The growth spurts of science come from dissent, doubt, and radical questioning of norms. These are the sunshine and water of science.
When your interpretation of evidence brings you to disagree with something that science has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, you are following in the footsteps of the greatest scientists in history: Einstein, Copernicus, Salk, Papanicolau… the list grows with every decade.
But when we agree vehemently (and emotionally) with a scientific dogma that we haven’t personally studied in-depth, or that we can’t understand after having studied, we find ourselves following the footsteps of the average American fundamentalist, whether “religious” or “scientific” – and that distinction needs to be tentatively abandoned because “scientific materialism” is an untestable assumption that rules out God and the reality of our own minds without considering one piece of evidence, pro or con. That’s more akin to fundamentalist religion than objective science.
The thing that all fundamentalists have in common is a belief that they are in possession of a source of ultimate truth, whether old writings, a person with special insight, or an array of science journals. The important parts of their “truth” must be kept static, never doubted or questioned because the facts have been proven and are now known forever.
To go against the known “truth,” or even to doubt it, is considered irrational and morally wrong, especially among modern scientific fundamentalists. (Many Christian fundamentalist groups have been arguing over “important details” long enough to have seen the irony and abandoned much of the vicious outrage of bygone generations. Scientists could learn something here.)
Of course the religious fundamentalists must label their dissenters as heretics, infidels, heathen or whatever.
The scientific fundamentalists don’t use the same terms, they casts aspersions upon a dissenter’s educational credentials, sanity, mental acuity, motivation, and funding, but not so much upon the detailed logical weaknesses of opposing ideas. It’s too much work and they already know they’re right.
An important example is the way the scientific fundamentalists have responded to Stephen Meyer, PhD in his detailed analysis of DNA and molecular biology that concludes that intelligence must have been involved in writing the code and designing the cellular systems of life if the Universe is really only 13.8 billion years old.
The fundamentalist gatekeepers of science journals obstruct publication of dissenters’ work because of narrow-minded bias. They seek to embarrass anyone who dares talk rationally and openly about a shunned concept.
An example is the general rejection of “functional medicine” by orthodox western medicine. More specifically, Dale Bredesen’s breakthrough work with Alzheimer’s patients is ignored because it goes beyond standard experimental design where one variable must be isolated independently, a practice that grossly underestimates the complexity of many diseases and disallows examination of multiple simultaneous synergistic treatment effects. (The whole treatment is better than the sum of its parts as tested independently.)
And yet, fundamentalism is the natural style of human thinking.
Ever wonder why?
Is it because we’re social “pack animals” or because God created us this way?
Is it the result of a “residual primitive brain” or the result of “sin?”
Maybe none of the above, or all, but the human groupthink tendency probably offers a survival advantage that’s underrated by those of us who perhaps value objectivity too highly.
Could it be that we shouldn’t paint fundamentalism in the same black-and-white colors it endorses?
That’s a tough challenge for me, personally.
But maybe fundamentalism is like salt: necessary for survival, but fatal if the dose is too high or too low.
Is religious and scientific fundamentalism good, bad or somewhere else – maybe on an amoral spectrum of usefulness?
What do you think?
M. Talmage Moorehead