Cult of Science
Westerners will go nowhere with radical doubt. We will go to eternity with radical faith.
Americans are deeply familiar with the teachings of many Enlightenment philosophers, whether or not they are aware of them. These teachings underpin the modern West, especially in the United States. The Declaration of Independence is the best example, a testament to our philosophical heritage: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
However, there is a specific part of the Enlightenment now taken as gospel that defines the largest part of how westerners live their lives and make decisions as nations. The scientific revolution and the scientific method are the most influential doctrines ever devised and kick started the greatest technological advancement in human history. The speed at which humans have made our material lives more comfortable and less dangerous is astounding. We have the scientific method to thank for this, for all its consequences, good or bad.
In our pursuit of unveiling the world for all to see, in pulling back the curtain of mystery with a thirst to render the world measurable and exploitable, we lost something. Scientism has spread far beyond the lab rooms and observatories of yesteryear and into how the Western man conceives of the world as a whole. There has been no greater contributor to our nihilism than the Scientific Revolution's consequences on the Western world view. This is called “scientism,” or viewing the world exclusively through the lens of science and reason itself.
To start, two figures of science are necessary to understand “scientism:” Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon. These men were champions of empiricism and scientific discovery. Descartes introduced the idea of “radical doubt” to the world, in which all presuppositions about the world at large were cast into the realm of untruth until proven otherwise by “scientific,” step-by-step processes. In other words, Descartes would take nothing as true in-itself. To do otherwise was a crime against reason. This Cartesian doubt is the foundation for all science, and to find the “truth,” Bacon’s Scientific method must similarly be employed to arrive at any conclusion.
This method is certainly excellent for discovering the secrets of the material universe. Otherwise, Jon Snow would have never discovered Cholera was transmitted by water, Isaac Newton would have never explained the motions of the planets and objects, upending the entire understanding of physics, and man would have never gone to the moon. It is important to acknowledge the immense greatness of those who have used this method to achieve amazing things. When we criticize scientism, we do not mean the practice of science in general, but the spirit which emanates from its philosophical foundation, that reductionist method that threatens to turn the world into a mathematical formula and supplant the role of God.
There is something lost in this worldview when it becomes the basis for all thought, something acute to the West. This ethos of empiricism and evidence-based truth has completely annihilated any notion of truths that exists in-themselves or outside the purview of observation and reason. All things are measurable, calculable, discreet, and should anything fall outside of these methods of observation, it is not worthy of consideration. The world becomes cold, inert, devoid of wonders and miracles, and most of all, man cannot see the character of divine creation in its incomprehensible glory. Humanity is tasked without God, to bend the world to its will, and satisfy its desires.
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger made an observation regarding the advancement of technology, in that the world had become a “standing reserve” to be exploited for man’s desire. Even an atheist like Heidegger could see what this hyper-rational mindset means for humanity, and while he did diagnose a problem, it is worth pointing out his solution was not sufficient in his philosophy. When the world becomes simply “matter-in-motion,” under this worldview, are humans also not just bags of flesh that think they’re special? This is the next logical step of scientism once the world is reduced to mere atoms. Under scientism, neurology supplants the role of religion and philosophy, two disciplines that have defined the greatest intellectual and spiritual achievements of humanity. The “meaning of life” is just a firing of neurons, nothing more.
Human exceptionality in the world is second nature to us. We act on a daily basis as if it were the case that we occupy a singularly unique position in creation. If we really are just “matter-in-motion,” we certainly never act like it. By taking scientism into our hearts fully, we completely negate any reason to continue living. Total nihilism is the result of scientism’s reduction of the world and humanity. It attempts to rage against the inner truth of human’s exceptionality and destroy all of its glory. So in our pursuit of science, we cannot let its method infect the eternal, self-evident truths of the human soul. To doubt eternal truth on the basis of its unprovability is the creed of the cult of scientism.
It is often said that absence of proof is not proof of absence. There are truths that exist outside of evidential verification, reasonability, and observation, all of which are God’s glory in its most mysterious manifestations. Let us instead bring magic back into our world. Let us not bend the world to humanities fallen, perverse will. Let us not use science as a method to dominate nature and ourselves, but for the common good and understanding the glory of God. God wants man to see the beauty in His creation and in its divine mystery.
Our self-awareness is testament to our divine Father, and science has yet to find the reason for it, and never will. This Sisyphean effort by science to rationalize and measure the entirety of the human experience only leaves us wanting to fill a void in our souls. Science is radical doubt, and so it will never be that we have arrived at the truth through science, since even this would be in doubt. Truth-seeking in the highest sense, then, requires leaving the scientific method altogether. The Church knows this well. In the truth of God, we are nourished and filled with divine meaning and mission. We know the truth by faith, not science.
God wants man to draw closer to him, even in the practice of science. However, we cannot become lost in our pursuit of science and forget that it is God, Truth incarnate, that we must seek. Humanity is not simply the coalescence of matter that generated self-awareness by mere chance. Werner Heisenberg, the father of quantum mechanics, put it most succinctly: “the first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
God is waiting for America. It will require the upending of hundreds of years of preconceived notions about what America truly is. Scientism takes no truth as-such, and so even our nation's foundations were relentlessly analyzed until no one can even believe in them anymore. Westerners will go nowhere with radical doubt. We will go to eternity with radical faith.
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