Science Does Not Explain Everything

 ◊  Saint Gaucherius, pray for us

Bill Nye does science well, but not philosophy. He along with another famous scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, portray science much like a religion. (How ironic…)

Bp. Robert Baron responds:

…But the very success of the sciences invites the distortion of scientism, an epistemological imperialism which consigns extra-scientific forms of rationality to the intellectual ash-heap. And what an impoverishment this produces! …

The physical sciences can reveal the chemical composition of ink and paper, but they cannot, even in principle, tell us anything about the meaning of Moby Dick or The Wasteland. Biology might inform us regarding the process by which nerves stimulate muscles in order to produce human action, but it could never tell us anything about whether a human act is morally right or wrong. Optics might disclose how light and color are processed by the eye, but it cannot possibly tell us what makes the Sistine Chapel Ceiling beautiful. Speculative astrophysics might tell us truths about the unfolding of the universe from the singularity of the Big Bang, but it cannot say a word about why there is something rather than nothing or how contingent being relates to non-contingent being. How desperately sad if questions regarding truth, morality, beauty, and existence quaexistence are dismissed as irrational or pre-scientific.

— Bp. Robert Baron, “Bill Nye is Not the Philosophy Guy”, April 5, 2016

It reminds of something I posted a few years ago. I think it’s influenced by CS Lewis.

Take four objects: a baseball, a basketball, a bat, a hoop.

Now form two pairs.

There are two ways to pair these objects. One way is by shape or external properties: baseball and basketball in first pair, and then bat and hoop. The other way is by function: the baseball with the bat, and the basketball with the hoop.

Take another group of words: religion, technology, science, magic.

[Note the two senses of the word magic. There is magic as in magic tricks, which is an entertainment through illusion that attempts to deceive or misdirect the senses in believing something that is not real. And there is magic as in magic spells and potions (i.e. alchemy), which are attempts to manipulate things and people. It is this second sense of magic that is implied.]

Many people will group religion and magic together against science and technology. Maybe it is because of our modern culture and the media’s use of the terms “science and technology.” Maybe it is because of a presumption of science’s ability to solve problems and its use in developing technology. Maybe it is due to the demotion of magic to illusion or fantasy and the unprovableness of religion. This is how Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson would group these words.

But from a functional point of view, magic and technology go together because they are both forms of control—-controlling our environment, controlling nature, controlling objects, controlling people. The modern person sees technology this way, but they forget that was the exact same reason people in the “old” days looked toward magic and alchemy. Magic was a technology to attempt control over their environment.

And that functionally links science with religion. Both are forms of knowing. Science can answer the questions of how and what. Religion answers the questions of why and for what purpose. The knowledge of “how” changes and becomes more precise with further exploration—-theories change. The knowledge of “why” seems to have remained persistent throughout the history of humankind.