Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rally for Reason

A $27 million Creation Museum opens Monday in Boone County, Kentucky, and a group calling itself “Rally for Reason” will be there to . . . well . . . to rally for reason, I suppose.

In reading about the museum and the rally for reason, I have noticed a few interesting topics of discussion.

For example, should there be such a demonstration at all?

Claim against: a demonstration against such a museum simply gives it legitimacy.

Okay, imagine that you are on trial for a crime you did not commit. The prosecution stands up and spends the day presenting the evidence against you. This includes, of course, the eye-witness testimony of people who have claimed to have seen you at the scene of the crime committing the act, circumstantial evidence, and physical evidence misinterpreted to fit the prosecutor’s theory that you are guilty.

After this is done, your defense attorney stands up and says, “The defense rests, your honor. For me to stand here and refute everything the prosecutor has just put before you would simply give it an air of legitimacy that it does not deserve.”

What do you think? Good strategy?

If that’s such a good strategy, then I am surprised that we do not see more of it in today’s court rooms.

The fact is, the position that this rally is against already has legitimacy. Furthermore, the cost of the museum alone is going to give the presentation an air of legitimacy. Particularly in the mind of a young child, everything in the museum is going to seem real. The fact that they are seeing it in the context of trusted parents and other authority figures is going to give it a cloak of legitimacy that will transcend resent far into the future – quite possibly for the rest of that child’s life.

Opening day is the day in which the Museum will get the most publicity. Opening day is the day in which it is important that those reporting on the event note, even if in passing, “Plus there were these people protesting that the Museum does not give an accurate account of the scientific findings.”

In standing in opposition to the Creation Museum and what its founders are trying to accomplish, there are two stands that one could take.

One form of objection is to argue the factual claims. “The Creation Museum says X. We say not-X. Here is the scientific evidence for not-X.” This debate has been going on for as long as I can remember, and does not seem to be going anywhere. It is time, I think, for those who use this strategy to ask why, and to ask if there is something that they can do differently that would be more effective.

The other form of objection (which is not independent of the first, but which builds upon it) is to point out the moral faults of those who organized this project, and those who financed it.

When I was in high school, and I decided that when I died I wished to leave the world better than it would have otherwise been, I knew that my first goal was to find out what ‘better’ was. I was surrounded by people who claimed to know, even though they were adamantly opposed by people who were just as certain that they were wrong. I had made my oath during an American History class, where we were discussing the Civil War. In that war, 250,000 Southern soldiers died, though not before killing 350,000 northerners, on the certainty that they were right.

The first of the moral rules that I yielded to when I started my project was the duty to intellectual responsibility. If I was going to advocate policies that affected the lives, health, and well-being of real people, then I had an obligation to give those policies close scrutiny.

I spent 12 years in college studying different aspects of value theory, trying to make sure that I got the facts right. I felt that this was necessary before I was even qualified to write a blog such as this one.

If only the organizers and financers of the Creation Museum had felt anything like intellectual responsibility – enough to consult experts in the field and to say, “It is my moral responsibility to make sure that I get the facts right. So, tell me, have I met my moral responsibility in this case?”

The answer, of course, is not only, “No,” but, “Hell no!”

Of course, they claim to have consulted their own experts. However, their view of ‘experts’ is quite at odds with the concept of intellectual responsibility. In other words, it is not the view of ‘experts’ that a person would adopt if that person wanted to make sure that he did no harm to innocent people. Their view of ‘expert’ is like the view of a company wanting to poor a substance into the ground water that risked making thousands of people sick and killing some.

This is a view that says, “Canvass everybody in the field and, if you can find even one who says that the chemicals we dump into the soil are harmless, then that is the one we will listen to. We will ignore everybody else.”

This is, of course, the view of ‘expert’ drawn by somebody who sees nothing wrong with taking the lives of innocent people, as long as it puts money in his pocket to do so.

The organizers and financiers of the Creation Museum are, in fact, demonstrating a similar lack of concern with who lives and who dies. Except, they will cause their deaths, not by polluting the groundwater, but by polluting minds, making people less able to understand – thus, less able to explain and predict – a real world that is notorious for its ability to kill people without a second thought.

The people that this Creation Museum target for condemnation are people who keep over 6 billion people fed, and who have found cures for whole sets of diseases that would otherwise have taken the lives of even those who financed the Museum. It is, indeed, quite hypocritical of these people who condemn not only science but scientists – asserting that they are the root of all evil in this country. While, at the same time, they use what these scientists have learned to extend their own lives and preserve their own health.

They would show more sincerity and integrity if, while they lay on the operating table, before they go under the knife, they tell the doctor what they think of the ‘scientific method’ and the reliability of the knowledge this method makes available.

The scientific community could do much better if it had a larger pool of minds to draw from for making future scientists. They would also do much better of those who did not go into science, but who went into teaching, or went into politics, understood the real world well enough to teach others how it worked and to use that knowledge in making real-world decisions. However, scientists have to draw their raw material from a resource that has been polluted by individuals seeped in their own ignorance and superstition.

So, as a matter of fact, more people will die, and more people will suffer the debilitating effects of disease, because polluted minds are not able to make sound policy.

At this point I think it is important to add, in case somebody never caught my earlier posts, that there is no moral sense to be made in turning somebody away from nonsense to sense by use of legal prohibitions in believing nonsense. Rather, a decent respect to human dignity requires that we limit ourselves to gentler forms of persuasion. Accordingly, those who built the Museum certainly had a right to do so, since the money came from their own pockets.

Moral philosophers have long recognized the difference between liberty and license. Liberty does not mean, “Whatever I do cannot be wrong.” Liberty means, “The wrong that I do may only be met by private censure, and not by public law.” The right to freedom of speech includes the right to say, “You’re wrong. Not only are you wrong, but you are being morally reckless. You are showing a disregard for the well-being of others that would shame any decent person.”

That is the case with those who have organized and financed this Creation Museum.

It is one thing to tell the public that these people are wrong. That is only a part of the message. The other part is to make an example of them – to let the people know, “These people are shamefully wrong, and no decent person would ever want to be like them.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! You are really smart and moral - aren't you.