Dictating the World to the Rest of Us
This represents less of a movement than the Jackass movies — albeit mildly less adolescent and significantly less influential — but it is somewhat emblematic of a certain way of thinking: As noted by Bobbie Johnson’s Guardian-related blog, some blogger in California (I think) has taken it upon himself to recategorize books that stores have placed in the science section:
Four copies of (Michael Behe’s) The Edge of Evolution were discovered once more in the science section.
I flip a copy and read the back. Here’s the beginning of the first quote from the back cover: “Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin’s theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation…” (Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, and member of the National Academy of Sciences). That’s not true! I am emboldened by this bare-faced lie from this well-respected elderly chemist, pick up all four copies, and stroll upstairs.
Now, I aim for accuracy in my recategorization, and I was still slightly mad at the lies on the back cover (read the “Editorial Reviews” at Amazon for a sampling), so I sought out the most appropriate section of the store:
Behe’s lie-covered volume now rightly resides in the Religious Fiction section (click on the image to see the label). A job well done.
The act itself is little more than a prank, causing mild difficulties to the stores and customers who might seek to find these books, and it’s only fair to note that the blogger also moved Chris Hitchens’s latest anti-religious screed, so embarking on a counter-crusade would be a bit of an overreaction. But a slice of the discussion on Johnson’s blog brings out a bit of a scent that permeates the science/religion battle. Writes one commenter:
That´s the suppression of free speech, and not rationalisation.
I disagree. To burn or ban the book is against free speech. To move it to a section more appropriate to its contents is librarianship.
I suppose the latter commenter might have a point if the librarian-vandal had informed the employees of the store about the books’ new locations. In unilaterally removing them from the shelf on which others will expect to find them, however, he is, indeed, suppressing free speech in a way not unlike unplugging the microphone of somebody speaking at a legitimate rally.