Thursday, October 27, 2011

Science is inherently anti-authoritarian

That's a quote from Shawn Lawrence Otto, talking about his new book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Otto's remark is a pithy distillation of why science is under such assault. Here's a graf from Lori Sturdevent's op-ed at the link:
Author Otto points out that science is inherently anti-authoritarian. The new knowledge it generates shakes up the status quo and disrupts defenders of old ideas. It always has. Today's rejection of climate change science by many Republican elected officials is in keeping with the behavior of authority figures through the centuries.
Boy, oh boy, who does that remind you of? For me, it's Katherine "timeless" Kersten, who has written so often about the "timeless values" of the -- especially Catholic -- church that it would be fruitless to try to recount them.

But Katie is not alone; Joel Adkins, writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops (he's their chief lobbyist), echoed the same refrain in his op-ed in support of the marriage discrimination referendum.

And they're not exactly aberrations. As I've observed before, every time there is the smallest bit of social or scientific progress, there is always some cleric (or the mouthpiece for one) somewhere pulling hard on the other end of rope. Their record is, as far as I can tell, unblemished.

But the Galileo moment always finally arrives. You remember Galileo, the guy who was almost burned at the stake by the Italian Inquisition and spent the rest of his life under house arrest because -- that devilish heretic -- he said that the earth revolved around the sun? It wasn't until 1992 that the Pope said, aw, shucks, just kidding!

The Catholics and the evangelicals will someday come around and recognize the science of sexual orientation, concluding finally that the writers of Leviticus and the Apostle Paul were primitives -- and I mean that in the very nicest pre-science sense of that term.

In the meantime though, it is up to those of us who have figured it out to champion the cause of our gay and lesbian friends and family members.

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