by Paul and Phillip Collins ©, March 21st, 2006

The New Theocracy

B.F. Skinner, Time Magazine Sep. 20, 1971In many ways, epistemology is like an economic system. With all the right theoreticians in all the right places, one can arbitrarily bestow epistemological primacy upon those paradigms that are most socially and politically expedient. In such a climate of epistemological suppression, academic and institutional barriers prevent competitors from accessing the ideational marketplace. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed cognitive elite monopolizes the economy of popular thought. This oligopoly of knowledge, in short, amounts to an epistemological cartel, promoting its anointed ideologues and squelching cognitive dissenters.

Within the traditional theocratic power structures of antiquity, state sanctioned priesthoods constituted epistemological cartels. The Pharisees that engineered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ provide a stellar example. The Mystery cults of Mesopotamia supply another. In both cases, an elite few exercised rigid control over the knowable. In so doing, they maintained the socioeconomic dominance of political oligarchs. Within their authoritarian economy of thought, ideas like “liberty” and “human dignity” were appropriated no currency.

However, it was a state of affairs that would inevitably change. As the ruling elite’s religious institutions began to lose credibility with the masses, it became apparent that the oligarchs would have to adopt a more secular system of control. The result of this transformation was the emergence of what Aldous Huxley called a “scientific dictatorship.” Huxley explains: