Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, an atheist and co-author of What Darwin Got Wrong, has a piece at Spiked Review of Books that claims that Darwinism is a secular religion whose devotees brook no questioning or challenges. As a prelude to his argument he recounts this story:
Some months ago an American philosopher explained to a highly sophisticated audience in Britain what, in his opinion, was wrong, indeed fatally wrong, with the standard neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution. He made it crystal clear that his criticism was not inspired by creationism, intelligent design or any remotely religious motivation. A senior gentleman in the audience erupted, in indignation: 'You should not say such things, you should not write such things! The creationists will treasure them and use them against science.' The lecturer politely asked: 'Even if they are true?' To which the instant and vibrant retort was: 'Especially if they are true!' with emphasis on the 'especially'.
For at least this gentleman, who sounds like no one so much as Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, truth is not as important as is maintaining the viability of the materialist dogma. The dogma must not be questioned lest faith in materialism wane among the masses. The dogma's weaknesses must not be publicized lest its opponents be encouraged thereby.
John Stuart Mill, perhaps the paradigmatic classical liberal, wrote in his great essay On Liberty that:
[T]he peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: If wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit; the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Mill goes on to say that when a belief is insulated from criticism, suffering no fresh and living conviction to challenge it, it does nothing for the mind or heart except stand sentinel over them to keep them vacant. Mill was thinking here of theistic religion but the admonition applies just as much to modern naturalistic religion as well. Maybe moreso.
HT: Telic ThoughtsRLC