July 3, 2010 by jamesessj
Finished Kicking the Sacred Cow, and Hogan, in his concluding chapter, expresses the sentiment of his thesis about as well as it can be expressed:
“The first discipline to be mastered for truth to be apprehended clearly is control of passions, delusions, and material distractions; in other words, the cultivation of true objectivity: the ability, honestly, to have no preconception or emotional investment in what the answers turn out to be.”
The final three sections of the book deal with, respectively, Immanuel Velikovsky and “catastrophism,” environmental issues (including climate change and the DDT and asbestos scares), and HIV/AIDS. Again, you should go read the book for yourself, but a couple of items:
1. I remember reading, nearly twenty years ago, Broca’s Brain by Carl Sagan and coming away with the impression that Velikovsky was on the level of, say, Erich von Däniken or Graham Hancock — a proponent of easily-disprovable theories who was probably in it for the money he could swindle from the lumpen us. But Velikovsky was a serious scientist, and for his theory — that the planet Venus originated as ejecta from Jupiter within the last four thousand years — there has turned out to be, in the sixty years since he published his book Worlds in Collision, a startling amount of corroborating evidence. He may not have gotten every detail correct, but his theory much more fits the evidence than the prevailing wisdom that all the planets were formed around the same time, long, long ago.
(And Carl Sagan, that epitome of the scientific brain, turns out to be the asshole I always half-suspected him to be — his, and other’s, treatment of Velikovsky was abominable, regardless of their opinions of his ideas, and just goes to show that scientists are no more worthy of exalted status than, for another example, United Nations delegates. They’re human beings, as prone, as Hogan writes, to “making reality fit their own aims, needs, and agendas” as anyone else.)
2. The chapter on the HIV virus is shocking — I had heard some of the information before, but what has passed for “science” in the study of AIDS is mind-boggling. Of course that’s true in many of the areas Hogan discusses, where dogma dominates and the media, who are no great thinkers themselves, just go along for the ride. It’s heretical in the extreme for a gay man like me to question the party line regarding AIDS, but one simple unanswerable question haunts me, and should haunt anyone who’s bought into the hype: Where’s the epidemic? Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s…there are so many diseases that take so many more human lives than AIDS — the gay community truly ought to be ashamed of the untold millions of dollars that have gone to cure a disease that, mortality-wise, ranks nowhere near the top. Did you know that the total overall number of deaths in the U.S. from AIDS from its beginnings through the year 2007 was less than 600,000? Heart disease and cancer kill about that many every single year. And that statistic doesn’t even take into account the fact it’s gotten easier and easier to be diagnosed with AIDS, since the folks in charge keep broadening the criteria — one sure way to inflate the numbers, which is what’s been done in Africa in particular, with the re-classifying of long-extant diseases as suddenly being symptomatic of AIDS.
3. Deep Throat once told Fox Mulder to “Trust no one,” and the more I read, the more I see, the more I experience, it’s hard not to take that advice quite literally. As society grows more and more divided, more and more partisan, it seems like honest unbiased information is impossible to come by. Everybody’s got an agenda, everybody’s got a point of view they’re pushing, and how do you know who to trust? As I said, I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories, but Hogan’s convinced me that this is, in essence, precisely what occurs in scientific circles — new ideas that might upset the status quo are often quashed, deliberately and systematically, and with a virulence that’s truly hard to believe. A conspiracy indeed. The guilty parties can hardly claim to be scientists: they are instead what they probably abhor, True Believers of an orthodox religion who cannot abide dissension.
I should reiterate that Hogan is not approaching these issues from a religious standpoint — nor even, from his words in the conclusion, much of a Western capitalistic one. He simply argues for The Truth: wherever it may lie. How can anyone argue with that?