Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Credulous herbivores and useful idiots

Prince Charles isn't just a credulous ninny, but a dangerous one:

Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The "vacuum" will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labor of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover.*

Writes Cristopher Hitchens. Prince Charles may be an easy target, but that doesn't make him any less wrong.

Hitchins makes a good point here, although, judging by the comments on his article, far too many people just don't get it. So here's the short version - there are political arguments which appeal to evidence and reason. Those, we can evaluate and argue about. Some powerful individuals simply make pronouncements about how we should live, declaring evidence and reason irrelevant, insufficient or wrong. What tools do the rest of us have left to test or question such ideas? None. Testable, evidence-based ideas that rest on the power of argument are democratic and egalitarian. Dogmatic, unreasoning pronouncements, unsupported by evidence are authoritarian and profoundly undemocratic - which is presumably why they appeal so strongly to somebody who owes his wealth, power, privilege and influence to an accident of birth in a hierarchical society.


* Yes, I know that by the line of paternal descent Charles is a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (subsequently re-branded as Windsor), not the House of Hanover. No, I couldn't care less which family of German pincelings he traces his ancestry back to.