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The necessity of selective skepticism

Church leaders and influencers who promote skepticism about the Church’s beliefs and practices should be cautious about invoking the hard sciences, the soft sciences, or political theories as arbiters.

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A number of Church leaders and influencers display skepticism about long-held Church teachings or practices involving sexuality, the family, abortion, evangelization, the priesthood, and man’s stewardship of the Earth. They suggest reforming Church teachings or practices to adhere more closely to modern science, psychology, social or political theories. They invoke science—what science has learned about the world and man—that presumably changes the ground rules.

Perhaps these reformers should question their reference points.

My graduate advisor would often display sample data, then call one of us to the front to describe flaws or inconsistencies in the data, not involving deep statistical dives, while requiring savvy and nerves. Question data. As a project leader, I recall running into trouble by relying on lab data without viewing the samples, meaning a treatment process that should have worked well didn’t perform as expected. I should have known better!

I rarely hear Church leaders publicly question the popular narrative of the decline of water and air quality, habitats, or dire climate change. In particular, few seem to recognize the importance of context in scientific matters. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, “Peter Huntsman Is a CEO Who Doesn’t Equivocate About Climate,” Huntsman said, “There is not a single product I am aware of in [Huntsman Corp.’s] entire portfolio of products that today consumes more energy, more raw materials to make the same product we made five years ago. Because if there’s such a product, our competition would’ve replaced it by now.” We don’t always appreciate the competitive impact of innovation and creativity.

Huntsman noted one highly visible environmental improvement in his hometown. “I grew up in Los Angeles,” he told the Journal. “I went back many years later, and I could see the San Gabriel Mountains from the home I grew up in. I don’t remember ever seeing mountains in the home I grew up in.”

Michigan boasts similar success in the Detroit River’s dramatic rehabilitation. Cleaner air, water, and habitats are now the norm in America rather than being anomalies. For context, compare the river today to its water quality and habitats 30, 50, 70 years ago. For more context, consider that 50 years ago we could detect pollutants in water as low as 1 part in a million, whereas we can now detect many pollutants in amounts as low of one part in a trillion, or in even lower amounts. This means that 50 years ago just detecting a pollutant often meant harmful impact; not today.

But you would never know about this significant progress by reading or listening to popular voices, or prominent voices in the Church. Complex climate change debates notwithstanding, many environmental assessments today lack context. In the meantime, strategic infrastructure that might alleviate the impacts on communities of disastrous storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires is rejected or interminably delayed by legal challenges and interest groups. My recent Mackinac Center for Public Policy piece, “Renewable Energy or Bust? Strategic infrastructure can play an important role in dealing with climate change,” highlights this policy blind spot.

While most scientific research is still sound and worthy, one ought to maintain a measured skepticism of new or novel scientific conclusions, especially those curated by the media and interest groups.

Under the heading of keeping science honest, the trio of Joe Simmons, Leif Nelson, and Uri Simonsohn were profiled in The Wall Street Journal (“The Band of Debunkers Busting Bad Scientists”) for their tireless work in exposing bad science (their blog: Data Colada). The article suggests that largely due to their work as data detectives, and the work of those they have inspired, at least 5,500 papers were retracted in 2022 compared to 119 in 2002. They coined the term p-hacking “which describes cherry-picking data or analyses to make insignificant results look statistically credible.” According to these data detectives, and others, good science takes time, yet academia and other institutions incentivize volume and capturing media attention.

If measured skepticism of physics and other hard science research is warranted, even more so with psychology and the social sciences. Why in my lifetime have so many “scientific” conclusions reached by psychologists happened to correspond to the popular perspective of the times? The most egregious being that young children are competent and mature enough to determine their gender at young ages. Yet, “expert” studies have been trotted out to justify childhood “gender alteration” as an appropriate therapy. Recall the thousands of studies that are retracted, almost always with less fanfare than their publication.

Of all things about which Church leaders and influencers might express skepticism, why choose time-tested, tribulation-tested, Gospel-grounded teachings? Science, especially psychology and the social sciences, deserves its share of skepticism and jaundiced eyes. Atheistic political theories have track records too that deserve to be pursued into every dark cul-de-sac. How many words have we heard from Church leaders and influencers critical of America’s and other representative government’s immigration policies, yet the Chinese regime is immune from criticism for its gross and daily human rights abuses? Again, context.

Church leaders and influencers who promote skepticism about the Church’s beliefs and practices should be cautious about invoking the hard sciences, the soft sciences, or political theories as arbiters. Not if they care about evidence and experience, or about p-hacking and politically expedient outcomes.

Numbers may not lie, but people do.

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About Thomas M. Doran 84 Articles
Thomas M. Doran is the author of the Tolkien-inspired Toward the Gleam (Ignatius Press, 2011), The Lucifer Ego, and Kataklusmos (2020). He has worked on hundreds of environmental and infrastructure projects, was president of Tetra Tech/MPS, was an adjunct professor of engineering at Lawrence Technological University, and is a member of the College of Fellows of The Engineering Society of Detroit.


  1. Tony Heller is the best debunker of climate alarmism for everyday folks. He regularly exposes the hysteria of the climate scare freaks. And he loves dogs.

  2. The Land O’ Lakes consortium (and agreement) with its drive to unmoor Catholic Universities from the anchor of the Church in 1977 proves sufficient evidence that the process of “liberation” from “darker ages” – and the resultant confusion that comes with it – is self-inflicted. Consider the symposium just the following year at Notre Dame, under Hesburgh’s reign there entitled “Vatican III: what we now need to update” and it reads just like what you would imagine would be the agenda of the upcoming synod : sexual liberation; the role of women religious, celibacy as an option, the place of homosexuality, etc., etc. Keep in mind that these people were higher-ups WITHIN Catholic Institutions: Notre Dame, Georgetown, St Johns, Fordham, Seton Hall, etc. If we are the by-product of an age of men that cast-off Truth to find enlightenment, those men that preceded us were far from noble or even remotely concerned with our Catholic identity or our regard for Catholic Truth. To their eternal shame, by removing the bedrock Truths of the Faith and leveling the Catholic difference, they left us unwittingly wandering Fangorn Forest.

  3. I was delighted to read your article, Mr. Doran. For many years, I have been sounding the alarm about the attempt to incorporate junk/bias/agenda science [ ] into efforts to inject heterodoxy into Church teachings. Invariably, agenda science is employed in conjunction with false/biochemical — NOT Spiritual — so-called compassion [ ] to make people feel guilty about not going along with Satan’s lies. Guilt used as blackmail via implied threats of probable victim suicide is a prime example of this Satanic technique.

    Today, many in the hierarchical Church are falling for Satan’s lies — with tragic eternal consequences for those who should be protected by their shepherds instead of being led to slaughter. The goals of many of those attending the Synod on Synodality perfectly demonstrate this fact. Accurate and objective scientific studies show that most, if not all, sexual aberrations are a direct result of biological and/or environmental functional changes resulting from the introduction of endocrine system-disrupting chemicals within the body. For example, both ethyl alcohol and methylmercury have been clinically shown to produce profound sexual anomalies (including same-sex behaviors) among wild birds and male fruit flies via the Epigenome [ ]. The epigenome is the “software” that tells the “computer hardware” (i.e., the genes within our DNA) what to do and how to do it. The epigenome is responsible for programming and reprogramming the function of the genes within our DNA.

    What does that mean for the Church in its current crisis? Because so many members of the Episcopate and the College of Cardinals have fallen for Satan’s traps, they try to solve sexual dysfunction through misguided and insufficient pastoral care. Treating symptoms with no attention paid to potential cures (see link below for more information). We completely ignore that the epigenome can be reprogrammed to undo the sexual aberrations [–is-it-hardwired–can-it-be-cured-.html ]. Instead, we want to impose highly problematic doctrinal changes in a Synod wherein it seems the “fix” is in.

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