When I was doing research in order to write yesterday’s post about Anne Rice’s claim that Christianity is anti-science, I also came across this bit of wisdom from Catholic Apologist Fr. Barron:
He makes a very important distinction between science and what he calls Scientism. The former is the practice of doing science — hypothesis, observation, analysis and application. Due to its limitation of dealing with the empirical and observable, science is not suited for answering the kinds of questions philosophy and religion play around with. Scientism is the belief that science can answer these questions. In order to do that however, one must reduce the world, human experience and knowledge to the empirical and observable. This path is fraught with danger.
In the Orthodox Vespers service, we pray the following:
Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your commandments.
Blessed are you, Master, grant me understanding of your commandments.
Blessed are you, Holy One, enlighten me with your commandments.
In other words, in God there are three ways of knowing: doing, understanding and transformation. Science concerns itself almost exclusively with the second — understanding. Scientism thus radically reduces knowledge and what knowledge is and can be. When we do this, we necessarily limit what is a human person. When we limit what it means to be human, we necessarily tolerate discrimination and eventually violence against those persons who fall outside our artificial definition. There is a reason we de-humanize our opponents in war and call them derogatory names like Yankee, Bourgeoisie, Jap, Gook, etc. It allows us to remove them from our artificial definition of “human person” and thus making them more easy to kill, imprison, torture, etc. Need I remind anyone yet again that the unborn in the U.S. fall outside Scientism’s definition of “human person?” They cannot reason nor understand, therefore it is perfectly legal to kill them.
Scientism also poses a threat to science itself. Since Scientism exaggerates what kinds of questions and problems science can answer, it has a tendency to lose sight of what the purpose and methodology of science is. A good example of this is the recent Climate Gate scandal. A good number of those advocating man-made global warming are not scientists, but rather adherents to Scientism. Having made the assumption that science can answer questions like, “what is the purpose of human kind?” these advocates of man-made global warming not only ignored empirical data, they manipulated it in order to reflect a pre-determined outcome. The purpose of science was no longer to observe and analyze, but to determine human behavior. When the data didn’t cooperate, they changed the data. This has the potential of damaging real scientific work for years to come.
Thus, the mythic dichotomy of Christianity vs Science really doesn’t exist (nor can it, as I explored yesterday); however, there is a dichotomy between Christianity and Scientism.