Historian Geoffrey Blainey knows the burden of holding unpopular beliefs, being a stolen generations skeptic. He speaks to Nick Cater about the state of science.
Many of Blainey’s quarrels with contemporary academe boil down to questions about the nature and jurisdiction of science. Blainey’s instinct that science is a process of discovery rather than a body of consensual knowledge, true beyond question, would have been unremarkable 20 years ago. Yet in today’s heated climate, he risks being pinned with the badge of the denier, or at very least the arrogant slur of youth that, perhaps, he is simply past it. The rigidity of modern thought struggles with the wisdom of experience, particularly in Blainey’s case, where wisdom has been honed by more than a half-century of historical study.
“It seems to me,” Blainey advances with customary caution, “It seems to me that science, in the eyes of its spokesmen, has reached an unusual stage. Sometimes in public debates you hear scientists saying this is simply a question for scientists, keep out. We have that in Australia on topics like global warming.
“I think maybe we’ve reached an unusual stage in the flow of ideas where the science is too much on top. The interesting thing to me about science is it’s given the benefit of the doubt now in ways that Christianity used to be given the benefit of the doubt.”