Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/01/21
From a book I’m reading just now:
“when confronted by perfectly valid reasons for considering an alternative . . . , the need to save face governs intellectual honesty, and refuge is sought in censorship, ridicule and a blatant disregard for conflicting evidence”
“in their own personal realities, . . . [HIV/AIDS theory has] everything they wish for, and they protect their creation against disbelievers with the only armaments available — invective and ridicule”
“’I agree that antagonism to the . . . debate from within the profession is so great that it would be as difficult for a professed . . . [HIV/AIDS skeptic] to be hired in the first place, much less gain tenure, as for a professed creationist to be hired to gain tenure in a graduate-level department of biology’. . . . Truth, it would seem, is sometimes barred from the universities when it threatens to replace the dominant paradigm”
My insertions [in square brackets] acknowledge that the book isn’t about HIV/AIDS, but the expressed sentiments illustrate how similar are the experiences of people in any field who question a mainstream consensus. Nor need there be the vast array of vested financial and other outside interests connected with HIV/AIDS to make disagreement over an intellectual issue just as viciously ad hominem; as the saying goes, disputes in academe are so bitter because there’s so little at stake — not that prestige, status, a career invested in a certain belief, seem “little” to the individuals concerned.
In physics, similar quotes could have been taken from Lee Smolin’s “The Trouble with Physics”, which describes the stranglehold that “string theory” has despite lacking a single tangible actual accomplished result or application. The experience is quite similar in astrophysics, where those who point to the inadequacies of Big-Bang theory are banished from grants and appointments — read, for instance, Halton Arp’s “Seeing Red”; so too in geological science with those who point so annoyingly to phenomena that continental drift (or plate tectonics) cannot explain; read, for example, “Tectonic Globaloney” by N. Christian Smoot.
People who doubted that the Clovis culture represented the earliest human presence in the Western Hemisphere were denigrated and ridiculed for decades, until the persistence of Tom Dillehay (“The settlement of the Americas: a new prehistory”) and a few others prevailed and the actual evidence was grudgingly acknowledged of much earlier habitation in South America. It was a dogma that the Mayan picture-script could never be deciphered, until Michael D. Coe showed that it could be, once the possibility was admitted that the present-day natives speak much the same language as their ancestors did (read Coe’s “Breaking the Maya Code”). All the experts knew that the Linear B script was not an ancient form of Greek, until the architect and amateur philologist Michael Ventris showed that it is in fact an ancient Greek language (John Chadwick, “The decipherment of linear B”). Perhaps even more remarkable: the experts all knew that one could not decipher an unknown script if the language it recorded was also unknown, yet Steven Roger Fischer did just that, not only once but twice, with the Phaistos Minoan disk and the Easter Island Rongorongo script (Glyphbreaker).
So there are no end of subjects where, as with HIV/AIDS, outsiders and an unfortunate but courageous few insiders keep pointing out that the evidence for the mainstream consensus is as lacking as were the Emperor’s New Clothes.
At any rate, if you want to take a break from thinking about HIV/AIDS theory, which affects and has affected in so many drastic, harmful, indeed lethal ways so many people, you might enjoy reading “Proving Shakespeare — The Looming Identity Crisis” by David L Roper, from which I took the quotes at the beginning of this post. There is far less evidence to support the notion that the Stratford man (Shaxpere, Shaksper, there are all sorts of other versions as well) wrote the “Shakespeare” plays than there is to support HIV/AIDS theory. Roper, as is rather typical for us dissenters from orthodoxy, is not always judicious and doesn’t always make the case most likely to appeal to naïve observers, but he does marshal the case comprehensively and quite logically, most particularly that all the sparse tangible evidence left by the Stratfordian concerns his business dealings, which were often a bit shady and had nothing to do with literature or writing; everything else is speculation and imagination based on the belief that he wrote those plays and therefore “must” have . . . been educated (despite a lack of school or other pertinent records), etc., etc. My reservations are chiefly Roper’s exposition of the deciphering of alleged codes, where I simply don’t know enough about either Elizabethan practices or cryptography in general to venture a guess. My conviction that the Stratfordian wasn’t “Shakespeare” is owing to Diana Price’s impeccably argued and documented “Shakespeare’s unorthodox biography” which details, for example, that there are no pertinent references to Shakespeare by contemporary playwrights and writers whereas there are innumerable such references among those contemporaries about one another. I had earlier enjoyed “Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time” by Joseph Sobran, which first suggested to me that those who question the Stratfordian’s authorship aren’t crazy.
If you become interested in the authorship question, you can keep up with some of the latest discussions at www.shakespeare-oxford.com . It’s a fascinating exercise in assessing evidence without the spiritual burden that accompanies thinking about what HIV/AIDS theory has wrought. And there’s even a very plausible solution already at hand to the mystery of who was the real author of “Shakespeare’s” works.