Scholar warns: “Be grossly intolerant” is fast backward to the Middle Ages
|February 27, 2011||Posted by O'Leary under Science|
Frank Furedi, author of On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars and foe of political correctness in academic life, replies powerfully to science czar “Intolerance” Beddington at Spiked (21 February 2011). Comparing Beddington’s protective views on homosexuality with the hostile ones shown by Ryszard Legutko, leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party, he writes,
No doubt Beddington also feels intolerant towards Legutko’s views on homosexuality. Yet what is truly fascinating about these two crusaders against tolerance is that although they have diametrically opposed viewpoints on gay rights, they are at one in their affirmation of the ethos of intolerance. The targets of their intolerance might be different, but they share the worldview of the bigot. Legutko is offended by the sight of gay and lesbian people dressed up as nuns and priests, while Beddington objects to people he disagrees with masquerading as scientists. The casual manner with which European public figures celebrate intolerance is testimony to the censorious and illiberal spirit that now dominates political life across the continent.
He also offers a three-minute focus on a key point of history:
The idea that we should not be tolerant of problematic ideas, or indeed of any beliefs other than our own, dominated the political culture of pre-Enlightenment Europe. It is important to note that until the seventeenth century, it was intolerance rather than tolerance that was upheld as a virtue. So when Beddington declares that ‘we should not tolerate what is potentially something that can seriously undermine our ability to address important problems’, he is adopting the dominant narrative of late medieval Europe. In that medieval outlook, heretical beliefs represented such a danger to society that the only virtuous response was to silence them. Intolerance was seen as a marker of moral virtue. As late as 1691, the French theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet boasted that Catholicism was the least tolerant of all religions, stating: ‘I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.’,
The great, and tragic, irony in all this is that science was one of the principal beneficiaries of the emergence of the ethos of tolerance. Science by its very nature thrives on open debate, which is why scientists were often in the forefront of advocating tolerance of dissident and despised views. The nineteenth-century biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who was known as Darwin’s bulldog, said ‘scepticism is the highest of duties’. Many scientists believed that no ideas or views should be beyond discussion. The motto of the Royal Society was: ‘On the word of no one.’ Sadly, science has become politicised and has become prey to dogmatism. There is now a tendency to devalue debate and to replace argument with moral condemnation.
Well sure, because any mediocrity can engage in moral condemnation. It comes in a can now, did you know?
Here is a start on the intolerance czar’s comments.