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Science in the Crosshairs

By Lee Duigon
June 13, 2008

For the universe will change if you bring up your children, not in the freedom of the libertine, but in behavioristic freedom … Will not these children, in turn, with their better ways of living and thinking, replace us as society and in turn bring up their children in a still more scientific way, until the world finally becomes a place fit for human habitation?

—J. B. Watson, 1924[1]

 

Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.

—The Humanist Manifesto II, 1973[2]

 

No more deadly mythology has ever plagued mankind than the mythology of science.

—R. J. Rushdoony[3]

 

If there’s anything in the world today that’s still a sacred cow, it’s “science.” Against the argument, “Scientific studies prove…,” there is no winning answer: one can only hope to find a more compelling scientific study that proves the opposite.

And yet for all its wide authority, who can even say what “science” is? The word means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

Nothing answers to the name of science … a word exhausted by examples,” writes mathematician David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion;[4] and furthermore, “[S]cience has nothing of value to say on the great and aching questions of life, death, love, and meaning” (p. xiv).

Dr. Berlinski’s book is a pie in the face to the pretensions of the scientific establishment. We have met Dr. Berlinski before, interviewed by Ben Stein in his recent documentary, Expelled [see Chalcedon’s review of Expelled]. Expelled was mighty hard on Big Science; but compared to Berlinski’s book, it was a love letter.

Berlinski demonstrates that Emperor Science not only has no clothes: this emperor has a pitiful physique, and his skin is full of sores.

What’s Wrong with Science?

Dr. Berlinski’s major points are easily summed up:

  • The major “theories” of modern science are incapable of proof, cannot be tested or supported by observation, and are not even rational.
  • The scientific establishment is atheist to the core. Its agenda is to dethrone God, and its members will go to any and all lengths to deny Him.
  • No matter how absurd, unprovable, or ludicrous a theory may be, scientists will always prefer it to belief in God.
  • The atheists who dominate Big Science are nasty, foolish, petulant, and intellectually dishonest.

Or, as Kenneth Grahame puts it, in The Wind in the Willows,

The clever men at Oxford

Know all that there is to be knowed.

But they none of them know one half as much

As intelligent Mr. Toad![5]

Berlinski doesn’t just throw brickbats. Rather, he steps aside and lets the scientists form a circular firing squad, shooting themselves with their own words. Self-incriminating quotes from prominent scientists carry out the mission of this book. Let us enjoy just a few nibbles from this banquet of inanities.

From Richard Lewontin, in a New York Times interview: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories … [because] we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (p. 9).

Biologist Lewis Wolpert: “[S]cientific beliefs are special, and different from any other kind of thinking” (p. 59).

Scientific beliefs? I thought science dealt in facts, not beliefs. Aren’t these the same people who lovingly refer to themselves as “the reality-based community” on one atheist blog after another?

Scientific Drivel

Science writer Tom Bethell: “[It is] an article of our secular faith that there is nothing exceptional about human life” (p. 8). Secular faith, eh?

John Bell, physicist: “[W]e do not have an exact and unambiguous formulation of our most fundamental physical theory” (p. 94)—to which Berlinski replies, “If this is so, why is our most fundamental physical theory fundamental?”

Peter Atkins, Oxford: “If we are to be honest, then we have to accept that science will be able to achieve complete success only if it achieves what many think impossible: accounting for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing” (p. 95).

Can you do that outside of a mental hospital?

Leonard Susskind, physicist: “The level of confidence that string theorists have for their theory is based on a web of interconnected pieces of evidence that is so compelling that genuine mathematicians”—genuine?—“have no doubt about its validity” (p. 128). Berlinski replies, “Evidence so compelling that no part of it need be produced is not evidence at all.”

Nature magazine, establishment science’s flagship publication: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside” (p. 156). Biologist Frans de Waal chimes in: “If an extraterrestrial were to visit earth, he would have a hard time seeing most of the differences between ourselves and the apes” (p. 161). Is De Waal postulating an extraordinarily stupid ET, or is he the one who has trouble telling the men from the monkeys?

And on and on it goes, more sophomoric bosh than you can shake a stick at. A good alternative title for this book might have been Scientists Say the Darndest Things.

They say these things because they’re atheists. The fool has said in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 53:1), and these scientists are fools. They get away with saying them because the media exalt them (watched any episodes of Nova lately?), the state makes use of them, the people are too poorly educated to see through them, and the institutional church is afraid to confront them.

Berlinski’s Work Is Incomplete

Introducing himself to the reader, Berlinski writes, “I am a secular Jew … I cannot pray … Yet the book that follows is in some sense a defense of religious thought and sentiment … The discussion has been ceded to men who regard religious belief with frivolous contempt” (p. xi).

Berlinski defends religious belief by attacking Big Science and exposing its vanities. This is commendable, and he does a powerful and entertaining job of it; but it’s by no means enough. There are important questions that he hasn’t asked, which must be asked. For the answers, we must look elsewhere.

First, how did “science” become the authority?

“Within a few years after revivalism began,” R. J. Rushdoony writes, “the move for state control of education was underway … The result was a retreat from the world … a surrender of the world to man.”[6]

As the 19th century church in America and Europe grew increasingly pietistic, it stopped caring about understanding and living in the real world, and stopped teaching God’s people how to do so. It devoted itself to “self-styled holiness and a man-centered focus on sanctity rather than the Kingdom of God.”[7] Into the resulting vacuum rushed the state, with science as its handmaid.

“The church was content to retreat into the ‘spiritual’ realm, or, to be more accurate, into irrelevance,” Rushdoony explains. “Authority was handed over to the sciences and the state in one area after another.”[8]

The church surrendered its authority, but statists and scientists aggressively grabbed for more and more authority. They offered visions of “a workless, deathless world of peace and plenty.”[9] The reader need only revisit the Humanist Manifesto quote at the top of this article to be reminded of just how lavish, how grandiose, are the rewards promised by Big Science.

“Such statements … are read with simple faith by the members of modern society: they believe in the mythology of science.”[10]

Of course they believe. The church doesn’t teach them otherwise; and meanwhile, Big Science has made a down payment in the form of personal computers, cell phone networks, and clever little Mars rovers operated by remote control from Earth. Making a down payment is not the same as coming across with the full amount promised; but as a scam, it has always worked rather well. Beguiled by technological razzle-dazzle, people don’t question science’s much more extravagant claims.

Abject Surrender

The church’s surrender to science has truly been abject—beginning, in a big way, with the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in 1859.

“The world was waiting for a theory with scientific prestige to render the Bible and God obsolete,” Rushdoony writes, “and men immediately jumped on the bandwagon of Darwinism … A great many churchmen climbed on that bandwagon then, and many more have done it since. The appeal is very great. Why not compromise? Why not be scientific, or scientifically respectable? Since the Genesis account of creation is such a liability, why not concentrate on other matters of faith and accommodate the Bible to evolution? Why risk being considered ignorant and backward?”[11]

We must ask (for Berlinski hasn’t): Why is the church so afraid of being mocked by unbelievers? Is it simply because for centuries the church in the West has not had to face down any real persecution, and so has grown fat, complacent, slothful, and timorous?

Will people ever stop believing that “science” has all the answers? And what will happen when they do?

Rushdoony takes the long view. “When a workless, deathless world of peace and plenty is held to be within reach, the people will be satisfied with nothing less, and they will turn on, rend, and trample underfoot those who give them less.”[12] Rushdoony calls this “the revolution of rising expectations.”

We can’t see into the future, so we have no idea how long Big Science can string people along before they get tired of it. Science, with its over-the-top promises, is such a useful tool of statism. If the masses can be mesmerized into believing in science’s promises, the sky’s the limit. They’ll put up with global warming taxes, restrictions of their freedom, endless regulation, and all kinds of abuse—for as long as they believe in the payoff.

If they ever stop believing, it’s going to be a bad time to be a shill for science.

Can the Church Come Back?

Finally, how—if it can be done at all—can the church reclaim the authority it has surrendered to science?

As long as millions of Christian children, one generation after another, are sent to Christ-denying public schools, where they are taught that science trumps the Bible, there can be no hope of recovery. By surrendering their children to these schools, Christians become a party to their own destruction. Christian children all need Christian educations. We are sorry if our saying so hurts anyone’s feelings—but how are we to tiptoe around the pitfall of Christian children being schooled by atheists? Church-going Christians wouldn’t dream of sending their children to a Muslim school; why do they send them to the public schools?

These children—those who don’t abandon the faith entirely—are the future congregations of America’s churches. Steeped in the secular “faith” and reverence for “science,” how likely are they to demand a day of reckoning from science?

As long as Christians’ focus is on the church as an institution, rather than on God and His Word and their duty to live by God’s Word in this world, the institutional church’s first priority will always be to sustain itself as an institution. The people have failed to demand anything greater from it.

“And there shall be, like people, like priest,” said the prophet Hosea (Hosea 4:9)—the people won’t be any better than their church, and the church won’t be any better than its people.

We don’t mean to suggest that Christians can’t be or shouldn’t be scientists. We say the opposite—that Christians should never have abandoned science to the atheists. Science is just another sphere of life that ought to be taken captive for Christ. Indeed, it’s difficult to see how the whole scientific enterprise could ever have begun, absent the Christian teaching that a wise and rational God created the heavens and the earth and that man, given dominion by God over His creation, could apply his God-given intellect to discover the creation’s laws and inner workings.

Atheist science, as Dr. Berlinski so abundantly demonstrates, is an intellectual train wreck, in no better shape than the souls of the atheists themselves. We recommend his book for both its educational and entertainment value—especially for those who still think “science” is above reproach, as rational as it makes itself out to be, and pristine in its neutrality.

All Christians should be discussing science, and those with the tools and temperament for it should be reclaiming it for Christ.


[1] Quoted in R. J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1963: 1995 edition), 167.

[3] Rushdoony, The Mythology of Science (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1967: 1995 edition), 123.

[4] David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008), xii. Page numbers referencing this source hereafter cited in text.

[5] Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1983: original, 1908), 190.

[6] Rushdoony, Biblical Faith and American History (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, 2003), 7.

[7] Rushdoony, Systematic Theology (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), 157.

[8] Rushdoony, Sovereignty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007), 281.

[9]Mythology, 124.

[10]Mythology, 8.

[11]Mythology, 61.

[12]Mythology, 124. 


Topics: R. J. Rushdoony, Science

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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