Do Nature's Editors Want Another French Revolution?
By glorifying the French Revolution without mentioning its atrocities, Nature’s editors give a terrible message about terrorism.
It’s called the Reign of Terror: a year of rampant beheadings by government-santioned mob rule in France in the years 1793-1794. Under dictator Maximilien Robespierre, a prototype of totalitarian dictators to come in the 20th century, the Revolutionary Tribunal ordered 2,400 individuals guillotined. Another 30,000 died in the revolution. “Softness to traitors will destroy us all,” Robespierre said, motivated by radical atheistic ideals of the Enlightenment. He is famous for justifying this reign of terror with the proverb, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” Ironically, when he called for another purge in 1794, his fellows had enough and added his skull to the pile of eggshells.
Many historians see the French Revolution as an attempted follow-up to the American Revolution that went horribly wrong. Though the revolutionaries proclaimed “Liberty – Equality – Fraternity” as their ideals, those ideals were denied the many who lost their heads. The French Revolution paved the way for a new dictator, Napoleon. The contrasts between the American and French revolutions are many. Why, then, would Nature whitewash the latter?
It is no coincidence that the eighteenth-century French writer, intellectual and activist Voltaire, a leading Enlightenment figure, was both an outspoken and irreverent satirist of religion and a leading proponent of the natural sciences as the successor to religion and philosophical reasoning as the main route to knowledge. The Enlightenment culminated in the French Revolution, and the resulting 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which explicitly protected free speech, including the right to freely criticize religious views.
The occasion for this editorial was last week’s terror attack on 17 French citizens by Muslim extremists. Perhaps that’s the reason for the reference to the French Revolution. But by not mentioning the bloodbath that followed, Nature’s editors put themselves in the untenable position of rationalizing anti-terrorism with terrorism.
Throughout the editorial, freedom of speech is exalted, including satire. Many would agree. But their favorite target for satire is “fundamentalism” and religion of all sorts, as opposed to science. This gave them another opportunity to glorify the French Revolution:
Fundamentalists throughout history have sought to subjugate freedoms, including freedom of expression and thought. More than 200 years ago, France rejected them with a “Non!” that echoed across the world. It has done so again.
The editors let Islam off the hook, fail to mention anti-Semitism, and essentially lump all religions together:
- The terrorists who murdered 17 people, including 8 staff members of the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, falsely claimed to act in the name of Islam. On the contrary, the perpetrators represent a fanaticism that would stifle freedoms and science in the Arab and Islamic world, and beyond.
- Satire, wit and mockery remain surprisingly effective ways to voice dissent, and to highlight the absurdities, hypocrisy, injustice and oppression of authoritarian regimes and religious obscurantism.
- The killing also attacked other symbols of the Republic, including a kosher supermarket — one symbol of a multicultural society — and the police. One of the officers killed, Ahmed Merabet, was Muslim, and his brother aptly remarked that the killers were “false Muslims” and that Merabet had been “proud to represent the French police and to defend the values of the Republic — liberty, equality, fraternity”.
What’s another movement Nature’s editors point to as a good example?
- Those rights are increasingly being eroded, however — ironically, often in political overreactions to terrorism — including through anti-terrorism laws that roll back civil liberties, increasingly invasive surveillance states and government oppression of legitimate dissent such as the Occupy movement.
There was one passing moment of self-reflection in the editorial:
- But the right to criticize, and even to mock, religion, fanaticism, superstition and indeed science is not only rightly protected by law in France, but is enshrined there, as in many countries, as a fundamental human right.
In that spirit, our commentary will do just that.
Well, thank you Nature! You have just acknowledged our fundamental human right to criticize, mock, and satirize science. We hope you laugh at this funny cartoon:
How’s that, Nature? You are the guys who have made a superstitious, dogmatic religion out of the Cult of Charlie and his theory of evillusion.
Nature’s editorial is really ugly: glorifying the French Revolution without mentioning the Reign of Terror, letting Islam off the hook by claiming that the terrorists were not true Muslims, failing to differentiate between Christians who teach “love your enemies” and Muslims who attack them, treating science as superior to religion without mentioning where science’s own ethics come from, whitewashing science as a “main route to knowledge” but ignoring its own tendencies to obscurantism, glorifying the Occupy Movement’s bums who broke laws and left filth in their wake for no focused reason, and calling the kosher supermarket a “symbol of a multicultural society” without calling attention to the anti-Semitism of the terrorists. Nature proclaims the French Revolution’s ideals that paved the way for Napoleon, when it was the American Revolution with its declaration that rights come from our Creator that produced the greatest source of freedom the world has ever seen.
Apparently, Nature’s solution to Islamic terror would be to send bums to “Occupy ISIS” and have them draw cartoons mocking Mohammed as they crap in the street. Good luck. Eggheads would roll, but it’s not clear anyone would like the omelettes.
As far as “enlightenment” goes, listen to Dennis Prager, a Jew, describe which is more rational: atheism or belief in God.