[FORUM]Dogma can hinder societiesDogma is bound to exist in any society in any age. Originally, dogma meant a philosophical proposition or religious truth upon which absolute authority was bestowed, but today it is often used as a term that connotes an arbitrary decision or self-righteousness. Because of this dual nature, dogma can at times act as a centripetal force that sustains society and at other times as an obstacle that blocks the progress of society.
There was a time when a dogma dominated for hundreds or thousands of years. Leading examples are the geocentric theory that the sky, the sun, the moon and the stars moved around the Earth and the creation theory that God created the universe. Denial of these theories was considered blasphemy. Because society’s order and values were centered on these beliefs, authorities might have feared that the collapse of the dogma would drive the whole society into chaos.
But as science progressed and society became more civilized, the geocentric theory and creation theory had to give way to the heliocentric theory and evolution theory.
In modern society, no dogma can reign for a long time with absolute authority. It is even more so in an age where a year of today is tantamount to a hundred years of the past. We live in an age where we cannot help but fall behind and go backward if we stick to a dogma.
After the foundation of the Republic of Korea, anti-communism became a dogma that overwhelmed our society for decades. The color red was taboo because it was associated with communism. Even when he was in office, President Kim Dae-jung had to suffer from a “red complex” because of his left-leaning past.
Although the United States, which criticized the former Soviet Union as the “iron curtain” and China as the “bamboo curtain,” was holding dialogues with the two countries behind the scenes, to us, communism was nothing but something to overthrow.
There have been countless challenges and sacrifices, and as a result, the anti-communism dogma collapsed. The “red complex” disappeared, to be replaced by the “red devils,” the rabid supporters of the Korean national soccer team during the 2002 World Cup.
Dogma forces us to accept blindly. It allows no room for other arguments, which is why dogma can make a person dangerous. Karl Popper, a philosopher of science, called such people an “enemy of open society.” He said that excluding the possibility of refutation and arguing only for validity and legitimacy is no longer a science but a faith. That is why dogma and taboo should be destroyed for the development of society, he said.
Did dogma disappear completely in our society? It is too early to say so definitely. Just as a spring bounces back, an opposite dogma tries to take root once a dogma is removed.
For example, remarks favorable to the United States or critical of North Korea would meet a tremendous backlash. It has become fashionable to say that we should have dialogue with and provide economic support to North Korea, no matter the threats or pressure from North Korea, and that we should criticize U.S. foreign policy at every opportunity.
“Environment first” is another kind of dogma. Disillusion and repulsion with the development age gave birth to this movement. Because of the efforts to preserve rare salamanders and tidal flats, the government has to give up projects, even if hundreds of billions of won is wasted.
Of course, this is not to say that we should overturn North Korea or that we should be under the rule of the United States. Nor is it to say that we should tolerate the indiscriminate destruction of the environment to construct railways and dams. We should know that arguments of both extremes are none other than dogma.
It is extremely foolish to argue that the theory of evolution is wrong because it is not in the Bible or that quantum physics and the theory of relativism should be rejected because they were crafted by a Jew named Einstein, as they did in Aryan physics. Should we prevent a flood by building a dam or by digging a ditch?
Choosing only one method is not always the solution. We should either choose both methods simultaneously or choose one depending on the situation. The time has come now for us to escape from this collective hypnosis to move toward an open and mature society.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo