Scientism and the health crisis in the modern world
Of Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine“For some time, freedom of thought has been under siege within the medical profession. More often than not, the war on new ideas is justified in the name of science. When a discipline like science becomes so sure of itself that it believes it can dispense with periodic re-examination of its basic principles, it begins to resemble a doctrine. The more doctrinaire he is, the less receptive he becomes to external input and the more reluctant he is to challenge his authority. In the final analysis, medical science justifies its claims simply by asserting that it is science. As a result, medicine has become intolerant of free thought and is rapidly falling behind the curve of new paradigm medical theory and practice.
. . . The modern myth of scientific progress posits that science inevitably evolves toward greater precision, certainty, and understanding. We take it for granted that contemporary science provides a more accurate representation of reality than does the science of bygone eras. But this is a very debatable point that philosophers of science have argued over for decades. It is true only in the sense that it applies in a specific and limited way to the material dimension of existence. Science focuses its attention on the material but says nothing about the immaterial – that aspect of our life which involves purpose, meaning, spirit and soul. He treats emotion, intuition, imagination and even psychology as secondary subjects. As far as neuroscience is concerned, consciousness only exists as a by-product of the anatomy and functioning of the brain.
Modern science has become increasingly imperialistic, overstepping its bounds and claiming fundamental truths that historically have been the exclusive domain of religion, theology and metaphysics. The message is clear: the only reality is the hard, cold reality of material existence. Everything else is unscientific, insignificant and of little relevance to human health.
Modern life is defined in large part by the tangible, quantifiable reality that science has mapped out for our convenience, stripped of all symbolic, synchronic, and spiritual significance. Our form of medicine also reflects this same influence. Human disease has become a strictly physical event. There is no purpose to suffering; it is simply an inconvenience, a problem in the biological program which must be circumvented. By separating consciousness from disease, science believes it has purged the program of superstition.
When we open our eyes to compare our personal health-related experiences with what medicine teaches us, we begin to realize that something is wrong. Physical medicine is unable to adequately address the root causes of disease and the needs of the psyche. We collectively buy legitimacy from the external authority of science and medicine, no longer believing our own personal experiences. Medical science is quick to point out that subjective experience cannot be trusted. Rational theories of medicine take precedence over the experiential truths of patients.
I believe that this conflict between scientific knowledge and personal experience is the crisis of our time. The alleged unreliability of subjective experience is one of the main tenets of the scientific method. Science has waged a war on subjective experience for a very long time, and it has wreaked havoc on Western culture. In the same way that organized religion makes us reluctant to trust personal spiritual truths, medical science has undermined our confidence to make health care choices that are in our own best interests.
. . . Western culture has strayed dangerously far from its own spiritual roots. In this void enters science, functioning as a substitute for religion for many, providing a sense of hope and meaning in an otherwise impersonal and materially impermanent universe. However, when science meets this need, it risks becoming another competing dogma. When science becomes an ideology, it is no longer science; it is scientism.