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Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning.

The meaning of life is the subject of a central, unending search. Science, recognized as dangerous, yet seen as quasi-omnipotent, has pushed God off the stage as one element of the answer to that probing. Science has become the modern means to salvation. "Salvation" is a rich term, carrying with it tremendous baggage in the form of myths, epics, prophetic writings, and words of wisdom. As the modern means of salvation, science too has gathered around itself a vast, imaginative, sometimes phantasmagoric panoply of mythic elements.

Midgley seeks to explore this world where science saves the human family. She does not attack science. She does question whether we are dealing with an almost nightmarish distortion of the quintessential Reformation doctrine that transmogrifies its motto into "salvation through science alone."

M. objects to the tendency of some scientific writers to isolate science from the rest of intellectual life. The situation has become more distressing as science becomes rigidly technical and less intelligible to anyone outside the steadily contracting circle of experts who can treat carefully circumscribed topics. A special interest surrounds M.'s analysis of scientists influenced by Marxism, now that at least Soviet Marxism has been swept away by the political judgements of the former Soviet peoples. Equally incisive, however, is her critique of the thought of Jacques Monod and his dour statistical atheism. M. is particularly taken by Freeman Dyson's attack on Monod. Yet Dyson in turn becomes a subject of largely critical analysis.

In her magisterial work, M. does not urge us to esteem science less, but to esteem it rightly and without artificial isolation from the rest of human cultural life. And yet, M. does not adduce tools that even approach some of the questions the scientific thinkers she criticizes struggle with. E.g., if the genetic code is now open to us, is human nature any more a constant? If not, may we reshape it? If so, in what ways? Not a problem that can be solved by just demanding that science limit itself to the problems of today without a necessarily imaginative and somewhat free-wheeling concern for tomorrow.
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Author:Haig, Frank R.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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