Thursday, June 9, 2011

Suppressing Dissent

When the movie Expelled came out documenting the ways in which Darwinists impose conformity of thought on the academy and other institutions and how they punish dissenting voices, one of the rejoinders was to sniff that the claims of censorship and discrimination were overstated by the film. Yet in the years since Expelled the situation just seems to be getting progressively worse.

The latest example is the decision by a mathematics journal to withdraw a paper they had already accepted for publication because one lone Darwinist blogger who had no particular expertise in mathematics complained.

Here's a summary of this absurd suppression of minority ideas (see also this):
Witness the brazen censorship earlier this year of an article by University of Texas, El Paso mathematics professor Granville Sewell, author of the book In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design. Sewell's article critical of Neo-Darwinism ("A Second Look at the Second Law") was both peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by the journal Applied Mathematics Letters. That is, the article was accepted for publication until a Darwinist blogger who describes himself as an "opinionated computer science geek" wrote the journal editor to denounce the article, and the editor decided to pull Sewell's article in violation of his journal's own professional standards.

Lepiscopo [Sewell's lawyer] points out that in retracting Sewell's article, Applied Mathematics Letters "effectively accepted the unsubstantiated word and unsupported opinion of an inconsequential blogger, with little or unknown academic background beyond a self-professed public acknowledgment that he was a 'computer science grad' and whose only known writings are self-posted blogs about movies, comics, and fantasy computer games." This blogger's unsupported opinion "trumped the views of an author who is a well respected mathematician with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Purdue University; a fully-tenured Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas--El Paso; an author of three books on numerical analysis and 40 articles published in respected journals; and a highly sought-after and frequent lecturer world-wide on mathematics and science."

After Dr. Sewell's article was pulled, Darwinian zealots crowed about their achievement and maliciously speculated that the article was withdrawn because it wasn't really peer-reviewed or because it was somehow substandard. The journal, meanwhile, left Dr. Sewell to twist in the wind, seemingly endorsing the Darwinists' smears. The journal editor Dr. Rodin wrote a groveling letter to the Darwinist blogger who complained to him in which he agreed that publishing Sewell's article would involve "impropriety." Rodin further apologized "for our erroneous judgement in even considering this paper for publication."

The publisher of the journal has recognized the editor's blunder and has apologized to Sewell and agreed to compensate him for attorney's fees he's incurred in trying to appeal what he sees as a breach of contract, but they're still not going to run the article. There's much more information on Dr. Rodin's shameful behavior at the link.
The summary closes with this thought:
If there is a "war on science" today, it's not being waged by the critics of Darwinism or supporters of intelligent design. It's being waged by Darwinian fundamentalists who are attempting to prevent any voices except their own from being heard in the scientific community. They seem willing to do virtually anything to silence their critics--from denying them tenure, to preventing them from being hired, to engaging in cyber attacks, to censoring peer-reviewed articles by scholars with whom they disagree. Italan geneticist Guiseppe Sermonti has remarked that "Darwinism... is the 'politically correct' of science." How right he is.
It's ironic that Darwinists often criticize intelligent design advocates for not having published in peer-reviewed journals, but when they do the Darwinists either persecute the editors and publishers who publish them or do everything they can to get the articles expunged.

See here for an explanation of the contents of Sewell's paper sans the mathematics.

Should We Shun "Shrugged"?

Jason calls our attention to an article at First Things in which Joe Carter takes conservative Christians to the woodshed for their inexplicable fascination with Ayn Rand. Rand, Carter points out had a diabolical philosophy that conservatives, particularly Christian conservatives, should avoid like, well, like they should avoid the devil.

He makes a very good case, but one that in the end I don't find completely convincing. It can be said of Rand that when she was bad she was very bad and when she was good she was pretty good. Rand's militant atheism is off-putting, her eccentricities were weird and her personal morality was, in keeping with her overall egoism, repugnant, but when she wrote about the collectivist state, the sort of state envisioned by modern progressives, her marksmanship was excellent.

Carter seems to urge us to shun her for her vices, but should we shun scientists, historians, and filmmakers who are hostile to Christianity and traditional morality? There's much about Rand that I find objectionable but much else that I find valuable. It seems to me that we should separate the wheat from the chaff and hold fast to that which is good while discarding what is not.

Perhaps we should have the same attitude toward Rand that Augustine urged his readers to adopt toward the pagan society of his day. Writing c. 397 A.D. Augustine argued that:
[I]f those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it.

For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves, were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth....

These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the gospel. Their garments, also,--that is, human institutions such as are adapted to that intercourse with men which is indispensable in this life,--we must take and turn to a Christian use.

....that most faithful servant of God, Moses, had done the same thing; for of him it is written that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
Should we make Rand a hero? No, I agree with Carter about this. Should we urge people to read her novels? Yes, for the same reason we should urge people to read books and watch films made by liberals and skeptics for the insights and lessons they offer. Rand's ability to skewer the pretensions and fatuities of collectivism is much needed and has had a salutary influence on generations of people who would never read Hayek or Friedman, but who would take time to read a novel, even an overlong and somewhat tedious novel like Atlas Shrugged.