplele de mai sus vor sa spuna un singur lucru: democratia, ca forma de organizare politica, tine de anumite conditii specifice, iar acestea, la rindul lor, sint determinate spatio-temporal. Chiar daca este cel mai bun sistem politic gindit pina acum, democratia nu este aici pentru totdeauna. De fapt, democratia liberala asa cum o cunoastem astazi este extrem de tinara: are vreo 50 de ani. Personal (este o parere pur subiectiva) cred ca democratia liberala (democratia care limiteaza auto-guvernarea cetatenilor prin drepturile de baza ale individului) s-a nascut odata cu Declaratia Universala a Drepturilor Omului (10 decembrie 1948) si Miscarea pentru drepturi civile din America (1955-1968). Si asa tinara cum este, democratia liberala ar putea sa nu mai traiasca foarte mult. Exista o multime de factori care ii grabesc decesul: folosireatehnologiei tot mai avansate de catre puterea politica (care face posibila o supraveghere tip “Big Brother” a cetatenilor), preferinta cetatenilor insisi pentrusecuritate, in defavoarea libertatilor civile (vezi ” USA Patriot Act“, semnat de presedintele Bush in octombrie 2001), imigratia prost controlata (musulmanii din Olanda si Anglia sint tot mai vocali in privinta acceptarii legii sharia), problemele economice globalizate, cresterea exponentiala a populatiei planetei coroborata cu epuizarea resurselor, si asa mai departe.

Istoria ne arata ca, in momentul in care unui regim politic sau unui imperiu i-a sunat ceasul, nici macar puterea militara nu este suficienta pentru a-l salva. Ma tem ca acesta este si cazul democratiilor contemporane: va veni, intr-o zi, momentul in care oricit ne vom stradui, nu vom reusi sa salvam sistemul politic in care credem si, de fapt, singurul in care unii din noi pot trai. Aceasta concluzie pesimista nu indeamna insa la inactiune. Cred ca sint citeva cai pe care putem lupta pentru mentinerea democratiei liberale, dar fiecare cale are problemele ei:

1) Revenirea la o mai strinsa legatura intre cetatean si factorul de decizie politica. O viziune a Uniunii Europene ca “Europa a regiunilor”, unde politica economica si cea externa sint comune, insa administratia se bazeaza pe guverne locale de tip “land” (precum in Germania) ar creste gradul de interes al cetatenilor pentru afacerile publice, si deci ar revigora increderea in democratie. Dinamica greoaie a actualei forme de organizare a UE si sentimentele anti-europene ale francezilor sau irlandezilor, de pilda, nu ma lasa insa sa intrevad intr-un viitor apropiat o astfel de schimbare;

2) Reafirmarea la nivel global (de catre toate statele) a promovarii riguroase a drepturilor de baza ale omului. In felul acesta, democratia de care vorbim ar ramine “liberala”, protejind cetateanul in fata oricarei puteri politice. O forta armata de tip NATO care sa intervina rapid si eficient de fiecare data cind un stat incalca flagrant aceste drepturi este necesara. Un asemenea deziderat ramine insa de neatins, atita vreme cit state puternice precum Rusia, China si Iranul vor incalca drepturile omului si nu le vor recunoaste decit formal.

3) Rezolvarea cit mai rapida a problemei cresterii populatiei. La nivel global este nevoie de o lege asemanatoare cu cea din China, unde un cuplu nu are voie sa faca mai mult de un copil (sau, la nivel global, nu mai mult de doi). Este greu de crezut insa ca statele occidentale, confruntate cu imbatrinirea populatiei si cu o natalitate tot mai scazuta, vor acccepta o asemenea lege. De asemenea, este greu de crezut ca norma poate fi implementata in statele sarace din Africa, de pilda.

4) Un accent tot mai mare pe ceea ce se numeste acum “global distributive justice” (justitie distributiva globala), care se refera la redistribuirea resurselor intre tarile bogate si cele sarace, pentru atingerea unui nivel economic rezonabil pe intreaga planeta (printre multele consecinte bune ale acestui lucru ar fi si limitarea imigratiei). Este greu de crezut insa ca tarile bogate vor accepta prea usor sa-si trimta surplusul in Africa sau Asia. SUA, de pilda, au preferat mult timp sa cheltuiasca o groaza de bani cu SETI (Institutul pentru Cautarea Inteligentei Extraterestre) decit sa foloseasca aceiasi bani pentru eradicarea malariei in citeva state din Africa.

In concluzie: democratia liberala asa cum o cunoastem azi este o forma foarte tinara a organizarii vietii politice. Nivelul politic la care am ajuns nu este insa ireversibil. Dimpotriva, multi factori par sa atace acest fragil sistem politic, si din nefericire mecanismele globale care ar putea sa-l consolideze nu pot fi puse in functiune din cauza imposibilitatii atingerii unui consens. Desi cred ca inca nu este timpul pierdut si consensul respectiv poate fi atins, intrucit este in puterea liderilor mondial sa il atinga, nu cred ca ratiunea umana va triumfa. In privinta viitorului democratiei liberale asa cum o cunoastem astazi sint mai degraba pesimist: datorita factorilor adversi amintiti, si poate a multor altora pe care personal nu ii cunosc, lupta pentru supravietuirea tinerei democratii liberale mi se pare un razboi pierdut din start. Si cu toate acestea, un razboi la care ma incapatinez sa particip.

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[Article written on February 27, 2008]

UPDATE (03.03.2008). It seems that the problem of teaching religion in school was settled reasonably well, at least in my opinion. Romanian readers might want to take a look here. Does anybody know something about evolutionism?

Yes, George, there are two theories:

(a) The Dawn of Man (”2001: A Space Odyssey”, Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

2001-the-dawn-of-man.jpg

(b) The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo, “The Creation of Adam” Sistine Chapel, c. 1511)

leonardo-the-creation-of-adam.jpg

You are free to choose whatever theory you like – and I think that, choosing one (or choosing none) does not by itself give anyone the moral right to ridicule the other one (or both).

I think Kubrick himself is an exponent of epistemological neutrality – or, if you want, of agnosticism. Remember that, in his movie, man evolves from the monkey – but this evolution itself is made possible by a superior intelligence (remember the monolith!)

vlcsnap-315212.jpg vlcsnap-315720.jpg

In rest – I know: my way – the third (fourth??) way – is (politically and psychologically) the worst…

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[Article written on June 10, 2008]

In Bled (Slovenia) I had the great honor to meet and discuss with Tom Christiano. In my talk (“Does Liberal Neutrality Require Epistemic Abstinence?”), I advocated a Rawlsian version of the “epistemic abstinence” theory, according to which we should not build the basic institutions of a liberal democratic society on “the truth” promoted by one of the competing comprehensive views of the good, but on an “overlapping consensus” over the basic political (not metaphysical) values. Now, Tom Christiano advocates the opposite view, according to which a decision is authoritative if it is the outcome of a fair, democratic decision making (the decision-making procedure must be publicly recognized as being fair, and it must take into consideration the interests of everyone involved) [of course, the outcome is limited by the constitutional provisions regarding the basic liberal rights].

But take the following example. In some modern, liberal democratic states there is pervasive disagreement regarding the teaching of evolutionism and creationism in public schools. The evolutionists want to take religion off the textbooks, whereas the creationists want the same thing in what concerns evolutionism. How can a liberal democratic state solve this problem? Let’s apply the two theories to this example.

According to my “soft epistemic abstinence” theory, the state should say to the contending parties: “I am a liberal democratic state, and I have to further equally the interests of both of you. My political concern is not the ‘truth’ each of you advocates, but the way in which you can all live peacefully, and the way in which you can all have the possibility to further your own interests. According to this goal, the solution is the following: evolutionism is to be taught in biology classes, and creationism is to be taught in religion (and history of religion) classes. In this way, you can all further your own interests, while respecting the others’ constitutional rights of furthering their own interests”.

According to Tom Christiano’s view, there should be public discussions about evolutionism and creationism. Everyone interested in this debate should have the right to say her own point of view. Then individuals are required to vote one of these three possibilities: a) only evolutionism should be taught in public schools; b) only creationism should be taught in public schools; c) both evolutionism and creationism should be taught in public schools. If the decision-making process is fair, publicly known and democratic, then the decision is authoritative.

Now, my problem with this view is the following. Suppose that, in a particular state (say, Romania) people vote that evolutionism must NOT be taught in public schools. According to Tom Christiano, if all the democratic requirements have been met, then this decision is authoritative. But I feel uneasy with this solution.

Tom (who thinks that creationism is a stupidity) had several answers. First, he said that in a liberal democratic state many of us feel uneasy with many decisions – but we still have to accept them, as long as they are the outcome of a democratic decision-making process. Then he thought again, and he asked me why the teaching of evolutionism in public schools, in a democratic state, should be regarded as necessary, as long as the citizens rejected it through a fair and democratic process. And then he thought again. His final answer was that the only way to save evolutionism in such a case is to declare that some basic scientific education (evolutionism included) is necessary for citizenship.

Moreover, He told me that my solution is not exactly neutral – but it is a triumph for evolutionism. This is so because my solution accepts the teaching of evolutionism in biology classes, but it sends creationism from scientific to religious textbooks – and this is not quite a neutral answer. On the contrary, it safeguards evolutionism, while at the same time it diminishes the importance of creationism.

The discussion was long enough and it was late – we didn’t finish it. But I have two answers to Tom Christiano’s ideas.

First, to declare some basic scientific knowledge as necessary for citizenship seems a very controversial idea. I’m not saying that it is impossible to defend it – I’m just saying that there is much to be said in its favor. Moreover, if we accept this proposal, I do not see any reason to reject other proposed requirements for citizenship – for example, some basic knowledge in religious matters, or some basic moral knowledge, and so on. There are good arguments for supporting such requirements, but I will not discuss them here. I would rather say that it seems to me hard to defend some basic scientific knowledge as a requirement for citizenship, while rejecting the same status to basic moral or religious knowledge. And if we accept all these requirements for citizenship – then Christiano’s outcome is the same with my proposal’s outcome: evolutionism and creationism should both be taught in public schools.

Second, I do not agree with Tom’s critique, according to which my proposal is not neutral – because it favors evolutionism, by making it the single theory taught in biology classes. First, I think that I can explain to creationists that they don’t really want to see their theory taught in biology classes: they don’t accept this kind of science, so they shouldn’t care about it. They can teach evolutionism in religious classes – however these classes might be called (why not a distinct class, of “creationist biology” – indeed, “what’s in a name?”). There is, of course, the problem of the status of these classes. But I think there could be ways of solving this problem. We can device different combinations between “obligatory”, “optional” and “facultative” classes for both biology and religion. So the problem of neutrality could be in principle solved.

I am happy to see that me and Tom Christiano both agree with the outcome (evolutionism and religion should be both taught in schools). It is true that we have different ways of reaching this conclusion. But the debate is not over yet – or so I hope.

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