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No Barriers to Inquiry

IN 1949, THE PHYSICIST AND FORMER SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR OF THE Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bombs reflected on the limits of science: “There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.” Reflecting on the history of science and extrapolating to wider spheres, Oppenheimer noted: “Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.”

I have long held up this statement as an exemplary model of what scientists should be able to investigate without restriction from either the government through legal censorship or from the public through shaming or accusations of bias and prejudice. Thus it is that we embark in this special issue of Skeptic on one of the most radioactive issues of our time involving race and racism, bias and bigotry, and the polarization of politics into factions whose extremes have been labeled the Alt-Right and the Alt-Left. In so doing we are not making a moral equivalency argument between the Right and the Left, nor are we even attempting to assess which “side” is more at fault. We’ll leave that to the pundits and politicians to parse in an ultimately futile effort at moral judgment.

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SPECIAL SECTION: BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR
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SPECIAL SECTION: THE NEW SCIENCE WARS
An Unauthorized Peek at the Great Shaming Taking Place at an Institution of Higher Learning Near You, and Other Fireside Tales
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The Alt-Left, the Alt-Right, and Moral Righteousness
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Memory, Myth, and the Death of JFK
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A review of How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth. By David Clarke
A Review of Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong. By Patrick M. Markey and Christopher J. Ferguson
JUNIOR SKEPTIC
Pat Linse is the creator of and Editor in Chief of