So when I got another carrier pigeon message from our friend, Guy Noir - Private Eye, precisely about this issue, I was thrilled ... only to have my hopes of giving this topic a thorough treatment dashed by an email I just received from the University of Notre Dame Press telling me they're interested in publishing my manuscript; and they want to know how soon I can get them the entire manuscript with completed edits. Ugh! What can you do? Sometimes I wish I could bi-locate like St. Padre Pio and be working on one thing at one desk and another thing at another right beside it.
So, in brief, here's the lowdown from Noir:
Over at Catholic World Report there is a feature on Karl Keating's takedown of the Geocentrists. [Carl E. Olson, "Circling the New Geocentrists: An Interview with Karl Keating" (CWR, February 13, 2015): "A new book by the founder of Catholic Answers addresses the scientific mistakes, theological errors, and conspiracy-minded promoters of geocentrism."] I too find the Geocentrists more than a bit ... discomfiting ... But, I think there is more than a small axe being ground here.Indeed. Science itself isn't magic. It's simply knowledge (scientia, in Latin); or, more to-the-point, it's the claim of some individuals to know something that others don't. Those of us who to graduate school know that we learned more and more about less and less, until we learned almost everything about nothing. Which leads to my little secret about the scientist who tells you about what happened billions and billions of years ago: he's generally someone who knows so much about so little that he's probably blowing hot air. But it will be interesting. Probably as interesting as the Teutonic myths you may have studied in elementary school.
Are Geocentrists a priority of Catholic apologetics, at such a time as this?!
Rome bats its eyes at liberation theologians and maps out ways to welcome gay pairings, and we worry about the SSPX? Catholic biblical scholarship jumps its rails and exalts Kasper as exegete celbré, the Vatican gets more insistent about evolution than about classic doctrine, and we worry about a guy who writes a faithful Catholic commentary and promotes inerrancy? (Is this in sync with the Pontifical Biblical Commission saving its most worrisome rhetoric for 'fundamentalists,' or Fr. Feeney getting excommunicated while Fr. de Chardin gets exonerated by Fr. De Lubac?).
Geocentrists to me seem backwoods in their claims, but I think they seem pretty advanced in that most people can't follow either side of the arguments. But I am not sure they matter much regardless, given everyone blinks on certain questions of 'established science.' I get [understand] dismissing them, but not clubbing them. Here is [Jonah] Goldberg: "All Hail Science!" (NRO, February 14, 2015):So my column from yesterday was about the quizzing of Scott Walker and other Republicans about evolution. This is an incessant question every four years. And while it deserves to be cessant, it will never will be. (Okay, I’m done now.)
As many have noted, liberals in and out of the media are very selective in their celebration of science. Guy Benson reminded me of this nicely splenetic post I wrote three years ago in the Corner:Why does the Left get to pick which issues are the benchmarks for “science”? Why can’t the measure of being pro-science be the question of heritability of intelligence? Or the existence of fetal pain? Or the distribution of cognitive abilities among the sexes at the extreme right tail of the bell curve? Or if that’s too upsetting, how about dividing the line between those who are pro- and anti-science along the lines of support for geoengineering? Or — coming soon — the role cosmic rays play in cloud formation? Why not make it about support for nuclear power? Or Yucca Mountain? Why not deride the idiots who oppose genetically modified crops, even when they might prevent blindness in children?Recently, others have made this point better than I have, but as the Marines say of their rifles, this “news”letter is mine.
Some of these examples are controversial, others tendentious, but all are just as fair as the way the Left framed embryonic stem-cell research and all are more relevant than questions about evolution. (Quick: If Obama changed his mind about evolution tomorrow and became a creationist, what policies would change? I’ll wait.)
The point is that the Left considers itself the undisputed champion of “science,” but there are scads of issues where they take un-scientific points of view.
Sure they can cite dissident scientists — just as conservatives can — on this or that issue. But everyone knows that when the science directly threatens the Left’s pieties, it’s the science that must bend — or break. During the Larry Summers fiasco at Harvard, comments delivered in the classic spirit of open inquiry and debate cost Summers his job. Actual scientists got the vapors because he violated the principles not of science but of liberalism. During the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration dishonestly claimed that its independent experts supported a drilling moratorium. They emphatically did not. The president who campaigned on basing his policies on “sound science” ignored his own hand-picked experts. According to the GAO, he did something very similar when he shut down Yucca Mountain. His support for wind and solar energy, as you suggest, isn’t based on science but on faith. And that faith has failed him dramatically.
The idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing liberal hogwash. I see no reason why conservatives should even argue the issue on their terms when it’s so clearly offered in bad faith in the first place.
Anyway, what I find really intriguing is the way people talk about “science” as if it is so much more — and occasionally less — than it is. Critics on Twitter and in my e-mail box say we need to know if Scott Walker “believes in science,” as if his answer on evolution will tell us if he’s a witch burner or not.
Well, I regularly get e-mail from creationists. E-mail. In other words, thanks to scientists, the words of creationists are transported through the sky into my phone or computer. And, while I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure they don’t believe that their e-mail was carried to me on the backs of pixies. I’m also pretty sure that the vast majority of creationists drive cars, take antibiotics, watch TV, and eat foods with preservatives in them. For liberals, perhaps this is proof of some kind of hypocrisy or cognitive dissonance. And maybe it is, though I don’t see it. But it’s also a demonstration that having your faith — or your superstitions — bump into one of the farther borders of scientific knowledge doesn’t require one to reject all of science. It’s not a binary thing. Belief in something unconfirmed or even disproved by science is not a rejection of all science. Just as a refusal to believe unicorns are real doesn’t mean I have to reject the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Kate Upton, or other allegedly mythical creatures.
That’s part of the irony. The way the science-lovers talk about science, you’d think science was a kind of magic that requires total faith and conviction. If you don’t believe with all of your heart in “science,” it will stop working. It’s like the scientific enterprise is akin to Santa’s sleigh in the movie Elf (a great film, and not just because it inspired my daughter to answer the phone “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”).
In Elf, Santa’s sleigh no longer relies on flying reindeer. Instead it converts “Christmas cheer” into jet power. That’s how some of these people talk about believing in science. If we don’t project our positive emotions towards it, it won’t take off. I am typing this on a plane from Detroit, Michigan — on Friday the 13th, no less. What happens if I suddenly stop saying in a hopeful whisper “I believe in you, science!” or if I take a deist bent and hold out the possibility that there’s something more than the material world out there? Will my plane suddenly plummet? Will gremlins slowly emerge from behind the seat in front of me, like Miley Cyrus climbing over a toilet-stall door?
Look, science, unlike God, really doesn’t care if you believe in it. And casting doubt on one part of it doesn’t break the spell. That’s the whole point of science; it’s not magic.
Democrats are more likely to believe in paranormal activity. They’re also more likely to believe in reincarnation and astrology. I have personally known liberals who think crystals have healing powers who nonetheless believe that the internal combustion engine doesn’t actually rely on magical horse power.