Before we dive into the thrust of my essay, I would like to make the distinction between science and scientism. Science is a tool that can help us obtain solutions to certain problems — science is not an ideology; it is not a political opinion nor is it even the collection of facts. Scientism on the other hand is the irrational faith in science that it gives us the answer to all the unanswered questions.
From philosophers of the renaissance to the average person doing a 9 to 5 job, the question of “What is the meaning of life?” has come up at least once. The religious have found the answer to that question, they know that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, and personal God who has created us in his form and instilled us with free will to serve him so that we may eventually find our way to the gates of heaven despite the numerous temptations and evils that are against us, and that is the meaning of life. Science tells us that we are merely an accumulation of sentient star dust floating on a rock around a star that’s part of a billion-star systems. This does not really satisfy the question that is being asked, does it? The question being asked is a metaphysical question and the answer tells us how insignificant we are in the universe. The astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.”, and it truly is but has it resolved my existential crisis. I am not claiming that the lack of meaning in life is going to prevent people from sleeping, however, no matter what our spiritual or religious beliefs are, is it not that meaning that we assign to life that motivates us to wake up the next morning.
The New Atheism movement headed by the four horseman, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennet, advocated this sense of scientism. Do not get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and gratitude to them, they are outstanding individuals in their respective fields, and I am merely an undergraduate. However, they did preach on how science could replace all forms of thought, especially religion. They berate religious opinion as it is the most ludicrous thing they have ever heard and go on to say that science will fill the gap that religion leaves behind. I do agree that sometimes religious views are at best irrational and at worst destructive, but is it as simple as that? Personally, I respect Harris and Dennet because they opened the doors of philosophy and critical thinking for me but there are somethings I cannot agree with.
Science is a man-made concept that was a branch of philosophy, and anything man-made is bound to have flaws. Today, people all over the world are irrationally sanguine that science will solve all our problems and they assume that the only thing missing is that science is not advanced enough. Science must not be accompanied by optimism because optimism brings in bias along with it. Science took a position against religion, however it should not take any position at all. To expect everyone to abandon their beliefs and have views based on science is unreasonable. Our brains have not evolved to understand quantum mechanics, they have evolved hunt and gather, believe in religion, wage war, defend our tribe, etc. A blatant example of the flaw in the evolution of our brain, is our irrational and sometimes rational fear of snakes but we are indifferent when handling electric sockets which are significantly more dangerous. What is ironic is that as humans, we constantly seek the truth but our brains are more capable for survival rather than truth-seeking.
In conclusion, I would like to say that science and the brains that built science have their limitations. With the pandemic and the kerfuffle between politicians and health organizations is almost comical. We have one spectrum that think science is the God-given truth and the other side of the spectrum that are too skeptical of science it leans to being conspiracy. Do not get me wrong, difference in opinion is of crucial importance in a progressive world. However, science must not become a preferred political opinion of only one side of the spectrum.