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FIRST-PERSON: Science czar as science abuser

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–John Holdren’s appointment as President Obama’s new science czar is emblematic of the abuse of science that we can increasingly expect in our secularized political environment. Holdren, in 1977, coauthored a book with environmentalists Paul and Anne Ehrlich titled “Ecoscience” in which they entertained the sterilization of humans by everything from surgical procedures to doping the water supply.

Now that Holdren’s words are coming back to haunt him, his office denies that he ever meant to “coerce” people into being sterilized. (Who, though, in their right mind would voluntarily consent to being sterilized by having their water supply doped?)

Holdren nevertheless represents the powerful new caste of scientists who have appointed themselves the guardians of humanity and the priests of a new social order. Their agenda and pretensions would be transparently obvious except that, with the mantle of their scientific expertise, they intimidate ordinary people from asking the right questions and thereby exposing their aims. Their strategy is always the same: Scientists have discovered a problem that, as their models and data (often falsely) demonstrate, is on the verge of getting out of control; now, if only we do exactly as they say, we’ll avoid catastrophe.

Holdren’s 1977 book fits this pattern. Written at the height of the scare about overpopulation, he and his coauthors pondered extreme measures to bring population levels down (measures that would be implemented with all our best “scientific” expertise). Ironically, at that same time in the 1970s, scientists were concerned not that the earth was warming but that it was cooling. The scare back then was global cooling!

Fast-forward to the present. Now the scientific priesthood is telling us that the earth faces catastrophe if we don’t mend our carbon-emitting ways and do everything we can to prevent global warming (“cap and trade” is only the beginning). Whereas back in the 1970s overpopulation was going to destroy us, now the western industrialized nations face such a steep decline in birth rates that underpopulation has become a worry. In any case, the pattern is always the same: Find a problem, catastrophize it and make scientists the saviors.

But isn’t science our best, most reliable form of knowledge, and shouldn’t we therefore defer to scientists?

Scientists are as fallible as the rest of us, as are their scientific theories. Indeed, the history of science is filled with failed scientific theories that once were confidently asserted and now have been radically modified or even abandoned (see Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”). The new scientific priesthood, however, has raised the stakes considerably for the mischief that science can do. In claiming to find and then resolve problems that threaten to overwhelm humanity, they have invaded the political scene, commanding vast research moneys and attempting to force on the wider population government-sanctioned programs for social control.

If Holdren and his scientific colleagues are priests, what is their religion? Theirs is a religion of scientific materialism. According to scientific materialism, reality is constituted entirely of material entities, and science is the only way to understand that reality. Scientific materialism has preeminently been used to undercut the sanctity of life by attempting to justify such monstrosities as abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and eugenics (including coerced sterilization). Indeed, as Holdren’s 1977 book as well as his failure to repudiate it makes clear, his attraction to eugenics remains strong.

Holdren and his fellow scientific priests, as does our president who has promised to support them, spurn the sanctity of life. But in the short term, expect them to focus on global warming, using it as a means to amass great power to themselves (“green companies,” like GE, will collaborate with them in a conflict of interest that will be marvelous to behold).

At the same time, expect them to go after education, further ramrodding Darwinian and materialistic conceptions of science down our children’s throats (and outlawing intelligent design to boot). And, in the end, with great reluctance but, so they assure us, because it is the only hope for humanity, all aspects of human reproduction and life will fall under their control — unless they can be stopped.

The scientific enterprise is only possible because the public financially supports scientific research. Because we hold their purse strings, they are not in a position to presume on our generosity. Insofar as they are trying to influence the public square, they need to explain themselves in plain English and they need to allow fair discussion and open dissent. Plenty of qualified scientists dispute that humans are significantly contributing to global warming or that extreme counter-measures are necessary. But the scientific priesthood quashes all such dissent, marginalizing and even persecuting those who don’t toe the party line.

Scientists are not our masters. They are our servants, and they need a lesson in humility. It is up to us — We the People — to hold their feet to the fire. To fail to do so is to be complicit in their sins. God help us to preserve what freedoms we have left.
William Dembski is research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and author or coauthor of numerous books, scholarly articles and textbooks, including “The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.”

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  • William A. Dembski