Chapter 2 of Evolution, the Big Bang, and Other Fables, by A N Mack MD
Today I will discuss the importance of Scientism. It may be the longest and driest chapter of the book. But please don’t give up. It lays the foundation for understanding just how unreliable the concept of evolution really is.
I believe that most laypersons today believe the world is billions of years old. Most also believe evolution is true. And when questioned about why they believe these things, most would answer something along the lines of “Because science says so.” But what “science” do they mean? Social science? Formal science? Natural science? Pure science? Applied science?
According to the Oxford scholarship online, “The natural taxonomy of the empirical sciences would break the sciences down into three basic groups: the physical sciences (physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, metallurgy), the biological sciences (zoology, botany, genetics, paleontology, molecular biology, physiology), and the psychological sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, maybe economics). (1)
And within all these branches of science, as well as between the branches, lie many strident disagreements about extremely important and foundational issues. Scientists among themselves disagree vehemently about cosmological constants and the mathematical calculations on which the age of the universe is calculated. They disagree over the geological, archaeological, and genetic evidence for and against evolution. Yet somehow, the public has been convinced that “science knows” the age of the universe, and “science has proven” evolution to be true.
But in reality these the Big Bang and Evolution are not only unproven, but they are also in many ways deeply unscientific. Public statements about evolution are actually not Science, but Scientism. Yet few have any idea of the difference between REAL science and scientism.
Believers in Scientism feel that the natural sciences have preeminent authority over all other branches of philosophy and learning. It is similar to Positivism, the belief that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, which was first posited by Auguste Comte in the early 1800s. Scientism is, in essence, a fanatical and unscientific form or Empiricism, the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge of the world.
As written by Dallas Willard, “We say “science,” but in actuality there are sciences like physics and biology. We say “religion,” but it would be more accurate to say religions like Christianity or Buddhism. Scientists will tell you that they do have a method, but the method of one science doesn’t work in another science. The method of validating a theory in biology doesn’t work particularly well in astronomy. Method is always tied to subject matter, and in dealing with life in general there is no such thing as a single scientific method. This has become the quandary of our culture, because everything that really matters in guiding life falls outside of science.” (2) (bold type added)
Scientism and Positivism both make a claim to a form of superior intellectual authority. They posit themselves as more important, more authentic, and superior to all other forms of knowledge. But in doing so they cannot offer empiric or scientific or provable claims. Therefore these claims are not scientific, but philosophical in nature.
So Scientism is not good science, because it makes a claim that only scientific claims are meaningful, and this claim is itself unscientific and unprovable. But is scientism good philosophy? Jürgen Habermas, the German sociologist and philosopher, wrote, “The scientistic faith in a science that will one day not only fulfill, but eliminate, personal self-conception through objectifying self-description is not science, but bad philosophy.” (3)
Physicist Ian Hutchinson believes that scientism is not only bad as a philosophy. He believes it is bad for science. “The health of science is in fact jeopardized by scientism, not promoted by it. At the very least, scientism provokes a defensive, immunological, aggressive response from other intellectual communities, in return for its own arrogance and intellectual bullyism. It taints science itself by association.”(3)
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Science must not impose any philosophy, any more than the telephone must tell us what to say”.(4) Yet in spite of this, modern secular scientists do exactly this, they propose a philosophy which is supposedly superior to religion, and philosophy, and all other forms of rational thought, and they do so without any evidence, scientific or otherwise. Hence proponents of the Big Bang and Evolution are often acting out of their perverted and unjustified faith in scientism when they ridicule and persecute those who believe in Creation. If their cause was the advancement of science, there would be no need, or place, for such antisocial and unscientific attitudes.
Austin L Hughes stated, “If philosophy is regarded as a legitimate and necessary discipline, then one might think that a certain degree of philosophical training would be very useful to a scientist. Scientists ought to be able to recognize how often philosophical issues arise in their work — that is, issues that cannot be resolved by arguments that make recourse solely to inference and empirical observation. In most cases, these issues arise because practicing scientists, like all people, are prone to philosophical errors. To take an obvious example, scientists can be prone to errors of elementary logic, and these can often go undetected by the peer review process and have a major impact on the literature — for instance, confusing correlation and causation, or confusing implication with a biconditional. Philosophy can provide a way of understanding and correcting such errors. It addresses a largely distinct set of questions that natural science alone cannot answer, but that must be answered for natural science to be properly conducted.” (bold added) (5)
Thus it can be seen that Scientism is not just bad science. It is also bad philosophy and bad logic. (Much more on this in the next chapter) It is bad for society and all its (scientism’s) practitioners. Like every form of incorrect thinking, it has consequences.
As I wrote in the blog “BIG GOD. small god. Why Cosmology Matters. “Atheists say creation is impossible because it would have required something miraculous, something fantastic, something unbelievable, something outside the bounds of science. Creationists say that The Big Bang and Evolution are impossible because they would have required something miraculous, something fantastic, something unbelievable, something outside the bounds of science.” And BOTH are correct. Yet rather than admit the weakness of their arguments, or their inability to prove their points scientifically, each side often resorts to dogma. Rather than a free and mutually beneficial exchange of ideas, many resort to ridicule or even persecution of those with whom they disagree.
The consequences of belief in Scientism include even such seemingly unrelated fields as agriculture. As written by Robert J Cabin, in the HuffPost; “More than 70 years ago, Sir Albert Howard foresaw many of the problems that would result from the over-zealous application of science to the vast biological and social complexities of agroecosystems. As summarized by Michael Pollan in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Howard argued that ‘’the problem is that once science has reduced a complex phenomenon to a couple of variables, however important they may be, the natural tendency is to overlook everything else, to assume that what you can measure is all there is, or at least all that really matters.’’ (6)
Cabin continues, “At present, a few multinational corporate giants control an ever-increasing majority of our food production and distribution systems. Often under the guise of ‘’scientific progress,’’ these corporations continue to replace small, diversified, highly productive, ecologically sustainable, locally controlled, indigenous agricultural systems (developed in the absence of western science) with ever larger, genetically engineered monocultures that displace the local human community, require many calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food, and contaminate the land and water with synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.” (7)
So as we can see, bad science leads to bad agriculture, and back to more bad science.
But perhaps, as we shall discuss in forthcoming chapters, the most alarming and worrisome aspect of society’s unwarranted belief in scientism is its effect on our educational system. There it has influenced generations of gullible and unsuspecting youth, where we see the resulting rampant rejection of faith.
“Real science, unpretentious and unassuming is this, to investigate the wonders of Creation with all the powers of our God given intellectual capacity, and to maintain truth and objectivity at all costs.” ANM
“Insofar as he makes use of his healthy senses, man himself is the best and most exact scientific instrument possible.” Goethe (1)
(2) Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus (Harper-Collins: February 10, 2015), PP. 14-15
(3) “The Perils of Semantic Ascent: Quine and Post-positivism in the Philosophy of Science” in A Nice Derangement of Epistemes
Stay tuned, tomorrow we sill discuss Richard Dawkins statement, “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world“.