It has become an article of faith among those on the secular left that they are the natural allies of scientific rationality. At the time of the 2004 election, both Robert Reich and Garry Wills styled religious conservatives as the enemies of science who threatened to bring in a new dark age. This appraisal, excessively flattering and self-congratulatory to themselves, while unfairly condemnatory of others, arises from two on-going campaigns.
The first, which has been running far longer than any play on Broadway, is the organized effort by partisans of Darwinism to eviscerate the social influence of Christianity. We are usually led to believe that, from the beginning, benighted churchmen and politicians sought to repress knowledge of evolution, but the reality is that Darwin’s bulldogs, such as T. H. Huxley and Francis Galton, quite purposefully picked the fight themselves and angrily brushed off those Christians who did attempt to accommodate their faith to the newly proposed paradigm. Science and ideology merged for the purposes of beginning a culture war.
The Real Knuckle-Draggers
The second campaign, of much more recent vintage, has been fought over the use of embryonic stem cells. Pro-lifers indeed object to destroying embryos for the purpose of research. But this objection has nothing to do with a bad attitude toward science as a way of knowing or solving problems. The objection is to terminating nascent human lives. However, the trope about conservatives and/or Christians being anti-science continues to be wrung out like a wet, dirty, threadbare old towel because it still has its uses.
In thinking about this public game of claiming to be the advocates of science against the knuckle-dragging illiterates who understand it not, I am often struck by the degree to which liberal materialists themselves are not scientific when it threatens their view of the good life.
Consider nuclear power. I recently drove past the giant cooling towers of a nuclear plant on the Alabama-Tennessee border that never went on line. It wasn’t rabid theists who kept that facility from producing cheap and clean energy for the citizens of the region. Despite the proven record of nuclear power where we do have it in America and where it is widely used in Europe, liberals have chosen to act as if the 1970s film The China Syndrome settled the matter for all time. Detractors can point to the disaster of Chernobyl, but that happened in a nation that was literally falling apart from the inside.
The part of life where the self-proclaimed secularist tough-mindedness about science is perhaps most overblown is with regard to sex. Since Kinsey wrote his famed study (something much covered in this publication), the American secular left has been astonishingly credulous about the desirability of laissez-faire sex. Their basic stance can be summed up by the Bloodhound Gang’s thoughtful and well-considered lyric, “Baby, you and me ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” This bit of verse, of course, was an elaboration of the important musico-sexual treatise of George Michael (a role model for rational, healthy sexuality): “Sex is natural. Sex is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should.”