We've been having a lot of fun this week talking about Tom Bethell's anti-Einstein views and how they may or may not relate to modern American conservatism. And inevitably, the dialogue has also dredged up a lot of context about all the other areas in which Bethell challenges a firmly accepted scholarly or scientific body of knowledge--including one I hadn't even recognized yet
. But first, let's review: Bethell questions the link between HIV and AIDS. He is also, as I have noted, a climate change "skeptic" and an evolution denier. And then there is the whole Einstein business. But even I didn't know that he was also an "Oxfordian"--e.g., adherent to the theory that William Shakespeare was really the Earl of Oxford, and not from Stratford-on-Avon (the mainstream "Stratfordian" view). The Oxfordian "theory" is most emphatically not the view held by the vast bulk of Shakepeare scholars...but hey, if you're willing to throw out Einstein and Darwin in favor of some dubious contrarian view, why not go for the trifecta! My father happens to be an English professor who specializes in Shakespeare--and, of course, is a Stratfordian--so the analogies with other kinds of denial and conspiracy theorizing are especially striking to me. I will grant, of course, that the anti-Stratfordian position on Shakespeare's identity does not--unlike climate change denial--pose a great threat to the human future. But it remains, nevertheless, a classic case of throwing out historical evidence and scholarly expertise.