Wesley Smith writes about an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Brian Greene. I had already read this piece previously and actually quoted it here. Greene writes about how science can be inspirational. He starts out by referring to a letter from a soldier in Iraq. In the letter, the soldier writes how Greene’s work has been a source of inspiration and has kept his moral up in the battlefield. Smith takes this op-ed and twists it into Greene promoting the ‘religion’ of scientism.
Trying to make science a religion is not a new tactic and has been the source of many debates. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. Only the fundamentalist religions subscribe to that notion. As Abdu’l-Bahá once said:
There is no contradiction between true religion and science. When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance
Smith’s biggest problem with the op-ed is that it seems to put science in a light that he doesn’t agree with:
As the piece reaches a crescendo, Greene urges that we teach our children that science can provide our lives with value, meaning, and purpose:
We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living…It’s the birthright of every child, it’s a necessity for every adult, to look out on the world…and see that the wonder of the cosmos transcends everything that divides us.
Sorry, but that is more weight than science can carry and still be properly called science. Finding meaning and purpose in life, determining how we should live, what our values, principles, ethics should be–such as good literature can sometimes do–these matters lie in other human pursuits such as philosophy, religion, and the quest for truth with a capital T. Science can provide us knowledge that we can use in that quest–but it can’t provide transcendence. Scientism can because it is a subjective belief system. But transcendence isn’t what science does.
Talk about putting words in Greene’s mouth. Did Greene ever say anything about “value, meaning, and purpose.” No, but Smith did, twice. And what is this about transcendence? Greene says that “the wonder of the cosmos transcends everything that divides us.” That is a huge difference.
One thing, of particular note, is that Smith removes any indication that Greene received a letter from a soldier in Iraq. When he is quoting Greene, he even removes a reference to the soldier. See the elipses above? Those three periods were “as the soldier in Iraq did.” The only reason I can see that Smith would remove any reference to the soldiers is because Greene is pointing to an example of someone who truly benefited from learning some science.
The underlying message here, is that Wesley Smith thinks that the only way you can find meaning is through his brand of religion. If scientism is trying to understand reality, whether it is in the classroom, the lab, the courtroom, or politics, then I guess I am a scientismist.
Allow me to leave you with Smith final quote about the ID movement:
Everyone who truly supports science–properly understood–must carefully distinguish the one thing from the other. To do otherwise is to sow divisiveness and confusion.
Ok, he wasn’t really taking about the ID movement, but it sure does fit with their mentality of abusing science.