Science and Scientism

It is not an exaggeration to say that the high priests of our secular culture are the scientists. The scientist is the only one authorised to tell us what really exists. No one is allowed to speak about truth (which apparently does not exist) but the scientist is allowed to tell us about the facts (which apparently do exist). Somehow, we have arrived at the place where a doctor of religion is scoffed at for talking of God as a metaphysical reality, but we take very seriously the scientist who spends thirty years of his life studying gnats’ eyebrows.

Since the abandonment of belief in eternal, transcendent and permanent things, the sense of uncertainty about any knowledge has been growing. Except, of course, for the facts that emerge from a specialised and intensive study of little islands of decontextualised knowledge like, perhaps, gnats’ eyebrows. Of such things, the modern man tells us, we can be sure. He might even come close to saying, “We can know the truth about gnats’ eyebrows.”

In this way, the scientist is our culture’s high priest. He alone provides us with some anchor in a meaningless universe. He, of all people, can tell us what has existed, what does exist, and what will exist. Put simply, the scientist now answers the major metaphysical questions: How did the universe begin? Why are we here? Where are we going? To understand yourself and your place in this world, you must be catechised by the scientists. In fact, most modern education, from kindergarten to post-graduate, makes sure of that.

The scientist’s role as priest is seen on other fronts. When a scientist emerges from his laboratory or study with a journal article or a published finding, all must believe [the faith]. After all, the scientist used scientific methods [the ritual]to reach his conclusions. If something is not examined with scientific methods, it cannot be true [the dogma]. This is why naturalist scientists and their followers must scoff at faith in God, for God cannot be proved with scientific methods.

Further, look at what happens when one questions the findings of the priests. Something like an excommunication from the society of rational, balanced, thinking people occurs. The rage of of the Dawkins Delusion will roast you for your primitive and superstitious beliefs.

If scientists themselves should question the naturalist presuppositions of the whole system, or of the right of science to speak on metaphysics, they are liable to lose their tenure, funding or their jobs.

Science is simply knowledge. This anointing of the scientist as our priest of all true knowledge is better termed scientism. Scientism arrogates to itself the role of being the sole purveyor of what really exists, while religion and philosophy must trail behind and cater to personal and subjective beliefs of what exists. In scientism, science deals with the solid bricks and cement of facts whereas religion deals with the liquid (if not gaseous) stuff of personal opinions.

Such a categorising of things, of course, presents one with an inauspicious choice – live by our confirmed facts, or live by your whimsical (and probably delusional) beliefs. I wonder, when framed with a choice like the following, who would choose the latter: Do you want to lean on our patented fibre-glass rod, or lean on an invisible magic stick?

Secularism could not survive long without its priests. Man longs to believe; man senses he is eternal; man longs for mystery and wonder. If the priests did not keep the doctrine of materialism and naturalism in our textbooks, newspapers and TV programmes, secularism would wither and die.

The thoughtful Christian must see where science crosses over into scientism. A Christian is thankful for all knowledge discovered by scientists, for it forms part of the universe God created. He is happy to allow the universe’s intricacy to praise the wisdom of its Maker.

However, when all bow before the image of scientism, the Shadrachs, Meschachs and Abednegos of today must remain standing, whatever the cost. 

But that’s how scientism categorises the choices for us. The result is that most people develop some kind of uncomfortable syncretism. They don’t want to be card-carrying Flat Earth Society members, so they can’t (or won’t) question the findings of scientism. Equally, they sense there is more to reality than the naturalism of Dawkins & Co, so they settle for a compromise where one system deals with the objective, and the other deals with the subjective: “I believe in the Big Bang, and I also believe in a Supreme Being, but my faith is very personal.”
Scientism snorts at such attitudes, but it is a demure enough response to tolerate. It is those heretics that insist that religious faith can provide us with objective knowledge that must be hunted down and all but burnt at the stake.  If religion ever dares to clear its throat and speak in the name of truth and reality , expect hostility and conflict as wrathful as any medieval Inquisition.

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