How the Accomplishments of Science Gave Way to the Delusions of Scientism

Unlike science, which is a method of attaining knowledge of the natural world, scientism refers to the claims that scientific knowledge is the only kind, and that it is the best way to attain answers to all of life’s questions, including moral and political ones. Sohrab Ahmari explores the dangers of believing in scientism:

We rarely pause to notice [that] the (very real) achievements of modern science continually beguile reason into surrendering its mandate to men and women in lab coats. Only occasionally, under the press of extraordinary calamities, do we attain the lucidity needed to pose fundamental questions anew.

There is nothing quite like a sudden and unforeseen pandemic to puncture the confidence of confident men. Scientists have calculated the age of the universe down to the smallest unit of time, penetrated into the most minuscule depths of physical reality, built self-driving cars, and on and on—yet a novel and mysterious virus can jump from a certain species of bat into Homo sapiens and wreak havoc on the modern world. Yes, science will very likely conquer the novel coronavirus (please God!). But events of this kind should shatter the illusion of scientific-technical progress toward some terminus of ultimate truth expressible in scientific or mathematical language. Nature, it seems, keeps throwing up new mysteries, keeps humbling us.

We long for a meaning science can’t supply. We wonder why we should carry on living and transmit life. We marvel at our discoveries, yes, but we also wonder why reality is intelligible to us in the first place: why, for example, do we find such beauty in the swirling shapes of galaxies, even as the sizes of these objects boggle our minds? We wonder, too, what it means to live well, what duties we owe one another and the other creatures that share the earth with us. And so on. Four centuries after it took off, the scientific outlook still can’t supply scientific answers to these fundamental questions.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Coronavirus, Science, Science and Religion, Scientism

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism