Monday, July 7, 2008

The Left's War on Science (and History)

Liberals often complain conservatives are waging a “war on science.” This accusation is partly valid—on the issue of teaching evolution in pubic schools, and to a lesser extent on the issue of climate change, many conservatives do basically ignore the relevant scientific data. (Even though I don’t believe that the prevailing global warming hypothesis is necessarily valid, many conservatives seem to start with the premise that manmade global warming isn’t happening and work back from there. Though in fairness, liberals often do the same thing in reverse). So this liberal criticism is somewhat justified.

But liberals are guilty of much the same thing. They habitually misuse science and history to advance their agenda. Take, for example, Al Gore’s famous (or infamous) documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Gore suggested that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming (2005 was an exceptionally busy hurricane season, but Category Three hurricanes aren’t exactly rare), that Lake Chad is drying up due to global warming (Lake Chad is drying up, and that is due in large part to human activity, but that activity is over-extraction of the lake’s water, not excess carbon dioxide), and that his claims are part of a wide scientific “consensus” (even though there are many scientists who vocally disagree with the idea of man made global warming).

Possibly, man made global warming is a very real threat. (Although if so, it is hard to see what could be done about the problem). But those who believe it is a menace have an obligation to ensure that the evidence that they use is absolutely reliable. Sadly, many on the left do not live up to this responsibility.

The left may take occasional liberties with science, but that is nothing compared to the way they treat history. The various ways the Left abuses history are too numerous to mention, and most have been pretty thoroughly debunked. It seems a waste of time to remind liberals that Stalin and Mao were every bit as evil as Hitler, that the Scopes Monkey Trial was not an epic battle between science and religion, but rather a (successful) publicity stunt for the town of Dayton, Tennessee (Dayton felt as though it wasn’t getting enough attention, so it decided to capitalize on the then-raging evolution controversy. Scopes was in on the scheme, and actually persuaded some of his students to testify against him), or that Three Mile Island didn’t actually kill anybody.

The development of Christianity is one area in which leftist historians are particularly unfair. True, some of the developments in this area are staggering—the Dead Sea Scrolls spring to mind. But much of the literature regarding this era seems designed to unfairly denigrate Christian teachings.

Take the Gospel of Judas. This gospel is one of many non-canonical gospels written during the early days of Christianity. (The Church didn’t formally decide which books were canon until the fourth century). Many of these gospels were written to bolster the teachings of various Christian sects that sprang up during the early years of Christianity, and include some bizarre events. The Gospel of Judas includes some of the strangest of these—it claims that Jesus asked Judas to betray him, and that Judas was actually the only truly loyal disciple.

This gospel is quite interesting to scholars—it reveals the roots of the sect called Gnosticism, and provides some insight into the development of Christianity. However, that is not how National Geographic billed the finding. In an April 2006 cover story, the magazine claimed that the “most hated man in history is back,” and that “Judas, reborn, is about to face the world,” as though the gospel had real significance in the origin of Christian doctrine.

It didn’t. People have known about the Gospel of Judas for centuries. (Early Christian leaders condemned its teachings). Gnosticism was one of the most well-known of the early heresies. Furthermore, the Gospel of Judas was written decades after the events it describes, and decades after the four Gospels that we recognize as canon today. (The four Gospels were written between AD 65-95; the gospel of Judas was written around 180). The Gospel is an interesting artifact, but it is a record of a failed religion (Gnosticism) rather than any radical reinventing of early Christian doctrine.

Liberals are entitled to point out conservative failings regarding science and history—but should make sure to clean their own house before being too critical. If the right is waging a “war on science,” then the left is guilty of doing so as well.


At July 7, 2008 at 8:18 PM , Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

But liberals are guilty of much the same thing. They habitually misuse science and history to advance their agenda...exactly right!!

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