Medieval superstition thrives in America
In many ways, medieval superstition is still alive and well in the United States.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times brought that reality into sharp focus as it discussed how despite groundbreaking advances in science throughout 2017 willful ignorance remains rampant in our majority-Christian and predominantly faith-based land.
In April, hundreds of thousands of worried scientists streamed into American streets across the country to warn of the existential dangers posed by our aggressively truth- and science-averse new president and the anti-intellectual citizens he represents. The protestors hoisted signs with whimsical but cautionary slogans, such as “I can’t believe I’m marching for facts.”
A Sept. 9 New York Times editorial also sounded a stark warning. “From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science,” the editorial noted, “appointing few people with few scientific credentials, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner, safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.”
Most recently, the Trump administration ostensibly began to censoring seven terms, each of which reflects animus against settled scientific findings and practice, or words that conservatives feel do not uphold Christian, alt-right values. The prohibited terms: diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender, and vulnerable. Science advocates quickly and broadly attacked this new assault on scientific inquiry as “an Orwellian attack on scientific integrity,” “absurd,” “irrational,” and “censorship.”
In particular, the pogrom discouraging the use of the terms “evidence-based” and “science-based” in government documents is a rejection of what science stands for: objective truth based on empirical evidence. The president’s base of supporters is overwhelmingly made up of older, white, poorly educated, conservative Republican Christians who subscribe to fundamentalist Christian ideals that reject the objective material realities science explains. In other words, they reject the real for the surreal.
In the meantime, while Christianity has yet to confirm any of its core assumptions in the real world, science has spectacularly succeeded in confirming some of its own. These include successfully using groundbreaking gene and drug therapies to halt the growth of certain cancers, discovering a new relatively nearby solar system with earth-like planets, completing a 13-year study of Saturn by an on-site space vehicle, and determing that the devastating brain anomalies emerging in former football players are caused by a cascade of little hits to the head over years, not a few big ones. These are critically important findings, all evidence- and science-based. The only wishful thinking involved preceded the concrete science.
Things weren’t so different when Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) fearfully declined to make public his findings that the earth actually revolved around the sun, which science confirmed, rather than the opposite, which scripture implied and the Catholic Church aggressively defended by attacking opponents.
Today, Donald Trump is likewise rejecting the nearly universal consensus among scientists that human activity is contributing to the planet’s insidious warming, because his fact-phobic followers trust the supernatural more than reality and he wants them to keep supporting him. Also, GOP capitalists fear a loss of profits if use of hugely lucrative climate-warming fossil fuels is restricted. The president wants government scientists to fear talking truth to power while he invents for them the political “truth” he wants them to ingest.
Keep in mind that the Church’s resistance to Copernican ideas in the 16th century stopped the promising advancement of astronomy in its tracks for centuries thereafter. Arbitrary censorship matters.