Ironies of Our Time

The scientific method is a useful tool that modern man has learned to exploit to our collective advantage. Scientism, however, is the view that the material world is all that exists, and that use of the scientific method is the only true way of knowing anything.

Like any worldview, Scientism is based on a set of presuppositions one takes on faith, yet if you speak with people entrenched in this view, they may not recognize that the conclusions they come to are ultimately faith-based opinions.  When limited to describing the physical world, their opinions have been reliable, though less so when the scientific method has been used to justify policy objectives, where research funding has driven the science in support of political aims, and where research is suppressed that does not support the political aims of those in power.

Likewise, the study of history is a useful tool. From it we can see patterns of behavior where, to quote Lord Acton, "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Historicism, however, is the view that there are forces driving history toward a predetermined endpoint beyond human control. An irony of political activism is the urgency with which people believe they must act in order to bring about a supposedly predetermined future.

But for the diehard activists of today, it's not enough to act with compassion toward the plight of the poor, lifting people of all backgrounds to a place of equal opportunity before the law. No, history must be rewritten to villainize peoples of the past, and in accordance with today's standards. Never mind that our country's founders were well aware of the egregious wrongs they inherited and sought to build a system that would allow those wrongs to be corrected over time. For the radical activist, the entire system must be burned down, even to the great hurt of those whom they ostensibly seek to favor.

But when you combine the presuppositions of Scientism (a completely materialistic world where all knowing is based in the physical sciences) with the presuppositions of Historicism (where history is being driven toward a predetermined end), we have two of the underpinnings of Marxism. Add a large dose of radical activism in favor of today's victims (class struggle), and we're well on our way to feeling that we're significant, and as we imagine ourselves leading the way toward a predetermined end.

I'll just note one further point of irony here. In a completely materialistic universe it's not possible to define an objective set of ethics or morals (where all such things are now thought to be relative). Yet we live in an age where people are devoted to virtue signaling with the hope of being seen as standing on "the right side of history." But since we'll be dead and long forgotten by future generations, why should we be concerned about staking a claim to significance in a materialistic universe that doesn't care, and where there is no standard for what is good, beautiful, right or wrong?

Yet, many also feel the need to denigrate the choices and ethics of the people of the past. What is our basis for this in an uncaring materialistic world where all morals are relative? Why do we think that we're so highly moral, and that our contributions are so necessary toward reaching a predetermined end?

Ancient literature highlights this impulse people have to make a name for themselves. We see it in the efforts of the people who worked to build the Tower of Babel. We're told that the project failed under the hand of God's judgment. This God apparently exists beyond the materialistic universe we've defined for ourselves, standing in judgment over it. He also defines an objective set of morals that center on the character of one person, one who sacrificed Himself for the good of all who would place their trust in Him and follow Him accordingly.

But perhaps there ultimately is a predetermined end to all this, and there may well be a basis for activism on behalf of the poor and the voiceless (whether powerless or pre-born). If we're concerned about landing on the "right side of history," we may want to forsake our attempts to remake the world in our own image in favor of a stance of gratitude toward the One who has given Himself on our behalf, showing us how to live lives of true and lasting meaning in this world (that would be Jesus Christ, of whom much has been written). In doing so, we may even avoid the fate (judgment and confusion) of those who were committed to the Tower of Babel project of the past.

Tower of Babel,  painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder in 1563

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