The Allure and Danger of Scientism
It was not unusual in ancient times for individuals to sell themselves into servitude (as "bondservants"), which was often described as a form of slavery. Usually this was due to excessive debt, but sometimes it was done simply to have a roof over one's head and food in one's belly. In other words, for millennia, in order to satisfy their most basic needs, human beings have often been willing (not forced) to suffer under many a heavy yoke. As C.S. Lewis put it, "A hungry man thinks about food, not freedom."
Writing for The Observer in 1958, Lewis bemoaned the "extreme peril of humanity at present" that leads to the "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State." Typically, in order for any oligarchy effectively to rise and rule, it needs some "extreme peril," something to cure, some desperate need that the rulers promise to fulfill. As Lewis asked, is this not "the ideal opportunity for enslavement?"
When a generation lives in fear or dread of some looming crisis or when a society is made to believe that someone else can provide the things that it cannot live without, is this not the opportunity for those who seek to rule over us to be seen as liberators rather than the tyrants that they are? Were not Stalin and Hitler first seen as saviors and deliverers?
Following two world wars and in the midst of a cold war, Lewis wrote that "The increasing complexity and precariousness of our economic life have forced Government to take over many spheres of activity once left to choice or chance...The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good...Read Montaigne; that's the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone's schoolmaster and employer?"
To "fix" our problems (whether real or perceived) and to exert the power and influence necessary, the new ruling class must more and more rely on the "experts." This means that the politicians must increasingly rely on the knowledge and advice of scientists, until, in the end, the politicians become "merely the scientists' puppets."
Thus, we get the motto of the technocrats: "only science can save us now." Whether it is global warming, stem-cell research, the beginning of life, healthcare, crime, homosexuality, or even gun control or economic policies, the technocrats have the answers. After all, as Lewis also noted, "If we are to be mothered, mother must know best."
In other words, many of our politicians are surrendering themselves to scientism. Scientism is not science. It is an ideology that is often confused with science. It is, rather, an abuse of the scientific method and scientific authority.
Scientism can also be classified as a religion. It is a religion with many denominations: Darwinism, environmentalism, feminism, hedonism, humanism, Marxism, socialism, and so on. How many Americans now find their fulfillment and purpose in these movements? They celebrate Earth Day and Darwin Day. They boldly assert, "Science is my Savior."
Also, scientism arrogantly attempts to lift itself above all other beliefs and disciplines -- philosophy and theology included. "Philosophy is dead," declared Stephen Hawking in his 2010 book The Grand Design. It is dead because, "Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics."
Thus, as we see, scientism seeks to elevate the methods of natural science to a level where it is the bar by which every other intellectual discipline is held. Scientism ridicules faith and religion and tells us that "God is dead." Scientism tells us that the "debate is over," so shut up and get in line.
And, of course, scientism leads us to technocracy. "I dread government in the name of science," said Lewis. "That is how tyrannies come in." What a profound conclusion! How many of us have been duped in the name of "science?" How many of us cower and yield, because, well, if the "scientists" (and then the politicians) tell us so, then it must be so?
We can see the results: generations are taught that life began without God; that the use of fossil fuels is warming the earth; that homosexuality is genetic; that abortion is not really the taking of a life; that marriage is whatever we want it to be; that confiscating the wealth of some to give to others is "fair;" that guns are evil; and so on. Of course, we then get laws and official government policy based on such conclusions.
Sadly, too many of us then grow accustomed to our chains. We become children, or pupils of the State (like "Julia"). We continue to elect leaders who perpetuate the cycle of the "Welfare State" based significantly on the lies of scientism. It's time for Americans to wake up to this perversion of science and return science, faith, philosophy, and by all means, common sense, to their proper place.
Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.