Our “Exquisitively Stupid Cleverness”

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Science Fun,
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The ‘real’ world that is portrayed by positivist science has quantities but no qualities, and is without significance. Quantities are objective characteristics which can be measured, weighed, or counted. These are not matters of opinion. But qualities can be debated: a person coming in from a snowstorm into a sixty degree room might say ‘it feels warm’, while a person coming out of a sauna into the very same room might say ‘it feels cold’. Subjective qualities impart meaning and color and significance to our experience, but meaning disintegrates in a world where everything — even our thoughts, emotions, inspirations, etc. — are believed to be nothing more than measurable quantities.

Yet no one has ever experienced such a world. We experience ourselves as emotional beings living within a colorful, fragrant, sensual Nature, and we experience purposefulness everywhere. Our arms, for instance, do not rise up due to mere laws of mechanics: we raise them deliberately because we desire to take hold of something. A sharp division between consciousness and the physical world has no support in these fundamental observations, and a rigid obsession with such distinctions only serves to distort the truth of our actual experience.

Nonetheless, science can find no purpose intrinsic to nature. It only finds formulas of succession: this event causes the next event. By themselves, none of these formulas offer any reason for their own existence. Why should material objects attract each other with a force of gravity proportional to their mass? Why should light travel at a speed of 186,000 miles per second and not some other speed? There is nothing inherently necessary or rational about these natural laws. If these mechanical laws and formulas of succession do exist for a reason, if they do testify to any sort of importance or meaning, this cannot be disclosed by a science which simply gathers the data.

Knowledge reduced to mere objective data, devoid of understanding and wisdom, leads to what Douglas Sloan has called “our exquisitely stupid cleverness”. Our technological knowledge is indeed exquisitely clever, but rarely is it put to the service of human dignity or conscience since we presume that statements of ‘conscience’ do not carry the same weight as statements of ‘scientific fact’. This leaves us with very little motivation for considering the consequences of our actions on humanity, life, or creation in general. The scientific imperative, ‘if it can be done it must be done’, replaces any moral imperative, as well as most common sense. Our cleverness remains exquisite, but put almost exclusively to the service of vulgar consumerism and endless war, it indeed becomes ‘stupid’.