A remarkable article on the state of Science has emerged from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Ostensibly, the article is a lament on the horrors in our world. Things like the Russia-NATO war, the Tigray-Ethiopia war, and the desired-for wars in Yemen and Syria.
These wars, the article said, are “of grave concern to us because they cause great suffering for civilian populations, particularly for women and children.”
Ah, our favorite headline yet again. Men Die In War, Women And Children Hardest Hit. Never mind.
Current “threats or actual attacks by powerful countries on their neighbors are putting political order and human civilization at risk, the statement said. “At a time when Science is so dominant in culture, all scientific disciplines should consider their potential contributions to peace.”
What we have here is a combination of scientism, the belief Science has all the answers, and scidolatry, the worship of Science. There are differences. It’s usually scientists themselves who suffer from scientism, and it’s rare they fall prey to scidolatry. At least, they don’t when they are well into their careers, when they have met too many other scientists.
Scidolatry often befalls civilians, and it’s seen, perhaps not sincerely, in Science spokesmen, and in early career scientists.
Here is everything—and I mean every thing—Science has to say about peace: ” “.
It is, not coincidentally, the same as it has to say about war.
Can knowing the atomic weight of lithium, or the average width of the intestines of squirrels, or the hydrogen burn rate of Class O stars, or the role hydrophobic collapse plays in protein folding, or the major differences between sedimentary and igneous rocks, or any scientific statement tell you about peace? Or war?
“Briggs, you forgot psychology and social Science. They can say how wars are created and peace attained.”
Maybe, maybe. If the theories they hold are true, which is not something likely, given the performance of those fields. And anyway, that is not the kind of Science our authors meant. They meant something like the list I gave, but without thinking of it.
Again, even if the theories that purport to say something about peace and war really are true, they do not say anything about what is right to do. Or wrong. Science is mute on right and wrong.
That’s the beauty and danger of Science. Science is only about how things work. That something should be made to work, or even studied, like gain-of-lethality viruses, or nuclear bombs, is not a scientific question. Those are moral questions.
In Science, no question and no knowledge is forbidden. In real life, some questions and some knowledge must be. (On forbidden knowledge, see this article from the late great Thomas Bertonneau.)
The real problem of scientism, then, is when scientists forget that their advice is laden with moral judgement, judgments which they falsely belief are value free. This is not possible.
How many of us agreed with the gain-of-lethality research? Science that led to three years of insanity, pain, misery, and death. It was Science, after all. And isn’t all Science good?
The scientists at the Pontifical Academy know there is less scidolatry then there used to be. And they are concerned.
Another concern [see?], the academy members wrote, was the lack of “Science-informed rational arguments” and the growth of “Science skepticism in parts of the general public, and in conventional and social media.”
The plenary session looked at some of the reasons for this neglect and the role religion may play in fueling Science skepticism or in fostering greater openness to Science.
But the academy recognized “there is also well-informed, important skepticism about sometimes overlooked disconnections between Science, technology and their real-world impact,” which can cause concern, suspicion or skepticism about Science.
They don’t want to purge their scientism, they want to correct the attitudes of civilians to give Science the respect they believe it deserves. Even where they sort of admit to their errors, they worry more about how civilians rationally come to distrust Science.
Notice very carefully their phrase “suspicion or skepticism about Science.” That smacks of Tyson’s “Science is true whether or not you believe it.”
What an absurd thing to say. It can only be entertained by those who have come to see Science as the primary means of discovering Truth. An attitude which, for those at a Pontifical Academy, is blasphemous.
Paul was blinded by a light of Divine Truth. Even if you don’t believe that, he at least knew to look to the transcendent. The Pontifical Academy is blinded by Science. Which is, after all, only the work of scientists. What a dismal thing to worship.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.