Is There a Problem with Science?
Hasn’t science solved a multitude of problems and given us a better life? Don’t we live longer because of modern medicine? Aren’t journeys which used to take weeks completed in hours? Don’t factories produce many times what was available before computers and robots? But don’t we die anyway possibly of different diseases than in the past? Doesn’t our transportation and manufacturing system contribute to global climate change which may end us all? Does science provide answers or different questions? Is it certain and reliable? Can it replace religion, ideologies, and philosophy? Are we better off with it or without it?
Can we trust science? We heard different guidance about wearing masks early in the pandemic than we hear now. Doctors like Rand Paul and Scott Jensen tell us to doubt even Dr. Tony Fauci! There is a long list of scientific doctrines such as the luminous ether and phlogiston long accepted and now discarded? Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions wrote of disputes more about politics and pride than love of knowledge. For a paradigm shift in our thinking, must an entire generation of scientific thinkers die off? We see vaccines and booster shots voted on by the CDC. Is this how science works? If scientific review means constantly trying to test if a theory can be falsified, do we trust the process? Isn’t this uncertainty by definition and not final truth?
Is science amoral? Alfred Nobel could invent dynamite and award peace prizes. If we split the atom do we have a new source of energy or a new weapon of mass destruction? Do advances in machinery lead to progress or mass layoffs and dark satanic mills? The same nitrates can produce fertilizer and explosives. Who decides the end product and if farm runoff contributes to pollution which use is more questionable? Have radio, television, and social media brightened our lives or destroyed our sense of community derived from talking to real live people? Are we better off now than in agrarian and small town life? Is Black Death worse than mass extinctions of species and possibly us eventually? Do pursuit of knowledge, progress, and efficiency represent new gods giving us a hollow and precarious existence? Can there be science without morality to guide it and perhaps restrict it?
Does science replace religion and philosophies which can’t be verified in a laboratory? Is the scientific method the test of truth? Can an individual’s intense spiritual experience be more true than all of science? Does science mean abandoning religion? Kenneth Miller who advised Pope John Paul II to accept evolution, Francis Collins author of The Language of God and retiring head of the National Institute of Health, and Father Georges Lemaitre conceiver of the primal atom predicting the Big Bang Theory represent religious men who embraced science. Is there a fundamental agreement between science and religion or only differences and conflict? Does Creation Science using the Bible as the beginning of scientific thought provide a better system or a dead end which holds religion up to ridicule? Is it just a matter of science telling us what the heavens do, and religion tells us how to get to heaven? Is science part of morality or its enemy? Does science eliminate the “hypothesis” of God or is the universe explored by science part of how God talks to us?
The poet Matthew Arnold in Dover Beach described a post-scientific revolution world without joy, love, light, certitude, peace, nor help for pain. We are left on a darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight where ignorant armies clash by night. Is this a good summary of where we are now? Is the issue science or something lacking in ourselves? Is the problem with science the problem with us? We can use the same car to deliver food to the poor or for a drive by shooting.
On Monday, November 15 from 7-9 PM by Zoom, Inter-belief Conversation Café will ask if there is a problem with science or if we should play our video games and enjoy virtual life. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may be our scientific method to find an answer if there is one. But hopefully the Force will be with us and light sabers in hand we will find awakened hope in a galaxy far, far away.
We continue to meet by Zoom as COVID numbers stay high and to allow folks from outside Minnesota even some from Canada attend. The Zoom link is http://www.zoom.us/j/99973128471.