More on Science and Scientism

One of the secrets behind scientism’s success at gaining such a hegemony, is its removal of wonder and mystery. Faith has always answered the questions that our universe’s strangeness raises. For it is a very strange and mysterious place. Thomas Carlyle said:

“This green flowery rock-built earth, the trees, the mountains, rivers, many-sounding seas; that great deep sea of azure that swims overhead; the winds sweeping through it; the black cloud fashioning itself together, now pouring out fire, now hail and rain; what is it? Ay, what? At bottom we do not yet know; we can never know at all…We call that fire of the black thundercloud electricity, and lecture learnedly about it, and grind the like of it out of glass and silk: but what is it? Whence comes it? Whither goes it?”

 He asked why we have lost the wonder of existence, since we still do not understand what this world really is:

It is not by our superior insight that we escape the difficulty, it is by our superior levity, our inattention, our want of insight. It is by not thinking that we cease to wonder at it….This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”

 But scientism has sought to remove all wonder, mystery and awe. After all, such emotions smack of humility, ignorance and possibly even worship. Humanism can have no part with such things, for they will inevitably lead away from human self-sufficiency, self-discovery and self-worship. Therefore, in the religion of scientism, mystery is only a present lack of knowledge, which future research will solve. Wonder or awe is simply the initial admiration we might have for nature’s intricacy. However, once we figure out how it works, we are not in awe any more; we are instead impressed with ourselves for figuring it all out. The naturalist scientist might bandy words like awe or wonder about, but he really is simply confessing what a great task it will be to unravel and decode it all. He does not mean he stands humbled before it, experiencing the supreme wisdom of an Infinite Intellect.

The pervasive sense that science will figure it all out in the end, undergirds the confidence of secular man. He does not expect to bow before Infinite Wisdom, or worship at the feet of an Almighty Creator, because science will keep peeling back the onion of our superstitious (and childish) feelings of awe, till we see the plain and uninteresting facts of an impersonal, naturalistic and inevitable existence.

Sadly, the Christian too often imbibes this loss of wonder. We don’t escape the sense of receding mystery. We are raised to know the explanation of phenomena, not the joy of their existence. We are taught to examine how things happen, not to meditate on why. The strangeness of life escapes us – we are so used to being told life was and is inevitable. Our minds have become like the scalpels of biologists instead of the eyes of children.

To remedy this, we must do at least two things:

  • Realise there are some things that mere observation (the basic tool of science) will never know. Science is a metal detector in a universe of many other elements. It can learn much, but only so much. Know that for everything science uncovers, it raises more questions with it, by an almost exponential rate. The more science learns about the universe, the less it knows. Mystery isn’t receding, it is actually growing.

  • Realise that all the names science gives to its observations do not make the phenomena any less marvelous. Just because we have classified it, does not mean we fully understand it, much less can control it. In fact, the Christian should realise the process of discovery, rightly understood, is part of God’s plan

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2 )

Let us learn again to look at this universe with humble eyes. Such eyes are not trying to know so as to rule, but to learn, so as to worship.

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