21 September 2008

Not even the smallest deviation

“In a Party Member ... not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated.”
Professor Michael Reiss, former Director of Education at the Royal Society, has resigned following a talk given to the British Association, in which he suggested that science lessons in schools should permit discussions of creationism — rather than making the very mention of the concept taboo.

Whether he fell on his sword or was pushed seems fairly immaterial. The incident reflects the apparent unwillingness of the il-liberal elite to allow any discussion of the key dogmas of their worldview — evolution, man-made climate change, ‘inequality is wrong, and increasing’, and so on. To some extent it's irrelevant to their policy what the 'correct' views du jour are, though most tend to be highly correlated with reductionism and egalitarianism. Whatever the current consensus happens to be, that is the correct belief, and no other should be expressed, at least not on any forum controlled by them. And since they control all forums of significance, or at least control which ones are regarded as legitimate, it effectively means a near-complete stifling of free speech.

Tom Whipple
also has a point when he says that “we choose cartoonish half-truths over complex reality. Professor Reiss is the victim of a culture where all arguments must be expressible in a sentence”. Everything — including whether an individual is guilty of violating a taboo — has to be adjudicated quickly, taking into account the fewest possible factors in the most mechanical way. Yes, that’s right, it’s cartoonisation.

Apparently Royal Society Fellow Sir Harold Kroto regarded Reiss’s original appointment as “dangerous” and now says “I did not realise how dangerous it would turn out to be.” Kroto’s image of the US cultural scene, which he worries will infect Britain, seems bizarre.
I don't know if it is too late to stop the slide in Britain, but I think it is in the US where they [the religious right] have now almost complete control over politics, the judiciary, education, business, journalism and television.
Please. Outside Christianity itself, it's hard to think of any components of the US cultural establishment — other than perhaps Fox News and the Hoover Institution — where the Right could be regarded as bucking the trend of left-wing hegemony.

The Observer’s science editor adds darkly that it should be noted that the Royal Society’s President “attends church”. Very sinister.

It is nonsense to suggest there are dangerous forces of pro-creationism at work in Britain, with sufficient power that they could undermine the cause of science. That is a version of the standard il-liberal fantasy in which you pretend you are the radical outsider having to defend truth and justice against an evil establishment, while in reality you utterly dominate the cultural landscape and simply cannot bear to be contradicted.

Disclosure: I personally find the Theory of Evolution very plausible.