November 27, 2018
These days, if an accepted scientific claim comes into conflict with an accepted nonscientific claim from another discipline (such as theology), which claim must be set aside? In our culture, the scientific claim always wins. Why? Simply because it is scientific. Scientism seems so obvious and pervasive to people that it can be stated without any need to defend it. Appealing to science to back one’s claim is a conversation stopper that settles the issue.
Weak scientism, when believed and put into practice, leads to a constant revision of doctrines that the church has held for centuries under the pressure of scientistic political correctness. Thus, the “dialogue” between science and theology or biblical exegesis is really a monologue, with theologians asking scientists what the latest discoveries allow them to teach:
Homosexuality is caused by our DNA? No problem. The Bible doesn’t teach the immorality of homosexuality anyway. We have misread it for two thousand years.
Neuroscience shows there is no soul? No problem. Dualism and the soul are Greek ideas not found in the Bible, which is more Hebraic and holistic.
A completely naturalistic story of evolution is adequate to explain the origin and development of all life? No problem. After all, the Bible isn’t a science text.
Studies in the human genome suggested human life did not begin with Adam and Eve? No problem. We can reread the historical narrative in a new way.
And on and on it goes.
In sum, the first problem with weak (and strong) scientism is that it diminishes the intellectual authority of other important fields, especially biblical studies and theology. This is not because the arguments are better, but simply because it is assumed that science by definition has more plausibility and inherent authority.
Tom Sorell notes that, according to scientism, “it is always good for subjects that do not belong to science to be placed on a scientific footing.” Science has a duty to enter into nonscientific fields because “the scientific is much more valuable than the non-scientific, or the thought that the non-scientific is of negligible value” (from Sorell’s Scientism). From this perspective, therefore, when science is extended into other fields, its superior cognitive authority means that science must correct many of the nonscientific views and discoveries of that field, or at least shed new and important light on those fields that people could not see without science.
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