Science worship: Dr. Fauci and Mrs. Eddy

by
June 20th, 2021

The magical mantra of our times, “It’s science,” echoes endlessly in the public arena these days. Both sides in the debate over climate change use it. Both sides in the fight over how to stem the coronavirus use it.

The phrase itself, absent a conclusive body of evidence, proves nothing. Yet it is indignantly invoked, and widely believed, as a discussion stopper by political partisans and their mass followers. Any dispute is assumed to be settled the minute the words are uttered.

I’m struck by how the suspension of disbelief that is often achieved in 2021 when the science card is played, parallels the overnight sensation achieved by Mary Baker Eddy’s announcement of a newly discovered science in the 1870s.

And I’d suggest that this mesmeric persuasive effect helps explain the tight hold of her teachings, experience to the contrary notwithstanding, upon generation after generation of followers for a century and half since then.

Science, when invoked by one side or the other in, say, an argument over Covid masks, doesn’t actually refer to lab experiments and research findings. It is simply a synonym for certainty—a trust-inducing label slapped by laymen on their preferred version of reality.

To say, “It’s science,” is to say, “It’s certain, proven, powerful, and useful: indisputably so, end of argument.” To slap the science label on something is to disallow disagreement or doubt, and in some degree to command compliance.

Attraction & Adhesion

A neat trick if one can pull it off. Because human beings, most of us anyway, tend to crave certainty. We dislike to dwell in doubt. We’re an easy mark, sad to say, for experts in white coats.

Now, hear me carefully on this. I’m not saying Mrs. Eddy’s earnest religious lifework was a trick. I’m not saying those who have followed her or still follow her are easy marks.

I’m merely saying that in labeling her system as a science—indeed, as Science itself—she brilliantly increased both the initial buy-in from inquirers and the ongoing stay-factor from adherents.

It’s a marketing coup. For as soon as one accepts the “It’s science” premise in regard to her system, the chances of one’s first coming aboard and then remaining aboard become much greater.

Wait, you say. Aren’t the healings Christian Science apparently accomplishes a big part of its attraction and adhesion? Of course they are.

But the many, many healings CS fails to accomplish are scarcely held against it all—because the pseudo-scientific “branding” has already warped the individual’s judgment with confirmation bias.

That is to say, welcome evidence is embraced while unwelcome evidence is ignored. The desired preconceived outcome is held to have been validated, experience to the contrary notwithstanding. After all: “It’s science.”

Gnostic Hubris

And there’s another dimension here we should ponder, a question of moral theology. The human craving for certainty and the human discomfort with doubt, responsible in different ways for the undue reliance placed upon both Dr. Fauci and Mrs. Eddy, are not to be evaded.

They are inescapable aspects of what the Bible calls our fallen condition, part of the chastisement God uses to call us back to him. They can be assuaged by faith, but can never appeased by science, i.e. total knowledge.

Total knowledge is one of mankind’s oldest temptations; the very oldest, if we start with the forbidden tree in Eden. It was surely a malign force in the early centuries after Jesus came, with its gnostic lies summoning forth Paul’s great refutation in Colossians.

Gnosticism has hung around ever since in different forms, both secular and spiritual—the latter finding mass appeal under the name of Christian Science.

“Now we see through a glass darkly… now I know in part,” writes Paul in I Corinthians 13. That’s our situation here and now, not to be magically swept away by science, but rather to be lived with (as he says at the close of that chapter) through God-given, Christ-mediated, Spirit-impelled faith, hope, and love.

To be sure, the verses I half-quoted just now, each have their second clause: “But then face to face… then shall I know even as I am known.” That heavenly fullness of knowing, however, is part of the not-yet which we must meekly and patiently await until Jesus returns.

It is to be gifted to us in the Lord’s good time, not grabbed for with our own gnostic hubris. Yet the grab goes on. Our civilization, ever since Newton’s time in the 1600s, and yet more since Darwin’s time in the 1800s, has been making science into a god.

It fell to Mrs. Eddy, Darwin’s contemporary, to flip the script—without at all rejecting it—and claim she had made God into Science.

We noted a moment ago that modernity defines science as knowledge made powerful and useful. Think about that.

The entirety of the Old and New Testaments is about how man can be made useful to God—agents of his purpose, adornments of his glory. Whereas the worship of science, whether in spiritual or secular guise, inverts this by seeking to make God useful to us.

Unsearchable

Isn’t that the exact aim of CS? And isn’t it an affront to his sovereignty, his holiness, his grace?

Humankind is far along toward fatal captivity in the total-knowledge trap. Christian Science and Christian Scientists, well-intentioned as they may be, cannot be part of the solution since they are part of the problem.

The solution is in the humility expressed by St. Paul, ex-Pharisee, apostle of Jesus crucified and risen, messenger of the mystery of the Cross, towering intellect of the Greco-Roman world, when he marveled, “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33).

The devotees of Dr. Fauci and the devotees of Mrs. Eddy, with far more in common than might first appear, both point us to a contemporary answer for the apostle’s sarcastic questions in I Corinthians 1:20, “Where is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world?”

Where? They are to be found worshipping with equal zeal, equal credulity, and equal futility, Science as God or God as Science. The world is worse off as a result. May they find their way out of that darkness into your glorious light—soon, Lord Jesus, soon.

 

 

 

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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