The scientific revolution represents a pivotal moment in human history. While the term science essentially originates from a Latin term that means “knowledge”, what science would ultimately ask is this “what is truth?” Whether or not it was realized, this was precisely what the minds of the scientific revolution were asking. What presented itself as a uniform method of measurement in regards to physical realities became a measure of what truth is, and how it is defined. The scientific revolution, riding the wave of humanism of the Renaissance, stands boldly forth and points toward a world of ultimate truth and clearly defined laws. In time Sir Isaac Newton’s mechanics would measure the world of human existence. Life itself would be reduced to a formula; testable and repeatable. The mysteries of the universe were within the grasp of humankind. The riddle nearly solved.
Certainly all things pointed favorably to such a conclusion in those early days of scientism. Newton, as mentioned, had given the world the laws of motion. Darwin coming along a couple of centuries later would give the world a mechanical means to explain living diversity. The world must have appeared to thinking minds of that time like a puzzle with only a few pieces missing. Within a few decades surely even those pieces would be filled in by science; the bright and shining star of the modern era. The material progress of science only helped to bolster such conclusions. The efficiency it produced, the amazing wonders it performed! Science was magical. Men were born into an era where what they imagined as impossible became mundane by the time of their demise. Utopia within our reach – Eden ours to conquer.
Yet while humanity looked forward with such hope and lofty aspirations, it failed to look behind to the carnage in its wake. The brilliant efficiency of the industrial revolution was borne on the back of immense human suffering in the ghettos of the common laborers in Europe. The amazing speculations of Darwin, led to the arrogance of genocide and social narcissism; the will to power. Imperialism spread European humanism globally, yet these efforts at civilization ran red with the blood of those who were marginalized by it. Rather than a humanistic utopia, what humankind created was a version of gehenna smoldering with the burning remains of our collective soul. Where was the promise of science? Where was the confident surety? Further examination caused Newton’s mechanics to unravel. Quantum mechanics sounded like scientific sarcasm. Perhaps the Creator’s practical joke on His arrogant children. The mystery loomed larger than ever – the gaping abyss before mankind. The mystery remained, yet the hopeful soul of mankind had been long abandoned. Birthed from this era was a disgruntled humanism. A skepticism born of abject failure. Believe nothing.
Perhaps the abject failure of scientism in regards to human morality and spirituality (the blame for which was ironically laid at the feet of religion), was based in part on its immature desire to amputate itself from the human experience that gave birth to it. Science in some ways has become the prodigal son and religion the patient father. With premature arrogance the scientific revolution renounced the ignorance of religious mystery in favor of the sure thing of rationalism. Yet like the delinquent son of parable, it soon found itself indulging in the dregs of moral failure. A failure from which society has yet to recover.
Will the scientific community “come to itself” – awaken? There is hope. Science is nearly spiritual these days. While fields like biology hold doggedly to material naturalism, others fields seem to have the naivety to speak with nearly childlike boldness. Mysterious fields like quantum physics and consciousness theory are saying things out loud that sound strangely close to forgotten ways of looking at the world. What is old is new again. Yet there is a chasm between these two worlds, ancient and modern, created by centuries of willful disconnection on the part of science. Science at times seems to be rediscovering truth without realizing that it is doing so. Perhaps the prodigal has begun its journey home. One would pray it is so; what glories await its homecoming…