Blinded By Science

Blinded By Science

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.

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  1. What scientism and scidolatry do not know is that science does not have potential contributions to peace. Inner peace comes from God. Without the Spirit, there can be no peace on earth. Science has its place; but, it should also know its place.

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    ”…has emerged from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”

    Could have emerged from the Pope’s butt for all I care. Weather’s got me cranky. Nobody cares what the Vatican thinks, about anything. The “Catholics” who may agree with the Pope are all apostates who don’t take him seriously and the Catholics who disagree with Bergolio are revolted by everything emerging from him. Institutional credibility gone. Like our FedGov, which is run by Satan through ridiculous puppets. But FedGov can still field a few divisions while Vatican merely concocts seedy plots by impotent schemers in dresses.

    Of course, your critique of Scientolicism, the world’s dumbest religion, is quite right. A fake and gay religion such as Scientolicism suits our age: The World’s Dumbest. Probably every age has looked to be the world’s dumbest, seen by the men living through it… cranky men, living under stormy, gloomy skies oozing cold drizzle. Meanwhile, a mere thousand feet directly overhead the sky is serene and clear.

    Perhaps the storm-tossed stupidity is merely a stage play where the producers abuse the audience with frightful idiocy, which perversely enthralls both. And at any time one can simply leave the theater and walk out into the lovely sunshine of God’s creation. But most of the audience sits rooted in their seats because they have to see what happens next — one damn thing after another. Time to walk out.

  3. Dodgy Geezer

    Onward, Christian Soldiers!

    “…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….”

    Actually, they are NOT. They are Engineering questions.

    Science tells us that atoms at the limits of their stability can be broken up in a neutron flux and emit considerable quantities of energy. How to convert that into a device capable of harnessing this energy is an engineering issue. A power station or a bomb could be made. And if a bomb is made, the question of IF it should be dropped is a moral one. When and where it should be dropped is a Military one…

  4. Briggs


    When you say “atoms at the limits of their stability can be broken up in a neutron flux and emit considerable quantities of energy” you are describing how certain things work.

    Making things into tools is engineering.

  5. You ask: “How many of us agreed with the gain-of-lethality research?”

    I agree now and I did when the move to ban it started during the Clinton years and ended with its [fully funded] banishment to China during the Obama period.

    The reason I agree is simple: the goal of this type of R&D is to develop a capacity to read the genome of a new infectious agent (e.g. viral or bacterial), use that info to spec a vaccine or other counter-agent, and then automatically produce that counter-agent in quantity – all within minutes of getting a sample of the thing. That goal is reasonable, achievable, and morally right but getting there requires understanding how bioweapons are developed and how they work – hence GOF research.

    Thus I would argue that the Clinton era decision to surpress the work led directly to the behavioral and managerial choices which gave us the covid disaster and, equally, that fully funding the army’s research in the 90s would have both produced an answer by now and completely avoided the political and organizational adaptatations and workarounds that led to the general under the table sliminess that gave us the Wahun mess.

  6. john gubert

    Science has more to say about war than peace. Science says “here, kill them with new thing.”

  7. Johnno


    Could A Small Nuclear War Reverse Global Warming?
    Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming

    Scientists from NASA and a number of other institutions have recently been modeling the effects of a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, or 0.03 percent of the world’s current nuclear arsenal, according to National Geographic. The research suggests five million metric tons of black carbon would be swept up into the lowest portion of the atmosphere.

    The result, according to NASA climate models, could actually be global cooling.

  8. Cary Cotterman

    “That smacks of Tyson’s ‘Science is true whether or not you believe it.’ ”

    I realized Tyson was a media-whoring, Sagan-wannabe crackpot when he demoted Pluto. Then when he stated, on The Science Channel, that the ability of scientists to accurately predict solar eclipses was proof that predictions of global warming were also accurate, he proved he is a thoroughgoing clown.

  9. john b()


    We used to call it Nuclear Winter

    Small – yes, might work – but do they calculate a “tipping point”?

  10. Vermont Crank

    If a Pope falls in a heretical forest can The PAS detect it?

  11. Incitadus

    The liberal press has been seeding the ground with references to
    nuclear war since February. They’re the ones constantly bringing
    this up and then they explicitly blame Putin for their warmongering.
    A ‘small’ nuclear war fits perfectly with this stream of propaganda to
    of all things address climate change. This is beyond insane though
    I’m sure there will be reams of scientific papers supporting the notion.
    To restate the obvious there is no such thing as a ‘small’ nuclear war.

  12. Vermont Crank

    Zacharias 14: 12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord shall strike all nations that have fought against Jerusalem: the flesh of every one shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

  13. Milton Hathaway

    “Science”. The word really doesn’t mean anything anymore in standalone usage, the lefties have sucked all the useful meaning out of it. These days, one needs to be more specific.

    For example, do you mean hate-science, anti-scientism, science-neutral, science equity, science victimization, colonial-imperialist science, disparate-impact science, parity-affirming science, science-adjacent, safe-space science, orientation science, intersectionality science, science systemicism, science diversity, science fragility, science triggering, theme science, science privilege, denial science, science of color, oppressed science, micro-aggressive science, boomer science, bourgeois science, unearned privilege science, bestirred science, leveling science, irredeemable clinger science, science activism, science of the people, implicit-bias science, explicit-bias science, white science, green science, cancel science, proportional representation science, cultural appropriation science, BIPOC science (Betas, Infrareds, Photons of Color), LGBTQ+ science (Leptons, Gluons, Bosons, Tau neutrinos, Quarks, plus), trans-science (transformers, transistors, transimpedance amplifiers, etc)?

    I might have missed a few.

  14. Aaron

    I had a sociology professor say that there are no “social sciences” as the closer you got to humans, the less rational and unbiased the studies become. To call psychology and sociology “sciences” would work in a methodology sense, according to him, but not in a true sense.

  15. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Well, there’s science as an activity; and science as episteme, as real, pure and hard knowledge. As an activity, it can be full of falsehood and manipulation. As episteme, it would be a contradiction: the false knowledge, if it’s false, it’s not knowledge.

    On the other hand, you have three more relevant features to consider. 1) Science is not selfsuficient, it has some underpinnings, some foundations: the “axiomata”, the determination of the object and the proportionate method, the intelligibility of reality, the measurment tools (corrected by science as it progresses). So, science is not the most important and foundational knowledge. Philosophy and theology, on the contrary, are fundamental and have as an object the very foundations of being and knowledge.
    2) Besides, every science is defined by its method and, especially, by its object; so, no science can go beyond the very limits of those tenets that define it.
    3) Finally, science only cares about knowledge, not action: it’s only part of communist and positivistic corruption this believe in science as techné.

    There you go, you’re article is on the point, but with one observation: there can be no false science. The only “false science” there can be is science as activity; or that other thing of models and expertocracy you always talk about, very sharply…. Other than that, this epitemolatry of a Pontifical academy is a disgusting travesty…

  16. Johnno

    mmhm… MmmHmm… hmm… MwahahaHAHAHAHA… BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Gazprom Ready to Ship Gas Via Shelved Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
    One line of Nord Stream 2 may be undamaged after attacks
    Leaks have stopped in three other strings of Nord Stream pipes

    Gazprom PJSC told European gas customers that part of the damaged Nord Stream network could still transport fuel — but only on the new pipeline that Germany ditched in February in protest at Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.

  17. DEEBEE

    What a waste of pontification

  18. Angor Watt

    Thanks, professor, for this excellent explication of the importance of differentiation between being “right “ morally, versus “correct “ factually. . . This is why I follow you avidly to keep my compass oriented. . . Keep up the important work that so many who have traded their compasses for computers have lost sight of

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