June 24, 2011

Suppressing Science Harms Us All

Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration, Updated with a New PrefaceSome of the most influential scientists - those who truly changed their fields and had a lasting impact on how we think about the world - were persecuted by Christians. When the results of their scientific inquiry led men such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin to expose factual errors in Christian teaching, Christians often reacted negatively. It was not merely that they disagreed; they sought to suppress the relevant findings, retarding progress and promoting ignorance and myth.

Fortunately, the world would eventually benefit from these and other scientific contributions. And today, these ideas are part of the accepted knowledge, aside from certain pockets of ignorance (e.g., Turkey and the United States) where Darwin's contributions are still met with hostility.

What is far less fortunate is that some people seem to have learned very little from these experiences of being wrong and impeding scientific progress to our collective detriment. Politicians regularly attack science they do not understand to appeal to a scientifically illiterate base. Research with stem cells remains controversial in many areas because of Christian mythology. And climate scientists in Australia have been receiving death threats simply because some people would prefer to deny the reality of global warming.

The lesson here is obvious to anyone who cares to see it: suppressing science harms us all. This is one of the reasons those of us in the reality-based community must care about religion.

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