Scientism and the Health Crisis in the Modern World

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From Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine: “For quite some time, freedom of thought has been under siege within the medical profession. More often than not, the war against new ideas is justified in the name of science. When a discipline like science becomes so certain of itself that it believes it can manage without periodic reexamination of its basic principles, it starts to resemble a doctrine. The more doctrinaire it is, the less receptive to outside input it becomes, and the more it balks at challenges to its authority. In the final analysis, medical science justifies its assertions simply by virtue of the claim that it is science. As a consequence, medicine has become intolerant of freethinking and is quickly 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 highly debatable point that philosophers of science have wrangled 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 matter but says nothing about the immaterial—that aspect of our lives that involves purpose, meaning, spirit, and soul. It treats emotion, intuition, imagination, and even psychology as ancillary topics. As far as neuroscience is concerned, consciousness exists only as a byproduct of brain anatomy and function.

Modern science has become increasingly imperialistic, overstepping its bounds and staking claim to basic truths that historically have been the exclusive province of religion, theology, and metaphysics. The message is clear: The only reality is the hard, cold reality of material existence. All else is unscientific, insignificant, and of little relevance to human health.

Modern life is defined largely by the tangible, quantifiable reality that science has mapped out for our convenience, drained of all its symbolic, synchronistic, and spiritual meaning. Our form of medicine is also a reflection of that same influence. Human illness has become a strictly physical event. There is no purpose to suffering; it is merely an inconvenience, a glitch in the biological program that needs to be overridden. By severing consciousness from disease, science believes that 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 amiss. Physical medicine is incapable of adequately addressing the deeper causes of illness and the needs of the psyche. We collectively buy into the legitimacy of 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. The 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 purported unreliability of subjective experience is one of the primary tenets of the scientific method. Science has been waging war against subjective experience for a very long time, and it has taken its toll on Western culture. In the same way that organized religion makes us hesitant to trust personal spiritual truths, medical science has undermined our confidence to make healthcare choices that are in our own best interests.

. . . Western culture has become dangerously alienated from its own spiritual roots. Into this vacuum steps science, functioning as a substitute for religion for many, providing a sense of hope and meaning in an otherwise impersonal and materially impermanent universe. When science fulfills this need, however, it is in danger of becoming just another competing dogma. When science becomes an ideology, it is no longer science; it is scientism.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “The rational theories of medicine take precedence over the experimental truths of patients.”

    “Personal experience should not need validation from science to justify itself.”

    I quibble with these two points.

    To me the phrases are not really conveying an attitude of allowing an individual to freely choose the choice to like science and rationalism and dogma. If we put “free choice” at the pinnacle of what makes individual wellbeing then even if we think that choice that another human feels guided within to make is an insane choice it is still a “free choice”. ALL “free choices” are harmless in the main. The only time a choice moves beyond being harmless is when the thinking mind decides to outwardly act in a spree of bad behaviour that bullies others. I would no longer call that just a “free choice” but something more like an ill outward act of violence.

    But a “free choice” in and of itself, when hurting nobody, is not bullying.

    Bullying is like a virus coming from other factors and it infiltrates even nice choices and insists everyone must follow only those choices. The insistence on ANY ONE WAY or CHOICE being the ONLY approved choice is an insistance that comes from the sickness beneath endemic bullying.

    ALL creatures are EQUAL.

    This means that all humans make choices that are equal. There is no judge but the tyranical hypercritical bullying mind. It says that there are ONLY set choices or right choices. And if you do not chant those choices you are some kind of demon. That in itself is a ill way to behave towards other humans and any creatures. An “xyz way is the only way” credo is why humans are still warring.

    Any person on this planet has a basic human right to loathe science and loathe rationalism FOR THEMSELVES.

    NO person has the right to tell other people that they should not love science and rationalism. Or that they are doing science all wrong.

    A person is free to choose to love crappy science, or bogus science, or superior science, or any church of science they prefer. Just as a person is free to choose to be a mormon or a catholic or an evangelical christian. It is not up to you and you and you and you to tell other free people where and how and why they should like or believe something or no longer like or believe something. A belief is a support to an individual’s wellbeing, no matter how bizarre or primitive we find that belief. If science were a garland on the chest of a tribesman who are you to ridicule it?

    By all means do point out bullying. But bullying is not the thing itself. It is not science nir religion nor politics but bullying is a virus that can use ANY paradigm as its host. Even the paradigm of holistic healing. And in fact I have never met so many bullies than at a holistic convention, because this idea of wholeness is increasingly used by bullies to designate whether an individual has achieved a kind of “purity” or “cleanness” of being. An unsullied “saved” status. As if being well in ONLY a holistic way or ONLY a spiritual way is the ONLY free choice all humans HAVE TO make.

    What is freedom? A person is not free if they cannot destroy themselves with a reckless choice of their choosing. This impulse humans have, to keep nannying of other peoples choices is the ONLY BAD CHOICE that needs stopped.

    If someone wants to do science as a career respect that choice. It makes them feel well. The world need more well people. That means leaving people entirely free to make stupid choices. Now THAT is being HOLISTIC, responding the bits of Gaia that need to do their own thing. Just as a kidney cell cannot be a liver cell. They are difference living in harmony. Wholeness is about accepting difference.

    Why I have gone on about rationslism in the past comments I have made…click on my name to see those….is because the virus of bullying mostly borrows rationalism. Bullying does so as a mode of making the act of oppressing your whimsical free choices sound intellectually impressive and logically necessary. But this does not mean that rationalism or intellect or logic are in and of themselves “the things that bully”. Rationalism and intellect and logic and medicine and science are blessings. But as “choices” they may not be some particular person’s personal cup of tea. That should be respected. It is bullying, so endemic in all areas of society, that makes that respect for anyone’s harmless “free choice” a thing of the past.

  2. “Science has been waging war against subjective experience for a very long time, and it has taken its toll on Western culture. In the same way that organized religion makes us hesitant to trust personal spiritual truths….” I agree these usurpations of one’s subjective experiences – by the medical industry and/or the religions – is inappropriate human behavior.

    Although I will say my family had a really nice – and serendipitous – experience with a doctor a couple years ago. My mom was getting hip surgery and we were talking to the anesthesiologist, prior to the surgery.

    My mom wears a sweatshirt that says “I’m the grammarian about whom your mother forewarned you.” And she is a stickler for grammatical errors and typos. Nonetheless, she was complaining about all the grammatical errors and typos in the hospital’s vast paperwork. The anesthesiologist agreed, and we all were laughing and joking about it.

    But then we got told to stop chatting and move along, because she had to get to her surgery. So my mother started singing, “Get me to the surgery on time!” to the tune of “Get me to the church on time.”

    The anesthesiologist had bought his wife fabulous seats for “My Fair Lady” – which is a play about bad grammar/speech – but his wife didn’t like that gift. (“Get me to the church on time” is a song from “My Fair Lady,” by the way.)

    That anesthesiologist recognized the serendipity of the whole situation, and offered to give us his tickets to “My Fair Lady.” I was glad to meet a doctor who recognized, and appreciated serendipity.

    But because of COVID the show was put off until this past weekend. We finally had a really nice time at the show, with tickets given to us by a doctor who acknowledged and appreciated serendipity. So it’s not all doctors who disbelieve in serendipity, but it is a systemic problem of our medical – especially the “mental health” – industries when it comes to their disbelief in serendipity and spirituality. And I can say that, as one who was misdiagnosed by a Holy Spirit blaspheming psychologist, according to my medical records.

    “When science becomes an ideology, it is no longer science; it is scientism.” When a group of people call their list of scientifically “invalid” billing codes a “bible” – as the DSM “bible” thumpers do – I’m pretty certain that is evidence that it is an ideology, thus scientism.

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