How Science Became an Idol

I don’t oppose science. In fact I advocate for it. But it’s also clear that “science” has been turned into an idol, and then into a social weapon. I’m going to explain briefly how that happened.

But before I do, I want you to understand what idolatry really is. Whenever you hold something above critique – above reality – you place it as your god.

Here are two important quotes on the subject, the first from Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr., and the second from Erich Fromm:

Men are idolaters, and want something to look at and kiss and hug, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will; and if you don’t make it of wood, you must make it of words.

The history of mankind up to the present time is primarily the history of idol worship, from primitive idols of clay and wood to the modern idols of the state, the leader, production and consumption – sanctified by the blessing of an idolized God.

Please try to retain these concepts somewhere in your consciousness; they are important to the human future.

How It Happened

Science was turned into an idol by a historically visible process. We covered this properly in FMP #90, but I’ll give you a brief overview:

The Enlightenment, while important for the rise of scientifically derived knowledge, also had a dark side, particularly after 1750. It was then that the Enlightenment turned from being for things, to being against things. This change imbued the Enlightenment with the darkness of writers like Thomas Hobbes, and it became a tool for tearing down one’s enemies. By it, intellectuals helped rulers capture the legitimacy then held by the Catholic church, and at the same time secure a legally privileged position for themselves.

Nowhere was this strain of intellectual demolition more glaring than in the French Revolution (which was more or less the last stage of the Enlightenment). I’ll spare you details, but it’s worth pointing out that movements built upon tearing things down are the ones that spin out of control. As Eric Hoffer noted:

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without belief in a devil.

Please try to tuck that line into your consciousness too.

What Science Really Is

Science is a process, not a database of approved knowledge, and certainly not pronouncements from on high. Science is a careful process of finding errors, and by it defining durable, reusable facts.

When a well-defined idea passes through this process without being shown false, we accept it as a valid theory, even though it will remain open to revision and even rejection.

Science has been a wonderfully useful tool, but it is not a system and sets no one as some sort of guide.

Dogma Versus Dogma

It’s horrifying to see the supposed arbiters of science attacking whatever fails to obey them. They are laboring to bully, and to secure obedience by the application of social pain. And by so doing, these “scientists” (not all scientists) have joined a long chain of intellectuals trying to secure a legally privileged position.

As a result of this long process, Western civilization has been left with no moral center. After all, the legitimacy being sought was held by the Church, the initial propagators of Western civilization’s moral core.

To improve or even to replace the moral core of a civilization is defensible, but to rip it out and leave the civilization with a gaping void is vandalism. Simply put, the late Enlightenment and intellectuals of that type removed the moral core of Western civilization, and replaced it with nothing at all. 

Westerners have had their moral core beaten out of them – not because anyone conceived of something better, but because of intellectuals who tore things down rather than building. And we’ve seen that most recently in an idolized “science.”

The Solution

The solution to this situation is simply to get back to building and to move past the juvenile compulsion to tear things down. (And to retain science as a tool.)

Most urgently, we need to restore our civilization’s moral core. I think Christianity and Judaism can be upgraded. But if not, we must establish a better and more benevolent moral core, then start passing it down from generation to generation.

Our civilization will not survive with a gaping void where its heart should be.


Paul Rosenberg