Science, we are repeatedly informed by scientists, possesses a unique claim on truth due to its self-correcting nature. And this is certainly true in theory, although it is not difficult to demonstrate that scientific history is littered with a long list of honest mistakes, not-so-honest mistakes and outright lies.
And this merely refers to the cases of which we know, scientific frauds that have been caught and exposed. But even if we politely avert our eyes from this well-chronicled inability of scientists to live up to their scientific ideals – a nicety seldom granted to religious idealists – there is real cause to doubt the continued benefit of science to modern society, or even its right to a respectable place within it.
For the common belief in the beneficial nature of science rests on an underlying assumption that knowledge of all truth is desirable in all circumstances. But this is far from settled, as intellectuals from Plato to Daniel C. Dennett have frankly expressed their doubts on this score. Even lesser thinkers who have witnessed a child losing its innocent illusions or a family torn apart by the exposure of a long-hidden secret might well share this skepticism.
For if all knowledge is inherently good, then it is a moral imperative to scientifically determine the relative intelligence of Asians and Zulus once and for all. But is everyone really comfortable with the possibility of determining that men are, in scientific fact, intellectually superior to women? Or vice-versa? The cowardice of scientists regarding such controversial subjects, their nominal dedication to absolute scientific truth nothwithstanding, is powerful evidence of their lack of faith in the inherent beneficence of science.
Moreover, for a group of individuals claiming a right to act as a secular priesthood on Man’s behalf, scientists demonstrate an aversion for personal responsibility that would shame a child. Consider how the same militant atheists who claim that religious individuals are somehow responsible for the past actions of other religious individuals who do not even happen to share their beliefs simultaneously assert that scientists are not responsible for their personal actions even when those actions provide the means of mass murder or the motivation for embarking upon mass slaughter.
If “religion” is to be held culpable for the Inquisitions and the jihads, “science” is certainly no less culpable for the historical ravages of scientific socialism, the gassings of World War I, the National Socialist Holocaust, the fire-bombings of Tokyo and Dresden and the American abortion atrocity, to say nothing of the possibility of nuclear devastation as well as the inconvenient perils of global warming.
I have previously demonstrated that religion does not cause war. But even if it did, the number of Americans killed by medical science in the last ten years far exceeds the total number of Americans killed by war in U.S. history. If medical science can justly claim to have saved many lives, it must also take responsibility for the estimated 783,000 annual iatrogenic deaths it now causes every year.
Furthermore, the benefits of science are hugely exaggerated. Most of the advances in human technology are a function of the wealth produced by capitalism and human liberty, as may be seen in the retarded technological development in countries with no shortage of education and scientists, but handicapped by anti-capitalist, anti-libertarian ideology. Most inventors are not scientists and most scientists are not inventors; whereas Oppenheimer and Einstein gave us the nuclear bomb, Steve Wozniak gave us the personal computer and Al Gore gave us the Internet. It’s worth noting that the inventors of what is considered to be the most significant invention of the century, the silicon chip, were not scientists but electrical engineers.
Science advocates may argue that while scientists may not do much inventing, inventions are merely a practical application of the principles discovered by scientists. And while this is true in many cases, it is false in even more. From vulcanized rubber to the microwave oven, accidents combined with fortuitous observations by non-scientists have accounted for a surprising number of advances in human knowledge, advances to which the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation may claim no credit.
Sciencists (those who believe in science as a basis for dictating human behavior, as opposed to scientists, who merely engage in the method), like to posit that Man has evolved to a point where he is ready to move beyond religion. A more interesting and arguably more urgent question is whether science, having produced some genuinely positive results as well as some truly nightmarish evils, has outlived its usefulness to Mankind.
Man has survived millennia of religious faith, but if the prophets of over-population and global warming are correct, he may not survive a mere two centuries of science.