At adarklingplain.com we typically stay with topics tending to expose the affirmative beliefs held by those who consider themselves agnostic or neutral on questions of religion. So at first blush climate change may appear to be off-topic, but it isn’t. There is an alarming trend afoot relating to political correctness in science, and political correctness more generally. In the science arena, one manifestation of that relates to climate change. What we should pay special attention to is the way in which dissent from the climate change orthodoxy is handled.
Climate Change Issues
Many people are agnostic about: (a) whether we are undergoing some sort of extraordinary change of climate; (b) and if so, whether that change is materially affected by human activity; (c) and if so, whether it can be modified by government intervention. Many people are dismissive of any climate change discussion, usually because they reject the first or second elements of that chain, and so the whole topic drops off the radar. But if that describes you, please reconsider. What is happening here will happen to religious belief, too. To be clear, this post is not about climate change. It is about irrational thinking in service to ideology first, rather than truth first.
Criminalizing Scientific Dissent
Political correctness is a significant direct contributor to the increasing hostility to religious freedom. It manifests in science, too, and will soon result in restricting freedom through that back door. In New York, for example, the Attorney General of that state is attempting to criminalize activity that opposes a climate change orthodoxy. See Allan Freedman, Schneiderman’s Climate Inquisition, City Journal, Nov. 11, 2015.
The extremely tenuous theory for the investigation is that Exxon corporation’s research into climate change may have amounted to a misrepresentation to investors. The theory is extremely tenuous because if the corporation engages in (or finances) research that it hopes will influence the public debate on a subject that affects its business, how can that be wrong? And how can shutting down this practice be anything other than a blatant First Amendment violation? Understand that Exxon is not being investigated for lying about climate change data. It’s being investigated for being connected to dissent on the climate change issue. It is being investigated because some of the studies it is associated with do no support climate change orthodoxy.
Political Correctness in Science
Now to why that is alarming, and how it has anything to do with religious freedom. What is happening in science is that it is being overtaken by political correctness.
Certainly scientific propositions can progress through the gauntlet of scientific verification to the point that the scientific consensus becomes overwhelming. The proposition would then become settled science. Scientists no longer spend time and energy researching whether the earth goes round the sun, or vice versa.
But what is happening more and more is that ideology overtakes the scientific process, thus helping the desired conclusion along, so to speak. Before the proposition actually becomes settled science through the rigorous process of scientific inquiry, any dissent to the proposition is labeled “anti-science.” This foreshortens the scientific inquiry. It’s more than a matter of demonizing the opposition. It is openly allowing ideology to dictate how science should be done. Those who ought to be guardians of scientific method instead become impatient to see their own views dominant, and squelch the very dissent which is necessary to assure that the process steers us to truth.
Example. If you think macroevolution as an explanation of all biological development is problematic, scientifically, you’re not merely an ignorant bumpkin. You’re “anti-science.” You’re said to be against the entire process of arriving at truth about materialistic processes, just because an alternative theory looks outside materialistic processes for explanation. It’s a means of excluding the discussion altogether, so that those who are rigid materialists can get on with the real work unencumbered by the nay-saying of the knuckle-draggers. An irony, when one considers that the theory of evolution involves environmental pressure (dissent) acting on variation (differing ideas) so that certain traits (better ideas) survive naturally, without outside intervention.
This tendency is damaging to science, obviously, but it is damaging to how we think in general. By definition, political (or scientific) correctness is ideology-driven, rather than truth-driven. Certain things must be said and believed, in polite society.
Climate Change Dissent
Of all the issues one can imagine on which scientific dissent ought to be tolerated, one would think that climate change would be at the top of the list. It’s not, but only because it seems inexorably to lead to certain favored political policies; a classic instance of the tail wagging the dog. It cannot be regarded as universally settled science that current changes in climate are materially affected by human activity such as fossil fuel emissions. Nor should it be taken as given that government policy solutions will be better than the problem they’re intended to address. Politically, it is reasonable to look on the whole debate as a massive power-grab. The New York attorney general is attempting to squelch dissent about climate change. Of course that makes the party line dominant, but not by honest inquiry and debate. As Adam Freedman put it in the article cited above,
Progressives like to claim that there is an overwhelming consensus in favor of radical action on climate change. That may not currently be true, but it certainly will be once climate dissent is outlawed.
Dissent More Generally
If dissenting views on climate change can be outlawed, why not any other scientific proposition? Or any other truth proposition of any kind? How about the proposition that what is real and what is true can only be ascertained by science? This way of thinking – scientism – holds that only that truth yielded by science is valid, even though science is by definition confined to the study of the material. It doesn’t reach to supernatural truth because it simply isn’t about that.
We know all too well that this kind of thinking exists in politics. We see that it exists now in science, too. There are unnerving signs that this kind of thinking exists in disciplines outside the temple of science, as well. There are academic philosophy departments today, for example, that consider theological claims to have nothing to do with legitimate philosophy. How can one consider ultimate reality without considering even the possibility of a transcendent reality beyond that which is material? Answer: they just do. They voluntarily put themselves in a materialism box, close the lid after themselves, and then attempt to go on with their philosophy.
This kind of self-delimiting a priori metaphysical bias is pervasive, now. It is why secularism (either in the form of avoidance of religious questions, or atheism) is the default medium for all public discourse. It is why (and how) secularism actively eclipses faith. It is why there is increasing intolerance for any religious point of view that accepts the reality of God.
We tend to compartmentalize controversies into discrete issues. Climate change; other open scientific questions; philosophical questions; religion; law; questions of public policy. The same kind of corrupted thinking can apply to all of them. That corrupted thinking — political correctness — should be combated everywhere it rears its sneering head.