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John Bruce Leonard

Science: The Lesser Sphere – Part 1

Series: Science: The Lesser Sphere

It is sometimes argued that contemporary science is at bottom a kind of faith – claim which is hotly disputed by the scientists themselves. But on the level of scientific methodology, this accusation bears its own weight.

‘God does not play dice.’

This simple phrase, taken (as is even needless to say) from perhaps the most publicly recognized intellectual figure of the past century, in a certain sense stands as the watchword of an era. In the space of five simple words, one of the foremost ‘scientists’ of this or any time has managed to introduce the idea of a deity, to tacitly deny that same deity in its miraculous or moral dimensions, and to assert with all the simple certainty of a secular faith that mathematics underpins the universe, and hence that modern science is the method for the study of the structure of reality. No wonder then that this phrase should be so commonplace today, repeated with a kind of certitude if not smugness, posted on the walls of schools and houses, accompanied not rarely by the portrait of its speaker, which has become to us (in what might form the matter for an essay all its own) the mustachioed avatar of our time – antipode, incidentally, of a certain other face, it too with its mustaches, only this one the sinister representative of all that is evil.

It is sometimes asserted that the Right today is the natural friend of science. There is an element of truth in this which is so visible it hardly needs noting: for science, in its purest form (and there is a question as to what extent that purest form any long represents the working reality of science, at least in the most important of its frontiers),1 looks certain aspects of reality fearlessly in the face, quite despite any of the madder fantasies of the progressivist left. Science is, moreover, at its best, the expression of a will to truth which is the natural concomitant of the Right’s own specifically moral dimension. Science is thus one natural, if limited, remedy to those excesses of egalitarianism which exist in blatant contempt of nature or even of physical possibility, and a last, if somewhat beleaguered and self-contradictory, redoubt for the old ideas of virtue, hierarchy and rank.

Against this use of science, we have nothing to object; it is rather to the abuses of science which we would like here to turn our attention. Put in a word, it is not science as such that we would critique, but rather scientism – the a priori reduction of the entirety of existence to the mathematical-scientific understanding, which unilaterally presupposes, without preliminary investigation or the least shred of evidence, that science and science alone is the sole or the best method for comprehending all phenomena without exception, from the atom to the man, from matter to life, from energy to consciousness, from the stone to the heart to the soul.

The Deep Right has excellent reasons for offering resistance and just critique of scientism: ours is indeed one of the few perspectives from which such resistance and critique is any longer possible.

Against this science, this scientism so prevalent to our day, the Right has excellent reasons for offering resistance and just critique: ours is indeed one of the few perspectives from which such resistance and critique is any longer possible. The Deep Right must at the very least cultivate a careful scepticism of science in its thoroughgoing critique of this modern project, of which science is eminently a centrepiece. That places a great burden upon our shoulders – a duty which the present author is sadly incapable of discharging in full. But as it appears to me that science has largely been granted a free pass in our time, and that the very deep theoretical and metaphysical problems with science as a body have yet to be adequately addressed or even in many cases noted, I will make some modest attempt in the direction, in hopes that men who are better versed in the sciences, and better prepared in metaphysics itself, might carry on where I have left off.

The Modern Roots of Science

The word ‘science’, which we nowadays, in yet another sign of our ingenuity and special intellectual limitations, thoughtlessly arrogate to modern science alone, was historically identical to, or at least inseparable with, the idea of Western philosophy itself. It was used interchangeably with the term ‘philosophy’ or ‘natural philosophy’ by every thinker from Aristotle to Aquinas, up even to the early modern luminaries themselves, such as Bacon, Descartes, and Newton, as the titles of some of their major works clearly indicate: Novum Organum Scientarum, Opuscula Posthuma Physica et Mathematica (an unfinished Cartesian treaty on his new philosophical method), Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. The new science proposed by the early moderns was not supposed to be a secession from philosophy, but rather its wholesale revolution; and the subsequent division of modern thought into science on the one hand and philosophy on the other represents, not the success of that project, but in a very real sense its failure.2

Coming at the matter from the other side, it has likewise been asserted by some that modern science, like philosophy itself, is merely the natural and necessary outcome of Greek thought. Isabel Paterson,3 for instance, in her aptly named God of the Machine, suggests that what stopped the Greeks from attaining our level of technological superiority was not at all an inherent limitation in their thought, but only in their economies:

The Greeks actually invented a crude steam engine, but were unable to perfect it and put it to use, for lack of a political organization which would allow such a high potential. … The required organization was not to be devised for almost two thousand years.4

So we are given to understand that, had the Greeks but reordered their societies so as to make them more individualistic and libertarian, more laissez-faire and money-oriented, less damnably leisurely and aristocratic – in brief, more like our own – then they would have seen a flourishing of technology such as we have seen, and would in no time have reached the same ‘heights’ some two millennia in advance of us. Nietzsche seems at times to consider matters in a similar light: ‘To what end the Greeks? to what end the Romans? – All the prerequisites to a learned culture, all the methods of science, were already there… All gone for naught! Overnight it became a mere memory!’5 The culprit, needless to say, was Christianity. Only that Nietzsche, in a peculiarly Nietzschean twist, sometimes suggests that Greek science might even have been superior to our own, thus opening the question of whether there may not be a variety of ‘sciences’, rather than merely that single one which we almost haughtily presuppose in the very term that we use to speak of it.

Yet to seek the origins of our science in the science of Antiquity is perhaps to ignore categorical divisions between them, the existence of which is strongly suggested by the very transformation in terminology we have just noted. In the field of mathematics, for instance, which is a staple element of contemporary science, insistence on a historical scientific consistency elides the fundamental transformation of the very idea of number which came with modernity, in the work of men like Descartes and Newton.6 Spengler’s insistence that the modern world should be regarded as its own civilization/culture, rather than as the extension of antiquity, though in our view this idea must be taken with great care in most places, here, at least, seems well enough founded: there is almost nothing standing in common between Euclidean or Apollonian or Archimedean geometry on the one hand, and Cartesian algebra or Newtonian calculus on the other – not to speak of the almost ‘postmodern’ shift represented by the likes of Dedekind, Lambert or Saccheri! These forms of mathematics are separated one from the other by the chasm, not only of almost two thousand years, but of fundamentally conflicting worldviews. Similarly, Ptolemaic astronomy does not stand with respect to Copernican or Keplerian or Galilean astronomy in the relation of an ignorant and crude system with respect to a sophisticated and more precise or elegant one, as we often like to presume: the decisive difference between the ancient and the modern systems is Ptolemy’s refusal to ignore the moral, religious and political implications of the theory of the movement of the heavens, and Copernicus’, Kepler’s and Galileo’s blithe, and so very scientistic, insistence on so ignoring.7

The roots of specifically modern science are thus best sought in the Renaissance and early Enlightenment, and for that reason alone should infuse in us a degree of caution when we speak of or contemplate the emergence and quality of science. Those theoreticians and practitioners (in the green days of early modernity, one often enough made little distinction between the two), from Copernicus to Galileo Galilei, from Bacon to Lavoisier, from Huygens to Newton to Descartes and Hobbes, proposed from the start a means of approaching the study of the world based on two fundamental elements: mathematics and experimentation. Supposing one took these (as many if not all of these men did) as an approach, not to this or that aspect of the world, but to the world as such – supposing one viewed this ‘new science’ not as a partial science, or one science among many, but as the science, the universal science – then one worked necessarily from a number of presuppositions, we are tempted even to say axioms, as: the world is basically homogeneous rather than basically heterogeneous, so that a single right method can lead to total knowledge of the whole; the homogeneous matter (whatever that might be) which constitutes the world is thoroughly mathematical or susceptible of mathematical treatment in all its parts, so that the right method must itself be mathematical or must work through the medium of mathematics; the causal relations standing between any given condition or event and the conditions or events which follow are rigidly determined and flow in a unidirectional manner with respect to time; the laws governing man himself, and the human world, are reducible to the laws governing the material or mathematizable world, so that man can be understood reductively, with reference to his material or mathematizable elements; there exists no supernatural force which transcends and thus is capable of breaking or rearranging these laws; that creature which alone of the Earthly beings is capable of consciously experiencing the world, namely man, can understand the medium of his experience, namely consciousness, by understanding the empirical world which is the object of the same, despite the fact that these two things, ‘subject’ and ‘object’, medium and material, experience and the experienced, appear to be fundamentally different in kind; etc.

These suppositions, each one in itself highly questionable from the philosophical point of view, were never proved in the early days of science, nor have they been demonstrated since.8 But science in its rapid and astonishing technological successes from its earliest days up to the present, has been given leave to lay them aside, taking them as essentially proven de facto. The rise of science and its marvellous practical achievements in ‘techne’, economics and and medicine have largely and with very few exceptions given it a kind of carte blanche in human society, from the moral, the legal, and the political and economic points of view.

Despite its ceaseless promises to provide universal knowledge of the heavens and the earth, science has failed again and again to comprehend one of the foremost and central parts of existence: the human world.

Only that in recent times, two factors have permitted the reopening of the question of the limitations and proper rank of science. The first is that, despite its ceaseless promises to provide universal knowledge of the heavens and the earth, science has failed again and again to comprehend what is to the human being, and perhaps also in and of itself, one of the foremost and central parts of existence: the human world, the anthropomorphic or anthropocentric or anthropological sphere. Science does not understand the human being with even one tenth the accuracy and efficacy with which it has succeeded in comprehending the material world. Secondly, science has led us step by step to a point at which any number of scientifically produced situations9 have the potential, not only to strike a monstrous blow against human existence, but to annihilate it altogether. The scientific, or better say scientistic response to this quandary is to look to science to resolve the problems that science has produced, which is something like hoping that an illness will cure itself without any external intervention, or that the crimes of a tyrant can best be resolved by granting him yet more power and money, or that one can save one’s best shovel from rust by leaving it longer in the damp – a remarkable abdication of any independent responsibility.

To be sure, some one or other of our scientistic intellectuals will all too predictably pop up here with the obligatory response: all technological development, beginning from the harvesting of fire itself, has had this inherent double aspect; even a kitchen knife can kill. And well can we agree to this proposition. Only that all previous ages conceived of this fact as demonstrating the necessity of responsibly monitoring, administering and guiding technological development (one does not hand a child a loaded handgun), whereas we are content to let things go willy-nilly wherever they may, and have utterly forgotten the meaning of moral authority, moral responsibility. For science qua science foregoes all moral questions and spiritual distinctions from the start.

In short, scepticism regarding science is growing, and it would take a very rash man to claim that the critique to issue from it is entirely without its reasons. In many cases, to be sure, this scepticism itself takes irresponsible and irrational forms, and has the feel about it of merest reaction. Excess in one direction breeds excess in another, and seldom with justification. Nonetheless, one need not embrace ‘flat earth theory’ or the crudest creationism to recognize that there might be something lacking in the cosmology and anthropology of modern science. The present state of affairs opens the possibility of truly investigating the underpinnings of science, to see to what extent they justify the unprecedented authority which science has been passively yielded in our day.

We profit from this situation to investigate but a few of the most incisive theoretical and methodological reasons to take science with a dose of healthy scepticism – as indeed even the best scientists should certainly admit is but normal and desirable in the pursuit of their aims.

A Critique of Temporal Causality

We begin with what is perhaps the central tenet of what we might call scientific metaphysics: the exclusive existence of a single kind of causality governing all the world.

Scientific method hinges decisively on the possibility of experimentation, which in turn cannot exist in the absence of reproducibility. It is useless, from a strict scientific point of view, to witness a phenomenon empirically, even several times over, if one cannot wilfully repeat the conditions which have given rise to that phenomenon in a rigorously controlled environment. Not even the strict mathematical or logical inferences stemming from this or that prior scientific discovery can stand in the absence of independent validation via experimentation; to note only one of the most celebrated examples of this scientific strictness, Einstein, and the better part of the scientific community with him, refused to consider his theory of relativity validated, despite its extreme mathematical rigour, until it were actually put to physical trial, and the resulting evidence had without any doubt shown its support of his conclusions. This is so elementary a part of scientific method that it is generally taken for granted, and indeed is offered up (in a way rightly) with a certain hint of scientistic pride as one of the points of simple superiority of science over all non-scientific thought (which, naturally, includes the vast majority of pre-modern philosophy).

Before scientific method could ever be taken for the method for understanding the universe, it was necessary to fundamentally modify pre-scientific philosophy to accommodate it. One of the most important of these modification occurred in the very idea of causality itself. In the reigning scholastic philosophy of early modernity, which traced its heritage directly back to Aristotle, causality was understood as being of four different kinds: formal, material, effective and final.10 The scientific revolution in thought consisted in reducing this qaudripartite causality to a single type of causality, which in Aristotelian terms could perhaps be understood as a combination of material and effective causality. Bacon, for instance, understood the transformation in this sense: ‘Physics doth make inquiry, and take consideration of the same natures: but how? Only as to the material and efficient causes of them, and not as to the forms.’11 As far as final causes go, and the teleology they imply, Bacon did not bite his tongue on the question: ‘[N]am causarum finalium inquisitia sterilis est, et, tanquam virgo Deo consecrata, nihil parit.’12

We of today are so accustomed to seeing the world in terms of this single type of causality that it is often most difficult for us to access the elder view; in a great many cases, one is even at a loss to imagine what Aristotle could have been on about with his fourfold declension. Yet the reduction of causality to a single kind was in the best cases undergone in the most fitting, and most scientific, spirit of hypothesis: to what extent can the world be understood, if reduced to this single kind of causality? We have forgotten that there might even be a question here, and take this kind of causality universally for granted; it has become, rather than one of the hypotheses of science, one of its axioms.

The problematic nature of this hypothesis from the philosophical point of view should be perfectly evident, and the only reason we cannot see it with due clarity, is the apotheosis of science and scientific or scientistic thought in our time. Quite beyond the eternally pertinent Humean objection13 that there is nothing whatever to make us suppose that causality of this kind will not suddenly ‘stop working’ (which objection science has never and indeed never could address, quite despite Kant’s dogmatic awakening), there is a further and indeed deeper problem.

Science rests on a floating presupposition, one which is both indemonstrable by science itself, and by which science, as a universal system, stands or falls.

Science is premised on the tacit rejection of all causality save for that single form we have identified, and which for convenience we might term ‘temporal’. Science cannot disprove any other kinds of causality for the simple reason that its own method is premised on the one kind; the entire range of its experimentation, the entire scope of its ability to derive evidence or empirical data or to validate hypotheses or theories, rests on that single reproducible type of causality. It cannot subject any other kind of hypothetical causality to the trials of its method, save as those other types of causality are already reducible to temporal causality – which means that, insofar as they are not reducible to temporal causality, they lie necessarily beyond the realm which science is capable of investigating. Science rests, then, on a floating presupposition, one which is both indemonstrable by science itself, and by which science, as a universal system, stands or falls.

The only recourse that science has at this point is to prove the tree by its fruit: it must demonstrate the validity of its presuppositions by showing itself capable of comprehending the world without remainder by their light. If it is able to do this – if in the trial of experience, science shows itself ecumenical in its knowledge – then the other kinds of causality surely vanish as figments in the air. Yet to achieve such a thing, science must attain a perfect or at least comprehensive theory of the universe, which is, according to the latest theories regarding science (see, for instance, Kuhn, Popper, Peirce, etc.) essentially beyond the capacity of science to attain. Total comprehension remains always and ever, at best, an unreachable goal or a pious hope for science, so that whenever one encounters a phenomenon that science is presently unable to adequately explain by its method (as for instance human consciousness), one simply chalks this up to a temporary failure on science’s part, due to nothing more than the fact that science simply has need of more time to compass that particular phenomenon within its sphere. That is to say: one has faith that science will sooner or later arrive at an understanding of this part of reality, too.

Science, of course, can always indicate its spectacular achievements in the field of the natural sciences as a kind of down payment on this question, as incidental proof that it will be quite able to repay all debts at some future tomorrow. But there is a priori nothing at all to indicate that the universe is so homogeneous in its quality that methodological success in one portion of it is perforce guaranteed in another; may well be that the results of science in this physical region or temporal age of the universe do not apply to some other physical portion or temporal age of the universe; and there is no reason even to suppose that certain periods even within the small arc of human history have not been governed wholly or in part by other laws. Or again, there is no reason to suppose a priori that the cosmos in this very moment and in our own cosmic region is not composed of various levels or overlapping spheres, the laws of each of which are wholly or partially distinct from one another, so that science, while being perfectly compatible with one of these and perfectly able to arrive at competent results within it, would stand to another somewhat in the relation of a ruler to a scale.

Most intriguingly, this last possibility is indicated by contemporary science itself, which appears at present to be pressing hard against some manner of barrier intrinsic to the world, which is lain simultaneously and indelibly around its own method. As but indications of this possibility: the very idea of causality that we have been discussing seems to break down altogether at the microscopic level, as is indicated by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Einstein resisted this implication (the quotation with which we opened this essay is indeed an expression of his revolt against it), but his resistance inevitably reduces to that same scientific faith that we have indicated above, the faith in temporal causality. The results of science at present give no reason to suspect that the conclusions drawn by quantum mechanics are erroneous or imprecise; quite the contrary. It would appear that there is a degree of ‘randomness’ which meets the scientist who presses too far in this direction; rather than the clear and simple causality which one believes one is seeking, one finds rather ‘noise’ or ‘chaos’, which is to say – noise or chaos as interpreted from the point of view of science, which does not know how to get its hands round anything that does not proceed from temporal causality alone. Something similar seems to happen at the macroscopic level: the expansion of the universe, so far as we are able to measure it, appears to be acting in contrariety to the laws proposed by science, accelerating at an increasing rate at its fringes where it should in fact be doing the opposite in accordance with the gravity of the matter it has left behind; so that one must seek out some hypothetical or tertiary explanation (‘dark matter’, ‘phantom energy’, etc. – terms whose very language indicates a certain degree of ignorance and perplexity on the part of their inventors) in order to come to grips with these phenomena.

Another potential indication of the barrier inscribed around scientific thought: Science at present is confronting a fascinating emergency in its method known as the ‘replication crisis’.14 In recent years it has been confirmed that there is a sizeable percentage of scientific or laboratory results which cannot be reproduced. The percentage of such non-reproducible results varies from scientific field to scientific field, but it seems to me not at all coincidental that the worst affected areas are psychology and medicine, with the social sciences strongly implicated as well. Most of the discussion regarding this problem revolves around reflection on peer-review and the valid borders or abuses of statistical analysis, since it is gratuitously assumed that the difficulty is merely in the implementation of scientific method, rather than in that method itself. We, who are not so constrained by this naïve faith in the universal efficacy of science, do not hesitate to suggest that there might be another and deeper factor at work here: namely, the impossibility of reproducing ‘results’ which are obtained in a field, namely the human sphere, which simply cannot be reduced to effective and non-teleological causality.

This last, to be sure, is an aspect of science which has subsisted since its very earliest days, and which is most important to us, as it exists, not in the microscopic or the macroscopic, but within the human experience itself: it would appear that the living world, and especially the human world, is not reducible to temporal causality alone, and therefore exceeds the grasp of science. The most visible consequences of this are to be found in the utter failure on the part of philosophy proper to produce a mathematical science of man and of society (Hobbes, Descartes, Kant, Marx and Husserl are but a few of the foremost representatives of this failure) which is equivalent in rigour and results to the science of physics and chemistry. This led to the fateful scission between science and philosophy in the early centuries of modernity, which is reflected but wanly in the contemporary division between the humanities and the sciences, or the hard sciences and the soft or pseudo-sciences. Biology would appear to occupy an intermediate position between these points, as the life of plants and animals is more subject to those laws of which science properly treats than is the life of man, while there are evidently elements (such as, for instance, the very origin of life; also the specific ‘mechanisms’ by which DNA is supposed to compose entire organisms from miniscule ‘building blocks’; also the incommensurability standing between the external, measurable world and the internal, unmeasurable world; also the problem of the self-evident teleology inherent to living systems, which we will address in Part 2 of this essay; and other similar difficulties) which to this day remain elusive.15

Perhaps the most evident aspect of this difficulty is to be found in the problem of consciousness. The scientific comprehension of consciousness in many ways represents the most difficult task confronting science in our time. The understanding of consciousness via scientific means must regard consciousness strictly in terms of that mathematical causality we have been discussing; this means reducing consciousness to elements and to factors which are not strictly accessible to consciousness, save through the most indirect scientific means (neural functioning, physiological changes, etc.). Now, all scientific understanding is the understanding of the scientific community, which means, of scientists; this understanding comes exclusively through their conscious weighing of the data, experiments, measurements, etc. at their disposal. All scientific research must be consciously verified by scientists; even the scientific ‘conclusions’ of the most sophisticated computer will never be accepted by a scientist save as he has understood them. The scientist then relies on a medium which his science cannot understand and whose very existence in some cases seems to deny.

Looking at all of this from a suprascientific point of view, and laying aside for a moment the touching faith that science can resolve every problem if only given enough time, the problems we have identified would seem to indicate that science is as sand falling in an hour glass, gradually striking upon the walls which determine its limits, already utterly filling that space within which it is truly at home – and beyond which, the greater part of the universe still somehow persists, visible to those who have their eyes open, quite without the benefit of ‘scientific method’ – visible, that is to say, to man, the microcosm, in whose soul the cosmos is reflected as in a mirror, and who is the rightful but self-forgetful master of that very scientific knowledge which in our day, has begun instead to master him.

Footnotes

1It is not the purpose of this essay to consider the degree to which contemporary science fails to live up to its merely pragmatic ideals – to what extent such simple and fundamental mechanisms as e.g. peer-review and reproducibility, might be compromised by human biases or by the establishment of dogmas within science itself. This is a serious problem confronting science, and the fact that a great many scientists still deny it cannot help but make one yet more sceptical of their famous ‘objectivity’. We might indicate simply that, so far as the present cultural war is concerned, three major points of reference are to be found in the fields of genetics, global warming and evolutionary theory. In these three fields (though not only in these three fields) a kind of established dogma has begun to petrify, which not only prejudices new scientific discoveries, but in many cases actively suppresses or ignores them, or wilfully interprets them as being merely not yet comprehensible in light of the extant teachings in these fields – thus perpetuating an almost religious doctrinalism within an intellectual realm which was meant from the start to stand in contrast to all mere faith and indemonstrable beliefs. It would be impossible to provide a suitable list of resources on these questions here, but I will mention what seem to me a few good sources here. The database at American Renaissance will of course be known to my readers, but it is invaluable for research into the suppression of genetic thought in the sciences; see, e.g., https://www.amren.com/tag/science-and-genetics/. As far as global warming goes, I will be the last to deny that an age of spiritual imbalance such as those afflicting our age must lead to imbalances also in the natural world, as the higher inevitably influences the lower; still, this must be rigorously differentiated from mere pseudo-scientific findings which are manipulated to accord with specific globalistic political agendas; see, for more, James Corbett’s ‘Lies, Damned Lies, and Global Warming Statistics’. For the question of evolution, see Cremo & Thompson, Forbidden Archeology as well as the essay by Fulvio Saggiomo, ‘When Form Ignored Darwin’, available in my translation on Arktos Journal.

2Some contemporary thinkers attempt to reclaim the older sense of science, using the term in its pre-modern acceptation. Leo Strauss, for instance, often tends in such a direction; likewise Monika Hamilton, who has offered a very deep critique of modern metaphysics in this very journal, ‘Philosophia Mortis’. Though I entirely endorse these attempts and the reconciliation, or reorientation, which they represent, it is equally evident that they fly in the face of conventional use of the terms ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ today. My attempt here is to consider this particular division, and to critique it; I thus consider my efforts to be supplementary to, rather than antagonistic to, the aforementioned.

3Paterson is often remembered now, when she is remembered at all, as the friend or the teacher of the much more famous Ayn Rand. Nonetheless as a stylist and as a thinker, Paterson deserves special and independent consideration. Though to the present writer she seems decidedly blinkered by the variety of modernistic myths, nonetheless her insight on them is fresh and incisive, and she gives even those who disagree with her cause for thought.

4Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2002), p. 28.

5The Antichrist, § 59 (Tucson: See Sharp Press, 1999), translation by H. L. Mencken.

6Cf. Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra (New York: Dover, 1992).

7Consider Ptolemy’s ‘Centiloquoy’, as well as certain indications given in very opening lines of his Almagest. Consider as well Plato, Laws, Book VII, 820e–822d, and Aristotle, Physics, 199a3–5; cf. Galileo, ‘Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina’. In this latter work, while defending his own approach, Galileo likens it to that of Copernicus, saying, ‘For Copernicus never discusses matters of religion or faith, nor does he use arguments that depend on any way upon the authority of sacred writings which he might have interpreted erroneously. He stands always upon physical conclusions pertaining to the celestial motions, and deals with them by astronomical and geometrical demonstrations, founded primarily upon sense experiences and very exact observations’. Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (trans. Stillman Drake; New York: Anchor Books, 1957), p. 179.

8In a very restricted sphere, consider William Whewell’s superb philosophic-scientific critique of atomic theory, which was not only never answered, but was indeed completely ignored and subsequently forgotten: Whewell, The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Book 1, Chapter 5 ‘Atomic Theory’, which can be accessed here. Truly, when one looks to Modernity in search of metaphysical justifications of science, one looks almost in vain. Better quarry is to be had, surprisingly or perhaps unsurprisingly, in Antiquity: Protagoras and Lucretius give much more satisfying foundational defences of science, than any modern scientist of whom I am aware. One might also consider Nietzsche’s ‘quanta of power’ in this light, though I for one tend to agree with Julius Evola here: Nietzsche, whenever he approaches a kind of materialistic or mechanical view of the world, is living beneath himself.

9To wit: nuclear weapons, environmental degradation, genetically modified super-diseases, the run-away growth of ‘artificial intelligence’ or ‘genetic engineering’, the imminent menace of some kind of world-gobbling ‘singularity’, the mechanization of human society and the work force, the mechanization of the human soul, the extreme psychological ramifications of our present ‘digital revolution’, or any number of other egregious and at present absolutely unpredictable developments resulting from some future ‘scientific progress’ etc. etc.

10See Aristotle, Physics, Book II §3 and Metaphysics, Book V §2.

11Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book II, Chapter VII, § 6; cf. De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum, Book III, Chapter IV.

12‘Inquiry into final causes is sterile, and, as a virgin consecrated to God, begets nothing.’ De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum, Book III, Chapter V. Needless to say, other and more contemporary thinkers have followed the great proto-scientist along the path he indicated. To provide but a short sampling: ‘[E]xperience has shown that the mechanistic question leads to scientific knowledge whereas the teleological question does not’, Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, (Unwin paperbacks, 1946), p. 84. ‘There is no purpose revealed in the laws of nature’, Steven Weinberg, ‘Can Science Explain Everything?’ The New York Review of Books, 2001 https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/05/31/can-science-explain-everything-anything/ (accessed 2 November, 2018). ‘[M]eaning, morality and purpose … aren’t built into the architecture of the universe; they emerge as ways of talking about our human-scale environment’, Sean Carroll, The Big Picture (New York: Dutton, 2016), p. 389. ‘Purpose springs from our longing for permanence in an ever-changing universe. It is a reaction to the universe’s indifference to us’, Joseph Carter, ‘The Universe Doesn’t Care About Your Purpose’, The New York Times, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/opinion/the-universe-doesnt-care-about-your-purpose.html (accessed 2 November, 2018). Cf. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Book I, §14.

13See Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1896), Part III, §XI, ‘Of the probability of Chances’.

14For a decent introduction to this problem, see Rupert Sheldrake, ‘The Replicability Crisis in Science’, https://www.sheldrake.org/essays/the-replicability-crisis-in-science. For a variety of resources related to this problem, https://fabiusmaximus.com/2016/04/19/replication-crisis-in-science-95394/ is a good place to begin.

15I cannot urge my readers strongly enough to read through the entirety of the essay ‘When Form Ignored Darwin’, which I have translated, and which is available in Arktos Journal; this is one of the finest and most condensed refutations of Darwinistic evolution I have come across, and one which possesses as well the distinct and precious merit of suggesting viable alternatives to the same.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I believe that science, like the intellect, is useful as a tool to better understand reality. If instead it becomes a metaphysical entity endowed with absolute Truths, it inevitably degrades into scientism, one of the many diseases of the modern world.

    1. I agree entirely. Though I would add this further point, which seems to me a necessary corollary to what you have said: Science is a tool, but it is also a special kind of tool — a tool which produces tools; a tool capable of propagating its own power. It is for that reason one of the most powerful tools available to man. Any tool in irresponsible hands can be misused; the greater damage a given tool is capable of performing, the more we are liable to set restrictions on its use, and to attempt to establish situations in which only fit and responsible persons can employ it. Anyone may use a butter knife, be he child or man, but we understand that pocket knives, for instance, should be permitted to a man only when he has reached a certain age. At the extremity, no one under the sun would sanely propose granting every single human being his own personal atomic bomb. Science, then, as the greatest tool, the tool with the greatest potential for harm, should be relegated exclusively to use of the most responsible human beings, the wisest human beings – all the moreso since science is, as you rightly say, a ‘tool to better understand reality’.

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The comment section of Arktos Journal will be regulated by standards consonant to the principles of the project itself. Our general rules are as follows:

  • Comments will not be moderated on the basis of the opinions expressed (controversy is welcome), but rather on their quality.
  • Contributors are requested to obey the rules of civility, without which all discourse is null, and to avoid crude personal attacks. Wit is welcome, but argument, and not insult, will be the expected means of refutation.
  • Obscenities, vulgarity and slurs will not be tolerated.
  • Contributors are invited to check their contributions for general grammatical correctness (allowances will obviously be made for second-language speakers) and logical cohesiveness.

As a general guideline, all contributors should imagine that they are speaking their minds aloud in a public space, unhindered by political correctness but bound to the older standards of honour and decency in speech.

All decisions of the moderators are final.

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