Religion, Science, Politics

There’s quite a bit more to religious fundamentalism than just religion. The operative word is fundamentalism, though its synonyms are well suited to the case: extremism, zealotry, fanaticism, bigotry … all of them ways of avoiding thought, reason, science, and commonsense. The anti-science stance of creationists has much in common with other forms of denialism, for example concerning the climate catastrophe, coronavirus, and AIDS, and it also spills into antisocial practices like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and hate crimes.

The religion-science-politics overlap is clear when scripture-quoting antiabortionists who’d be happy about bombing infidels in Afghanistan fly a “Pro-Life is Pro-Science” banner, and claim that the Roe v Wade ruling was “musty” because “science has changed”. There’s rather less science in the “odious little argument”, as Jean and Peter Medawar called it, of the Great Beethoven Fallacy which goes that terminating a pregnancy because the father was syphilitic and the mother tubercular would have meant murdering Beethoven. Actually, neither of Beethoven’s parents had syphilis. But truth’s not the aim. As the Medawars note, unless there’s a causal connection whereby a tubercular mother and syphilitic father produce musical geniuses, abstinence from intercourse would equally as well do the job of depriving the world of a Beethoven. Any celebrity will do. Justin Bieber’s an occasional update. And, since it’s a fatuous discussion, Hitler can be used as a counterargument. Meanwhile, the question of women’s rights is whisked away from the debate, and antiabortionists like Rep. Madison Cawthorn can speak of women as “earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God”.

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Daniel Raventós is a lecturer in Economics at the University of Barcelona and author inter alia of Basic Income: The Material Conditions of Freedom (Pluto Press, 2007). He is on the editorial board of the international political review Sin Permiso.   Julie Wark is an advisory board member of the international political review Sin Permiso. Her last book is The Human Rights Manifesto (Zero Books, 2013).

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