Settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and infinite delight | Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report
The recent March for Science was a sad and sorry exercise in a view of reality that is flattened, dreary, and ultimately inhuman
Back in the early 1840s, John Henry Newman observed that physical philosophers—that is, scientists—"are ever inquiring whence things are, not why; referring them to nature, not to mind; and thus they tend to make a system a substitute for a God..." The "tending" has been, as they say, trending ever since. About a hundred years later, in 1948, Fulton Sheen remarked in his outstanding study Philosophy of Religion, that:
Science cannot give us a philosophy, not can it give us an ethics; it cannot give us a philosophy, because it immerses man in nature and avoids the important subject of his destiny. It cannot give us an ethics because science by itself is amoral. Morality comes from its ends, and science is indifferent to ends.
Lest it be thought that Sheen was anti-science or the enemy of scientists, consider his remark, from his 1928 book Religion Without God, that the "rock-surenes of 'Science' does not exist in the mind of the scientists themselves, although it does love and throb in the minds of publicists and propagandists. Scientists themselves disclaim they possess ultimate truth; rather they look upon it as a horizon toward which they are proceeding." Sheen was indicating that when a scientist begins to make metaphysical or philosophical assertions, he is no longer speaking as a scientist. Of course, a great number of famous scientists—Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking come to mind immediately—have used their scientific reputations in order to wade into waters that are better described as ideological and polemical. And even political.
All of those elements were obvious in the silly "March for Science" event that took place this past Saturday. I was blissfully unaware of the event until a friend sent a link to the local newspaper's coverage of the March for Science in Eugene, which featured some 1500 or so true believers. And I don't say "true believers" with any sarcasm or snarkiness; on the contrary:
“We teach science and we believe in science,” said Carrie Ann Naumoff, a fifth-grade teacher at Edison Elementary in Eugene. “We’re concerned that science is being blocked and interrupted. “We’re concerned about the EPA and concerned that scientists are being harassed for what they’re publishing. We want our students to have access to real information.”
"We believe in science." Whatever does that mean? What if the seventh-grade home-ec teacher (if such a thing still exists) exclaimed, "We believe in the culinary arts", or the 10th-grade French teacher solemnly explained, "We believe in language." Huh? But we do know what Ms. Naumoff means: she and the enlightened educating class are the guardians of science, which is the one, true source of truth and goodness, leading us into a future of, well, more science. However, such a belief is not really about scientific research and fact, but about a particular ideological perspective, generally called scientism, which is not about following physical evidence where it might lead, but flattening all of reality into the narrow confines of materialist proofs and premises.
Dr. Austin L. Hughes, a professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, described it well in an 2012 essay titled "The Folly of Scientism":