Letter to the editor

Letter: MLA Jason Stephan’s recent Galileo speech

I have recently watched the MLA of Red Deer South give a speech within the legislature criticizing the inherent nature of “cancel culture.”

Over the course of two minutes the listener was given a historical perspective of the struggles of 17th century scientist Galileo and his struggles to change the conventional thought process that the Sun revolved around the Earth. As we now know the Sun does not revolve around the Earth, in fact, it is the other way around, however this change in thinking was made possible by the struggles of scientists like Galileo and the necessity for them to challenge the populace thinking at the time.

MLA Jason Stephan used this as an analogy to draw criticism to the apparent forces at play today that could be trying to stifle those advocates who draw critique to our current medical and scientific community. All things taken together, at face value, this seems like a reasonable argument. Except that the MLA did not understand the historical context.

Galileo was a scientist at the time before the scientific revolution. This was a time in our history when the prevailing ideology governing society was the church, not scientific community. Galileo struggled to cancel the culture that existed from an entirely different belief system – theology and the fight ensued for hundreds of years. This is an extremely important fact that he failed to understand. Throughout history societal cohesion is maintained through various belief systems that we create and while each of them have their own utility history would show that at certain points one belief system replaces another and becomes the basis for which we make decisions for the public moving forward.

Over the last several centuries science began to predominate and become the waypoint for our decision making.

Today, during the COVID-19 pandemic there are definitely different perspectives, we can all attest to this. However, as it stands, community decision making is mediated over by the medical recommendations of our public health experts. Decisions as they are today are made purely by best scientific practice and while yes there are different perspectives within the medical community, by in large there does appear to be a general consensus within the medical community about the public health recommendations being made.

Discouraging people within the medical community who think otherwise is not “cancel culture”; it is merely the current belief system and its members making a consensus on what the best practice at the time is. This is different from Galileo who conflicted with the members of an entirely different belief system.

As constituents it is our responsibility to then question those experts but remembering full well, not all opinions are created equal. In a point in time when everyone considers themselves an expert because they can read an obscure report or non-factual statement on facebook, twitter or google does not entitle them to participate in the same discussions that experts who devote there life to a particular field in.

For me this can be extremely discouraging because I have never been so confused before then in the last year; however, I find solace in knowing that I won’t start trying to figure it out by mis-interpreting how Galileo showed us that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Eric Walper, Red Deer

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