Bertrand Russell, an atheist and one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, once questioned the ethical values of believers, inasmuch as they believe in a deity who “would consider himself adequately rewarded by the final emergence of Hitler, Stalin, and the Hydrogen Bomb.”
I once pointed out that Russel’s aforementioned jab at believers, ironically enough came back and bit him on the neck: (a) Hitler was a Darwinist par excellence (Darwinism, of course, is the bedrock foundation of all academic or “scientific” atheism). He wrote in Mein Kamph that unless the strong crush and eliminate the weak, no possible higher evolution of human beings could occur; adding that “only the born weakling can view this as cruel.” (b) Stalin was an atheist whose greatest achievement was mass murder on a scale that even surpassed Hitler, and (c) the aristocrats of the atheistic world are the Scientists….and it was Scientists who created the Hydrogen bomb! (We see from this that even “leading intellectuals” can say really dumb things)
As long as we are on the subject of dubious achievements of scientists…..
For those who lean towards secularism in the Western world, it is the Scientist who has taken over the role of the priest, clergyman, and medicine man. Men and women of Science are looked upon with a sort of awe and have been conferred with something akin to a demi-god status. They are the holders of hidden “mystical” knowledge and perform magical technological and medical feats.
The simple fact, of course, is that scientists are no different than anyone else. They are no less likely to succumb to temptation and human failing than are plumbers and taxi drivers. There are scientists who are extraordinarily ethical and of impeccable integrity (as are some plumbers and taxi drivers) and there are those who are petty, selfish, lustful, jealous, dishonest, and underhanded (as are some plumbers and taxi drivers). Scientists have to worry about job security, paying their bills, wanting to be recognized for their accomplishments, marital issues, and every other challenge that plumbers and taxi drivers face. For those who actually believe that scientists – homo scientistus – exist on a higher, exalted plane than the rest of us poor, lowly homo sapiens, here is a sampling of a few recent articles:
- “Why Most Published Research Findings are False” – PloS Medicine, August 2005
- “Is Most Published [scientific] Research Really False?” – Annual Review of Statistics and Its Application, 9/23/16
- “Is there a Reproducibility Crisis?” – Nature 5/23/16 – “More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientists experiments and more than half have failed to reproduce their own “
- “Modelling Science Trustworthiness under publish or perish pressure” – Royal Society Open Science 11/1/2017
- Biologist Gunter Blobel, in a news conference given just after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1999, said that the main problem one encounters in one’s research is “when your grants and papers are rejected because some stupid reviewer rejected them for dogmatic adherence to old ideas.” According to the New York Times, these comments “drew thunderous applause from the hundreds of sympathetic colleagues and younger scientists in the auditorium.” – NYT, 10/12/99
- And finally, world renowned evolutionary paleontologist Niles Eldredge: “Many scientists really do seem to believe they have a special access to the truth. They call press conferences to trumpet marvelous new discoveries. They compete hard for awards and prizes. And they expect to be believed – by their peers and especially by the public at large. Throwing down scientific thunderbolts from Olympian heights, scientists come across as authoritarian truth givers whose word must be taken unquestioned. That all the evidence shows the behavior of scientists clearly to be no different from the ways in which other people behave is somehow overlooked in all this.” “In the competitive fray that is science, data forging, plagiarism, and all manner of base but utterly human failings make a mockery of the counter image of detached objectivity.”
- ETC. ETC. ETC.
It goes much deeper than that. The truth is that when compared to the truly important issues of life, Science is really nothing more than a trivial side-show. Allow me to illustrate.
Imagine we were able to meet with the greatest scientific/engineering/medical minds alive today and ask them the following question: “Advances in science and technology, particularly in the world of medicine, have improved, benefited, and saved countless numbers of lives. Why exactly though is a human life worth saving to begin with and what are we living for in the first place?” The only honest reply: “Why are you asking me that question? I’m a scientist not a philosopher.” Despite the fact that in his/her role as a scientist there is no possible response, the question still demands an answer and has cosmic implications.
If the question is answered one way you end up with passionately dedicated top-notch scientists and doctors who might very well give up prestige and lucrative careers in order to heal the sick and raise up those who live in primitive and impoverished conditions.
If you answer the question in a different way you end up with top-notch scientists and doctors who devote themselves to building terrifying – but technologically marvelous – weapons of destruction, killing off the weak and unfit members of society, and performing grotesque experiments on human guinea pigs (as was done in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan) in order to increase their medical expertise.
Imagine you could live in a society which would never advance past an 18th century level of technology and medicine, but it is a society which answers the question the first way; or you can live in a society that has cutting edge 21st century technology and medicine but answers the question the second way. Which do you choose? The answer of course is obvious. It seems that Science isn’t really that important, is it?
It also seems that many Scientists have a rather arrogant habit of assuming that their scientific credentials confer upon them the expertise and wisdom to hold court on fundamental questions of human existence:
- “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless” Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winning physicist (In all honesty, what do you think of a man who devotes his entire life to understanding something which he himself believes is pointless?)
- “So you’re made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?” Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist, narrator of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
- “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.“ Stephen Hawking, world renowned physicist (If Dr. Tyson and Dr. Hawking are nothing more than “detritus” and “chemical scum” why not just dump both of them over a cliff into a pile of garbage? No worries – after all the universe will continue to live within both of them….and within the rest of the garbage that surrounds them! Quite a noble thought, eh?)
- “When a man contemplates the meaning and value of life he is sick; because objectively neither has any existence.” Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry (what he really needed was a good psychiatrist)
These pontifications are classic illustrations of the principle stated by Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman: “When even the greatest scientist talks about things that are outside of his area of expertise, he is just as dumb as the next guy.”
If we human beings are to truly create the type of noble, enlightened, and moral world of which we all dream, we are going to need quite a bit more than just Science and Scientists. In order to keep things in their proper perspective perhaps we should pass a law that requires every press conference held by scientists to announce their marvelous new discoveries to be preceded by the following announcement: And now ladies and gentlemen we present an important message….from the people who brought you the Hydrogen Bomb!
Rabbi Moshe Averick is the author of The Confused World of Modern Atheism (Mosaica Press, 2016) available on Amazon and in fine bookstores and TheBookDepository.com. He was ordained as an Orthodox Rabbi in 1980 and has taught Judaic studies, spirituality, and Jewish theology for close to four decades. He may be contacted at: RabbiMosheDavidAverick@gmail.com. If you would like to subscribe to his column, send an email to above address with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.