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Saturday, January 13, 2007

The New Inquisition

I'll tie this article in with the discussion tomorrow...

The New Inquisition
By Gary DeMar
12/19/2006

The perception that there has always been a war between religion and science is of recent vintage. The myth finds its most formal statement in the nineteenth-century works of John William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). White introduces his work with the claim that he is “letting the light of historical truth into the decaying mass of outworn thought which attaches the modern world to medieval conceptions of Christianity and which lingers among us—a most serious barrier to religion and morals, and a menace to the whole normal evolution of society.”1 The view of these two volumes is that when there have been proposals for a new scientific explanation on how the world works, Christians have been the first to condemn them because they conflict with some supposed scientific statement in the Bible and all religiously non-affiliated scientists are the first to accept them because science is “self-correcting”2 while so-called Christian science is not.

Draper makes the unsupported claim that scientific “opinions on every subject are continually liable to modification, from the irresistible advance of human knowledge.”3 This is hardly true given the nearly maniacal reluctance to allowing any scientific testing of the absolutist claims of modern-day evolutionary theory. “A new report from the U.S. House of Representatives has condemned officials at the Smithsonian Institution for imposing a religious test on scientists who work there. And it suggests their attacks on a scientist who just edited an article on intelligent design are just the tip of the iceberg of an industry-wide fear of anything that suggests man might not have come from a puddle of sludge.”4

In reality, many new scientific theories are often opposed by scientists for any number of reasons. There is continued scientific debate over the causes or even the reality of human-caused global warming, whether oil is a “fossil” fuel or a renewable abiotic resource,5 the medical benefits of embryonic stem-cells, and much more. These debates can be downright hostile as charges and counter charges are lobbed from scientific strongholds where the claim is made that there is no room for debate. Consider the Inquisition-like reaction to those who question the certainty of global warming:

Scientists who dissent from the alarmism [over global warming] have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis. . . . In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.6

Some have gone so far as to propose that “global warming deniers” are aiding and abetting a global holocaust and should be prosecuted. Australian columnist Margo Kingston “has proposed outlawing ‘climate change denial.’ ‘David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial,’ she wrote. ‘Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.’ Others have suggested that climate change deniers should be put on trial in the future, Nuremberg-style, and made to account for their attempts to cover up the ‘global warming . . . Holocaust.’”7 These arguments are being made by those within the secular scientific community.

There’s a new Inquisition in operation. If you don’t hold to the agreed-upon theories, then you will not be hired, and if you already have a position, there is a good chance you will lose it if you express your opinion. “In November, 2005 . . . National Public Radio reported that it had talked with 18 university professors and scientists who subscribe to intelligent design. Most would not speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs. One untenured professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia wrote that talking to NPR would be ‘the kiss of death.’ Another said, ‘There is no way I would reveal myself prior to obtaining tenure.’” Tolerance and an open mind are a one-way street when there might be an Inquisitor hiding in the shadows.


References

1. Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York: George Braziller, [1896] 1955), v–vi.

2. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Random House, 1996).

3. John William Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1875), vi.

4. Bob Unruh, “ Congress slams Smithsonian’s anti-religious attacks: Report documents ‘invidious discrimination’ in campaign against Darwin dissenters” (December 16, 2006):
www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53400. The 29-page report can be read at www.souder.house.gov/sitedirector/~files/IntoleranceandthePoliticizationofScienceattheSmithsonian.pdf

5. Jerome R. Corsi and Craig R. Smith, Black Gold Stranglehold (Nashville, TN: WND Books, 2005).

6. Richard Lindsen, “Climate of Fear: Global-Warming Alarmists Intimidate Dissenting Scientists into Silence,” The Wall Street Journal (April 12, 2006)

7. Brendan O’Neill, “Global warming: the chilling effect on free speech” (October 6, 2006)

Gary DeMar is president of American Vision and the author of more than 20 books. His latest is Myths, Lies, and Half Truths.

4 comments:

WomanHonorThyself said...

Some have gone so far as to propose that “global warming deniers” are aiding and abetting a global holocaust and should be prosecuted...How dare they use words like Holocaust just to spread their PC garbage..great read Radar!

cranky old fart said...

"Some have gone so far as to propose that “global warming deniers”..."

"...How dare they..."

"some" and "they"????

Go ahead, give us a source. I triple dog dare ya.

Mazement said...

The reference to Holocaust Denial was interesting. I used to watch the debates on Usenet back in the day.

The deniers' argument was internally consistent. It was something like, "Hitler did set up internment camps, but they were like the camps in California where the Japanese were interned. He didn't intend to exterminate anyone. Towards the end of the war, allied bombing prevented food from getting to the camps and there was widespread starvation among both the inmates and the guards. The 'extermination camps' were a hoax made up by Jews from Hollywood as a coverup for Allied war crimes."

I realized that someone who had just arrived from Mars wouldn't have any idea which side was telling the truth. So I started thinking about how I knew who was right.

The first thing I noticed was that the deniers only had "negative" evidence. They could nitpick at bits of the mainstream view by pointing out minor inconsistencies, but they couldn't come up with positive evidence for their own claims. They just said that the Allies had suppressed or destroyed all the physical evidence, and the eyewitnesses were all too intimidated to speak out.

The second thing I noticed was that the mainstream view was supported by historians of all nationalities, religions, and ideologies. Even some anti-semites agreed that the Holocaust had happened. (They just thought that it had been a good idea.) Deniers, on the other hand, weren't nearly as diverse; they were invariably hard-core anti-semites.

If the Deniers were right, there had to be a vast conspiracy devoted to suppressing the facts. But how could anyone enlist 95%+ of historians and witnesses into such a conspiracy without being found out?

So the Deniers' argument doesn't really make sense. I haven't researched the Holocaust using primary sources myself, but I'm confident that mainstream historians have done the research and that they know what they're talking about.

Now, can we extend this into other fields? How can we tell the difference between "Galileo being persecuted by the Inquisition" and "Random crackpot being snubbed by sensible people"?

I think the two-part test above is a good starting point: (1) Is the minority viewpoint able to present positive evidence that they're right? (2) If not, are they claiming that the evidence is being suppressed by a vast multinational conspiracy?

Based on that, I believe that the Holocaust happened, that global warming is happening and is partly caused by humans, that oil is a non-renewable resource, and that stem-cell research is potentially useful.

I also believe that HIV causes AIDS, that psychics can't speak to the dead, and that humans have walked on the Moon. (Even though those are all "controversial", in the sense that there are crackpots that argue the opposite.)

Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on those:

How do you tell the difference between "correct" minority views and "crackpot" minority views without being an expert in the field? Do you just agree with the stuff that matches your religion and political ideology, or is it more complicated than that?

radar said...

mazement, your comments will be worthy of at least part of a post, for sure...I will respond!

As for Cranky, that entire article was sourced. Look towards the bottom.