RenSciRevoProject

The Ethics of Science: Gagging Science in an Age of Creationism, Homosexuality, and Toxic Ideology

It has been said that history repeats itself. Today, as in the past, science has come under attack. You’ve heard of creationists, Marxists, and Catholics gagging science, but have you heard of the LGBTQ persecution of science? Probably not. But it is most certainly happening.

In 1557 the Catholic Church established its “Index of Forbidden Books.” The Index would later include all writings written by Protestants, be they religious theologians, philosophers, or natural scientists. Anyone who was a “protestant” was not capable of writing anything worthy of being read by a Catholic. In 1633 the Catholic Church began its notorious persecution of Galileo Galilei. He proposed the then idiosyncratic idea that the sun was at the center of our universe, supporting Aristarchus of Samos, who first introduced the world to heliocentrism in the 4th century BCE, and Copernicus, who worked in the 16th century. Though the world at large did not buy into heliocentrism, the Catholic Church, for various reasons, decided that persecution was better than merely ignoring Galileo. And so began one of the most well known gaggings of science in religious history.[1]

The religious elite of the time, the ones who were in power, found scientific truth to be religiously offensive, as it (possibly) contradicted the Bible. Given such subjective “offensiveness,” Galileo was gagged. God forbid that some objective fact like heliocentrism might offend our religious tastes! However, as we all know, as time went on, people gradually accepted heliocentrism. They accepted this “offensive truth” and decided to deal with it rather than ignore it.

The persecution of Galileo did not go unnoticed by those who were writing on the borders of, what was then deemed, “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy.” René Descartes, for example, hearing of Galileo’s persecution, considered burning all of his works in fear of his life.[2] Such was the state of science in an age of gagging and toxic ideologies.

Fast-forward several hundred years to a time where “science” is the god of the age. In November of 1978 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science located in Washington, D.C., before five hundred scientists, E. O. Wilson was about to deliver a speech on the then-emerging field of “sociobiology.” Before he could begin delivering his evidence-based lecture, a group of radical Marxists ran on stage chanting, “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” They grabbed at the microphone, caused all kinds of chaos, and ended up dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on Wilson, who was dressed in a business suit. He later got up to a standing ovation.[3] But the persecution in an age of gagging and toxic ideology did not stop there. A fellow friend of Wilson’s, biological anthropologist Lionel Tiger, relates that he had more than an “ice-bucket challenge” handed to him; he was served a bomb threat. “In addition to slander and calumny…I have received bomb threats at lectures…”[4]

Regarding these events, William D. Gairdner wittingly writes that, when it comes to offensive truths, the species to persecute those speaking such truths is none other than “Homo academicus.”[5] The radicals who attacked Wilson were social scientists specializing in the social sciences—where the word “science” is virtually silent. “They were scientists who knew they were under attack…but this time from science itself!”[6] And so we have the obvious: whatever subjectively “offends” a particular scientist must be ignored or, as so often happens, persecuted. If biological determinism offends a scientist, it must be treated with contempt. If sociobiology offends Marxists, it must be attacked. If anthropology, cosmology, archaeology, and biology threaten to disprove young-earth creationism, the young-earth creationist must attack “science,” for it most certainly “offends” him (or her).

In much more recent times, we have also witnessed the rise of young-earth creationism. This is a movement that does not deal with science. It is a movement that mostly attempts to ignore science or, much more commonly, explain it away. Science, in the broad sense, essentially is a systematic attempt to understand the natural world around us by empirical observation and reproducible experiment. Young-earth creationism mostly ignores “empirical observations” made by scientists. Why do they ignore the evidence? Simply because it offends them. Empirical evidence such as the “red-shift” or the visible light of stars a billion light-years away are explained away. “As most of us know, if light comes to us from an object that is a billion light-years away, then the light had to be travelling for a billion years.”[7] Apparently what appears obvious to most people is not obvious to others. So the young-earth creationists need to have their own theologians and Christian scientists try to talk some common sense into them. For every Ken Ham, Henry Morris, or Kent Hovind there are ten thousand scientists from a vast array of different religious persuasions, cultures, continents, etc. objecting to their ludicrous claims. It is no surprise, therefore, that what we have here is fear of science. Henry Morris honestly writes: “It is precisely because biblical revelation is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of Scripture.”[8] According to other sources, the original text further added this forthright sentence: “There is not the slightest possibility that the facts of science can contradict the Bible.”[9] Clearly, we are not dealing with science here; we are dealing with an ideology grounded in a particular interpretation of a set, authoritative, infallible text. The young-earth creationists are not out to do science, strictly speaking, they are out to explain away the evidence and, at times, ignore it. And if it sneaks up on them, they persecute it because it “offends” them.

Fast-forward a couple more decades and you come to the twenty-first century. We find ourselves at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the world: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The fact that it is associated with Harvard Medical School should make us cognizant of the fact that this certainly must be a place where reason, empirical research, and the scientific method reign. But this is not so. Science is again being threatened by a toxic ideology. Somebody is being offended. And offending somebody in an age of gagging, “witch-hunts,” and bomb threats is to be feared. A urologist of some thirty years is about to be fired because he invokes the scientific method and empirical data. But that’s not all: when the empirical evidence offends people, that’s when the shit really hits the fan. Dr. Paul Church is being persecuted by those who fear science. Like the Catholics who persecuted Galileo; like the Marxists who persecuted Wilson; like the young-earthers who felt offended by science, the LGBTQ community is offended by…science. And so science is being kicked out of…well, science. Apparently scientists can’t cite empirical data anymore—without fear of losing their jobs. Like Descartes of old, Dr. Paul Church is in a rush to “burn his papers.” What is Church’s crime? He wants homosexuals who are sexually active to be aware of the dangers of anal sex. “Although it has declined over the past few decades, two-thirds of all new HIV/AIDS infections in the U.S. are the result of men having sex with men. Fifty percent of ‘gay’ men will be infected with HIV by age 50. Those numbers are out there and they are staggering.”[10] In a world where scientists cannot practice science, where doctors cannot tell their patients what the empirical data suggests, this is the world of Catholic witch-hunts and the Dark Ages. This world, this very thing that Beth Israel is helping create, will not be a world in which its own existence will not be threatened. Who needs science when we have feelings—feelings that are, often times, “offended”?

In 2007, Church’s concerns were posted anonymously on a blog by Paul Levy. The blog received many comments. Some of them reflected this fear of science. He was called “ignorant and hateful.”[11] I assume by “ignorant” the commentator meant “aware of empirical evidence despite subjectively responsive feelings.”

My thoughts about these comments are numerous. If a patient comes into your clinic and you perform a CT scan and find a cancerous growth, are you obligated to “hurt” the patient’s feelings by giving them the empirical data or…? You find a couple that does not want to have more children come in for a visit. Upon ultrasound, you are pretty sure that the wife is pregnant. Do you withhold this “toxic” and “emotionally damaging” information? You have an obese patient come in for a yearly check up. The cholesterol levels are nearing a thousand. The man comes in with a bag of Doritos in one hand and a 32-ounce soda in the other. (With pizza from earlier in the morning stuck in his beard.) Do you warn the patient of health risks? You have a gay couple visit you. They practice anal sex four times a week. Are you obligated, as a physician, to tell them what the empirical evidence suggests? Or are you supposed to have them watch Oprah and tell them to eat Bon Bons?

We have come to the issue of ethics now. The ethics of science. As a scientist, what was Wilson to do? Was he to please the Marxist crowds and avoid discussing his findings? What are the cosmologists to do? Are they to stick to the a particular interpretation of the Bible and dismiss all evidence of a billion-year-old earth? What is Dr. Paul Church supposed to do as a physician who, inherently, must warn society of risky behaviors? At which point do we go into a science class and ask for feel-good psychology? We all know that in science classrooms they teach empirical science—without recourse to your “feelings” about the subject. We all know that in healthcare doctors and nurses are encouraged to engage in evidence-based practices.

I would like to conclude with the following thoughts. First, this old and new overbearing presence of toxic ideologies is damaging to the progress of science and reason. Such ideologies, to invoke a modified version of Morris’s dictum, are guided by the following: “It is precisely because homosexual propoganda is absolutely authoritative and perspicuous that the scientific facts, rightly interpreted, will give the same testimony as that of our feelings.” We didn’t need to change much (just the words in italics) and we have come full circle. Welcome to the golden age of gaggings: where the scientist is persecuted for offending creationists, homosexuals, social scientists, and all other people who believe their feelings make objective facts obsolete. Second, I must speak of the ethics of science. All science is to be practiced without the need of invoking emotions. Science is to remain untainted by the fountains of subjective feelings. As much as possible, scientists need to be free to present their evidence without fear of offending others. Science is the offense—it cares not about your feelings. If you want to exercise your feelings, go to a yoga class. As for Dr. Paul Church, kudos to him for standing behind science and reason.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

FOOTNOTES:
[1] William E. Burns, The Scientific Revolution: An Encyclopedia, s.v. “Religion and Science,” (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2001).

[2] Ibid., 271.

[3] Ullica Segerstrale, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 23. Also see William D. Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defense of Universals (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), 120-2.

[4] Ibid., 143.

[5] William D. Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defense of Universals, 122.

[6] Ibid.

[7] David Snoke, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 25.

[8] Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism (Green Forest: Master Books, 1974), 15.

[9] Alice B. Kehoe, “The Word of God,” in Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. Laurie R. Godfrey (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1983), 1. Italics original.

[10] Quoted in Jack Minor, “Doc Faces Boot for Citing ‘Gay’ Health Dangers,” World Net Daily, June 27, 2015, accessed July 10, 2015, http://www.wnd.com/2015/06/doc-faces-boot-for-citing-gay-health-dangers.

[11] Pete Baklinski, “Leading U.S. Hospital Fires Doctor for Raising Concerns About Health Risks of Gay Sex,” Life Site News, June 25, 2015, accessed July 10, 2015, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/leading-boston-hospital-fires-doctor-for-raising-concerns-about-health-risk.

The Supremacy of Subjectivity: Why Objectivity is a Contingent Truth

The modern age is full of humans who trust in nothing but the so-called “objective” scientific method. In the past, the Pope handed down to the majority of the world what was deemed respectable, absolutely true, and dogmatically certain. Today, with a few name changes and a swapping of terms, we have the scientific community handing down religious dogma shrouded in the cloak of scientific truth. In the past, as history shows us, one could not question the Pope. Martin Luther attempted to do this and faced a council, retaliation, and essentially, social suicide. He was a marked man the moment he called into question the ruling authorities of the day. One does not need to be a genius today to know who or what is the domineering authority today. In fact, there is no use in my telling you. You already know. Science prides itself in being able to hand down something that is warm, fuzzy, and absolutely cozy to modern sensibilities. If a scientist told you anything—and I mean anything—you would do everything he or she (or it) commands you. Science’s commands are absolute. There is no escaping both the beauty of science and the horror of it. It hands you nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. Its only truth, in this particular case, is the reality that mass equals energy. And where lies the truth of science? That may or may not be debatable. On the one hand, it is a fact—an empirical one—that mass equals energy. “How so,” one may ask, “Is it fact?” “Well,” one may respond, “It is fact precisely because more than one person agrees on what he or she is subjectively experiencing—in other words, there is an agreement between two or more subjectivities.” What matters here is to note that objectivity arises out of that awful, abstract, misunderstood notion of subjectivity—that bastard of a thing! How could the world’s most glorious idea—the idea of objectivity (and it is merely a metaphysical idea and nothing more)—come out of of such a putrid thing? How could objectivity be grounded in the very thing it is attempting to deny? How could objectivity arise out of the confrontation of two or more subjectivities? Objectivity responds by denying the reality of subjectivity, like a daughter who denies the reality of her body housing her mother’s genes. Science’s response, in some circles, has been to suggest the idea (again, a very metaphysical “thing”) that, in fact, subjectivity is merely an illusion: all that really is real is the material, the neuronal, the scientifically attainable. Nothing outside of objectivity really exists—the rest is an illusion. “Yes,” some scientist shrouded in his religious white cloak and thick mystical goggles might say, “We have discovered that the only thing that is real is that upon which two or more subjective beings agree upon—so long as there is scientific consensus, we accept that as empirical fact, infallible (relative to the day) truth.” In the past, they had councils and synods; today, they have peer-review journals and scientific consensus. Same shit (for the most part), different day. But where art thou, Subjectivity? What happened to thou? Were you, too, persecuted by the scientific community? Did the “men in the white religious cloaks” banish you from the precincts of society? Were you, too, crucified like the Messiah, outside the streets of Jerusalem—err, outside the halls of the university laboratory? Did they annihilate you and reduce you to nonsense? In their religious zeal—for what more could it be?—did they take away individual freedom. No longer are certain aspects of the world considered “free to roam.” We cannot entertain thoughts questioning them. We, the individuals, have exchanged freedom to think whatever the hell we like for a scientific consensus. In return, we had been given health, electronics, modern and lonely society, etc. In fact, I heard we will be taking flights to the moon soon. Maybe we will even colonize it. So long as nobody questions the terrorists in the white lab coats; the ones in bed with big government, corporate America, and anything that smells of money. So long as they get their tax-sponsored government grants, for their all-important research (such as how to perfect torture, brain wash people, dictate people by means of mass-psychological manipulation, create weapons of mass destruction, mass surveillance, etc., etc.)—paid by, you, the tax payer. In the past, yet again a parallel, the Church collected so-called “tithes.” The Pope needed the palace built in Rome. Today, it is not much different. Your landlord has changed, his beliefs have changed, his weapons of mass destruction have taken on a new “flavor.” Back then, the peasants had the Crusades; today, you have drones striking down Pakistan civilians. (But, please, listen to your sensible Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature [2011]: the world is a much safer place to live than in the past.) Back then, we had court-sponsored prophets, like Micaiah, tickling the ears of King Ahab; today, we have Pinker tickling the ears of the modern elite inhabiting the upper echelons of Harvard society. “We have made progress—we are becoming (almost) angels!” The modern court prophets tickle the eardrums of people who like to hear “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. But Pinker’s ass isn’t the one being fried by American drones in Pakistan. So, it makes perfect sense. Enough about court prophets. We are dealing with the irreligious elite who dictate what we should and should not do. It’s time to say the “f-word” to the Ten Commandments. We need the bazillion mandates that the scientific community is now imposing upon us. Ten is a bazillion commands too little. For every laboratory experiment a white coat terrorist performs, ten pills and ten vaccines are manufactured; for every idea entertained in the lofty courtyards of science halls in a given university, ten mandates are handed down to us—no, you—the people. The Pope’s reign of terror was a bunch of bullshit compared to this. It’s coming. The fact that I would disagree with the elite maybe never struck them as something that is valid. I mean, God, it is a subjective appraisal of an objective truth. Who the hell cares what I, a mere human being, thinks? Right? It is not like I have  some sort of white robe on. I am not a pope, neither do I have access to bishops or cardinals. I simply do what I am told. Because a white coat terrorist told me so. He terrorizes my freedom to think, to believe, to do anything that would allow me to be human. If freedom is a cardinal truth, then scientists are its terrorists. But we have already strayed too far. From whence does objectivity arise? Objectivity arises when two or more subjective individuals, limited as they are by their limited experience, successfully observe, record, and/or experience a given hypothetical noumenon, in which the noumenon is understood to be subjectively and phenomenologically similar to what is being observed by the Other. That is, when Einstein observed that E=mc2, this observation was confirmed and found to be similar to what other subjective human individuals experienced. As this subjective agreement increased in number, its truth increased proportionally. If E=mc2 only for Einstein—and not for the subjective world at large—it would not be considered an empirical fact, it would not be an objective truth, neither would it have scientific consensus. And so, we have come full circle. Objectivity presupposes, first and foremost, the cardinality and supremacy of subjectivity. Apart from subjectivity, objectivity doth not exist. And, hence, objectivity is a contingent truth; it is contingent upon the necessary existence of subjectivity.

But what do I mean that “objectivity does not exist”? Surely if there is a tree falling in the forest with no one to observe it, there remains a tree falling, right? By “objectivity” I mean that noumenon which exists outside of the mind (i.e., being mind-independent) but is, at the moment, being observed by an observer. All observers are, strictly speaking, subjective; all observations made are, strictly speaking, subjective. It is usually out of this chaos of subjectivities that we come to “objective” truths. They exist “out there,” so to speak—but in being perceived, they become “in here” (in our minds). But the object is never really “known” by us, is it? We may doubt its existence. We may need another human individual to confirm our suspicions. In any case, we are dependent upon the human mind. And the human mind is not a perfect machine. We are just as error-ridden as, well, anything else. Even if, theoretically speaking, we were able to have an objective object before us, and we were able to spend much time observing it, the object would never cross our subject-object barrier (just like certain medications cannot cross the blood-brain barrier). It would always remain, forever, unattainable and “out there.”
Epistemologically, I am merely restating the limits of human reason. Nothing more. Along with Thomas Kuhn, I myself do not claim to be a relativist. However, as it is quite obvious, I am certainly a subjectivist. That is, everything that I know—or claim to know—is thoroughly grounded in my own being, my mind, my subjectivity. As for absolute truths, I have little doubt in theoretically contemplating their existence. However, when it comes to empirically proving things, I am quite certain that this is easier said than done. Moreover, to be more clear, my main objection should be seen as a corrective to subjective approaches shrouded in the cloaks of objectivity. In other words, I am critical of a culture which claims objective knowledge of a given thing when no such objective knowledge exists. Anecdotally speaking, I hear the term “objective” thrown around quite often. It is to this abuse of the term that I am primarily reacting to.
Have I denied objectivity? I do not think so. I merely pointed out that objectivity (at the very least, some forms of objectivity) are reached by means of a democratic consensus amongst subjective human individuals. We might call this a “scientific consensus” or a “scholarly consensus.” That such forms of objectivity exist are, I believe, not really disputed. Finally, as a concluding comment, this writing is, as I see it, mostly to be read as a piece that helps us work together towards attaining absolute Truths. While we may disagree on how that is done, we should all keep our minds open to robust criticism and healthy disagreement. At times, one must step back and reevaluate one’s work: is it really as objective as one thought it were?

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev