A new propaganda

Very nearly every political movement since the late 18th century has its roots in the enlightenment, from American constitutionalism to the rational imperialism of Napoleon. It is hard to overstate its influence on every strand of modern political thought, from conservatism to socialism to liberalism. All built on this revelation: that facts matter more than faith, and reason is greater than fear.

The fascism of Italy, that spread like wildfire across Europe and then the rest of the world, was not built on the foundations of the enlightenment. It was instead a rejection of the values espoused by it, a direct reaction to reason and humanism. Fascism dictates that acting as one is more important than what is actually true, and that the truth dictated by those in power is supreme to any other, no matter what evidence might say. As Sartre said: “[They] have chosen hate because hate is a faith to them; at the outset they have chosen to devalue words and reasons.”

I recently finished reading Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev, a harrowing account of the post-Soviet media under Putin’s regime. He describes how the propaganda under Putin, like that of the Nazi Party and the Italian Fascists before it, works not by espousing a single version of the truth, but by undermining the very concept of truth. It calls into doubt all sources, until the public believes none, and instead sees all truth merely as an act of faith. Evidence is not of intrinsic worth in a such an environment, but is instead perceived to be a rhetorical tool like any other.

Pomerantsev’s account has been verified by many others, and to those who know Russia well this embrace of post-truth politics will be no surprise. After all, Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics, the central text of the post-Soviet intelligence services in Russia, outright states its goal is a Eurasian empire that will unite and reject the “rational-individualistic West”.

If we accept, then, that Pomrantsev is correct when he describes that modern propaganda works by breaking the association between evidence and truth, then events as they are unfolding today in the UK, the US and elsewhere are even more unsettling. No one can have failed to notice how political discourse in the West has changed in the last few years, from Gove’s “People in this country have had enough of experts” to Donald Trump mocking CNN, a respected new organisation, by calling them “fake news”.

We are transitioning from a place where facts may be disputed or distorted, but the truth ultimately acts as a revelation that forces the hands of the elected and electorate, to one where the truth is optional or subjective, and no amount of evidence can convince otherwise. In other words, we are entering the state of cognitive dissonance that Pomrantsev states is the goal of modern propaganda. We cannot know if this is intentional on behalf of some parties, or who they are, but it is happening nonetheless.

We find ourselves adrift in a new endarknening, a return to the dominance of faith over reason. This should be a deeply disturbing trend for anyone who holds truth, progress and rationality as an integral part of social and political consciousness. Just as we did a little under a century ago, we find ourselves at the borders of a place where the way we want things to be is more important than how they actually are.

Some of you reading this will undoubtedly tell me that I am being alarmist, that I am as guilty of propagandism as those I decry. I hope, however, that most of you will recognise within these words the hard glint of uncomfortable truth. If you do, then know that what awaits us is not going to be pleasant, and not going to be easy. It will be a struggle against forces who wish to pervert the voices of others, who wish to establish their own doctrine as unarguable, and who have little care for the relationship between what they say and what the world actually looks like.

This new propagandism, this new rejection of evidence and reason, is the enemy of liberty, democracy and progress. It is the enemy of the scientific method, of human rights, and of a free society. It is an enemy with many faces and more instruments. To recognise that they are all faces of the same enemy is not to say that they are the same, as no doubt any attempt to tar Trump with the same brush as ISIS will be met with nothing but outrage. But, if what we hold dear is to survive, we must recognise that they are different but related outcroppings of the same phenomenon.

* Edwin Moriarty joined the Liberal Democrats in 2016.

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49 Comments

  • William Ross 18th Jan '17 - 12:03pm

    This article represents a new vacuous low. We were right and you have no arguments.
    You are just an extension of Putin and Mussolini. What is the Liberal Democrat party coming to?

  • Absolutely. Spot on.

    It is the vicious anti-intellectualism that links Brexit and Trump and, ultimately, the politics of the 1930s. The likes of Farage and Banks left shcool with going on to college to carve out careers as hustlers. They despise learning and evidence – there’s is the world where you can take what you want by saying anything through persuading others on the basis of rhetoric rather than reason.

    These are deeply disturbing times.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jan '17 - 1:43pm

    William

    I see your name on here very recently and suspect you are not a voter for this party or a member. That is fine , no reason you must be. But the whole point of this intelligent , even to some extent , intellectual reasoning by Edwin , is to avoid the sort of response you have immediately given ! Crude , insulting, arrogant , gets us precisely no where.There is absolutely nothing vacuous in an article that is deep and constructive , you don’t have to agree with it , but don’t insult it. This is not a site for insults!

    As the son of a father who was from Italy , and as I often say for it influenced me , a father who was in the compulsory Mussolini Youth , and saluted IL Duce himself , a father who saw the bodies of partisans hanging as examples for all to see, I do not like to hear a good and decent fellow member of my Liberal and Democratic party , compared with the dictator who led my fathers country for two decades !

    Edwin

    Keep at it !

  • “….forces who wish to pervert the voices of others, who wish to establish their own doctrine as unarguable, and who have little care for the relationship between what they say and what the world actually looks like.”

    A perfect description of political ‘spin’, as it came to prominence two decades ago.?

    It must have seemed like a spiffingly brilliant new idea, by those shadowy figures behind the political curtain,… ‘Lets spin the news between objective facts, and subjective facts to create a prefered media message that fits our desired agenda’
    Brilliant,… bravo,.. and pretty soon everyone was at it,… the ‘spinning game’, and not just within the body politic, but also within the media, from our very own BBC to CNN. Now no ‘expert’, or media is trusted, because we have become conditioned by the masters of spin, to accept that ‘facts’ ~ always come with a hidden agenda. So now there is ‘your truth’, and ‘my truth’, and we each are forced to delve behind the curtain, to determine each others agenda.

    Is it so very difficult to join the dots, and see that two decades of foolish hubris from those master media manipulators, has brought us to ‘peak spin’, and left us adrift,..with no clear holder of the truth.?

  • William Ross 18th Jan '17 - 2:30pm

    Lorenzo
    The reference to Mussolini and Putin was in the article!
    Michael Gove is an anti-intellectual? Really. He was objecting to experts like the IMF, OECD, CBI and Bank of England. Where are they now?

    You may disagree with Leave but to write us off as having no arguments is preposterous!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jan '17 - 2:41pm

    William

    No, you compared the article and or its writer to Mussolini, Edwin did not compare himself to the Duce !

    I am a very moderate remainer. I am of the UKIP wing of the Liberal Democrats compared to some ! I am less pro EU and less pro freedom of movement than Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke and the like , both of whom I like , but that is not the point.

    No one is accusing you of not having arguments. No one is as far as I can understand , saying that Michael Gove lacks intellect or that experts are always right or even often.I happen to think meteorology in this country a waste of time even looking at my number of times looking at the weather articles or headlines and only to see they got it wrong is many !

    In my view there is a dangerous view growing , that any one who is not a populist, is a purist. I am neither. In any sphere I welcome the possibility of being popular based on being right or decent or good.Whether in political , professional or personal life .

  • “Really.”

    Michael Gove is a poster boy for anti-intellectualism. This is a man whose most famous quote describes a vacuous (and I am using that word with an actual foundation) dismissal of expert opinion. I could go at length about his vast track-record of anti-intellectualism but that one quote sums up everything about the man .

  • William Ross 18th Jan '17 - 2:50pm

    Lorenzo

    You are utterly wrong. I would never compare a Lib Dem author to Putin or Mussolini.
    “You are just an extension of Putin or Mussolini ” is paraphrasing the author`s argument.

    In fact he does accuse Leavers as being anti-intellectual/post truth. He talked about Putin, Mussolini, Trump, ISIS and the Nazis. He is lumping us, and it is not pretty.

  • @Lorenzo Cherin

    “I happen to think meteorology in this country a waste of time even looking at my number of times looking at the weather articles or headlines and only to see they got it wrong is many !”

    Can I politely suggest that you actually look at the weather forecasts on the Met Office website specific to your area rather than the reporting of them by journalists? Modern meteorology is remarkably accurate. Much of the reporting of the forecasts in our media is either poor, at best, it or sensationlises it in a manner that is outrageously awful and bears no resemblance to the actual forecast (Mail and Express). The stock response of many of the public is to then blame the forecasters rather than the journalists.

  • Alan Depauw 18th Jan '17 - 3:15pm

    Michael Gove’s disparagement of experts is rightly quoted in this well-composed article; for if politicians are to ignore them, what are their proposals to be based on? Faith and/or Might alone, the author argues. In all logic, how can he be wrong?

  • William Ross 18th Jan '17 - 3:47pm

    Alan

    I wouldn`t want to rely on the IMF too much. A former French finance minister ( unbiased???) said that Brexit would be bad, seriously bad. Yeah right. The IMF was ripped apart in an internal report afterwards and she was convicted of a serious offence (Tapie).
    Like Michael Gove, I would prefer to rely on sound unbiased sources.

  • Alan Depauw 18th Jan '17 - 4:12pm

    William Ross: The lady you refer to was convicted only of negligence.

  • So, our Foreign Secretary – a leading Leave campaigner with a history of making explicitly racist comments – compares the French President with the Nazis.

    Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the temperature rises to its highest level in 115,000 years, as predicted by the experts, but it’s all apparently a hoax according to Trump. The proportion of Brexiters that think human activity isn’t causing global warming is almost twice as high as Remainers (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/16/brexit-voters-almost-twice-as-likely-to-disbelieve-in-manmade-climate-change). They think they are being original thinkers by contradicting expert opinion, but reality has little regard for what goes on in their heads.

  • William Ross 18th Jan '17 - 5:12pm

    Alan

    If I was convicted of negligence in a multi-million euro case I would consider it serious.
    She got off with nothing.

    Angry: Yes the Foreign Minister made the Nazi accusation but it was an obvious spoof.
    The writer of this article was not spoofing. For him there is a real connection between
    Gove and the nasties.

  • This is an interesting idea, but I think the rot set in under the Blair government. Today we expect to go to a fact checker website to check whatever a politician states as facts. This is not new. It did not start in 2016, but I think it started after 1997.

    There is also the problem that opinions presented as facts. This is particularly bad in the print media.

    As it is difficult to tell fact from misrepresentation it is time that liberals called for it to be made illegal for politicians and news media to present inaccurate facts, or opinion as fact. This is the only way to restore the public’s confidence in facts and truth.

    However the EU referendum was not really lost and won on facts, but on belief. It seems the majority voting Leave believed things would be better out of the EU, while the majority voting Remain believed that things would get worse.

    The question that should be asked is are general elections won on facts or belief. In 1979 people believed the Tories would make things better, and in 1997 they believed Labour would make things better.

  • I’m with William Ross on this, the article really is a new low. Basically the author seems to think that anyone who voted Trump or Brexit, doesn’t rate CNN and questions the views of some experts “are different but related outcroppings of the same phenomenon” as ISIS. The guy really wants to get out more, the world is full of nice people who aren’t Liberals.

  • Actually fascism was based on beliefs that were fashionable and even respectable at the time. Eugenics, totalitarianism, simplified evolutionary theories and so on. You can see the roots in lots of early 20th century thought. At the time a lot of countries still had empires and believed in concepts like the white mans Burden or that the poor were morally inferior. Obviously, totalitarianism equally put a great deal of faith in youth and a nebulas idea of the future above experience. They usually claimed to be scientific, modern, and evidence based.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jan '17 - 8:32pm

    AngrySteve

    I get your point , the distinction between headlines and facts

    William

    You have explained and I appreciate that your phraseology and my understanding of it needed clarity . But the tone of your reaction was a bit abrupt in response to a very analytical piece !

    Malc

    If I think of the article in the way you do I would take your view, it is not as many would read it , there is a very strong current of loud and angry today that is misplaced or directed in a way we need to be vigilant because of ! The terrorist outrages , shootings in the US, race relations there , the hideous murder of the marvellous Jo Cox, these are symptoms of a malaise in our society and in our discourse. No one should be full of blame , nor tend towards complacency as an alternative.

  • Malc – “the world is full of nice people who aren’t Liberals”. Maybe the use of the capital L is your qualifier, but I wonder about this statement. One of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity is Jesus’s exhortation to “Love thy neighbour as oneself”. I don’t myself understand how people who argue that charity begins at home, or who support slashing foreign aid , or who knowingly peddle false information about the number of people intending to migrate to this country can be a) Christians, and/or b) be nice people.

  • Glenn wrote:

    “Actually fascism was based on beliefs that were fashionable and even respectable at the time. Eugenics, totalitarianism, simplified evolutionary theories and so on.”

    I think we could do with a history lesson here. During the 1930s, much of Europe was ruled by authoritarian nationalist governments. Germany was the largest and most powerful country to be governed in this way. Italy was the second largest. But there were others. Some of these movements were fervently Roman Catholic (Spain, Portugal, Poland, Ireland under De Valera, Austria under Engelbert Dolfuss). Hitler and Mussolini, by contrast, were atheists and biological materialists. Only the Nazis made a big deal of the pseudo-scientific race stuff. Mussolini did not and Franco did not. Fascist movements vary greatly, and often they are in conflict (e.g., Hitler had Dolfuss murdered).

    Malc wrote:

    “Basically the author seems to think that anyone who voted Trump or Brexit, doesn’t rate CNN and questions the views of some experts “are different but related outcroppings of the same phenomenon” as ISIS.”

    I must have been reading a different article, Malc. My understanding is that the author is attacking populism and the trend towards the disparagement of experts, as seen in Gove’s dismissals of expert opinion on the likely effects of Brexit. Populism is a device used by sections of the establishment to strengthen the establishment’s position by manipulating the gullible into believing that by voting for populist politicians they are opposing the establishment. The Leave campaign is a classic example of this tactic.

  • I wonder why Leavers believe this article is about them when Brexit isn’t mentioned once.

  • Perhaps I’m wrong, but I actually thought that the belief that reason should control emotion actually goes way back to Plato (and probably beyond).

    In truth though, it is now being recognised that reason is actually the sevant of emotion, people will select the facts that support their emotional attachement to an idea. As an example, I could go to one political website and be told that a certain action is needed and these are the facts why. If I then went to an opposing political website I could be told that a totally opposite action is required because these are the facts. Both sets of facts may be true, but each side will ignore the facts that do not promote their emotional belief.

  • @ Edwin Moriarty
    “This new propagandism, this new rejection of evidence and reason, is the enemy of liberty, democracy and progress. It is the enemy of the scientific method, of human rights, and of a free society.”

    I actually think you are wrong, I think the real enemy is the polorisation that has been occuring in recent decades between the various political strands (both in this Country and elsewhere). Further to my earlier comment, if someone puts forward a set of facts that contradict a sacred belief of a polical faction, they are treated as heretics and should be burned at the stake. I am not picking on the Lib Dems when I say this, it is happening in all parties and not just in the UK. The scientific method does not work in politics if the only thing being traded is insults.

    So the question is, how do you stop the polarisation and bring in more moderates who, perhaps, do not have such an entrenched (even faith based) view of the world? In recent days I’ve been watching some presentations by a person called Jonathan Haidt, he is an American talking mainly about the political situation in the USA, however a lot of what he says does equally apply here, it is well worth spending a bit of time watching (although the presentations are usually quite long). One of the things that he thinks may help is the increased use of open primaries when selecting candidates, obviously the Conservative Party have been trying this recently (I believe that 3 candidates selected this way actually went on to win Lib Dem seats). Perhaps this is something that could become the norm?

    Alternatively, perhaps those heavily involved in politics could step back and engage in discussion rather than using insults, I do include a bit of Heal Thyself” in that suggestion btw.

  • William Ross 19th Jan '17 - 4:30am

    Andrew R

    You have obviously not read the article. No mention of Brexit? Maybe not the Brexit word.
    I suppose Gove, experts and UK are just by accident?

  • Tonyhill
    So you equate niceness mainly with Christianity? By the way the charity begins at home statement contains a linguistic clue. It explicitly rejects the idea that it ends at home as home is the start of and not the final destination of charity.

  • @Sesenco
    Not totally correct, Eugenics was considered quite a valid viewpoint in the UK until fairly recently ( see http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/12/british-eugenics-disabled )

  • @Glenn,

    You very clearly have absolutely no idea what science actually is, so here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

    “Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”

    It is an intellectual process. Eugenics is not an intellectual process of discovering knowledge – it is social engineering and has nothing whatsoever to do with science. To equate science with the Nazis is deeply ignorant given the behaviour of the Third Reich towards academic freedom and learning.

  • @AngrySteve
    “Eugenics is not an intellectual process of discovering knowledge – it is social engineering and has nothing whatsoever to do with science.”

    I would have to disagree with you, it was based on the science of evolution. It was based on reason, in fact it was a good example of why reason should never be the be all and end all. Using pure reason, what they proposed would have made sense, eliminate human imperfections and society would improve.

    “To equate science with the Nazis is deeply ignorant given the behaviour of the Third Reich towards academic freedom and learning.”
    Again, I would disagree, they didn’t prevent learning, but they did dictate where science was to be directed. Hence their scientists were spirited away at the end of WW2 to various space and weapons programs.

  • @chris_sh

    “I would have to disagree with you, it was based on the science of evolution. It was based on reason”

    Did you actually bother to read what I said? Eugenics is a human construct that is entirely social and political. It never had anything to do with science or reason.

    “they didn’t prevent learning”

    Wow, just wow. I’ve read some comments in the internet on my time but that is by far the most astonishingly ignorant thing I’ve ever read. The Nazis didn’t prevent learning?! What an offensive, crass insult to those members of German universities that suffered persecution by the Nazis. Unless you regard ‘learning’ as the political indoctrination that took place when Hitler replaced the rectors of the universities with Nazis after he removed all Jewish professors and any likely dissenters after seizing power? Learning? Wow.

  • What learning was going on when the Nazis held public book-burnings in 1933? Were they trying to teach people how to make fires? I’m gobsmacked. Please enlighten us chris_sh.

  • Angrysteve,
    Eugenics at the time were seen as more respectable. Quite a few American policies were also geared in that direction until after the war. Science is what it is until the collected data ceases to support it. In the 19th for instance science supported Hysteria as a specific condition. Plus I did not say they were scientific, I said they usually claimed to be scientific. Let me spell it out for you C-L-A-I-MED. The problem here being that you don’t seem to understand language rather than me not understanding science. And I have a very good idea of the forces involved as I have Jewish and Romany ancestry.

  • Glenn – I seriously doubt that anyone who uses the phrase “charity begins at home” has ever used it in the way you are suggesting.

  • Tonyhill,
    My dad used it and I use it like that because that’s what it actually means. Charity comes after you’ve looked after things at home. I most certainly give to charity and to homeless people or to those desperate enough to ask, even if the latter is frowned on in some quarters. But I agree a lot of people don’t use it in that way. However, I would suggest generally speaking people take a somewhat nationally based approach to the role of taxation and really do mean “home” comes before wider concerns rather than at the exclusion of those wider concerns. I suspect this is because taxation is viewed more like a form of insurance than as charity and because a lot of people have less disposable income than is sometimes assumed.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '17 - 8:44pm

    @tonyhill “I don’t myself understand how people who argue that charity begins at home … can be a) Christians, and/or b) be nice people.”
    Actually, the origin of the proverb is probably as Glenn describes (though this reference makes Glenn’s point a little more strongly than I would!), and it is often linked to Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5) telling him to make sure widows are looked after by their families first before turning to the church. The common origin of the word charity and love may also mean that the proverb is similar to Whitney Houston’s advice about the “Greatest Love of All”.
    But equally, as you imply, the article I linked to points out that the expression is often misused as a glib phrase to justify not being charitable.
    So it’s a score draw.
    Googling and learning about things like this is one of the things I love about LibDemVoice! 🙂

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '17 - 8:50pm

    I should also add that as an engineer with little knowledge of history, politics, philosophy, etc. the interesting, educational and thought-provoking nature of this article and the thread below it is another one of the things I love about LibDemVoice!

  • @AngrySteve
    Try calming down.
    Does the Theory of Evolution has any relevance to science? Perhaps you may like to resist the urge to lash out when people contradict you, instead read up on some of the things that these people believed. There was a belief that by using the scientific discoveries on evolution you could improve the human race. In the present society this provokes a lot of outrage, but Glenn is right, at that time it did attract some well known people to it’s ranks. See http://www.galtoninstitute.org.uk/history/eugenic-past/ as a starting point.

    “Wow, just wow. I’ve read some comments in the internet on my time but that is by far the most astonishingly ignorant thing I’ve ever read. The Nazis didn’t prevent learning?!”
    Well, you seem to be making the mistake of thinking that because they prevented learning things you approve of, they didn’t allow any learning at all. As I said, the state decided what would be learnt, some of what was learnt was used to train medical staff for many years after WW2. But that required a lot of soul searching as the research was brutal (as in murderous brutal and using what can only be described as torture), raising the question whether it was morally right to use such information.
    Science (esp medical science) has often had periods where things happened that we would feel are questionable today. Surgeons advanced their branch of medicine by using bodies stolen from graves. The government of the day stopped that by allowing them to use unclaimed bodies from the workhouse.

  • @Peter Watson
    “… with little knowledge of history, politics, philosophy, etc. the interesting, educational and thought-provoking nature of this article and the thread below it is another one of the things I love about LibDemVoice!”

    I would +1 that comment 🙂 People who are heavily involved in politics have often confused me by their attitudes, I would guess that is why I’m currently so interested in the person I mentioned above (Jonathan Haidt), well worth a look on youtube if you have the time.

  • @ Peter Watson

    It is very unlikely that Paul wrote 1 Timothy. It is normally dated to the late first century or early second century CE. It is generally accepted that it existed by c 180 CE when referred to by Irenaeus.

  • Peter Watson 20th Jan '17 - 5:23pm

    @Michael BG
    A day without learning is a day wasted. Cheers.

  • Simon Banks 20th Jan '17 - 5:41pm

    No, facts do not matter more than faith and that was not the essential message of the Enlightenment. Facts give you no values. Fact: the Slave Trade was very good business. The Enlightenment did suggest values could be derived from other things than faith – than religious faith anyway – but in the end statements like “All men (sic) are created equal” are not statements of fact but of belief.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jan '17 - 8:09am

    Glenn

    Actually fascism was based on beliefs that were fashionable and even respectable at the time. Eugenics, totalitarianism, simplified evolutionary theories and so on.

    The central argument for fascism was that it is better to be ruled by one charismatic person who has all the power, rather than by an elected assembly. It was argued that being ruled by an elected assembly means squabbles and compromises, and leads to weakness in government.

    If you want to understand why it was so popular, go and look at the arguments used by those in favour of directly elected mayors. It is exactly the same, but at local rather than national government level.

  • @Simon Banks
    “No, facts do not matter more than faith and that was not the essential message of the Enlightenment.!”

    You have no idea what science is or what the enlightenment is. I gave a definition of science above – please read it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘facts’. The enlightenment and liberalism itself were both by-products of the scientific revolution. The renaissance was the rediscovery of lost knowledge and process from antiquity. The moment the renaissance changed to the enlightenment was with the acceptance of Isaac Newton’s discoveries which pushed human knowledge beyond that obtained in antiquity. The advancement of the scientific method was the driving force behind the enlightenment and the reason for our increased prosperity over the last few centuries.

    The advancement of the scientific method is also fundamental to the advancement of liberalism – it would not have happened without it. Every human wants the freedom to say what they want, speak to whoever they want and go where they want. It is an innate essence of our being. The suppression of the freedoms of individuals, e.g. the slave trade or the limitation of suffrage to rich males, was always built on anti-scientific myths about the inferiority of other ‘groups’ of people. It was the advancement of science, i.e. the process of making observations to refute or prove hypotheses, that demonstrated that these myths were untrue. For example, the suffragette movement completely failed to obtain women’s suffrage and probably helped the ruling males to demonstrate that the women blowing up post-boxes, burning buildings down and throwing themselves under horses were unfit to be allowed the vote. The the first world war happened and the country relied upon women taking up positions in the workplace vacated by the men at the front. The performance of these women during the war refuted the myths about the inferiority of women and the ruling classes were forced to give women the vote through the 1918 representation of the people act.

  • @chir_sh
    “There was a belief that by using the scientific discoveries on evolution you could improve the human race. ”

    I don’t really see much point in conversing with you when you are unable to listen or reason, but here goes…

    “There was a belief that by using the scientific discoveries on evolution you could improve the human race. ”

    So what? Those beliefs were emotive beliefs, had nothing to do with reason or the scientific method. Isaac Newton had some very strange beliefs, but his fame as the founding father of the enlightenment and the modern world isn’t based on his crazy beliefs, it’s founded on his scientific work that fundamentally advanced human knowledge to a greater extent than any other human being since antiquity. There may have been some scientists who tried to advance the theories of the social engineering of eugenics but that does not make it scientific. There were many scientists that opposed eugenics. Since it never had anything to do with science then it has been discarded. Science is the driving force behind the enlightenment and liberalism.

    As for the Nazis! Really? There is a difference between teaching and learning that you seem not to appreciate. Teaching medical students on vocational courses is not the same as learning – learning is a process, essentially the scientific method, that advances human knowledge. Thankfully the Nazis and Hitler were against it, which retarded their ability to produce things like nuclear weapons – burning Einstein’s works wasn’t much help to their cause. The war would have lasted much longer if Hitler hadn’t kept undermining his generals. Hitler, like Gove, wasn’t one for experts.

  • Mathew.
    I’m very aware of things like that for the reasons I’ve stated. I’m not going to write a essay on its entire history. I was simply pointing out that things like Eugenics, “race science” and totalitarianism had a level of respectability at the time.
    I was mainly arguing with Angrysteve because he seems to think that reason is separate from the societies doing the reasoning and is basically refusing to understand that the past is not the present. The point being that science evolves and known “facts” are expanded on or are rejected according to the available data. . Also he twists what people are saying to shut arguments down.

  • @Glenn

    Could you please do me the courtesy of explaining exactly where you think I’ve twisted what someone has said?

    “The point being that science evolves”

    No it doesn’t. Can you please read the definition of science I posted above so you may understand what it is. I repeat – it is a process – and it hasn’t evolved at all for several hundred years. It is the process that gave rise to the enlightenment and the political extension of science, liberalism.

    With regards to Eugenics, again, I repeat, it never had anything to do with science as the scientific method is about developing our understanding of the natural world. Eugenics is a human construct – an ideology based on social engineering. That its advocates couched their theories in the language of science makes it no more scientific than homeopathy.

  • Angrysteve.
    You’ve just done it now. Obviously, the scientific method stay the same but data changes the nature of the what is seen as a fact. Science is formed from a consensus based on repeated experiment and testing. Something that was seen as a fact in one era might not be now and something we currently view as a fact now might not be in the future as testing improves on the available data. The point I was trying to make, all be it clumsily, is knowledge arrived at by constant refinements.
    As for Eugenics. It’s based on the idea of using selective breeding to reinforce characteristics. It works if you want to produce a bulldog or an Aberdeen Angus. The problem is that things like intelligence and criminality (the major preoccupations of Eugenicists) are defined culturally rather than by biology. Plus even if you accept the principle of some biological factor it would still involve a ton of genes with very complex relationships and still be subject to all kinds of environmental variables. On top of which it raises all kinds of moral problems. Germany in fact did employ the scientific method using human test subjects on, amongst other things, research into hyperthermia and it was morally repugnant, but not unscientific. Science is not innately moral which is why we have laws governing tests.

  • P.s,
    My apologies
    I retract the Hyperthermia/medical example as it was based on an out of date book and more recent findings suggest that a lot of the data was too haphazardly collected and in many cases fraudulent to be used even if the ethical concerns were ignored. However, I stand by my central point that there is a difference in being proved wrong based changed understanding and better data than being unscientific. Both Canada and America were still operating some policies based on Eugenics after WWII. I will also repeat that I said claimed to be true and not were true. I also stand by the idea that science is not innately moral and that using scientific methods does not itself safeguard against inhumanity.

  • @AngrySteve
    “I don’t really see much point in conversing with you when you are unable to listen or reason, but here goes…”

    Yes, I must admit that I am also feeling a bit the same way, but like you say, here we go:

    In the 1920s Eugenics was mainstream science, even being taught in universities.
    Germany had science prior to and during WW2, America (and probably the USSR) nabbed lots of scientist at the end of the war, they worked at NASA (look up Von Braun) and with the military.
    “There were many scientists that opposed eugenics. ”
    That’s what is supposed to happen in science, scientists do research and other scientists test and see if it can be disproved.
    “There is a difference between teaching and learning that you seem not to appreciate.”
    A very strange statement, do you believe that the knowledge being taught just appeared?

    “Thankfully the Nazis and Hitler were against it, which retarded their ability to produce things like nuclear weapons”
    They priotised weapons, they had a nuclear program that was far behind the allies, their research on other WMD (e.g. nerve agents – look up tabun and sarin) was so advanced that it caused a nasty shock when allies discovered it (and it was why German scientists were spirited away, the USA wanted the info and they didn’t want the Russians to get it).

    You may not like the history, you may not like the science, it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

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