Monday, August 22, 2005

Attack of the Luddites

A piece by our Chief Analyst Bob Kincaid

Last night, at the end of a very busy day of work on the Head-On Radio Network studios, my wife and I sat down for a few minutes of relaxation and television. At hand was the History Channel’s piece on ancient Roman medicine. It was a fascinating depiction of the work of Galen of Pergamum, including many of his theories for the treatment of sports injuries, not the least of which was his invention of traction in the treatment of broken bones and connective tissue strains.

Also featured on the program was an analysis of an ancient Roman surgical kit found in a burial in Colchester, England. Those instruments, laid side-by-side with modern ones were practically indistinguishable. Scalpels, retractors, hooks, forceps: they were all there.

At some point in the narrative, the voice-over remarked “But all this was lost to the world. Modern science did not discover them so much as they RE-discovered them.”

My pink little ears perked up at that frank admission and I said to my lovely wife “But what they fail to mention is WHY the technology was lost.” As is so often the case, there is as much knowledge in what is un-said as in what is said. It’s like what a music teacher told me many years ago: that there is as much music in the silences between the notes as in the notes themselves.

You know already why the technology was lost. You know already why Europe had to wallow in pain and ignorance and misery for fifteen hundred years.

What brought about the internal decay of the Roman Empire? What dashed all its learning, its scientific advances into the forgotten dust of the ages?

Here’s a hint: what destroyed the immense scientific learning of the peoples of Meso-America and South America? What destroyed those cultures so thoroughly that their science is lost until it is again re-discovered by some happily curious accident?


Christianity turned its back on the scientific advances of the Roman world. Christianity declared as heresy the ceaseless search for the advancement of knowledge. Christianity killed those who would have followed in the footsteps of Galen, or Archimedes. Christianity chose to replace knowledge gained by painstaking observation with superstition ginned up by pseudo-intellectuals debating the number of angels doing the Medieval Boogaloo on the head of a pin. Christianity replaced Galen’s early theories of antiseptics with the belief that bathing was witchcraft. Christianity and its popes and priests, its abbots, its nuns, cardinals and monsignors stood on the necks of those who dared revive the thought of the ancients. Galileo, after all, was sentenced to death by the Church for noting, as had the ancients, that the earth was not at the center of the universe; that, in fact, the earth revolves around the sun and not vice-versa. It is of no consequence that the death sentence was lifted, for the intellectual death sentence was carried out. Galileo’s sentence was commuted to life under house arrest on the condition that he never again argue that the earth was round, or not at the center of God’s creation, or, most importantly, not God’s creation at all.

So we have the Church to thank for fifteen hundred years of abject misery and toxic ignorance. I mention only in passing that the only reason ANY of the learning of the ancients survived was because the Muslims managed to keep some of that learning out of the pyromanic hands of the Church. But never mind. Muslims are backward, car-bombing bigamists, right?

So, apart from the fact that it provided good conversation between a married couple at the end of the day, what value did this line of discussion have?

You know there is one. You probably see it coming like a coked-up Casey Jones pushing the Orange Blossom Special till its rivets pop. And it’s here. And it’s now.

What ultimately occurred to me is that the “re-discovery” of those medical instruments and techniques was only possible with the rise of reason and common sense inquiry and the rejection of religious superstition. There’s a reason the Renaissance was called that. It was truly a re-birth of Western European humanity’s willingness to put reason ahead of religious superstition. And religion fought that intelligent choice tooth-and-toenail, and is fighting still today. And it fights for its very life; for in the realization that, for instance, diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses and not ill humors and demons, lies the ability of mankind to shuck the chains of ignorance and hate and superstition.

Y’see, the same people who destroyed science fifteen hundred years or so ago are at it again. You can read about them here:

That New York Times article details the efforts of something called “The Discovery Institute,” ground zero for the modern assault on science, learning and knowledge. It also unveils the rather shocking list of some of the organizations who make the institute’s very existence possible.

This time, however, instead of using the ham-fisted tactic of screaming “heresy,” the anti-human, anti- science crowd at the Discovery Institute has gotten a little more sophisticated. Now they call their hatred for scientific learning “intelligent design,” and attempt to pass it off as a legitimate scientific inquiry. Of course, “intelligent design,” by its very self-definition cannot be legitimate. It predicates itself on the existence of something that is neither qualifiable nor quantifiable, to-wit: a designer. “Intelligent Design” is a failure in its inception, but that doesn’t stop its proponents from shoving it at our wonderful, curious school children as some sort of received wisdom. It reminds me of the opening moments of “Mean Girls,” where a group of little boys is sitting in flannel shirts and overalls, one of whom proclaims “On the sixth day, Gawd created the Remington bolt-action rifle, so Adam could hunt the dinosaurs . . . and kill the homosexuals.”

You see, by teaching “intelligent design” to our children, we foster the hateful bigotry that says plagues kill millions of people, or other people kill millions of people because it’s “part of the design.” Why try to cure diseases? After all, it’s “part of the design!” Why bother shipping food to far-flung parts of the world? Famine, too, must surely be “part of the design.” Why treat people suffering from malaria? After all, mosquitoes are “part of the design!” Why bother with food safety laws? E coli 1-5-7-H-7 is “part of the design!” By teaching “intelligent design,” to our children, we tell them it’s OK to sit idly by, impotent spectators to a game whose goals are suffering and misery and grotesque, tortured death. “Intelligent design” is a syphilitic whore in a Chanel suit. “Intelligent design” says there’s no sense in trying to make things better. It’s “predestination” and “determinism” all prettied-up for an age that has already rejected them. It’s lipstick on a pig. (My apologies to the pig.)

“Intelligent Design,” with its fake scholarship, fake science and very real bigotry against learning is nothing short of the greatest threat facing the advancement of human understanding. Superstition is not science. Faith is not freedom of inquiry.

Of all the information present in the article cited above, nothing is quite as frightening as the monetary support offered to these sea-monkey scientists by outfits like the Verizon Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. To the tune of MILLIONS, these two institutions have made it more possible for these Luddites to nurture and grow their anti-science bigotry all over our country. Imagine that! Verizon, a company whose very corporate existence is predicated on the reality of the laws of science; whose ability to do what it does depends on the immutable laws of physics; whose ability to MAKE MONEY depends on light particles behaving in particular, scientifically defined ways, unimpeded by angels doing a buck-and-wing on the head of an optic fiber, are FUNDING THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO DESTROY THEM! Bill and Melinda Gates, whose Microsoft Corporation created the wealth that enabled their foundation, are funding the people who think little demons are sitting in computers plinking away at an abacus; are funding people who think flash- frozen embryos are more important than it is for Stephen Hawking to go on thinking.

These are the threats to our civilization! Not liberals. Not progressives. Not scientists. Not even Muslim extremists with explosive Yugos or 747s. In the halls of the Discovery Institute lie the germinating seeds of the New Dark Ages. And their fruits are ignorance, superstition, pain and misery. And their blossoms perfume the air with the miasma of death.

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