Tag Archives: Popper

Weston’s disease

Scientism dna
Scientism dna

I have discovered that there is a name for Weston’s “disease”: it is called scientism. From Wikipedia,

Scientism is the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.[1] The term is used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,[2] or philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists, whereby the study and methods of natural science have risen to the level of ideology.[3] The classic statement of scientism is from the physicist Ernest Rutherford: “there is physics and there is stamp-collecting.”[4]

There it is: Weston’s disease, or evil is that for him, science has “risen to the level of ideology”. It is not a criticism of science, but of a few people who go to an extreme and take science into something that it is not – an ideology. For those who remember, this is similar to Lewis’ criticism of Darwinism. He was not criticising Darwinism itself but rather some of its crazy supporters. As this writer puts it,

C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), perhaps the most widely read Christian apologist of the 20th
century, was careful to distinguish between evolution as a theory in biology and Evolution as an idea that came to dominate the politics and religion of his time. He noted that decades before Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, poets and musicians had started proclaiming that humanity was inevitably evolving, onward and upward, to a glorious future    [http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2005/05/cs-lewis-wrote-mock-hymn-to-evolution.html ]

This belief in the inevitable upward evolution of humanity, that human society and the world in general is always improving and can only improve, is what Lewis called “The Myth”. He grew up with it. He fought against it. Yet it still sings its siren song. Are we not also still in thrall to it today?

One of our members mentioned the word “hubris” last time in connection with Weston. Today I came across a blog entry titled, “Scientism, Secular Humanism, Hubris“, in which the writer how closely connected are these three ideas.

The Wikipedia entry on scientism points out how similar scientism is to a kind of religion:

The Persian scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, commented that in the West, many will accept the ideology of modern science, not as “simple ordinary science”, but as a replacement for religion.

CS Lewis understood that scientism is a kind of competing religion. Unlike Lewis’ Christianity, however, scientism does not bring love, joy, power, peace, awe, wonder, admiration, poetry, to the human spirit. It is not a coincidence that in Perelandra the Un-Man takes Weston’s physical form. Ransom, who we might take to be Lewis himself, fights Weston, i.e. Christianity in the form of its present, living believers fights against scientism.

By the way, this blog entry calls Stephen Hawking the Grand High Priest of Scientism, mockingly identifying scientism as a religion.

The same blog entry points out the important consequences of scientism:

We have to tell our grandchildren that they have no soul, no higher purpose in life, that they are just a mix-up of chemicals.  They are not the gift of God, but rather, worthless trash destined to die in a dying universe. 

Ayn Rand took up arms against the very same beliefs, and for the same reason: she saw the terrible and terrifying consequences of these beliefs on the human spirit and mind, especially the minds of the young. And yet Rand was not a believer in any religion. In fact, she was very strongly anti-religious for the latter part of her life.