“Hold Nothing Sacred”

Throughout this whole PZ Myers affair, Myers and his sheep have said repeatedly that we must hold nothing sacred.  The thought behind the saying is, presumedly, that those traditions which are irrational must give way to those which are rational.  As the old story goes, science will only advance when we allow the most reasonable theory to cast out the theory which is unable to account for the same phenomena that the new theory does.  Of course, anyone with any background in the history of science knows that even that story is bunk:  it’s amazing how long untenable theories remain around because the tenured professor at Grand Elite University has spent his entire career holding it. 

But nevermind science at the moment:  do we really want a society where nothing is held sacred?  The bodies of our deceased loved ones, as a commentator on another blog suggests?  The scientific method?  Freedom of Speech, or more generally the Constitution?  Moral Norms?  Reason?  Life?  Liberty?  Human happiness?  Do these iconoclasts really want a world in which nothing is held sacred?  I guess I would be presuming too much to guess what Myers’s response would be to this line of questioning.

But alas, there are more problems:  according to the principle, “hold nothing sacred,” why ought I hold the principle itself as beyond reproach?  Furthermore, if we are to hold nothing sacred, then we cannot hold the current atheistic, materialistic worldview as sacred, for to do so would be to contradict the principle itself.  And yet, the people who have been shouting this principle in the streets are so sure of themselves and their worldview that they dismiss other traditions ad hoc without so much as flinching.  Ironically, the very principle which is invoked to preserve the integrity of the rational enterprise has the effect of closing the door to rational discussion.

But this should surprise no one:  the student of history should expect nothing less from ideologies and ideologues.

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