Morality of Modern Science

The title is quite strange. There are advocates of scientific process whom acknowledge it as a human practice. Strangely, there are others who also regard it as the way to human progress. Studying the natural world will eventually rid the world of its ills, that is if the people of the world embrace a scientific literacy to likewise promote said research endeavors. In “A Scientific Society – the Beginnings,” Glenn T. Seaborg, appointed Chair of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1961, summarized the relationship between secular science and morals, “Beyond these principles, my confidence in freedom is based upon a personal faith, originating in my interpretation of human experience [history], to which one must appeal when scientific data are lacking or inconclusive.” Yes, science is a fine tool that will change the world for the better, though unlike idealists, there is a recognition that it is subject to individual whims.

Now, the will of the individual is not necessarily a worrisome thing when one believes a person can be near perfect. If man is not mindful of a sinful state, all he needs is the right method of living to succeed. Remember, to have sin is not necessarily to be evil, yet one is vulnerable to error, no less degrees of vice. To confidently be certain in a human method is only inviting pride before an imminent fall. Science is surely a gift from God to understand Creation for worshipful fulfillment of His command for us to have fruitful dominion. What happens to our ambitions in nature upon directing our ambition away from divine authority? According to early proponent of modern scientific education, Thomas Huxley in the late 19th century:

“They must learn that social phenomena are as much the expression of natural laws as any others; that no social arrangements can be permanent unless they harmonize with the requirements of social statics and dynamics; and that, in the nature of things, there is an arbiter whose decisions execute themselves. . . And, if the evils which are inseparable from the good of political liberty, are to be checked, . . . it will be because men will gradually bring themselves to deal with political, as they now deal with scientific questions;”

from: “Science and Culture” (1880)

Whether it is the realism or Weaver or the optimism of Huxley, human will is at the helm of destiny. My favorite atheist thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844-1900) witnessed the rise of modern science. He had two takes on people who emerge from this academic field. From the shared secular position of man being the highest mind, authority could swing democratic to totalitarian. After all, not all minds are equally desiring of a greater cause, personal or social. We will be diving into what he had to say about scientists in his “On the Genealogy of Morals”.

Nietzsche’s atheism did not possess a preference for scientific research. It was neither a way to prosperity nor a self-correcting method of natural revelation. He observed the people behind it. There were certainly individuals he found to be admirable. Still, he had this to say, “science today is a hiding place for every kind of discontent, disbelief, gnawing worm, despectio sui [disdain of their own kind], bad conscience – it is the unrest of the lack of ideals, the suffering from the lack of any great love,”. For Nietzsche the majority, more so so-called “free thinkers”, were too people of belief/faith, except they lacked active conviction.

Despite not adhering to the presence of original sin, Nietzsche found that scientists (& academics across the board) would fail to initiate anything resembling the optimism of Huxley’s call to check social evils. There is no universal method for all men to follow, so that the ills of the world can be erased. There are men who will boldly, stubbornly execute “a philosophy, a “faith,” [which] must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist.” Just like Weaver’s realism about practicing science, it will be used for whatever motivations of the individual. Weaver did think things would improve in the long-run, hence his advocacy for scientific education. Nietzsche, the man who declared “God is dead” within human value, posed a challenging statement to “modern science”:

“Has man perhaps become less desirous of a transcendental [non-materialistic] solution to the riddle of his existence, now that this existence appears more arbitrary, beggarly, and dispensable in the visible order of things? . . . Alas, the faith in the dignity and uniqueness of man, in his irreplaceability in the great chain of being, is a thing of the past – he has become an animal, literally and without reservation or qualification, he who was, according to his old faith, almost God (“child of God,” “God-man”).”

from: section 25 of “On the Genealogy of Morals” (1887) 

I am quite certain that us mortals are capable of much evil as well as good, struggling to discern between the two. Thereby, a progressing road to perfection seems strongly unlikely. Well, holding to original sin, no chance. Regardless, science is a human tool susceptible to human failure. If divinely created by God as said in Scriptures, then at least we are not alone, able to have an eternal covenant with a just and merciful Sovereign. As for simply coming into existence, we are at each other’s mercy, with varying views of justice.

Think I am being a pessimist about contemporary science? Check the YouTube link below for current info on the practical realities of the field.

https://youtu.be/LfHEuWaPh9Q – “The Crisis of Science” February 22nd 2019

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Romans 1:20-23

5 thoughts on “Morality of Modern Science

    1. Well, if man is created by God, then it is a gift that reflects our designed mental faculties, so we may know, not just instinctually interact with, our natural world. If there is no creation by a higher being, then yes, science reflects the results of chance development and human will. Hmm, or perhaps instinct?

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      1. Regarding creation by God, chance still has a key role in micro-evolution. Without the intended establishment of universal organic building blocks (biology) and laws of natural forces (physics & chemistry), chance plays a more significant role in macro-evolution as well. The frequency of neutral, positive, and negative processes to progress to/maintain a current orderly state of a universe and life is astronomically incomprehensible. Even at the micro-level of adaptation/mutation, the factors are no less astonishing, considering the short and long term outcomes have been virtually limitless. I think this lecture will help explain my point. – https://youtu.be/rBPTb9n0eZM “1.2 – Evolutionary Thinking: Random Evolution, The Role of Chance” by Yale Courses

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