Welcome to the Dark Side. in This Section We Examine

Welcome to the dark side. In this section we examine various social structures that do not embrace intellectual freedom. Democracy and intellectual freedom enjoy a symbiotic, mutually nurturing, relationship, which tends to be self correcting when it works well. When, for instance, a government makes rules that suspend freedoms for the sake of preserving the institution, the system chaffs and will eat at itself until the imbalance is returned to a normal state. Systems of governance that employ
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  Welcome to the dark side. In this section we examine various socialstructures that do not embrace intellectual freedom. Democracy and intellectualfreedom enjoy a symbiotic, mutually nurturing, relationship, which tends to be self correcting when it works well. When, for instance, a government makes rules thatsuspend freedoms for the sake of preserving the institution, the system chaffs andwill eat at itself until the imbalance is returned to a normal state. Systems of governance that employ controls on its citizens access to information and imposelimits on their self expression do so in an attempt to manage the culture and societyfor the purpose of maintaining control. The low hanging fruit of this example wouldbe Germany’s Third Reich, Tojo’s Japan, and Moussolini’s Italy were our Axis of Evilin the early middle years of the last century. All of them maintained strictstandards of behavior, limits on what its citizens could have access to in regards toworld news, and had high expectations for the personal commitment of its peopletowards the welfare of the state.German students burn books with unGerman ideas on May 10, 1933.More subtle are the nuanced controls that happen even in democraticgovernments during times of difficulty. Our own nation’s struggles from the timesof slavery where teaching a slave to read was a crime to our recent struggles withthe Patriot Act, all indicate that the maintenance of intellectual freedom is aconstant struggle. But it is not always by government edict that our freedom tohave access to information and rights to personal expression are threatened.Sometimes strong cultural or societal forces rise to suppress opposing points of view to solidify their power base.Silencing opposing views through force or intimidation has long been afundamental tool for those seeking to gain or maintain control over a givenpopulace. Examples of these tactics creating formidable obstacles to those whocherish freedom of thought are to be found in each phase of human history butsome carry with it the stuff of legend. One such tragic episode took place in theyear 415 CE in the city of Alexandria.Alexandria, the mighty seaport in Egypt by 415 CE was under Roman rule. Though centuries old, the Library of Alexandria continued to be the most famous inthe world boasting a host of scholars and teachers that were at the cutting edge of science and invention. Christianity had begun to take a strong hold on the cultureof the city and was starting to exert its influence. The Christian leadership believed  that the scholarly practices at the Library were as evil as they felt Paganism to beand should be eradicated.Into this setting we introduce Hypatia, daughter of Theon, himself a notedscholar at the library. She was encouraged from childhood toembrace learning being sent to Athens and Italy to study.She became a great mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. The classes and lectures she gave at the library were popularamong the rich and influential of the city and she was highlyregarded among her colleagues. Considered of uncommonbeauty, Hypatia enjoyed free access to society becoming closefriends with the Roman Prefect Orestes, and openly riding her chariot to and fromher work at the library. This was her life in a time where women were consideredlittle more than property. She was a Pagan though she had many Christian friends.Her refusal to accept the Christianity, her popularity with students and scholars, andher friendship with Orestes, brought her the unwelcome attention of Cyril, a Bishopwho railed at her and her pagan beliefs from the pulpit. Then, in 415 CE, an angry mob of Christian fanatics set upon Hypatia as shewas driving her chariot home from a lecture at the library. The mob was believedto be led by a man called Peter the Reader, a devotee of Cyril’s. They dragged her from her chariot and stripped her naked.Accounts vary as to whether she was led through the streets indisgrace to a church where she was murdered, but all accountsagree that the fanatics tore the living flesh from her bones usingbroken shards of pottery then burned her remains. Almost all of Hypatia’spublished works were eventually lost with the decline of the library. A few of herinventions, like the hydrometer used to measure the density of water, made it outof Alexandria before her murder, but for the most part her works have been lost tohistory. Cyril was sainted by the church. Through the dark ages superstition and religious zealotry worked hand inhand to maintain the appropriate level of societal ignorance. Free thought was notonly discouraged, in many instances it was punishable by law. One of the morefamous of the martyrs of intellectual freedom was Galileo Galilei an Italian scientistin the 1600’s. Such was his impact on how we think about the universe, thatSteven Hawking is quoted as saying, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other singleperson, was responsible for the birth of modern science.” He made many importantdiscoveries and charted many heretofore unexplored pathways through the cosmos.But his great crime was to support heliocentrism, or the theory that the sun was thecenter of the solar system as opposed to geocentrism, the belief that the universe isearth centered. He defended his theory in a publication he titled, “DialogConcerning the Two Chief World Systems” which was published in 1632. Churchfathers were not amused and Galileo was forced to recant his beliefs, publicly, andspend the rest of his life under house arrest.  Portrait of Galileo Galilei painted in 1636 by Justus Sustermans .In a far more modern test of intellectual freedom, we move forward just shortof 300 years to 1925. The State of Tennessee has passed a law making it illegal toteach that man came from any lower form of life, the Theory of Evolution 
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