‘Science cannot explain everything in human life’
I would like to comment on “The poverty of the mind in the 21st century” (2/21/19) by Edwin de Leon and to point out its flaws and inconsistencies.
The article criticizes religion as “the ideological dead end,” a “mentality enslaved by a medieval fantasy”; De Leon also describes it as “delusional,” and encourages people to get out of this “brain rut.”
The commentary invites the reader to do some critical thinking and not give in to this “confluence of ignorance, religiosity and an absolutist mindset.”
When we make claims about something, we usually base our claims on some assumptions.
So when we claim that “the sun rises in the east,” we assume that the object that gives us heat and light in the sky is the sun, and that there is an agreed-upon direction on earth that is called the east.
And so when the author claims that religion is a brain rut and that “we are governed by the laws of physics and natural selection,” he is making these claims based on an ideology which is his set of assumptions.
This ideology is called scientism. It is the outlook that thinks that only science can give us valid and true knowledge and anything else, especially religion, is not valid and true and must be rejected.
I would invite the author to practice for himself his recommendation of being a critical thinker, and think a little bit about the limits and flaws of scientism.
Science itself is a limited kind of knowledge. By nature and method, it limits itself to the observable, the measurable and the repeatable by experiment.
Moreover, to progress in its study, it has to construct abstract objects (points, lines, planes, coordinates, atoms, pi mesons, etc.) just to be able to understand nature. Science attempts to explain everything it can about nature, but it cannot explain absolutely everything there is in human life.
I invite the author to study the history of science. He will discover that men of faith were the great scientists who promoted the development of modern science. We can recall Einstein’s dictum, “God does not play dice.”
Religion did not hinder science, it fostered science. It is now a recognized pattern of history that modern science developed only in the matrix of Christianity.
De Leon claims that the theory of evolution “has reached the status of fact.” This is a bold claim that I have not read in truly serious scientific journals. Scientists are very careful to say that something is a scientific fact, because before a theory or hypothesis can be established as a fact, there must be sufficient empirical evidence, agreement among all the scientists and many experiments repeated under very rigorous conditions and protocols that yield identical results.
There are two inherent difficulties with the theory of evolution: The fossil evidence is not complete and consistent, and experiments will require millions of years to carry out.
De Leon claims we are governed by laws of physics that are “blind and purposeless” and we are just “creating meaning where there is none.”
I just wish to point out the inconsistency of those statements. Laws of physics are patterns discovered by the mind when we observe nature, and they are expressed in mathematical equations. It is nature that has those patterns.
The mind does not invent them, it sees them. Patterns imply order. Laws are a reflection of that order. Order means there are relations of things to an end. And so, the laws of physics are not blind and purposeless; they give light to our minds to see and understand nature. The mind does not create meaning; we discover it.
It is quite ironic that De Leon ends by talking about “leaving a great legacy to our community” and “living our only life to the fullest.”
He is talking about giving a meaning to our lives. So there must be meaning, after all.
FR. CECILIO MAGSINO,
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