How Dogma Dies

In our dogmatic era, I was wondering a few days back how dogmas die. Everything dies in the end, but how does dogma die?

You start out with some hesitant, uncertain idea, and it maybe gathers a following of some sort, and becomes more confident, more certain. And then it becomes an unquestionable truth, a doctrine set in stone. And what then? Does it just get bigger and bigger, and ever more dogmatic and unquestionable?

I was reminded of this train of thought by something I read today: how in a Colorado university students on a course on climate change had received the following email:

“The point of departure for this course is based on the scientific premise that human induced climate change is valid and occurring. We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the ‘other side’ of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course,” states the email, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by a student in the course.

“Opening up a debate that 98% of climate scientists unequivocally agree to be a non-debate would detract from the central concerns of environment and health addressed in this course,” the professors’ email continued.

“… If you believe this premise to be an issue for you, we respectfully ask that you do not take this course… – signed Professors, Rebecca Laroche, Wendy Haggren and Eileen Skahill

The science of climate change had become unquestionable.

And I think that this is maybe the point where ideas start to die. They die when they become unquestionable dogma, and no discussion or doubt is allowed.

For in a sense, anything – and not just an idea – is only truly alive when it’s been picked up, tossed around, used, abused, dropped, stolen. It dies when it gets locked away, and it can’t be seen or touched, or even mentioned.

Once some idea – any idea – is off the table for discussion, the mantle of death settles over it. It’s no longer a living, vibrant idea. It’s dead.

The three professors in the Colorado university probably thought they were protecting the idea of climate change, but in fact they were killing it and mummifying it.

And this is probably the way everything else goes too. Religious beliefs gradually become unquestionable dogmas, and that’s when they die too. When your god has been elevated onto a pedestal in a temple, hidden from everyone’s eyes, that god has died. Because he was only ever truly alive when he ran in the streets and played games and could be found down at the beach writing poetry. It was probably as true for Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix as it was for Apollo or Aphrodite.

So when some belief – like Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, or Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming, or (more obscurely) Asteroids Don’t Have Companions – becomes an unquestionable doctrine, out of bounds, it ceases to play a part in any continuing flow of conversation or debate, and must inevitably be left behind.

So if you want your gods to die, first make belief in them mandatory, forbid all questions about them, clothe them in gold, and mount them on pedestals inside a gloomy temple, with only a few attendant priests. That way they will die quickly, and soon be completely forgotten.



About Frank Davis

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18 Responses to How Dogma Dies

  1. Roobeedoo2 says:

    The first Terry Pratchett book I ever read was ‘Small Gods’. I started read it on a train, visiting my sister and her new baby, and finished it on the return journey. The actual visit itself kinda got in the way…

    ‘It tells the origin of the god Om, and his relations with his prophet, the reformer Brutha. In the process, it satirises religious institutions, people, and practices, and the role of religion in political life.’

    The High Priests and Priestess of Health are strict in what we’re allowed to do…

    Terry Pratchett was kind enough to reply to my letter about Harley ;)

  2. Joe L. says:

    Seeing as you mentioned asteroids, I’m not sure if you heard about the close call we had last weekend, Frank, but if not, I figured you might want to add this one to your simulation.

    Earth Just Narrowly Missed Getting Hit by an Asteroid

    On Saturday, astronomers discovered a new asteroid, just a few hours before it almost hit us.

    The asteroid is called 2016 QA2, and it missed the Earth by less than a quarter of the distance to the moon. That puts it about three times as far away from Earth as our farthest satellites. And we never saw it coming…

    • Frank Davis says:

      I have already added it, using NASA figures for its position and speed (which they generate amazingly rapidly). And I’ve also found the trajectory of any companion bodies that could have struck the Earth. But I’ve not heard of any accompanying fireballs though.

  3. Lepercolonist says:

    We were taught that there are 9 planets in our solar system. The belief was mandatory. Case closed.
    From the discovery of Pluto in 1930 this was dogma. Fast forward to 2006 and now we have only 8 planets. The astronomers shed a new light on the subject and we now have ‘dwarf planets’.

  4. Rose says:

    “We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the ‘other side’ of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course,”

    So it’s a theological course, not science at all.

    Well at least they have admitted it, it’s when they don’t that people get confused.

  5. sackersonwp says:

    Perhaps they should offer two courses, one for believers and the other for deniers, and let the argy-bargy take place in the pubs and cafeterias.

  6. Manfred says:

    It’s funny as it is intellectually bankrupt to moribund a theory, to incarcerate a premise, to turn an hypothesis into an inviolate belief. It betrays one and it renders one unable to address ever changing relevance. The idea then, rather than evolving as it responds to evidence, suddenly starts to wither and age, becoming sadly enfeebled, and finally a fossilized remnant of meaninglessness. The edict of unquestioning acceptance is testament solely to the excruciating, low intellectual wattage of the three laughingly termed “Professors,” Rebecca Laroche, Wendy Haggren and Eileen Skahill, as it is a damning indictment of their institution, the University of Colorado.

      • Manfred says:

        Interesting isn’t it. The oft peddled criteria of climastrologers in general and the cult-like cadre of Mann, Bradley and Hughes in particular is the one of auto-exclusion from being taken seriously when commenting on the subject of ‘climate’ without possessing the necessary ‘post-modern climate science’ credentials. Ironically, the Colorado Profs appear a perfect fit for exclusion.

  7. Jim says:

    I think dogmas die when people start being punished for being ‘non-believers’, which is what the university in Colorado have pretty much started. So you’re right, thats the beginning of the end.

  8. jameshigham says:

    Yes, those three ‘profs’ made it quite clear the true meaning of dogma.

  9. petesquiz says:

    Perhaps, dogmas might die if/when their absurdity is pointed out as in this article from The Guardian (of all places!) by David Seedhouse – – the opening of which is that if the NHS bans cigarettes because they are dangerous, meat should also be banned.

    • Barry Homan says:

      I read through the comments. Gawd, how pathetic and petty sheeple have become. Ship the lot to Pluto, wire their brains to stay alive for eternity.

  10. harleyrider1978 says:

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