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.

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