The old joke says a guy was wearing garlic-scented wristbands. When his friend asked why he wore something so stinky, he replied that it was to repel vampires. His friend laughed and said it was a myth about garlic keeping vampires away. Our man swept his garlic-laden arms in an arc and asked, “Do you see any vampires around?”
The difference between science and scientism is not in the premise that garlic may repel vampires, but in the way we test it. In this case, a scientist might gather a few vampires in one place, introduce garlic into the environment, and record results. Whether the hypothesis is proven or not, the researcher would need to repeat the process enough times to rule out extraneous factors that might have influenced the outcome. Only then would he be entitled to claim an evidence-based (i.e., scientific) conclusion.
Astrophysicist Brad Taylor was interviewed for the March 1 issue of the Canberra (Australia) Times. His first quoted words were that there is now a scientific consensus on the existence of extraterrestrial life. It is a question not of if but of when we will discover we are not alone in the universe, to paraphrase him. My question would be, “What is your evidence? Do you assume that because we have found planets of roughly such size and of such distance from their suns that they resemble Earth, it is inevitable life will be found on them?” This inevitability obtains only if evolution is a reality; so far it is only a theory beloved by those who need there to be no God holding them accountable for the way they treat Him and one another. Since we do not know what might cause life to ignite – if it is not a loving and intentional God – there can be no other reason for the confident consensus of Taylor and his colleagues.
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To be clear, we do know the building blocks of life. We know a number of them exist on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. That is not identifying the igniter. I stand by my statement.
The certainty of extraterrestrial life is not the only example of the religion of scientism outshouting authentic science. Take the mania to medicate children with Attention Deficit (Hyperactive) Disorder, known as AD(H)D. The dogma of scientism is that this is an affliction; we must bring wandering attention and poor impulse control into line with conventional social expectations. Real science knows the medications we use do not enhance and likely inhibit academic and creative activity. The only known benefit is that most who receive them become less annoying to parents and teachers. But what do we lose in exchange?
History is shot through with famous contributors to civilization who coped with and compensated for their AD(H)D – learning to manage instead of inhibit it. Creative geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and Mozart would have been suppressed and their contributions lost or diminished if we could have medicated them. American presidents Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy would have been less than God made them, without the added challenge of ADD. Winston Churchill – heart and soul of World War II Britain – and inventors Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell would have had their imaginations and will to persevere domesticated. Cultural icons Walt Disney and John Lennon would have been tamed, not to mention film stars like Steve McQueen and Will Smith, and athletes like Olympian Michael Phelps, football’s Terry Bradshaw and baseball’s Pete Rose.
Corporation founders David Needleman (Jet Blue) and Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines) say their ADD literally enabled their creativity and vision. Yet Pete Rose claims his ADD fueled his gambling addiction as much as it enabled him to become the all-time hits leader for Major League Baseball. The reality is that ADD is not a disease, nor is it a disability. It is an alternative way of processing information and motivating human behavior. It carries gifts and challenges – both of which need to be channeled with effort and determination. Applying a little science – rather than leaping to suppress the condition before it is understood – helps too.
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There is a cost when scientism trumps science. In the case of AD(H)D the cost is the suppression of personality in millions of irresponsibly diagnosed and medicated children – mostly little boys. Studies are beginning to emerge indicating that allowing children to engage in limited high-risk behavior is what allows them to learn good and creative decision-making. If so, the cost of medicating them is the inhibition of this human essential.
The blessing – of science over scientism – would be a few more like Walt Disney, Michael Phelps and Richard Branson. And no vampires.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.