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The "exalted we".

James P. Hogan is both an accomplished engineer and a highly regarded science fiction author. Hogan's new book, Kicking the Sacred Cow: Questioning the Unquestionable and Thinking the Impermissible, is a spirited polemic against those whom he designates "the exalted 'We' "--the high priests of the politicized scientific establishment.

Scientific progress begins when someone says four magic words: "I may be wrong." The scientific method is essentially an exercise in making educated guesses, then doing one's best to prove those guesses wrong. Any guesses that survive this pitiless process become things we "know" until someone, after saying the four magic words, offers a better guess--and the process begins anew.

"Science really doesn't exist," Hogan maintains. "Scientific beliefs are either proved wrong, or else they become engineering. Everything else is untested speculation." While Hogan, an engineer, might exaggerate a bit, he makes a valuable point: It is through development of practical applications that scientific findings are smelted into useable knowledge.

Speculative assumptions spared such practical tests often harden into dogmas, which are often used to buttress a political orthodoxy. Scientists favored by political elites seek to preserve the established consensus, rather than challenge it in the interest of intellectual and material progress. This corruption of science results in a degenerate, authoritarian religion that C.S. Lewis called "scientism."

Hogan critically examines several varieties of scientism, be ginning with the "humanistic religion" of Darwinian evolution. Like most educated people of his vintage, Hogan accepted the Darwinian view uncritically for most of his life, until he got to know "various people with specialized knowledge in various fields who, in ways I found persuasive, provided other sides to many public issues, but which the public wasn't hearing."

Darwinism, Hogan points out, offers a narrative of progress through adaptive change and differentiation entirely in keeping with the assumptions of 19th century Victorian society. The problem, however, is that "the story actually told by the fossils in the rocks is the complete opposite." Rather than a gradual, steady increase in animal species, as Darwin predicted, almost all types suddenly appeared at the time of what geologists call the "Cambrian Explosion."

Darwin predicted that the fossil record would consist mainly of transitional forms--species in a process of continual change. But such forms are conspicuous by their absence. Furthermore, the transformations Darwin described would involve "a lot more than simply switching a piece at a time as can be done with Lego block construction." Evolutionary transformation would require myriad radical changes "all com[ing] together in just the right amounts--like randomly changing the parts of a refrigerator and coming up with a washing machine," Hogan writes.

When they are not denouncing as "dogma" any view of life's origins they reject, Darwinians just as zealously seek to impose the tenets of their faith by intimidation. Notable among such zealots is Richard Dawkins, an Oxford University professor of biology, who insists: "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is either ignorant, stupid, or insane...." Hogan writes that Daniel Dennett, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, "raises questions about the suitability of anyone denying Darwinism to raise children."

Darwinism is hardly the only sect of scientism that deals so dogmatically with dissenters. Establishment-supported defenders of the Big Bang theory and Einstein's special theory of relativity have proven similarly inhospitable to independent thinking. Hogan relates a conversation with a physicist a friend of many years to whom he had lent a book by the late Dr. Petr Beckmann (a world renowned mathematician and electrical engineer) challenging the prevailing view of relativity. As his "face hardened and changed before [Hogan's] eyes," the physicist hissed: "I have not read the book. I have no intention of reading the book. Einstein cannot be wrong, and that's the end of the matter."

The most pernicious variety of scientism, notes Hogan, is that peddled by radical environmentalists. Working scientists in the relevant fields "seemed to have a reliable picture of the way things were in the real world. But nobody was hearing from them." Instead, on matters such as the banning of DDT, ozone depletion, and "global warming," the field has been dominated by "popularizers and activists with other agendas," most of whom "wallow in lavish federal funding ... and provide headlines for the evening's news."

Such people care little for science and nothing at all for engineering--other than social engineering. Their prescription for humanity involves "cutting the world's economy to the level of being able to support only a drastically reduced population, with the remainder reduced for the most part to serving a global controlling elite and their bureaucratic administrators and advisors." In short, the ultimate triumph of the "exalted 'We.'"
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Title Annotation:The Last Word
Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 20, 2004
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