Rebirth of Reason


The Philosophy of Social Engineering: An Irrational and Inconsistent Worldview
by Edward W. Younkins

The philosophy of social engineering, as reflected in contemporary civil rights policies and agendas, is primarily based on five concepts:  collectivism, determinism, economic egalitarianism, elitism, and historical victimization. Multiculturalism, a merger of collectivism and determinism, asserts that no person can avoid the forces imposed by race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Fortunately, according to the proponents of social engineering, there exists an elite, supposedly somehow exempt from the determinism they assume, able to remedy historical victimization. Undergirding the philosophy of social engineering is the idea that all individuals should be economically equal. When equality does not exist, it must be due to exploitation and discriminatory exclusion. Consequently, the elite needs to act through the legal and educational systems in order to establish the economic equality that would have existed in the absence of exploitation and domination.

The elite includes individuals and groups who are thought to far exceed the general population in intellect, morality, and dedication to the “common good.” Their assumed general superiority enables them to use their articulated rationality to function as surrogate decision makers in governmental economic and social planning. Their special wisdom, knowledge, virtue, compassion, commitment, and intentions are said to qualify them to guide the actions of the many either through articulation or force. Because the elite tend to assume that human nature is infinitely malleable, they attempt to mold the nature of the people according to their superior judgments and advanced views.

Unfortunately for its advocates, the philosophy of social engineering is irrational and inconsistent. Collectivism represents nothing that exists in reality. Only individuals, with countless differences and experiences, can think and act. Although persons can share biological characteristics, they will differ in numerous other ways that are necessary to their identities as individual persons. If determinism is valid, then elitism is infeasible because elites would be affected by causal factors just like everyone else. To propose that they would be exempt from such control would contradict the idea of determinism. In addition, economic egalitarianism is inconsistent with determinism. If determinism is true, then the nonegalitarian status of today’s world is simply unavoidable. It is purely the consequence of historical determinants whose effects could not be different from what they are. Egalitarianism is also denied by the notion of elitism that acknowledges the existence of a caste of individuals who are more intelligent and possesses superior moral understanding. Finally, the idea of victimization loses its plausibility if both collectivism and determinism have been dismissed as irrational.

In his Tyranny of Reason, Yuval Levin explains that the social scientific outlook holds that society and man can be understood through scientific study and that truth in the social world is essentially no different than truth found by science in nature. This failure to recognize that human beings are fundamentally different from the physical objects examined by science and the inappropriate application of scientific reasoning by arrogant social engineers and technocrats can have devastating consequences, including the limitation of man’s freedom in thought and action and the devaluation of a man’s search for meaning in his life.

Confused students of politics and society have attempted to apply the same rules and standards to both the natural world and the social world and have searched for a precise rational formula behind the social behavior of men. So-called experts fail to realize that scientific thinking seeks meaning in causes existing in the past, whereas human beings make decisions based on purposes reaching toward the future. Because the world of science is a world of causes, not of purposes, it cannot answer the “why” question. The human world cannot be adequately described in terms of causes without purposes and means without ends.

Approaching the human world from the perspective of scientific certainty constrains man’s freedom, robs people of a sense of control, and encourages people to hand over their fates to social engineers who believe in the inevitable progress of mankind and in their own superior ability to discover, comprehend, and predict the proper arrangement of society and the underlying truths of the human world. Of course, the knowledge needed by these social architects and constructivists is unattainable––the best we can achieve is partial knowledge of the human world.

Determinism arises naturally from the social scientific outlook. The belief in determinism leads people to think that they have no active role to play in controlling their own futures. Utopian social scientists tend to have contempt for deliberative politics and participatory democracy and to prefer the neutral scientific manager, central planning, social engineering, and government control of the economy.

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