The Scientism Myth

My philosophy professor once asked us “How do you really know that your mother is your biological mother? How do you know that you are not adopted?” I thought it was an extremely stupid and self-evident question at first. But then the more I thought about it, I realised to my horror that I did not ‘really know’, 100 percent, for sure. True, my birth certificate says that they are my parents, there are all the pictures; and we do not ever question things like this. But still, I realised that I had believed it on faith, not because of scientific proof. I had never asked my parents for a DNA test! But I never needed that.

There is a great myth being propagated today that ‘Religious’ means ‘Superstitious’ and that ‘Science’ means ‘Rational’. Seeing is believing! This attitudeĀ of giving science a God-like status and rubbishing anything that doesn’t conform to it is commonly called ‘scientism’. But human life is more than scientific rigour and proofs. I don’t need scientific proof for everything that goes on in my life to believe it. Can science explain love? Can science explain why people behave the way they do…sometimes completely illogically? Can science console a mother who has lost her only child? Can science offer comfort to a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness? Can science explain why I still feel so empty within me at times, so unhappy, so unfulfilled, even when I appear to have everything? No it can’t! And that’s because science and rationalism are not meant to do that. It’s way outside their scope! Science can only explain the workings of the physical and natural world, it can discover how things work. It cannot explain why things are in the first place. It cannot satisfy the human thirst for love, purpose, happiness and fulfilment.

Science is not opposed to religion as many would like us to believe. In fact, it was the Christian force for reason that gave impetus to science in the first place centuries ago. Christianity believes that nature is created by God and because God is perfect, his creation functions according to immutable principles. Our intellect is a God-given gift to discover those principles. The claim that science arose only in the age of enlightenment after freeing itself from the chains of religion is a myth. Most scholars of the history of science today testify to this fact. Most authoritative encyclopaedias today also confirm this. But why we do we still keep hearing this myth? Because it being propagated vociferously by anti-religion crusaders. Repeat something often enough and it becomes a fact. The vast majority of the founding figures of modern science – Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal – were devoutly religious. Copernicus was a monk, so was the founder of the Genetic Theory, and the formulator of the Big Bang Theory was a priest! Imagine that!

Science can say that God cannot be proved. Well, He cannot be disproved as well. However, I must be careful here not to paint every scientist with the same brush. I know many scientists personally in Mumbai who are devout Catholics. I have a physics background myself. Any scientist worth his salt will tell you that the deeper they go, the greater is the beauty and design they perceive and observe. Science cannot explain why things are that way. And to say that all this is just a result of chance is nonsense. It would mean that our existence is irrational!

So let’s get rid of this false ‘Science versus Religion’ debate. There isn’t one!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Oliver says:

    You’re absolutely right Fr. Joshan – as you can see there isn’t anyone to debate this article. In fact, there is no debate at all; since ‘Science and Religion’ go hand in hand.
    You visit any Hospital, Nursing home or Medical Centre – you’ll find a prayer-room ‘pooja-ghar’ or an Alter depicting garlanded images of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary or some other religious deities.
    Likewise, you enter any Doctor’s Clinic or office you’ll find small dedicated alters for worship and prayer.
    Isn’t this proof that ‘Science and Religion’ go hand in hand?
    This should put a lid on the controversial issue.


  2. Igora says:

    Have enjoyed reading this and all the other articles too.


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