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It should come as no great shock to think that possibly all those that came
before us, save one, have missed the true vision so far.
- Michael Armstrong

Motivation for False Dogma
1989-12-5
Wade Frazier

I tend to agree with the sentiment that you have to see what the payoff may be to sniff out possible potential ulterior motivation.  Following the money has always been a great way to sniff out motivation...if the trail isn't covered up, for obvious reasons.  But money isn't the only reason.  Fame also is a motivation.  Also, there is fear, like stepping out of line and contradicting dogma, like the inquisitorial behavior of Ale Hrdlicka had on dating when humans first came to the Americas.  I have seen many scientist's careers ruined when they came up with answers the establishment didn't want to hear.  I have seen it in spades in cancer research and treatment, but there is an obvious economic incentive there.  What about what happened to the career of geologist Virginia Steen-McIntyre when her geology team dated American artifacts to 250,000 years ago?  I admittedly have seen only one side of that debate, but I have seen too many situations like hers to easily conclude she got blackballed because she was "outrageous."  It looks like only her findings were outrageous.

On the fame angle, it is instructive to see what happened in the Catholic Church and its priesthood.  By about 1200 A.D. the Catholic Church had immense inbred corruption with priests literally gambling with dice with their parishioners over their penances (double or nothing?), and opening taverns with the cleric collar as the tavern sign ( I suppose with names like "Father Gregory's Watering Hole.").  There were attempts at reform, with limited success.  Then the event happened which radically changed the direction of the Church.  The Cathars were quite successful with their ascetic ways, and a large part of today's France adopted catharism and abandoned the Catholic Church.  The church power and revenues were declining fast in the area, and they had to do something about the situation.  With my business background I can appreciate their response.  Al Capone could have scarcely come up with a better plan.  They put cement shoes on the competition while simultaneously marketing their own ersatz version of the product.

The "Christian" armies had been Crusading into the Holy Land for over a hundred years, and Pope Innocent (there is an oxymoronic name) called in a Crusade on France.  The Albigensian Crusade killed around a million people, and wiped out the heresy in that part of the world.  But that wasn't all.

The Church also began building its infrastructure to make sure it wouldn't happen again.  It initiated the Inquisition at that time.  And it did one more thing.  It initiated the mendicant orders, like the Franciscans and Dominicans, who took vows of poverty.  It was a conscious decision to ape the Cathars, who had made a pretty good attempt to emulate the life and teachings of Jesus.  The Dominicans and Franciscans were also the orders who mainly ran the Inquisition.

Because the economic incentive of the priesthood was taken away with the poverty vows of the mendicant orders, it was able to stave off corruption to a degree, at least the open corruption of dicing for penances and priests opening taverns.  But human nature couldn't be thwarted that easily.  There are many instances of those vows being broken to get clandestinely rich or have wives and children, but I think those were exceptions, though not that exceptional during certain times and places, like in colonial New Spain.

With the economic incentive gone, I suppose there were more "sincere" priests in their ranks.  But there was one area of ambition that many focused their aspirations on: becoming a saint.  Becoming a saint was the home run of the priesthood, and the stories of some of them show how their "saintly" activities had nothing to do with their "love of humanity" but their desire to make it into the Christian pantheon.  I attended a grammar school named after padre Junipero Serra, the man who founded the California mission system, and who has been beatified and is up for sainthood.  In fourth grade I took a field trip to the mission in town and watched a film on his holy life, as he selflessly brought the good word and salvation to those benighted savages.

In my adult years I have been researching that piece of history as part of my upcoming book.  I now have found out that those lovingly preserved missions were the professional ancestors of places like Dachau, and Serra was its commandant.  Serra was fired with the idea, from a young age, to become a saint and "converting" the heathen masses.  And he got his chance.  He was the most pious of his fellow friars.  But reading of his piosity is a nauseating exercise.  He regularly beat himself with chains, stones, and burned himself with candles.  He was such a fanatic he would stick wire in his clothing to torture his flesh while he spent his day on his great labors.  His ardor eventually got him the position of chief inquisitor of northern Mexico.  Reading of his life and career, it probably qualifies for sainthood (When they can find a miracle he performed), but it is equally true that he had no regard for the well being of those he converted.  Without Spanish soldiers literally enforcing his preachings, he would have gone nowhere.  Those mission were instruments of genocide, which even contemporary observers noted, but Serra was fired up with the zeal to become a saint, and the natives of the California coast were exterminated to make his dream come true.  So the lure of sainthood had no economic incentive behind it, but it propelled many into careers as priests.

There is even a contemporary example of that phenomena.  Christopher Hitchens is probably going straight to hell for a book he wrote in 1995 about Mother Teresa, titled The Missionary Position, Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.  It chronicles her career in a way the newspapers never have.  For all her vaunted virtue, Teresa had an amazing list of unsavory dictators she hung out with.  Her famous houses for the dying were just that.  People in her care were supposed to die, and fast.  It was an assembly line to heaven, and the people in her care practically never got pain killer for their last hours.  One nurse who worked there said it reminded her of the atmosphere of a death camp.  Her orphanages practically never had any child adopted into a home.

She was even used by people like Robert Maxwell and Charles Keating in fund raising and publicity schemes.  In one very telling clue of Teresa's motivation, Charles Keating (that poster boy of the S & L meltdown) gave Teresa's organization over a million dollars (essentially stolen from the American people).  What it did get him besides publicity was Teresa writing a letter to the court when Keating was being tried for fraud.  Teresa said how kind he had been to the poor (with the public's money), and asked the judge to consider that when dealing with Keating's case.  The prosecutor wrote back to Teresa and told her that the generous donation Keating gave her ministry was money stolen from the American people, and asked her to give the money back.  They never heard back from Mother Teresa.  Anyway, Hitchens' monograph greatly challenges the popular image of Mother Teresa, and shows fairly convincingly that her image was largely the result of public relations, and it seems the predominant motivation for her tireless years was to become a saint.  Her devotion to humanity isn't obvious.  And she'll probably be sainted.

Anyway, there are other motivations besides the lure of money, and I don't know how much they might motivate people in paleontology.

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