My father was a genius. A biologist by trade. He had a deep knowledge of history (especially the history of modern warfare) and was, to boot, a fair student of philosophy. More importantly, he was kind. He was wise despite his knowledge. His knowledge didn’t keep him from wisdom, but used the former for sake of the latter. He arrived at some fair conclusions; not all of them, but enough for his sons to be proud of him.
You don’t have to be on the internet long before you see people bragging about their commitment to science. Their boast is remarkably akin to the boast of traditionalists who know no Latin. Even worse, scientists who mistake techne for sapientia, know-how for wisdom.
People usually brag about ‘science’ because they want to vault themselves above religious people, as if there was an essential opposition between science people and religion people. If you are one you can’t be the other, they seem to suggest. Recently a family member referred to himself spending time with me as a scientist hanging out with a devout Catholic, or something like that. Logically, that is the equivalent of saying ‘a scientist and a man—or woman—walk into a bar.’ How many people were there: one or two? I am a man and a theologian. Aristotle and Newton were both hugely significant scientists as well as theists. Fr. Gregor Mendel - you know the guy who came up with genetics, was a priest. I follow Newton’s law of gravity when I paint the walls of my house, and the laws of Jesus when I relate to my neighbour, rarely confusing the two.
Another person said to me that we should follow science rather than religion when it comes to morality. I assured him that the Nazis did.
Why do people brag about being a follower of science? It’s a very common thing nowadays. You get people like Dawkins, you even get people like Family Guy creator, Seth McFarland, doing this. Oh, and how, Mr. Cartoonist, did you arrive by scientific means at the conclusion that homosexuality was natural, for instance?
My father used to lament his graduate students’—whom he loved like a grandpa—lack of perspective when it came to science. He said that they had no sense of the ‘bigger picture’ that a better knowledge of the history of science and philosophy could give them.
It’s a common vice to want to feel superior to others. But it’s not scientific. It’s not scientific to look down upon others—on anyone, especially upon those who are probably better than you. When you aren’t better than anyone else in any appreciable sense, when your life is pretty unremarkable, it natural to want to find something about you that makes you better than the rank and file. An all-too easy thing people do today is to say that they are scientific. No, they don’t necessarily say they are scientists—they may not even have a BA in science—but they are saying that they are logical and of an empirical mindset, unlike those superstitious religious people.
I don’t know everything about everything, but I can assure you that in my long study of religious people that:
1. Many of them have quite high IQs
2. Many of them are quite well educated
3. Many of them are very fond of science
Many All of them understand that science cannot
teach them the meaning of life or what’s worth getting up for in the morning.
Of those who claim they follow science, you know, they watch Neil deGrasse Tyson on TV and have read The God Delusion, (a), (b), and (c) may be true, but many of them don’t get (d). (Consult the ‘fact-value distinction,’ boobs.)
All of this came out of my reading of Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. When you have read a book before, read it again backwards. So I began with the Appendix, “Illustrations of the Tao,” which contains a whole host of wisdom sayings from the past, like from Hindu, Jewish, Babylonian sources. Let me tell you, here is the good stuff. No knowledge of science can equal the greatness contained in those pages.
“For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.” (pp. 84-5)