When the White House asserted, as if to comfort us, that it was working with social media platforms to "flag" (for deletion) data it deemed "misinformation," I was prompted to think about the relationship between freedom of speech and science. When our Founding Fathers embraced free speech, they weren't simply rebelling against an English king. They were rejecting an ancient, foundational truth of life in Europe: that kings and courts, that popes and churches, had the authority to tell people what to think and say.
After Galileo was convicted of (near) heresy by the Catholic Church in 1633, he was ordered to "abjure, curse, and detest" his opinion that the Earth orbited the Sun. This idea, heliocentrism, was actually decades old at the time, having been developed by Copernicus; but Galileo's expansion and articulation of this idea had offended too many egos in the Church — the government of that era — so he had to be punished. The most interesting thing about the Church's condemnation of Galileo was not the theological arguments, but the fact that the Church hired its own "experts" to assemble and articulate eighteen physical and mathematical proofs that the Sun actually orbited the Earth. Galileo, you see, wasn't just a heretic. He wasn't following the science. According to legend, after Galileo condemned his own ideas about the movement of the Earth in order to avoid physical punishment, he said "and yet it moves." He spent the rest of his life (eight years) under house arrest, and the Church did not admit it's mistake until 1992.
Science doesn't advance because the government is in charge. Science advances because heretics have new ideas, and some of them turn out to be right. When the government works to silence the scientists it disagrees with, or any voices it disagrees with, we all suffer — not only from oppression, but from ignorance. Yes, there are loonies out there spreading ridiculous theories about vaccines; but when you give government the authority to muzzle the loonies, you give them the authority to muzzle anyone. A muzzle was recently applied to Dr. Robert Malone — the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology — who had the temerity to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine may not be the best choice for everyone. Our modern "experts" have been wrong about COVID-19 transmission, wrong about masks outside, and wrong about healthy children. They will be wrong about other things, also; but we'll never know if we're not allowed to speak.
John Dale is a local author. His most recent book is "Lifeboat: America Reborn."