Scientific Hope

The more I think about Scientific Dinosaurs, the more I believe that we are Science Worshipers. I think one way of demonstrating this is by asking the question, “Where do we place our hope?”

Hope is another of those basic words for which we never bother to carve out a definition, because everyone knows what it means. Never misunderstood – never defined.

If I had to pin down hope to a single phrase, it would run along the lines of the question, “What will take us away from badness and towards goodness?” I think this is the essence of hope. The thing that we believe will take us away from the bad and towards the good – that is the thing on which we place our hope.

We hope for something good. What will take us there?

(I use here the words ‘badness’ and ‘goodness’ because they are non specific, but also because they are the simplest possible words I can use.)

Test this idea out against the voices of the day – really!

“Statistical analysis will take us away from badness and towards goodness. If we get better data we will have better insight and we’ll be able to craft a solution to our problem.”

“Better education will solve social problem X. If we can tackle ignorance from dogmatism we can move from badness to goodness.”

“Eliminating this disease will take us further away from badness and closer to goodness. We are certain Science will eventually provide a cure, hopefully within our lifetimes.”

In western society, there’s a prevailing attitude that Science brings better things – it is a source of hope. So… is it a good one? Tricky question, because very often it’s not the question we think it is.

As a source of hope, Science doesn’t fail when it is unable to cure a disease.
It fails when it does cure the disease and yet the badness in life remains.

The tricky bit is that the issue of goodness and badness is always hidden in assumption.

Science Worshiper: “Look, Science has cured this disease (…and made things better)

Very often,  Science  does cure the disease. But the real battleground is over badness. And it turns out, it’s not so easy to demonstrate that Science has any ability whatsoever to deliver us from the badness in life.

[Am I really hinting that I don't believe the curing of a disease is necessarily a good thing? Yes, yes I am.]

We’ll pay a million dollars for a set of dinosaur bones, because, when it comes down to it, you don’t bite the hand that gives you hope of an escape from badness. And if that hand is Science, and Science likes bones…

Hallelujah bones!

Am I being a little harsh? You tell me.

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4 Responses to Scientific Hope

  1. Amba Sewa says:

    Curing disease is good when it acts as an agent of grace, to extend life. Extending a life extends opportunity to choose good. I think our human default should err in that direction.

  2. happy_moron says:

    You’re absolutely right – the best evidence of the innate badness of a disease is that everyone wants to get rid of it ;-) Healing is perhaps the most powerful statement about the good nature of God, come to earth.

    “I don’t know, all I know is that I was blind, and now I see.”

    The parable of the wheat and tares springs to mind for me. The master acknowledges the badness sown by his enemy.

    Nonetheless, the action he chooses is to leave it – for a time. The confusing thing is, that this man’s actions are, by definition, good.

    Is disease bad? Yes!
    Should it be eradicated? Yes!

    Is the curing of a disease necessarily a good thing? No.
    If our search to cure a disease will prove a delusional source of false hope, better to sit on our hands.

  3. Lila says:

    In all this talk about the benefits of living long, my thoughts went immediately to Hezekiah, the king. I’d always considered him to be a hero of the faith–what a tremendous time of prayer and consequent victory in 2 Kings 19! And then in the next chapter, he becomes ill, but he is granted 15 more years of life–what a mistake: they seem to have baen 15 years to destroy most of the good things he had done!

  4. happy_moron says:

    Great point! The text that really struck me was in Ephesians –

    Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. — Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

    Here is a tension – the strain between worldly oppression and the opportunity we have been given to do good things.

    If we are motivated by compassion to bring care to someone in suffering that is only a good thing, but if we are driven by a false hope, then we rob ourselves of a level of compassion that will always be out of our reach.

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