The old adage, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” deserves a corollary.  Power tends to dismiss its corruption, and absolute power dismisses its corruption absolutely.

I recently ran upon an academic online discussion that suggested to me just such a corollary needs to exist. While political power might be among the first arenas of abuse which pop to mind, this discussion revealed voices from within the halls of academia reflecting upon the popularizers of science.

In commenting about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos television series, historian of science Joseph Martin lamented, “It is troubling that the forums in which the public gets the most exposure to [the] history of science also tends to be those in which it is the least responsibly represented.” (https://networks.h-net.org)

Cosmos promoted a false version of history.  In its reinterpretation, religion was cast as superstitious and ineffective in advancing an understanding of science.

In actuality, many of the greatest scientific thinkers throughout history have been and are motivated by their deep religious convictions that the Creator has made an understandable and orderly universe. Good science is not at odds with a healthy faith in the Creator.

What suggested the corollary to me was his later Machiavellian reasoning in support of the sociological power of philosophical naturalism. This philosophy likes to masquerade under the guise of science. To me the reasoning seemed to be that if atheism has to cheat to wield cultural influence, why not?

After noting that the stakes over the authority of science are very high right now especially in the United States, Martin suggested that, “Perhaps the greater truth here is that we do need to promote a greater public trust in science … and maybe a touch of taradiddle in that direction isn’t the worst thing.”

Ever heard of a taradiddle?  It means a lie.

The public has no doubt about the value of technology or of the scientific method. However, doubt persists over the central claim of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos series, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be,” which was replayed in the opening of Tyson’s reincarnation of Cosmos.

So what does all of this mean? An astrophysicist along with the additional science support team for Cosmos apparently thought it appropriate to misrepresent history in order to communicate their naturalistic message.  Furthermore, at least some of those from within academia while lamenting the distortions, concede such deception could serve the greater good by shaping society’s viewpoint.

From the halls of academia to those whom they influence, philosophic naturalism is the culturally respected assumption. So how does such a status quo protect its position keeping the divine foot out of the door? One tool, albeit a corrupt one, could involve disseminating falsehoods. To be sure, what is useful and what is right are not always the same.

So what type of information do you want to ingest when forming your understanding of the most profound questions of life?  Taradiddles?

2 Replies to “Taradiddles”

  1. Unfortunately, Cosmos doesn’t portray religion in a bad light. Yes, many scientists have been religious (most of modern scientific principles come from Christians AND Muslims), but in a world where religion dominates, of course the leading scientists have been religion.

    Also, I think you are going down a dangerous road by saying “Good science is not at odds with a healthy faith in the creator.” Good science lies completey outside the realm of religious input. You can believe in science and believe in religion, but it is not mandatory.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately I must respectfully disagree because Cosmos did portray monotheistic religion in a negative light. Whenever atheistic materialism claims that the cosmos is all that exists (episode 1), this constitutes a direct attack upon monotheism, which asserts the existence of both God and the cosmos. Or take for example Tyson’s claim that whenever humanity thinks it has found some “special meaning” or something “sacred,” “we deceive ourselves and others” (episode 3). However he claimed scientists have been able to “set us free” from superstition and fear. Examples of these matter of fact materialistic claims that undermine religion along with casting religion as ineffective in leading us to discover the truth are sprinkled throughout the series.

    Stephen Jay Gould was perhaps the most widely recognized proponent of what he termed “Non-Overlapping Magisteria,” by which he meant science and religion. On some topics, input exists from both areas. Just for starters, not only do monotheistic religions make claims regarding origins, but in the name of science both atheistic and theistic scientists offer various explanations regarding origins. Furthermore, if a Creator made the universe and provided evidence indicating this, then good science would not be at odds with a healthy faith in the Creator.

    I would define good science as not drawing conclusions that go beyond what the evidence infers and being willing to consider wherever the evidence might point – even if that suggested metaphysical conclusions. For me, one aspect of a healthy faith constitutes not going beyond the claims of the Bible.

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