Monday, April 18, 2011

Does Science Suck the Meaning Out of Life? Introduction

   "All kinds of materialism lead one to treat every man including ones self as an object-that is, as a set of pre-determined reactions, in no way different from the patterns of qualities and phenomena which constitute a table, or a chair, or a stone. Our aim is precisely to establish the human kingdom as a pattern of values in distinction from the material world." Here, in his piece "Existentialism is a Humanism," Jean-Paul Sartre defends the dignity of man against the objectification of science. Science is often considered the enemy of religion, but the avowed atheist Sartre sees it also as the enemy of humanism. Is the scientific perspective really so bad?
   What I will not be doing here is defending the validity of the scientific worldview. That is an interesting and important question, but the topic at hand is peripheral to that question. Before such debate could commence, we would need to deal with the prejudices that cloud the issue. One of these is the perception that science is "depressing" i.e. the destroyer of cherished beliefs (about both the divine and human), the death of purpose and hope. I will tackle this perception head-on to see if it has any merit.
    Now science, in the broadest sense, just means "knowledge" and technology is the application of knowledge to meet our needs. These are inescapably part of our lives. But science, as in the use of the scientific method, is a particular way of understanding the world. More to the point, the scientific worldview (sometimes called naturalism or materialism) considers science the best method for understanding the world. At times, the scientific worldview spills over into metaphysics. Here is where it clashes with religion. In reality, the conflict between the two is not that serious. Limits can be set on the scientific perspective without depreciating the validity of science. Religion and spirituality can still exist in their own, separate space. Science is agnostic and cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. However, for the sake of our immediate discussion, I will set aside-for now the possibility of a moderate, nuanced position and consider the scientific worldview at its logical extreme

1 comment:

  1. Andrew:

    For that, check out my blog: "The Scientific Worldview."