I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
Science is a sacred cow. People tend to get real punchy when you blaspheme a sacred cow.
However, in the name of what is called good science an objective lens might be helpful to see if this sacred cow is worth revering. Scientific thought and its applications should be able to hold up to some scrutiny when put under the microscope, yet the empirical evidence clearly shows our industry-driven approach to science is doing something very different than the uncontaminated version the likes of which Neil DeGrasse Tyson promotes on late night talk shows.
A big picture critique is being ignored by the mainstream press, which too often acts as nothing more than a paid cheerleader of most anything science and tech related. Primarily being ignored are the implications of Big Science in the context of humanity’s current struggle with the centralization of social power along with ecological consequences that employ scientific thinking to reinforce a system of dominance. Our chosen technologies have branching socioeconomic implications that largely go unconsidered when the masses are only sold the sizzle of science and technology.
The overall enthusiasm drummed up around science and tech is something of a spectacle and overall is mainly unquestioned. People hear about new products, promising research, and the notion of relying on peer review and regulatory agencies as seeming pragmatic guardians of our safety, yet the majority doesn’t understand certain motivations behind the scenes — for research to be framed a certain way, or the power dynamics that influence what is considered the truth de jour.
Consider how conclusions predictably match up to existing models that most often coincide with the way existing power wishes it to be. Some don’t see, or don’t wish to see, the revolving door through regulatory agencies and corporations that legitimizes their research. They don’t see the multitude of critiques posed by scientists themselves around the flaws in peer review (just type the words “broken” and “peer review” into a search engine) and why this gold standard of consensus isn’t anywhere as trustworthy as we are led to believe by the mainstream press. Also, due to the entrenched power structures it’s unlikely that peer review will be legitimately fixed ever.
Just like the capitalist utopian dream of a “free market” somehow convinces people it operates independently of the influence of leverage to wield power over others while posturing as a democratic financial voice of the people operating fluidly and uncontrolled; so too does science offer a utopian narrative, which sells the dream of the power of human curiosity and invention. It portends the notion there’s a bunch of freewheeling creative geniuses out there dreaming up new technologies, where the best ideas naturally come to the surface. Yet, there is no real democracy around what receives funding for research and there are few scientists that have much autonomy. Most are just working a job and taking orders from superiors like regular capitalist workers while trying to compete for advancement.
What we call science operates in a matrix of a strict social hierarchy, which oftentimes resembles aspects of irrational cults and organized religions. This cultish framework has the propensity, and we argue the likelihood, of slipping into scientism, which is the excessive overarching belief which assumes that science is the best and only way to solve all the world’s social, ecological, and economic ills.
What Are We Sciencing For, Anyways?
This thing called science is lauded by our culture as a pathway to seeing ultimate truth, but what is the truth about science? We’re told to automatically trust science, and follow this vast constellation of processes, concepts, and industrial practices, in order to reap the gains of progress and a supposedly advancing socioeconomic order.
At the forefront, we have to question what is the raison d’être of the industry of modern science? What was the real motivation behind this method of thought and industry called “science.” What are we doing with the information science gleans, who is steering this ship, and where?
Further, when two or more parties are officially doing “science,” deemed as such by an authority in power and come to different conclusions, then who is the gatekeeper that says one is false and the other true? A scientific purist might say the answer to that question is empirical evidence, examining the methods and employed logic, and developing some sort of consensus, but as we will explain here in this series of essays, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all in the real world when it comes to anything but very minor discrepancies.
Rather, scientific research has inherent self-imposed blinders which limit its ability to self-criticize and regulate how and why certain information useful to capitalist industrial production gets prioritized, while other data is thrown out. It appears modern science, with its reductive lens and industry-driven approach to discovery and research, has avoided asking itself core questions about how it can help the human race and the biosphere on which all life depends.
Since the application of science is almost entirely delivered under a for-profit system that tends to operate under and creates dependency on centralized sources of power, then is it not fair to say that the greater majority of science operates more like an industry, which is used at the behest of the powerful, rather than a system that is innocently fascinated with making discoveries for the good of all?
When taking a look at science from a critical standpoint instead of an ingratiating one, the salient question upfront is: Exactly how much evidence do we need to prove that this industrial scientism is not what it pretends to be and cannot be trusted? If there is no way to assemble enough evidence to prove it’s causing more harm than good in application, then, in practice, isn’t anything “proven” by science itself viewed as an unfalsifiable premise? Do the ends justify the means to get there, and if not, what should be done about it?
Science as we know it today also faces another glaring defect. It doesn’t see life as sacred or question how its methods impact life systems. Rather, the whole of it is intrusive and destructive on a global-super industrial scale. We are often led to believe that through science we have become more productive, more efficient. Yet much of the work and damage to the living world that allows for these technologies to come about is hidden in the background.
This is a world built on exploitation of people and natural resources, which forces the less powerful to perform desired functions for the people at the top. It’s not a secret, or an illogical zany idea, rather it’s just what’s been happening in human civilizations based on hierarchy and competitive domination.
A military general responsible for nuclear weapons and ICBMs relies on science just as much as the pharmacist who prescribes an antibiotic. We’d argue that the military actually relies on “science” even more so than any other group, as the capabilities needed to maintain such a system are incredibly vast; while many low-tech solutions are possible for the average doctor, healer, herbalist, or network of hospitals or health centers that focus on holistic care.
It should be noted we aren’t against anyone, or pointing a finger at any one person or group. This writing is to help understand what science really is as part of the system within global capitalism; i.e., our modern-day Ponzi/pyramid scheme we call “the economy.” That’s not an insult, just the manner in which it operates. The people at the bottom do a lot of work and buy in that it’s going to work out for them someday, and the people at the top walk away with the bulk of all the proceeds knowing that they profited off of other people’s imposed desperation. The science being used isn’t freeing us, or making us wiser, rather it’s driving hard towards maintaining the status quo.
If there was a truthful film, with a truthful scientist, they’d be warning us that science itself is going to do us in; and the faster that science “progresses” the sooner our planet’s sixth mass extinction reaches a fever pitch for our species and the biosphere. Science has the power to take the bad ideas of people who see themselves as fit to rule over others and gives them the ability to amplify those ideas on a massive scale.
In the end science isn’t truth, it’s information through a particular lens that can be helpful to solve some problems, but it’s no universal cure all and if solely relied upon will ignore and even mock the values that matter most. Like the importance of trust installed within local communities, or the value of human connection, or being competent stewards who don’t leave the world worse than they found it.
A Dash of Cynicism Under the Reign of Unbridled Scientific Optimism
We did not begin as cynics to scientism, quite the opposite. We were once devotees of the cult. Only after time and seeing how the entire socioeconomic system operates and observing the consistent lines of thought that have persisted through western civilization did doubts emerge.
At first negative info was disregarded as a few bad apples. That view seemed to slowly dissolve though once more context was added. From a god-lens perspective, viewing the trajectory of western culture and where its values are, what it invests in, and the consistent outcomes of the culture, which is a pattern of gross inequality present in every society that employs a centralized hierarchy, it seems increasingly unlikely that science is just a benevolent force of curiosity and progress.
Further when considering the current socio-economic system, general patterns of opportunism that have long been present in this hyper-competitive way of living emerge; at that point ideas of dissent could no longer be ignored and a new depressing reality began to set in regarding our friend scientism: This thing called science isn’t what we thought.
It should be noted in our research for this piece that what we found were similar threads also indicating there are valid reasons for concern about the entire scientific realm of thought. As was noted in this journal that the problems with science aren’t just limited to a few cases but is more applicable to the whole:
A popular view propagated by the media and by many scientists sees fraudsters as just a ‘few bad apples.’ This pristine image of science is based on the theory that the scientific community is guided by norms including disinterestedness and organized skepticism, which are incompatible with misconduct. Increasing evidence, however, suggests that known frauds are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, and that many cases are never discovered. The debate, therefore, has moved on to defining the forms, causes and frequency of scientific misconduct.
Also, reading reports coming from people in the industry time and again about how contrived so much of scientific research has been by simply creating experimentation designed to get specific results in order to get regulatory stamps of approval, or the many issues with peer review… and a bigger picture begins to set in, that science is no bubble-world immune from the foibles of business practices or being forced to bend to the will of a governmental body of hierarchies which is ultimately where science derives its legitimacy.
Science is also part of the same system that does very violent things with technology that are difficult to justify under any pretense. Considering it’s difficult to refute that science and technology are directly complicit to the agendas of an aggressive global neoliberal kleptocracy then perhaps it’s time to seriously question what is going on here and who this technology is actually serving.
But again, not so long ago we too were cheerleading scientism as a cure all. We also dabbled in nerdism with visions of a sci-fi Star Trek like utopia warping us into a resource-plentiful future where science and reason ruled with beneficent equanimity. We used to scoff when someone referred to science as having aspects of a religion or even a cult and directed people to read the good holy books of science so they could be properly informed of their heathen ways.
We’d speak to the great accomplishments of science, how it was the ultimate truth, the only verifiable truth worth considering and all understanding could be gained through scientific examination. Not to mention the noble vaunted clergy and messiahs, Einstein, Galileo, De Cartes, Bacon, Darwin, Newton…
Blessed be the saints.
We thought it was undeniable that anyone could say that these scientific minds were not doing great things and that a real world utopia full of endless scientific progress could save us; a utopian state we’re curiously always waiting on just right around the corner. Maybe a new iPhone will revive our faith, or the next iteration of particle colliders.
Whatever the hell benefit they are ever supposed to provide to the common person, we know not, but they sure look impressive.
But what does it do? Good question: many claim there are high tech applications that might enhance this shining beacon of equality that is our neoliberal global economy, however, are we going to discover the secret of world peace through the process of smashing particles together? Unlikely.
Questions have to be asked about the priorities of humans doing such things. It seems like if equal amounts of effort were put forth into creating sustainable decentralized intentional communities, then maybe many of the problems we’re facing would become less severe. Instead we find value in unraveling “the mysteries of the universe” when we can’t even unravel the mysteries of what makes us so supremely selfish and arrogant. We tend to prioritize activities like particle-smashing as being more important than taking care of each other or nature.
And what about this awesomely massive radio telescope in China:
Apparently they had to displace 8,000 people and kill a whole lot of nature to get it built, but screw ’em. Sacrifice is needed for this cult, pulsars need-a-studyin’ – so get out of the way world, some sciencin’ needs to happen for…the good of all? Just imagine all the people we can feed from studying, umm, pulsars? We’ll go with that, sure.
Oh, and let’s not forget they’re also searching for ET. I’m sure other alien life forms are in a big hurry to chat us up; the psychos pointing nuclear missiles at each other want to make intergalactic friends. I bet they can’t wait to fire up their rocket scooters to come on over here and hang out with technocratic nerd psychotics who are full of themselves.
Or are the powers that be just so paranoid that some potential unknown external threat may be plotting to nick their pile of Bitcoin? Who can say. Who really cares when priorities are so conspicuously misplaced. The systems that currently hold power do seem to have childish reckless ambitions. Best guess as to their motivations is that they see something that can be gained by these activities, where one area of profit is interconnected with other markets of potential exploitation.
Science has a bad habit of reducing everything to a mechanical object, which acts like a self-imposed limitation to understanding the whole of what it seeks to understand. Mechanized thinking is function-based thinking. Where science applies its own narratives defining what it believes the function of things are and all bent around existing theories where outlying evidence is commonly discarded or somehow awkwardly shoved into the existing theory if necessary so that it can put on airs of near omniscience to the outside world.
Under the banner of scientific progress they’ll rationalize torturing millions of animals through testing and cutting down large swaths of nature to make products that benefit a tiny subsection of one species on Earth, primarily humans in first world countries who wield enormous socioeconomic power, and they spuriously do it all because they want to help others so much and are acting out of good faith, but the truth seems to be they are chasing profits. Not just profit, they want massive excess.
There’s Big Money behind Big Science. While the science and tech industry itself is completely dependent upon global capitalism spinning at full speed in order to operate using the line of technological thinking presently employed.
All this science and technology seems to have a karmic price attached to it all. An array of Faustian bargains made to catalyze the science. Priorities have shifted that don’t seem at all democratic in the name of performative research, running through hoops and checking off boxes in the name of corporate control and regulatory capture.
Healthy skepticism has been replaced with a fawning intellectual obedience to anyone with a PhD next to their name who has been sanctified as official clergy by what is thought of as a reputable source of power.
There’s also a tyranny of thought that has emerged where the average person is no longer qualified to have their own ideas, they are simply expected to defer to an expert class. Only certain people with certain credentials licensed by the state can now have valid ideas, and that expert class in the sciences has become so revered they are beyond reproach in some cases. This runs directly counter to the notion of truth being truth; rather truth is only truth if it’s proclaimed truth by certain gatekeepers of truth.
The dreadful cocksureness that is characteristic of scientists in bulk is not only quite foreign to the spirit of true science, it is not even justified by a superficial view.
— Anthony Standen, Science is a Sacred Cow, p. 31
Join Us Again on an Exploration of the Real
We’ve only begun to refute the status of divination for this sacred cow called scientism, so there will be sequels to this piece that go into a more detailed explanation of the systemic flaws. There’s much more to understand about what industrial science is really doing and its undeniable ties to militaristic and financial imperialism.
In closing, the film MindWalk is an excellent sojourn into questioning our values related to science; so we’ll leave you with a couple of quotes from the film with encouragement to check out the full movie here.
“Scientism is any rational belief in the truth of science.
It’s become a religion today.
It’s not a good religion, but it is a dominating religion.”
“…scientists hand over THEIR responsibility to those who are paying them.”