Scientism—a Fable

Once there was a tribe of people who worshipped the Sun. The Sun kept them warm and gave His light for the beans to grow. They watched the sun and the moon and the stars, and one day came a Shaman who listened carefully to what they had learned and did a good deal of watching himself. He was able to tell the people, “tomorrow, the sun will disappear from the sky, and it will be dark in the middle of the day.” And the people said, “Oooh!” And the Shaman was able to say, “Plant your beans next time the moon is full, and the Sun will protect them from Frost,” And the people said, “Ahh!” 

And so the people came to listen to the Shaman and do whatever the Shaman said to do. And they prospered.

Not many years elapsed before the Shaman died, and the Son of the Shaman commanded all the reverence of his father before him. They listened to the Son, even when he was less wise. When the spring rains would not come, they prayed to the Sun, but it was the Son who said, “bring me the choicest meats from your next hunt.” They brought him the freshest, tenderest meat that they had, but still the rain clouds stayed away. The people danced their Sun dance, but it was the Son who said, “these meats were not tender enough, and the Sun is insulted.” So the men went out for the hunt, and killed a young fawn, and brought its tenderest flesh to the Son. And still it did not rain, and the Son said, “bring me your virgin daughters.” And the people were frightened, and they did as he said. And again. And when, at length, the skies cracked open and flooded the earth, the Son said, “the Sun has rewarded you because you obeyed me.”

And the Son and the Sons of the Son ruled over the tribe. Whenever the people became a little less obedient to the Sons, they would say, “Be afraid. Be very afraid. Remember the drought! Remember the Monster who swallowed the Sun! You must obey me, and I will protect you from the wrath of the Monster.” 

And the people prospered for a thousand years, and became less afraid. The people felt secure enough that some of them began to talk. They talked about what they saw and heard, and they debated using logic. When they had different ideas, they would argue, but they were able to resolve their differences using the common language of experience and logic, and when they agreed, Those who Argued were right much more often than they were wrong. 

And so they were able to build bright fires that opened the darkness of night and engines that lightened the burden of work. And the people said, “Oooh!” And they built roads and aqueducts and stretched wires across the land and the people were delighted that they could talk to one another, though they were far away. And the people said, “Ahh!”. When they asked, “How do you know to do this?” Those who Argued answered, “It is called science.”

And so the people came to listen to Those who Argued and do whatever science said to do. And they prospered as never before.

But the Son of the Son of the Son remained among them. He looked upon the lights and the bridges and the telephones and he exacted a toll from the people each time that they used the products of science. The Son of the Son of the Son became the Gatekeeper who prospered more than any of the rest, and still he was not satisfied. Mr Gatekeeper looked on Those who Argued, and he was jealous that His rightful place had been usurped.

To restore his authority, Mr Gatekeeper told the people there was a New Monster that threatened them. But the people turned to Those who Argued, and science told them not to be afraid. Years passed, and the Gatekeeper created a real monster, a New New Monster, and again the people were afraid, but they turned to Those who Argued, and science was able to deliver them from the Monster’s jaws. Again and again, Mr Gatekeeper was able to make people afraid, but he was not able to keep them afraid. And so it continued until the year of the New New New Monster.

“You must obey me, and I will protect you from the wrath of the New New New Monster!” said Mr Gatekeeper. The people were afraid, and they asked science to save them. But when they turned to Those who Argued, the Gatekeeper said, “I am Science. Riki-Tiki-Science. Look and be afraid!”

Those who argued continued to argue, but Mr Gatekeeper said they must stop arguing. They must listen to Science. This was very confusing to Those who Argued, so they began to argue what to do about it. Meanwhile, Mr Gatekeeper was not confused at all. 

“Shut up,” he explained. 

“I am Science. Riki-Tiki-Science. Look and be afraid!”

To be continued…

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