The problem, I’m told, with being a hammer is that everything looks like a nail. To the surgeon, the cure must always involve surgery; the insurance salesman has but one solution – more insurance. To the successful scientist, everything belongs in a test tube.
Is science the platform by which we should evaluate every aspect of existence? Science is a tool, and a useful one at that, but still just a tool. Many tools are useful, but no one tool can be used in every situation – we need a complete toolbox. Many scientists would have us believe that their field of study is the Swiss Army Knife of worldview tools; that every possible task and every possible situation can be evaluated with that one tool. But we know better.
The wooden, lifeless approach of science works fine for some matters. But the matters of our inner life, our yearnings, and our eternal importance cannot be evaluated with their tool, no matter how many pliers, blades, or toothpicks it has. We need more than their one tool in our toolbox in order to uncover the mysteries of life.
Why does a rose smell sweet? Science would tell us it is due to the make-up of the petals or some such nonsense. That is not why, it is how. It does nothing to give us the reason for the matter but only provides the mechanics of the matter. That is not a satisfying explanation and our inner self testifies to the fact that there is more to life’s questions than science’s wooden answer.
Science needs a reality check – it does very little to explain anything. While science uses some scientific sounding words to describe almost anything under the sun, really very little can be explained by science. Described, yes; Explained, no. An explanation, you see, is much more than overlaying scientific words onto a mechanic process. We must demand more.
Freudians and political radicals, along with a great many people who would see themselves as neither, are aware that without reason we are sunk, but that reason, even so, is not in the end what is most fundamental about us. Richard Dawkins claims with grandiloquent folly that religious faith dispenses with reason altogether, which wasn’t true even of the dim-witted authoritarian clerics who knocked me around at grammar school. Without reason, we perish; but reason does not go all the way down. It is not wall to wall. Even Richard Dawkins lives more by faith than by reason. There are even those uncharitable observers who have detected the mildest whiff of obsessive irrationalism in his zealous campaign for secular rationality. His anti-religious zeal makes the Gran Inquisitor look like a soggy liberal.
There are big questions science doesn’t answer, such as why is there something rather than nothing? There can’t be a scientific answer to that because it’s the answer that precedes science. There are all sorts of questions like that which at the periphery of scientific inquiry but which wiggle in the mind like worms: the question “what am I, what is this word ‘I’”? Does it refer to anything? If you try to capture the “I”, you don’t capture it, you capture the object, in which case it’s a nothing, but it’s a nothing on which everything depends. But this nothing on which everything depends thinks of itself as free. This is a philosophical question that worries everyone, but you can’t formulate it.