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Whereas science is positive, contenting itself with reporting what it discovers, scientism is negative. It goes beyond the actual findings of science to deny that other approaches to knowledge are valid and other truths true. In doing so it deserts science in favor of metaphysics—bad metaphysics, as it happens, for as the contention that there are no truths save those of science is not itself a scientific truth, in affirming it, scientism contradicts itself. It also carries marks of a religion—a secular religion, resulting from over-extrapolation from science, that has seldom numbered great scientists among its votaries. Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition, (Harper & Row, 1976), pp. 16-17.
Science versus Scientism
The Foundation of Science is Theology
"At the beginning of the seventeenth
century no one could foresee the triumphs which science was one day to
achieve. It was not, therefore, a foreknowledge of these triumphs that
encouraged innumerable men to persevere in almost incredibly detailed
inquiries concerning the laws of nature, in a corporate effort shared by
all parts of the civilized world and extending over many generations.
The will to pursue those inquiries was not based on any conception of
their future outcome, but it was based on something: it was based on the
belief that nature is a single system of laws. In adopting this idea,
civilized man was setting aside his immemorial belief in demonic
agencies, magical influences, and the inscrutable caprices of individual
things, and accepting a new view of the world, not received on faith,
and not arrived at by scientific induction, but thought out and stated
in a systematic form by the philosophers of the sixteenth century.
True science leaves behind the automatic acceptance of truth that comes from tradition, myth, merely creative and/or “god-inspired” sources. It embarks with the critical human faculties of rationality and logic on a pathway to lead us out of old superstitions and away to new truth, both physical and psychological (the word “psychology” means “soul science”). None of my colleagues would fail to join in with the sentiment, “Long live science”, and the author of this site will defend the scientific method to the end.
". . .
establishment science itself has become a church, with its own dogmas,
hierarchies, and heresies. It has its popes and cardinals, and the
power to excommunicate. This power has been used to pillory scientists
who challenged prevailing scientific orthodoxy....
However, there is a growing awareness in our day and age that much of what has come to be accepted as science has morphed into what is usually known as "institutionalized religion", which has abandoned the true scientific method. Indeed, Bryan Appleyard, in his excellent book Understanding the Present has indicted this “scientism” as detrimental to both science and religion. It now involves an uncritical acceptance of many popular hypotheses that have been taken to the level of approved theory&—;all but dogma in scientific parlance&—;and the institutionalized version of these. Whole generations have been “educated” by teachers who themselves are unaware of anomalies, deal-killer findings, questions and viable alternatives for these sacred cows, these shibboleths of scientism. They are also largely unaware of significant changes and disconfirmations that have taken place since they became credentialed. Appleyard, while decrying the dominance of scientism as it marginalizes “belief” and all other belief systems or religions, rightly identifies it as the de facto religion of civilized society.
". . .The point, in the view of the behavioral scientists, is that the physical scientists sanctimoniously lay claim to an objectivity that they do not demonstrate in reality. - Charles H. MacNamara, "The Persecution and Character Assassination of Immanuel Velikovsky as performed by the Inmates of the Scientific Establishment," Philadelphia Magazine, April 1968, p. 64.
As long as this religion can masquerade as science why shouldn't it? Science is supposed to be backed by hard-nosed reality checks made by sober-minded, critical-thinking, well-schooled men who hold the truth to be nothing short of sacred. These men of stalwart integrity have set up a multifaceted discipline with safeguards to keep things on the up and up: double&—;blind studies, duplicate observations and duplicate experiments with tests performed and results obtained by independent scientists, etc. Throw in "peer review" for good measure. By the way, whoever heard of Christian theologians submitting their concepts of god to Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish scholars for peer review or vice versa?
"Since Jefferson's day mankind everywhere in the world has come more and more to bet its life on the powers of science and the ways of democracy. There is a widespread and dangerous disposition to consider science as in some sense holy, and to attribute to it that assurance of salvation greater than any other which defines the supernatural. In the life of the mind the communicants of such a religion of science figure as so many more dogmatists of another intolerant cult, with observatories or laboratories for churches and with their formulas as infallible revelations ordaining the rites and liturgies of their respective specialties. Such religions of science insist on their own orthodoxies, exercise their own censorship, maintain their own Index. and impose their own Imprimatur." - Horace M. Kallen, "Democracy's True Religion," Saturday Review of Literature, July 28, 195 1, p. 7.
Religions, in contrast, are generally founded upon ancient "sacred writings" (admittedly subject to re-translation and reinterpretation) and/or ancient dispensations of authority. Each major religion usually considers each ancient source other than its own to be fictitious at best, and at worst, an evil-minded and cunningly devised counterfeit to the truth. Scientism marching in the guise of science gets almost a free pass from most of the public, and gets hailed as man’s salvation from “darkness”&—;superstition and religious nonsense&—;by its zealots.
Science now answers questions as if it were a religion and its obvious effectiveness means that these answers are believed to be the Truth—again as if it were a religion. But it confronts none of the spiritual issues of purpose and meaning. And meanwhile, its growing power enables it to drive the very systems that did confront those issues to the margins of our concern and, ultimately, out of existence. As I have said before, our science, whatever it may pretend, is incapable of coexistence. Bryan Appleyard, Understanding The Present, Anchor Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY. 10036, 1992, p. 214
Because science has become so confused with scientism and has adopted the uncritical attitudes of religion, the fundamental/taken-for-granted assumptions must be examined anew. See for example, The Origins of Modern Geological Theory.
Let us, for the moment, define religious doctrine as a system of belief concerning such issues as the nature of the Ultimate Being, the essential meaning of human life, the origin of the universe, the destiny of the individual following death, and the means to salvation. Viewed in such terms, it becomes immediately apparent that contemporary science is thoroughly suffused with religious doctrine. That doctrine may vary anywhere from agnosticism to unequivocal atheism. In this sense, twentieth-century physics is as profoundly influenced by metaphysics and religion as it was during the time of Newton. Scientist cannot really choose whether they will be free of such influences, for scientific thinking does not occur independently from the rest of our thinking. Those who are affected by science can choose only whether they will consciously, intelligently reflect upon its historical development and metaphysical foundations. p. 68,69 Choosing Reality, B. Alan Wallace
There is a growing movement that is mounting a very broad, almost comprehensive challenge to what can be called “the modern mythology”, a product of scientism. This challenge is built on the shoulders of major catastrophe scientists and scholars, primarily on the methods and some of the conclusions of Immanuel Velikovsky, although his reconstructions have been greatly modified. It has had a focus on cosmology and astrophysics because, as compelling as Velikovsky’s historical syntheses of solar system rearrangements may have been, given the current gravity-based cosmology they were dismissed as not being scientifically possible. Velikovsky is widely held in the halls of science to have been completely and irrevocably debunked as a creative crackpot, but in the long-term picture this is little more than whistling past the graveyard. He and his followers have sown the seeds for the destruction of this current modern mythology.
“The progress of physics is unsystematic…The result is that physics sometimes passes on to new territory before sufficiently consolidating territory already entered; it assumes sometimes too easily that results are secure and bases further advance on them, thereby laying itself open to further possible retreat. This is easy to understand in a subject in which development of the great fundamental concepts is often slow; a new generation appears before the concept has been really salted down, and assumes in the uncritical enthusiasm of youth that everything taught in school is gospel truth and forgets the doubts and tentative gropings of the great founders in its eagerness to make applications of the concepts and pass on to the next triumph…But each new young physicist…is in danger of forgetting all the past rumination and present uncertainty, and of starting with an uncritical acceptance of the concepts in the stage of development in which he finds them.” - Percy W. Bridgman (1961), Nobel Laureate in Physics (1946)
This challenge focuses on the problems with, and alternatives to, such “accepted as fact” theories as Einsteinian Relativity, the Big Bang and the gravity-structured expanding universe, red-shift = distance, black holes, dark matter and energy, the nuclear furnace sun and stars, “millions and billions” of years, accidental beginning of life, the “selfish gene, and evolutionism. It moves on to include most of the branches of science: geology, paleontology, chronology dating methodology, archeology, biology, psychology, etc., including an interdisciplinary reconstruction of what probably happened in the ancient times. Of course, science orthodoxy cannot leave this challenge alone to grow and develop; there are people that must neutralize it by any means short of criminal activity.
Now, we are all familiar with the more egregious religious zealots and rabid defenders of "the faith", some shouting on street corners, some preaching with passion in the pulpit&—;often spreading fear and hatred&—;, some even crucifying themselves or self-immolating, and some busy conditioning young lost souls to martyr themselves by becoming human bombs on suicide missions, killing themselves and as many others as they are able.
Self Appointed Guerilla-Warrior Defenders
But now, in this micro-electronic-telecosmic age, comes a new breed of “virtual” warriors, eager to give their lives meaning by defending the “truth”, eager to embark on a crusade that will worry and defeat those “deluded” people that challenge their religion of scientism. Just as battlefield warriors are not usually the brightest candles in the cathedral, these seem to lack good judgment and critical thinking ability, but they can be cunning and contentious. Many times these have no substantive or formal standing in institutionalized science, and more sensible people&—;even if they agree with them&—;rather quickly identify them as too troubled, too much of being a loose cannon. Indeed, these marginalized souls have nothing to lose. They are not coordinated military pieces operating in a disciplined fighting force, but they can be agile guerilla warriors, picking and sniping from the outside.
They do not join in conversation with openness to exploring common ground. Concessions are not granted, rebuttals to their points are not acknowledged; the only objective is to hurt, maim, sow confusion, and destroy. Ridicule, invective, insults, name-calling and general derogation are not just resorted to in frustration after more friendly discourse; these are often weapons of first choice used in opening salvos. Some of these wannabe warriors mount mailing or email campaigns to help prevent the spread of heresy to those “weak-minded” individuals who have somehow identified themselves a being open to or interested in the troublesome challenges.
In contrast to the undisciplined and often unprincipled intellectual terrorists dealt with in the previous section, we have the Brahmins, the heavy-weight defenders of scientism. These are the people who by some combination of merit, political and/or publishing skill, ambition, strategy, etc., have become authorities in their field. They generally are in the business of defending and promoting their particular expertise instead of doing real science. When approached by science editors who have the cheekiness to ask about the merits of the new paradigm challenges, these exalted “experts” merely snort, “Cobblers, balderdash, complete utter nonsense”. The unspoken message is immediately understood: go there again and you lose access to my offerings.
Let’s start by putting the magnifying glass on the nature and substance of the “rebuttals” and dismissals themselves, for that is where the ultimate crux of matters lies, regardless of the agendas and tactics of the “defenders”. Cannot they be easily and legitimately characterized as:
The scientismic loathing and fear of the despicable, quixotic, perverse, religious-sacred-literature god of power, control, and mismanagement, the unreasonable king of paradox and incompatible non-logic, along with Biblical creationism and its blind followers, is so profound that most of these scientists and their acolytes cannot think straight. All I can say is that as right as it is to run away from error, it is not the same thing as moving toward the truth.
Our purpose here is not just to rail with polemic against scientism apologists, be they merely guerillas or of Brahmin class. The practical issue is to point out the situation and suggest there is help for the interested lay person to sort things out.