‘Science’: the Great Idol

Modern man has answered life's big questions with things

We moderns hear a lot about miracles. Modern medicine is a miracle, we’re told. Landing rovers on Mars, or on distant asteroids, requires a miraculous degree of technological sophistication. Marvels—miracles’ kid brothers—are a dime a dozen in 2023. Video phones, space telescopes, ChatGPT. Wow. Aren’t we human beings special. Miraculous, even.

But what’s the backstory to these tales of wonder? What is the spirit behind modern miracles?

The inventor of Twitter grew a long, grizzly beard, developed a detached gaze, pierced his nose, and retired from public life like Hindus of old. Trade his tie-dyed t-shirt for a woolen cloak and you have a would-be stand-in for Elijah.

Only there’s no deity at work in any of this. Modern miracle workers worship themselves. The thaumaturges of our age are self-referential in the extreme. The workers of signs among us, when they aren’t reproducing their images by the billion across cyberspace, call on the power of humanity writ large.

But how un-divine we appear when we begin to use our humanity to justify the miraculous. So, the greatest of the non-believing miracle men today vow to work miracles on the cut-rate stuff of humanity itself. And the trick to this is science. Science will make man new. Science will make man immortal.

Fellow NOR blogger Richard Dell’Orfano wrote this to me on the subject: “We couldn’t believe in biblical miracles (Thomas Jefferson stripped them from his own bible) or in Christ’s resurrection, so we scientists—and we’re all, to some degree, science-addled secularists now—desperately had to find ways to heal the sick (prosthetic limbs) and resurrect the dead (ER resuscitation), proving ourselves the true miracle workers. Now we can believe that we are gods, knowing the difference between good and evil.”

How true. And if we have questions, or worse, doubts, we ask the online oracles we invented. (Our God-hating government first coined the term “Oracle” (see here) to describe mass data storage. It is striking, isn’t it, that the sociopaths are always the furthest ahead of the curve.)

“Existing on the fruits of science,” Dell’Orfano continues, “we are gods destined to live forever in a paradise we create on Earth.”

But how did we get from man to gods so easily? Wasn’t it a little too simple to make the leap? It seems to me that we missed a step. Yes, that’s it. To become gods, we had to demote the Devil. In debunking God we relegated the Ancient Enemy to an old wives’ tale. Much the better for him, who always did prefer to work under the cover of darkness. Now he runs amok in our world, and in our minds, all while we run interference for him and insist, as he ravages us, that he doesn’t exist.

To get a sense of how deeply the Ancient Enemy has penetrated the modern psyche, and of how successful the Devil has been at coopting the secularism of which we are so proud, consider the phenomenon, a growing groundswell it appears, of people who claim to be satanists but who don’t believe in Satan. Recent news reports about “SatanCon” conferences in the United States feature interviews with lost souls who argue that their Baphomet worship, pentagram hexing, and upside-down crucifix stoles are just for show, and that they really don’t think that Satan or any other spiritual being is real.

Sure, SatanCons are filled with “unbaptisms,” wherein people who sure as heck look like Satan worshippers to me perform twisted rituals to break the seal of baptism in the soul. And, yes, SatanCons feature people tearing the pages out of Holy Bibles, and other people wearing rainbow-colored goat horns. But it’s all make believe, participants say. What they really believe in is human rights (except for unborn babies, of course). Satan? That’s as silly as God, they blaspheme– but in true politically correct style, for even blasphemy for secularists is clipped of its metaphysical thorns. In the tyranny of Nice, Perverse America, 2023, hating God and worshipping Satan are just performative. Everyone consents. Nobody is harmed.

The guardrails to all this is science. Plenty of science. Follow the science, the satanists say. The science is settled, they dogmatically proclaim. Science is the light of the world, they snarl, cribbing from a source which, in their midnighted minds, they probably don’t recognize.

Isn’t this ecumenical? Devil worshippers in our time love the wonders that secularists work. Satanists these days believe in those kinds of miracles too. We moderns really have been making progress.

And yet the slower among us are not so sure. Is the convergence of satanism, science, and secular modernism an ecumenical triumph, or a seriously troubling sign of things to come? Secular humanism has taken the idols of the past, deracinated them, and made them into idols of its own. Science pulled cloud-thundering Zeus out of the heavens and made him into a dazzle of frissons among electrons and air molecules. There are no deities. Science explains it all. Well, fine. But in yanking Zeus off Mt. Olympus, did we not install Science atop Mt. Materialism? Is there anything Zeus could do that Science can’t do better?

In other words, our Science has become the mother (excuse me: birthing parent) of all idolatry, a comfortable illusion, a way to get around the hard theological questions while preserving the social peace and achieving tactical victory over one’s religious opponents.

Satanists may now say that the Lucifer stuff is all an elaborate joke, but that hardly proves much beyond their own gullibility. It certainly doesn’t prove that Lucifer isn’t real or highly interested in seeing his latest deception succeed. Thus, and to put it more concretely, regardless of the poses via which satanists attempt to escape from the dark realities of their purported play-acting, Satan has taken the Satan out of satanism and rebranded it as po-mo camp. And the Science-minded love it. Satan dressed up as an anti-paganist, a debunker of Zeus, only to put a new and much bigger fake god, Science, up where the old pantheon used to loll about above the clouds.

Dell’Orfano writes again to help me make sense of what is going on: “Anxious to know our real purpose for being here on Earth, in our spiritual deprivations we resort to inventing wondrous devices and gadgets that secure and sate our human need for purpose and pleasure. We’ve made a deal with Satan, replacing our ancient tarnished magic lamp of Scripture for shiny new ones that need no prayers.”

Yes, yes. We have answered life’s big questions with things, we moderns. We have responded to mystery with matter. Our miracles are just what this sad coupling has produced.

Shiny new magic lamps… I have one of those in my pocket. It glows like a cold rectangular sun, and throws information into the world like sterilized seeds. Is it magic, or is it the end of mankind?

I try asking the big questions of life of the robotic sommelier to information pantheism who comes with my little magic lamp, but she doesn’t give me a straight answer. And why should she? Her artificial intelligence has no programming for overcoming the original sin that crept in when we designed her system. Without a moral compass, she could just as easily decide that the user of her services, me, should disappear. In fact, more and more AI seem to be hinting at that.

Science has no need of the human hypothesis. Zeus and we were co-dependent, at least. Science can just off us without batting an eye.

But the circle closes, even so. When I see AI telling us that it’s going to kill us all, I shudder, but not without a tiny smile of appreciation at the irony of it. We get just what we deserve. We made ourselves gods, and then our creations killed us, just as we did to God.

Should have listened in Sunday School, but we were on our cell phones instead.

 

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.

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