Traditional church buildings are emptying at an accelerated rate in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. Yet that same pandemic has seemingly caused an explosion of worshippers at the church of science. Science is the new religion, a false god to whom we must pay homage, following its every dictate.
The idea that science is our new religion has been percolating for a while. Author Karl Giberson noted over a decade ago in Salon that science “has the raw material for a new religion,” reallocating trust in God to trust in science:
We have a creation myth, ethical directives and a meaningful place for humankind within the grand scheme of things. These are the ingredients that ‘constructive theologians’ like Gordon Kaufman of Harvard Divinity School tell us are common to all religions. As a bonus, we have science to guide us into truth and assure us that we can find solutions to our problems. (Emphasis added.)
One need only look at the reverence and deference accorded to scientists, experts, and even their wildly fluctuating decrees during the COVID pandemic to see how this religion has taken root in our society.
Even in the midst of this moral shift, the average person’s ability to understand the tenets of their new religion is limited, thanks to the American education system. This makes the scientific religion more like a cult, and its followers blind lemmings. This is clearly demonstrated by the most recent science scores from The Nation’s Report Card.
As the chart below shows, only about third of eighth graders are proficient in science. Roughly the same percentage of them score below basic. Those abysmal numbers only get worse as students prepare to leave high school. Only 22 percent of high school seniors register as proficient, while 41 percent score below basic.
It is intriguing that science—of all subjects—is an area in which so many students struggle. Science is the discipline that we as an enlightened community are supposed to rely on. Science is the arena from which we draw those experts telling us what we should do or believe. Science is the field that has become almost a religion in recent years.
But if science is truly our society’s new religion, then today’s children should know their religion’s tenets, and even have an intimate relationship with that religion’s god in order to properly practice the faith and worship the divine being. These test results show the opposite, namely that children are poorly equipped in both their knowledge of and relationship with science and are naively heading into the world with this meager knowledge.
Furthermore, it is always implied that we can have faith in science and the experts who practice it. But if children do not know science for themselves, how can they make sure these experts are leading them in the right way, or even interpreting the data correctly? Such a situation infers that science has truly become a faith—but a decidedly blind one for many.
Perhaps, then, science isn’t so much a religion as it is a cult. It has all the trappings of religion, but it keeps its adherents in the dark, telling them not to question, not to learn more on their own, not to debate the different theories and facets of science, but to trust those who are running the show. And perhaps this is exactly where the experts and our government want us.
What we must recognize is that science, while incredibly helpful, is like any other human theory or practice—flawed and bound to fail at some point in time. The same goes for the “experts” who promote that same science. If we fail to acknowledge this, we willingly gulp the Kool-Aid and set ourselves up to be pawns controlled by the cult of science.
Beware the Kool-Aid. Seek the truth. And question the cult of science.
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.