I recently posted a link on Facebook to a short piece by a favourite writer of mine, George Jonas; a somewhat philosophical take on the notion of “settled science”. One of my “friends” posted this rather indignant comment:
“One person’s totally stupid opinion. Its not even the particular opinion expressed that bugs me, its [sic] how he manages to conflate seventy five other totally stupid but unrelated opinions into one short piece. Why does anyone bother to read this crap?”(emphasis added).
I was a little taken aback by the stridency, so I replied: “Same reason I occasionally read your opinions, I suppose….” He wasn’t finished:
“He doesn’t understand scientific method. These sentences prove it. “Challenging science in a debate is risky enough; challenging settled science could be suicidal, except for one thing. It doesn’t exist. If it’s science, it isn’t settled, and if it’s settled, it isn’t science”. He should read Thomas Kuhn on scientific paradigms. What he calls “settled science” we call facts.” (emphasis added).
Lest the royal “we” that graces his comments suggest he has loftier science qualifications than George (or myself) to an ‘expert’ opinion, I assure you he’s no closer to being a scientist than I am to being a brain surgeon, which is to say, quite a ways. What was noteworthy about this for me wasn’t the supercilious tone of this tediously pedantic windbag (which he is) or that he doesn’t understand the notion of satire, it was the broadly Orwellian implications: How dare anyone have the temerity to publish stuff he disagrees with? What effrontery that someone (me) actually reads it!
What’s more naggingly troubling is that it’s becoming increasingly mainstream to become angry at another person for simply expressing a different point of view to the point of taking steps to prevent the expression of those opinions. Recent occurrences on various university campuses of the phenomenon of “safekeeping” (how’s that for an Orwellian accent on terminology?) demonstrate this is not merely an alarmist rumination.
We live in a society that is less ‘free’ by the minute, if only for the increasingly manifest orthodoxies of thinking that are imposed through thinly-veiled force. Think I’m exaggerating? Ask Tom Flanagan.