The 21st century is going to look a lot like the 17th century in that the organizing faith will be under constant assault from new thinking. In 1500, the ruling and intellectual elites of the western world believed in God and accepted the Church. By 1550, the Church was under assault as the Protestant Reformation spread through central Europe. The prevailing orthodoxy was under assault on all sides.
Fifty years later the schism within the Church was challenging the prevailing secular order in Europe. The Thirty Years War was kicked off in 1618 and by the end of the century, the world was an entirely different place. The jostling between the people of Europe was no longer about Christendom. It was about nationalism. More important, Christianity was no longer the organizing faith of western societies.
The Enlightenment swept away the old religion and offered up a range of secular replacements. Various forms of socialism, like Marxism, Fabian socialism and Bolshevism, were more than political or economic movements. They may have started with the material, but they ended with the spiritual. They became civic religions that would attempt to fill the role of the Church. Politics would become the public ceremony for the new religion. This is especially true of liberal democracy.
If you look around, the firm belief in the malleability of man is all around you. Test prep courses and materials promise to improve your scores on IQ tests. Americans are bankrupting themselves in pursuit of education. Billions are spent on health regimes that promise to make fat people thin and ugly people attractive. Behavior modification is so deeply ingrained in our culture we hardly notice it.
Economics, the closest thing we have to witchcraft in America, is entirely based on the belief you can make people do anything with the right incentives. The military is putting women in combat units, despite the obvious physical and psychological problems. Disparity of outcomes between races and the sexes are proof of bad behavior, not natural differences in talent. Mentioning black crime, of course, is as heretical as claiming, in 15th century France, that the Pope was a Jew.
All of this depends on a fundamental denial of science. Jacobinism, the mother culture of every left-wing movement, is a rejection of nature and therefore a rejection of science. Later movements bolted on science here and there as a marketing ploy, but the Left is by its nature, anti-science. It has to be. If you allow that some parts of the human animal are beyond the reach of social planners, you open up the possibility that large parts of humanity cannot be altered by social structure.
If the debate shifts from what should be done to what can be done, then the debate about what ought to be done changes as well. In a world where humans are infinitely malleable, what ought to be done is limitless. In a world where humans are the product of the mating decisions of their ancestors, what ought to be done is bounded by the limits of the human condition. Trying for make college scholars out of low-IQ people with poor impulse control becomes as immoral as torturing the mentally ill.
Science is slowly undermining the claims of these secular religions. On the one hand, we have evolutionary biology, which is telling us immutable truth about humanity. On the other hand, we have genetics, which is making a steady assault on the tenets of Standard Social Science Model. This piece in the Telegraph tells us that science may have found a gene that determines intelligence. We know these genes exist. The question is how many and how much each one influence the general intelligence.
They found that, on average, teenagers carrying a particular gene variant had a thinner cortex in the left cerebral hemisphere, particularly in the frontal and temporal lobes, and performed less well on tests for intellectual ability.
The genetic variation affects the expression of the NPTN gene, which encodes a protein acting at neuronal synapses and therefore affects how brain cells communicate.
Their findings suggest that some differences in intellectual abilities can result from the decreased function of the NPTN gene in particular regions of the left brain hemisphere.
Although the genetic variation identified in this study only accounts for an estimated 0.5 per cent of the total variation in intelligence.
However, the findings may have important implications for the understanding of biological mechanisms underlying several psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, autism, where impaired cognitive ability is a key feature of the disorder.
To sensible people, this may not sound ground breaking, but it is the sort of ripple that knocks over buildings down the line. If IQ is a matter of genetics, IQ tests can no longer be dismissed. Similarly, as behavior is linked to specific proteins, or the lack of them, whole swaths of social science fall into the category of witchcraft. If humans are not infinitely malleable, then 300 years of political theory goes out the window. At some point, there is the Galileo moment, when the old faith no longer has meaning.