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When Science Errs: the Oft Times Lonely Stand for Truth
On July 1, 1818, a little boy was born in Budapest, Hungary. His mother named him Ignaz. As the boy grew, so did his interest in medicine and the sciences. Eventually, he became a doctor. In his work at the Vienna General Hospital, Ignaz saw many victims of the highly contagious and often deadly puerperal fever. Slowly he began to suspect an increased risk for anyone having contact with fever victims. In time his tentative suspicions became firm convictions. Reasoning that physicians in the hospital were somehow carrying the disease from the autopsy room and transmitting it to women in the maternity ward, Ignaz ordered all of the physicians in his service to wash their hands thoroughly in a solution of chlorinated lime before examining patients. This was a radical and controversial move, and it resulted in big trouble for the young doctor.
Keep in mind that Ignaz took this stand years before Louis Pasteur, with his microscope, ever scientifically documented the danger of infectious bacteria. To say the least, at the time in which Ignaz lived, such a radical position was just not politically-scientifically-correct. As a result, great pressure was to brought to bear on the young man. He was ridiculed, hounded, and even viciously attacked. His character was smeared mercilessly. “Crazy old Ignaz” was the growing sentiment of young and old that seemed to follow him everywhere he went. Yet he stood his ground, entirely alone-one man against the entire scientific establishment of his day. No one-absolutely no one-agreed with him. He was universally regarded as a nut.
In the end, although he never gave ground scientifically, the incredible, relentless, pressure got to him. Ignaz lapsed into insanity. His death followed on August 1, 1865. At the age of 47, Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was just as right as he could be, though the entire world and all of the scientific experts thought otherwise. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Lister performed his first antiseptic operation and Semmelweis, dead less than a year, was on his way to a full vindication.
At the conclusion of a Q/A session where I’d been presenting convincing evidence for Biblical creationism, a neuroscientist came up to me and said, “My experience in brainwave research increasingly bears out your contention that things are often not at all the way they seem to be, or are made out to be.” A powerful point underscored by the April 93 Time article on dinosaurs subtitled “Forget what you knew…” It seems that new evidence has now “completely transformed scientific thinking” about dinos. Scientists actually acknowledge that they didn’t know it all. Wow! How far do you suppose the rest of us might dare extend the implications?
Halton Arp was once considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on quasars. A graduate of Harvard, he was a practicing astronomer at Cal Tech and the Mount Palomar Observatory. Then, based on 15 years of field research, Arp began to report on evidence that just happened to be in direct contradiction with the red shift hypothesis underlying the Big Bang theory. As Dr. William M. Curtis III reports in his article The Big Bang (published in the Winter 1993 edition of Archeology & Biblical Research, Vol 6, No 1): “most of the astronomical community knew their pet theory was in trouble if Arp was correct!” Arp was given a chance to change his conclusions. He refused. Today, Curtis reports, Halton Arp is an astronomer “in exile” in West Germany-unwelcome at Palomar or any other major North American observatory.
In The Criterion, by Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., a litany of modern-day instances is cited of what Attorney Wendell R. Bird calls “shocking cases of academic discrimination against professors and students who were known and sometimes only suspected of harboring the personal conclusion that creation-science better conforms to the scientific data than does evolution.” So much for objectivity, not to mention toleration.
Malcolm Muggeridge, in The End of Christendom, wrote: “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially to the extent to which it has been applied, will be one of the greatest jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity it has.” (Quoted from The Summit newsletter, 4/93; David Noebel, Editor).
On the 175th anniversary of his birth next month, Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis continues to stand as a model of that rare breed of men who are unwilling to reduce truth to merely what happens to be popular or politically correct-the kind of men who know better than to put truth up for a vote, either in the scientific community or in the general population. Today the critical order is for a few bold, brave, thinkers-men and women who will once again seek to stand on totally objective ground in their determination of truth-daring even, when indicated, to defy prevailing views and popular opinion. Perhaps you are, or will be, one.