Is libertarianism a moral theory and way of life, or a scientific
of the means to best fulfill individual preferences? My view is that
is a moral theory and a way of life both suggested by and supported by
emerging “new paradigm” scientific theory and fact.
To support my view I will first describe the different metaethics (methods of discovering ethical truths) discussed by “moralist” Chris Brockman and “scientist” Bart Kosko in the Summer 1984 issue of NOMOS. I will then show how Kosko’s old paradigm science does little to advance libertarianism while new paradigm science is fairly bursting with it.
Chris Brockman and his Church of Nature subscribe to a “naturalistic ethic, meaning that what is good can be derived from what is, from the nature of things.” (A view also called cognitivism in metaethics.) He asserts that “natural law favors voluntary association.”
However, in the tradition of most “positivist” scientists who argue that “what in” does not prescribe “what should be,” Bart Kosko says that libertarian ends “are value judgments...mere statements of preference (taste, sentiment, feeling, etc.). (Or, noncognitivism in metaethics.)
Like some philosophers, I hold that both views are partially correct. I believe a proper understanding of nature does favor libertarianism, but the final, bottom-line proof of its truth Is gut-level emotion. However, as my discussion of the new paradigm will suggest, the more people feeling this emotion, the truer it becomes!
What is the difference between old paradigm and new paradigm science? What is their significance for libertarianism?
Old paradigm science carries on the “mechanistic” tradition of Newton. Its adherents still seek a perfectly objective view of a materialistic world ruled by deterministic, unchanging laws. In their view, humans have evolved slowly through chance mutations and survival of the fittest and are a race ruled by genes and instincts. The most outspoken and controversial proponents of this view are the socio-biologists who argue that humans are naturally violent and dominated by the strongest males and that strict social hierarchies regulated by authority and violence are necessary for human survival.
Kosko, too, believes that human behavior is “determined by genetic endowment and environmental conditioning,” that the scientific libertarian should look for “the explanation of ‘free’ behavior in terms of genes and nerves, and that “the major task of (applied) scientific libertarianism is to use scientific method to further libertarian goals.” (While Kosko is correct that Rand, Rothbard, and Nozick have used science to support their views, Rand and Rothbard use old paradigm, materialist, determinist science to defend natural law, natural rights, and human free will; Nozick is rumored to be open to new paradigm science.) I believe Kosko’s message -- manipulate them into liberty” (in effect) -- is bound to be less inspiring to libertarians than the sociobiologists’ “manipulate them into slavery” message has proven to be to some statists. More importantly, the old paradigm of both is headed for oblivion.
The emerging new paradigm is an effort to create new models of the universe, life, and humanity that will explain such findings as: Einstein’s, that time-space-energy-matter exist along a continuum; Heisenberg’s, that scientific objectivity is theoretically impossible; Bohr’s, that energy and matter are complementary aspects of the same reality; Ilya Prigogine’s, that there is a drive to order even in lifeless chemical solutions; various paleontologists’, that radical evolutionary change can happen rapidly; biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s, that communicating “morphogenetic fields” seem to connect all similar forms, living and “non-living”; and Abraham Maslow’s and other human potential psychologists’, that humans strive for self-actualization and even higher consciousness.
The new paradigm is a “systems view” describing a dynamic but interconnected “self-organizing universe” that is “pulling itself up by the bootstraps,” creating and experimenting with new and better processes and forms or “organizing principles.” Some new paradigm scientists and..theorists liken these trial and error processes to free will and consciousness evolving itself to ever higher levels of organization.
Significantly, in philosophy the view that free will is inherent in all reality is called libertarianism. Robert Anton Wilson in Cosmic Trigger refers to the search for new models as marking (in scientist Alfred Korzybski’s words) “the transition from Aristotelian civilization (dogmatic, monistic, authoritarian) to non-Aristotelian civilization (relativistic, pluralistic, libertarian).”
Wilson captures the essential freedom of the universe in an interview he conducted with Rupert Sheldrake in the February 1984 issue of New Age Journal: “What seems really radical in your theory is the idea that the laws of nature are not eternal and changeless. Every other system I’ve encountered, scientific or philosophical, always posits am unchanging some thing-or-other as its fundamental reality, yet you have an evolving something.” Sheldrake replies: “Yes, exactly. What we call the ‘laws of nature’ may be only habits.”
Just this overview may make it clear how new paradigm science both suggests and supports libertarian ethics. I could list many further evidences from the physical and social sciences that freedom is inherent and necessary and that violence and coercion are destructive. However, it is the very freedom in the universe that makes it impossible to “objectively” say -- either scientifically or ethically -- that any one position is 100% true. Rupert Sheldrake suggests that as more and more individuals adopt a form of behavior it becomes a more prevalent “habit” and therefore more “true.”
It would be a shame if libertarians remained uninformed of the libertarian ethical implications of the new paradigm, especially when other activists are being drawn along in a libertarian direction by it (sometimes, perhaps, despite themselves). Activists calling themselves New Agers, Greens, and bioregionalists, despite their downplaying of the “dynamic” aspects of the new paradigm and their emphasis on the “inter-connected” aspects, find that “self-determination,” “non-violence,” “pluralism,” “decentralization,” and “non-governmental alternatives” seem most compatible with their “ecological” systems viewpoint. Will these folks lead us to liberty while libertarians busily debate how many natural rights can dance on the head of a pin? That’s my counter-challenge to readers of NOMOS Challenge #1!