Just at the end of the 19th century (1896, I believe) Andrew White published his well-known book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. This book created quite a stir when it appeared as it dealt with topics like evolution, science versus religion, and so on. Looking back at it now it seems like an interesting intellectual or philosophical discourse on the resistance of religion to science that was, at that time, an interesting but not vital practical matter. That is no longer the case. This is a problem that at the moment has an extremely vital, urgent, practical, life and death importance.
When this fine book first appeared there was no particular threat to either the environment or human life. That is no longer the case. We are now faced with a real possibility of human extinction, mostly from global warming but also from nuclear and other technology gone wild, to say nothing of human greed and denial. Far from a merely interesting intellectual or philosophical question this has now become a crisis than demands an answer and a solution, a situation that may well demand some changes to our cherished rights of free speech and intellectual freedom.
You will have noticed that we have people in important positions of power who still deny the fact of global warming, ignoring the fact that some 97% of all world scientists agree there is such a problem and that it is, at least in part, due to human activity. That is, they deny the scientific evidence, the scientific fact that global warming is occurring, and argue that it is merely a myth, cannot be real, and in extreme instances pass legislation to prevent even further study of it. It is difficult to believe these anti global warming proponents can actually believe this but apparently at least some of them do. No doubt some are motivated by the money they receive from corporations opposed to action on this vital topic, but some cite religious beliefs having to do with “only God can change the climate,” and so on. These people are trying to kill us. This is not a case of “two sides to every argument,” as there are no two equal sides to this particular argument. Scientific facts are not merely an opinion, they are, in fact, facts, there are no equivalent “facts” on the other side, only “facts” based on opinion.
This problem seems to break down into two factions, those who believe in science and those who do not. While this is not necessarily a distinction between Democrats and Republicans it does appear to correlate somewhat. You may have noticed the controversy over the recent TV program “Cosmos,” where the religious right demands equal time for more “balance.” There is no balance. Science is not merely a difference of opinion about evolution and creationism. Evolution is a scientific fact, not merely an opinion, just as gravity is a fact, electricity is a fact, the planet earth is round and not flat is a fact, the earth revolves around the sun is a fact, and so on. Creationism is not factual, has no evidence, and is based upon biblical (non) authority. It is a matter of faith having nothing whatsoever to do with fact.
Thus we have a situation in which there are no two opposing views of reality. There are the facts of science and the opinions of those who would deny science. To allow those who deny science to have any credence whatever would be to adopt suicidal behaviors potentially destroying us all. So what do you do in a society that allows unlimited free speech and unlimited religious opinion no matter how foolish and destructive it may be, a society in which the media seem to believe that both sides should get equal footage? Perhaps if our citizens were better educated…but no, that costs money, money that is needed for more weapons and ammunition, more killing, more trying to rule the world. Religious fundamentalism, especially in high places, threatens to destroy us all. Hallelujah.
“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction.”