Can the path of "progress" towards the new Dark Ages be barred?

CĂLIN RECHEA (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section / 11 martie 2021

Can the path of "progress" towards the new Dark Ages be barred?
CĂLIN RECHEA (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)

"There is nothing left to discover in physics, all that's left to make the measurements more accurately," said Lord Kelvin towards the end of the nineteenth century.

What would the world have looked like if Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman or Murray Gell-Mann had taken that statement to be absolute truth?

An "improved" variant of the Dark Ages, but one led by the exponents of a "democratic" system, in which freedom of expression is a capital sin? "The more a society moves away from the truth, the more it hates those who say it," George Orwell said.

That hate has recently reached a terrible scope in Sweden. Yes, that country in which the uncontested champions of tolerance and democracy live!

But what if hatred and intolerance is felt to be justified against those who do not adhere wholeheartedly to the one and true faith, to the blind obedience to the religion of Covid?

Professor Jonathan Tourley, a reputed lawyer in the United States, recently wrote on his blog that "Sweden will take measures to protect academic freedom, as a professor abandoned studying Covid-19 following harassment."

The initiative of Swedish authorities is praiseworthy, but how it is possible for intolerance to reach the level where action is needed to protect freedom of expression? Isn't freedom of expression already included in the International Charter of Human Rights?

The news also appeared in the prestigious British medical journal (BMJ), where it is stated that Jonas Ludvigsson, pediatrician at the hospital of Örebro university and clinical epidemiology professor at the Karolinska institute, stopped studying Covid-19 because of "attacks and offensive comments of those who disagreed with the results of his studies "(author's note: Covid-19: Sweden vows greater protection for academics as researcher quits after aggressive social media attack", BMJ, 2021; 372).

What was professor Ludvigsson's "crime"? He published an article in the specialized journal New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), in which he showed that the danger of Covid-19 is negligible for schoolchildren and minor for teachers.

It seems that in Sweden, too, freedom of expression, especially in science, means nothing if it undermines certain political interests. Not even if it comes from a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, where the Nobel Committee operates, which has been deciding since 1901 who gets the Nobel Award for medicine.

The mass media in Sweden has published ads which pretended reopening schools was tantamount to murder, the American professor writes, even though "scientific evidence supported reopening schools".

Does that mean that confidence in science shouldn't be universal, and should only apply to "science" which has the approval of certain groups of interest or, unfortunately, only with government approval?

"This kind of studies, such as the one of professor Ludvigsson, contradict the media narrative and the position of teachers' unions", professor Jonathan Turley points out.

"Accusations full of hate and personal attacks cannot be tolerated", president of the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, Norwegian professor Ole Petter Ottersen also told the BMJ, which launched a call to university leaders to "ask all their researchers to keep a decent tone in debates and discussions".

A 2018 Swedish government study found that in 21 of the 26 universities reviewed, "there is a risk of researchers being exposed to harassment, threats and violence."

The president of the Karolinska Institute also stressed that "research and debate are vital, because the new coronavirus did not come with a user manual", and "in a situation with so many unknowns it is more important than ever for experts to express the opinions of experts, even if they contradict current policies".

Matilda Ernkrans, Minister of Higher Education and Research, told the BMJ that the government would propose amending the Higher Education Act to "ensure the protection of education and research so that people are free to research, discover and share knowledge."

"Although academic freedom is guaranteed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the government believes that the protection of academic freedom must be reflected in national law," the explanatory memorandum to Bill 2020/21: 60 reads. The draft was sent to Parliament on 17 December 2020 called "Research, freedom, future - knowledge and innovation for Sweden".

Then comes the blow, once the explanation of how the government understands academic freedom is given.

"The free search for knowledge and the free dissemination of knowledge must always be exercised within the limits of the existing legal framework and on the basis of the accepted values", the draft law states, as the governmental proposal claims that "the introduction of the principle of academic freedom does not mean that Higher Education institutions are exempt from control and regulations."

The Swedish government's attempt to "link" academic freedom to a series of "accepted values" goes beyond any limits of villainy and is worthy of George Orwell's writings.

The Fria Tider online daily writes that the specification in the bill was introduced in the "Constitutional Comment" section, which "has a direct impact on the way in which the law will be applied by the Courts of Justice."

A particularly harsh reaction came from reputable teachers in an editorial in the daily Dagens Nyheter. Titled "Say No to Freedom of Research Conditional Upon Accepted Values!", Lars Hultman and Christina Moberg, university professors and members of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, say the law paves the way for a massive increase in pressure on researchers and higher education institutions".

Indeed, who determines the values accepted at a given time in society? Does the restriction of general freedom of expression in the name of political correctness, for example, fall into the category of these "values"?

This opens the way for serious abuse and precisely for this reason the two professors are calling on the Parliament to pass the law without referring to "accepted values".

Maintaining them would be a major setback to academic freedom, beyond even the so-called Dark Middle Ages.

What was the significance of "accepted values" in the academic environment at that time? Looks like not that much. "Do not feel that I want to use Aristotle's words as an appeal to authority to demonstrate the things I am going to say, because I know that the appeal to authority is only dialectics and can only produce faith, but I want to reach certainties that can be demonstrated", William of Auvergne (1180-1249), a professor of theology at the University of Paris, told his students, as Professor Rodney Stark writes in his book "How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity."

Through a papal edict of 1231, the University of Paris was guaranteed total freedom from the local authorities, including religious leaders. The institution was entitled to establish its own bylaws and its own rules.

At that time, Robert Grosseteste, who studied and taught at the University of Paris before becoming a Bishop of Lincoln, described, in a treatise about the nature of light, a cosmological model in which the universe was created through a Big-Bang explosion, followed by a condensation of matter.

Professor Stark considers that Robert Grosseteste's studies are only one of the arguments that allow the characterization of European Middle Ages as "one of the most innovative era of humanity."

Despite the statements of Minister Matilda Ernkrans, the provisions on "accepted values" included in the Swedish Government's bill are, in fact, an important step towards a new era of ignorance and intolerance, given that great "progress" are being made in the United States as well.

Over there, the idea that math is racist is increasingly gaining ground, and children's books written by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) are being removed from stores. Professor Turley also writes that "Boston has suspended advanced study programs for students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, amid concerns about fairness."

And the barbarians who raised the "Cancel culture" are marching unimpeded into the "Castle" under the benevolent gaze of the new Washington administration, which constantly reminds us that it has brought back democracy to America.

"Oh, sancta simplicitas!", said Jan Hus on the pyre, when he saw an old woman that had brought in more wood to make sure the fire didn't go out too early.

We are now heading for a new Dark Middle Ages, much "darker" than its alleged first version, as it is "incentivized" by authorities which proclaim their unwavering faith in democracy, science and human rights, but do nothing to stop the assault on freedom of expression, which has reached levels hard to imagine in any society that considers itself at least "partially" civilized.

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