Creationist Wisdom #773: Witch Trials & Science

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois, the state capital. It’s titled Doubting can be dangerous, and the newspaper has a comments feature.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Mick. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

It wasn’t just out-of-control religion that fueled the Salem witch trials. The leading instigator, Cotton Mather, was a scientist.

What? Let’s read on:

He was elected to the London Royal Society, the world’s most prestigious scientific body. Isaac Newton was a member. Cotton’s father, also a witch trial instigator, was president of Harvard.

We had to visit Wikipedia’s article on Cotton Mather. To our surprise, Wikipedia says:

Cotton Mather, FRS [Fellow of the Royal Society] (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728) … was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer. He left a scientific legacy due to his hybridization experiments and his promotion of inoculation for disease prevention, though he is most frequently remembered today for his vigorous support for the Salem witch trials. He was subsequently denied the Presidency of Harvard College which his father Increase had held.

How did a crazed, witch hanging preacher get involved with smallpox inoculation? Wikipedia informs us:

In 1706, Mather’s slave, Onesimus, explained to Mather how he had been inoculated as a child in Africa. Mather was fascinated by the idea. By July 1716, he had read an endorsement of inoculation by Dr Emanuel Timonius of Constantinople in the Philosophical Transactions. Mather then declared, in a letter to Dr John Woodward of Gresham College in London, that he planned to press Boston’s doctors to adopt the practice of inoculation should smallpox reach the colony again.

Okay, we learned something new about Cotton Mather. After that, Mick tells us what we already knew:

The trials were a horrible miscarriage of justice. If you denied the accusation you were working with the devil, you were hung. If you confessed and accused others, your accomplices, you were acquitted.

We know. We’ve written about the Salem witch trials of of 1692-3 before — see Salem and Philadelphia: A Tale of Two Cities. Mick continues:

Science is better today [yeah, we’ve given up conducting witch trials] but some “scientists” show the same rage when their work is questioned.

Lordy, lordy — this guy is serious about blaming the witch trials on science! Not even Jack Chick did that — see Jack Chick & the Salem Witch Trials. Now Mick tells us about another scientist who went astray:

Rajendra Pachauri, once chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, defended with anger their report that contained the wild statement that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. He seemed reluctant to see the date changed 300 years. The Panel said, just a typo.

We know nothing about that incident, but it hardly compares to the Salem witch trials. Mick thinks otherwise. Let’s read on:

Hard to have confidence in anything done by the supposed leading science in the world, even if just a typo.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! And now we come to the end:

Questioners of other scientist’s work have been threatened with prosecution. Doubting is still a dangerous position to take, even in a democracy.

What can we say? Mick seems to think that climate change deniers — and undoubtedly evolution deniers too — are taking a big risk, because scientists are all like Cotton Mather, witch burners at heart.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

5 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #773: Witch Trials & Science

  1. Science always starts with doubt and has evidence, while creationism starts with certainty and lacks evidence. No surprise that the latter is against the former.

  2. Yes, Cotton Mather was interested in science. He wrote a book, The Christian Philosopher which covered natural science. It may be of interest to denizens of this blog because he had an early form of the argument from something like “irreducible complexity” and an argument from the impossibility of a perpetual motion.

  3. So that loon’s father was named Increase Mather? But his poor son had to make do with cotton. Hardly an increase.

  4. Cotton Mather was named after his maternal grandfather, John Cotton.

  5. BFD!!! Newton was an occultist too, but it was NOT science that led him to it. Mather was an ahole murdering delusional nutjob, and it was not science that led him to that either. People are complex and have good sides, maybe even trumpkin has a good side…doubtful!