Posts tagged ‘Scientism’

“Facts” and “Values”

“What the Natural Sciences Do Not Explain”

The underlying assumption of our public discourse today is that facts and values are radically distinct. “The plane crashed” is a statement of fact, and therefore “real.” Crash evidence is tangible. Nobody can argue with debris. On the other hand, “Don’t kill the disabled” is a statement of value. It’s an expression of opinion and sentiment—so the logic goes—and therefore not “real” or “true” in the same solid sense. For example, the importance of protecting disabled persons is an admirable and widely shared view; surely that’s obvious. But some people might disagree. Some people might argue quite sincerely that disabled persons are a waste of precious resources, and we’d be better off without them. Some people did argue that way in Germany in the last century, with great effect.

Of course, for most of us, murdering the disabled, starving the poor, or deliberately targeting innocent civilians in war is an appalling idea; a crime against humanity. But apparently sucking the brains out of unborn children, or trading in their body parts, is not so appalling. It may even be “good,” because we already do it. We not only do it, but we also build a fortress of pious-sounding chatter about reproductive rights to surround and bless it.

This is the kind of obscenity that comes from reducing a nation’s politics to a clash of allegedly equal values. What it masks is a transfer of power from proven traditions of moral wisdom to whoever can best lobby the media, the courts, Congress, and the White House. It’s the reason [the philosopher Alasdair] MacIntyre warned that today’s barbarians “are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”

“Facts” and “values” and darkness at noon, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput


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Modernity, Scientism, and the ‘Sexual Revolution’

[O]ur current crisis is fundamentally metaphysical in nature. Modernity is a grand project of negation: the very order of being – as classically understood – has been shunned for theories that emphasize right praxis in time; history has become the lens through which things are assigned value. Fulfillment “lies in front of us, not above us,” and whoever speaks of eternal metaphysical truths is branded a reactionary.

. . .

[Augusto Del Noce] regards the “eclipse of authority” characteristic of our age as the greatest reversal ever to have befallen humanity. Authority, at root, means to make something grow, but today it’s understood mainly as a form of repression – indeed as something that impedes growth. The wholesale spurning of authority has only ushered in a mad dash for power – a dreadful substitution.

. . .

We moderns are allowed only one source of real knowledge – science – and so the void caused by the ban on metaphysics has been filled with a scientism. Del Noce asserts that such scientism is based upon hatred for religious transcendence. Intrinsically totalitarian, scientism is “an unproven radical negation of traditional values” and so must rely upon subjugating the will of its adversaries (since it cannot prevail by reason), and upon confining them in “moral ghettos.”

And scientism’s “point of arrival,” he explains at length, is none other than the sexual revolution. To cut a long story short, here’s how you know if you are on the wrong side of history: it’s no longer a question of class warfare (bourgeoisie versus proletariat) but whether or not you are prepared to wage war upon sexual “repression.” History is the judge, Marx once said, and the proletariat its executioner. That role has now shifted to progressives urging the “repressed of the world” to unite.

The social institution most culpable of transmitting repressive morality is, of course, the traditional monogamous family, and as Del Noce notices, “sexual liberation is not desired per se, but rather as a tool to break down the family.”

. . .

A century ago both Mussolini and Gramsci spoke of “socialism as the ‘religion destined to kill Christianity’.” But it later became apparent that total revolution could only be achieved if Marxist revolution became sexual revolution. Or as the Surrealists recognized: “the decisive battle against Christianity could be fought only at the level of the sexual revolution.” In sum, the “erotic offensive” amounts to a “campaign of de-Christianization.”

Del Noce wouldn’t be shocked with the onset of the transgender phenomenon and the current mania for “self identifying” as something other – anything other (gender, race, species) – than what one is. It’s all part of what he saw as the secularization of Gnosticism (rather than of Christianity), whereby it is the self that creates, and freedom consists of negating “the given.” Add a touch of the Hegelian “elimination of the Divine image” and voila: you get the quest for liberation through the disintegration of every form of order, what he called the “great refusal” of 1968.

Given his diagnosis, it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t put much stock in political solutions to the real dangers we are facing.

Modernity as Metaphysical Collapse


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