In today's society the left-wing intelligentsia, the environmentalists and the Darwinists are the modern equivalent of the Gnostics, the priestly millenarian caste whose higher knowledge of perfect truths puts them on to a superior plane from the rest of humanity: us lesser mortals who have to be exhorted to change our ways in order to be saved from blood-curdling apocalyptic scenarios — war and social disorder, floods, famine and pestilence, genocidal slaughter perpetrated (only) by religious fanatics but never by atheists (the many millions who perished under Stalin or Mao are brushed aside).
The environmentalists, for example, possess through their scientific credentials sole access to the truth that the planet is being destroyed. They preach that the Earth has been sinned against by capitalism, consumerism, the West, science, technology, mankind. Only when these are purged and materialism in all its aspects rejected will the Earth be saved and the innate harmony of the world restored.
In a similar vein, Richard Dawkins asserts from his position as chief Gnostic of the natural sciences that all must comply with his pronouncements on pain of being excommunicated from the realm of rationality. By redeeming its original sin of religious belief mankind can create an unbelievers' paradise, an anti-Eden, with no war, bigotry, persecution, tyranny, violence — indeed, no ills apparently of any kind. Gehinnom replaced by John Lennon heaven. Imagine!
And the religion that gives us John Lennon heaven is materialism — which has led atheist scientists to morph from science into scientism.
"Scientism" is the belief that there is a material explanation for everything in the Universe and beyond. Of course, there are — and always have been — many scientists who are also religious believers and see no conflict in these two parallel spheres of science and religion. Indeed, they think that each informs and deepens the other. By contrast, scientism holds that there is no place for religious faith at all because everything has an empirical explanation. Thus Oxford chemistry professor Peter Atkins has claimed: "There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence."
But there are clearly many aspects of existence which lie beyond the province of science — love, appreciation of beauty, belief in right and wrong. Only dogmatism gives rise to the belief that there is no such thing as understanding aesthetic phenomena. Nevertheless, such dogmatism is precisely what is on display amongst scientists for whom science defines the world.
Since they don't accept that there can possibly be any questions science can't answer, the fact that it cannot answer such questions only proves that they should not be asked at all. The fact that science can't answer questions of ultimate purpose proves that there is no such thing as any ultimate purpose. The fact that science cannot prove the existence of God merely proves that God does not exist.
Yet as the theoretical particle physicist Stephen Barr observed, "materialism" is not actually science at all but a school of philosophy defined by the belief that nothing exists except matter. And this was also a "passionately held ideology" — with a purpose.
"Its adherents", he said, "see science as having a mission that goes beyond the mere investigation of nature or the discovery of physical laws. That mission is to free mankind from superstition in all its forms, and especially in the form of religious belief."
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