Think, gentle reader, as you read this chronicle, of Galileo, one of the fathers of science and therefore of the freedom of assertive superstition. He looked through telescopes and observed the movement of the planets and the sun. He then asserted, from his observations, that the sun does not circle the earth but, contrary to the firmly held doctrines and teachings of the Church, that our planet is turning and turning, surrounding the sun, giving birth to the day and night and seasons.
All hell broke loose on Twitter and Instagram. Fanatics of Catholicism accused him of blasphemy! The earth is not moving, they insisted. The outcry led Church leaders to arrest poor Galileo and put him on trial. If this pioneer of truth had any supporters at the time, they might have pointed out to the court, and even to the world, that Galileo had not called for the castration or execution of those who believed the sun was the king. round the earth. He had not even called for a ban on all documents or educational materials claiming that the earth was flat or that it was not moving.
Nonetheless, he was tried for simply saying what he had scientifically deduced. He knew that if they found him guilty of blasphemy, he could be put to death. Such was the power of mainstream orthodoxy. Realizing this, Galileo confessed to Inquisition fanatics that he had retracted his blasphemous outburst. Of course, the earth was the center of the universe and, as God’s central creation, did not move a millimeter. He may not have been applauded by the court, but he was certainly spared twenty lashes or burned at the stake.
The story goes that, true to his convictions, on leaving the court, he whispered to himself, or perhaps to his God if he still believed in him, “eppur si muove»- and yet things are moving!
I guess we can’t quite call it the Galilee of our time but, nice reader, here is the story of an artist named Jess de Wahl who hit the headlines this week through a controversy she had triggered.
Mme de Wahl is an embroidery artist, and her work is famous enough and deemed good enough to be adopted and sold in the gallery shop of the Royal Academy of Arts. AR is probably the first institution run by artists of all kinds. Their permanent and other occasional exhibitions are among the most respectable, reviewed and revered in Britain.
In addition to the excellence of her floral designs, Ms. de Wahl declares a dedicated thematic commitment to feminist principles and radical feminist activism through art. But! But she doesn’t believe that men and women can, through affirmation, surgery, hormone therapy, or all of that, change their gender. She expressed her skepticism in a blog. She has taken great care to assert that she absolutely supports the right of people to think as they see fit and for the political and social rights of everyone, including men who claim they are women or women who claim that they really are men. His reservations were on the scientific fact that you were born and grow up with a sex determined by the chromosomes of your thirty trillion cells. I guess the hardest way to put it is, “Trans women aren’t really women and trans men aren’t really men!”
Representatives of the trans community, if there are such people, objected to her expressing this view. Eight people wrote to the Royal Academy to stress that the stated ethical position of RA was to respect and include etc. etc. The RA responded hastily and removed and banned all exhibits and Ms. Wahl’s work in their store, calling her “transphobic.”
Ms Wahl objected, saying that she had by no means been the perpetrator of a “hate crime” and that her freedom to express a scientifically valid opinion should be respected. There was, by his supporters, a mention of suing the RA for breaking equality laws. No such action has yet been taken.
As a result of this argument, Ms Wahl received literally thousands of texts, tweets or whatever to support her position, as well as villains wishing her dead.
Her position follows that of Harry Potter writer JK Rowling and feminist philosopher Germaine Greer, among others. He is also supported by feminists who oppose trans women participating in women’s sports competitions and even challenge the idea that trans women should use women’s locker rooms and toilets and be confined in women’s prisons when they do. ‘they commit offenses.
The restrictions against Ms. de Wahl are part of a new orthodoxy of intolerance. Of course, individuals can assert whatever they want about their own gender or sexuality – although whites claiming they are black would face the same intensity of restrictions that orthodoxy promotes. This “of course” should include the right to publicly assert scientific facts. The earth is not flat just because I say so!