Hugh Hewitt Unhinged
One of the corollaries of the Warfare Thesis is scientism, the view of science as the objective source of truth. Poets deal with subjective feelings but scientists, in their spotless white lab coats, deal in unimpeachable facts. It is not uncommon to see “science” referred to as the authoritative source of all kinds of truths. We are told, for example, that products are scientifically proven and that research has now explained why people hold religious beliefs.
But scientism is not limited to advertisements and tabloids. In a recent Washington Post editorial piece, Fred Hiatt bemoans the fact that public opinion is not always aligned with scientific consensus. Hiatt’s opening sentence leaves little doubt what’s coming: “Sophisticated readers know a science denier when they see one.”
This is all Warfare Thesis. There are science “deniers” and there are sophisticated people who can spot them. If you disagree with “science” (as if there is such a monolithic thing), you are not a concerned or thoughtful citizen, you are a denier. In this “we versus them” world, the negative connotation is obvious.
Hiatt criticizes the “southern Bible-thumper denying the fossil in front of his nose.” Ah yes, those “southern Bible-thumpers.” They’re still denying the fossils, aren’t they. We really should do something about them.
Hiatt goes on to quote from polls showing that 88 percent of scientists believe genetically modified foods are safe to eat, compared with only 37 percent of the public; that 87 percent of scientists believe that climate change is mostly caused by human activity, compared with only 50 percent of the public; and that 98 percent of scientists believe that humans have evolved over time, compared with only 65 percent of the public.
Shouldn’t the public accede to the professionals? Shouldn’t we all accept the fact of man-made global warming? One wonders what Hiatt would do with the 13 percent of scientists who don’t go along with the politically-charged conclusion.
Hiatt apparently is not bothered that climate research is not exactly double-blind. Blackballing, funding pressures, career threats, peer-review manipulation, editorial board controls and even shutting down journals altogether are all part of the “science.”
Does Hiatt understand that science is conducted by humans and not robots? Humans with political, cultural, religious, social and career pressures and concerns. A few years ago global cooling was the concern. Indeed, as philosophers well understand, scientific consensus changes with the seasons and is hardly a paragon of truth. Scientists thought continental drift was crazy and that genetic mutations must be independent of need. Even Einstein rejected quantum mechanics. All of these are now well accepted.
None of this means that man-made global warming is not true. In spite of the data adjustments, and in spite of the thoughtful concerns that have been expressed, it may well be true. But we don’t need to start calling names when people aren’t sure.
What is disturbing about Hiatt’s editorial is that it appeared in the Washington Post, one of the nation’s leading newspapers. This dangerous exhibition of Warfare Thesis stereotypes and scientism is what leading opinion makers are thinking.
Nor is this merely a rare mistake of one journalist. This month’s cover of the venerable National Geographic magazine, pictured above, could hardly be a more explicit proclamation of the Warfare Thesis mythology. Inside Joel Achenbach explains the battle. He propagates the Flat Earth myth because, as he explains, some guy in South Dakota in 1893 built a flat-Earth model. And Achenbach ridicules any doubt about man-made global warming as a conspiracy theory. “The idea that hundreds of scientists,” writes Achenbach, “from all over the world would collaborate on such a vast hoax is laughable.”
Laughable? Apparently Achenbach is unaware that scientists “from all over the world” have agreed on all kinds of theories that were later discarded as clearly false. And what about the scientists who do not agree? Even James Lovelock admits that he was “a Little Too Certain.” Dismissive language and delegitimization are not helping.
This latest round of the Warfare Thesis has also featured concerns about vaccines. The most significant work in the formation of the Warfare Thesis was Andrew Dickson White’s 1896 volume, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. White took the mythology to new levels, covering a wide spectrum of topics including vaccinations. Today, vaccinations continue to service the myth as evidenced by various commentators.
Radio journalist Hugh Hewitt, for example, has been castigating parents who do not vaccinate their children, assuring his listeners that vaccines are safe and the decision is a no-brainer. What about the many vaccine injuries? Hewitt echoes Hume with the absurd refrain that correlation does not imply causation. How then does Hewitt advocate vaccines in the first place?
CNN has also been attacking the vaccine issue. Reporter Sanjay Gupta recently interviewed the U.S. Surgeon General, urging him to recommend a federal law mandating vaccinations. Gupta became increasingly concerned in the interview, suggesting to the Surgeon General that those who do not vaccinate have sinister motives. Gupta unequivocally declared vaccines to be safe while the CNN anchor Jake Tapper was visibly angered at the thought of anyone declining vaccinations.
The message that vaccines carry no risk is simply a lie and an example of the dangers of White’s false history. Consider Lorrin Kain who died on December 22, 2009. In the spring of 1994, at the age of 6 weeks, Lorrin’s parents took their baby to be vaccinated. Their lives would never be the same. Lorrin sustained severe brain damage and would have uncontrolled seizures for the rest of her life. At the age of 15 she finally succumbed. And now the Kain’s are being told that the decision to vaccinate is clear-cut and that vaccines carry no risk.