This post is about Science. It will not seem so until the end.
Most know the Catholic Church had, and still has, the position of Advocatus Diaboli, a.k.a. the Devil’s advocate. The canon lawyer who takes the position of prosecutor against the defense. The defense advocates for the sainthood of certain individuals.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (this is from the turn of the last Century), the Devil’s advocate’s “duty requires him to prepare in writing all possible arguments, even at times seemingly slight, against the raising of any one to the honours of the altar.”
This is to be praised because, we emphasize, of those required “even at times seemingly slight” arguments. Compiling every bit of relevant evidence in favor of your case is, after all, what a competent lawyer must do.
This is in the vein of the West’s argumentative style of justice. There’s no need for us to rehearse the arguments, for you know them well, that the best way to discover truth is open and robust examination. Married, of course, to the judgement of an impartial jury.
The consequences of sainthood are, or were, and should be, important, and designating sainthood should not be taken lightly. All relevant and pertinent information must be publicly given. Nothing hidden. No secrets. Especially since you’re asking people not involved in the decision-making process to act on the results.
Enter John Paul II, now himself a saint. As Pope, he reduced the powers of Devil’s Advocates’s office, weakening its powers and ability to advocate against sainthood.
After this move, in a curious coincidence, the number of newly proclaimed saints shot up. Whereas in prior days the proof required for sainthood was burdensome and difficult to procure, it is now somewhat easy, even trivial.
The man in office now, as of this date, has conferred sainthood on 909 individuals. This is not a typo. Nine hundred and nine. There was a “group canonization” in this, which boosted the numbers. But still, it’s 909.
Pope Benedict the XVI canonized forty five. But Benedict, God bless him, was in his heyday known as a hard ass. Theologically speaking.
His predecessor, saint JP II, slipped 482 through the door.
From the Thirteen Century (records before are not as sharp), if this article is accurate, double digits were exceedingly rare, happening only four times or so, before our three examples above, with three of the four being quite recent.
Naturally, given population increases, we might expect, given a current background level of saintliness, more saints now than before in history, simply because there are more people alive now who might considered.
Yet no one—that I know, anyway—argues for anything but a decrease in saintliness. Current headlines concur in this depressing opinion.
Therefore, we must account for the increase in official saints in reasons other than population growth. And one prominent reason is standard “democratic inflation”, i.e. the loosening standards, in membership.
And those standards have been loosened, in part, by requiring less of the Devil’s advocate. By ignoring, that is, those “even at times seemingly slight” bits of evidence against a candidate.
I said this post was about Science. Now, please, this well known clip:
Carl Sagan's words on the existential threat to technological societies from charlatans exploiting the ignorance of people & pols to take power & wealth from them were prescient. Demonising CO2 to diminish our economies is just that. Feynman explains how. https://t.co/fmp9n3kOpj
— Brian Catt (@catandman) August 31, 2022
Feynman’s advantage is both sublime and profound. The physicists of old were lucky, or they chose their objects of study well. The objects under examination, large or small, were amenable to isolation. They could be pulled out of ordinary life and put into cleverly oh-so-carefully designed experiments, all meant to tease out cause.
As Feynman said, it isn’t easy. Indeed, discovery of cause is brutally hard. It’s error-prone, it’s confusing, it’s subject to confirmation bias the same way a Pride parade marcher is to disease. The easiest person to fool, as people used to say, is oneself. They might still say it, but most now don’t believe it.
We have in Science made it at least as easy to “prove” results as JPII has to canonize “saints.” And we did in the same way as the Pope. We have hamstrung the Devil’s advocate.
Evidence against hypotheses is ignored, castigated, even thought suspicious, or inserted by dark “deniers.” Or by “racists”, “homophobes”, whatever.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.