The scientific allergy to the truth
It is amazing to me how scientists and other academics so often prefer self-serving myths to reality -- despite the truth being in plain sight. I encountered that repeatedly during my research career in the late 20th century.
The biggest example of that pig-headedness in recent times is the absurd global warming theory. A majority of scientists seem to accept it as truth despite the evidence being so conclusively against it. Its central claim -- that CO2 in the atmosphere warms the earth -- is starkly contradicted by the "grand hiatus" from 1945 to 1975-- when over a 30 year period, CO2 levels leapt while temperature levels remained flat. That huge disconfirmation would be fatal to a truly scientific theory.
And from 1950 to the present day, academic psychologists are determined to believe that conservatives are in some way mentally defective. Psychiatrists, for instance, have never ceased "diagnosing" Mr Trump as mentally defective in some way, with NYC "shrink" Bandy Lee in the vanguard.
But perhaps the most extraordinary belief of academic psychologists -- going all the way back to 1950 --is the still frequent claim that conservatives are the "authoritarians" of the world, despite the immeasurably largest example of authoritarianism in C20 being the ghastly Soviet system. Were the Soviets conservative?
And the old bit of Soviet disinformation to the effect that the National socialist ideology of Hitler's Germany was "Rightist" is still generally believed -- despite the fact that all of Hitler's major doctrines (antisemitism, eugenics, close government control of industry etc.) were characteristic of the Left in Hitler's day.
So it must come as no great surprise that a recent great breakthrough in historical scholarship should be greeted with academic disbelief. The Voynich manuscript (MS) has at last been convincingly and extensively deciphered. The MS was a vast work by medieval standards, with copious illustrations that should have given a highroad into the meaning of the text
But no-one could "crack" the meaning of the text. It appeared to be an alphabet of some sort but nobody knew how the letters sounded so their meaning remained unknown. Generations of scholars, cryptographers and computer experts had tried to "crack" the code involved, with nothing emerging that made sense of more than a few lines of the MS.
Than along came Gerard Cheshire, a young English linguist who claimed to have deciphered the whole thing after only 2 weeks of work -- by making some very simple assumptions. That was an enormous slight on the reputations of all the big names who had gone before him so was bound to be disbelieved. And it has been. Scholar after scholar has rubbished Cheshire's work.
Cheshire first circulated his findings in 2017 so he is aware of the criticisms of his work and has replied to them. But the criticisms are not at all fatal to his findings. Cheshire foolishly claimed that the pidgin Latin in which the MS was written was widely used in Europe. That is unlikely but not necessary to his argument. I would claim that it was a form of pidgin Latin that was used either in Italy or in Aragon, as Aragon dominated some parts of Italy in the Middle Ages. That the Pidgin Latin of Aragon might have absorbed some words from other pidgins of the times surely poses no difficulty.
A more serious criticism is that Cheshire's translations are to a degree speculative. They are. But that is normal in philology. Words change both their meanings and their forms over time and getting back to the particular meaning at a particular time is no easy matter. So all language reconstructions are to a degree speculative. There is even debate over the correct translation of some parts of Beowulf, which is written in Old English and is generally well-understood. And let us not forget the difficulties of translating even modern German words into modern English words adequately
But the journal article (linked below) is the best evidence for Cheshire's claims. I wonder how many critics have actually read through the vast academic journal article concerned. I have. And I find it most impressive. Cheshire repeatedly shows that his interpretation of the "alphabet" used in the MS makes sense. He shows that the words produced by it are Latinate -- similar to other evolved versions of Latin.
Once he has transformed the MS words into our familiar Latin alphabet, however, he sometimes has to speculate on the meaning of the word at that particular time and place. And he makes a good fist of that. And he does that over and over again. And it is that repeated success that is so convicing. It shows that he has got the key to getting it right. If he were wrong he might get a few lucky hits but showing that his system works over and over again throughout the MS could only come from his understanding of the MS being correct.
So why are so many academics rubbishing his work? Jealousy, basically. That he did so easily what they agonizingly failed to do is a big blow to their self-esteem. And they want to avoid that blow by disbelieving it. Freud called it defensiveness. JR