Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dipping the non-economic oar in: James Hogan's "Kicking the Sacred Cow"

You can see excerpts of this book, Kicking the Sacred Cow by James P. Hogan, online, and for that reason I will, with one exception, only seriously discuss the excerpted chapters. I feel it's largely subsumed in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science by Tom Bethell, but since Chris Mooney and John Farrell are already analyzing that book, I will make the beginnings of an analysis of Hogan's book, since his only claim to fame is as a relatively popular and successful science fiction author (known mainly for the Giants series), and hence, falls into the area this specialty weblog encompasses.

Both the author's starting statement:
Science really doesn't exist. Scientific beliefs are either proved wrong, or else they quickly become engineering. Everything else is untested speculation.
And the contents:
  1. Humanistic Religion: The Rush to Embrace Darwinism
  2. Of Bangs and Braids: Cosmology's Mathematical Abstractions
  3. Drifting in the Ether: Did Relativity Take A Wrong Turn?
  4. Catastrophe of Ethics: The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously
  5. Environmentalist Fantasies: Politics and Ideology Masquerading As Science
  6. Closing Ranks: AIDS Heresy In The Viricentric Universe
tell you a great deal.

My summary would be quite different from Hogan's wannabe aphorism* above. I would say his two actual epistemological rules are (1) The more Biblical theory is always right and (2) the crank is always right. Nothing much else could really explain such a tendentious and one-sided analysis of science.

How this fits into this weblog's specialty: Both Ecco (commenting on 14 signs of fascism in general) and Britt (trying them on for size in the United States of the current era) note the assault on science by the fascist system in favor of traditionalism, theocracy, and corporate interests. Most of my emphasis will be on the "corporate interests" part, but I thought I would start off with one that's mostly traditional and theocratic.

As a background, recently the author has written fiction defending and retelling Velikovsky's "worlds in collision" theory, so I will start with Hogan's defense of Velikovsky, in my very next post. It's not excerpted in the online preview, but it is in his fiction books, and his comments in various places on the internet.

*The construction of which is a trait he shares with Robert Heinlein, who's the patron saint of science fiction conservatives.

Much as Orson Scott Card has done with Mormon theology and cosmology. But Card is much more open about promoting Scriptural beliefs about reality as he sees them than Hogan is. Hogan is a committed "back-door" attacker of science, more like the people in the Discovery Institute.


Tom said...

Orson Scott Card is a practicing Mormon promoting his religion in his fiction (or, at very least, writing SF from a Mormon POV) and can, I think, be compared to Tolkien's Anglo-Catholicism and many other such. I think that, whatever we think of them as authors or as theologians, that is quite understandable and reasonable (and the fact that Card, like Tolkien, is very upfront about his beliefs puts him in a different category). My only beef with such views is that I would like to see more writers coming from 'progressive' viewpoints.

But, with James Hogan, the case is different. If he is a Dispensationalist Christian, he hides it. Yet for the last decade or more, he has promoted their views.


Marion Delgado said...


If you look at my 2nd footnote, you'll see you and I are on exactly the same page here.

Thanks for being my first commenter!

Lars said...

I thought that Hogan was expressing hostility to any aspect of science that was inimical to right-wing/libertarian wet dreams of unlimited and unregulated human expansion. Thus the anti-Darwinian, pro-Velikovskian stance - evolutionary science and accepted geoscience must both be discredited, because they limn a biosphere which has required millions of years to attain its present configuration and balance. Your contra-science libertarian would view this as an impediment to unrestricted population growth and its accompanying ever-spiralling "wealth creation" through the liberating role of free markets, ceaseless human progress, what-have-you - standard Julian Simon boilerplate. If the entire biosphere recovered within a few years from the sort of catastrophes that Velikovsky describes, there must not be much to this oncoming environmental apocalypse business that we've been hearing about, must there? And if evolution isn't a serious player in forming the biosphere, well, again, the biosphere must be pretty maleable, and what we think of today (if we're dreary reductionist environmental or biological scientists) as being the product of millions of years of co-evolution is actually pretty robust and doesn't require any protection against free markets. We don't know where species come from to begin with and making the connection between the evolutionary play and the ecological stage is an exercise in faulty logic, satisfactory only to lefties.

But maybe I'm wromg; or maybe all of this is in addition to Hogan's religious agenda. I have to confess, though, that I've never thought of him as a crypto-godbotherer, just as a contrascientifc freeper. Pity, really, he started out as a not-too-bad writer.

Marion Delgado said...

lars, that's something i absolutely never thought of. Reminds me of James Watt (sec. of Interior under Reagan) who combined millenarianism with market fundamentalism, and also of how the Gaia Hypothesis of Lovelock and Margulis, for some, entailed the idea that anything that was under ice during the glaciation must not be important to the ecology anyway.

(Herman Kahn, author of Thinking the Unthinkable said the same thing, that it was okay to irradiate the far north if need be - where the radiation from a nuclear exchange would go - because obviously the Earth didn't need it.)