An atheist recently stated macroevolution was true because the majority of scientists believe it’s true. Is anything right because the majority of people believe it’s true? Or is it exactly the opposite?
Is truth determined by the majority?
Our society assumes scientists are on the cutting edge of intellectual honesty and truth. But are they? Or could it be they are like the average person who doesn’t question established authority? Could it be that those with so-called “advanced educations” are even less likely to think independently? The higher the education the greater the indoctrination, cronyism, protectionism, bigotry, snobbery, conceit and intellectual dishonesty?
How would we find out? By using the fourth step of the Scientific Method itself: Observation for Corroboration.
Let’s observe a representative sample of the historical track record of science, just as we did with Galileo in a previous post titled “How do You Know You are Right?”
Observation for Corroboration
Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician working in maternity Ward No 1 at Vienna General Hospital in 1846. In his first month he was struck by the 17% fatality rate of mothers from puerperal fever, also called childbed fever. Mothers who gave birth in the streets had a better chance of survival. It was determined by the majority of Doctors that a remedy could never be found: childbed fever had always existed, would always exist & could never be cured. Semmelweis was intent on finding a solution despite the majority view.
Wash your hands!
Intense dedication and rigorous statistical analysis enabled Semmelweis to make a gruesome connection between the cadavers in the dissecting room and the mothers giving birth in his ward. The same doctors whose arms were elbow deep in the bodies of cadavers moments earlier were delivering babies with no more than a cursory hand-wipe on their filthy lab coats. His conclusion? Wash your hands! Sterilize the instruments! Change the bedding!
What was Semmelweis’ reward for his great, lifesaving discovery? He was fired!
When Semmelweis returned to Hungary he was given control of a small maternity ward. His insistence on hand cleaning and antiseptic washing with a hypochlorite solution brought the deaths to zero in the first year. When his practices came to the attention of his “superiors” he was again fired, whereupon the deaths immediately rose to nearly 30%.
“You’re murdering your patients!” Semmelweis cried out.
“You’re insane Semmelweis! A lunatic!” The majority of the Doctor’s responded.
The Doctors followed through on their accusations by having him committed to a mental institution where he died 14 days later. It is unclear if his death was a result of being beaten by the hospital staff, or if he deliberately infected himself with puerperal fever in a desperate attempt to illustrate and corroborate his discovery to the world.
Is an idea true by virtue of its popularity? Does majority rule ever equal truth? Even among the “educated?”
Or did Mark Twain get it right when he said:
“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
Let’s let the opposing view have the last word. The first quote below is from Dr. Klein at Austria’s Vienna General Hospital. The second quote is from the Emperor of Austria himself. Both quotes are from the book “The Cry and the Covenant” by Morton Thompson.
“Henceforth, Dr. Semmelweis, you will regard puerperal fever as an ailment traceable to milk. You will regard it as an aliment for which no human mind has ever found a remedy. No remedy ever will be found. You will accustom yourself to the unhappy incidence and the consequent fatalities of this disease as one of the normal expressions of living and of giving birth, and you will behave toward it as a doctor is expected to react to the inevitable occurrences of life and of death.”
“Keep yourself to what is old, for that is good. If our ancestors have proven it to be good, why should we not do as they did? Mistrust new ideas. I have no need of learned men. I need faithful subjects. He who would serve me must do what I command. He who cannot do this or who comes full of new ideas may go his way. If he does not, I shall send him.”