What next? From the Boston Review:
For those who accepted natural theological modes of reasoning, science was a God-proving activity because it uncovered the evidence of intelligent design. It uplifted not only those who practiced it but also those who encountered its picture of the world in books and classrooms: they too learned to see divine design all about them. Inquiry within this framework rendered theology rational at the same time that it rendered science moral. It was a powerful and persistent cultural form.
Author Steve Schapin doesn’t go on to trash all that (intelligent design?! horrors!!) business. He seemingly doesn’t claim that science has liberated itself from any suggestion that the cosmos is not utterly random or advise us that the human mind is shaped for fitness, not for truth.
In fact, he even “gets” problem with scientism.
This Victorian scientism had a future, and it now has a substantial present. In the modern American academy and in intellectual publishing, scientism, and specifically the redefinition of moral problems as scientific problems, is resurgent. Moral problems are not so much solved as dissolved. One speaks of moral problems as une façon de parler, a regrettable modern survival of a discredited dualism. Science assumes, or reassumes, its moral role by showing that traditional moral authorities are naked, and that what counted as moral problems are best—even only—addressed by the resources of the scientist. Science, it is now claimed, will show us what is good and how to live the good life—and if it does not now have the ability to do so fully and effectively, then we should rest assured that it soon will. Science will cure problems of moral relativism, and it will reveal the objective truth of some set of moral positions as opposed to fraudulent others. Morality, neuroscientist Sam Harris writes, “should be considered an undeveloped branch of science,” and science, he says, “can determine human values.” The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker moves from a bet about the future to a confident, if qualified, statement of current realities:
The worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality.
According to this newly confident scientism, science is the only bit of culture that can make you good because it trumps all the others—religion, traditional ethical codes, common sense. Or it shows them to be nonsense. Or—with or without awareness of the irony—it brands them immoral: religion is a “God delusion,” licensing prejudice, servility, and slaughter, all of which are morally wrong.
But there are several reasons why the ambitions of the new scientism may be self-limiting. Those who speak in the name of nature must face the fact that nature has never spoken with one voice. Different scientists draw different moral inferences from science. Some have concluded that it is natural and good to be ruthlessly competitive; others see it natural to cooperate and trust; still others embrace the lesson of the naturalistic fallacy and oppose the project of inferring the moral from the natural. …
Wonder if they’ll make him recant. See, he is raising a serious issue here: Darwinism is inherently the enemy of every value in the Western world (as an actual value, rather than a comforting illusion), and always has been. But a huge amount of pussyfoot goes on around failing to acknowledge this fact. The pussyfoots have the good jobs too.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
and The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (the human mind)
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