OP-ED: Science, Politics, and Religion
By David Drew
Conventional wisdom has it that Politics and Religion are best avoided in polite conversation. This seems sensible enough given that tackling either topic can be like walking on eggshells. As if to make life more difficult, however, science can now be added to the list of emotive topics sometimes best avoided. There is a simple reason for this. Science has become heavily politicised. Worse still, some fields of scientific endeavour seem to engender a religious fervour — dare I say a cult-like mentality — in their advocates. Little wonder we spend so much time talking about the weather in the UK, where discretion is still considered the better part of valour.
At one time, science was simply regarded as a body of knowledge arrived at via measurement and observation, and therefore free from human bias and political chicanery. If only life was so simple. Communism, remember, liked to consider itself ‘scientific and religion free (the opium of the masses)’ but there was a problem. It didn’t work. So much for the science.
In reality, of course, scientific ‘facts’ are generally open to interpretation. One man’s science is another man’s religion, much as one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Subjectivity always creeps in.
The Big Bang is one classic case in point. Is there any aspect of the ‘evidence’ frequently trotted out in its favour that can’t be interpreted to fit a competing cosmology? I am not arguing for or against the Big Bang in this instance, I am merely pointing out that most — if not all — of the claims made in its favour might just as easily be interpreted to fit, say, some variant of a steady-state universe, from the Cosmic Microwave Background and Redshift, to Light Element Abundances and the law of the Conservation of Energy.
For example, the background temperature of space was predicted with more accuracy by a number of steady-state universe proponents before the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) was seized upon by Big Bang supporters. The definitive paper “History of the 2.7 K Temperature Prior to Penzias and Wilson” by Dr. Andre Assis and Dr. C.D. Neves outlines its real history.
Furthermore, according to the latter Conservation of Energy ‘law’, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. The Big Bang, however, creates energy at a titanic rate out of nothingness. Big Bang supporters circumvent this problem by arguing that the initial rapid expansion created the laws of physics which we now observe. Is this not a clear case of circulus in probando (circular reasoning) where the conclusion is the premise? A logical fallacy no less? Logical or otherwise, the claim cannot be falsified, so it remains a priori a leap of faith.
Perhaps Terry Pratchett summed it up best: “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”
As if to further complicate matters, many people of both religious and atheistic persuasions are equally happy to interpret the Big Bang to fit their worldview. The late philosopher, Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist, stated that the biblical creation event had been replaced by the ‘Beauty of the Big Bang.’ It seems he was insinuating that the biblical genesis, metaphorical or otherwise, was somehow less beautiful than its scientific counterpart. But that’s an irrelevance. A mere value judgment. In truth, Hitchen’s conveniently ignored the fact that in 1927 the Big Bang was conceived by the Belgian priest, Abbe Georges Lemaitre, to reconcile science and religion. Lemaitre was, at the time, both a member of the Catholic hierarchy and an accomplished scientist. He said in private that this theory was a way to reconcile science with St. Thomas Aquinas’ theological dictum of creatio ex nihilo or creation out of nothing. Lemaitre described the beginning of the universe as ‘A Day Without Yesterday’ in reference to the creation account in Genesis.
George Gamow, another famous Big Bang proponent, had no compunction in describing the graphs of conditions in the Big Bang as ‘Divine Creation Curves’ and sent a copy of his book The Creation of the Universe to the then Pope.
The plot thickens. Fred Hoyle, not a supporter of the theory, coined the term Big Bang disparagingly, but by way of irony, it stuck. It has been suggested that his persistence in championing a Steady State universe rather than accepting the mainstream Big Bang version was a factor in his being overlooked for a Nobel Prize, even though his work on the creation of chemical elements undoubtedly merited one. Politics again.
“In the end The Universe will have its say.”
~Sir Fred Hoyle
Human nature being what it is, people can be very selective with the ‘facts’ needless to say, but it is no more possible to take the people out of science than it is difficult to take the politics out of the Peer Review and various award processes. I must stress that I am not promoting or denigrating any particular religious belief, or the Big Bang Theory for that matter, although many now regard the BBT as a scientific scripture of sorts. (It is generally considered irreverent to question this particular reification in scientific circles.) I am merely pointing out the subjective nature of many such convictions that may claim to have some basis in science.
Of more concern, I find it saddening when many people who should know better resort to linguistic trickery. The fake dilemma argument is one such classic. This is where it is inferred that there are only two choices, one rational, and the other just plain wrong. Christopher Hitchen’s, mentioned above, was clearly inferring that if you don’t accept the Big Bang you are no better than a Religious Creationist. In truth, the situation is more complex and subtle.
“The extraordinary thing is that scientists accept the Big Bang and in the same breath deride the Creationists.”
There are further complications to the science debate. Many will argue that science is a self-correcting mechanism, and who would disagree? The trouble is that this can be a lengthy process.
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Planck’s words echo the work of the one most famous philosophers of science, Thomas Kuhn, who argued that science progresses by periodic revolutions rather than incrementally. He introduced the term ‘Paradigm Shift’ in his magnum opus, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, first published in 1962. Although controversial at the time, who today would deny that shift happens? A few years after its publication all the talk was of Global Cooling and the threat of a new Ice Age. Evidently, End Time scenarios are not the sole preserve of religious cults.
While there may be differences of opinion in terms of what the scientific method is, and how scientific knowledge should be applied, it is rarely the actual science that is at fault but rather the presentation.
We need to look no further than a notoriously unscrupulous pharmaceutical industry to see this problem at play. It has been caught more than once selectively publishing trial data. Take Prozac, for example, where negative trial results were suppressed. Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and a lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, managed to obtain these results after a Freedom of Information request. His explosive book The Emperor’s New Drugs-Exploding the Antidepressant Myth revealed that Prozac produced results no better than what would be expected from the Placebo effect.
Principally prescribed as an anti-depressant drug, Prozac (chemical, Fluoxetine) made its manufacturers, Eli Lilly, billions of dollars over many years, despite well documented negative and dangerous side effects. It is even on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, where it is described as one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
The pharmaceutical industry is very adept at political lobbying, and a number of critics also point out that they have furthered their interests by the simple expedient of funding various regulatory bodies. Clearly, science is not invulnerable to political meddling.
When it comes to Anthropogenic Global Warming or Climate Change, or whatever the current buzzwords are, it seems that science has been compromised beyond mere fraud and political chicanery . . . to something more akin to a bizarre religious cult. Its extreme advocates, many on the far left of the political spectrum, have gone as far as calling for the incarceration of ‘deniers’ and even the death penalty. It is not as if anyone is denying that the climate changes, mind you. The real question, of course, is generally avoided by the alarmists. Does human activity have any significant impact on natural climate cycles and variations? Despite what some claim, this question, as with any true scientific endeavour, is very much open to debate.
The infamous Climate Gate scandal may have shaken the AGW lobby to its core, but the pseudo-environmental cult continues unabated, and the fraudulent ‘97% of scientists agree’ claim is still uttered with monotonous regularity. Well, why let the facts get in the way of a good horror story? Fear sells. Without exception, every consensus claim has been exposed as a statistical manipulation which doesn’t bear scrutiny.
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.”
Religious leaders have also jumped on the bandwagon, perhaps fearing they were losing ground in the self-righteous league table. Apparently, Pope Francis said the halting response to climate change reminded him of a phrase from the Old Testament — Humankind is a stupid and stubborn man that does not see. It can only be a matter of time before someone predicts Fire and Brimstone to accompany the next ‘extreme’ weather event.
With few exceptions, the mainstream media are also singing from the same hymn sheet. Virtue signaling is the name of the game and CO2 the new bogeyman. The BBC excelled themselves when they declared a policy decision to give unequal time to sceptics after consultation with their expert climate panel, the membership of which they refused to divulge. What did they have to hide? They even hired a team of expensive lawyers to rebut a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Eventually, the panel membership leaked out, and it included numerous climate alarmists from various green lobby groups, a Church of England representative . . . and only two scientists. The BBC head of comedy also attended the first policy meeting. Maybe the BBC was having a laugh, but at whose expense? This particular scandal was dubbed 28 Gate.
Wikipedia, now an effective gatekeeper for consensus science, may have started out with good intentions, but its veritable army of ideologues and its hierarchy of editors ensure that alternative views are not only suppressed but, when they do occasionally get to see the light of day, a negative spin is almost always imposed upon them … if not outright misinformation.
On one page, Wikipedia dismisses anyone who questions the supposed AGW ‘consensus’ as a Conspiracy Theorist. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_conspiracy_theory) Bizarrely, lower on the same page, they indulge in another conspiracy theory, insinuating that the vast majority of climate change scepticism is funded by Big Oil. The irony appears lost on them.
By now you can no doubt see where I am going with this. While many might like to think that science somehow remains aloof from the vagaries of politics and religion, the reality is that it can be almost impossible to separate all three, and it is a simple matter to demonstrate as much. More often than not, Science, Politics, and Religion are inextricably entwined.
Ironically, you might also say that they are irreconcilably linked. Whichever way you look at it, many of the central tenets of ‘science’ today owe at least as much to convention as they do wisdom.
“The hostility of the state would be assured toward any system or science that might not strengthen its arm.”
~Henry Brooks Adams
David Drew, who hails from the UK, has enjoyed a long interest in science, philosophy, and cosmology. He has been involved with the Electric Universe since around 2004 and published his own website, plasmacosmology.net in 2006. The purpose of his website is to provide an introduction to the emerging Plasma Universe paradigm and to explore some of the many far-reaching implications. David was the first to publish videos promoting EU ideas on YouTube and other video sharing platforms. One of the most popular of these explores parallels with the work of the cult hero, Nikola Tesla (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akM9KNEv_JE). David is also known as The Soupdragon.
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