Science As Rationalization And Ultimate Religion
By Sascha Vongehr |
The main observation here is that rationalization on the social level is rationalization on the personal level performed by macro-systems (social systems from our point of view). Scientism is the ultimate religion. Calling this a dangerous anti-science position is natural and expected at this point in evolution.
Every adaptive system has what can be called a perception apparatus and information processing structures and so forth. Science is part of the perception/thinking of social systems. All perception has its “blind spot”. Perception is ignorant of everything except for a tiny slice that it evolved to select and focus attention on. Thinking is there to interpret in a certain evolved way. Humans, being parts as well as environment of social systems, cannot grasp the perceived world of social systems, let alone map out their blind spots. Scientists are especially suspect when it comes to judging the blind spots of science.
We witness science evolving. Evolution is not development toward something better, somehow improved, but the mere fact of systems and their environment coevolving in a “red-queen race” that moves nowhere (except if there are entirely novel ingredients to the general theory of evolution, especially Global Suicide). Complexity is produced, but there is no monotone development of any other parameter.
So Science evolves. What can we expect?
Science in its beginnings can fruitfully compare with primate perception and thinking in its beginnings. Starting to be able to think systematically is helpful to single animals as well as groups. So is communication of threats, language helping to organize foraging and all that. What developed out of these beginnings is far removed from what one could have naively expected: A rational agent knowing itself. Such has an evolutionary disadvantage; it does not procreate efficiently.
Instead, language culminated soon in “holy books”. Human thinking is almost entirely rationalization of irrational and largely unconscious processes. Many scientists believe that science is the very means around this problem, but evolution does not stop to act on the biological level. Science itself is part of the perception and “thinking” of social systems, and absent any fundamentally new ingredient against usual development, these beginnings of social rationality must be expected to develop into the rationalization of irrationality of those systems.
Science is highly biased by establishment dogma, confirmation bias, publishing bias, and other specific forms of biases. The scientific method is already on the level of the human scientists mainly rationalization of scientists’ belief systems. The history of science shows that the established consensus at any time is based on fundamentally false beliefs. Not news any of this, but what is news: This will likely become progressively worse rather than better, plainly because evolution generally works like this! You would not even exist if evolution were not evolution, and that means that perception/thinking turns into rationalization of the irrational quite generally.
Naïve scientism subscribes to the expectation that this vaguely defined thing called science is somewhat above all else and inherently good as long as it is good science, which is circular of course, like all good rationalization. Especially, the almost dogmatic belief inside science is that it throughout improves. It supposedly asymptotically closes in on the truth and also in ethical dimensions becomes better all the time. And this it will simply via science, like any proper religion, defining “good” and “truth” itself, namely scientifically. All this is consistent, circular, tautological, like all fundamental theory must be, so science should be expected to deliver exactly this, even by its most enthusiastic supporters.
Science today is shaped mainly by selection pressures that emerge on the social level. Scientists do not do science anymore, science does them. Science is now shaped by adaptation inside macro evolution and it has in this sense decoupled from human influence, while of course still be emergent inside the human substrate. Scientists, once a tiny number of the brightest individual humans, are now an army of ants that are selected by proper mechanisms, and the bias is not against left or right, male or female, religion or secularism. The bias is whatever it happens to be; think peacock feathers and spastic mating dances.
This is Religion?
Belief systems with totalitarian ambitions are often compared or identified with religions. All these start in well meaning beginnings, with Jesus and Buddha and Pythagoras and suchlike. After becoming a threat to whatever went before, they are persecuted, fed to wild animals in Rome or silenced like Galileo. When they become successful and share power, the persecution is still remembered, and so the Jesuits, like the skeptics movement, come to defend, never tired to point out how persecuted they are, how very important it is that others agree and support their efforts lest we want to be all burned alive again. Criticism is heresy. The dark ages thereby arrive. The religion starts to make us suffer and at the same time blinds us away from that truth, but even as you have your doubts, you fear: What if this is the best there is because all alternatives are worse? And what can I do? I will be alone, an outcast.
We escape into irrational hope: The catholic church will reform under the next pope, science and technology will turn us from stressed out cog-wheels chained to computers into modern bonobos roaming enlightened through bonobo paradise in just about a few years time. None of this can possibly ever happen, because such systems emerged via coevolution. They would die trying.
- Cults may not allow you to call them cults. Primitively oppressive countries may not allow you to talk about freedom.
- Usual religions allow you to call them religions, though they all push you to give them special status among other religions. Countries that are relatively free allow you to discuss the internal power structures and oppression.
- But there is another, more sinister level. Only those countries that are advanced and that have effectively removed most freedom work like this: You must explicitly call them "free", perhaps even “the land of the free” or even the defender of freedom in the whole world. If you do not, you are quietly removed from the discourse, labeled as an enemy of freedom.
Science is the most advanced and in a sense most dangerous religion of all. It has successfully done what no other religion achieved: You must pledge allegiance to science as the very opposite of religion or you will be removed from the discourse.
The true dark ages are upon us humans. These dark ages are the ones that will turn whatever remains of us into mere functioning parts of monsters. The old dark ages were primitive and a few could light their secret candles and thus discern some shadows. The new dark ages you cannot enlighten, because these dark ages are brightly lit. Blinded by lasers glued to our retinas, there is nothing you can hope to see but the light of science.
I put the victory of science into scientific terms rather than jubilant enthusiasm. Such is lamented as neo-luddism, which serves to prove the main point: not rationality, but rationalization of irrationality is our main role, not just inside our own heads. This must be kept in mind while entertaining future scenarios.
Rationalization (or rationalisation) is a term used in sociology to refer to a process in which an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition. Many sociologists regard it as a central aspect of modernity, manifested especially in Western society; as a behaviour of the capitalist market; of rational administration in the state and bureaucracy; of the extension of modern science; and of the expansion of modern technology. Many sociologists, critical theorists and contemporary philosophers have argued that rationalization, as falsely assumed progress, has a negative and dehumanizing effect on society, moving modernity away from the central tenets of enlightenment.The founders of sociology were acting as a critical reaction to rationalization:
In psychology and logic, rationalization (also known as making excuses) is an unconscious defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are logically justified and explained in a rational or logical manner in order to avoid any true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable-- or even admirable and superior-- by plausible means. Rationalization encourages irrational or unacceptable behavior, motives, or feelings and often involves ad hoc hypothesizing. This process ranges from fully conscious (e.g. to present an external defense against ridicule from others) to mostly subconscious (e.g. to create a block against internal feelings of guilt). People rationalize for various reasons. Rationalization may differentiate the original deterministic explanation of the behavior or feeling in question. Sometimes rationalization occurs when we think we know ourselves better than we do. It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.