Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Culture of Death: Faith Over Science

Witch trials weren’t exactly backwoods excesses of zealotry. They were elaborate performances grounded in law and the expertise of what was then, in early modern Europe, considered the best-available evidence. The trials were popular, the inquisitors feared and respected, the outcomes, which usually sizzled, unquestioned. That witch-hunting’s most feverish age coincided with the rational insurgency of Galileo, Descartes and Newton didn’t diminish witch trials’ credibility; to the contrary: The trials reset morality’s clock to God time. Scientists were the heretics.

Trivia? Not in light of the Bush administration once again scorning science in the name of rabid theologies. Whether it’s the war on drugs, on stem cell research, on global warming science, on sex, on abortion, on evolution, or whether it’s the wars in Iraq or on terror for that matter, demagogues, channeled through Bush policies, are enslaving evidence to ideology and reducing facts to three-fifths the weight of faith. For evidence, witch judges had the authority of the Church behind them. Today’s demagogues have co-opted the manners of empirical science — the academic lingo, the “Ph.D.” next to their names, the peer-reviewed studies. And they’re making faith the loyalty oath of 21 st century America . Both of President Bush’s last two nominees to the Supreme Court, remember, referred to their faith as an assumed virtue, as if faith gave them more credibility on the bench than if they were partial to chunky monkey ice cream (which it doesn’t). But every time a public figure cashes in on “faith,” the American experiment loses altitude. Read the full column...