9 / 15 / 11

Claims that we make about science sound strange when we make the same claims about human beings. “Science will eventually figure out  consciousness” sounds convincing enough to be taken seriously, but  “Some human being will eventually figure out consciousness” sounds like a messianic hope. “We trust that science will drive out superstition and human misery” is presented as something we are justified in inferring from a consideration of the past, but “We trust that human beings will drive out superstition and human misery” seems far more pollyanic, since trusting human beings to dependably drive out folly or wickedness is not the sort of thing that history seems to justify. And so science, which in its concrete and actual existence is nothing but a utterly dependent and separable accident of  John or Mary’s soul, is projected into the world and given divine attributes like unthwartable power, omniscience, and a governing role in the history of human illumination and progress. Feuerbach is smirking somewhere.

4 Comments

  1. Paul Boire said,

    September 15, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Entertaining post. The disciples of this undisciplined “Science” are perhaps the most authenticmembers of the modern cargo cult, fervently awaiting the scientific “ANSWER” to finitude.

  2. thenyssan said,

    September 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I see where you are going with this but I don’t know how well it sticks. “Science” points to a collaboration of individual humans achieving something together that no one of them could alone. In that sense at least, I don’t think the trust in “Science” reduces to messianic expectation. The community is what achieves these things, and I’m sure you don’t want to reduce community simply to a collection of individuals.

  3. G. Kyle Essary said,

    September 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I was commenting on your post to my wife who simply laughed at me and said, “You guys think about the strangest things.” Well, that may be the case, but I enjoyed your post enough to mention it to my wife.

  4. Daniel said,

    September 16, 2011 at 12:20 am

    This is an excellent point. And the exceptions prove the rule. For example, take something else that has proven extremely difficult for science to do and see if the change makes it sound more implausible. “Science will eventually find a cure for cancer” compared with “Humans will eventually find a cure for cancer.”

    That latter sentence still sounds like a mighty challenge, but it doesn’t have the ring of absurdity like your other examples. It is an exception that proves your rule.


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