I wonder why some people are generally open-minded, and others generally closed. This election year is a particularly good time to ask that question, but that’s a subject for a future post. I’ve been rereading Forbidden History, an anthology of articles from the magazine Atlantis Rising, which publishes articles about “alternative science”. That is, scientific ideas that the mainstream scientific establishment refuses to consider, no matter how well-founded they seem to be.
One of these subjects is Darwin’s theory of evolution. The way mainstream media frames this question, we can only choose between believing Darwin and believing what is known as “creationism”, which is pretty exclusively an excuse for taking the Bible literally. Literalism seems foolish to me, and to a lot of other people, but, for one example, if we take the creation story in the book of Genesis as a metaphor it’s not so different from the modern scientific version of what happened, in that Genesis describes our world as having been created in stages. So does modern science. Its general narrative is that it took time for conditions to support our type of life to develop, that the first appearance of life was one-celled creatures that eventually joined together to produce the vast array of life we see around us now. Someone remarked that life higher than single cells is an arrangement that produces more attractive environments for cells, which is an interesting way to look at it. The main difference between this description of creation and that of the Biblical literalist is the scientific assertion that the “days” were much longer than literal days, and that accident, rather than God, was the prime mover. Historically, one reason for this difference was the response of organized religion, especially the Roman Catholic church, to scientific discoveries. Roman Catholicism had claimed to have all knowledge (a very risky claim), and didn’t take it well when science began proving that they didn’t, at least as early as the 16th century.
What is peculiarly ironic is that mainstream science has demonstrably become a “religion” like the one they historically struggled against. Darwin’s theory is one of a number of areas in which scientists have ignored evidence they find inconvenient. Relatively few people buy into the idea that the Bible is literally true. That idea is reserved pretty exclusively for fundamentalist Christians. But some scientists have now identified problems with Darwin’s theory, which means that neither hypothesis is tenable.
According to Darwin, evolution occurs because of random mutations, some of which continue, if they help a species better adapt and survive. So Darwin predicted that fossils would be found showing the transition from any ancient species to a new and improved version. But no such fossils have been found. The new and improved versions simply appear. One fairly famous scientist was asked about the “missing link” (meaning the transition between ape and man (current theory says that we and apes are descended from a common ancestor, which seems plausible, since our species have most of the same DNA), and the scientist replied that there are HUNDREDS of missing links. The author of the article adds that it’s not that there is any scarcity of fossils, just of the ones that would prove Darwin’s theory.
Another objection to Darwin’s theory is that if evolution is going on constantly, as he thought, we should have seen species evolve from one into another in historical times. Science is constantly discovering new species, but they’re all species simply not noticed before. They’re not familiar species turning into new ones.
A particularly difficult question for evolutionary theory to explain is the transition from non-flowering plants to flowering ones. Flowering plants reproduce sexually, and depend on symbiosis with bees (and possibly other insects) to bring the male pollen to female plants to fertilize them. How could flowering plants have evolved independently of these insects? And how could the insects have evolved independently of the plants? Flowering plants are a gigantic step forward from non-flowering plants, and are thus considerably more complex. How could such a plant produce such a complex mutation without the symbiotic partners that would make it work? Some scientists still believe that accidents could have created life as we know it, but “accidents” really don’t explain the complexity of the DNA molecule, for just one example, upon which all life on this planet is based. One article quotes Michael Behe, a biology professor, as saying that there are several other examples: “…blood clotting, cilia, the human immune system, and the synthesis of nucleotides.” “These are so irredemiably complex that no gradual, step-by-step Darwinian route could have led to their creation.” Darwin, of course, came too early to know anything about microbiology, but he did know about the problem of flowering plants, and could find no answer to it. Neither have his succesors.
But the very human tendency, once a person or group believes something, is to ignore any evidence to the contrary. And not just to ignore it, but often enough, to actively persecute anyone who dares to believe otherwise, of which there are many examples; not just in the history of religion (mainly the Judeo-Christian religions), but in the history of science and politics as well.
Another article in the book cites the case of Virginia Steen-McIntyre, an archaeologist, who was asked to date archaeological sites in Mexico, where very sophisticated stone tools had been found. This was in the mid-1960s. The sites were thought to be very old, perhaps as much as 20,000 years. Steen-McIntyre wanted to date the tools and sites as accurately as possible, so she used four different techniques. To her surprise, the age was determined to be more like 250,000 years. Rather than accepting that result, and altering theory to account for it, contemporary scientists denounced her so enthusiastically that she could never find a job in that field again.
More recently a scientist was analyzing chemicals in the bodies of Egyptian mummies, and was startled to find both tobacco and cocaine in many of them. She too was denounced, but continued to replicate her results with other mummies. Some plant related to tobacco might possibly have been available from Africa or Asia, but the coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, is only grown in one area of the world: South America. There may not have been a very regular trade between the Old and New worlds at that period, but obviously there was SOME trade. No other credible explanation has been suggested as to how ancient Egyptians had acquired those drugs.
The same article talking about the experience of Steen-McIntyre uses that as an example of what Richard Thompson and Michael Cremo discuss in their book, Forbidden Archaeology. They relate many discoveries made in the last two centuries that were either overlooked or actively suppressed by the scientific establishment. Another example is of human fossils and artifacts found in California at levels identified as between 9 and 55 million years old, well before humans are supposed to have been around. No comment from the scientific establishment.
There are other examples cited, but the question is, why wouldn’t mainstream science investigate the evidence? One fairly obvious reason is that mainstream science is invested in a particular view of things because that view gives them a position of privilege, which alternate explanations might remove. So senior scientists enforce that view by failing to encourage younger scientists to look at alternative explanations of a whole range of phenomena (or refusing to publish, or denouncing their results if they do), so young scientists, knowing on which side their bread is buttered, may decide not to conduct research in controversial areas. That leads to the question of why scientists are so invested in a particular worldview.
Thompson and Cremo say that when they began their book they expected to find a few examples of evidence that contradicts the line of official science, but actually found tremendous amounts of it, leading them to believe that a conscious cover-up has been going on for a long time. They deecided to make their book as scientifically irrefutable as possible.
“‘The standard,’ says Cremo, “[meant] the site had to be identifiable, there had to be good geological evidence on the age of the site, and there had to be some reporting about it, in most cases in the scientific literature.'” That didn’t prevent their efforts from being denounced, and I’ve never read about the work of these two scientists anywhere else, have you? I don’t read scientific literature, but their thesis seems controversial enough to me that it might have been picked up by the mainstream press. It’s now pretty commonly accepted that the dinosaurs died because of an asteroid falling on what is now the Yucatan peninsula, which was once a pretty controversial idea. Apparently too many wish for Thompson and Cremo’s controversy to go away for it to get much publicity. Cremo mentions an investigation by one Davidson Black in Zhoukoudian in China, which was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, and quotes from the correspondence between them and Black.
“…thus we may gain information about our behavior of the sort than can lead to wide and beneficial control.” Cremo’s response is, ‘”Control by whom?'” That is indeed an interesting question.
In a future post I want to concentrate more specifically on the outright persecution of two fairly famous scientists, though I’m not too sure how much more light I can shed on the reasons for such persecution.