Because it’s old, it must be dumb!

I recall Bryan Caplan deliberately (I believe) insulting Israel Kirzner at the NYU Market Process colloquium as follows: I had asked Bryan, "Well, according to your paper, a 'reasonable' conclusion depends upon what premises we start with. So if my initial premise is, 'The Bible is the word of God,' why should I not prefer scripture over scientific findings, when they conflict?"

Caplan, knowing full well that Kirzner is an orthodox rabbi, responded, essentially, "Who could possibly pay any attention to such stupid nonsense written by a bunch of desert shepherds several thousand years ago?"

At the time, I was so nonplussed by Bryan's response that I don't think I said anything more. But...

What I ought to have said was, "The work of these 'ignorant' desert shepherds is still being read several thousand years after they wrote it: do you think anyone will be reading a single thing you wrote in 4000 A.D.?"

What is amazing is, as Nassim Taleb has pointed out, how "anti-evolutionary" such thinking is, on the part of those who claim to worship evolution: it is as if, simply because something has survived a long time, it must be... mal-adapted!


  1. Will they be reading Dianetics instead?

  2. On your last paragraph - there is of course a whole literature on the adaptive nature of religions.

    It could probably be used to explain why there is a good chance that the bible will still be read in another 2000 years, while the odds on people still reading 'The Case Against Education' in the years 4000 are a little lower!

  3. Was Israel Kirzner there? I must be missing some context about how the answer was meant as an insult to him personally.

  4. Caplan truly believes nothing of value predated his birth. I have seen that attitude on display many times. He once called America circa 1960 — civil rights, space, computers, birth control, vibrant arts, rock'n'roll — a “boring” country.


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