THE NEW FUNDAMENTALISM?January 23, 2011
One of the books I have been reading lately is a book by Richard Milton called Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment. Milton's thesis is rather unusual. Noting the rising tide of various religious fundamentalisms around the world, Milton argues that this attitude has also infiltrated the scientific establishment. It's a phenomenon I know first hand, as some people have in reviews or comments attacked me and my research on the basis of my academic background in theology, as if that automaticallydisqualifies me from being able to understand anything about science, or to have opinions about scientific things. Conversely, many scientists do not hesitate to offer opinions about theology.
Keeping everyone coralled within their respective disciplines is just part of the manifestation of this new fundamentalism; it is, in a way, the reaction of the narrow-minded fundamentalist - be he a religious one or a scientific one - to the sort of interdisciplinary approaches increasingly taken within the field of alternative research. But there are other manifestations as well.
One of the most typical is the popularization of standard scientific models within the media. One hears almost incessantly about string theory, for example, but seldom about loop quantum gravity; one hears incessantly about relativity and Einstein, but seldom about Herbert Ives and other scientists who had and still do have philosophical difficulties with the theory. Similarly one need only think of the massive amount of evidence presented in Cremo and Thompson's Forbidden Archeology that, running counter to established academic dogmas, was simply ignored by the archeological magisterium.
Standard models have become a kind of dogma to be promulgated to the masses while only the scientific cognoscenti and priesthoods are allowed to talk about - or even know about - other models.
Milton's book thus contains a timely warning in these words: "I (propose) that we are living through an era of incresed academic intolerance in which a scientific fundamentalism has infected many American and British universities, a malady as virulent and pernicious in its way as today's tide of religious fundamentalism." (p. i.) Thankfully, the field of alternative research, science, and history, is only growing, as more and more within those disciplines depart from standard models and venture to explore the questions raised by it. We shouldn't expect any change in the fundamentalism of the academy. Fundementalisms only guarantee their own increasing irrelevance. Thus, by clinging to their own standard models with all the fanaticism of the Inquisition, academic fundamentalisms only guarantee that the academy, like the Holy Office, will simply pass into grand irrelevance.