My culture (maybe yours too) seems to have all but adopted science as its religion.

People with degrees in fine arts are excitedly discussing the latest discovery in cognitive neurology or nanotechnology or particle physics or some other hip, sexy science with absolutely no personal understanding of how these discoveries are made, their validity, their implications, or anything at all about them.

They take the word of scientists on faith even though the experimental process and scientific contexts of these discoveries are so esoteric and arcane that only the scientists who stand to gain by making some revolutionary discovery can understand it.

I get it, though. I was there too at one point. I took a class on the philosophy of communication and inquiry a year or two ago. A lot of the material sought to show that science was not an all-knowing, infallible approach to inquiry. I was quite offended. I even had one or two heated debates with the professor—which he loved and asked me back the next year to help him teach the class. The second time around, it started to make sense to me:

  • Any hypothesis is a leap of faith. 
  • Findings that are not well-understood (or understood at all) are sold to the public as axiomatic truth. 
  • What is and what is not studied and researched is subject to political, financial, and disciplinary pressures. 
  • Unpopular ideas are ignored, marginalized, politicized, vilified, etc. (Seriously, read the article I linked to with an open mind. It’s well-cited and might just blow your mind.) 
This doesn’t mean I’m anti-science and by no means do I mean to disparage the entire scientific community. It does a lot of valuable work and is quite valid in its areas of expertise. Hey, there’s a good chance science could save my life someday—and already has a couple of times actually. And I think a lot of the communication and computing technology happening right now is just amazing. So it’s far from all bad.

What worries me is the attitude that scientific explanations that are half-baked and uncertain are being used for personal and social purposes. Someone might ask, for example: What is the explanation for (insert some deviant human behavior)?

Scientists would say in their nasally voice, as they re-arrange their pocket protectors and push their taped-up glasses up their nose: “Well, we’re not quite sure what exactly causes that particular behavior but it probably has its root in the survival instinct of ancient man when life was either violence or death. Either that or the chemicals in said person’s brain are not present in the correct proportions.”

Ok, seems relatively logical, but what about the other side of the coin? What is the root of altruism or service or sacrifice? Regarding these issues, Mr. Scientist is going to say either:
  • These people are anomalies. They are perversions of the real human nature. 
  • Altruism and sacrifice is just self-interest in disguise. What’s really going on is that this “altruistic” person is really hoping the beneficiary of his kindness will be indebted to him and be obligated to help him somehow at a later date. 
So here science has painted humans as brutish, selfish, violent, self-absorbed creatures that are slaves to their biology and the survival instincts of their most distant ancestors. Really, the opposite is the truth.

People are natural cooperators and a largely peaceful bunch if you can separate them from the ideologies of their greedy, self-serving leaders. Just look at friendships, families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, and societies. These are all innately cooperative institutions and they are pervasive, old, and ever-present aspects of the human condition.

Furthermore, there are things science simply isn’t equipped to handle. It’s has really tried to understand human thought, behavior, emotion, choice, intuition, interaction, and the host of other inner state-related phenomena that are the focus of the social sciences, but very little has come of it other than some interesting conversation and bitter debate between “scientists.”

 Lets take economics for instance, and I know from experience that this will be a controversial position. (Where’s the fun in taking the mainstream route, anyway?) Economics is a science? Really? Good science is, by nature, predictive. You take the date, analyze it, and say with a high level of confidence what will occur next. Well, no economists that I heard of predicted the financial crash of 2008—but plenty of non-economists using nothing but common sense did. Plus, anything with three major theories, each constantly being disputed by the disciples of another, is just not a science.

 This doesn’t mean that human thought, behavior, emotion, choice, intuition, interaction, and the host of other inner state-related phenomena that are the focus of the social sciences cannot be grasped in some way. Most of the answers are already within you. If you want to see them laid-out in front of you, get into THEE; start with the 21st Century Enlightenment. It picks up where science left off.

The point is, we’ve got to start questioning the old paradigms if we want to have any hope of moving forward in our quest for a better world, better societies, better families, better interactions, and better people. It wouldn’t be wise to accept current science’s assessment of human nature. There’s just no hope there.

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