Skip to comments.The Dangers of Scientism
Posted on 09/08/2018 4:27:25 PM PDT by pcottraux
The Dangers of Scientism
By Philip Cottraux
Science, like other outmoded systems, is destroying itself. As it gains in power, it proves itself incapable of handling the power. Because things are going very fast now it will be in everyones hands. It will be in kits for backyard gardeners. Experiments for schoolchildren. Cheap labs for terrorists and dictators. And that will force everyone to ask the question - What should I do with my power? Which is the very question science says it cannot answer.
-Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
Atheists often accuse religious people of being anti-science. They cite past examples of superstitious religions like the Catholic Church persecuting men for great scientific discoveries. For example, they claim Galileo was burned at the stake for stating the earth wasnt the center of the universe. Under this pretense, they believe religion is holding science back from solving the worlds problems and that once the human race abandons all belief in God, it will be propelled into some kind of scientific utopia.
For the record, theres a lot of historical myth in play here. Copernicus and Galileo, while remembered as atheist heroes, were actually both devout Catholics. The church was largely uninterested in Copernicuss claims of a heliocentric solar system and theres no evidence Galileo was burned at the stake for anything other than his open criticisms of the pope.
Let me be clear that I am not opposed to science in the slightest. But I do believe the idea of religion holding science back is completely absurd. I think some philosophical clarification is needed on the Christian perspective of scientific discovery and how it pertains to our faith.
To me, science is like a gun; neither good nor bad but merely a tool. It has no emotions or motives. Scientific discoveries can be wonderful, but can also bring dangerous amounts of power. In the early twentieth century, vaccinations saved millions from diseases that had plagued humanity for millennia. But not long afterwards the atomic bomb became a terrifying reality, and weapons that could end the world in a nuclear holocaust came dangerously close to being used. The scientific method can be used for good or evil purposes, depending on who wields it.
So let me differentiate between science and scientism. Theres a difference between being pro-science and worshiping science as a god. Like most religions that claim their central teaching or figurehead is the only way, scientism teaches that truth can only be discovered via the scientific method. It rejects the concept of any truth outside of what can be explained naturally. It boils all of reality down to two things: physical matter and the laws of nature. Scientism places scientific achievement as the pinnacle of human goodness and throws out any search for meaning, morality, or the belief in a higher power. And it is a dangerous cult.
Ive seen an atheist given the invitation to accept Jesus as his Savior, only to sarcastically respond No thanks. Ill stick with science. Like most non-believers Ive met, he was indoctrinated by scientisms lie that God and science are diametrically opposed to one another and cannot coexist in any reality.
But before I take down scientisms failures to produce what it claims, I want to explain why its premise is wrong to begin with. Like most atheist doctrines, scientism is philosophically weak because it doesnt hold up to its own criteria. Lets take a closer look at the claim: science is the only way to discover truth. The colossal contradiction here is that the scientific process can never arrive at such a conclusion. Its a self-refuting statement, like saying none of my mothers children survived or I dont speak a word of English.
We can argue back and forth whether or not atheism qualifies as a religion. I may write about that another time, but for now, let me say that it really depends on how extensively an individual atheist embraces scientism. Because make no mistake, scientism qualifies as a radical religion. One of its chief characteristics is something you find appearing in atheist circles time and time again. Cults are known for their doomsday predictions. They almost universally believe that the end of the world is upon us but their tiny group alone will be spared.
You wouldnt think atheists, as self-proclaimed believers in reason, would fall for this end is nigh mentality. But they do. A startling number embrace their own apocalyptic dystopian vision. They believe that atheism is on the rise (true in the West but false globally), science is debunking archaic concepts like God, and soon religion will go extinct while humanity rises into a paradise where science has solved all our problems.
Such people have no right to claim theyre not part of any religion. The sub normative reflex comes from the same part of the brain. Theres no difference between atheists who think this and the Jehovahs Witness who says his church and his church alone will survive Armageddon.
Before I continue, let me point out why the mythic scientific utopia will never happen. Radical atheists like to point out the bad parts of religion (the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, etc.) while ignoring the good. See a previous blog of mine, Christianitys Contributions to Science. Now factor in charitable services churches provide. Nationwide, local churches donate a staggering amount to food banks, clothe drives, etc. Not to mention Christian orphanages, programs that fight poverty, send aide and disaster relief to foreign countries, blood drives, you name it.
We have recent history to see what a world without religion looks like, and it isnt paradise. Todays atheist dictators make religious persecution from the Middle Ages look tame by comparison. Stalinist Russia rounded up and killed over 12 million Christians, twice the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. Chairman Mao exterminated over 100 million people. Not to mention the horrors of labor camps in Cuba, North Korea, and Cambodia. All of these were an attempt to rid the world of religion, and the results were nightmare societies built on heaps of skulls.
When this is pointed out to atheists, they tend to give the most arrogant answer imaginable: better people will run the new religion-less utopia, and theyll get it right this time! This is similar to the leftist claim that wasnt true Communism! As if somehow, when they are in charge, they wont succumb to the same dark forces that overtook Stalin or Pol-Pot.
But for the sake of argument, lets assume atheists are right and theres no God. The problem with the scientific utopia is two-fold: one is that mankind was never meant to live in utopia in the first place. The only real way to create a secular paradise would be to kill a lot of people. But once weve reached whatever the goal is, humans will be inherently discontent. Utopia is unsustainable because its contrary to how the mind is designed. Eventually, a lot more people will die once people revolt against perfection, destroying all they built up out of sheer boredom.
And even if the great utopia is somehow sustainable, if weve accepted atheism as true then it wont really amount to much anyway. This is the contradiction of secular humanism that always baffled me. Whats the point of human progress, when according to science, the sun will eventually explode into a red giant and devour the earth? And even if humans are lucky enough to escape, the universe itself is expanding at such a rate that it will eventually rip itself apart into oblivion. What was the point of the scientific progress once all reality ceases to exist? Under the premise of scientism, who cares about ending suffering when all that awaits us in the end is annihilation anyway?
But the main reason scientism doesnt work goes back to my point at the beginning. It fatally mistakes scientific progress for inherent goodness. It assumes discovery is by definition virtuous.
Great literature has been trying to remind us this for centuries. In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton warned us of the dangers of genetic engineering, using the fictional concept of resurrecting dinosaurs to illustrate the point. Like Ian Malcolm says in the movie version, Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didnt stop to think of whether or not they should. He compares the power John Hammonds geneticists tapped into to a kid whos found his fathers gun.
But Ive always thought that Jurassic Park drew heavy inspiration from another science fiction classic, Mary Shelleys Frankenstein. It too is a tale of a scientist who discovers a power with consequences he isnt ready to deal with. In his quest to conquer death, Victor Frankenstein literally creates a monster who turns on his creator and destroys everything the scientist holds dear. Frankenstein bears the subtitle a modern Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan credited with giving mankind the gift of fire, unleashing a power reserved only for the gods and beginning civilization. Angered at Prometheuss transgression, Zeus sentences him to be chained to a rock and suffer torment for all eternity.
Scientific discovery itself can improve the quality of our lives, but it has to be guided by morals first. Science isnt itself noble. Naturalists who use it to justify their hatred of religion remind me of Dr. Henry Wu, the geneticist from Jurassic Park who was responsible for cloning dinosaurs and was arrogant enough to boast of his creation even while it was killing people. He was so certain that science contained all the answers that he failed to recognize how dangerous the power he wielded was. And he paid a terrible price for it.
Lest we forget that the Nazis were very scientifically literate. One cant argue that Dr. Joseph Mengele used the scientific process of deductive reasoning and experimentation with technical proficiency as he performed grizzly medical experiments on his victims. The Germans had some of the best rocket scientists in the world and had ambitious plans for technological innovation once the Third Reich had taken over.
And this is the true danger of scientism. Science not held back by religion or morals will unleash horrors on the human race.
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Galileo wasn’t burned at the stake. He was sentenced to house arrest.
It was Giordano Bruno that was burned at the stake.
It’s all science. Science is seeking to understand how God works.
Even the Bible is scientific.
God has built in protection for us in that the abilities and knowledge are not available for anyone with an impure soul.
So let me differentiate between science and scientism. Theres a difference between being pro-science and worshiping science as a god.
And his belief that the stars were other suns which could be circled by other worlds was way, way down the list of his beliefs that countered Catholic beliefs.
It’s poetry in motion...
Do they ever make this complaint against de, 'ow you say, indigenous pipples???
The story we're told in high school is that he was set ablaze at the stake until he screamed for mercy and recanted his support of Copernicanism.
I had thought this until just recently. Shows how bad the public school system is lying/indoctrinating students, even in my time (18 years ago). Can't imagine how bad it is today.
And from what you said, I still haven't been completely de-programmed. That's how insidiously deep the lies can crawl into the mind.
What does ‘Pentecost’ the word literally mean?
Galileo was not burned at the stake!
He was under house arrest.
The whole Galileo-Catholic Church conflict was not as black & white as is popularly taught. The Pope at the time was far more sympathetic to Galileo’s views then against. Galileo’s impatience, international pressures & the challenge of Protestantism provoked a reaction that made Galileo collateral damage.
His cosmology may have had little to do with it.
He had other views that probably were more an issue.
Religions have codes that act to restrain behavior. Yes often these fail sometimes but usually the restraints return.
Scientism has no restraints. Thus we see eugenics and dialectical materialism which slaughtered more people in the 20th century alone than all the religious wars since the fall of Rome. By a magnitude more.
and Hayek may well have coined the term scientism itself.
The book is divided into two parts:
"(1) Scientism and the Study of Society; and (2) The Counter-Revolution of Science. The former expounds the differences and peculiar histories of both the social and natural sciences, while the latter seeks to understand the historical development of "scientism", finding its roots in the rationalistic tradition of French (continental) thought."
I tend to think of science as the study of God’s creation, not God himself. Trying to understand God through his creation would be like trying to understand Picasso through his paintings. You might get a glimpse of some aspects of his personality, but not the whole picture. At some point you must go beyond science, since God himself is not limited by it.
Science is a process of gaining understanding, not a limited, quantified body of knowledge.
The human soul and the mind were created in such a way that human consciousness, knowledge and the corresponding abilities are not available to people who hold onto low frequency consciousness of fear, anger, jealousy,...... If you have the abilities and get angry you would cause much harm to yourself and others. Intelligence and perception of reality is a function of the level of consciousness from which you view it.
Just as a washing machine has a built in tilt safety switch so that an unbalanced load such as a wet blanket can not reach high rpms, the human consciousness is blocked from reaching high frequencies of consciousness.
Just as an out of balance tire is ok at low speeds, but at high speeds the entire car begins to shake, higher consciousness does the same thing to the soul. It’s the reason the Quakers and Shakers earned their names. This is part of the secret that Jesus, Buddha, and many of the mystics figured out and tried to teach us.
Excellent article with which I agree. I wrote about the same issues and came to largely the same conclusions on a couple of occasions:
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