One of my favorite books when I was a teenager was The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski. Mr. Bronowski’s incredible overview of the history of science, technology, and our understanding of the world around us was not blind to the drawbacks and discontents inherent in human advancement, but he firmly believed that we must follow the science wherever it takes us, for only in this way can any nation or people thrive and survive.
However, the conclusion of Mr. Bronowski’s book, despite its extended celebration of scientific research and achievement is a surprising one: We must not allow ourselves to be led by an aristocracy of the intellect, for “that is a belief which can only destroy the civilization that we know.” Knowledge, he wrote, must reside “in the homes and heads of people with no desire to control others, and not up in the isolated seats of power.”
The nearly magical technological achievements of the 20th and 21st centuries that were derived from ongoing scientific inquiries are too numerous to list. Whether we are talking about nitrogen-based fertilizers that help to feed the world, cheaper and more efficient steel production, the invention of plastics, readily available household and industrial electricity, the incredible development of automobiles and airplanes, atomic power, antibiotics, personal computers, or an endless multitude of other technological advancements, our lives are demonstrably safer, more convenient—and, frankly, far more amazing—than at any time in human history thanks to the work of scientists.
However, we today live in a time when the good name of science has been hijacked in order to lend a patina of respectability to theories that openly reject the norms of traditional evidence-based science. This is a very worrisome phenomenon that is dividing our country into warring ideological camps, which is as divorced from the quotidian aims of scientific research as one could possibly imagine.
These supposed scientific theories are not meant to produce new and innovative technologies that hope to improve our lives. We are instead being battered into submitting to laws, policies, and regulations that insist upon turning our lives upside down in order to battle the ever changing reality of climate change in our ever changing climate, stamp out pervasive bigotry in the most diverse and tolerant society in human history, and popularize new and expansive definitions of gender and sexuality that apparently require intensive school-based indoctrination in order to make them come true.
All of these three theories claim to be based on science, yet they somehow exist beyond either question or reproach. This lack of accountability is in itself a rejection of traditional scientific methods and standards that require theories to be constantly re-examined and reassessed in order to ascertain their validity and reliability. Instead, significant bodies of evidence that contradict all three of these prevailing pseudoscientific orthodoxies are routinely and peevishly dismissed as unfortunate artifacts of abject ignorance, pervasive bigotries—or an unsavory combination of both. We are now told that climate change, institutional racism, and gender fluidity are settled science that cannot ever, ever be questioned.
None of these supposed sciences are intended to lead to inventions that will improve our lives; their goal is to crush dissent. We are facing the very problem that Mr. Bronowski warned us of fifty years ago: Those seeking to control us for their own purposes—and profit.
Taxpayer money, professional advancement, private largesse, and jobs now rain down on those who support these three theories because they are entrenched in both academia and government and offer a ready path to power and influence for those willing to either believe wholeheartedly—or perhaps strategically ignore their own doubts.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, grants, and tax incentives now flow to those who fight the astonishingly lucrative battles against climate change, racism, and heterosexuality, and to even be considered for a job in elementary, secondary, post-secondary, or graduate education now requires candidates to pledge absolute allegiance to one or more of these three radical theories. To express the least doubt is, according to those true believers who are collecting a paycheck precisely for being a true believer, to reveal your unsuitability for both employment or the least shred of respect.
It’s all science, remember?
At this fraught and dangerous time in our nation’s history, we are faced with two profound and important questions: Is it unreasonable to ask reasonable questions, and can our nation long survive under the tyranny of implacable ideologies whose only goal is to control us in order to keep the cash—and the power that comes with it—flowing into the hands of those who are willfully blind to any possibility that they are wrong?