Can ‘Science’ Save Us? Brisk Return of an Old God

Neil Earle

Today’s Reality: Idolatry is still with us.

“The science says,” is heard much during our Great Pandemic Debate.

Of course it is rather shallow and even arrogant to try and roll the masterful and splendidly mammoth field of Science into a debate that really is focused more on Statistics, but…let’s give the popular pundits the benefit of the doubt. Many religionists have been saying for decades that our technocratic age is as rife with idolatry as the First Century world of the early church, only dressed up in more sophisticated guise.

Gods are supposed to offer totalizing all-encompassing visons of reality and even point pathways into the future. Today there is no shortage of political philosophies, social causes, appealing alternate worldviews. Indeed this is a hallmark of our times. One of them has always been the overall faith in science which is better described as “scientism.” With the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962 the headlong rush of science and technology gave some people pause. In the 1970s there came a full-blown environmental movement that usually set itself against the current wisdom. The shutting of the Keystone Pipeline in early 2021 showed “save the earth” activism is not losing ground by any means.

Still, too many scientists today pontificate as if all reality is on their side. It becomes “heresy” to disagree. You run the risk of being “excommunicated” from your profession. Worse still – losing your funding, that happened to biologist Richard Sternberg who, according to didn’t lock out all evidence for intelligent design in a scientific paper he produced.

Here are three dogmas that are almost heretical to question in our fast-moving 21st Century world.

Environmental Religion?

Professor Michael Munger recently wrote an article on the recycling theme showing how recycling glass is actually bad for the environment. He expected to be boiled in oil by his colleagues. Instead colleagues wrote back that it’s OK to talk to “insiders” about the limits of recycling but “cool it” with the general public. Munger assessed that recycling was thus a moral imperative among his fellows, a dogma of the religion of the Environment and as such, he opined, a symbol of religious devotion rather than hard science.

Heroes of Science: Frederick Banting in 1930s donated his insulin co-discovery to Canadian authorities for $1.

I won’t rush the story but when people set aside the Creator God who speaks in the Bible laying claim to prior ownership of the planet (Isaiah 40:12-26) then we may be headed for even more trouble, rushing in where wiser heads have feared to tread. For billions of us it is much easier to believe in Humankind and human control of this planet – slightly tipsy “science” as the One True Solution. This is a penalty of idolatry.

The New Amorality

In the Sixties we had the New Morality, the emerging belief that Victorians had got sex all wrong and made it a mess. Well, as the droll C.S. Lewis once wrote, today we are liberated, free to experiment – and sex is still a mess. The Biblical stand on sexuality is simple – male and female, one man, one woman till death do us part. As a university student in the 1960s I noticed that the debate was “Is pre-marital sex right or wrong?” But…just Google the word “sex” today and you will see how much things have changed. Today marriage itself has been redefined in ways the most “progressive” thinkers at my university back then would not have believed. Even gender has been redefined, moving now along a whole spectrum of possibilities.

The consequence of much of this new thinking falls on the young. BBC news reported on December 1, 2020 of a young woman prescribed hormone blockers to help her transform into a male. On changing her mind, apparently, she sued the UK’s National Health Service reasserting the mainstream view that 12- or 13-year-olds are not qualified to make such a decision. Her case was upheld, but that will not stop the new Liberators who push the new god named Tolerance at All Costs.

The true believers in this tempting new religion will not give up soon. It seems however, that one dogma unites us all: what a distance we have traveled even since the “rebellious” 1960s.

Thought Policing

New gods mean new sins. Today the leaders among those who want to transform society be it in a socialist or anarchist or other societal direction, they hector us that it’s not enough to be quietly conformist. We have to agree with them! This too often means we have our thoughts policed as well.

Heroes 2: Jonas Salk in 1950s saved masses from polio without little public fanfare.

Some (myself included) looked at “political correctness” as a mild amusement in the 1990s, not really doing much harm. Now the United States House of Representatives has been charged with not using words such as “father,” “mother,” “sister” or “brother – these are supposed to be oppressive terms upholding the power of the old male-dominated scheme allegedly set up by DWEPS, Dead White European males. Those are the figures ranging from Shakespeare to Sagan, protagonists of what we once knew as Western Civilization. The reigning Canadian government has already sidelined people who use the “wrong pronoun” for male or female. Let’s not be deceived at least: The move to stigmatize people who cling to more traditional ways of thinking is far advanced. Most people seem to go along with it without asking too many questions.

Today public shaming of opponents – tactics used by the fanatics of China’s Red Guards in the 1960s to deal with dissenters – is a noticeable trend. Even celebrities such as J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame or the books of Dr. Seuss and Disney’s earlier movies are scrutinized for supposed demerits along the racial or maleness line.

The New Priesthood

It requires no great intelligence in today world of televised quasi-truths and “sound bite” thinking to find social practices that allegedly fall short of the ideal. St. Paul’s catalogue of sins he charged against the impressive Empire of Ancient Rome seem awfully current today (Romans 1). But God has never left himself without a witness on this earth. Paul also expounded the great good new that Jesus had brought to this earth, about a God who cares about sparrows and beggars, a heavenly Father who honors women in respected positions of leadership, a Being worthy of worship asserting a tried and tested morality that undergirds true social justice. It takes its key from the powerful words, “Love your neighbor as yourself” which means a sacrificial love, a coming out of the Self in useful service rather than castigate earlier generations who at least got us to where we are.

Science has enriched and transformed and even saved our lives. Health care workers rightly emerged as heroes during COVID-19. Labor-saving devices have been age-saving devices as well. But Science and advancing knowledge without God in the picture can be an awful curse. Eventually the curve of progress begins to curl back upon itself and society can hardly agree on up and down. Science gives us vaccines and Hiroshima. It lands instruments on Mars and stores nuclear weapons in silos under the earth. Knowledge is shared over Zoom and child pornography multiplies.

It seems we are living through the curse God laid upon our first parents, we descendants who seem fated to live in the gap between Good and Evil.

But Jesus and the Early Church showed the way out. True tolerance based upon honest and civilized discussion of opinion, working for change without dismissive accusation and violence are worth striving to recapture. It was called the Way in the First Century. It still is.