The following post is not really Traveller until the end. Instead, it describes a scientific tragedy, and a great loss in potential discoveries and new insights, all in the name of restricting knowledge to a guild of elitist paid professionals.
It smells extremely Vilani: but at the end, it’s a Solomani story.
But then again, the bureaucratic, controlling, anti-innovation Vilani are just our shadow selves. They are not real… but we are.
But if that fictional people helps us to better understand ourselves, they would have served their purpose.
If these two historians—one an agnostic, one a confessional Christian—both agree this is a manufactured myth, then who is to blame for inventing it?
That distinction falls to American scholars from the nineteenth century: (1) Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and (2) John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.
I like the fact that names are named here.
Here are a couple of urban legends that Draper and White perpetuated:
- The church believed for centuries that the earth is flat.
- The church opposed the use of anesthetics in childbirth since Genesis promised that childbirth would be painful.
On the first myth, Lesley B. Cormack, chair of the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, writes that “there is virtually no historical evidence to support the myth of a medieval flat earth. Christian clerics neither suppressed the truth nor stifled debate on the subject.”
On the second myth, Larsen responds:
No church has ever pronounced against anesthetics in childbirth. Moreover, there was no vocal group of ministers who opposed it. In fact, the inventor of chloroform received fan mail from ministers of the major denominations thanking him for helping to alleviate the suffering of women in labor. Rather, the opposition to anesthetics during childbirth came from medical professionals, not from ministers, and for scientific, not religious, reasons.
And on the legends go.
Odd, that a group of men who insist that they are the gateway to The Truth grounded their vision on a lie.
It makes a man suspicious.
So why exactly did men like Dickson and Draper—along with English biologist T. H. Huxley, who championed Darwinism and coined the term “agnostic”—manufacture these historical myths and this overall legend of perpetual conflict?
In the mid-nineteenth century there was no separate profession of science. Manufacturing a “war” between science and religion was part of their professionalization campaign. Larsen explains:
The purpose of the war was to discredit clergymen as suitable figures to undertake scientific work in order that the new breed of professionals would have an opportunity to fill in the gap for such work created by eliminating the current men of science. It was thus tendentiously asserted that the religious convictions of clergymen disqualified them from pursuing their scientific inquiries objectively.
More to the point, however, was the fact that clergymen were undertaking this work for the sheer love of science and thus hindering the expectation that it would be done for money by paid full-time scientists. Clergymen were branded amateurs in order to facilitate the creation of a new category of professionals.
Dickson and Draper won this debate, even if it was at the cost of truth itself.
The myth continues today, but it can be overturned as we study the history behind how the legend developed.
So, in the name of an anti-religious ideology, the need to restrict knowledge to an elite, and the thirst for a steady stream of income, the scope, number, innovative rate, and depth of scientific discovery and innovation was radically crippled.
How pathetic. And how very human.
Fortunately, thanks to numerous advances we are leaving the current era of elitist, self-serving obscurantism and willful ignorance, and — as knowledge, databases, internet links and cell phones span the globe, to the last bright, curious kid in the last Indian or Chinese or African village — the future is going to be astonishing bright.
But can you imagine where we would be, without the self-serving, pretentious guilds that crippled the rate of scientific innovation for over a century?
In Traveller as in life, there is always a burst of innovation in a culture — Vilani or Solomani, Darrian or K’kree — and then stagnation and a slow ossification.
But what if there was a world out there, that did not fall into the same intellectual and spiritual traps? A race who did not merely sprint, reaped the initial awards… and promptly sat down and rested on his laurels?
A species that knew that mastering the Creation was a long-term marathon, and not something to be tossed aside in return for a steady income and the chance for some intellectual preening?
We are in the second century of the Industrial Revolution (now joined by the Information Revolution), and despite it all — the tyrannies, the genocides, the moral failures — the whole world is more free and more wealthy than ever before.
Even the “War of Science and Religion” scam is going to be ancient history, in less than a generation. It falls to dust, joining the academic gatekeepers and the mainstream media, as well as the failed Total State structures of fascism and communism.
And as the chains falls, new discoveries and new insights will fill the world, at an increasing rate.
I suggest that, despite it all, WE are the ones who will run that marathon, right to the end.