Zero Harm and a peasant in 16th century Europe
Guest article by Paul Nieuwoudt
Life today appears to hold some similarity to that of 16th century Europe. Europe in those days was largely dominated by the Roman Catholic church and many governments dared not make any decisions of any significance without the church’s permission. Those governments had cardinals, appointed by the church as their advisors to guide them regarding the instructions and wishes of the church in matters of state.
In those days a controversy was simmering away between the church and scientists. The church fervently held to the belief of geocentrism, teaching that the earth is the center of the solar system. Scientists like Copernicus, and later Galileo, showed through their observations and measurements that the solar system is heliocentric i.e. the sun was at the center.
The church did not tolerate this situation and in 1615 Cardinal Bellarmine wrote a letter to Foscarini (a confidant of Galileo) with words of advice and caution. In that letter he wrote that it is acceptable to say that the sun is the center of the solar system for mathematical purposes only, as long as it is acknowledged that in reality it is obvious that the earth is the center. In 1632 Galileo was brought to trial for his heliocentric leanings and in 1634 was placed under house arrest until his death.
Peasants in those days would have had a difficult time in knowing what to believe. On the one hand, they had the all-powerful church fervently promulgating their belief that the earth was the center, and on the other hand there were the scientists who were showing that the facts point to a different reality. Pity those peasants – who should they believe? The church or the scientists?
Fast forward four hundred years to the present, and the current situation within safety appears to hold close similarities to that 16th century controversy. Today we have the church of Zero Harm fervently proclaiming the Goal of Zero and teaching that all incidents are preventable. References to the “belief in zero harm” make it appear all the more quasi-religious in nature. This church’s cardinals are ubiquitous and can be found in many organizations, boards and elsewhere. These cardinals ensure strict compliance to their doctrine, and do not tolerate the slightest hint of heresy.
Many people of science, psychology and other related disciplines on the other hand are providing a totally different message. These include James Reason, Corrie Pitzer and Robert Long. Through their writings and teachings they are demonstrating that the scientific and psychological facts point to a different reality. They are clearly showing that there are many reasons why the doctrine of Zero harm is baseless.
Once again the ordinary person is confronted with two opposing viewpoints. Who should they place their confidence in; the church of zero harm or science?
It is said that history repeats itself, and I wonder how long it will take before the scientific view prevails.