Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Say "No" to Censorship

As president, Eisenhower spoke to the graduating class at Dartmouth College, advising them not to “. . . join the book burners. . . . [not] to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed.” He told them “. . . to go in your library and read every book....” He spoke these words because the State department, during the domestic terrorism sculpted by Eugene McCarthy’s fear-mongering, was engaged in removing books about Communism from the shelves of libraries. (To hear Eisenhower's speech at Dartmouth, visit

Eisenhower seemed to understand that in knowledge lies power, in knowledge lies understanding, in knowledge lies strength to make decisions for the greater good. Unless we are fully informed, we cannot critically examine the positions of our enemies and we cannot discern the truth.

The Texas Board of Education has, for many years, sought to suppress thought and limit knowledge, including Darwin’s research regarding the origin of the species and the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a separation of church and state. The Board also wishes to stamp its conservative ideology on history, even going so far as to rewrite history if necessary, in order to create an America that satisfies conservative Board members’ faith and perspectives. We must eschew such efforts and embrace the full Monty of knowledge in all its raw and naked truth so that people can evolve toward good rather than be legislated in some version of good.

Intelligent design or creationism are words used to describe another way of looking at the origins and history of the universe. Sadly, few people have actually read Darwin's Origin of the Species (Unabridged) or a full analysis of Creationism. Most people simply take the word of others without troubling themselves to actually know, but how can anyone judge the merits of an argument unless he has certain knowledge of each? Yet many people do just that: they announce the winner without every having competed, and they reduce the debate to a simple either-or fallacy without contemplating or appreciating how utterly complex this amazing world is.

When presented with compelling, incontrovertible evidence that evolution operates in this universe, the non-reading book burners are often taken aback. They have no argument and clearly founder in the boggy, uncertain ground of new information.

And what is this compelling, incontrovertible evidence? Flu germs. Mosquitoes. They are but two pieces of evidence. Take your pick.

Every year, the CDC makes its best guess about what the flu will be in the coming flu season. They build a vaccine to immunize us against the flu of years past and years to come. Yet the flu rebounds and returns every year, sometimes more virulent than other years and sometimes barely a blip on our radar screens, but return it does and never in the exact same construction. The flu evolves and so does our medicine.

We are now so hygienic that bacteria have less impact upon us, but when a bacterium mutates (another word for evolves), we scurry to mutate anti-bacterials and prescription drugs in order to combat the new, revised version of disease-carrying germs.

For this reason, mosquitoes continue to plague us. They carry more than one debilitating disease, including dengue fever, malaria, encephalitis, and West Nile. We try to eradicate those pests with slow-burning chemicals, sprays, and pesticides. Still we have no single, long-term solution except to cover our flesh so securely and thoroughly that a mosquito cannot bite us. And why? All those preventive barriers and off-putting smells must evolve with the mosquito’s resistance to them. Both human warrior and insect are engaged in an ongoing battle to evolve faster than the other, and to do so, humans try to understand and manipulate the DNA of mosquitoes or more recently, mask odors that attract mosquitoes to humans. We tinker with creation in order to preserve creation while mosquitoes respond to our endeavors by unconsciously changing themselves because of the biological imperative to endure and survive.

Darwin himself was reluctant to publish his findings from the Galapagos aboard the Beagle. He knew that his observations would shake the foundations of faith. Yet scientists still manage to worship the Divine and live moral, spiritual lives. Some people have reached a different conclusion, but their presence among us has not debased or destroyed our existence and they are no less moral. They do not threaten me as I make my own way toward the truth—as I should.

I want to know what has happened in the past. Not to know makes me gullible and vulnerable. Those in the know or those who wish to manipulate me can easily do so if I am uninformed. For example, without having been forced to read The Constitution in public school or without books such as Sarah Vowell’s Wordy Shipmates, I might have fallen victim to a man who announced that Congress could not publish the first Bible in the United States because some conspiracy, but certainly not the Founders, had forced the notion of Church and State as separate bodies upon us.

A simple timeline makes the claim specious. Religious founders and Bibles were on American soil before Congress existed. Furthermore, this one man’s analysis of the Founders’ true intent runs counter to hundreds of scholars and my own eyes upon The Constitution. Books and knowledge allow me to dismiss this one man’s untruth. Books and knowledge allow me to discern truth.

Have the courage to read the words and see the films presenting ideas that you believe to be antithetical to your own worldview. Be not afraid of the truth. Our world will evolve toward the good and away from disharmony if we make knowledge our aim.